The Holy Father Reflects on the Cross, Mary's presence
Marked by sin, saved in
On Sunday morning, 14 September , the Holy
Father went from the Hermitage of St. Joseph to the Prairie of
Lourdes to preside at Holy Mass for the 150th anniversary of the
apparitions, celebrated by the festive ringing of the bells of
the Shrine at the end of the Mass. The following is a
translation of the Pope's Homily, which was given in French.
Dear Bishop Perrier,
Dear Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear pilgrims, brothers and sisters,
“Go and tell the priests that people should come
here in procession, and that a chapel should be built here.”
This is the message Bernadette received from the “beautiful
lady” in the apparition of 2 March 1858.
For 150 years, pilgrims have never ceased to
come to the grotto of Massabielle to hear the message of
conversion and hope which is addressed to them. And we have done
the same; here we are this morning at the feet of Mary, the
Immaculate Virgin, eager to learn from her alongside little
I would like to thank especially Bishop Jacques
Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes for the warm welcome he has given
me, and for the kind words he has addressed to me.
I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests,
the deacons, the men and women religious, and all of you, dear
Lourdes pilgrims, especially the sick. You have come in large
numbers to make this Jubilee pilgrimage with me and to entrust
your families, your relatives and friends, and all your
intentions to Our Lady. My thanks go also to the civil and
military Authorities who are here with us at this Eucharistic
“What a great thing it is to possess the Cross!
He who possesses it possesses a treasure” (Saint Andrew of
Crete, Homily X on the Exaltation of the Cross, PG
97, 1020). On this day when the Church’s liturgy celebrates the
feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Gospel you have
just heard reminds us of the meaning of this great mystery: God
so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that men might
be saved (cf. Jn 3:16).
The Son of God became vulnerable, assuming the
condition of a slave, obedient even to death, death on a cross
(cf. Phil 2:8). By his Cross we are saved. The instrument
of torture which, on Good Friday, manifested God’s judgement on
the world, has become a source of life, pardon, mercy, a sign of
reconciliation and peace. “In order to be healed from sin, gaze
upon Christ crucified!” said Saint Augustine (Treatise on
Saint John, XII, II). By raising our eyes towards the
Crucified one, we adore him who came to take upon himself the
sin of the world and to give us eternal life. And the Church
invites us proudly to lift up this glorious Cross so that the
world can see the full extent of the love of the Crucified one
for mankind, for every man and woman. She invites us to give
thanks to God because from a tree which brought death, life has
burst out anew.
On this wood Jesus reveals to us his sovereign
majesty, he reveals to us that he is exalted in glory. Yes,
“Come, let us adore him!” In our midst is he who loved us even
to giving his life for us, he who invites every human being to
draw near to him with trust.
This is the great mystery that Mary also
entrusts to us this morning, inviting us to turn towards her
Son. In fact, it is significant that, during the first
apparition to Bernadette, Mary begins the encounter with the
sign of the Cross. More than a simple sign, it is an initiation
into the mysteries of the faith that Bernadette receives from
The sign of the Cross is a kind of synthesis of
our faith, for it tells how much God loves us; it tells us that
there is a love in this world that is stronger than death,
stronger than our weaknesses and sins. The power of love is
stronger than the evil which threatens us.
It is this mystery of the universality of God’s
love for men that Mary came to reveal here, in Lourdes. She
invites all people of good will, all those who suffer in heart
or body, to raise their eyes towards the Cross of Jesus, so as
to discover there the source of life, the source of salvation.
The Church has received the mission of showing
all people this loving face of God, manifested in Jesus Christ.
Are we able to understand that in the Crucified One of Golgotha,
our dignity as children of God, tarnished by sin, is restored to
Let us turn our gaze towards Christ. It is he
who will make us free to love as he loves us, and to build a
reconciled world. For on this Cross, Jesus took upon himself the
weight of all the sufferings and injustices of our humanity. He
bore the humiliation and the discrimination, the torture
suffered in many parts of the world by so many of our brothers
and sisters for love of Christ. We entrust all this to Mary,
mother of Jesus and our mother, present at the foot of the
In order to welcome into our lives this glorious
Cross, the celebration of the Jubilee of Our Lady’s apparitions
in Lourdes urges us to embark upon a journey of faith and
conversion. Today, Mary comes to meet us, so as to show us the
way towards a renewal of life for our communities and for each
one of us.
By welcoming her Son, whom she presents to us,
we are plunged into a living stream in which the faith can
rediscover new vigour, in which the Church can be strengthened
so as to proclaim the mystery of Christ ever more boldly.
Jesus, born of Mary, is the Son of God, the sole
Saviour of all people, living and acting in his Church and in
the world. The Church is sent everywhere in the world to
proclaim this unique message and to invite people to receive it
through an authentic conversion of heart. This mission,
entrusted by Jesus to his disciples, receives here, on the
occasion of this Jubilee, a breath of new life.
After the example of the great evangelizers from
your country, may the missionary spirit which animated so many
men and women from France over the centuries, continue to be
your pride and your commitment!
God's poor choice
When we follow the Jubilee Way in the footsteps
of Bernadette, we are reminded of the heart of the message of
Lourdes. Bernadette is the eldest daughter of a very poor
family, with neither knowledge nor power, and in poor health.
Mary chose her to transmit her message of conversion, prayer and
penance, which fully accord with words of Jesus: “What you have
hidden from the wise and understanding, you have revealed to
babes” (Mt 11:25).
On their spiritual journey, Christians too are
called to render fruitful the grace of their Baptism, to nourish
themselves with the Eucharist, to draw strength from prayer so
as to bear witness and to express solidarity with all their
fellow human beings (cf. Homage to the Virgin Mary,
Piazza di Spagna, 8 December 2007). It is therefore a
genuine catechesis that is being proposed to us in this way,
under Mary’s gaze. Let us allow her to instruct us too, and to
guide us along the path that leads to the Kingdom of her Son!
In the course of her catechesis, the “beautiful
lady” reveals her name to Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate
Conception”. Mary thereby discloses the extraordinary grace that
she has received from God, that of having been conceived without
sin, for “he has looked on his servant in her lowliness” (cf.
Mary is the woman from this earth who gave
herself totally to God, and who received the privilege of giving
human life to his eternal Son. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
let what you have said be done to me” (Lk 1:38).
She is beauty transfigured, the image of the new
humanity. By presenting herself in this way, in utter dependence
upon God, Mary expresses in reality an attitude of total
freedom, based upon the full recognition of her true dignity.
This privilege concerns us too, for it discloses to us our own
dignity as men and women, admittedly marked by sin, but saved in
hope, a hope which allows us to face our daily life.
This is the path which Mary opens up for man. To
give oneself fully to God is to find the path of true freedom.
For by turning towards God, man becomes himself. He rediscovers
his original vocation as a person created in his image and
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the primary purpose
of the shrine at Lourdes is to be a place of encounter with God
in prayer and a place of service to our brothers and sisters,
notably through the welcome given to the sick, the poor and all
In this place, Mary comes to us as a mother,
always open to the needs of her children. Through the light
which streams from her face, God’s mercy is made manifest.
Let us allow ourselves to be touched by her
gaze, which tells us that we are all loved by God and never
abandoned by him! Mary comes to remind us that prayer which is
humble and intense, trusting and persevering, must have a
central place in our Christian lives.
Prayer is indispensable if we are to receive
Christ’s power. “People who pray are not wasting their time,
even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call
for action alone” (Deus Caritas Est, 36).
To allow oneself to become absorbed by activity
runs the risk of depriving prayer of its specifically Christian
character and its true efficacy. The prayer of the Rosary, so
dear to Bernadette and to Lourdes pilgrims, concentrates within
itself the depths of the Gospel message. It introduces us to
contemplation of the face of Christ. From this prayer of the
humble, we can draw an abundance of graces.
The presence of young people at Lourdes is also
an important element. Dear friends, gathered this morning around
the World Youth Day Cross: when Mary received the angel’s visit,
she was a young girl from Nazareth leading the simple and
courageous life typical of the women of her village. And if
God’s gaze focussed particularly upon her, trusting in her, Mary
wants to tell you once more that not one of you is indifferent
in God’s eyes. He directs his loving gaze upon each one of you
and he calls you to a life that is happy and full of meaning.
Do not allow yourselves to be discouraged by
difficulties! Mary was disturbed by the message of the angel who
came to tell her that she would become the Mother of the Saviour.
She was conscious of her frailty in the face of God’s
Nevertheless, she said “yes”, without
hesitating. And thanks to her yes, salvation came into the
world, thereby changing the history of mankind.
For your part, dear young people, do not be
afraid to say yes to the Lord’s summons when he invites you to
walk in his footsteps. Respond generously to the Lord! Only he
can fulfil the deepest aspirations of your heart.
You have come to Lourdes in great numbers for
attentive and generous service to the sick and to the other
pilgrims, setting out in this way to follow Christ the servant.
Serving our brothers and sisters opens our hearts and makes us
In the silence of prayer, be prepared to confide
in Mary, who spoke to Bernadette in a spirit of respect and
trust towards her.
May Mary help those who are called to marriage
to discover the beauty of a genuine and profound love, lived as
a reciprocal and faithful gift!
To those among you whom he calls to follow him
in the priesthood or the religious life, I would like to
reiterate all the joy that is to be had through giving one’s
life totally for the service of God and others.
May Christian families and communities be places
where solid vocations can come to birth and grow, for the
service of the Church and the world!
Mary’s message is a message of hope for all men
and women of our day, whatever their country of origin. I like
to invoke Mary as the star of hope (Spe Salvi,
50). On the paths of our lives, so often shrouded in darkness,
she is a beacon of hope who enlightens us and gives direction to
our journey. Through her “yes”, through the generous gift of
herself, she has opened up to God the gates of our world and our
And she invites us to live like her in
invincible hope, refusing to believe those who claim that we are
trapped in the fatal power of destiny. She accompanies us with
her maternal presence amid the events of our personal lives, our
family lives, and our national lives. Happy are those men and
women who place their trust in him who, at the very moment when
he was offering his life for our salvation, gave us his Mother
to be our own!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, in this land of
France, the Mother of the Lord is venerated in countless shrines
which thereby manifest the faith handed down from generation to
generation. Celebrated in her Assumption, she is your country’s
May she always be honoured fervently in each of
your families, in your religious communities and in your
parishes! May Mary watch over all the inhabitants of your
beautiful country and over the pilgrims who have come in such
numbers from other countries to celebrate this Jubilee! May she
be for all people the Mother who surrounds her children in their
joys and their trials!
Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us
to believe, to hope and to love with you. Show us the way
towards the kingdom of your Son Jesus! Star of the sea, shine
upon us and lead us on our way! (cf. Spe Salvi, 50).