Lourdes, France — Brad Pitt appears to be the hero of the Hollywood story, having done what many were afraid to do: stand up to Harvey Weinstein. The scandal was a far cry from the peace and dignity of Lourdes, France, where I happened to be as the scandal details began to emerge. Here it’s hard to escape the natural and supernatural presence of something healing, something renewing. Here every night a candlelight procession seems to kindle something better than refreshing your iPhone will ever do, whatever the app may be. Here, the dignity of each person is on display in both modest and radiant ways. It’s restorative. It’s what we need.
Pilgrims flood in daily to this site where a young, otherwise unknown, and would-be long-forgotten girl named Bernadette saw the Mother of God.
In 2004, Saint John Paul II was here, and his words sound as if they were delivered for us to here today: “Dear brothers and sisters! From this grotto of Massabielle, the Blessed Virgin speaks to us, too, the Christians of the third millennium. Let us listen to her!”
“Listen to her,” he continued, “young people who seek an answer capable of giving meaning to your lives. Here you can find that answer. It is a demanding one, yet it is the only answer that is genuinely satisfying. For it contains the secret of true joy and peace.”
One can only imagine that a young Hollywood actor or actress trying to find a way to success would never tolerate silence in the face of men behaving badly as Weinstein did if they were asking such questions in a community that looked out for one another’s best interest. It’s hard not to think of the celebrities who attach themselves to political causes that are said to be about lifting up women whereas they only extend the kind of misery that Hollywood appears to be bursting at the seams with.
John Paul, on the other hand, knew the gift that women are to the world. Here he also said: “From this grotto I issue a special call to women. Appearing here, Mary entrusted her message to a young girl, as if to emphasize the special mission of women in our own time, tempted as it is by materialism and secularism: to be in today’s society a witness of those essential values that are seen only with the eyes of the heart. To you, women, falls the task of being sentinels of the Invisible! I appeal urgently to all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to do everything in your power to ensure that life, each and every life, will be respected from conception to its natural end. Life is a sacred gift, and no one can presume to be its master.”
Pointing to Mary’s fearless ‘yes’ to a request of God, Saint John Paul II suggested, ‘Walk beside Mary as you journey toward the complete fulfillment of your humanity!’
In America today, there is some inadvertent transparency happening. In politics, in culture, on the streets. Our anger, our sins, our pain are on display. It plays out in all kinds of incivility and incoherence and sickness and death. We see the poisons that wreck families and cities and nations. The question is, What are we going to do about it?
John Paul had the answer here too. “Finally, Our Lady of Lourdes has a message for everyone. Be men and women of freedom! But remember: Human freedom is a freedom wounded by sin. It is a freedom which itself needs to be set free. Christ is its liberator; he is the one who ‘for freedom has set us free’ (Gal. 5:1). Defend that freedom!”
When he first took the world stage as pope, he urged, “Be not afraid.” Fear victimizes, and we do it to ourselves. No one should every wield the kind of crass tyranny Weinstein did. And yet, he did, as we all are tempted by materialism and secularism. Our religion is celebrity, and that status is everything in Hollywood. We feed it, the open and hidden secrets we have some complicity in when we make idols of people and their power.
Pointing to Mary’s fearless “yes” to a request of God, John Paul suggested, “Walk beside Mary as you journey toward the complete fulfilment of your humanity!”
Whatever you believe about God and man and Mary, consider the message of freedom in this place. It’s water here that heals — there are actual medical reports confirming it’s happened. But just in a visit, you discover the miracle of a little peace and quiet. And it’s not celebrity that we’re after here, but a freeing from the chains of this world and its traps. When light hits the darkness, we have a chance to do things differently. Whether you’re in Hollywood or a small town, see the light in your life and take a step to be free of whatever or whomever has been robbing you of your human dignity.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here. This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.