It is significant that today the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, begins a three-day pilgrimage to France, specifically to visit Lourdes to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Our Blessed Mother's appearance there to St. Bernadette Soubirous.
In a message sent ahead of his visit the Holy Father said "my prayer will intensify at the feet of Our Lady for the intentions of the whole Church, in particular for the sick, the abandoned, as well as for peace in the world. May Mary be for all of you, in particular for young people, the Mother always attentive to the needs of her children, a light of hope that illuminates and guides your ways."
During our recent summer retreat we were privileged to hear the story of a young Religious Brother and his experience of the Mother of God. Raised without any faith he attended art school as a young man and led a very hedonistic life style. One day, fed up with the sort of life he was leading, he headed back to his room and passed by a painting in the hallway of the school. (see above - The Blue Madonna by Carlo Dolci). He had seen the painting many times before but on this particular day he stopped and stared at it. And as he did, he said, he fell in love! This beautiful lady, so pure and so good, so untarnished by the sins of the world, reached out to him and at that moment began to convert his heart. Today he is a young man consecrated to Mary's Son and is studying for the priesthood.
Mary can reach out to us as well, and to all those we carry in our hearts. Pray to her this day, on this special feast day; pray to her by name - Mary! She has the ear of her Son and has captured the heart of the Father. "Most Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!"