OUR LADY OF LOURDES (1858)
Today, the universal Church honors our Blessed Mother under the mantle of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle on the bank of the Gave River, near Lourdes in southern France, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared numerous times to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl.
Bernadette described our Lady as having a youthful appearance and was clothed in a pure white gown and mantle, with an azure blue girdle (a belt-like sash) around her waist. A yellow rose adorned each of her bare feet. On the first apparition on February 11th, the Blessed Virgin asked Bernadette to make the Sign of the Cross piously and say the Rosary with her. Bernadette saw our Lady take the Rosary that was hanging from her arms into her hands. This was repeated in subsequent apparitions.
With childlike simplicity, Bernadette once sprinkled holy water on the vision, fearing that it was a deception of an evil spirit; but the Blessed Virgin smiled pleasantly, and her face became even lovelier. The third time Mary appeared, she invited Bernadette to come to the grotto daily for two weeks. Our Lady also asked that a chapel be built on the site of the vision, and asked Bernadette to drink from a fountain in the grotto.
No fountain was to be seen, but when Bernadette dug at a spot designated by the apparition, a spring began to flow. The water from this still-flowing spring has shown remarkable healing qualities, though it contains no curative property that science can identify.
On March 25th, our Lady revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception. She appeared 18 times to this young girl who would latter become known as Saint Bernadette. The report of cures occurring at the grotto spread quickly and, the more it spread, the number of pilgrims who visited this holy place would increase.
The publicity given these miraculous events on the one hand, and the seeming sincerity and innocence of Bernadette on the other, made it necessary for the bishop of Tarbes to institute a judicial inquiry. Four years later, in 1862, he declared the apparitions to be supernatural and permitted the public veneration of the Immaculate Conception in the grotto. Soon a chapel was erected, and, since that time, countless pilgrims come every year to Lourdes to fulfill promises they have made to God or to beg graces through Mary’s intercession to her Divine Son, Jesus.
To this day, Lourdes has become a place of pilgrimage and healing, but, even more so, it has become a pilgrimage of faith. Church authorities have recognized over 60 miraculous cures, although there have probably been many more, especially since spiritual and emotional healings cannot be numbered. To people of faith this is not surprising. It is a continuation of Jesus’ healing miracles – at the intercession of His Beloved Mother.
We commemorate the feastday of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Missal from the Proper for Our Lady of Lourdes)
“Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness, that we, who keep the Memorial of the Immaculate Mother of God, may, with the help of her intercession, rise up from our iniquities.
“Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”