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Posted on Oct 23, 2012 |

Area Bloggers Reflect on Flooding at Lourdes

Area Bloggers Reflect on Flooding at Lourdes

Workers clean up sludge more than six inches deep outside the grotto of Lourdes Monday, after a flash flood covered all the town except the towering church.

Fr. Rob Waller, pastor of St. Andrew Church in Milford (OH) and  writer Joanne McPortland, have three things in common: They’re area Catholics, they’re bloggers, and they both recently returned from a pilgrimage to Marian sites with Archbishop Schnurr. Both blogged movingly about their recent visit to Fatima and Lourdes and both shared their thoughts and feelings about seeing Lourdes inundated with flood waters with The Catholic Beat:


Fr. Rob Waller

Fr. Waller posted this photo of the statue of Our Lady in the main square of Lourdes during the September pilgrimage. Photo courtesy With Open Doors blog.

That terrible feeling I get in my stomach when I see pictures of the grotto of Our Lady at Lourdes under water – it bothers me that I cannot identify it. I cannot pinpoint why it feels so weird and so “not right.”


I’ve asked myself, “When else have I felt this way? What else would ever make me feel this way?” The only thing I can come up with is that I might have had this feeling if I had ever seen my mother’s apartment in the nursing home under water. That was the place where I went to take naps and have simple meals and watch the Reds games and just be with mom. If I had ever seen my mother’s prayer book floating in muddy water, I might have had this feeling. And that floor lamp that was next to her chair, from the top of which she had tied the tiny scissors that she used when she did her embroidery work on the pillow cases, as she sat in the light of that lamp, with the scissors dangling within an easy reach, if I had ever seen just the top of that lamp above water, it would have felt so “not right.” My mother wouldn’t have deserved that. Maybe a lot of other stuff in life would have deserved that, but not my mom’s stuff.


Maybe I’m mad at the water. Water just seems so mean. I know that the river didn’t mean to do what it did to the shrine at Lourdes, but it did.


There are supposed to be people walking through that grotto and leaving their prayers and blessing themselves with water that seeps through the rocks. There are supposed to be pilgrims sitting in rows of benches whispering prayers, fingering rosaries and just feeling safe. There are supposed to be candles burning and candles waiting to be lit. But that water, that river water keeps everyone from getting to the waters of the Lady’s spring. People want to drink and need to bathe. Those flooding waters are just plain mean. And all that mud, it doesn’t belong there. Mary, our Mother, doesn’t deserve this, and neither do the sick who come to her at Lourdes.


I know that the water will go away, and that the mud will be put back in its place, and that the “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria” will be sung as soon as the slop is cleared away. And, yes, we can hear “the Lady” say, “”I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.”


But there is just something so wrong with a flood at the grotto of Lourdes. And I still cannot name the feeling in my stomach.

Fr. Waller blogs at With Open Doors. For his posts and photos on Lourdes, Fatima, and the rest of the pilgrimage, click on the September archives on the right side of the page.

Joanne McPortland


Joanne McPortland posted this photo of a “rosary tree” made by pilgrims at Lourdes following the September pilgrimage. Photo courtesy Egregious Twaddle.

It was hard to see the pictures of the flooding. I think our hotel, La Solitude, was one of those evacuated, as we were directly on the river. But it was seeing the Grotto under water that topped the altar that was really astonishing.


The day I was there, it was so blazing hot on the plaza in front of the Grotto that I kept walking over to the river bank just to look at the water and cool off! Many of the folks I’ve talked to have wondered how the flooding affects the spring—whether the spring’s healing waters will be commingled with the river, thus spreading the healing, for example—but I think the spring is controlled by pipes now so the two sources don’t mix.


I am sure that the fact that there were no injuries, and that so many pilgrims, including the malades, were moved to safety in time, is due both to Mary’s intercession and to the phenomenally well-organized system of volunteer care for the malades that was so impressive to us when we witnessed it.


Now our prayers must be for the Shrine itself and for the residents of Lourdes who depend on it, that God will spur donations to defray the costs of the damage, which are a huge blow to the region and the Shrine, already suffering due to the declining euro.


Joanne blogs for Patheos at Egregious Twaddle. For her still-in-progress posts on the pilgrimage (“I am really bloglogged — I need to update, but I am swamped!” she says), click on the link above.

To see Fr. Waller’s video of pilgrims fro around the world singing “Ave Maria” in different languages during a candlelight procession at Lourdes, click here.

For our 1000 Words photo feature on the flooded grotto, click here.

Cleanup photo courtesy Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes, click for a gallery of flood and cleanup photos.



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