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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Goin' To Lourdes

Annie Hall: Oh, you see an analyst?
Alvy Singer: Yeah, just for fifteen years.
Annie Hall: Fifteen years?
Alvy Singer: Yeah, I'm gonna give him one more year, and then I'm goin' to Lourdes.

This dialogue, from Woody Allen's film Annie Hall (with Woody playing Alvy Singer), demonstrates the iconic status of the shrine at Lourdes, France, in the Pyrenees. Lourdes has become synonymous with miracles.

Growing up as a Roman Catholic, Lourdes has always fascinated me. What is most intriguing is the purported healing properties of the water. An estimated 200 million people have visited Sanctuary of Our Lady in Lourdes since 1860. Currently, about 6 million yearly make the pilgrimage. The church has recognized 67 miraculous healings.

One should be careful to dismiss these as self-delusional or write this off as a case of the Catholic Church's self promotion. The claims for miraculous healings actually are put through quite rigorous testing before a Lourdes Medical Bureau, comprised of doctors. Those claims standing up to preliminary examination are referred to the International Lourdes Medical Committee, an international panel of medical experts in various disciplines (not all Roman Catholic, the panel is open to any denomination). Only a handful of claims make it this far, and the entire process takes 5-12 years, ensuring the cure is permanent. The church itself gives the final approval.

The Roman Catholic church is actually reluctant and extremely careful to acknowledge miracles or grant sainthood - the repercussions of fraudulent claims would certainly come back to haunt them. See a New York Times article here. The conditions to qualify as a genuine miracle are:

The original diagnosis must be verified and confirmed beyond doubt
The diagnosis must be regarded as "incurable" with current means (although ongoing treatments do not disqualify the cure)
The cure must happen in association with a visit to Lourdes, typically while in Lourdes or in the vicinity of the shrine itself (neither drinking nor bathing in the water is required)
The cure must be immediate (rapid resolution of symptoms and signs of the illness)
The cure must be complete (no residual impairment or deficit)
The cure must be permanent (with no recurrence)

The waters of Lourdes are available right here in New York City at the Church of Notre Dame, located at 114th Street and Morningside Drive, near Columbia University, with which it has been associated since 1988. The first administrator of the church was Fr. Maurice Reynauld. While in France in 1913, Reynauld affiliated the Church of Notre Dame with the Sanctuary of Our Lady in Lourdes. A special arrangement was made for Lourdes water to be sent directly from the shrine in France to the Church of Notre Dame in New York City. Since that time, water from the Lourdes shrine has been continuously available at the church in New York.

I am very curious about the whole thing. I've been to California. One day, I'm goin' to Lourdes...


Anonymous said...

Ok, I don't know where to start. I wish I could send you an email I have so much to say.
First of all, I just found your blog last night! Where have you been all my life? I live in Kansas City and am utterly infatuated with Manhattan. I am 49 and have only been there 10 times, am headed there in a couple weeks actually. If I could have a dime for every hour I was on the internet looking up photos and info about "non-touristy" things, I could probably buy an apartment there! How could I have not run across your glorious blog until just now? I am going to read every word, and look at every single marvelous photo over and over again on your glorious info-filled Blog! Your fan, Sally from Kansas City.

Sally Darling said...

Me again. Sorry, I'm your new stalker now :) I literally can not stop reading your posts. I can't explain how there is something in my bones that has always, my whole life, made me feel like I belong there, that I should be living there, but life's events didn't see it that way. Thank you so much for letting me have my little NYC Oasis right here in Kansas!

René said...

Suppose a quadraplegic goes to Lourdes in his old wheelchair; he gets into the water and comes out still crippled, but with brand new tires.
Would that count as a miracle?

Annie said...

Very interesting. I can't believe I have missed seeing this church in my wanderings around the Upper West Side. Next time!

Brian Dubé said...

Sally - Thanks. Maybe you should try reading my story You're Not in Kansas Anymore:

Sally Darling said...

Thanks Brian! I stayed up last night and read almost all of your 2010 posts. Not quite through with them, but I'm enjoying every second! I hope you know, my passion and thrill for your fascinating city is only getting fueled by your incredible photos and writing! I can't wait until we arrive on September 25th! My mind is racing a mile a minute with my itinerary selections!

Mary P. said...

Rene-- I guess you take your miracles where you can get them! --Mary