Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Peace and All Good Column
Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., is the seventh Archbishop of Atlanta. In his award-winning column “Peace and All Good,” he shares homilies and pastoral reflections.

Ave Maria!

By ARCHBISHOP GREGORY J. HARTMAYER, OFM Conv. | Published May 21, 2024  | En Español

The month of May is dedicated in a special way to honoring and seeking the intercession of Mary as the Mother of God and Mother of the Church. Pope Francis reminds us: “She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us.” (Rejoice and Be Glad, 176).  

We are blessed to have so many beautiful Marian devotions including the Rosary, May crownings and pilgrimages to churches and shrines dedicated to Our Blessed Mother. 

I spent the first week of May at the beautiful shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. It was in Lourdes that Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. She asked Bernadette to “drink from the fountain and bathe in it.”  

Bernadette was puzzled. There had never been a fountain at the cave at Massabieille or any kind of a natural spring. Obedient to Mary’s command, she scratched the ground and a little muddy water appeared. The following day, the pool was overflowing, and water was dripping down over the rock. And this continues to this day in the grotto hewn from the rock. Our Lady continues to beckon us to wash in the waters as we pray for her maternal intercession.  

Many of the sick, and even the dying, who come to Lourdes hoping for physical healing, can leave with an interior peace they did not have before coming to this holy place. I witnessed this firsthand on my pilgrimage with the Order of Malta. 

The Green Team of the Order of Malta assisted Father Paul Burke of Atlanta, seated second from left, and others on a recent pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. Father Burke joined Archbishop Hartmayer and others on the pilgrimage the first week of May.

Founded in 1113, The Sovereign Order of Malta is a religious order, where some of its members are religious–who have professed the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience–and others have just taken the special promise of obedience. The great majority of the knights and dames are lay members. Its mission statement reads: “Today, the Order of Malta is active in 120 countries caring for people in need through its medical, social and humanitarian works. Day-to-day, its broad spectrum of social projects provides a constant support for forgotten or excluded members of society. It is especially involved in helping people living in the midst of armed conflicts and natural disasters by providing medical assistance, caring for refugees, and distributing medicines and basic equipment for survival. Across the world, the Order of Malta is dedicated to the preservation of human dignity and the care of all those in need, regardless of their origin or religion.”  

We are blessed in this archdiocese by the dedicated service of the Order of Malta in its outreach to the poor in food pantries; to its support of the three Pregnancy Aid Clinic locations in metro Atlanta; in its ministry to the incarcerated and especially in its care for the sick.  

Every year, the Order of Malta brings the sick, whom they call “malades” and their designated companions to Lourdes. They are accompanied by knights and dames of the order, the auxiliary, chaplains and volunteers. 

Every year, the Order of Malta brings the sick, whom they call “malades” and companions to Lourdes, France. Father Paul Burke, seated, of Atlanta, made the pilgrimage as a “malade,” accompanied by his sister, Anne Burke-Liston of Dublin, Ireland, and Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer. Photo by Kim Schulman

Atlanta is part of the region designated as the Federal Association. From Baltimore, we boarded a chartered plane as friends and strangers destined for Lourdes. We returned as a family united by faith, hope and love. In addition to myself, our Atlanta pilgrims were accompanied by Msgr. Edward J. Dillon, a chaplain of the Order of Malta and my priest-secretary, Father Gerardo Ceballos. Among the malades was one of our own priests, who is also a chaplain of the order, Father Paul Burke.  

Nothing could have prepared me for what would unfold once we arrived in Lourdes. The malades were assigned to various teams and cared for from morning to night by knights, dames and volunteers, as well as doctors and nurses. They were wheeled in carts to Masses and processions, to the healing baths and to the Grotto. The knights and dames took care of their every need and wish. Words fail to adequately express the love and devotion, care and compassion that I had the privilege to witness during these precious days.  

On one of the evenings, I had the privilege of officiating at the candlelight rosary procession that wound its way through the demesne before ending on the steps on the Rosary Basilica. A statue of Mary was carried in procession while the rosary was prayed in different languages. As the Lourdes Ave Maria was sung between each mystery, candles were raised honoring the Blessed Virgin.  

We are reminded that we are all pilgrims on a journey that is heaven-bound. And Mary’s desire is for us to draw ever closer to her Divine Son, so that one day, we will enter into his Kingdom where we behold his glory for all eternity as we enjoy her company as the Queen of Heaven.  

Each one of us went to Lourdes with prayers and petitions, with worries and troubles, and with hopes and fears. Each of us went in search of a miracle. I dare say that we all received them in one form or another because we all witnessed what the world can be like when we truly love and care for one another. 

I share words quoted in the movie “The Song of Bernadette” of 1943: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”  

Our Lady of Lourdes, Mother of the Church and Health of the Sick, pray for us!