Yesterday was the anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Mother to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Bernadette, 14 years old, was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend when a lady spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle.
Our Lady appeared to Bernadette a total of eighteen times between February 11 and July 16. It is to Bernadette that Our Lady identified herself as the Immaculate Conception when she was asked who she was by Bernadette. Just a few years prior to this message on December 8, 1854, Pius IX had raised the teaching about the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady to be dogma of faith with these words:
By the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and our own authority, we declare, pronounce, and define: the doctrine which hold that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was from the first moment of her conception, by the singular, grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Christ Jesus the Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin, is revealed by God and therefore, firmly and constantly to be believed by all the faithful. (The Christian Faith #709).
Our Lady gave heavenly confirmation of the dogma Pope Pius IX had given to the church. The virtues of Christian poverty and humility that are seen in Bernadette are a model of how we are to live our lives. Our Lady also said that the important thing is to be happy in the next life so we must accept our cross in this one.
Initially, the church doubted the young girl, but after the canonical investigation into these apparitions, the church declared them to be valid. The title of Our Lady of Lourdes was given to these apparitions of the Blessed Mother.
Our Lady appeared with a rosary hanging from Her right arm, which is a significant sign of the importance of praying the rosary. She asked to have a chapel built at the site of these apparitions which Bernadette reported to her priest. During her ninth apparition, she told Bernadette to drink and bathe from the fountain. Bernadette, confused by her request seeing no water anywhere began to scratch at the ground with her hands. As Bernadette uncovered the gravel, she noticed that the ground underneath was moist. She continued to dig, and a little pool began to form. She cupped her hands together, drank, and then washed her face in the muddy water. The following day, the pool was overflowing, and soon the trickle of water became a gushing stream. As news of this spread through the town, the people began to go to the grotto to drink the water. Many miracles have been attributed to its healing power both physically and spiritually.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, the church Our Lady asked to be built, is one of the major Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. Almost 5 million pilgrims from all over the world come every year to pray and to drink the miraculous water, believing they obtain from the Lord healing of the body and of the spirit.
How blessed we are to have had Our Lady come to earth to teach us what we need to attain heaven. Her message of prayer, especially the rosary, penance, humility, mercy for sinners, and compassion for the sick is a roadmap for us. The road may be bumpy at times. We may take a wrong turn. But we have a loving and forgiving God who will accept our repentance and allow us back on the right path. If we follow Our Lady, she will lead us right to our Lord.
Bernadette Soubirous entered the convent of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers in 1866. She contracted tuberculosis and died at the age of 35 in 1879. After miracles attributed to her intercession, she was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1933, which is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Let us ask Our Lady of Lourdes to lead us this Lent so that we become closer to her Divine Son. let us ask her to help us repent our sins which will console Jesus during his Passion. Let us join together to ask Our Lady’s help for ourselves, our families, our country and our world. Her intercession is powerful. I have always felt very close to Our Lady. Not really having a patron saint, there is no St. Wanda, I adopted Mary as mine. My middle name is Marie a form of Mary so it made perfect sense. I truly believe that Our Lady took me under her mantle as my patron saint and has obtained many graces for me throughout my life.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You.