A number of years ago I visited Lourdes and Fatima on pilgrimage and I was struck by how Lourdes especially was so commercialized. Yes, it still had that special aura about it and one felt the sense that it truly is God's hospital on earth, but there was also a sense of an underlying battle between simple holiness and bare materialism and commercialism. This battle was one of tone, attitude, and environment.
The First Army of the Believers
During my stay in Lourdes I became aware that there were three forces occupying this sacred ground. The first two forces may be called those of simple holiness and those of bare materialism. The soldiers of the army of simple holiness were those humble pilgrims so full of faith and devotion flocking to the Basilica and surrounding area.
These people wanted to breathe the air that Bernadette breathed and feel the water which she felt as she dug in the muddy ditch in obedience to The Blessed Mother's instructions.
These simple people felt compelled to be there, drawn by that unexplainable bond of a child to his mother which words dare not attempt to define.
The Second Army of the Merchants
The soldiers of the army of bare commercialism were those peddlers and shop owners who seemed to spread into the horizon. These people wanted to hear the sound of faith and devotion turning into cash. These people also felt compelled to be at Lourdes, but their attraction was that very explainable bond of a man to his wallet which words need not attempt to define.
The Third Army of the Compromisers
I soon realized that a third army was present at these grounds. This army might be called a mixture of the other two. Drawn by a strong faith and devotion to the events and history of Lourdes, these people came to this sacred place with their own deal to seal.
This third group was looking for a cure of body or perhaps mind, and this was the spiritual healthcare facility where they were going to get it. This third group had the faith and devotion of the first group and the desire to profit of the second group.
A Dangerous Progression
It soon became apparent that the three armies likewise represented a dangerous progression that threatened every pilgrim visiting Lourdes and sites like it. At first, one might be attracted to such a place out of faith, respect, and devotion to what happened there and to who appeared there.
Eventually, however, if one is not careful, human nature sets in and begins to look for self-profit and gain. "What's in it for me?" or
"How can this help me?" becomes the question of the day. While it is common for devotion to lead to special requests, one must be careful not to base one's devotion on receiving the coin one seeks or desires. That devotion must be selfless, pure, and open to God's Will. If one is not careful, then, selfishness and greed will lead to outright earthly motives and all holiness will be lost. We must all be careful to avoid falling in this progression for it is based on human nature.
The New Order's Role
The New Order thrives on pushing us from stage one to stage three. Satan knows well how to drown out holiness using human nature. The selfishness, materialism, and secularism so characteristic of The New Order is rampant in that third army of Lourdes, whether they realize it or not. Just as The New Order pushes harmful and dangerous agendas under the guise of positive and beneficial moves, so too we must be careful not to let the destructive motivations of The New Order color and taint our originally pure intentions and motives. Innovation, novelty and the idea of phenomenon more and more take precedence in the church of the New Order rather than common sense Faith - the true sensus Catholicus of the soul.
Training for the Victory of Tradition and Truth
One need only look at Bernadette Soubirous, the peasant seer of Lourdes turned glorious saint in Heaven, as a guide in this constant battle. Bernadette seemingly needed much of what the world had to offer and lacked much of what the world considered important, but she resisted the temptations and enticements of the world around her and remained purely faithful to Her God and Her Heavenly Mother.
Never looking to profit in any way from her experiences, she even accepted that the benefits of the miraculous water would not be for her. In her later years at Nevers, Bernadette suffered greatly with no complaint, stamping herself for eternity as a member of that first army of Lourdes, which comes to that French soil in simple, unselfish devotion and faith. It is this kind of devotion and faith which will bring ultimate victory to tradition and truth!
We must be - to borrow from the ad campaign of the U.S. Infantry without compromising with the 'army of sellers' - an "Army of One" dedicated to fulfilling at all times God's Holy Will. If we do that we can take solace that we will not be drummed out of the Mary's Army but be discharged honorably to spend our eternal retirement in Heavenly bliss. Those are the fruitful spoils of war - spiritual war - when you are fighting on the side of right and goodness.