Our Lady of Lourdes

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February 11: Our Lady of Lourdes—Optional Memorial

January 11–July 16, 1858
Patron Saint of the sick, asthma sufferers
Liturgical Color: White (Purple if Lenten Weekday)
Version: FullShort

Quote:
I went every day for a fortnight, and each day I asked her who she was, and this petition always made her smile. After the fortnight I asked her three times consecutively. She always smiled. At last I tried for the fourth time. She stopped smiling. With her arms down, she raised her eyes to Heaven and then, folding her hands over her breast she said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” ~Testimony of Saint Bernadette Soubirous

Reflection: Bernadette Soubirous was born on January 7, 1844, into a humble and very poor family in Lourdes, France. Her father was a miller and her mother washed laundry. The eldest of nine children, Bernadette received a simple education from the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction, but frequent illness hindered her studies. Growing up, she spoke the local dialect of Occitan and learned some French in her teenage years. Her family was so poor that all eleven lived together for free in a relative’s one-room basement that was formerly used as a prison or dungeon.

When Bernadette was fourteen years old, she went with her sister and a friend to gather some firewood to heat their home. Bernadette fell behind as they searched for wood near a naturally occurring rock grotto. She then heard the sound of a rushing wind but saw only a wild rose moving. Then, from within the grotto, she saw a dazzling light and the figure of a small young lady in white with yellow roses on her feet. The other two girls saw nothing. Bernadette asked her sister not to tell anyone, but her sister later told their mother. Bernadette’s mother punished the girls for lying and forbade them to return to the grotto.

Three days later, Bernadette felt drawn to return to the grotto, so she and her two companions begged for permission from her mother who reluctantly agreed. Bernadette brought with her a bottle of holy water. When they arrived at the cave, the three girls knelt to pray the rosary. Before finishing the first decade, the young woman in white appeared. Bernadette sprinkled holy water in her direction, telling her that if she were from God she should stay; if not, she should leave. The woman smiled and stayed for the rest of the rosary and then departed.

By this time, some of the local townspeople began to hear about these encounters. Some were superstitious, thinking it was the souls of dead relatives. Others believed it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Four days later, Bernadette returned to the cave accompanied by a few grown-ups. When the lady appeared, she spoke to Bernadette for the first time, in Occitan. The lady spoke to Bernadette in a remarkably formal and respectful manner, not the way an adult would normally speak to a poor peasant girl. She asked Bernadette if she was willing to return for the next fourteen days. Bernadette agreed.

Bernadette recounts the following about the next two weeks of visions: “I came back for a fortnight. The vision appeared every day, except one Monday and one Friday. She repeated to me several times that I was to tell the priests they were to build a chapel there, and I was to go to the fountain to wash, and that I was to pray for sinners. During this fortnight, she told me three secrets which she forbade me to tell anyone. I have been faithful until now.”

As word spread, the numbers in attendance grew to 30, 100, 350, 800, 1000, 1,500, culminating with almost 10,000. During the fortnight, the local police got involved and threatened Bernadette and her family. However, Bernadette persevered. The lady asked people to pray for sinners and to do penance. During the ninth vision, the lady asked Bernadette to drink from a spring of water in the cave. She found only a small muddy puddle so she drank from it. This left mud on her face, which caused many of the onlookers to ridicule her, to the embarrassment of her family. Over the next two days, the little mud puddle turned into a flowing spring of clear water. Many began to believe when a woman’s paralyzed arm was cured after bathing it in the new spring of water. Throughout the fourteen days, Bernadette continually asked the lady’s name, because the parish priest had asked her to do so. Each time, the lady only smiled. 

Upon the conclusion of the fourteen days, life returned to normal for the next three weeks. However, on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette was drawn once again to the grotto. This time, she repeatedly asked the lady’s name. The lady responded, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette was a young, simple, and poorly educated peasant girl. She had no idea what the “Immaculate Conception” was. But she repeated the name to herself over and over so she wouldn’t forget. When she told the parish priest, he was stunned. Only four years prior, the pope had issued the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This fact, especially, helped convince the Church leaders that the apparitions were authentic.

Since that time, the waters in Lourdes have continued to flow, and over seventy healings have been recorded, studied, and confirmed by a rigorous scientific process. Countless thousands more healings have been professed by the faithful. Millions of people now visit Lourdes every year, making it one of the most frequented pilgrimage sites in the world. The sick flock to this holy grotto to bathe in or drink the miraculous water, seeking a cure for their ailments.

Several years after her visions, Bernadette entered religious life. Of the visions, she would later say, “The Virgin used me as a broom to remove the dust. When the work is done, the broom is put behind the door again.” This “broom” was canonized in 1933. The grotto of Lourdes, however, was much bigger than Bernadette. It was Our Lady’s gift to the people. It was her proclamation that she was the Immaculate Conception and her formal acceptance of the title here on earth.

Prayer: Dearest Mother, the Immaculate Conception, you chose the humblest of instruments in Bernadette to proclaim your universal message of repentance. You declared to the world that you are, indeed, the Immaculate Conception. Please pray for me, bring healing to my soul, and help me to be freed of all sin so that I may one day share in your glory in Heaven. Saint Bernadette, pray for me. Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Reflection taken from:

Saints and Feasts of the Liturgical Year
Volumes One–Four


Further Reading:

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February 11: Our Lady of Lourdes—Optional Memorial

January 11–July 16, 1858
Patron Saint of the sick, asthma sufferers

Bernadette Soubirous was the eldest of nine children born into a poor family in Lourdes, France on January 7, 1844. All eleven members lived in a relative’s one-room basement, a former prison or dungeon. Bernadette spoke the local Occitan dialect and learned some French as a teenager.  Frequently ill, she received a simple education from the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction. 

At age fourteen, Bernadette, her sister, and a friend were gathering firewood to heat the Soubirous home. Bernadette fell behind as they searched for wood near a rock grotto. Hearing the sound of rushing wind, she saw only a wild rose moving. Then, from within the grotto, she saw a dazzling light and the figure of a small young lady in white with yellow roses on her feet. When Bernadette’s sister told their mother about what Bernadette reported seeing, their  mother punished the girls for lying and forbade them to return to the grotto.

Three days later, Bernadette and the two girls received Bernadette’s mother’s reluctant permission to return. Thus began a series of trips to the grotto, with a growing number of townspeople joining the three. Only Bernadette, though, saw the lady.  On the third appearance, the lady spoke to Bernadette for the first time, in Occitan, asking Bernadette to return for the next fourteen days.

During the next two weeks, the lady appeared to Bernadette twelve times. She instructed Bernadette to tell the priests they were to build a chapel there, that she should wash in the fountain, and that she was to pray for sinners. The lady also revealed three secrets to Bernadette, enjoining her silence.

Even as more people flocked to the grotto, many doubted Bernadette, criticizing her and her family. During the ninth vision, the lady asked Bernadette to drink from a spring of water in the cave. Finding and drinking from a small muddy puddle, Bernadette emerged with mud on her face and encountered the onlookers’ ridicule. Over the next two days, the little mud puddle turned into a flowing spring of clear water. After a woman with a paralyzed arm bathed her limb in the water and was cured, many began to believe that Bernadette was seeing and talking to the Blessed Mother, although the lady had not revealed her name. 

Bernadette returned to the grotto on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. When she asked the lady’s name, the lady responded, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette repeated the name to herself over and over so she wouldn’t forget. When she told the parish priest, he was stunned. Only four years prior, the pope had issued the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This fact, especially, convinced Church leaders that the apparitions were authentic.

Several years later, Bernadette entered religious life. She died in 1879 and was canonized in 1933. 

Today, the waters in Lourdes continue to flow. The faithful have professed countless healings, and the Church has confirmed seventy healings through a rigorous scientific process. Millions of the sick flock to this holy grotto every year to seek a cure by bathing in or drinking the miraculous water, making Lourdes one of the most frequented pilgrimage sites in the world.

Dearest Mother, you chose the humble Bernadette to proclaim your universal message of repentance and your title as the Immaculate Conception. Please pray for me, that I may one day share in your glory in Heaven. Saint Bernadette, pray for me. Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

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