Our pilgrimage has brought us to the Shrine of Our
Lady of Lourdes. At Lourdes, our blessed Mother presented herself as the Immaculate Conception. Her
message there was Do penance and
Pray for the conversion of sinners. At
Fatima, as Our Lady of the Rosary, she again called for Penance and Prayer for the conversion of sinners.
"There is no way of casting out such [evil] spirits as this, except by prayer and fasting" [Mt 17
We are answering her call by a pilgrimage of
penance, and prayers of reparation for sins; for every sin committed is an offence against the Sacred
Heart of Jesus and against Mary's Immaculate Heart.
"Though we are many in number, we form one Body in
Christ" [Rom 12 5]. "[We] are Christ's Body, all its organs depending on each other. If one part is
suffering, all the rest suffer with it; if one organ is treated with honour, all the other parts find
pleasure in it" [I Cor 12 26s]. That is why our penance and prayer can make reparation for sinners and
build up the Mystical Body.
"This first of all I ask: that petition, prayer,
entreaty and thanksgiving should be offered for all mankind... Such prayer is our duty. It is what God
our Saviour expects of us, since it is His will that all men should be saved, and be led to recognize the
truth: There is only one God, and only one mediator between God and men: Jesus Christ, Who... gave
Himself as a ransom for all" [I Tim 2 2ss].
"I am glad of my sufferings... [for] in my body I
help to pay off the debts which the sufferings of Christ leave still to be paid, for the sake of His
Body, the Church" [Col 1 24]. Like Saint Paul, we can do penance not only for our own offences, but for
the sins of others.
Fifty-three years ago I was a curate at our
Cathedral parish, and spent about ten hours each week in the confessional. I heard many devout persons
who confessed every week; and also some people who had not been to the Sacraments for many years. To
great sinners I felt I could not give grievous penances, which they might refuse to perform, or which
would discourage them from future confessions.
Relying on the unity of the Mystical Body, when I
heard a fervent penitent, I would say: You only deserve as penance to say an Our Father or a Hail Mary.
But I have given light penances to some great sinners; would you accept some of what they deserve, such
as the Five Sorrowful Mysteries or the Stations of the Cross, to make up what is lacking in reparation to
the Sacred Heart. Those good souls accepted this proposal with joy, and would even ask for more during
their later confessions.
Well, that is what we have been doing today: doing
penance, and making reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of our Mother Mary:
for our own failings, but moreover for all sinners throughout the Church and all over the world. We have
tried to respond to Our Lady's call to prayer and penance for the conversion of sinners; so that we can
say to her: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Our Lady of the Rosary,
grant that we may imitate its Mysteries and obtain what they promise, through Christ your Son and our