A story of miracles continues with Our Lady of Lourdes

April 30, 2013

Like many things 21st Century, even the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes has a live web cam. 

By logging on to en.lourdes-france.org, it is possible to view the Shrine in real time, day or night, and watch as prayer-filled pilgrims kneel before the dripping grotto where a healing mother appeared to a poor French girl in 1858. 

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France, is among the world’s most holiest for Catholics, having been touched by the presence of the Blessed Mother no less than 18 times. Millions more experience her touch as they seek her intercession and miraculous healing.

In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, there are at least two, nearly life sized replicas of the holy apparition site — at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in northwest Houston and at the Villa de Matel convent east of downtown — a sign that the appeal of her messages from the grotto still echo vibrantly around the world. 

It was at Lourdes that Our Lady revealed herself to Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 year-old peasant girl, as the Immaculate Conception.

She called for prayer and penance, commissioned a basilica and untapped the healing springs of Lourdes that have miraculously cured thousands of people in body and soul. Today, the Church celebrates the World Day of the Sick on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes Feb. 11. 

The healings at the sacred grotto continue to this day and are seen as an extension of Jesus’ healing ministry delivered through the powerful intercession of his Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes, the patron saint of bodily ills.

Over the years, the Church has officially confirmed 67 miraculous healings at Lourdes. 

A recent medical evaluation of 436 purported cures at Lourdes documented in a July issue of the Oxford Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences concluded that “the Lourdes phenomenon, extraordinary in many respects, still awaits scientific explanation.” 

In 2011, the doctors of the International Medical Committee of Lourdes declared that two recent cures were medically inexplicable. 

As the story goes, on Feb. 11, 1858, Bernadette was playing with friends in the woods. As her friends frolicked a distance away, she heard a rushing wind and looked up to the grotto. 

Perched above in the rocks, a beautiful woman stood before her. She wore a white veil and gown with a blue sash and one yellow rose on each foot. She had a rosary trellised through her fingers and asked Bernadette to pray with her. 

Reflecting on this during a visit to the Shrine in 2004, Pope John Paul II said, “Here the Blessed Virgin asked Bernadette to recite the rosary, as she herself held the beads. This grotto has thus become a unique school of prayer where Mary teaches everyone to gaze with burning love upon the face of Christ.”

Between that February and July 16, the Virgin appeared to Bernadette 17 more times, sometimes offering only a smile, others requiring acts of penance from the young girl for sinners. Once she asked Bernadette to drink from a spring. 

Finding only a small puddle of muddy water, Bernadette began scratching at the ground to unearth the crisp, curative waters.
As time passed and word spread of the strange, possibly mad, visionary and the mysterious apparitions, crowds began to flock to witness the girl encounter the Mother of God. 

On March 4, 8,000 people were recorded to have gathered around the grotto expecting a miracle.

On March 25, the vision finally revealed her name, the Immaculate Conception. Bernadette is said to have run all the way home repeating the name so as not to forget it. This revelation astounded Church clergy because how could an unsophisticated girl from a remote French village know about the Immaculate Conception, when only four years before the Pope in Rome had declared it a doctrine?

After the apparitions at Lourdes, Bernadette entered religious life. She was canonized after her death on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 1933, by Pope Pius XI.

It is believed that the apparitions at Lourdes were Our Lady’s affirmation of the dogma officially declaring that Mary “was from the moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin,” as stated by Pius IX’s “Ineffabilis Deus,” the document promulgating the teaching. 

Always in union with her Son, Mary works to lead believers to their healing and redemption through Jesus. The remarkable cures and conversions still occurring at the Shrine at Lourdes are believed to testify this.