This week the Church will commemorate the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France. The apparitions began on February 11, 1858, and continued with seventeen additional apparitions, once daily from February 14 until March 4, 1858. Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette three additional times on March 25, 1858, April 7, 1858, and on July 16, 1858.
Bernadette Soubirous and her family were not of much wealth, in fact, the Virgin Mary first appeared to Bernadette while she was out collecting pieces of wood to trade for a loaf of bread. Bernadette could feel gusts of wind, but the trees and bushes did not move, however, Bernadette noticed a wild red rose in the grotto being blown. Bernadette brought herself closer to the grotto, when she looked up into the grotto she saw a lady “dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain on her rosary, the beads were white”, from this darkened grotto was a “dazzling light”. In her first apparition, the Virgin Mary invited Bernadette to pray the Rosary with her.
The Virgin Mary told Bernadette these words, “I do not promise you happiness in this world, but in the next.”
During the Sixth Apparition, the Virgin Mary told Bernadette to “pray for the conversion of sinners.” It was also on this day, March 21, 1858, that the townspeople gathered in opposition to what was taking place with Bernadette. The local government was persuaded to prohibit Bernadette from ever going to the grotto again. However, Bernadette said she could not adhere to these orders because she promised the “beautiful lady” that she would return. At this motion, the fourteen-year-old was taunted and threatened by the townspeople.
During the Eighth Apparition, Bernadette turned and faced the crowd and exclaimed, “penitence, penitence, penitence!”
It was during the Ninth Apparition that the greatest miracle in Lourdes occurred. The Virgin Mary told Bernadette to bathe and drink of the water, however, there was no water in which to drink or bathe, Bernadette was very confused. Bernadette then began to scratch at the gravel around her, as she began digging she realized that the gravel underneath was moist, a little pool of water with bubbles began to form in that spot. Bernadette cupped her hands and drank and washed her face in this new miraculous water. The following day, March 26, when Bernadette returned the water was overflowing and began flowing in a never-ending stream.
On March 4, 1858, over 20,000 people followed Bernadette to the grotto. The townspeople knew that March 4 marked the last of the fifteen days Bernadette promised to Our Lady.
On March 25, 1858, the Virgin Mary revealed herself to Bernadette saying, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
The title that was given to Mary, the Immaculate Conception following the above apparitions was Our Lady of Lourdes. As of writing this, there have been 69 health and spiritual related miraculous healings attributed to the Grotto of Lourdes, the Intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes, and of those who have drank and bathed in the water from the Holy Grotto as discovered by St. Bernadette in 1858.
The Message of Lourdes is one of our times! Our Lady told St. Bernadette that those who follow her, that is Mary, to Jesus Christ will not be rewarded in this life but only in the next. St. Bernadette exclaimed to the people the urgent need to practice penance. We are quickly approaching the Solemn Season of Lent, which will be ushered in by Septuagesima, the three-week traditional liturgical season that begins on Septuagesima Sunday (February 9, 2020) and concludes on Shrove Tuesday (February 25, 2020). This traditional season, still observed by those who prescribe to the Old Calendar, that is pre-Vatican II, will submit themselves to discovering the will of God for their souls during the Lenten season. Penance starts today, not tomorrow, for tomorrow is never promised.
May the profound, beautiful, and echoing words of the Blessed Virgin ring in our souls today and always - “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Turn to Our Lady who will instruct you on the ways to follow Christ and His Holy Roman Catholic Church, the sure source of Eternal Salvation.
Seth is a convert to the Church and lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.