I was in a cab this morning to Logan Airport and my loquacious driver queried my plans to the point where I found myself explaining to this perfect stranger that I was going to France to get my cancer cured.
And, to my shock, it appears that is indeed what I am doing.
Life’s pace, daily priorities, distractions distractions—and I just haven’t given this journey its due psychological, spiritual, or emotional prep. Funny how in speaking plainly to a taxi driver I finally heard where I was going.
To the uninitiated, here are the embarrassingly skeletal details I currently know of the legend of Lourdes. Once upon a time, Prometheus stole some fire and Joseph Smith found some magic rocks and there was a pre-adolescent named Bernadette. Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to her telling her to build a church at the site of her appearance. After overcoming much disbelief from her community and local priests, Bernadette succeeded in having that church built in honor of Mary. From that day forward, mysterious waters without a known source have flowed. Today, this town in the Pyrennes is an important pilgrimage for believers, particularly for the sick. You see, there have apparently been thousands of unexplained healings in Lourdes over the years and malades journey from all over to bathe in the sacred waters.
Shortly after my diagnosis, an acquaintance of my Mom’s insisted that we plan to go to Lourdes. This friend’s daughter had also been afflicted with acute lymphocytic leukemia, about fifteen years ago. Prospects were not good for her recovery and I’m assuming desperation brought the two women to Bernadette’s mysterious healing font. Anyway, Charlotte and her daughter (who is now in her thirties, married, with kids of her own!) now pilgrimage to Lourdes every year and will be with us in France later this week.
A Catholic organization called the Order of Malta funds malades and a companion to go on planned trips to Lourdes and so it was, with a “nothing to lose” shrug, that I applied many months ago to go on this May’s pilgrimage. Perhaps because of this lengthy timeline and the casual way I submitted an application, I have not digested this impending experience.
Also, there’s probably that little problem about not buying the story. As much as I’d love to possess the gentle comfort of religion, the compass of organized morality, it just doesn’t stick. My only real faith is in skepticism and I am only truly devout to the gods of questioning and being a pain in the ass to religious people. Arguably, twelve years of Catholic schooling will make anyone a pagan.
There may be a confluence of energies in Lourdes, a repository of so many prayers and hopes that there actually is magic there. And if so, do you have to subscribe to the Church dogma to get your share? I want to be open to whatever this opportunity affords. I seek to be absorbent to goodness and beauty and health. Et les baguettes et le fromage et le francais. Il y a longtemps depuis j’habitais a Paris! And spending loads of quality time with my mama.
Alas, so here I go to France, where Mary will see straight through my heart and know that I can’t pass GO, cannot collect a miracle. She’ll know that I don’t think the most effective way to help her children here on earth is to have some random girl in the mountains build a building. She’ll know that I find it unfair that there should be healing waters in one place—let’s fix all the dirty water sources in which people wash and drink every day all over the world.
Can I get an amen?