Miraculous Waters: A Troubadour’s Link to Lourdes

  basque1

    The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is close to the heart of The Traveling Troubadour. His grandmother was originally from the area around Bize and Pau in the Southern Pyrenees region of France, very near the shrine in the French Pyrenees. He was said to be related to St. Bernadette Soubirous, whose maternal family’s name was Casterot.  Her parents were fervent Catholics who, by their example, taught their children to follow in their footsteps.

    My great grandfather Joseph Casteran was a customs official on the French/Spanish border of the Basque country. Her mother Genevieve was devout woman with bright blue eyes who was known to pray the Rosary constantly throughout the day as she attended to her family. They named my grandmother Dominique Mairie, after St. Dominick and Mary, Our Blessed Mother, who inspired him to spread the Rosary to France, then to the whole world! 

     By the time my grandmother came to America alone as a teenage girl, her name had become Mairie Dominique somehow. It may have been an Ellis Island name transformation, which were very common at that period. She remained a faithful Catholic and was a lifelong active member of the Holy Rosary Society in our family’s parish, attending mass regularly at The Church of The Madonna in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

     As a young lad, I went with her to church there often. When visiting her at her summer home in Denville, NJ, we would go to St. Mary’s R.C. Church where there was a replica of the Lourdes grotto on the grounds. At both sanctuaries we would light candles for our loved ones past and present with her hand on mine.

   Her influence, along with that of my own dear mother, and my father letting me help him as a four year old usher, gave me a love for and fondness of our Catholic faith. (Not to mention the school of hard knocks education and little bit of strict instruction from the good School Sisters of Notre Dame, that helped to delve into the depth of offering up sacrifices!) 

     My grandmother Mairie would also travel back to her homeland once and awhile to see her family, and would always go to Lourdes when there. She brought me back some of her culture, like French berets for me to wear and feel like a true Basque Frenchman. There were also priceless souvenirs like Holy Water bottles in the shape of Our Lady of Lourdes filled with miraculous spring water, religious founts to put it in to bless myself, grotto photo paperweights, and glow in the dark rosaries and statues of Blessed Mother and St. Bernadette which I treasured!

    When I went to Hollywood years after she had passed away, our address was on Poinsettia Place, the home of Mae Miller, a relative of my sidekick vaudeville partner. Her late husband, Arthur Miller, won the Academy Award for cinematography in the 1943 production of The Song of Bernadette. The Oscar that he won, albeit a little dusty, was still displayed on his mantle nearly 40 years later!

     I have given that awe-inspiring movie of the miraculous healing spring to a number of people along the way who were sick, either physically, mentally, or most importantly, spiritually, and it usually brought them to tears of cleansing, as experienced by thousands of others who walk the road to Lourdes. The incorrupt body of St. Bernadette is a lasting testimony to her favor with God for her holiness in humility.

     When I settled down after my stint as the “The Traveling Troubadour”, I was brought to Emmitsburg, Maryland by the opportunity to work at the Grotto of Lourdes, the oldest replica shrine in the USA. That was an answer to my prayers and a fulfilling and inspiring chapter of my book of life, coming full circle in His Divine Time.

    Beneath the grotto in Emmitsburg is a bronze plague quoting the Franz Werfel, the author The Song of Bernadette: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”  

By The Traveling Troubadour

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