Blessed Mother will Intercede for us

STAMFORD — On the eve of Mother’s Day, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano held a retreat honoring Our Lady of Lourdes, urging several hundred people to seek the spiritual healing the Blessed Mother will always give through her intercession with her Son.

Recalling the healing waters of the Marian shrine in France, where the Blessed Mother appeared to a young peasant girl, he said, “What is it you are seeking to be healed? Is it your body? Is it your spirit that is troubled and distressed? Are you seeking healing for your soul that is burdened by sin and by the brokenness that we have created in our relationship with God, with our neighbor and with ourselves?…Whatever it is, my friends, offer it to Our Lady on this day.”

The Lourdes Retreat at St. Mary of Stamford Parish included a candlelight rosary, solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction and a homily on the world’s most famous Marian shrine, where more than 7,000 healings have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Every year, 6 million pilgrims travel to France, to pray to Our Lady. Many go in the hope they will receive a healing at the spring she revealed to St. Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl. In the 160 years since the apparitions in the grotto at Massabielle, thousands of people have been healed in the waters, and 70 have been recognized as miraculous cures by the Church.

In his homily, the bishop said, “It is fitting that we come together in a church dedicated to our celestial Heavenly Mother on the eve of the day we remember our natural mothers, living and deceased, to say thanks for all they did for us and have done for us, to care for us, to nurture us, to form us, and to send us out into the world. There are no words to express thanks to our mothers and grandmothers without whom we would not be here.”

He also reminded the congregation, “Our Heavenly Mother has been there in every moment of every day of your life and mine, since we were conceived in the wombs of our natural mothers. What words can you and I say to express our gratitude for so great, so rich, so deep a love that she has for you and me. Being here today may be a start, a token of the thanks we owe to the great Mother of God.”

As rain fell outside that Saturday afternoon, Bishop Caggiano said, “Life would not be possible without water.”

Water is celebrated in the Book of Genesis when God created the waters and divided them, he said, and God uses the natural goodness of water to be the symbol and vehicle of everlasting life.

At the Easter Vigil, which recounts salvation history, there is a reading from the Book of Exodus when God leads his chosen people from slavery to freedom.

“He does this by splitting the waters of this world as a sign of the liberation to come through water that will be from the new Moses, who would be born from the Virgin to whom you and I have come to give thanks,” he said.

When Jesus, the new Moses, began his ministry, he brought the true purpose of water to fulfillment at the hands of his cousin John the Baptist, when he entered into the Jordan River to be baptized.

“Jesus had no need to be baptized for he had no sin to repent of, no sin to be forgiven,” the bishop said. “He entered into the waters of the Jordan for only one reason, for by entering into the waters, he might bless all the waters of this world so they could become vehicles of his liberating power — liberation not from the slavery of this world, but from the slavery of the Father of Evil and of sin and death.”

Three years later, as Jesus hung upon the cross, at his feet stood his mother. On that day he became the “holocaust and sacrifice for the sins of all creation” so that we might be forgiven our sins.

“On that day, after he commended his Spirit, we are told from Sacred Scripture that the soldier took his lance and pierced the side of Jesus, and out flowed blood and water,” Bishop Caggiano said. “And it was that water from the side of Christ — water from this natural world — that became supernatural water in which we are saved, in which baptism was born, in which you and I can receive by grace what Christ had been given. So that you and I would become one with him in his victory on Calvary. Those are the waters of everlasting life.”

In a similar way, Our Lady uses water at Lourdes as a sign of healing, a font of blessings that come from her Son, he said. “Because Bernadette trusted the lady who appeared to her, she used her bare hands and dug from the earth and revealed a font of water — healing water given by Our Lady through the grace of her son. This water has become a source of healing in our modern, troubled world. Water once again became the vehicle of new life.”

He reminded the congregation that when they seek healing, they need to know what they are asking because healing is not the same as a cure. Healing goes much deeper.

“A cure is to take a disease and eliminate it, but Our Lady came not to give cures, but to give healing,” he said. “Healing makes us whole again and gives us peace again and heals the relationship we have with her Son and one another, and to establish the harmony that is our destiny. At times, it may heal our bodies, but most of the time, it will heal our spirits and our broken souls. Healing is to open the path to eternal life, and that is something Our Lady will give through her intercession with her Son.”

He reminded them of a basic truth of our faith: “You and I may think we know what is best for ourselves and those we love…but as much as you love them and strive to love yourselves, God loves us and our family and our friends and our children and our grandchildren far more than we could ever love them, and he knows what is best for them. So ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock on the door of the Heart of Jesus and be prepared to be amazed by what the waters of Lourdes can give through the heart of Our Lady from the heart of her Son.”

Three years ago, Bishop Caggiano took part in a Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage at St. Mary Church, which attracted 1000 people and recreated a pilgrimage to the shrine. That event, along with this year’s retreat, was hosted by Father Gustavo A. Falla, pastor, and coordinated by David D’Andrea of Greenwich, who attributes several miracles in his life to Our Lady of Lourdes.

“We are so grateful to be able to come back again,” D’Andrea said. “I know the Holy Spirit is here, and there will be healings. We are happy so many people attended. We missed a couple of years because of COVID, but this year everything worked out well. The candlelight rosary was said in five languages — English, Spanish, Haitian, Filipino and Italian, which the bishop will prayed. There was a procession with the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, a wonderful homily by the bishop, a Eucharistic blessing and a reception afterwards.”

The five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary were led by Mary Catherine Herbert in English, Regina Ferrari in Brazilian Portuguese, Walter Valenzuela in Spanish, Fr. Falla in French and Bishop Caggiano in Italian.

D’Andrea praised the bishop for his participation and said, “The first thing he says when asked is ‘yes.’” He also thanked Father Falla for hosting the event and the efforts of his staff to set it up.

After the retreat, Father Falla said, “The Blessed Mother is calling people. She is inspiring us in the midst of what we’re going through. Our Mother brings us together. We cannot forget that motherhood is so important to our society, to our Church and to our faith.”

Sharon MacKnight, who offers religious items for sale at the church and donates the proceeds to the parish, set up her holy articles on a table in the vestibule. She has gone on two pilgrimages to Lourdes and recalled the story of Our Lady asking St. Bernadette to have a church built on the site of the apparitions.

“When I saw the cathedral the Blessed Mother built, I cried. It was magnificent,” she said. “Our Lady is very special to me. I love her.” She also obtained a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes for the church, and it was carried into the church in a procession.

Monica Zuniga, a parishioner of St. Mary, came to the retreat because she wanted to share her love of God and the Blessed Mother with her friends. She has a special devotion to her and prays that someday she will be able to go on pilgrimages to Lourdes and Medjugorje, where the Blessed Virgin has been appearing since 1981.

Maria Carty, who attended the virtual Lourdes retreat three years ago, said she wanted to hear Bishop Caggiano’s sermon and was very inspired by his words. She recalled her pilgrimage to Lourdes seven years ago, when she was healed of a foot problem the first day she was there.

Scholastica Nabwire, who is a parishioner at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, a member of the Third Order of St. Francis and president of the Legion of Mary, said, “I have a great devotion to Our Mother … I call her ‘my Mother.’ I love her so much I wanted to be here.”

Bishop Caggiano thanked D’Andrea and Fr. Falla for organizing and hosting the event.

D’Andrea said he has been inspired by many people who told him their stories. In his own life, he believes God has blessed him with healings. He was cured of polio as a child and he survived stage 3 cancer, which was diagnosed in 2014.

He credits his recovery to Our Lady of Lourdes through the efforts of his cousin, Monsignor Joseph Giandurco, pastor of St. Patrick’s in Yorktown Heights, NY, who celebrated a healing Mass for him and brought holy water from Lourdes to bless him when he began his treatment for cancer.

D’Andrea still has that bottle of holy water and continues to share it with others who are suffering or ill. And while he has never gone on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, because his condition will not permit it, he believes Our Lady was instrumental in his recovery.

“I have a great devotion to Mother Mary,” he said. “She has always been there for me, and when I was young, my mother prayed to her that I would recover from polio.”

After the retreat, holy water from Lourdes was given out, along with prayer cards that were touched to the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.

By Joe Pisani