Mary Appears at Lourdes
The apparitions at Lourdes, and the miraculous healings from the Lourdes water, are probably some of the best known of Our Lady's apparitions. There have been many books written about them, as well as Movies and Videos.
So in these pages, I propose to give only a general outline of the stories connected with Lourdes, a number of sources for locating good books and other websites dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, and some personal observations.
There were 18 apparitions in all, by Our Lady, to Bernadette Soubirous, starting on 11th February 1858, and ending on 18th July 1858.
Bernadette saw "a lady dressed in white, with a white veil and a blue waist-band, and a yellow rose on each of her feet." She had a yellow Rosary hung over her arm, and she commenced to recite the Rosary. moving the beads between her fingers, but without moving her lips.
Bernadette joined in with her in praying the Rosary.
On the third apparition, the Virgin told Bernadette, "I do not promise you happiness in this life, but in the next."
At the seventh apparition, 23/2/1858, the atheist and medical specialist Dr Dozous went to the Grotto at Massabielle to observe Bernadette, and expose the sham of the so-called apparitions. He went home shattered, and would later be converted and become one of the most outspoken witnesses to the Lourdes events.
The ninth apparition , 25/2/1858 was when the spring was discovered - or perhaps was created. Let Bernadette tell us in her own words."The vision told me to go and drink from the spring. Since I couldn't see it, I went to drink from the river.She told me it wasn't there I was to drink, and with her finger pointed under the rock. I went there and found only a little brackish water. I put my hand into it but was unable to take any. Then I dug with my hands, and so was able to take some.Three times I threw the water away since it was dirty: then, the fourth time, I managed to drink. She made me eat some of the grass which grew around the spring."
At each apparition, more and more people turmed up, hoping to see a miracle or perhaps catch a glimpse of the vision. On 25/2/1858, some 300 people were present, on 27/2/1858 about 800, and on 28/2/1858 over 1000.
On the thirteenth apparition, 2/3/1858 the lady told Bernadette to tell the priests to build a shrine there, and make Massabielle a place of pilgrimage.
The Parish priest was not exactly impressed, and told Bernadette to ask the lady who she was.
When Bernadette asked the lady on a few occasions, she merely smiled - the time was not yet ripe.
On the sixteenth apparition, 25/3/1858, Bernadette again asked the Lady who she was - three times! - but the Lady only smiled. The smile gave Bernadette the courage to ask her again, and in her own words Bernadette tells us, "After the fortnight I asked her again three times, one after the other. She went on smiling so I dared to ask her once more. This time, however, she raised her eyes to heaven and said to me
On the seventeenth apparition,7/4/1858, for some ten to fifteen minutes whilst she was in ecstasy, as she was for a period during all the apparitions, Bernadette held her hands cupped around the flame of her candle without realising it. The flame flickered about her fingers without burning them. As soon as he came out of the ecsatsy, she dropped the candle. Dr Dozous, the medical specialist immediately examined her hands, and later confirmed to Commissar Jacomet, "I have examined her hands: there is not the slightest trace of a burn. Now I believe! I have seen with my own eyes!"
Our second daughter's second name is Bernadette, after Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. Our first daughter's second name is Marie, after Our Lady, since she was born on 13th. October - the day of Mary's final apparition at Fatima.
Bernadette Soubirous, now Saint Bernadette, was born on 7th. January 1844. She was baptised Marie Bernarde, but because she was so tiny she was called by the diminutive form of the name - "Bernadette". She was always a sickly child, suffering from severe Asthma even from her earliest days. She was described as "thick-headed" - had great difficulty in learning her school work and her religion, and in fact did not make her First Holy Communion until the age of fourteen. Her parents were extremely poor, and good wholesome food was a rarity in the Soubirous household.
It is totally beyond my powers of description to give you a real picture of Bernadette. There are numerous books and booklets which can do that so much better. So I will restrict myself to these few facts.
In 1864 she begged to be accepted as a Sister of Nevers.For health reasons she had to remain two more years in Lourdes, and finally in 1866 she bade an extremelty painful and emotional farewell to the Grotto of Massabielle, which had become her "heaven" - the place where she met the Mother of God. On October 30th. 1867, she publicly took her vows, and was appointed as assistant to the infirmarian, where she remained until 1874. She was then moved to Sacristy duties.Bernadette died on the 16th. April 1879.
Thirty years after her death, her body was exhumed, and found to be incorrupt. Her body is now visible in a glass coffin in the Convent Chapel at Nevers, France.
Report of the Episcopal Commission
(As mentioned elsewhere in these pages, whenever there is an alleged apparition of Our Lady, it is the Church's practice to appoint a Commission of experts in many different fields, to investigate and report their findings to the Bishop of the Diocese where the alleged apparitions take place. Finally the Bishop, when he is satisfied that all necessary investigations have been concluded, gives a report either for or against.
The first apparition took place on 11th. February,1858 and the final (18th.) on 16th.July 1858
The Commission started its investigation in 1858 and the Bishop gave his final report four years later on 18th.January 1862)
Here are some excerpts from that report
"The charge of Monseigneur the Bishop of Tarbes, giving judgement on the Appearance which has taken place at the Grotto of Lourdes.
"The event of which we are speaking to you has been for four years the object of our anxious study. We have followed it in its different phases and been advised by a commission composed of holy learned and experienced priests who have questioned the child, studied the facts, examined and weighed everything. We have also sought the opinion of scientists and we are finally convinced that the Appearance is supernatural and divine, and that consequently, She whom Bernadette has seen is the Most Blessed Virgin Herself. Our conviction is based, not merely upon the testimony of herself, but more especially upon the events which have taken place and which can only be explained by divine intervention.....
"The testimony of Bernadette, important in itself, gathers yet fresh force from the marvellous facts which have taken place ever since the beginning of the Appearances. These marvellous facts are indeed the complement of the Appearances. If the tree is to be judged by its fruits, we may say that the Appearances of which the young girl tells us is supernatural and divine, for the results it has produced are supernatural and divine......
After having sought the light of the Holy Spirit and the assistance of the Blessed Virgin, we have declared and do declare that which follows -
We judge that Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, did really appear to Bernadette Soubirous on 11th. February 1858 and on certain subsequent days, eighteen times in all, in the Grotto of Massabielle, near the town of Lourdes; that this Appearance bears every mark of truth and that the belief of the faithful is well -grounded. We humbly submit our judgement to that of the Sovereign Pontiff who is charged with the government of the Universal Church....
" In order to carry out the wish of the Blessed Virgin, expressed more than once at the time of the Appearances, we propose to build a sanctuary upon the ground adjoining the Grotto, which has become the property of the Bishop of Tarbes......"
"This our charge is to be read and published in all churches and chapels. Given at Tarbes on the 18th. January 1862, Festival of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome.
"Signed, Bertrand Severe Laurence, Bishop of Tarbes."
Healing Miracles at Lourdes
Again, there have been many books written about different Miraculous cures that have taken place at Lourdes, so I don't propose to give much detail now..
One of the best books I have read is Father Paul Glynn's "Healing Fire From Frozen Earth", and in it he mentions the names of many books and booklets written about different miraculous cures. A very down-to-earth book, written in a very interesting and readable style.
Father Glynn's book is available from Marist Fathers Books, 1 Mary Street, Hunters Hill NSW 2110, Australia Truly a remarkable book, it will teach you many things in addition to the miraculous cures of Lourdes, and I am quite sure no one can read it without experiencing that tremendous surge of emotion that many of those cured have felt.
Our Pilgrimage Notes
Before we went on our pilgrimage in May 1995, I was reading up about France and French customs etc. The book I was reading said that it is considered bad manners to walk up to a Frenchman (or woman) and ask "Do you speak English?" I suppose that's fair enough, because if he /she didn't speak English, they probably wouldn't know what we were gabbling about anyway.
So from schoolboy days I remembered "Parlez-vous Anglais, M'sieu", and a few other French phrases.
Our first stop in France, after bussing in from Spain, was our hotel at Lourdes. All the people in the Hotel check-in section spoke English to us, so my French was not needed. That evening we decided to go for a walk, as most of the shops were open that night.
My wife and I were talking quietly on the footpath in front of one of the shops, when I noticed one of the shopgirls coming towards us. "This is it", I said to myself, "This is where that year of schoolboy French finally gets used." She spoke first and said to me , "Do you speak English?"
I got such a shock, I nodded my head, and said "Oui"!
Later I noticed that I was singing (only quietly to myself) some French lovesongs that I probably had not heard for forty or more years, and singing in French.
Back at the hotel, I remembered a phrase "La plume est sur la table" (The pen is on the table.) So, thinking I may have a chance to show off by using that phrase, when my wife would want to write some postcards, I deliberately placed a pen on the table in our bedroom. We were both in bed, and I was just drifting off to sleep, when my wife suddenly asked, "Have you got a pen?"
Instead of trotting out my other bit of French, I said, "What do you want a pen for? You're not writing cards at this time of night are you?"
We were just entering the great square in front of the Basilica for the evening Candle-light procession. My candle was already lit, and a very short lady came over to me and held out her candle for me to light from mine. I did so, and as she turned away, she looked up at me and said, "Merci.." (Thank you,) and added my name. For a moment I was dumbfounded. How did she know my name? Then I realised this was not a miracle, I was still wearing my Pilgrimage name badge!
For books and videos etc - try the following -Tan Books
J23 Online Bookshop
JMJ Book Co.
"Healing Fire From Frozen Earth" by Father Paul Glynn, Marist Fathers, 1 Mary Street, Hunters Hill NSW 2110 Australia
Pauline Books and Media
Getfed (has the Video "Song of Bernadette")