August 15, 2014

French Friday: Lourdes

In honor of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, today's French Friday post is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin Mary who is said to have appeared to a young peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, on numerous occasions in 1858 in the vicinity of Lourdes, France. 

The first apparitions occurred on February 11, 1858, when 14-year-old Bernadette told her mother that a "lady" spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle (a mile from Lourdes). The Lady went on to appear to Bernadette seventeen more times. On February 24th, Bernadette related that the Lady asked for prayers and penitence for the conversion of sinners, and on the 25th, She instructed Bernadette to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found there. Although it was muddy at first, the stream became increasingly clean. As word spread, this water was given to medical patients of all kinds, and many reports of miraculous cures followed. Seven of these cures were confirmed as lacking any medical explanation. As people began to flock to the springs, the government fenced off the Grotto and issued stiff penalties for anybody trying to get near the off-limits area. Bernadette, knowing the local area well, managed to visit the barricaded Grotto under cover of darkness. There, on March 25, she said she was told: "I am the Immaculate Conception" ("que soy era immaculada concepciou"). On July 16, Bernadette went for the last time to the Grotto. "I have never seen Her so beautiful before," she reported.

The Church, faced with nationwide questions, decided to institute an investigative commission on November 17,  1858. On January 18, 1860, it was declared that the Virgin Mary did indeed appear to Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonized as a Saint. Together with Fátima in Portugal, Lourdes is one of the most frequented Marian shrines in the world, where between 4 and 6 million pilgrims travel annually and testaments of healings continue to take place.

(Information provided by R Lauretin, Lourdes, Dossier des documents authentiques, Paris: 1957 - via Wikipedia)
I visited Lourdes in 2008 en route from Paris to San Sebastian in Spain. The basilica is beautiful and, although the grotto and the springs are teeming with tourists, invalids, and believers, the grounds are hopeful, reverent, and peaceful. 
I've loved the story of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes since I watched The Song of Bernadette as a little girl in Catholic school. In college, I wrote a paper about Lourdes for my Holy Women theology course at Marquette.
I brought home tiny bottles of Holy Water for my mom & godmother... 
...and for my nephews when they made their First Communions.
This graphic novel of Saint Bernadette was an excellent
way to engage the boys in the story of The Miracle of Lourdes.