Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1858, Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous close to the River Gave, directing her to drink from an almost imperceptible stream. Mary directed Bernadette to instruct the priests to build a chapel at the site. Today, the waters of Lourdes are famous for miraculous healing -- 67 cures are considered miraculous by the Church -- and about 5,000,000 pilgrims visit Lourdes annually.
"What does this have to do with sobriety?" you may ask. Almost five years ago, I went to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, desperate and afraid. My wife, after many patient years of pleading, had told me our marriage was over. I knew that I was an alcoholic and that I was at a crossroads. I knew nothing about my life would improve unless I got sober, but I had no idea how to find the strength to do so.
I stopped in the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes and asked for help as a son would ask his mother. I prayed in a way that was completely foreign to me; I wondered where it came from. I left and didn't give it another thought--until later that night.
It was Holy Week, and I went to a Tenebrae service; a celebration of darkness seemed fitting. Amid the darkness, I was overwhelmed by the awareness of love that I couldn't imagine or understand, and I knew that the love I could perceive was more than dwarfed by the love being offered to me. It offered me not just the faith that I could become sober but reassured me that getting sober was just the beginning of a beautiful life. I understood that even the pain I would experience was nothing at all compared to the joy of following the love where it might lead.
In the lexicon of AA, asking Our Lady of Lourdes to pray for me marked the decision to turn my will and my life over to God. This is a decision that has to be made daily, hourly, constantly. My desire to hold on to my will is powerful, but the promise held out to me is far, far greater.
So, today on her memorial, I will once again ask Our Lady of Lourdes to pray for me, that my healing may continue. I will ask her to pray for all addicts, active and recovering. And, I will thank her for the prayers that she has offered on my behalf.