Our Lady of Lourdes
Feast Day – February 11
On February 11, 1858, the Blessed Virgin appeared for the first time to Bernadette Soubirous in the recess of the Massabielle cliff near Lourdes, at the foot of the Pyrenees. Bernadette, then just fourteen, reported seeing a most beautiful woman, young and not taller than herself, dressed in white. A long rosary hung from her arm. She greeted Bernadette with a slight bow and seemed to invite her to pray. She passed the beads through her fingers as Bernadette recited the rosary.
On February 25th Bernadette was told, “Go, drink at the spring and wash in it.” Perplexed, she started for the river Gave; but the maiden in white pointed to the floor of the cave. “I went there,” Bernadette recounts, “but I only saw a little dirty water. I put my hands in but could not get enough to drink. I scratched and the water came, but muddy. Three times I threw it away, but the fourth time I could drink it.” Some of the crowd made fun of Bernadette, whose face was daubed with mud; but by the end of the day water was running from the cave to the river. Within a week the spring was yielding what has since been its constant flow of 32,000 gallons a day.
On March 25, feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette asked the visitor her name and was told in the Lourdes dialect, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” – the dogma had been defined by Pope Pius IX four years previously. The eighteenth and last apparition took place on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16th, of the same year. Mary had made various request of Bernadette: to pray for sinners, to do penance, to have processions there and a chapel built. Bernadette was the only one who ever saw the apparition or heard a voice. The ever increasing crowds, growing into thousands, saw only Bernadette in her states of ecstasy.
Cures occur during the processions and individual blessings with the Sacred Host as well as during the baths. Of the 5,000 cures reported in the first hundred years, fifty-eight were declared as certainly miraculous by the local bishop. But the blessings of Lourdes are primarily in the spiritual order, as in the case of St. Bernadette herself; for Mary told her in the third apparition, “I do not promise to make you happy in this life but in the next.”