Monday is Our Lady of Lourdes Day

As the title suggests, Monday is the day for the Catholic remembrance of the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes. The shrine that commemorates the eighteen visions of St Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 describes itself as the 'most visited pilgimage place in the world', which I presume includes Mecca, and is therefore of course a cultural phenomenon.

It stands within an area which has been associated with Marianism for over eight hundred years, and should not be confused with the Fatima Visions of 1917 which warned of a century of communism, war and holocaust. Other famous visions have included those at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina which have been ongoing since 1981. They are very much associated, for obvious reasons, with the Croatian community in that country. The Catholic Church has never unambiguously embraced any of the visions, though some Popes have.

My Granny was always very ill after leaving Northern Ireland. She had asthma, and not the made-up hysterical sort that anti-smoking members of the bourgeoisie now often claim to have. She went to Lourdes once, though it did not stop her death in her mid-fifties in 1983.

Here's a fine rendering of the Leonard Cohen Song of Bernadette. I found Aaron Neville singing it for the New Orleans benefit on you tube with Linda Ronstadt, but the Jennifer Warnes version is better, I think. It, Cohen's Joan of Arc, Gorecki, and the pot-fuelled visions of various Vietnam War veterans are bound up in my mind with a very intense research trip I made for my doctorate to Baltimore and Washington DC long ago.

It reminds me of crying before the Vietnam memorial at the notes and baseball reports people still left below the names of friends, family and loved ones at the secular shrine, and of the Catholic Cathedral that used to welcome me home to the monks I was living with behind CUA. You can see the Vietnam Veteran Wall memorial webpage, which is designed as a place of reconciliation and healing as much of remembrance, here.


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