Each year over 2 million people make their way through the mountainous country of southeastern France to Lourdes. They come seeking cures, hoping to find answers, believing, and praying. At Lourdes, people recall the Lady dressed in white, with a blue sash, yellow roses at her feet, and a Rosary on her arm—the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On February 11, 1858, Mary appeared to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. This was the first of 18 visits, many of them with 20,000 people present. When Bernadette asked the Lady’s identity, she replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Just four years earlier, the pope had proclaimed it a dogma that Mary was conceived immaculate without original sin. The Blessed Virgin, through Bernadette, had come to call sinners to a change of heart. Her message was a request for prayer and penance. She also instructed Bernadette to tell the priests that a chapel was to be built on the site and processions held.
On February 25, 1858, the Lady told Bernadette to dig in the dirt and drink of the stream. Bernadette began to dig, and after several attempts she was able to find the water to drink. The water continued to flow from where she had dug with her hands until it was producing over 32,000 gallons of water a day—as it still does. There have been over 5,000 cures recorded but less than 100 of them have been declared miraculous by the Church. Most of these have taken place during the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament.
Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. We may never travel to Lourdes and join in the processions, but we can know always that we have a Mother to help us and lead us to her Son, Jesus. And so we pray to her:
Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness, that we, who keep the Memorial of the Immaculate Mother of God, may, with the help of her intercession, rise up from our iniquities. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.
(Collect Prayer from the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes)