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A SOURCE OF MIRACLES IN THE MODERN WORLD

Father Francis's picture
Our Lady of Lourdes

In a village in the French Pyrenees Our Blessed Mother appeared no fewer than 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Born in 1844 she had six brothers and two sisters, but only three of them lived beyond the age of ten. These losses bonded the family together in strength and love. Bernadette once said that she had never heard her parents quarrel. This solid family foundation left Bernadette emotionally balanced for the difficult times which were to come.

A series of events which began in 1854 changed their lives. Bernadette's father was falsely accused of stealing two sacks of flour from the mill where he worked and was imprisoned for many days. Then a drought which lasted for two years put the mill out of business. The family was reduced to living in a one-room dwelling formerly used as a jail. During this same period Bernadette contracted cholera and the high fevers caused her to suffer physically for the rest of her life. Her physical illnesses prevented her from going to school and at the age 14 she knew only the dialect of Lourdes and was unable to read, write or speak French, and the Catechism was taught in French only. She went to Mass but she was not allowed to receive Holy Communion with her friends. Sometimes Bernadette's only comfort was her mother's love.

The First Apparition took place on Thursday, February 11, 1858. After dinner Bernadette and her sister, with a friend, went to gather wood. They had to cross a stream of cold water but fearing that she would have an asthma attack, Bernadette stayed on the bank on her own.

She heard a great noise like the sound of a storm, but nothing was moving. Frightened, losing all power of speech and thought, she turned her head towards the Grotto of Massabieille and saw in the opening of the rock a rosebush, moving as if it were very windy. Almost at the same time, there came out of the interior of the grotto a golden-coloured cloud, and soon afterwards, a Lady, young and beautiful - exceedingly beautiful - the likes of whom she had never seen, came and placed herself at the entrance of the opening above the rosebush. She looked at Bernadette and immediately smiled and signalled her to advance, in a way that a mother motions her child to come near. Bernadette took out her rosary and knelt before the Lady who also had a rosary on her right arm. When Bernadette tried to begin saying the Rosary by making the sign of the Cross, her arm was paralyzed. It was only after the Lady had made the sign of the Cross herself that Bernadette was able to do the same. As Bernadette prayed the Rosary the Lady passed the beads between her fingers but remained silent, although she did recite the Glorias with her. When the recitation of the Rosary was finished, the Lady returned to the interior of the rock and the golden cloud disappeared with her.

Bernadette told her sister of the extraordinary things that had happened to her at the grotto, asking her to keep it a secret. For the rest of the day the image of the Lady remained in her mind. In the evening at the family prayers Bernadette was troubled and began to cry. When her mother asked what was the matter, her sister told her everything. But Bernadette's mother told her that these were illusions and forbade her to return to Massabieille.

Bernadette could not sleep that night. The face of the Lady, so good and so gracious, returned incessantly to her memory. It was useless to recall what her mother had said because she did not believe that she had been deceived. Her conviction of this was unshakable.

She went on to describe the Beautiful Lady in detail, "She has the appearance of a young girl of 16 or 17. She is dressed in a white robe, girdled at the waist with a blue ribbon which flows down all around it. A yoke closes it in graceful pleats at the base of the neck. The sleeves are long and tight-fitting. She wears upon her head a veil which is also white. This veil gives just a glimpse of her hair and then falls down at the back below her waist. Her feet are bare but covered by the last folds of her robe except at the point where a yellow rose shines upon each of them. She holds on her right arm a rosary of white beads with a chain of gold shining like the two roses on her feet."

On Sunday, Bernadette's mother allowed her to return to the grotto.

And the Second Apparition took place, February 14. The three little girls were armed with some holy water to ward off malign influences. But instead of throwing the water at the Lady, Bernadette poured it quietly on the ground. Then she told her companions that, judging by the Beautiful Lady's smile, she was pleased by this action.

In her 18 appearances Our Lady told Bernadette to tell people to pray the Rosary for peace in the world and for the conversion of sinners, to do penance and to ask the priest to build a church in this place.

There were some people who disbelieved Bernadette and the priest asked her to ask the Lady her name. “I am the Immaculate Conception” the Lady said. The simple girl never knew what this meant. Only recently, in 1854, the Church had made the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception an article of faith. This meant that every Catholic had to believe that Mary was conceived immaculate, that from the very first moment of her existence sin never touched her soul. When the Lady told Bernadette her name she rushed back to the priest and told him; he was convinced that Bernadette was telling the truth. No way could she have thought of this!

The rest is history. The beautiful church was built and for over 150 years people from all over the world have visited Lourdes to venerate Our Blessed Lady and receive healing of soul and body. There, countless miracles have taken place.

Let us thank God for allowing Mary to visit Lourdes and for the countless graces He has bestowed upon people there. May we obey Our Lady’s wishes of doing penance and reciting her Rosary every day for peace in the world and the conversion of sinners.