SANCTUARY OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES
The pilgrimage to Lourdes began with Bernadette Soubirous, the fourteen year old daughter of devout Christian peasants. Between February and July of 1858, Bernadette saw apparitions of a white-robed lady 18 times in a small grotto called Massabiele, near the town of Lourdes.
In the apparitions the lady told Bernadette to "go tell the village priest to build a chapel here" and that many people would soon come in procession to the holy grotto. On the day of the 16th apparition, March 25, the lady revealed herself as The Virgin Mary. During her ecstatic trance in front of the grotto that day, Bernadette suddenly rose from her knees, walked a short distance, and fell to the ground. Fervently she began to dig in the earth until a small puddle of water appeared. Over the next few days the puddle enlarged into a pool and eventually became the sacred spring for which Lourdes is now famous.
The Mother of God instructed Bernadette to drink from the spring. This spring of natural water has since effected approximately five thousand miraculous physical cures, sixty-five of which have been recognized by the Church. In the third apparition, the Virgin Mary said to St. Bernadette, “I cannot promise you happiness in this world but only in the next.” In the final vision, the Mother of God revealed her identity with the words, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Pilgrims to Lourdes today can drink and bathe in the same healing spring waters that have been flowing since the time of the apparitions, as well as pray at the grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared. The shrine also offers a full schedule of daily religious activities and services.
Pilgrimage to Lourdes takes place from Easter Sunday (March) to October. Every day during this period at 4:30pm, the Blessed Sacrament Procession takes place, with pilgrims carrying banners along the Esplanade des Processions. Torch light processions are held nightly at 8:45 pm from the Massabielle Grotto. It can be a spectacular sight with the majestic snowcapped Pyrenees in the background.
Rosaries made of wood, pewter, glass and crystal Bernadette can be purchased by Pilgrims to the Shrine of St. Some of these rosaries contain water from the holy spring. Pilgrims may also purchase a picture of the Lady of Lourdes apparition.
With millions of moral and spiritual healings taking place each year at Lourdes, it is one of the preeminent pilgrimage sites in the world.
Website of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes: http://www.lourdes-france.org