Pilgrim. What place does Lourdes hold in your vocation?
P. Benoît Grière : During my first stay as a volunteer, in the mid-1980s, I was a seminarian for the diocese of Châlons-en-Champagne. This experience was therefore not particularly decisive for my vocation, even if Mary occupies an important place in our spirituality. But at the time, I was just discovering the presence of the Assumption in Lourdes.
They call you the Assumptionists. For what ?
Our founder, Emmanuel d’Alzon (1810-1880), urged us to love what Christ loved most in the world: the Church, his wife, and Mary, his mother. But the name of our congregation, the Augustinians of the Assumption, is rather the result of chance. Emmanuel d’Alzon, who saw teaching as a way to re-Christianize the country, took over a college in Nîmes called L’Assomption. For my part, I especially care about the term which roots us in the history of the Church with Saint Augustine (354-430).
How modern was the launch of the National Pilgrimage?
A new congregation, new means. In the minds of the Assumptionists, it was about reconquering a France which had lost its Christian tradition. Pilgrimages, which have almost disappeared, apart from that of La Salette, appear to them as a means of reaching as many people as possible. The explosion of railways and the mass circulation press – Pilgrim was founded in 1873 – accompanied the movement. Respectful of the religious forms of his time, Father d’Alzon intends to pull out all the stops to build a ministry for new times. This is what is modern!
You are a trained doctor. Do you believe in miracles?
Some physical healings are inexplicable. Yes, I believe in the possibility of a miracle, even if it is not essential for faith. I believe that God, in his goodness, allows signs to be given as a good and a comfort to all. And in greater numbers than those who are cautiously validated – 69 in a century and a half – by the Church! That said, the Church is right not to call everything a miracle. In the Augustinian tradition, the miracle is Creation, life as it is given to us. As a doctor, I am not waiting for a miraculous intervention to do my job. Man does not have to let God act.
In an age of globalization, does a “national” pilgrimage still make sense?
A large part of the pilgrims are European, African, West Indian… The time when Lourdes established itself as a Catholic counter-society is far behind us. We live in an open society. Homosexuals, divorced and remarried people… all have their place in the Church. In Lourdes, we are all invited to rub shoulders and work together for the good of pilgrims and the sick. Find all the information on the National Pilgrimage