Lourdes Miracles

Recovering from abuse is miraculous – and mysterious as the healing crosses so many dimensions of our personalities and our very personhood. Lourdes is a place associated with the miraculous. That’s why, still, over 6 million people visit the pilgrimmage site annually, and Lourdes boasts the most hotels in France – second only to Paris.

In 2018, on the 160th anniversary of the visions of Lourdes, the 70th medical miracle was confirmed. A nun, coincidentally named Sister Bernadette, who had been suffering a lifelong debilitating spine disease, was transported to the baths and came away healed, mobile, and without pain (story here). The walls of Lourdes are adorned with crutches and other aids abandoned by people who experienced miraculous healing that was not investigated with the rigor of St. Bernadette’s. And, yet, these numbers represent only a small fraction of the millions of believers (and nonbelievers) who visit Lourdes.

Survivors and our family members (and others who love us) pray for healing in the wake of abuse, and we wait, and wait, and wait. Even as we progress and improve, that turning point is seldom experienced in real time. Some survivors recount a eureka moment, many others recall the turning point in retrospect. Many others don’t experience a watershed, rather a series of re-wounding incidents and a lifelong struggle with psychic (and sometimes physical) disability. In other words, very few know the momentous strike of lighting that would permit us to hang out metaphorical crutches or aids on the wall of a shrine and walk out of its walls new men and women.

I have been curious about the experience of healing (for obvious reasons) over the years and have asked pilgrims about their visits to Lourdes. So many went in search of a miracle for themselves or others. Whole medical teams from different dioceses have brought small groups of very ill patients there for healing.

No one reported a miracle. Patients returned ill. Loved ones were not cured. Yet, many visitors still told me about astonishing experiences of grace – either to bear with an illness, or to find new meaning in life, or to resurrect dead relationships devastated by the pressures of illness and the financial strain it brings. It has seemed to me people are motivated to reach toward God in extreme ways when seeking a miracle, only to receive the miracle in God’s terms not in human terms.

In our recovery journey – and its extremes in emotions, effort, and commitments of time and treasure – we seek healing and often see how that is a miracle and not an achievement. And, the miracle doesn’t come….

Or, does it? There is nothing just about the cross we bear as survivors of abuse – or as those who love survivors – and our wellness is commonly defined by our skills and experience developed for carrying those crosses and not, as I have often prayed, to remove that cross from my shoulders.

What if we took a step back and waited on the Lord, to see His version of our healing – to recognize His version of our miracle on His terms?

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