One of our authors, Greg Pierce (Spirituality at Work: 10 Ways to Balance Your Life on the Job) was at Loyola Press for a visit the other day and a few of us found ourselves chatting about the Reign of God. I told them that my closest experience of the Kingdom of God/Reign of God on earth was at Lourdes.
I had heard about the souvenir shops and shabby glitz of the town and so I had a fair dose of skepticism going there. When I arrived, everything outside the Shrine was just as tacky and ghastly as I had been told. What I was not prepared for, however, was the palpable atmosphere serenity and loveliness inside the Shrine itself.
It took me a little time to understand what was happening but I slowly came to recognize that in this place the Reign of God could be discerned. Within the Shrine, the sick and the vulnerable come first. It is their place and God is very present to them. It is how everywhere on earth should be. It is such a holy place that those who are suffering radiate beauty. It is a rare privilege to witness such goodness. I came away from Lourdes a better person or, at least, much less cynical than before.