Bottles and Water (part three in a series)


Guest blogger Yvette Piggush shares reflections about her recent trip to Lourdes, France. This is the final in a series.

My bottles of Lourdes water.

Souvenir shops in Lourdes sell many kinds of water bottles: gallon jugs, plastic bottles shaped like Mary with a screw-off crown, spray bottles, and tiny, jewel-like glass bottles. I had only seen water from Lourdes reverently stored in these special containers. In my experience, people regarded this water almost as a kind of miracle-working juice, one drop of which could defeat cancer or mend a broken heart. At the shrine, by contrast, the water was so abundant it almost seemed ordinary. People collected it using regular water bottles and they spilled it everywhere in the process. No one acted as though a drop or two would change their lives. Yet, in February 2018, the Catholic Church officially recognized the seventieth miracle attributed to Lourdes (https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/its-a-miracle-lourdes-healing-officially-declared-supernatural-84194).

Lourdes water special equipment.

St. Bernadette insisted that Lourdes water was not a magic potion. “One must have faith and pray,” she urged, “the water will have no virtue without faith.” The spring had its origins in an act of penance. In her apparition on February 25th, Mary directed Bernadette to scrape water out of the muddy ground at the back of the grotto and to drink and wash with it as a sign of penitence. Disgusted, Bernadette spit out the murky brew several times before managing to swallow some of it and to smear the rest on her face. People thought she had gone insane.

Pilgrims fill bottles with water from the miraculous spring at a row of taps.

Struggling for a way to say goodbye to Lourdes, I recalled Mary’s instructions to Bernadette. I went to the taps, cupped my hands, and drank, spilling water everywhere. I then took another handful of water and poured it on my head. I realized that I like bottles too much. Open gestures of faith are difficult for me. Yet faith, like water, needs to be poured out in order to have any effect. The most penitential experience I could muster in the moment was braving my friend’s quizzical look at my dripping face. But, just as the water has no virtue without faith, so too does our faith lack virtue if it is not like water, poured out, spilling over, and making us look a little silly for Christ.

Yvette Piggush is active in St. Mary’s Cathedral parish in St. Cloud. She teaches in the English Department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. When she isn’t reading something, she may be found baking desserts, going on long walks, and enjoying time with her nieces and goddaughters.

One thought on “Bottles and Water (part three in a series)”

  1. I really enjoyed this thoughtful reflection on the water of Lourdes. While I have never had personal experience of Lourdes water, I try to remain respectful of those who have. I also struggle–not unlike St. Bernadette, however, with the idea of those who regard it as “a magic potion.” Your simple act of farewell struck the perfect note of faith and respect, in my opinion. (And bravery! I’m not sure I would have had the courage to pour water over my head like that!) Thank you for sharing your story!

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