By Sister Dianne Livingstone, MHSH
When I was about eight years old, my friend and I saw the “Song of Bernadette” at our local movie theater. We were so moved by this film that we decided to dig our own grotto in a sandpit near our home. We put a statue of Our Lady inside and knelt and prayed. We were sure that she would be impressed with our grotto and come visit us.
As we were praying, the wind rustled the leaves in the tree beside us and, all of a sudden, the world turned an eerie color, the sun was dimmed and the two of us thought that it must have something to do with our grotto. We ran to my mom, who explained that we were experiencing a solar eclipse, not having a religious experience.
Last year, 58 years after that childhood exposure to Lourdes, and after 35 years as a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart, I had developed Charcot Foot, a serious, neuropathic foot condition caused by diabetes. My right foot was in a walking cast; I had recently undergone a quadruple heart by-pass and was on dialysis three times a week with pending thyroid surgery.
Through the Knights of Malta, who are good friends of our Community, I met Dr. Alesandro de Fransisis, the director of Medical Affairs in Lourdes, France. He spoke of the miracles of Lourdes, the milades (those who seek a cure there) and the people who walk the journey with the milades. He talked about the young people who came back each year to help and the effects of Lourdes on their lives. That meant so much to me because I have spent my life working with teens.
After further discussion with him and with members of the Knights of Malta, I was invited to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes last April. The Knights of Malta sponsored me and Sister Loretta Cornell went as my companion. It was an experience that I will never forget, and it is difficult to put it into words.
The most profound moment of my journey was standing in the grotto and touching the water running over the rocks above the actual site where Bernadette first dug in the ground and the water sprang up. At that moment, I remembered my childhood experience in the sandlot grotto. I believe there is a connection.
No, I did not have an instant miracle. However, I have had three surgeries on my foot since my visit to Lourdes and have recently begun walking with a completely reconstructed foot. I believe the miracle was the grace I received to endure those surgeries and be a witness of patience and persistence.
My Jewish doctor and I agree that we have seen a miraculous healing. He calls it the advancement of medical science. I call it the miracle of Lourdes.