If you love Our Lady and her apparitions to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France, plan to spend the week of July 13-17 with EWTN. Each weekday, tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET for the premiere of an EWTN original five-part mini-series “Lourdes with the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word.” This is an incredible and exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the famous Lourdes Shrine as you have never seen it!
Then, at 4 a.m. ET, Thursday, July 16, you can either turn on EWTN television or log onto EWTN’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ewtnonline) for “Lourdes United in Prayer” e-pilgrimage, which includes a one-hour special at 9 a.m. ET, and continues for 15 hours throughout the day with a full slate of Masses, Eucharistic Processions, rosaries and more in five languages. (For more information, please go to www.ewtn.com/friars.)
You’ll be more prepared for the spiritual experience of “Lourdes United for Prayer” if you tune into the mini-series with Father Joseph Mary Wolfe and Father John Paul Mary Zeller, two of EWTN’s favorite friars, for the mini-series. The lushly filmed 30-minute specials were filmed in high definition during a glorious week in Lourdes this past August.
Your faith will be strengthened as the friars explain what it’s like to enter the healing baths at Lourdes; interview Dr. Alessandro De Franciscis, head of the Lourdes Medical Bureau, who explains how doctors determine if a miracle has occurred; discuss Mother Angelia’s own experience at Lourdes after her cerebral hemorrhage, and so much more.
“There are 70 officially investigated and approved miracles, but 7,000 people have claimed to have received a cure from Lourdes,” says Fr. Joseph. “Lourdes receives 30 to 35 claims of cures annually, but Dr. De Franciscis believes the number is much higher because most people don’t report the cure.”
Dr. De Franciscis takes EWTN’s friars – and you – behind the scenes of the famous Shrine where they attend the staff’s morning prayer session, takes the friars on a tour of the area in which records of medical cures are kept (they are now in the process of digitizing them), and shows them the book visiting physicians sign in the event their expertise is needed. Two of the signatures in the book are of special interest.
“One was Gianna Molla; the other was Giuseppe Moscati!” said Fr. Joseph said. “Both of them visited Lourdes [during their lives] and signed the book.” And now they are recognized as saints!
The friars also visit the Paris chapel where the remains of St. Peter Julian Eymard are interred. Says Father Joseph: “One of the reasons we wanted to go is because the miracles of Lourdes happened in other ways. One major way was in Eucharistic processions. Once they started, more miracles started taking place through the blessing of the Blessed Sacrament.”
For Fr. Joseph, Fr. John Paul, and the EWTN crew, a highlight of the trip was the opportunity to go into the baths themselves.
“It was very cold – very, very cold – but it was worth it!” Fr. Joseph said. “You leave there and you just feel renewed. The cold water does that, but it’s more than that. As one person described it, you feel like you are being wrapped in the mantle of Mary because you are surrounded by the water. Immediately after that, we went across the river to a covered area with candles to talk about what we experienced. Behind us, you can see people waiting to go into the baths.”
Fr. Joseph said one of the more recently approved miracles involves Sister Luigina Traverso, a 30-year-old Salesian nun, who was completely paralyzed. She asked her superior if she could go to Lourdes because she was unable to do her job, which was to teach children.
“During the Eucharistic procession, she felt this warmth go through her body,” Father Joseph said. “She was completely healed!”
“They receive a healing of the heart. Instead of being anguished by the trials they are going through, they receive a greater acceptance or understanding of suffering in their lives, a greater peace. There is strong sense of Mary’s motherly presence there.
“In Lourdes, you are not loved for what you do, you are loved because you exist,” Father continues. “People in wheelchairs are first in line. They are the front line of the Candlelight Procession and the Eucharistic procession. They are the people of honor.”
In the final episode, the friars discuss Mother Angelica’s trip to Lourdes after her cerebral hemorrhage. “Raymond [Arroyo] relates this story in his biography of Mother,” said Fr. Joseph. “She had hoped to be cured so she could get back to work, but what she received in Raymond’s mind was an even greater understanding and acceptance of the value of suffering, which we discuss.”
Fr. Joseph said he can attest to the fact that not all cures at Lourdes are reported. While it’s not included in the series, Fr. Joseph relays the story of EWTN’s own Director of Acquisitions John Elson and his wife Claudia. Lourdes “works” because of volunteers and a decade ago John and Claudia spent a week doing just that. They also prayed that Claudia would conceive. Six months later, the Pius VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska called the couple to ask if they would be willing to move up the date of a planned surgery to help make this happen. Guess what the date of the surgery was? Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes! The couple now has a beautiful 10-year-old son named Joseph. Miracle? You decide!
As many viewers know, it was at Lourdes that Mary first proclaimed herself to be “the Immaculate Conception.”
“During the very first Baltimore Council of all the U.S. bishops in 1846, the bishops unanimously voted to put the United States under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception,” Father Joseph said. “The dogma wasn’t proclaimed until 1854; Lourdes didn’t happen until 1858! Pope Pius VI granted them permission to place the U.S. under her patronage. It’s why we have the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.”
Father said knowing the United States is under the care of Our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception can provide hope for our hurting world.
“I think one of the things that can give us heart is that we are under her patronage and, in these trying times, we can look to her. She really is our mother. She brings help and healing. That’s what you experience in Lourdes. That’s what we hope our viewers will too. She who is without sin can help our country in this time. Maybe this series is a way to renew that [consecration].”
Feeling in need of a lift? Tune into EWTN television all next week for your daily behind-the-scenes dose of inspiration at Our Lady’s famous shrine in Lourdes, and log onto EWTN’s Facebook page Thursday, July 16, for the “Lourdes United in Prayer” e-pilgrimage for a special day of devotions.
Said Fr. Joseph: “Hopefully, the content will inspire people and give them hope at this time in our history.”
Amen Father Joseph!
Note: If you would like to pre-purchase “Lourdes with the Franciscan Friars of the Eternal Word,” please go to https://bit.ly/LourdeswithEWTNFriars.