The 2019 pastoral theme is "Blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom of God is theirs" (Luke 6, 20)
"I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other" Being poor is not appealing, all those who are poor share that opinion. It is understandable; nobody likes to be poor. What is appealing however is to possess the Kingdom of Heaven. But only the poor may enjoy that privilege (Madeleine Delbrêl, The joy of believing).
The 7th January 2019, will be the 175th anniversary of Bernadette’s birth; she was baptised on 9th January. And on 16th April we will celebrate the 140th anniversary of her death.
We will also be remembering another saint In Lourdes, Benedict Joseph Labre, the beggar saint, patron saint of pilgrims, the homeless, and the Hospitality of Our Lady of Lourdes.
We are not glorifying a lifestyle of misfortune. "Being poor is not appealing ..." Nor do we idealise the voice of the poor though their testimony echoes the Gospel for that could just lead us to remain in a state of detached admiration, without really changing, without a real conversion of hearts and lives.
We aspire to follow the same path that Mary offered to Bernadette, an Easter path; to die to our old self, to discover true Life, true Happiness. Of course, we have to listen, but we also have to engage. A pilgrim does not return home in the same state as he or she was before setting out; this presupposes that one gradually lets oneself be stripped, de-cluttered, impoverished, in order to open oneself to the riches of God’s gift. Bernadette was not giving her family a lesson in morality when she appealed: "As long as they do not get rich!” She opened up to them the perspective she gained from contemplating the other world at the Grotto.
Personal poverty is humiliating and dehumanising yet wealth which is not shared, degrades and corrupts us. The Gospel does not promote social revolution, but revolutionises hearts leading the master to become a servant and wash the feet of the poorest. This is not a simple reversal of roles, for the two discover that they are brothers, loved by the same Father, stirred by the same heart.
From the beginning, Lourdes has triggered this revolution of hearts. The "rich" are willing to strain to carry the stretchers of the infirm, whom they call "our VIPs, the sick". But even in a charitable organisation, we are tempted to claim, our rights and privileges. Let us die to the old self with its rights and privileges in order to welcome the happiness of the promised Kingdom, already given to us in the joy of an outstretched hand.
In Lourdes, we aim to show true solidarity with concrete gestures, that lead us to continue doing it in our day to day life back home.