Friday, February 12, 2010

Lourdes and Cardinal John Wright


“Behind the branches, in the opening, I saw a white gift, not bigger than I, who made me a little bow with her head… A rosary was hanging on her right arm… I put my hand in my pocket and took out the rosary that I always carry in it… I said my rosary. The girl made the beads of hers slip through her fingers, but she did not move her lips. While saying my rosary I was looking as hard as I could.”


Cardinal Wright:

“Thus Bernadette described the first of the historic apparitions which have so directed, one might almost say dominated, the character and quality of contemporary devotion to Mary. From that simple scene have increasingly come devotions which have brought the rosary into the homes, streets, factories, and public places of remote hamlets and mighty cities in every corner of the modern world….


Fr. Joseph E. Manton, C.Ss.R: Preaching Cardinal Wright’s funeral:

(…) “As his favorite Marian shrine was Lourdes, his favorite Marian devotion was the rosary. He was wont to wrinkle a disapproving nose at the mention of a wake service that featured a few verses of Scripture and a couple of sentimental poems. He liked to point out that the greater part of the rosary was scooped right out of the Scriptures and that most funeral-parlor poetry was pious fluff. ‘When I am laid out,’ he would say, ‘start the beads. And if no one has a pair, look in my pocket. They will be there, unless the undertaker has taken them out.’

“I wonder how many times he was part of the candle-lit Rosary Procession at Lourdes. Once he invited me to be his guest on the white Train. At that time all I knew was that the White Train was in some manner connected with Lourdes. I learned the hard way and loved it. It was called the White Train because of the white banners slung along the sides, but more so because of the white uniforms of the dozens of doctors and nurses aboard. It was an annual trip that carried about three hundred and fifty sick priests who were brought from all over Italy to a railway yard in Rome for a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

“Blind priests, crippled priests, cancer-ridden priest, in a word, priests with all manner of diseases filled the long train. We did not take off our clothes in the whole thirty-hour trip, but who could complain when you saw such helplessness all around you? At each of the half-dozen stations where we stopped, the priest and people of the town were there with food. (We had set out with nothing!) While the pasta and fruit and salami and the rest were taken aboard, Cardinal Wright was on the platform, bullhorn in hand, addressing the crowd. As he spoke, they laughed, they applauded, they blinked back tears: They were in the palm of his hand. Admiration and affection sparkled in their eyes. By the last stop, though, he was hoarse and limp.

“Around the parklike grounds of Lourdes, you would come upon the Cardinal pulling a wheelchair or pushing a rolling stretcher bed. On the last morning he was the chief celebrant at the farewell Mass. Like the Last Supper, there were twelve bishops around the altar. Like Pentecost, the readings, very brief, were in five different languages. And, like the sick who came to Christ in Galilee, there were three hundred and fifty sick priests in rows upon rows of wheelchairs, bright stoles over their bathrobes, concelebrating. As many more of us who were healthy – perhaps seven hundred in all –said our part of the Mass from the pews.”

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