Guiding Through Lourdes
If you haven't seen Netflix’s Down to Earth with Zac Efron—in which Efron and pal Darin Olien travel the world exploring themes of wellness, green energy and the like—you might want to stream episode eight to catch a Stonehill alum.
The episode’s central topic is water. As Efron explains in the introduction, “Water can provide more than just hydration. There is also a spiritual aspect to it.
We’re on our way to Lourdes, France, home of the most famous healing shrine in the whole world. It is here that four to six million people come to visit each year, specifically for the water…Thousands claim miraculous healing as a result of drinking and bathing in it.”
Their guide? Rev. James Phalan C.S.C. ’73. A member of Holy Cross Ministries, Fr. Phalan was stationed in Lourdes for three years, until 2019. He is now living at the residences of the Holy Cross Priests at Stonehill and serves as national director of Family Rosary.
“It was a very enjoyable experience. Zac and Darin were good guys, easy to be with, sincere and open to what was going on. You can see that in the episode,” says Fr. Phalan, who served as a chaplain at the Lourdes Shrine.
In the episode, Fr. Phalan tells Efron and Olien about a pilgrimage of cancer patients.
“They find a peace here. Even if they don’t necessarily expect that they’re all going to be miraculously cured…there’s something that goes on inside.”
Lourdes, however, is not about magic, he explains. “It’s not about any kind of superstition. It’s symbols—through water, through light. It’s a way of making your prayer concrete.”
The spot is popular with believers because of Marian apparitions. “The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared there to a poor, uneducated girl in 1858, 18 times,” says Fr. Phalan. “In the course of these events, a healing spring was opened and since then there have been thousands of miraculous, dramatic physical healings.”
Born in Medford, Fr. Phalan moved to Easton as a 14-year-old, when his dad, Laurence Phalan, took a job as a Stonehill economics professor.
Fr. Phalan graduated from Stonehill in 1973 with a double major in psychology and history. While serving in the Holy Cross Family Ministries, he has resided in Peru, Mexico, Chile and France.
“Stonehill has been deeply intertwined with my life, and I have deep roots here,” he says. “I got an excellent education that prepared me to launch on what has been an amazing adventure that I could never have predicted.”
Fr. Phalan considers his time in Lourdes among the best years of his life. “There is something about Lourdes that makes me call the place home. A part of my heart is there.”