THE MASS OF PROCLAMATION, OCTOBER 7, 2003
Bernadette Soubirous lived more than 150 years ago, but her legacy lives on through the spirituality of individuals like you. You, the parishioners of St. Bernadette Church, are one of the reasons I decided to raise this parish to the status of shrine. I find each time I visit this beautiful parish a genuine devotion not only to our faith and traditions, but also to the patron whose name is being hailed again today. Few people who knew Bernadette as Sister Marie Bernard had any questions or doubts about her sanctity. Most of them expected the Church to beatify and canonize her soon after her death. But the simple child of Lourdes and the dedicated nun of Nevers, never once thought of such loftiness. Her humility remained in tact throughout her 35 years upon this earth. She had one goal: to live a righteous life and then to meet, once again, the beautiful Lady who promised to make her happy in the next world.
In a few moments I will declare the words which will officially proclaim this church a diocesan shrine. This is a very important and prestigious act not only for you, the members of this parish, but for the City of Albuquerque and for the entire Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Being linked to Lourdes, the Church's most popular shrine, assuredly will bring many blessings upon this parish. My prayer is that many pilgrims will visit this sacred place and many souls will be led to God through its beauty and spiritual vibrance.
It was brought to my attention quite some time ago that this parish has a long running relationship with the nuns at St. Bernadette's Motherhouse in Nevers, France, as well as with friends and relatives in Lourdes. You may recall that, when Father Tom asked to renovate the church over a year ago, he also recommended adding a museum for St. Bernadette. This has become a blessing. The nuns in France immediately agreed to send a lock of St. Bernadette's hair for the museum. And with this First Class relic, they decided to send a sleeping sock which Bernadette actually wore during her last years as an invalid. The archivist of the congregation of sisters researched their files and found that no such relics will be found elsewhere in the United States. The mate to the sleeping sock in your museum is on display at the Bernadette Museum in Lourdes, France.
When these same nuns were informed that I was to elevate the church to the status of shrine, they responded: "We deeply rejoice with you at the raising of your parish to a shrine dedicated to St. Bernadette. We are so proud and happy that you should honor and dignify Bernadette as a glowing witness to Jesus Christ. In thanksgiving we are sending yellow roses, symbolic of those which rested upon the feet of Our Lady at the apparitions. The roses will represent our congregation there."
We cannot forget the Grand-nephew of St. Bernadette, Emile Soubirous of Lourdes, who, with his family continues to run a hotel just outside the walls of the Sanctuaries of Lourdes. Emile sent the bouquet of assorted roses here at the altar. He writes: "I am so happy about the great news that your Archbishop is raising the Church to a Shrine. I am very grateful that my Aunt's name is being honored so far away from Lourdes. We, my entire family, are very proud that our Aunt Bernadette is so well loved at your Shrine. We are humbled by this love."
And by all means we cannot forget the Mayor of the Village of Lourdes and the many civil servants who were instrumental in the installation of the replica of your life-size bronze statue of St. Bernadette. This image now adorns the park which houses the Lourdes Archives. Each year, thousands of American visitors to Lourdes are escorted to this park to see the only American sculpture in this quaint village. It has become so popular that the site has been added to the guided tour. Father Tom traveled to Lourdes for the dedication of the statue. Though the rector of the Lourdes Shrine was present along with several of his chaplains, it was Father Tom who was given the privilege of blessing the statue with water from the grotto.
When I raise this parish to a shrine, it is with full realization that it is actually you, the pilgrims, who will transform this church into a shrine. This theology authentically follows scripture, for truly, Jesus Himself leads us all in procession, in pilgrimage to the heavenly kingdom. The Ark of the Covenant was taken on pilgrimage to Jerusalem by David and his men who danced along the way. The pilgrimage is a journey to a place of devotion where one prays for grace or to petition favors. Likewise, many journeys are taken to fulfill a vow or to give thanksgiving or penance. And even though we may have lost some of the religious characteristics of the true pilgrimages, the fact remains that we are all journeying to God through Christ.
When pilgrims visit this shrine they will be granted a plenary indulgence which gains the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins, and therefore the giving of satisfaction owed God for one's sin.
A plenary indulgence may be gained for self or for the deceased by making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Bernadette with the following conditions:
1. The celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation within a week prior or after the pilgrimage.
2. The reception of the Holy Eucharist within the same time period.
3. The praying of an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for the intentions of the Pope.
In this year of St. Bernadette's 70th anniversary of canonization, I call upon her to watch over this shrine dedicated to her. I also ask her to protect all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and send us many blessings.