“My Lady, would you be so kind as to tell me who you are?” This was the humble request of Bernadette Soubirous to the Virgin Mother of God, who appeared to her on multiple occasions at the Grotto of Lourdes, France, in 1858. Our Lady responded, not with words, but with an enchanting smile. Young Bernadette worked up the courage to ask her a second time. And, once more, Our Lady simply gazed upon her with a smile. Only when Bernadette put the request to her a third time did the Virgin Mary answer with the momentous words, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” before smiling upon her once again and vanishing from sight.

“Mary’s smile is ‘a spring of living water’ whose source is the Heart of her Son, Jesus.”

— Fr. Louis Maximilian Smith, OFM Conv.

Ever since the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette in 1858, the Grotto at Lourdes has become famous for the numerous bodily healings which have taken place there, in connection with the miraculous spring of water Our Lady pointed out to Bernadette, and with our Eucharistic Lord. While it cannot be precisely known, without a doubt a great many more pilgrims visiting the Shrine of Lourdes have experienced healings of soul. In a mysterious way, they, too, have been touched by Mary’s smile.

Who can measure the life-giving impact of a human smile? It is a precious act of love, transcending any language, freely bestowed upon another person. How much more does the smile of the Virgin Mary shed light upon even the deepest darkness within the human heart! If the Immaculate Conception is the seal of God’s undying love for every man and woman, the smile of his very own Mother is “a true reflection of God’s tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope.” In it is reflected “our dignity as children of God” (Benedict XVI, Homily, 15 September 2008).

Mary’s smile is “a spring of living water” whose source is the Heart of her Son, Jesus. Her smile beckons us to draw close to His Heart to find not only an incomparable source of healing and consolation in the midst of our sufferings in this life, but more importantly to find therein the source of eternal happiness for our broken hearts. How blessed we are to be the recipients of Mary’s smile!

“Who can measure the life-giving impact of a human smile? It is a precious act of love, transcending any language, freely bestowed upon another person.”

— Fr. Louis Maximilian Smith, OFM Conv.

The ongoing pandemic has laid bare the almost unbearable distress of soul and body so many of our brothers and sisters — and perhaps we, too — are having to endure. Who will come to our aid in all this distress? 

Mary’s smile was directed not only to Bernadette; she is, in fact, smiling upon each one of us. Her smile is a reminder that “there has entered One [the Son of God] who shares suffering and endurance; in all suffering con-solatio is diffused, the consolation of God’s participating love so as to make the star of hope rise” (Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, n. 39). Once having received this smile, we, in our turn, must share it with our brothers and sisters.

One might ask: “In the midst of so much misery and distress, how can I find the strength even to offer a smile to my neighbor?” Let us have the courage, like Bernadette, to turn to the Mother of God, and to humbly ask her: “My Lady, would you be so kind as to tell me who you are and who your Son Jesus is?”