February 11th was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1858, in Southern France, Mary the Mother of God appeared 18 times to St. Bernadette. Over the course of those visits Our Lady and St. Bernadette prayed together, Mary revealed her identity as The Immaculate Conception, and at Mary’s direction Bernadette dug into the ground with her hands revealing a stream of water, a stream of water that is still running today and has healed countless men and women in the last century and a half.
After those 18 visits with the Blessed Virgin, St. Bernadette went on to become a religious sister. And as you can imagine she was asked many questions about those apparitions. One question that Bernadette was frequently asked was about how Mary made the sign of the cross. As I said during the apparitions St. Bernadette and the Blessed Virgin Mary prayed together always beginning with the sign of the cross. And so people were curious about how an inhabitant of Heaven would sign herself. St. Bernadette always showed them; in fact it was now the way she made the sign of the cross herself. It was a slow, thoughtful, and big sign of the cross.
Throughout the past two millennia much has been written about this 15 word prayer, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” There is a great depth and breadth to this prayer, we could talk for hours and hours and hours, but today I want to focus on something very simple and it’s based on something many of us learned in the Baltimore Catechism. When I was a kid and we got home from Religious Ed, mom would have us study questions out of the Baltimore Catechism, she didn’t think we were learning enough, so she supplemented. We loved it! ☺So the question I have in mind today is:
Question 6: Why did God make you?
Answer: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.
The great truth of question #6 is demonstrated every time we make the sign of the cross. To know Him (touch head), to love Him (touch heart) and to serve Him well (touch shoulders). Know, Love, Serve. It’s in our mind that we know. It’s in our heart that we love. And it’s in our shoulders connected to arms, and hands that we serve.
I have a challenge for these next forty days of Lent; ask the Lord everyday: how will I better know you today Lord, how will I better love you today Lord, and how will I better serve you today Lord. Pray for these graces. And pray too for the graces to respond generously. Pray for the grace to remember these questions every time you make the sign of the cross. Making the sign of the cross slowly and thoughtfully.
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Christopher Ankley