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Saint Bernadette soubirous, our lady of lourdes

Appearances (February 11 -  July 16, 1858)

Feast Day - February 11

Patron Saint of Bodily Ills

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus. About three years later, on February 11, 1858, a young lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a sickly child of poor parents. When she was 13, on a cold day in February 1858, Bernadette and two companions headed off to the Gave River to collect pieces of wood.  The two companions ran ahead and left Bernadette struggling to keep up. As Bernadette was taking off her shoes to make her way through the river, she was startled by a peculiar wind and rustling sound. This started a series of apparitions.

Bernadette looked up towards the grotto and the caves on the riverbank. Near the opening of the grotto, Bernadette glanced and noticed the cave was suddenly filled with golden light.  Lifting up her eyes, she saw a lady of great beauty, dressed in a pure white robe with a blue sash, a veil over her head, a rosary clasped in her hands and yellow roses at her feet. Bernadette rubbed her eyes. What a beautiful lady! But where did she come from? And what was she doing here?

The beautiful lady smiled at Bernadette and asked her to say her rosary. Bernadette said her prayers and when she was finished she looked up, the lady had vanished. Bernadette caught up to her two friends and discovered that they were upset with her. What have you been doing? Playing in the river, while we are out here collecting wood? Bernadette told them about the vision she had just witnessed. The girls told Bernadette she was silly and probably just seeing things.

Bernadette felt drawn to the grotto and returned there on the next Sunday.  Again, Bernadette saw the beautiful lady.  The third time Bernadette went to the grotto, the lady spoke to her. The beautiful lady asked Bernadette to come here every day for fifteen days. She said that she wanted Bernadette to tell the priests to build a chapel there. She told her to drink water from the stream. The lady also told Bernadette to pray for the conversion of sinners. Bernadette followed the requests.

On March 25, the Lady finally told Bernadette that she was Mary, the mother of Jesus, and that her purpose in appearing to Bernadette was to warn her to pray and make sacrifices for sinners. The miracles of body and soul performed at Lourdes are the proof that this message was a true warning from the queen of heaven to her children and that she was deeply interested in their welfare.

Bernadette’s daily visits to the grotto caused quite a stir in the countryside. Crowds of people began to gather and watch Bernadette as she examined the cave and obediently did the things the lady asked of her. They watched Bernadette scrape away soil beside the grotto until a spring of water started to trickle out. Would you believe this spring still provides 27,000 gallons of water every day?

This is the sacred Lourdes water which heals all!  At first, the priests, the town’s folk, and the families doubted Bernadette’s visions and the purpose in her activities.  But Bernadette was stubborn and determined to follow Mary’s plans for her. Eventually everyone did believe Bernadette and the grotto at Lourdes became a place of worship and the Lourdes holy water was sacred for performing miracles.

During interrogations, Bernadette gave an account of what she saw. It was “something white in the shape of a girl.” It was “a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm.” Her white robe was encircled by a blue girdle. She wore a white veil. There was a yellow rose on each foot. A rosary was in her hand.

Through that humble girl, Mary revitalized and continues to revitalize the faith of millions of people. People began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world. In 1862 Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.

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