Holy Virgin Mary, at your school, Bernadette entered into a relationship with the Holy Trinity through the sign of the cross. By teaching her to pray and do penance for sinners, you communicated to her the joy of salvation, and you revealed to her the beauty of your most pure heart saying: “I am the Immaculate Conception”.
This Advent season invites us to pray more earnestly to welcome the Saviour. With Bernadette, we turn to you:
Intercede for all those who suffer from illness, vulnerability, fear or isolation.
Pray for all those who care for our sick.
Watch over the Church of your Son, over each one of us, and over those who cannot participate in the sacraments of faith.
Grant that we may be obedient as you are to the will of the Father.
In the hope that Life will triumph over death, we want to sing with you, from now on, the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
1st step : GOD’S CHOISE
1st day: “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
O our God, you bow before your creature, through her you see the accomplishment of your work: “God saw that it was good!” You are the creator of our freedom. In a world marked by sin and death, you recognise this immaculate part, perfectly luminous and good, this little Marian part that testifies to the new world, the alliance between heaven and earth. Open our heart in the start of this novena, so that we may hold your loving gaze upon this world, upon those near to us. Each day, may we give thanks for the beauty and the victory of your creation, in the heart of Mary our Mum. “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
2nd day: “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, chose us in him before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy and immaculate in his sight, in charity.” (Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, 1:3-4)
Mary is nothing but yes to God, and God was able to come through her and dwell within her. Sin has no hold over her. We greet her today as a mother, asking her to bring us into her yes. We let ourselves be seen by God, who sees in us only the grace of our baptism, through which we become holy and immaculate.
We let ourselves be washed again by the grace of the sacrament of reconciliation, through which we are reborn to life in heaven. The gift of God is primordial over sin. We can see this in Mary, and let us acknowledge this in Bernadette too, who let herself be invited by Mary to the following confidence: we are loved, we are reborn, we are children of God!
2nd step : THE OBEDIENCE OF THE HEART
3rd day : “Let it be to me according to your word.” (Gospel according to Luke, 1:38)
Mary is trusting, Mary lets God do his will to her at every moment. Her freedom is completely docile to the movement of grace, she lets herself be loved, she learns to love. She lets God be, in her, who he is in Him, who he was always and forever will be, in the movement of the Holy Trinity.
The Father is the sole giver of Life, and the Son received this life in full; he eternally gives thanks to the Father: from this gift, this mutual exchange, perfect Love is made, to the point where two have but one heart, one breath, one spirit, they are ONE in love. Mary is a little creature taken completely by the gift of God: he speaks, and his Word is made flesh in the flesh of this little woman. Blessed are you, Mary, Virgin who listens and obeys in love. God himself can live in you, like a little child in his Mum’s womb.
4th day: “Do whatever he tells you he tells you.” (Gospel according to John, 2:5)
Since you welcome the Word in you, you can then invite Jesus’ disciples, the servants at the wedding, to trust in the Word that his will give them: “In you as well, let it be done according to his Word”. Do not let yourself be guided by your feelings, your reasoning and your calculations. There is no more wine for the wedding. We are in a haze, and we do not know what will happen anymore…
But you, you are the Mother of Life: you have given birth to Jesus’ human life, and you will give birth to his divine mission. He is the one who can transform water into wine, not by some magic power, but because he is has given himself up entirely to the Father, to God the Creator – he is willing to shed his blood out of love. So the Father is free to act and to fill hearts with joy. “Teach us, Mary, to bear the life of the Lord! Teach us the yes of your heart!”
3rd step : THE JOY OF BELIEVING
5th day: “Blessed is she who believed” (Gospel according to Luke, 1:45)
Mary, you are the one who receives the first beatitude of the Gospel. Old Elizabeth, your cousin, the one who was called “the sterile woman”, yet who is in her sixth month of pregnancy, she is the one who greets you and recognises you: “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” She did not think that it was still possible, for an old woman to conceive of a child.
But “nothing is impossible to God”, and the child she bears leaped with joy in her womb when he felt the holy Breath of God coming through Mary’s salutation. He felt the Spirit of Life. And his mother then recognised in young mum Mary the one who carries God. She recognised the heart that finally let God act and give. And the Son of God exults within this woman who has become his Mum like he exults within the Father. With this baby, with his mother, we sing: Magnificat!
6th day: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Gospel according to John, 20:29) ”
This is the last beatitude of the Gospel. It is spoken to Thomas, the disciple who wanted to check the reality of the Jesus’ resurrection by putting his finger in the holes that the nails made in Jesus’ hands and feet on the cross, and by putting his hand into Jesus’ side, pierced by the soldier’s spear. Jesus presents himself to Thomas on the night of the eighth day after Easter… and Thomas recognises his Master, Thomas adores his God!
This disciple is each one of us. We want proof, but love is not proven, it is experienced… In the wounds of our heart, the failings of poor sinful lives, there is where we receive the breath of hope. The future is still possible, a path is still open, if you let yourself receive the one who knocks on your door. Give him you trust: “like a child quieted at its mother’s breast, hope in the Lord from this time forth and for evermore” (Psalm 131 ).
4th step : WITH MARY, IN THE HEART OF GOD
7th day: “ I must be in my Father’s house” (Gospel according to Luke, 2:49)
The little child does not seek to control his parent’s actions, he is trusting. That is how he grows, by letting himself be taken by the hand, by letting himself be taken by the heart. Mary, all transparent by the yes of God, all trusting in the one who comes toward her, has become the first disciple of her Son, she is docile to the Word of Life that is spoken to her. But this docility must root itself ever more deeply in her – she is not taken one and for all. So, when Jesus is 12 years old and he extends his pilgimage to Jerusalem by staying in the holy city unbeknownst to his parents, Mary does not understand. Jesus teaches her that he must dwell “in his Father’s house”.
And yet he comes home with them to Nazareth, “and he was obedient to them”. He is obedient to them, in the sense that they themselves, his parents, are obedient to the will of the Father. We are mother and father only by procreation. With you, Mary, and with the first disciples, we learn to remain in Father’s will. In the same way, Bernadette in Lourdes will be faithful to the promise that she made to the Lady: to come to the Grotto for fifteen days, no matter the opposition. Are we truly disciples, or do we not run the risk of settling “by ourselves”, by attempting to place God at our service? “Father, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke, 22:42)
8th day: “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians, 3:3)
I must be with my Father, with you, Jesus. I must look for “things that are above”. Mary immaculate, you offer us this mum’s heart that has never been anything but a yes to love, up to the foot of the Cross. You are then the human witness to the words foretold by the Angel: he had announced that you would be the mother of the Messiah-King! But here his crown is a crown of thorns, his trone is a cross!
The Gospel writer simply tells us: “near the cross of Jesus stood his mother” (John 19: 26). You were near, same as at the wedding of Cana (John 2:1). You are with your child, “with the Christ”. That is your hidden life, that is your heart. Always and forever in the thoughts of God the Father, you are the mother that he wants to need, to give his Son to the world. Always and forever in God’s thoughts, we are the saint that he wants to need, to answer his call. Today, we renew our baptismal yes, we live the life of the resurrected, sure that we are already taken in the light of God in heaven, where Mary has preceded us.
5th step : « I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION »
9th day: “Woman, this is your son.” (John 19: 26)
Mary in Lourdes tells her name to Bernadette on the morning of the 25th March. She does not come only to confirm Pope Pius IX’s declaration (who had proclaimed that the Immaculate Conception of Mary was a dogma, a truth belonging to the essence of the Catholic faith). The Lady is not simply showing herself, but indicating within herself the little embryon who will be born nine months later. On the 25th March, we celebrate the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
In the Grotto, we must perform a spiritual ultrasound in order to recognise the little one that we cannot see yet, the Son of God! If Mary is immaculate, transparent in Love, it is to allow this free Gift to pass through her. In her, there is no hesitation, no doubt, no pulling away: God had prepared her, he had preserved her from sin, and she had let it be done; God’s coast is clear in her! This woman is completely taken, identifed by her mission: she is the mother, she is the conception of the Son of God. And she is also the mother of believers, of those who let themselves be taken by the gift of love. She is my mother, whom Jesus presents to me from the top of the Cross: the Mother of God is our mother! Let us tell her again of our trust on this feast day, let us return to her like little children in the family home. In the Mum’s arms, we recognise our brother, Jesus, the Son of God.