The morning after I returned from a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, earlier this month, my first guest on my daily radio program was Mark Latkovik, who is a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He was discussing an upcoming presentation he was about to give titled “Human Rights or God Given Rights: Why the ‘Right to Life’ Matters.”
In the course of our on-air conversation, Latkovik reminded listeners that the Church is “in this for the long haul.” The “this” he was referring to is the Church’s commitment to spreading the Gospel and defending the truth; most importantly the truth regarding the dignity of each human being from the moment of conception to natural death. No matter what we see in the craziness of the culture swirling around us, the Church continues its efforts to evangelize, which includes promoting the culture of life.
His comment resonated so well thanks to the powerful witness to the Faith and to human dignity displayed in Lourdes. I was there as part of the annual pilgrimage of the Order of Malta. The Order of Malta, or the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, according to the organization’s mission statement, is a lay religious order and one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilization. It has more than 13,000 members in 120 countries around the world. It is committed to defending the Faith and assisting the poor and the suffering. Their mission is carried out by the volunteer work of the Dames and the Knights.
One of the best examples of this is their annual Lourdes gathering, which takes place during the first week in May. This year there were close to 7,000 Knights and Dames converging on this small but holy place made famous through the testimony of St. Bernadette, to whom the Blessed Mother appeared in 1858.
My husband was invested as a Knight five years ago, and it has always been a dream of his to go along on this special trip. The Order of Malta American Association then invited me to experience the pilgrimage for myself and also cover the event.
The day we left, there were what seemed to be a countless number of stories in the news showing how the Church, along with its teachings, is more and more under attack. The trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, attempts and successes in various states to redefine marriage, the public announcement by NBA veteran Jason Collins about his homosexual lifestyle and the media’s celebratory response to his announcement were just a few of the items that would cause even the most faithful Catholic to wonder if the Church is making a difference.
But when one visits a holy place such as Lourdes, we realize that the Church is making a difference and does, indeed, matter.
The Church matters greatly to the people to whom the Knights and Dames are assigned. They are the Malades (a French word for sick) who, along with one of their caregivers, are brought to Lourdes as special guests. It is quite something to see the Knights and Dames dressed in the black, red and white Order of Malta uniforms converging on the small French town and each day bringing the Malades — usually via wheelchair — to the outdoor Lourdes Grotto for a healing service or the stunning Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for Mass.
It matters to the Malades, it matters to the Knights and Dames and it matters to thousands of pilgrims who converge on such sites. The Church will prevail. Jesus said so. It is indeed in this for the long haul.
What a blessing God gives us in these holy sites to help us endure for the long haul as well.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.