Today the Church remembers the brief encounters between a little girl, Bernadette, and Christ's mother, Mary, at Lourdes. 150 years ago, something happened in southern France that didn't fit into the current of the times.
It was an age of unbrideled optimism and confidence in the power of the human mind. Men dreamed of steam engines, diamonds, coal, the rights of the worker, the new science. Liberty, fraternity, equality. The transcendentalists were enjoying their heyday in America; Marxism was ruminating in secret in Europe.
It was almost a joke: For some reason, in a backward little town, to an uneducated and slightly "stupid" female--she was also ridiculously pious--the Mother of God appeared. And then this water sprang up from the ground. It was infuriating, because not only did the people travel to Lourdes en masse for a "spiritual experience," but they also received physical healing. If Lourdes had been content to stay "religious," it may have been forgiveable. Like Kabbalah. But here, God made the religious tangible. He gave concrete, physical evidence of his presence. It threw all the assumptions of modern man in his face.
So, today, remember Mary's message: Forget the steam engine. Pray. Come. Be healed. The apparition was not about "being spiritual." It was testimony to God's love for each of us in our humanity--body and soul. Both are only saved in him.