The 75th diamond jubilee of the shrine of Our Lady of
Lourdes - Nattandiya:
The Gentle Shepherd meets his flock
And they came in their thousands to see their beloved spiritual
leader, some staying overnight, some braving the harsh morning sunlight
and some with morning hunger which they forgot in his presence. He had
the power to hold their rapt attention. Such was the silence and their
The Rt Rev Dr Devsritha
Valance Mendis, Bishop of
The grotto of the Lady of Lourdes beautifully and meticulously
flower-decked in the purity of innocence that is the Mother of Jesus,
was also a befitting facade to the Bishop as he mounted its platform to
conduct the Holy Mass in commemoration to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee
of 75 years (1937-2012) of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Nattandiya
in the Diocese of Chilaw. With lyrical choral voices in attendance, the
Rt Rev Dr Devsritha Valence Mendis delivered his sermon. (Let me quote
the Bible ahead....)
'A man suffering from a dreaded skin disease came to Jesus knelt
down, and begged him for help. If you want to' he said, 'you can make me
Jesus was filled with pity and reached out and touched him. I Do Want
To' he answered. 'be clean'. At once the disease left the man and he was
clean. Then Jesus sent him away at once, after saying to him 'listen,
don't tell anyone about this but go straight to the priest and let him
examin you; then in order to prove to everyone that you are cured, offer
the sacrifice to Moses ordered.'
But the man went away and began to spread the news everywhere. Indeed
he talked so much that Jesus could not go into a town publicly. Instead
he stayed out in lonely places and people came to see him from
Mark 1, 40-45
Mathew 8, 1-4
Luke 5, 12-16
In his sermon for the day, His Lordship told his people the
significance of one's faith in Jesus Christ when a man who believed he
could be healed of his leprosy of a long time, begged the Lord to do so
only if he wished to. He knew he was not worthy of it but his Christian
faith over-powered to face Jesus.
And Jesus healed him.
But he said do not go around announcing what I have done for you. My
time has not yet come. Therefore, do not publicise. Show yourself to the
High Priest so that he will know you are healed of the plague which is
the custom of the day.
The statue of our Lady of Lourdes in the shrine of which the
diamond jubilee of 75 years, was celebrated at Nattandiya in the
Diocese of Chilaw.
But the healed leper forgot all about what the Lord commanded him to
do, instead he ran about announcing the miracle and the people flocked
to see him. Bishop Mendis still went further, educating the people.
'During the time of the Old Testament, it was said....a tooth for
tooth.... an eye for eye but with the coming of the Lord to save sinners
as found in the New Testament, every pagan ideal changed. Jesus preached
love among all, forgiveness to your enemies. He showed the way to
Christian belief for which one must forget caste, creed, colour etc.,
and trust the Lord you in the right path. Then and then only would one
find inner happiness and peace.
The Bishop still continued, 'One's heart is the citadel, the monument
one gives the Lord... as he briefly surveyed the strikingly spectacular
floral set-up amongs which he stood. This marvelous monument of our
Lady's Shrine is only structural but within your heart you should
possess a sacred monument for the Lord. That is what life is about to
'If there is something hidden deep down your heart which burdens you,
it is symbolic of a pool. You must allow its water trickle out and be
rid of your worries, he said in simple lyrical language for everyone to
understand and concluded lustily.
More adoration to the shrine - history spanning 75 years that
culminated with the Diamond Jubilee of this Shrine in the heart of
Nattandiya is awesome and inspirational. In the last few months, many a
time have I passed this Shrine when I saw a hugely motivated, dedicated
Parish Priest, Rev Upul Churchill Perera finalising, putting the last
touches meticulously into place, making it the most bewitching holy
shrine in Nattandiya electorate. He was seen working thro'out the day,
ably assisted by a dynamic committee and a labour force, who saw to its
end until the last minute when Bishop Valance Mendis was conducted in a
floral-decked vehicle to the venue from Marawila Town.
A big bouquet to the Parish Priest and all who made it to the end....
done in the name of the Lord.
A Brief History - The church's history span back to 75 years
(1937-2012) during which time twenty five priests including the present
one, Rev Upul Churchill Perera has served this shrine with generations
of devotees passing through its portals. This all began with the
appearance of the Virgin Mary in 1858 in a grotton at the City of
Lourdes in France known as The Misabiyal grotto to a Rev Sister named
Berneadette Subirose as she prayed one evening.
This is the version that is depicted at the Shrine of the Lady of
Lourdes in Nattandiya, recalling one hundred and forty four years since
the Virgin appeared. It has grown stronger by the day as a beacon of
light to all who visit the church. The Diamond Jubilee celebrated
further strengthens its future.
The Season of Lent
The Season of Lent begins on February 22, and the Catholics as well
as the Christians call it 'the Ash Wednesday '. The term "Ash Wednesday"
derives from the practice of the same and it falls on different dates in
each year depending on the day of Easter Sunday. Thus, the Ash Wednesday
could fall, on or before February 4,or as late as March 10.
Wednesday comes as the first day of the Season of Lent following the
day, known as shrove or fat Tuesday, (Mardi Gras) the last day of the
carnival season. Perusing the pages of Christian history, we find that
the term 'Ash Wednesday' derives from the age-old practice and it is
basically a rite and a ritual observed by the Western Christians
(Catholics). It has its influence over some of the other Christian
denominations in the world such as Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists,
Presbyterians,Anglicans and Baptists. In the medieval period, Ash
Wednesday was the required annual day of penitential confession
occurring after fasting and the remittance of the tithe. These practices
are optional in the other Christian denominations but they lay emphasis
The Church history attributes the placing of Ash Wednesday, a day of
fasting and abstinence, as the first day of the Lent Season, to Pope,St.
Gregory the Great (590-604 AD) and this period covers about 46 days of
fasting before Easter.
The Catholics bring back to the Church premises on or before Tuesday,
the dried palm leaves, they had collected on Palm Sunday of the previous
year, to burn them to be used on Ash Wednesday ceremony.
The ashes are blessed according to various rites proper to each
liturgical tradition, sometimes involving the use of Holy Water.
To be continued