Bishop Schlert and Father Butera Accompany 300 ‘Malades’ to Lourdes

Bishop Alfred Schlert and Father Christopher Butera, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bath, recently returned from an eight-day pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine at Lourdes, France, where they accompanied and cared for 300 “Malades” (“the sick” in French) from across the United States. “The experience was very moving,” said Father Butera.

The Bishop and Father Butera are chaplains of the Sovereign Order of Malta, which organizes the annual journey. “As chaplains we accompanied the order to Lourdes,” said Father Butera. “It was an international pilgrimage and the entire order – with the Association of America, went with their associations, and with various pilgrims, with the sick, and the ill, to Lourdes.”

The Sovereign Order of Malta is “one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilization. Today, the Order of Malta is active in 120 countries caring for people in need through its medical, social, and humanitarian works. Day-to-day, its broad spectrum of social projects provides a constant support for forgotten or excluded members of society.”

The purpose of the pilgrimage was to “take the sick to the healing waters of Lourdes.” The days were filled with “spiritual encounters” and included “a visit to the Grotto and the Baths, Pontifical Mass, procession of the Blessed Sacrament, candlelight Marian Procession, Rosary Service, and a visit to the home of St. Bernadette.”

“One of the highlights,” said Father Butera, “was that we had an anointing Mass, and in our group, there was a woman who suffered from neuropathy from the waist down for years and it affected different parts of her body as well. She wasn't able to have feeling in her legs for years. Bishop Schlert anointed her, and she regained feeling in her legs. It was an amazing experience.”

Lourdes has a bureau that investigates miracles and that experience, said Father Butera, “spawned an investigation into what happened.”

“The beautiful thing about living your faith today,” said Father Butera, “is that the Gospel message is alive today, and we see that in the healing waters of Lourdes. We see it with the continual messages from the Blessed Mother as an ambassador. The Gospel was a particular time in history 2,000 years ago, but the message and the experience of Christ and the Blessed Mother is still alive today. We see it with St. Faustina when Christ appeared to her, and Fatima and Lourdes. These are particular examples of how Christ is continually alive in the world. We have to ask ourselves: How are we responding and reacting? What is our role in responding to the Gospel?”

The pilgrimage was very moving, but Father Butera reminds the faithful that they don’t need to go across the world to have a similar experience. “I think that's the message the Blessed Mother was trying to make known to St. Bernadette - build [and come to the] chapel, receive the Sacraments, reinvigorate your faith.”

“When you're [only] able to simply pray, pray the Rosary or devote yourself to going to Eucharistic Adoration. We have to remember that the Lord Himself can go beyond space and time,” said Father Butera.

“For as important as it is to make the effort to go on a pilgrimage, don't feel bad for not having the time or the resources to do the pilgrimage. Unite yourself to what’s available to you, which is the Rosary and the Sacraments. Those are the ways Christ makes Himself available to us no matter where we are or where we live. And that is available to everybody every time.”

Father Butera and the Bishop took the intentions of local parishioners with them to Lourdes, and each lit a candle for all of the sick in the Diocese of Allentown.


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