Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our Lady Of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes:

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus. A little more than three years later, on February 11, 1858, a young lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. This began a series of visions. During the apparition on March 25, the lady identified herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

Bernadette was a sickly child of poor parents. Their practice of the Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm. Bernadette could pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Creed. She also knew the prayer of the Miraculous Medal: “O Mary conceived without sin.”

During interrogations Bernadette gave an account of what she saw. It was “something white in the shape of a girl.” She used the word aquero, a dialect term meaning “this thing.” It was “a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm.” Her white robe was encircled by a blue girdle. She wore a white veil. There was a yellow rose on each foot. A rosary was in her hand. Bernadette was also impressed by the fact that the lady did not use the informal form of address (tu), but the polite form (vous). The humble virgin appeared to a humble girl and treated her with dignity.

Through that humble girl, Mary revitalized and continues to revitalize the faith of millions of people. People began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world. In 1862 Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.


Lourdes has become a place of pilgrimage and healing, but even more of faith. Church authorities have recognized over 60 miraculous cures, although there have probably been many more. To people of faith this is not surprising. It is a continuation of Jesus’ healing miracles—now performed at the intercession of his mother. Some would say that the greater miracles are hidden.

Many who visit Lourdes return home with renewed faith and a readiness to serve God in their needy brothers and sisters. There still may be people who doubt the apparitions of Lourdes. Perhaps the best that can be said to them are the words that introduce the film Song of Bernadette: “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”


“Lo! Mary is exempt from stain of sin, Proclaims the Pontiff high; And earth applauding celebrates with joy Her triumph, far and high. Unto a lowly timid maid she shows Her form in beauty fair, And the Immaculate Conception truth Her sacred lips declare.” (Unattributed hymn from the Roman Breviary)


The pilgrimage of Lourdes is founded on the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to a poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux. The first apparition occurred 11 February, 1858. There were eighteen in all; the last took place 16 July, of the same year. Bernadette often fell into an ecstasy. The mysterious vision she saw in the hollow of the rock Massabielle was that of a young and beautiful lady. "Lovelier than I have ever seen" said the child. But the girl was the only one who saw the vision, although sometimes many stood there with her.

Now and then the apparition spoke to the seer who also was the only one who heard the voice. Thus, she one day told her to drink of a mysterious fountain, in the grotto itself, the existence of which was unknown, and of which there was no sign, but which immediately gushed forth. On another occasion the apparition bade Bernadette go and tell the priests she wished a chapel to be built on the spot and processions to be made to the grotto. At first the clergy were incredulous. It was only four years later, in 1862, that the bishop of the diocese declared the faithful "justified in believing the reality of the apparition".

A basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle by M. Peyramale, the parish priest. In 1873 the great "national" French pilgrimages were inaugurated. Three years later the basilica was consecrated and the statue solemnly crowned. In 1883 the foundation stone of another church was laid, as the first was no longer large enough. It was built at the foot of the basilica and was consecrated in 1901 and called the Church of the Rosary.

Pope Leo XIII authorized a special office and a Mass, in commemoration of the apparition, and in 1907 Pius X extended the observance of this feast to the entire Church; it is now observed on 11 February.

The Apparitions:

* The apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes began on 11 February 1858, when Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year old peasant girl from Lourdes had seen a "lady" in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town.

* She saw a light in the grotto and a little girl, as small as she was, dressed all in white, apart from the blue belt fastened around her waist and the golden yellow roses, one on each foot.

* Three days later, Bernadette returned to the Grotto with the two other girls, who reportedly became afraid when they saw her in ecstasy. Bernadette remained ecstatic when they returned to the village.

* On 18 February, she was told by the Lady to return to the Grotto over a period of two weeks.

* The Lady allegedly said: I promise to make you happy not in this world but in the next.
* On February 24th, for her eight apparition, the Lady said, "Penitence", then, "Would you pray to God for the conversion of sinners ?"

* On 25 February, during her ecstatic trance in the grotto, Bernadette began to dig in the earth until a small puddle of water appeared. She was asked to drink from the water, which at first was rather muddy, but became increasingly clean. As the word spread, this water was given to medical patients of all kinds, after which numerous miracle cures were reported.

* On February 27th and 28th, and March 1st, "aquero" appeared again at Massabielle, where a clear spring now flowed.

* During the thirteenth vision, on March 2nd, the Lady said, "Tell the priests to let the people come in procession and let a chapel be built".

* On March 3rd, she repeated her instructions. But the parish priest, Father Peyramale, required a sign. "First let her tell you her name, then have her make the rosebush at the Grotto flower", he said.

* On March 4th, the last day of the fortnight, the Lady said nothing.

* Not until the 16th apparition, on March 25th, did she say, "I am the Immaculate Conception". Bernadette ran to repeat these words to an astonished Father Peyramale.

* On Easter Sunday April 7th, nearly a thousand people witnessed the "miracle of the candle". Her examining doctor stated that Bernadette, in ecstasy, was holding her hands over a candle without receiving any burns.

* On July 16th, since the authorities had fenced off the Grotto, Bernadette slipped away to the meadow on the far bank of the Gave for an eighteenth and final meeting with her Lady. "Never had I seen her looking so beautiful", she said.

* She gave Bernadette a message for all: "Pray and do penance for the conversion of the world."

* In the apparitions Bernadette was told to instruct the village priest to build a chapel in the grotto, which many people would soon come to visit.

* The Church investigated Bernadette's claims for four years before approving devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes.

* On 18 January 1862, Bishop Laurence, the Bishop of Tarbes, gave the solemn declaration: "We are inspired by the Commission comprising wise, holy, learned and experienced priests who questioned the child, studied the facts, examined everything and weighed all the evidence. We have also called on science, and we remain convinced that the Apparitions are supernatural and divine, and that by consequence, what Bernadette saw was the Most Blessed Virgin. Our convictions are based on the testimony of Bernadette, but above all on the things that have happened, things which can be nothing other than divine intervention". [11]

* Pope Pius IX authorized the local bishop to permit the veneration of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes in 1862.

* The first person with a “certified miracle” was a women, whose right hand had been deformed as a consequence of an accident.

* To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fraudulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau (Bureau Medical) was established at the request of Pope Pius X. It is completely under medical and not ecclesiastical supervision. Approximately 7000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a miracle, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable miracle by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church

* Four to six million pilgrims visit the shrine each year, from around the world, and it is estimated that more than 200 million pilgrims have come to Lourdes since 1860.

* No one leaves Lourdes without a gain in faith. Moral and spiritual cures are more marvelous than physical cures.

* • Some go to Lourdes with lifetime prejudices, yet their minds are cleared in a sudden manner. Frequently skepticism gives way to faith; coldness and antagonism become whole hearted love of God. Again and again those who are not cured of bodily pain receive an increase of faith and resignation – true peace of soul.

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