That terrible feeling I get in my stomach when I see pictures of the grotto of Our Lady at Lourdes under water – it bothers me that I cannot identify it. I cannot pinpoint why it feels so weird and so “not right.”
I’ve asked myself, “When else have I felt this way? What else would ever make me feel this way?” The only thing I can come up with is that I might have had this feeling if I had ever seen my mother’s apartment in the nursing home under water. That was the place where I went to take naps and have simple meals and watch the Reds games and just be with mom. If I had ever seen my mother’s prayer book floating in muddy water, I might have had this feeling. And that floor lamp that was next to her chair, from the top of which she had tied the tiny scissors that she used when she did her embroidery work on the pillow cases, as she sat in the light of that lamp, with the scissors dangling within an easy reach, if I had ever seen just the top of that lamp above water, it would have felt so “not right.” My mother wouldn’t have deserved that. Maybe a lot of other stuff in life would have deserved that, but not my mom’s stuff.
Maybe I’m mad at the water. Water just seems so mean. I know that the river didn’t mean to do what it did to the shrine at Lourdes, but it did.
There are supposed to be people walking through that grotto and leaving their prayers and blessing themselves with water that seeps through the rocks. There are supposed to be pilgrims sitting in rows of benches whispering prayers, fingering rosaries and just feeling safe. There are supposed to be candles burning and candles waiting to be lit. But that water, that river water keeps everyone from getting to the waters of the Lady’s spring. People want to drink and need to bathe. Those flooding waters are just plain mean. And all that mud, it doesn’t belong there. Mary, our Mother, doesn’t deserve this, and neither do the sick who come to her at Lourdes.
I know that the water will go away, and that the mud will be put back in its place, and that the “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria” will be sung as soon as the slop is cleared away. And, yes, we can hear “the Lady” say, “”I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.”
But there is just something so wrong with a flood at the grotto of Lourdes. And I still cannot name the feeling in my stomach.