Archbishop of Canterbury preaches at Lourdes

  History was made yesterday when Dr Rowan Williams, became the first Archbishop of Canterbury to preach at Lourdes. Dr Williams is among a group of Anglicans taking part in 150th anniversary celebrations at the shrine. During his homily Dr Williams said that 150 years ago the people of Lourdes "knew all they thought they needed to know about the Mother of God". He said: "They needed to be surprised by this inarticulate, powerless, marginal teenager who had leapt up in the joy of recognition to meet Mary as her mother, her sister, bearer of her Lord and Redeemer. Our prayer here must be that, renewed and surprised in this holy place, we may be given the overshadowing strength of the Spirit to carry Jesus wherever we go, in the hope that joy will leap from heart to heart in all our human encounters. "And that we may also be given courage to look and listen for that joy in our own depths when the clarity of the good news seems far away and the sky is cloudy." Dr Williams said this offered "good news" to people seeking to take on the Christian mission, but who "find their efforts slow and apparently futile, and for all who still can't find their way to the 'right' words and the open commitment". "Our first and overarching task is to carry Jesus, gratefully and faithfully, with us in all our doings," the archbishop said. "If we are faithful in thus carrying Christ with us, something will happen, some current will stir and those we are with will feel, perhaps well below the conscious surface, a movement of life and joy which they may not understand at all." He added: "It certainly isn't for us as Christians to bully and cajole, and to try and force people into commitments they are not ready to make - but we can and should seek to be there, carrying Jesus, and letting his joy come through, waiting for the leap of recognition in someone's heart." Monsignor Andrew Faley,Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs and Interfaith Relations at the Catholic Bishops' Conference, said Dr Williams' visit demonstrated the strength of the relationship between the Anglican and Catholic Churches. "It's a great opportunity to recognise the place of the Virgin Mary within our shared tradition," he added. To read the homily see: 25 September 2008 Text: Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon at Lourdes Source: agencies/BBC

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