The Peasant Girls of Lourdes
On the 11th of February, 1858, a meeting occured between two young peasant women that has since changed the lives of millions of Catholics around the world. Fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, a poor girl from the French town of Lourdes, was on her way to gather firewood with her sister & friend and, falling behind because of her asthma, decided to explore the nearby grotto of Massabielle. While wading in the waters, young Bernadette felt a gust of wind coming from deeper in the cave. When she looked up, she locked eyes with a young and beautiful woman standing before her in the hollow of a rock. Upon seeing this beauty, Bernadette intuitively pulled out her rosary and started to pray. The lady followed, with a beautiful pearl-laden rosary of her own. They prayed together, and the beautiful lady of the cave vanished.
Bernadette did not know who this lady was, but on a day following this vision, the intuitive soul went back to Massabielle where she again met the mysterious lady. Eventually, Bernadette pleaded three times with the young woman to disclose her identity. After the third request, the young woman said in a tender and trembling voice, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” As it turns out this other young woman, a former peasant girl, was the Queen of Heaven.
Altogether, Bernadette encountered Mary at Massabielle 18 times that year. On one of the occasions, Bernadette was asked by the Woman to drink from a spring in the cave, which until then had gone undiscovered by the local townspeople. The water from this same spring would become the instrument of healing for thousands of pilgrims to our present day.
At our Lady’s request Bernadette appealed to her local priests and the bishop, who at first did not believe her, to build a Church on the site of the grotto and to let processions of pilgrims come. In 1862, the local bishop of the diocese approved Bernadette’s visions, and in 1873 the basilica of Lourdes was built and the pilgrimages were inaugerated. In 1933, Bernadette Soubirous was canonized as a saint of the Catholic Church by Venerable Pope Pius XII.
To the present day, millions of pilgrims have visited the grotto and have experienced miracles of healing from the waters of its spring. Something like 4,000 cures have been recorded and certified by the local medical clinic of Lourdes since the record began in 1867. To read more about the history of Lourdes and its miracles, read this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia.
There are many things we can take away from in our considerations of Mary’s apparitions to St. Bernadette. In her ‘Magnificat’, Mary sings,
“My soul does magnify the Lord. And my spirit has rejoices in God my Saviour. Because he has regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty has done great things to me: and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. He has showed might in his arm: he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their seat and has exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he has sent empty away. He has received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy. As he spoke to our fathers: to Abraham and to his seed for ever.”
Mary is the lowly handmaid of the Lord who was exalted in her lowliness and made Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. It is fitting that she would appear to St. Bernadette, who shared that same lowliness of state and soul.
As Christians, we have all been sent on a mission by virtue of our Baptism. We have been called to be temples of Christ and to bear His healing light to the world until He comes again as judge. Mary is the missionary par-excellence. What I mean is, she is the perfect example of fulfilling the mission given to her by Godâ€”and then some. From the moment of St. Gabriel’s annunciation that she would be the Mother of God the Son, Mary consented to her mission and was sent forth. She “rose up” and “went with haste” to bring her consolation to her kinswoman, and she continues in this task for us her children to the present day. She literally became the temple of God and partnered with the Holy Spirit to become the “sign of salvation” (Isaiah 7:14). And so, she remains. You see, her mission of being the Mother of God and our Mother didn’t stop when she reached the glories of Heaven, it was taken to the next level. From the cave in Bethlehem to the cave of Massabielle, her solemn mission is the same: to “bear” the light of Christ to the poor and the wise alike, and to call the sick to repentance so as to receive healing from that Divine Physicianâ€”her Son and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, pray for us!
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, spring of life and holiness, have mercy on us!
Categories: Apparitions of Mary