Sunday, 8 August 2010

With Bernadette, let us make the sign of the Cross

"With Bernadette, let us make the sign of the Cross" is the pastoral theme in Lourdes for the 2010 pilgrimage season. A presentation of the theme, in .pdf format, can be downloaded here, from the Lourdes website. The October-November 2009 issue of Lourdes Magazine was dedicated to this them, and contains a series of  articles reflecting on the sign of the Cross and on its significance in the life of Bernadette. One of the articles from that issue can be found here, and it indicates the reasons for this choice of pastoral theme. Not available online, but worthy of comment, are a series of meditations/photgraphs by Philippe MacLeod and an article "A sign children understand" which gives practical pointers for both parents and children about making the sign of the Cross.

In some parts of the world, Christians are persecuted today on account of their faith.

In other places, people suffer on account of natural disasters or conflict.

In developed countries, an attempt is made to ban the Cross from public display. At the same time, it is not unusual for Crosses to be worn as jewelry.

The pastoral theme challenges us to recognise the content of our faith expressed in praying the Sign of the Cross; to recognise the Cross as we encounter it in the circumstances of our own life and the lives of others; to make visible the sign of the Cross. Most fundamentally, it asks us to make of the Cross a real sign that we try to live out rather than just a piece of decoration that has no substance.  In the circumstances of Europe, where the place of the Cross is challenged, the choice of theme is very timely.

A particular way in which the theme is being celebrated in Lourdes is in the "field of Crosses" being placed by pilgrimages at the Breton  Calvary, near the St Michael's Gate entrance to the shrine. As I watched this video about the "field of Crosses" at Lourdes' Youtube channel, I was reminded of Lithuania's "hill of Crosses". In a somewhat different situation today, the Lourdes "field of Crosses" provides a very timely witness to Christian faith. I hope that the authorities at the shrine will find a way of preserving this witness after the 2010 pilgrimage season.

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