Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Lady of Lourdes: Revelation of God’s goodness



Our Lady of Lourdes_web‘I believe Lourdes to be a genuine revelation of the goodness of God to a world which every day stands more and more in need of it.” This was the conclusion of John Oxenham, a non-Catholic in his book The Wonder of Lourdes.

Lourdes in 1857 was a town of 5,000 inhabitants, mostly agricultural or quarry workers. It was known as a garrison town because in the place once stood a castle fortress.

Most of the people were Christians devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Lourdes is at the foot of Pyrenees Mountains which separate France from Spain. The trees that bordered the Gave River flowed through Lourdes, and at a place where the river and an old canal met was a dark rocky grotto, a cliff where fishermen and sheep took refuge.

The place, Massabielle, was “very generally looked upon with disfavor.”

Frances Parkinson Reyes in Bernadette and the Beautiful Lady quoted an ancient saying among the townspeople that “someday a great wonder would be wrought at Massabielle.”

Bernadette Soubirous

St_Bernadette-webBernadette is the first child of Francis Soubirous, a flour miller, and Louise Casterot. She was born on January 7, 1844, and was named after Saint Bernard.

When she was 6 months old, Marie Aravat, a family friend, took Bernadette to her home in Bartres Village when Louise became ill, and after 15 months was returned to her parents.

When she was 11 years old, they became so poor and were given shelter by Louise’s relative who allowed them to stay in a one-room building, a dark, damp old jail.

In 1857 Bernadette was requested to return to Bartres to help look after the Aravat children but, instead, she was tasked to take charge of the sheep on the hillsides.

She knew how to pray the “Creed,” “Our Father,” “Hail Mary” and the “Invocation”: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” But she could not read and write.

A shepherdress for a year, she felt close to God, playing with the lambs, making garlands to adorn an altar and praying the rosary.

So eager to make her first communion, Mrs. Aravat decided to teach her cathechism but Bernadette did not have the “head for book-work” and Mrs. Aravat gave up.

She pleaded to return to Lourdes then attended a hospice composed of 500 children in January 1858.

Fr. Adolf Faroni, SDB, in his book The Story of Bernadette described her as “small for her years, delicate in health, neat in her person, attractive by the simplicity and innocence which shone in her face, truthful, obedient, uncomplaining, of happy disposition with little opportunity for play, was not clever, but far from stupid, and lovable, a quality which the years were to make more and more evident.”


‘Imaginary or certainly demoniacal’

On February 11, 1858, Bernadette, with her sister Toinette and neighbor Jeanie Abadie, went at the foot of Massabielle to gather firewood.

Bernadette and Jeanie waded across the little stream. She looked to the direction of a noise she heard.

Frightened, she was to see the grotto filled with golden clouds. Then, a young and exceedingly beautiful Lady looked, smiled and bid her to come nearer.

Rosary on hand, she knelt and tried to make the sign of the cross but she could not lift her arm.

Only after the Lady had made the sign of the cross that Bernadette could too, and prayed.

The Lady just passed the beads of the rosary between her fingers, said nothing but said the Glory Be with Bernadette at the end of each decade.

When Bernadette finished praying the rosary, the Lady returned to the interior of the rock.

In an interview with Frances Parkinson Reyes, Me’re Marie Alphonse, the Superior of Bernadette Hospital said: “The Pater Noster and The Ave would logically be omitted by one who had no need to pray for her daily bread and who would certainly not salute herself, but would gladly glorify the Trinity.”

After warnings to keep it a secret, Bernadette described in detail to her sister her encounter with the Lady with white veil, long white robe with a blue ribbon tied on her waist, and a rosary of white beads with a gold chain.

Louise, her mother, forbade her to return. For, “if it had not been imaginary, then it was almost certainly demoniacal.”

But two days after, with the support of her sister Toinette and Jeanne she was allowed to go again to the grotto, with holy water on hand to test that the apparition was not of evil origin.

They were joined by playmates who were told about the incident by her sister.

Walking so fast, she reached the grotto first, knelt and prayed then called to them, “There She is. There She is.”

Marie Hillot who was entrusted with the vial of holy water handed Bernadette the vial of holy water and whispered with excitement. “Throw it at Her.”

But Bernadette poured the holy water on the ground. The Lady smiled.


The apparitions

Bernadette kept her promise during the Lady’s third apparition to go to the grotto for 14 days. And always, she knelt, prayed and talked with the Lady in ecstasy.

The number of people who went to the grotto increased every day, having heard of the story of her first encounter with the Lady.

Although nobody saw the beautiful Lady, most were convinced she appears, for Bernadette’s face exuded a strange radiance while in ecstasy, unmindful of everything, absorbed in beatific vision.

She describes Her as “so beautiful that when one had seen Her, it is impossible to love anything else on earth.”

Town officials accused Bernadette of hallucination or the Lady was an imposter.

Dr. Pierre Romaine Dozous,a prominent doctor of Lourdes who accompanied her to the grotto on February 21, said there was “nothing abnormal about her physical condition even when her mental state was trancelike.”

The mayor, so irked with the crowds, assigned three other physicians to check Bernadette. The verdict was unanimous: “She is physically and mentally sound.”

Despite repeated orders from the mayor for Bernadette to stop going to the grotto or suffer imprisonment, she disregarded the order. For the “inner voice was stronger than any earthly admonition.”

When news of seven miraculous cures in the spring that formed during the February 25 apparition spread, multitudes trecked to the hill.

The Lady, during this apparition, instructed Bernadette to scratch the ground around her. When a little muddy pool was formed, Bernadette who was ordered by the Lady to drink some of the water, did so at the disgust of the people who witnessed it.

The next day the pool was overflowing with clean water—27,000 galloons!

On March 2 she was instructed to go to the clergy to instruct him to build a chapel.

Abbe Pyramale, a prudent priest, disregarded the grotto happenings. He felt that “if it is truly heaven-designed, definitely, it would be manifested in the proper time.”

He told Bernadette to “tell the Lady that the cure of Lourdes was not in the habit of dealing with mysterious strangers. Thus, if She ‘wanted a chapel, and had the right to one, She must reveal Her identity.’”

On Bernadette’s March 4 visit to Lourdes, the mayor, deputy mayor, chief of police, commandant of the fort and entire garrison soldiers mingled with big crowds who also knelt, prayed and looked with awe at the transfigured beauty of Bernadette.

The mayor, though, closed the grotto on April 7 because it has become an “unauthorized place of public worship which needs civil as well as ecclesiastical approval.” Consequently, excitement on the grotto happenings decreased.

Bernadette, who has made the number of visits she promised, was relieved.

She made her first communion on June 3, Feast of the Corpus Christ. Then on July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Carmel, she went to the grotto with her aunt after Mass.

She could not go near because the grotto was barricaded.  While she knelt and prayed, others saw her “familiar transfigurement.”

In the autumn of that year, Emperor Napoleon III, who was near Lourdes, received complaints about the grotto’s
closure. He ordered the barricades removed.


Pray, do penance

Seemingly, the Blessed Virgin Mary is so concerned about the salvation of souls.

On February 18, her third apparition to Bernadette, she said: “Will You be gracious enough to come here every day for a fortnight?”

And the Lady pledged: “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other.”

On the fifth apparition, the Lady taught her a prayer she should keep to herself to be said every day.

On the sixth apparition, on February 21, she was instructed to pray for sinners.

Three secrets, too, were revealed to her during the seventh apparition.

Two days after the eighth apparition, Bernadette, in tears, turned to hundred of people to transmit the Lady’s message—“Repentance, repentance, repentance.”

She was told to kiss the ground, “Do penance for herself and others” on the 10th apparition.

On March 25, the Lady revealed Her name: “Que soy era Immaculado Conceptiou [I am the Immaculate Conception],” in Bigourdame dialect.

The doctrine of Immaculate Conception was proclaimed as an article of faith, four years earlier by Pope Pius IX.

On July 28, 1858, a committee was formed to investigate the apparitions.

They were pronounced as authentic on January 18, 1862.

When the statue for the grotto was completed by M. Fabisch, a distinguished sculptor, and was shown to Bernadette, she answered, “It is very beautiful, but, no, no, it’s not her.”

The first of the three churches near the grotto was dedicated to the Lady on May 21, 1866.

On July 2, 1866, Bernadette bade good bye to the Lady on the grotto at Massabielle. She entered the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, a congregation founded during the 17th century by Benedictine Dom Jean Baptiste de Laveyne.

She died on Easter Wednesday, April 16, 1879, while seated in an armchair to ease her breathing. Sick of asthma, tuberculosis and caries of the bones, she died whispering: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner.”

She was declared saint by Pope Pius XI in 1933. Her uncorrupted body is venerated in Nevers, France.

Man’s salvation

Jesus gave His mother to be mankinds’ mother, too. And so, concerned with man’s salvation, Her message to everyone is to pray, repent and return to God.

Fr. Edgardo Arellano in 20th Century Marian apparitions declared that there are more than 300 apparitions of Mother Mary. And she keeps repeating the same message—time is short . . . men must be converted.

original source: Business Mirror


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