“This is your cross, and I am not going to take it away from you. I will be with you, and I will help you, but it is yours to carry.”
Christy Wilkens heard Jesus speak those words after she prayed for her son Oscar’s healing in her parish adoration chapel one bright September day. Almost a year later she would find herself in Lourdes, France, seeking a miracle.
The grotto at Lourdes is known as a place of healing. But sometimes the miracle that occurs is not physical, but something much deeper. Wilkens made the long trek to Lourdes with her husband, Todd, and their toddler—who is plagued by mysterious seizures—through a program with the Order of Malta. In Awakening at Lourdes, Wilkens shares that while Oscar’s condition did improve after their visit, the real healing took place between she and her husband. Through their time at Lourdes, they discovered a deeper love for each other, a renewed sense of appreciation for their faith community, and an abiding confidence in God’s mercy.
Persuaded by her husband to take the trip, Wilkens summoned her faith– faith in God, faith in her husband, and faith in the doctors and other helpers who surrounded them every step of the way—to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Recording their experiences with deeply personal yet highly relatable language, Wilkens offers a firsthand account of the traditions and culture of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and the shrine’s special servers, the Order of Malta. She also captures her own doubts, questions, and fears as she attempted to process the family’s physical and emotional journey.
The Wilkens family’s story will help you learn to be open to what God has in store for you and to see that if you surrender control, open yourself to God’s grace, and lean on your community, you are never alone.
The book includes a study guide for individual or group use.
A Note From the Publisher
“You will recognize your own story in these pages. And you will walk away knowing, on a soul level, one of the most essential truths any of us could ever hope to understand: your brokenness is not just something to be endured; it may very well turn out to be your greatest blessing.”
From the foreword by Jennifer Fulwiler
“The very word ‘Lourdes’ speaks of healing, love, and consolation. Our Mother, Mary, and her son, Jesus, are so evident there. To savor these tender reflections by another mom, Christy Wilkens, only enhances the power of that word ‘Lourdes’!”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Archbishop of New York
and conventual chaplain ad honorem of the Order of Malta
“In Awakening at Lourdes, Christy Wilkens spins a powerful tale of suffering and redemption, describing her journey to Lourdes with her son and husband and the miracles that ensued. Wilkens’s writing is luminous—full of heart, raw honesty, and touches of humor and both intensely personal and universal in its insights. Her reflections on the many varieties of healing bring the gift of Lourdes to everyone who reads her words.”
Author of Holy Rover and Near the Exit
“In a world where strength and health are so often equated with blessing and merit, Christy Wilkens asks us to question everything we thought we knew of healing. This book gracefully challenges our assumptions about what makes a miracle and extends an invitation to find God, not outside of our present reality but right here in the middle of it.”
Shannon K. Evans
Author of Embracing Weakness
"Pilgrimages cost us something, as Christy Wilkens reminds us. But that cost can change us in profound ways. As Wilkens shares the story of her son's miraculous experience at the famed baths, I was equally struck by her refreshing candor as she recounts how her unbelief became an unshakeable "Yes, Lord." Careful, this book may just change you, too."
Author Live Big, Love Bigger
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
This book is a heartbreaking tale of a mother's struggle with her infant son's epilepsy. While on pilgrimage in Lourdes she and her child experience grace in unexpected ways and Christy learns to relinquish control and trust in God's love. I appreciate the author's candor when describing her struggles with faith and recounting the trials of her son's ailments without seeking pity. This is the first book that has made me cry in a long time, it is beautiful . This is a must read for anyone who is suffering and needs to be comforted by their Mother.
**I received an eARC. All of my opinions are my own.** Where to start on this book, which felt like it came into my life at exactly the right time? First of all, the author is obviously a trained writer. Her story has just the right number of details to be intriguing without being boring, her similes and metaphors are fresh and interesting, and overall, I was extremely impressed with the quality of the writing. Second, the story itself was so engaging! I loved hearing about her and her husband’s journey, along with the lovable Oscar, to Lourdes and back. And seeing the powerful way that God worked in the author’s life, to destroy her pride and bring her peace, was very, very moving. I was on the verge of tears a couple of different times! Thirdly, I appreciated how there were various references throughout the story to contemporary Catholic culture, and even the slightly older roots of Catholic culture, and older Catholic ideas—Lewis, Tolkien, the Dominicans, Archbishop Cordileone, the concept of Kairos, John of the Cross, John 1:5, Latin as the mother tongue of the Church, “mountaintop moments”, consecration to Mary, “The Servant Song” which is one of my dad’s favorite hymns. Each of those felt like an Easter Egg hidden just for me within the story. <3 Fourthly, the brief explanations of Catholic theology and tradition for those who aren’t Catholic who might read the book were very well done—brief, to the point, and correct, most of the time. There were, however, two instances where I raised an eyebrow at the phrasing of the theology—first of all, the phrase describing the Eucharist, that it is “clothed under the appearance of bread” is not especially correct—the Eucharist is under the appearance of bread, but the word “clothed” suggests a dichotomy between the externality and internality of bread vs. Jesus that simply isn’t there. Obviously it’s not a big thing, one simply word, and one person’s reaction, but it definitely made me raise an eyebrow. Second of all, she says that the love between the Father and the Son “creates” the Holy Spirit. This is incorrect. God is uncreated. The Holy Spirit does precede from the love between the Father and the Son, as we say in the Nicene Creed, but He is not created. Theological nitpicking aside, the inclusion of explanations for those unfamiliar with Catholicism was extremely thoughtful. Fifthly, her little reflections within the story—on suffering, on pride, on letting go, on our need for God’s mercy and love—were perfect. Not too short, not too long, not too preachy, and just what I needed at the moment! Sixthly and lastly, I loved how much “community” was a theme throughout the story, how the community rallied around them, bringing them what they needed, praying for them, and so on. My family has experienced this “community hug” in our lives before, several times, and it was so lovely to see it in someone else’s tale as well. Four stars!
Those of us who pray (or don't pray) with a hint of "but answer my prayers like *this* please, God" or pray and then drive forward with the action we think will solve our problems have needed this book for a while now. Christy faced the horrible surprise of holding her five month old sixth child in her arms during his first seizure. After a year of doctor's appointments, research, prayer (including an answered one in which she heard that, though He would be with her through it all, this sickness in her child was her cross to bear), and an emotional distancing from her husband, the Wilkens parents and son with epilepsy ventured to Lourdes with the Order of Malta's annual week of pilgrimage. There she found herself cradled in the arms of strangers, Our Lady, and Our Lord, but not without great battle with her perfectionism, controlling nature (or choices to be so). God changed her heart and she learned to surrender. I will not be alone in identifying with a woman and mother who seeks to control everything, taking to heart the proverb "God helps those who help themselves." We don't know when to surrender and we don't know how. This book taught me how through her experience, her eloquent writing, and her conversational tone. It read like a narrative and I couldn't wait to return to my Kindle each day to keep walking with her on the journey. I received an advanced digital copy of this book. All opinions and words are my own.
Christy Wilkens is very gifted in drawing you into the story, and it felt as if I was living the experience with her every step of the way. This was an amazing spiritual and emotional roller coaster, where I was feeling the anxiety, abandonment, fear, joy, love, fatigue, desperation, consolation, and anger. Although, I’m sure that the feelings I felt pales in comparison to her living it. Her amazing story, and others like it, are inspiring to the faithful to keep going, even in the face of adversity. Thank you Christy!
Exquisitely written from a powerbase of profound pain, Awakening at Lourdes offers readers an emotionally-riveting spiritual adventure. Author Christy Wilkens deftly chronicles her rocky journey to the French town where miracles happen. With grit and generosity, Wilkens' lays bare the suffering of her family and their quest to find relief in the healing waters of Lourdes. In revealing her own brokenness, the author invites the reader to examine her own and to seek comfort in the loving arms of Christ. I found myself on the edge of my seat, wondering how Wilkens' pilgrimage would end. While Wilkens writes eloquently of the crosses she encounters along her path, she also offers great hope in the midst of suffering. I believe Awakening at Lourdes is a life-changing book which will greatly help a number of people to find solace and support along their own personal Via Dolorosa.
‘Awakening at Lourdes’ is a powerful testimony of Christy Williams and the cross God has given her. Christy Williams brilliantly and effectively reiterates the details of her trip to Lourdes, her son, Oscar’s medical problems, frustration, marriage, complete helplessness, and inability to let go. How many times in our struggle do we sit down to pray with our fellow sister in Christ but not open to receiving prayers for ourselves? Or the frustration we feel when God is not answering our prayers the way we want him to. Her ability to answer the theodicy of the problem of evil (why do bad things happen to good people) by using her testimony is powerful. At the beginning of the story, she portrays Martha, frustrated at her husband and her situation. As we accompany the author on her journey, she transforms into the Virgin Mary, fully trusting in the Lord, even in the midst of pain. She willing picks up her cross with its thorn branches, but this time, she allows passersby such as Simon to help while leaning on God. The author is Catholic; however, ‘Awakening at Lourdes’ is interdenominational and would be a wonderful book for your church’s book club. Books like ‘Awakening at Lourdes’ are why I made this blog; it nourishes your walk with Jesus.
I really enjoyed reading this book. Not only because of how brutally honest Christy Wilkens is with her readers regarding the emotions she is feeling, but because of the details regarding Lourdes pilgrimage and the Order of Malta. I am a cradle Catholic and I have always heard about Lourdes and its healing waters, but I never really knew what occurs during a pilgrimage. Wilken’s writings transported me there and when I was more curious about something I was looking up videos on youtube or researching it further. Her discussion about her own spiritual healing and that of her husband is so touching and inspiring. It's hard lesson to learn, to humble yourself, and accept your brokenness as a gift from God. But it is an important lesson to learn. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a loved one suffering from a disease or disorder. Anyone who is having doubts in their faith in God. Anyone who loves Our Lady and wants to learn more! Thank you to Ave Maria Press for my copy in exchange for an honest review!