Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes: February 11th

Tomorrow is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the anniversary of our Blessed Mother's first appearance to St. Bernadette. Rather than repeat myself, I am reprinting my post from last year below.

Since it was to St. Bernadette that the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary was given, you might also enjoy my five-part Introduction the Rosary series on this feast of Our Lady:

An Introduction to the Rosary
Part II: Prayers of the Rosary
Part III: Mysterious Mysteries?
Part IV: How to Pray the Rosary
Part V: What it Means to Me

151 years ago, the Blessed Mother appeared to a poor fourteen-year-old girl in the cleft of rock Masabielle in a grotto Lourdes in Southern France. The young girl would later become St. Bernadette Soubiroux. Mary appeared eighteen more times to Bernadette over the coming months, the final apparition occurring on July 16th. Mary, who appeared to Bernadette as a young woman "Lovelier than I have ever seen," sometimes spoke to Bernadette during these visions. Once, the Blessed Mother told young Bernadette to drink from a fountain that miraculously began to flow from a rock in the grotto where the apparitions occurred. Another time, she bade Bernadette to go tell her local clergy about a chapel that the Blessed Mother wished to have erected there. "I am the Immaculate Conception," Mary told Bernadette.

Naturally, the clergy were highly skeptical of Bernadette's accounts, particularly since no one else claimed to have seen or heard the apparitions, even though there were sometimes people with Bernadette when she saw and heard Mary in the grotto. Four years later, however, the bishop of that diocese declared that the faithful were "justified in believing the reality of the apparition". A basilica was built on the rock of Masabielle and pilgrimages to Lourdes began. The basilica was later expanded as it was not large enough to house all the pilgrims who flocked to the site. In 1901, it was named the Church of the Rosary, and it stands there today.

It is estimated that over 1 million pilgrims a year journey to Lourdes, which has become most famous for the healing powers of the waters in the fountain in the grotto that Mary first bade Bernadette to drink from. Though skeptics still abound, thousands of cures have been reported to have occurred at Lourdes, not including spiritual healings which often escape human detection. Many of these cases have been carefully studied and ratified by physicians and other secular experts as well as by religious authorities.

On the anniversary of Bernadette's first apparition, Catholics the world over stop to remember this miraculous event and to honor the Holy Mother of God, who is the Mother of all the faithful. To celebrate this day, you might consider praying the rosary if you don't already. Your family might also enjoy some French, particularly provencale or Southern French, dishes on this day: things St. Bernadette Soubiroux might have eaten. Our family will be enjoying crepes for breakfast and some pork cassoulet for dinner. Tell your children the story of the Lourdes apparitions. If you can get them where you live this time of year, decorate your home with roses and lilies, which have long symbolized Mary. Wear white and pale blue, the colors that Mary appeared to Bernadette in. If you are musical, do sing "Immaculate Mary," also known as "The Lourdes Hymn." I sang this as a little girl, and it is still one of the most beautiful, simple hymns to my ears.

"Immaculate Mary" Lyrics

Immaculate Mary,
your praises we sing,
You reign now in spendor
with Jesus, our king.
Ave, ave, ave Maria. Ave, Ave Maria!

In heaven, the blessed
your glory proclaim;
On earth we, your children,
invoke your fair name.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

We pray for our Mother,
the Church upon earth,
And bless, Holy Mary,
the land of our birth.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

We pray you, O Mother,
may God's will be done
We pray for His glory,
may his Kingdom come.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!


  1. My husband and I recently underwent a renewal in faith to our Lord. I had questions before about the role of Mary in the Church but I was blessed because the Lord answered my prayer and now, I fully understand her position and always go to her for intercession, guidance and help in praying to our Father in heaven. Thank you for having a website where we can go to learn more about our Faith. God Bless you. MCB

  2. My husband and I have been to Lourdes at least seven times. Twice with our children. It is undoubtedly the most awesome spiritual experience one can have, especially the very first time you go and every time during the candelight procession with the signing of Immaculate Mary. I just sit in the grotto looking at the statue of Mary during the procession, listening to the hymn and saying the rosary which is recited in many languages. It's the closest thing to being in heaven that I can imagine. I experienced one definite spiritual miracle the very first time I went to Lourdes and I will never foget it. Every few years I get a real pull to go back to visit Our Lady and I always follow that pull. Recently my husband was diagnosed with a very rare form of skin cancer which was caught in time. After his surgery we went to Lourdes and just being there and watching him wash with the water from the spring and drink it gave me such reassurance that Mary will take care of him. Everyone who loves Mary and has devotion to her should just once in a lifetime make a visit to Lourdes, if possible. It's something you will never forget.

    Dorothy Carlton
    Rumson NJ


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