Our Lady of Lourdes

In 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes in southern France, Our Lady appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a young, poor 14 year old peasant girl.

Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine is the most visited pilgrimage site in the world, where many healing miracles have taken place. During the apparitions Our Lady pointed out to a spot in the ground, which Bernadette, following the instructions of Our Lady, dugout and which revealed a miraculous spring of water. This spring proved to have miraculous healing properties.

During the apparitions, only Bernadette could see and hear Our Lady’s message. The first apparition occurred February 11, 1858, and the last of the 18 apparitions took place July 16 of that same year.

She describes the vision as that of a young and beautiful Lady: “Lovelier than I have ever seen”. She further describes the Lady as clothed in white, with a blue ribbon sash and a Rosary hanging from her right arm. She asked the young Bernadette to “wash and drink from the fountain” of which there was no sign. But Bernadette, in her simplicity and humility, scratched at the ground which was just dirt, and applied it on her face. A little later a spring appeared. This spring soon proved to be miraculous in healing the sick.

The Lady also asked that a chapel be built on the spot and procession be made to the grotto. At first, the village priest to whom Bernadette went with the message was incredulous. He told Bernadette to ask the Lady to identify herself and give him her name. Bernadette came back with an answer from Our Lady who told her: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This stunned the priest as the Pope had just declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in 1854. Bernadette was a poor, uneducated peasant and could not have known that.

In 1862, four years after Bernadette’s visions, the bishop of the diocese affirmed the validity of the apparitions of Our Lady. The faithful were justified in believing the apparitions. Eventually a Basilica was built on the rock of Massabielle followed by another larger one in order to accommodate all the faithful pilgrims who would come seeking healing of body and soul. It was consecrated in 1901 and called the Church of the Rosary.

The water from this miraculous spring still flows and has shown remarkable healing power, though it contains no curative property that science can identify. Lourdes has become the most famous modern shrine of Our Lady.
Later in life Bernadette became a Sister of Charity of Nevers taking the religious name of Sister Marie-Bernarde. She sought God in the silence of the cloister, serving Him in humility and obedience under the vows of her profession. She lived in the convent for thirteen years, most of which time she spent ill in the infirmary. When another sister accused her of being lazy, she said that her “job” was “to be ill” and to offer her suffering for poor sinners. Our Lady had told her in 1858: “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next”.
Bernadette died on April 16, 1879.

Her body was found to be incorrupt and was placed in a coffin of gold and glass and can be viewed in the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the motherhouse in Nevers.

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