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Posted by on Feb 11, 2008

Feast of the Day: Our Lady of Lourdes – February 11

Feast of the Day: Our Lady of Lourdes – February 11

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“The Lady took the rosary that she held in her hands and she made the sign of the cross. Then I commenced not to be afraid. I took my rosary again; I was able to make the sign of the cross; from that moment I felt perfectly undisturbed in mind. I knelt down and said my rosary, seeing this Lady always before my eyes. The Vision slipped the beads of her rosary between her fingers, but she did not move her lips. When I had said my rosary the Lady made a sign for me to approach, but I did not dare. I stayed in the same place. Then, all of a sudden, she disappeared. I started to remove the other stocking to cross the shallow water near the grotto so as to join my companions. And we went away. As we returned, I asked my companions if they had seen anything. ‘No,’ they replied. ‘And what about you? Did you see anything?’ ‘Oh, no, if you have seen nothing, neither have I.’

“I thought I had been mistaken. But as we went, all the way, they kept asking me what I had seen. I did not want to tell them. Seeing that they kept on asking I decided to tell them, on condition that they would tell nobody. They promised not to tell. They said that I must never go there again, nor would they, thinking that it was someone who would harm us. I said no. As soon as they arrived home they hastened to say that I had seen a Lady dressed in white. That was the first time.” [2]

On realising that she alone had seen the apparition, and not her companions, she asked her sister Toinette not to tell anyone what had happened. Toinette, however, was unable to keep silent, and told their mother, Louise Soubirous. Both girls received a beating, and Bernadette was forbidden by her mother from returning to the Grotto again.[3]

On Thursday February 11, 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, an impoverished, uneducated, 14 year old French peasant, had an experience that would not only change her life but would make would make her home town an international destination for pilgrims. Bernadette was not unlike many of the millions of girls around the world today growing up in stark poverty. Her parents and 5 siblings lived in a one room prison cell that had been abandoned because it was no longer fit for prisoners. Bernadette’s father was a miller and her mother took in laundry.

St. Bernadette would have a total of 18 encounters with the Lady of the grotto. The last one would be July 16. In the process of these visits, a miraculous spring of water would appear. People would be healed. The Lady would refer to herself as the Immaculate Conception. The grotto would be closed by authorities and people forbidden to pray there by the mayor of Lourdes.

Today, Lourdes hosts 15 million pilgrims a year. Paris is the only city in France that has more hotel rooms. The beautiful young woman, who died at the age of 33 from tuberculosis of the bone, refused to return to the grotto seeking a cure, saying only that the water was for others. Today 150 years after the first apparition, St. Bernadette’s body is still marvelously intact and uncorrupted.

St. Bernadette and the events of Lourdes met with intense skepticism and careful investigation by religious, political, and scientific authorities. Subject to medical and scientific review, thousands of healings have been documented which do not have a natural explanation. Yet only a fraction of the sick and infirm are healed physically. The prayerfulness and the experience of a community of faith continues to draw millions every year.

There is a saying associated with Lourdes that is especially appropriate. “To those who believe no explanation is necessary; to those who do not believe no explanation is possible.”

st-bernadette-of-lourdes.jpg St. Bernadette – the young girl

st-bernadette-soubirous.jpg St. Bernadette – at rest

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