Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes (Memorial)

Today we celebrate a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the south-west of France.

The apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes began on 11 February 1858, when Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year old peasant girl from the nearby town of Lourdes, went with her sister and a friend to gather firewood. Inside the cave of Massabielle, just outside the town, Bernadette saw a “lady” standing on a ledge. Afterwards, on realising that she alone among her companions had seen the apparition, 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.

After being questioned by her mother, Bernadette told about seeing the “lady”. Both girls were given a beating and Bernadette was forbidden by her mother from returning to the Grotto again. However, a few days later, Bernadette asked for permission to return to the cave with her siblings and the permission was granted.

Similar appearances then took place on 17 further occasions that year: February 14, 18-21, 23-25, 27, 28, March 1-4, 25, April 7, and July 16. 

Bernadette described the lady that she saw as dressed in a flowing white robe, with a blue sash around her waist. This was, in fact, similar to the dress of the Children of Mary (a form of the former Sodality of Our Lady).

The cave at Lourdes is now visited by millions of pilgrims every year from all over the world. Several cures have been confirmed as miraculous over the years, but no one knows the many other unrecorded forms of healing which many pilgrims experience. 

In addition to the Grotto, there are a number of churches in the pilgrimage area, a hospital and life-size Stations of the Cross. Few pilgrims leave without a bottle of Lourdes water from the previously nonexistent spring near the grotto that began to flow when Bernadette was directed by Our Lady to drink and wash.

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