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Our Lady of Lourdes

Feast day - 11th February
when, since 1993, World Day of the Sick is also celebrated

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes in 1858. The 1st of the 18 apparitions was on the 11th February. To begin with the 'beautiful woman' was silent, praying the rosary silently with Bernadette. When the 14 year old girl asked who she was, she answered: "I am the Immaculate Conception" (the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception had been proclaimed by the Church (& Pope Pius IX) on 8th December 1854. Lourdes is in the very south of France, in the foothills of the Pyrénées, and a place of pilgrimage for many. The sick and suffering have a very special place in Lourdes; there have been many physical healings from bathing in the spring water that Our Lady showed to Bernadette, but most often spoken of is the grace and spiritual healing that is found in Lourdes.

Blessed John Paul II was twice a pilgrim to Lourdes: in 1983 and 2004 (his last pilgrimage abroad). Pope Benedict XVI was a pilgrim in 2008 for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions.

Pope John Paul II gave Salvifici Doloris, his apostolic letter on the salvific meaning of suffering, to the Church on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes 1984. You can listen to this profound reflection here on Totus2us' novena to Our Lady of Lourdes.

3 2us by Mgr Leo Maasburg      
"Sickness and suffering are a big puzzle to human beings. We're all created for health - health is the normal state of man. But sickness and suffering are a reality of our life, nobody can avoid it completely, it will hit everybody at a certain moment in their life. Since we believe that for God there is no trash, everything he has permitted he can use for a good end, the secret of suffering and of sickness reveals a big mystery, a mystery of God's greatness. I believe this was the reason of Our Lady's appearing on 11th February 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous. But she didn't appear to explain suffering, she appears silently, she doesn't say anything the first three apparitions, and she just holds a rosary in her hand and Bernadette prays the rosary. The beginning of that revealing, of the understanding of the mystery of suffering is prayer. If we ask Our Lord, if we enter, if we approach Him in prayer, He can reveal to us the mystery of suffering."

3 2us by Fr Alexander Sherbrooke      
"What happened in Lourdes, as then as today, Our Lady came to those who were suffering greatly because of poverty, illness, brokenness in their lives. Our Lady comes to teach us and to lead us to her Son Jesus. She wants to show us the way to understand that we are loved unconditionally by God."

From a letter by Saint Mary Bernadette Soubirous:

One day, when I had gone with the two girls to collect wood by the bank of the river Gave, I heard a sound. I turned toward the meadow and saw that the trees were not moving at all. I looked up and saw a grotto. And I saw a Lady wearing a white dress with a blue sash. On each foot she had a yellow rose; her rosary was the same colour.

When I saw her, I rubbed my eyes. I thought I must be mistaken. I put my hands in my pocket, where I kept my rosary. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but I could not life my hand to my forehead; it fell back. Then the Lady crossed herself. I again tried, and although my hand was trembling, I was eventually able to make the sign of the cross. I began to say my rosary. The Lady slipped the beads of her rosary through her fingers, but she did not move her lips. When I finished the rosary, she immediately disappeared.

I asked the two girls if they had seen anything. They said, 'No', and asked what I had to tell them. I told them that I had seen a Lady wearing a white dress but that I did not know who she was. But I warned them to keep silent about it. Then they urged me not to go back there, but I refused. I went back on Sunday, feeling drawn by an inner force. 

The Lady spoke to me a third time and asked me if I was willing to come to her over a period of a fortnight. I replied that I was. She added that I must tell the priests to have a chapel built there. Then she told me to drink at the spring. Not seeing any spring I was going to drink from the Gave. She told me that she did not mean that, and pointed with her finger to the spring. When I went there I saw only a little dirty water. I put my hand in it, but I could not get hold of any. I scratched, and at last a little water came for drinking. Three times I threw it away; the fourth time I was able to drink it. The the vision disappeared, and I went away. 

I went back there for 15 days, and each day the Lady appeared to me, with the exception of a Monday and a Friday. She reminded me again to tell the priests to build the chapel, asked me to wash in the spring, and to pray for the conversion of sinners. I asked her several times who she was, but she gently smiled at me. Finally, she held her arms outstretched and raised her eyes to heaven and told me that she was the Immaculate Conception. 

During that fortnight she also revealed three secrets to me, and forbade me to disclose them to anyone. I have kept them faithfully to this day.

Annie from London      
"Another helper came over to me out of the blue (I think she was an Italian lady who I'd never seen or met before) and she said 'You're Anne, aren't you.'  and I said yes. I didn't think at the time it was strange that she knew my name. She said to me: ‘I've been directed to you, the Virgin has directed me to you and wants me to give you a message. She says that she knows you've been having a difficult time for some time now and as she stands here now, she's looking at you with all encompassing and unconditional love and you would weep for joy if you knew how much she loves you.' And with that the lady (the helper) gave me a hug and walked away and I then went into the healing waters in Lourdes, was immersed and came out again."

Christina, from Ghana      
"I’m going to testify that Mother Mary has done wonderful things for me in my life. In 2002 I had my twin grandsons and one of them had a heart defect. I was so saddened because I love my daughter and I love my grandkids. So I decided to go to Lourdes. So I went to Lourdes and I poured out my heart to Mother Mary. And now that boy has recovered fully; he did have one operation but now he is fully recovered. When he went back for a check up they said it had healed itself and I put this miracle down to Mother Mary. I didn't expect him to live this long: he's twelve years old and I can't stop thanking Mother Mary."

Christian, from England      
"I first think I met Mary in 1997 in Lourdes … I had a very, very moving and real and living experience with the Westminster Diocesan Pilgrimage. ..And I think if anybody really wants to witness the love and the power and the spirit of Mary, there is no better place (in my view at least) than Lourdes. The magicalness of her touch is incredible. Lourdes is considered to be a place of miracles and, let me say, it's a place of hundreds of minor miracles that happen continually and consistently throughout the day. And it really needs to be experienced to be believed. So for me, Mary is obviously immaculate but just the most wonderful influence in my life."

Patrick, from England       
"We all prayed very fervently to Our Lady of Lourdes and miraculously he was cured … I sincerely believe that it was thanks to the intercession of Our Lady that he is now healthy and happy."

Fiona, from England      
"It has been just such an incredible blessing in my life to be part of this parish trip to Lourdes for the last 22 years as a helper with the elderly who we take with us... The Lourdes week for me is the week around which the whole of the rest of my year revolves. And very year I 've gone I have learnt more and more about the love of Our Lady, and the really special place she has for us as our intercessor, and she has become my first port of call for intercessory prayer. And I think of it really very much like just asking one of my friends to pray for me, but the difference is that this particular friend has got a very special place in the heart of God, and we know how much He will listen to her and how much He will react to anything that she asks of Him. And it's a real honour for us to be able to give her that special place in the hearts as well."

Marien, from France       
"I try to pray the rosary at least every day and it’s a true help and a true feeling of being loved by Christ through his mother, Mary."

John Paul II's Homily at Mass in the Sistine Chapel
on the Vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
Saturday 10 February 1979, Vatican - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Hail Mary...
Today I would like to be in spirit in that corner of France where, for 121 years, these words have been murmured incessantly by the lips of thousands, of millions of men and women since the day when, precisely in this place, they were uttered by a child full of amazement. The child was called Bernadette Soubirous, she was 14 years old, and she was the daughter of modest workers in Lourdes.

Hail Mary...
It is with these words that, always and everywhere, we greet her who heard them for the first time in Nazareth. On receiving this greeting, she was called by her name; that was how she was called by her family and all those who knew her in the neighbourhood; it was with this name also that she was chosen by God. The Lord called her by this name: Mary! Myriam!

However, when Bernadette asked her for her name, she did not answer "Mary", but "Que soy era Immaculada Conception", "I am the Immaculate Conception". Thus, in Lourdes, she called herself by the name that God had given her from time immemorial. Yes, from time immemorial, He chose her with this name and destined her to be the Mother of his Son, the eternal Word. This appellation, "Immaculate Conception", is ultimately far deeper and far more important than that used by her parents or by the people whom she knew; the one that she heard at the moment of the annunciation: "Hail Mary!"

Let us pause at this greeting. Millions of human lips repeat it every day, in every kind of language and dialect, in a great many places of the globe. Between the Massabielle grotto and the river Gave, there are also millions of pilgrims who repeat it in the course of the year. Today, I wish to repeat this "Hail Mary" with everyone, becoming a pilgrim in spirit and in heart, while waiting for the opportunity to be in that place personally. I wish to call Christ's Mother by this name which she had on earth. I wish to greet her with this greeting which can be termed an "historic" one, in the sense that it is bound up with a decisive moment of the history of salvation. This decisive moment is, at the same time, that of her act of faith, of her response of faith: "Blessed is she who believed!" (Lk 1:45).

Yes, Mary, it is this day, this hour that counts, at the moment when you heard this greeting, with your name: Myriam, Mary! For the history of salvation is inscribed in the time of men marked by the hours, the days, the years. This history also takes on a dimension of faith, in the response given by the human heart to the living God. Among these answers, the one that follows the Angel's "Hail Mary", in Nazareth, marks a peak point: Fiat! "Let it be to me according to your word!"

Blessed are you who believed!
It is Elizabeth who addresses this blessing to Mary. Not at the moment of the Annunciation, but several weeks afterwards, when Mary came to Ain-Karim. And these words of Elizabeth, who was the person closest to her spiritually, brought forth in Mary a new response of faith: "Magnificat!

We are accustomed to the terms of this canticle. The Church has made them hers. She repeats them, following the Mother of Christ, to express her greatest joys or merely to give thanks: "He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name, and his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation... He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree: he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away…" (Lk 1:49-50, 52-53).

We often hear these words! We repeat them so often! Let us try once, why not today, to dwell on the admirable transparency of this heart of Mary: God speaks in it and through it. He speaks at a level which transcends man's daily words and perhaps even the words used every day by Myriam, this girl of Nazareth, a kinswoman of Elizabeth and Zechariah, just betrothed to Joseph. Actually, is not Mary the bride, as it were, of the Holy Spirit?

It is certainly the Spirit that gives such transparency to her heart — this simple, humble heart of a girl from Nazareth — thanks to the promises made "to Abraham and to his posterity for ever" (Lk 1:55). God is also mysteriously present in the whole history of men, of the generations that succeed one another, of peoples, capable of bringing forth, in a marvellous way, a transparency, a hope, a call to holiness, a purification, a conversion. In this sense, He is present in the history of the humble.., and of the powerful; yes, in the history of the hungry, the oppressed, the underprivileged, who know they are loved by Him and find again with Him, courage, dignity and hope; in the history also of the rich, of oppressors, of men sated with everything, who do not escape the judgment of God and are also urged to humility, justice, and sharing, in order to enter his kingdom. God is present in the history of those who are responsible for the consumer civilization which is spreading, and in that of its victims. He wishes to set man free from the slavery of things and to put him back continually on the way of love of persons — love of God and love of his brothers — with the spirit of purity, poverty, and simplicity.

Today I want to meditate on these admirable words of the Magnificat with all those who are taking part in this eucharistic sacrifice, with all the pilgrims of Lourdes, with the whole Church.

Some people are questioning themselves about the mission of the Church today. But cannot the Church of our time catch sight of the truth about her mission in these words of Mary? Do they not contain what we can, what we want to, what we must, announce, proclaim and carry out in this vast field in which "evangelization" and "human advancement" are linked? Does not the Magnificat make it possible to answer the question of knowing what progress, what advancement, is meant, of knowing also what is understood by "evangelizing", proclaiming the Good News to the men of today? For this "today" with its miseries and its signs of hope constitutes, in all countries, a challenge for the "prophetic" mission of the Church, and at the same time for her "motherly" mission. It is a question of opening hearts and mentalities to Christ, to the Gospel, to its scale of values, to contribute to the elevation of the whole man and of all men, to organize a world less unworthy of man and of God's plan for him, and, at the same time, to prepare the kingdom of heaven.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, it is with deep emotion that I celebrate today this Mass in the French language, in the Sistine Chapel. In this way, in the eucharistic liturgy I can unite spiritually with all those who speak this language, and there are a great many of them, spread in many countries, and represented here in Rome and in this assembly. In particular, I can gather in the spirit all the sons and daughters of the Church of this great French nation, whose history is linked in a special way with the history of the Gospel in Europe and in the whole world.

We have the impression that we are in Lourdes, where pilgrims from all countries as well as France flock continually:
— in Lourdes which celebrates this year, with Nevers, the centenary of Bernadette's death;
— in Lourdes where Mary's message, transmitted by Bernadette, incessantly calls souls to prayer, repentance, conversion, purification, and the glory of the Christian assembly — in a word, to a stronger faith;
— in Lourdes where so many sick persons find, if not a physical cure, at least a Christian meaning for their sufferings, the peace of God's love and the eager welcome of their brothers;
— in Lourdes where every year the French Bishops gather in a plenary meeting which I am happy to greet very cordially from the See of the Apostle Peter;
— in Lourdes which is preparing the 1981 Eucharistic Congress. We have together started to prepare the celebration of the centenary of the first International Eucharistic Congress, which took place in Lille in 1881.

Turning towards the land of France, towards the whole Church that is in France, I would like above all to repeat: blessed are you, who received the faith right from the beginning. Do not let your faith fade or dissolve. Strengthen your faith! And let it shine forth!

In this spirit of faith, we now approach the altar in order to celebrate the Sacrifice of Christ: the Sacrifice of the Bread that we consecrate and that we break for the life of the world (cf 1 Cor 10, 16; Jn 6, 51). This is the theme of the Eucharistic Congress for which we are preparing together: For the life of the world, for the salvation of the world! Amen!"

Blessed John Paul II's Homily on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
11 February 1979, St Peter's Basilica, Vatican - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
1. I greet all of you who are present here today. I greet you in a particularly cordial way and with great emotion. Precisely today, 11 February, the day on which the liturgy of the Church recalls every year the apparition of the Our Lady at Lourdes, I greet you, who are accustomed to go on pilgrimage to that sanctuary, and you, who help sick pilgrims: priests, doctors, nurses, and members of the health, transportation, and welfare services. I thank you because you have filled St Peter's Basilica today and honour the Pope with your presence, making him almost a participant in your annual pilgrimages to Lourdes, in your community, your prayer, your hope and also in all your personal renunciation and that mutual donation and sacrifice, which characterize your friendship and solidarity. This Basilica and St Peter's Chair need your presence. This presence of yours is necessary for the whole Church, for the whole of mankind. The Pope is grateful, immensely grateful, to you for this. In fact, today's meeting is certainly accompanied by the joy which springs from a living faith, but also by considerable effort and sacrifice.

2. The Lord Jesus, in today's Gospel, meets a man who is seriously ill: a leper, who begs him: "if you will, you can make me clean" (Mk 1:41). And immediately afterwards, Jesus forbids him to spread the news of the miracle, that is, to speak of his cure. And although we know that "Jesus went about... preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity" (Mt 9:35), the restriction, the "reservation" of Christ with regard to the cure he had brought about, is significant. Perhaps there is here a distant anticipation of that "reservation", that caution with which the Church examines all supposed miraculous cures, for example, those that have taken place at Lourdes for over a hundred years. It is well known to what severe medical controls each of them is subjected.

The Church prays for the health of all the sick, of all the suffering, of all the incurables humanly condemned to irreversible infirmity. She prays for the sick and she prays with the sick. She is extremely grateful for every cure, even if it is partial and gradual. And at the same time, with her whole attitude she makes it understood — like Christ — that cure is something exceptional, that from the point of view of the divine "economy" of salvation it is an extraordinary and almost "supplementary" fact.

3. This divine economy of salvation — as Christ revealed — is certainly manifested in the liberation of man from that evil, which "physical" suffering is. It is manifested even more, however, in the interior transformation of that evil, which spiritual suffering is, in "salvific" good, in the good that sanctifies the one who suffers and, through him, also others. And, therefore, the text of today's liturgy, on which we must dwell today above all, are not the words: "I will; be clean", but the words: "Be an imitator of me". It is St Paul who addresses the Corinthians with these words: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." (1 Cor 11:1). Earlier than he, Christ himself had many times said: "Come and follow me" (cf Mt 8:22; 19:21; Mk 2:14; Lk 18:22; Jn 21: 22).

These words do not have the power to cure, they do not liberate from suffering. But they have a transforming power. They are a call to become a new man, to become particularly like to Christ, in order to find in this likeness, through grace, all the interior good in that which in itself is an evil, which makes one suffer, which limits, which perhaps humiliates or is embarrassing. Christ who says to suffering man "Come and follow me", is the same Christ who suffers: the Christ of Gethsemane, the scourged Christ, Christ crowned with thorns, Christ on the way of the cross, Christ on the cross... It is the same Christ who drained the cup of human suffering "which the Father gave him" (cf Jn 18:11). The same Christ, who assumed all the ills of the earthly human condition except sin, in order to draw from them salvific good: the good of redemption, the good of purification and reconciliation with God, the good of grace.

If he says to each of you, dear Brothers and Sisters: "Come and follow me", he invites you and calls you to take part in the same transformation, in the same transmutation of the evil of suffering into salvific good: that of the redemption, of grace, purification, and conversion... for oneself and for others.

Just for this reason, St Paul, who so passionately wished to imitate Christ, says in another place: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24).

Each of you can make these words the essence of your own life and vocation. I wish you this transformation, which is "an interior miracle" even greater than the miracle of healing; this transformation, which corresponds to the normal way of God's economy of salvation as Jesus Christ presented it to us. I wish you this grace and I implore it on each of you, dear Brothers and Sisters.

4. "I was sick", Jesus says of himself, "and you visited me" (Mt 25:36). According to the logic of the same economy of salvation, he, who identifies himself with each suffering person, waits — in this man — for other men, who "come to visit him". He waits for the expression of human compassion, solidarity, kindness, love, patience, solicitude, in all their various forms. He waits for the expression of all that is noble, elevated, in the human heart: "you visited me."

Jesus, who is present in our suffering neighbour, wishes to be present in every act of charity and service of ours, which is expressed also in every glass of water we give "in his name" (cf Mk 9:41). Jesus wants love, the solidarity of love, to grow from suffering and around suffering. He wants, that is, the sum of that good which is possible in our human world. A good that never passes away.

The Pope, who wishes to be a servant of this love, kisses the forehead and kisses the hands of all those who contribute to the presence of this love and to its growth in our world. He knows, in fact, and believes that he is kissing the hands and the forehead of Christ himself, who is mystically present in those who suffer and in those who, out of love, serve the suffering.

With this "spiritual kiss" of Christ, let us prepare, dear Brothers and Sisters, to celebrate and take part in this sacrifice, in which the sacrifice of each of you has had its place since time immemorial. And perhaps it is particularly opportune to recall that, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, on celebrating this sacrifice and praying "cum clamore valido" (Heb 5:7), Christ is heard by the Father:

Christ of our sufferings,
Christ of our sacrifices,
Christ of our Gethsemane,
Christ of our difficult transformations,
Christ of our faithful service to our neighbour,
Christ of our pilgrimages to Lourdes,
Christ of our community, today, in St Peter's Basilica,
Christ our Redeemer,
Christ our Brother! Amen."

© Copyright 1979 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Tanya from London       
"I travelled to Lourdes about 6 years ago I feel my relationship with her there was strengthened. I think she's an amazing woman and we have a lot to thank her for. "

Alexander, from the UK      
"My something about Mary is that I am very blessed to have my birthday on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is 11th February, when she first appeared to Bernadette."

Nicholas, from England      
"I think that Our Lady is a very powerful intercessor. In all times of need, I turn to her. I especially find her help most powerful in Lourdes, but also here at home."

Papa Saint John XXIII's words at the Angelus
Wednesday 11 February 1959 - in Italian

"Figli dilettissimi!
L'Angelus Domini di oggi, qui in Piazza S. Pietro, prende una speciale significazione. Saluto a Maria benedetta, Madre di Gesù e Madre nostra, nel compiersi esatto dell'Anno Centenario delle Apparizioni di Lourdes. La Liturgia della Chiesa non permette celebrazione più festosa, perchè oggi s'inizia la Quaresima, e questa è la giornata delle « Ceneri ». Vi diremo in confidenza, che Noi stessi stamane, prima di dire la Messa, abbiamo chinato il capo a ricevere il segno della umiliazione e della penitenza.

La festa della Madonna di Lourdes sarà celebrata nelle chiese nei prossimi giorni, e Noi conchiuderemo il Centenario, il 18 di questo mese, con un Messaggio radiofonico.

Ma anche l'inizio della Quaresima è un richiamo di Lourdes: poiché la Madonna apparve la prima volta nell'ultimo giorno di Carnevale, e nelle manifestazioni successive il motivo della penitenza tornò continuamente in immagini visive, o in parole pronunciate da Lei e ripetute dalla veggente Bernardetta Soubirous. Nella ottava apparizione del 27 febbraio, per ben tre volte, la giovanetta ripetè piangendo : — Penitenza, penitenza, penitenza.

Diletti figli! Questo è il grande insegnamento che dura per noi.

Oggi poi è giornata faustissima per i figli d'Italia: i Patti Lateranensi.

Coraggio, figliuoli. A Noi piace ripetere, giusto oggi, le ultime invocazioni del Sommo Pontefice Pio XI, scritte poche ore prima di morire:

« Esultate, o Principi degli Apostoli, in questo memorabile giorno, che ricorda Dio dato all'Italia e l'Italia a Dio, ottimo auspicio di più luminoso avvenire.

Profetate la perseveranza di questa Italia nella fede da voi predicata e suggellata col vostro sangue. Profetate la prosperità, l'onore, soprattutto l'onore di un popolo cosciente della sua dignità e responsabilità umana e cristiana. Profetate l'ordine, la tranquillità, la pace, la pace, la pace, a tutto questo mondo, che, pur sembrando preso da una follia omicida e suicida di armamenti, vuole la pace ad ogni costo, e con Noi dal Dio della pace la implora e confida di averla ».

Particolarmente in questo i i febbraio, la grande benedizione si allarga da questo colonnato ed oltre i suoi confini, che l'occhio del Padre scorge da questa Sua casa, e con l'affetto del cuore va a cercare tutti i figli di Roma, d'Italia e di tutte le Nazioni, insieme esultanti e sempre confidenti, in auspicio di celesti grazie e di terrestri consolazioni per l'intercessione della Vergine Immacolata."