Readings & Reflections: Thursday after Ash Wednesday & Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11,2016

Readings & Reflections: Thursday after Ash Wednesday & Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11,2016

Jesus declares, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” This is sacrifice: handing our imperfect self over to the One who responds by handing us back our true self through his gift of self on the cross. The Lord sets before us life and death, and asks us to “choose life” by obediently taking up Christ’s cross of death. “Without a ‘dying’, without the demise of what is simply our own, there is no communion with God and no redemption” (Pope Benedict XVI).


Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, this season of Lent, make me truly repentant of my sins and enable me to carry my Cross with joy in my heart. Give me the grace to deny myself and follow Jesus, your beloved Son, without reserve. In His Name, I pray. Amen.

Reading I
Dt 30:15-20
Moses said to the people:
“Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
R.  (40:5a)  Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R.        Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R.        Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R.        Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Lk 9:22-25
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection – Requirements for discipleship

Today Jesus once more presents to us the requirements for discipleship. He said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

A true disciple of Christ decides to do the will of God whatever the cost may be. When we do this for the Lord, we deny our old sinful drives and motivations but instead desire and choose to do God’s will for our lives. We effectively take up the cross at hand.  By doing such an act, we lose our old self and we begin to become the new person that God will enable us to be.

Giving up our old, sinful and broken life brings us into a new life with our Lord Jesus Christ.  When we make a decision to deny ourselves of the world and its related pleasurable attachments, we then reject the desires and motivations of a human heart that well up from our sinful nature. Instead we choose to follow Jesus completely.

To some, following Jesus is one single, turn around decision one has to make, to stand by it firmly and do as God wishes as to do. To others it may be taking small and daily steps of obedience to God, His will and His ways. Whatever the case may be, denying oneself will bring transformation in us making us the new person that Christ died for.

One can conclude from our own individual lives that following Jesus is not as easy as saying it and proclaiming it to the world around us. It takes a lot of sacrifice, a lot of work but most especially a lot of faith and prayer. It needs God’s grace and blessing, His empowerment for us to deny our very self and follow the unknown in Christ.  It requires the Christ in us to prevail and become dominant over our human and material motivations.

Just as Jesus endured many sufferings, was rejected by the elders, the high priests and the scribes and crucified on the cross, are we ready to accept such a life for our Lord Jesus? A good number of times being with God, being with Jesus implies persecution, trials and sufferings. Are we willing to deny ourselves or are we about ready to deny Christ for the world and what it promises?

To live for Christ is not only self denial but self giving to the utmost…until it hurts, until one bleeds even up to the point of death. It is only in death that we will find new life!

Lord as I ask for the grace to die to self, enable me to live for you alone and bear my cross and follow You…

Give up complaining. . . . . . . .focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism. . . . . . . . . become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments . . .think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry. . . . . . . . . . . . . trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement. . . . .be full of hope.
Give up bitterness. . . . . . . . . . turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred. . . . . . . . . . . . . return good for evil.
Give up negativism . . . . . . . . .be positive.
Give up anger. . . . . . . . . . . . . .be more patient.
Give up pettiness. . . . . . . . . . .become mature.
Give up gloom. . . . . . . . . . . . . .enjoy the beauty that is all                                                      around you.
Give up jealousy. . . . . . . . . . . .pray for trust.
Give up gossiping. . . . . . . . . . .control your tongue.
Give up sin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . turn to virtue.
Give up giving up. . . . . . . . . . . hang in there!

Obey God and His commandments. Obey the Lord, our God by loving Him, walking in his ways, keeping His commandments, statutes and decrees, heeding His voice and holding fast to Him.

Heavenly Father, give me the grace to be faithful to your commandments. Empower me to look beyond the comforts of the present world so that I may embrace the cross that You have given me, carry it and in turn hope for the glory of being one with You and our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Reflection 2 – The aches and pains of following Christ

“Aches and pains,” the old man complained during his annual checkup. “Aches and pain!” “That’s not surprising,” the doctor replied. “You’re 90 years old. There’s nothing I can do. You’re not getting any younger.” That’s just it,” the old man said, “I don’t want to get any younger – I just want to get older!”

Today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:15-20 is the conclusion of Moses’ speech urging his people to renewal, reformation and recommitment. He was convinced that their lives depended upon their obeying the commandments and loving God. He told them they had a choice: Walk away from God and die, or hold fast to God and live. The commandments that God himself had given served as Israel’s guide. Moses desperately wanted his people to obey the law, walk in God’s way and live!

In contrast, today’s reading from the gospel of Luke 9:22-25 is the first prediction of Jesus made to his followers about his impending suffering, death and resurrection. He was convinced that his disciples would meet the same fate. He told them that they too had a choice: Walk away from him and escape, or follow him and die. But where Moses offered the people the commandments as a guide, Jesus offered himself. “Come after me,” he told them, “first you will die, but then you will live.”

One of the chief differences between Moses and Jesus is that Moses could offer the people God’s word but Jesus could offer them the Word of God. God’s word was spelled out in the revelations of Mt. Sinai, in the commandments and in the religious practices of Judaism. But the Word of God was revealed in a living, breathing, historical person known as Jesus of Nazareth.

Moses focused on the here-and-now: “Today I offer you life… keep God’s commandments and you will live and will be blessed in the land… you will have a long life as the Lord promised.” Jesus focused on the hereafter. “If you think to save your life here, you will ultimately lose it. What good is it to gain the world and lose yourself in the process?” Although Jesus spoke of death, he added resurrection as the final outcome.

Like the old man going for his annual checkup, we use Lent to recall the aches and pains of following Christ. Like him we are not getting any younger. Like him we can say that we, too, want to live. In our case, however, the Doctor’s advice is forthcoming: “Take up your daily cross and follow him!”

Reflection 3 – Profit and loss of self

Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk 9:24-25).

Here’s a story of Rabbi Chanoch used to tell about the personal problem of a feeble-minded farmer. Whenever he got up in the morning, he always had a hard time trying to find out where he had left his clothes the night before. It got so bad that he wondered whether he should not just go to bed with his clothes on. Then one night he hit upon a bright idea: he found a piece of paper and a pencil and drew a sketch showing where he had left each piece of clothing. The next morning he confidently referred to his memory aid and read: “My hat”… and he found it and put it on his head. “My trousers”… and surely enough, there they were; so he jumped into them. Following last night’s directions, he got dressed in record time. Then suddenly a question popped into his mind: “I’ve now got all my clothes, but where am I?” So he began to look around but could not find himself.

This was the cue for the rabbi to make his point: “We’re all like that feeble-minded farmer – were more interested in our clothes than in ourselves. Clothes don’t make the man”. What can I profit if I gain the whole world and lose myself? The Lord asks what profit there is in gaining the entire world if I destroy myself in the process. There are ways in which I can stop and look at my direction in life. I can read the scripture and imitate Jesus way of life in his surrender of self and follow in obedience to the will of the Father by accepting suffering, death and crucifixion at Calvary. The cross of Jesus leads me to freedom and victory over sin and death. When my will crosses with his will, then his will must be done. The way of the cross involves sacrifice, sacrifice of laying down my life each day for Jesus’ sake. What makes such sacrifice possible and “sweet” is the love of God poured out for us in the blood of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 5:5).

When we surrender our lives to God, he gives us new life in his Spirit and the pledge of eternal life. Am I ready to lose all for Christ in order to gain all with Christ?

“Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work. I give you my feet to go your way. I give you my eyes to see as you do. I give you my tongue to speak your words. I give you my mind that you may think in me. I give you my spirit that you may pray in me. Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in me, your Father, and all mankind. I give you my whole self that you may grow in me, so that it is you, Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me.”

Reflection 4 – Embracing the cross of self-denial

Walking close to Jesus is not easy. In fact, it’s the most challenging way to live! Jesus describes how to follow him in today’s Gospel reading. He says that we have to DENY ourselves. Oh phooey, that’s no fun!

However, it’s the only way to embrace our crosses. We want to get rid of them, but the only way to experience the thrill of resurrection victory is to go THROUGH the cross. This means accepting our crosses instead of tossing them.

Can you embrace the difficulties in your life as you would a good friend? Indeed, that is what trials are: They are good friends if we let them bring us closer to God, if we let them mentor us into greater holiness, if we let them stretch our ability to love and to forgive those who make our journey unpleasant.

This is what it means to deny ourselves. It does not mean ignoring our own personal needs. Nor does it mean treating ourselves poorly. It does not mean that we become our own worst enemy.

Denying ourselves means that we “lose our lives”, as Jesus describes it, in the crosses that we embrace rather than fight to protect the lives we’d prefer to have. Don’t we want everything to go OUR way? And when things don’t go our way, we want to cajole and manipulate and pray and plead to protect the illusion of how our lives “should” be (it’s an illusion because it’s our idea, but it’s not reality), right?

We could, if we put enough effort into it, shape our lives into what we think is best for us. But what is the cost of that? Jesus says it destroys us. We lose touch with God. We lose human relationships. We lose ourselves in the process of getting what we want.

In the first reading, Moses invites us to choose between God’s ways and our own ways. He points out the advantages and disadvantages of our decisions.

Of course we want to do things God’s way. But embracing our crosses and denying ourselves is painful, oh so painful!

There is only one way to do it: We must also embrace Jesus (and thus let him embrace us) as we cry our way through the Way of the Cross.

As we read in today’s responsorial psalm, happy are we when we hope in the Lord. The joy that’s available in suffering comes from trusting God for a good future, and from being rooted in the Holy Spirit who affirms us, and from realizing that the Lord will transform every curse into a blessing (Source: Terry A. Modica, Good News Ministries).

Reflection 5 – Self-Denial

“Devout and self-denying people go straight against self always, and are more quickly and easily transformed – are regenerated in a blessed manner. They strip off and cast away all that nature loves, and they stand before God truly poor in spirit, truly submissive, blindly led by God in all his own chosen ways. Ah, child, when you allow yourself thus to be sought after by God, and your house turned upside down, then are you indeed found by him, as the piece of money was found by the woman in the Gospel. And you shall be led far beyond your own good works and self-chosen devotions, beyond all this world can do for you, whether inwardly or outwardly. And this was what our Lord guaranteed when he said: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me (Lk 9:23). So must a man renounce all that hinders true spiritual progress.

“But when an unmortified man encounters severe trials and temptations, and when the sharp harrow cuts him deep, then he thinks all is lost. He is tormented with doubts, he is haunted with terrors. He says: Alas, O Lord, all light is gone, all grace is withdrawn, and all is lost. And yet I say to you that if you were but a well-practiced and really self-denying man, you would know that you never had been in so good a state as now. When the Lord is searching for you in your soul, then you should be well contented. Does he demand of you to be dark, cold, destitute? Yield lovingly to him. Ah, dear children, how do you suppose God is going to deal with a soul he leads in this way? He will elevate it above all creatures. Beloved soul, fortunate soul, fear nothing” (Source: Fr. John Tauler, O.P., +1361 A.D., Magnificat, Vol. 16, No. 12, February 2015, pp. 298-299).

Reflection 6 – Our Lady of Lourdes

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus. A little more than three years later, on February 11, 1858, a young lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. This began a series of visions. During the apparition on March 25, the lady identified herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

Bernadette was a sickly child of poor parents. Their practice of the Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm. Bernadette could pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Creed. She also knew the prayer of the Miraculous Medal: “O Mary conceived without sin.”

During interrogations Bernadette gave an account of what she saw. It was “something white in the shape of a girl.” She used the word aquero, a dialect term meaning “this thing.” It was “a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm.” Her white robe was encircled by a blue girdle. She wore a white veil. There was a yellow rose on each foot. A rosary was in her hand. Bernadette was also impressed by the fact that the lady did not use the informal form of address (tu), but the polite form (vous). The humble virgin appeared to a humble girl and treated her with dignity.

Through that humble girl, Mary revitalized and continues to revitalize the faith of millions of people. People began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world. In 1862 Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.


Lourdes has become a place of pilgrimage and healing, but even more of faith. Church authorities have recognized over 60 miraculous cures, although there have probably been many more. To people of faith this is not surprising. It is a continuation of Jesus’ healing miracles—now performed at the intercession of his mother. Some would say that the greater miracles are hidden. Many who visit Lourdes return home with renewed faith and a readiness to serve God in their needy brothers and sisters. There still may be people who doubt the apparitions of Lourdes. Perhaps the best that can be said to them are the words that introduce the film The Song of Bernadette: “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”


“Lo! Mary is exempt from stain of sin, Proclaims the Pontiff high; And earth applauding celebrates with joy Her triumph, far and high. Unto a lowly timid maid she shows Her form in beauty fair, And the Immaculate Conception truth Her sacred lips declare.” (Unattributed hymn from the Roman Breviary)

Patron Saint of: Bodily ills

Related St. Anthony Messenger article(s) 

Lourdes: 150 Years of God’s Healing Care, by Father John Lochran

Read the source:

Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  

For a more detailed account of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes, please see Lourdes apparitions.
Our Lady of Lourdes
Our Lady of the Rosary
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

The rock cave at Massabielle, in Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now a religious grotto.
Location Lourdes, France
Date 11 February 1858
Witness Saint Bernadette Soubirous
Type Marian apparition
Holy See approval 3 July 1876, during the pontificate ofPope Pius IX
Shrine Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes,Lourdes, France
Patronage Lourdes, France, Tagaytay City, Cavite, bodily ills, ill people, protection from diseases

Our Lady of Lourdes is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in honor of the Marian apparitions in 1858 in the vicinity of Lourdes, France. The first of these is the apparition of 11 February 1858, when Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl, admitted to her mother that a “lady” spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle (a mile from the town) while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend.[1] Similar apparitions of the alleged “Lady” were reported on seventeen occasions that year, until the climax revelation ofOur Lady of the Immaculate Conception took place.[2]

Bernadette Soubirous was later canonized as a saint, and Roman Catholics and some Protestants believe her apparitions have been validated by the overwhelming popularity and testament of healings claimed to have taken place at the Lourdes water spring.

In 1862, Pope Pius IX authorized Bishop Bertrand-Sévère Laurence to permit the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes. On 3 July 1876, the same Pontiff officially granted a Canonical Coronation to the image that used to be in the courtyard of what is now part of the Rosary Basilica.[3][4] This Marian title, Our Lady of Lourdes, has been widely copied and reproduced, often displayed in shrines and homes, most notably in gardenlandscapes.


Main article: Marian apparitions

Bernadette Soubirous[edit]

Main article: Lourdes apparitions

In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous‘s reported a vision of Our Lady of Lourdes.[5][6] Soubirous claimed she saw a miraculous Lady in white, with a golden rosary and blue belt fastened around her waist, and two golden roses at her feet on a hill who asked her to request that the local priests build a chapel at the site of the vision.[7] After church investigations confirmed her visions, a large church was built at the site, Our Lady of Lourdes in France.[8][9]

A simple, 14-year old peasant girl of no significant educational experience, reported that in her vision a woman in white spoke to her, Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou / I am the Immaculate Conception, and asked that a church be built there. At first ridiculed, questioned, and belittled by Church officials and other contemporaries, Bernadette insisted on her vision. Eventually the Church believed her and she was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1933.[7][9][10] Lourdes is now a major Marian pilgrimage site: within France, only Paris has more hotels than Lourdes.


Depiction of Bernadette Soubirous apparition, in Castlewellan, County Down, Northern Ireland,

On 11 February 1858, Bernadette Soubirous went with her sisters Toinette and Jeanne Abadie to collect some firewood and bones in order to buy some bread. After taking off her shoes and stockings to wade through the water near the Grotto of Massabielle, she said she heard the sound of two gusts of wind (coups de vent) but the trees and bushes nearby did not move. A wild rose in a natural niche in the grotto, however, did move.

“I came back towards the grotto and started taking off my stockings. I had hardly taken off the first stocking when I heard a sound like a gust of wind. Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still: I went on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head to look at the grotto, I saw a lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white….From the niche, or rather the dark alcove behind it, came a dazzling light.”[11][12]

Bernadette tried to make the sign of the Cross but she could not, because her hands were trembling. The white lady smiled, and invited Bernadette to pray the holy rosary with her.[7] Bernadette tried to keep this a secret, but Toinette told her mother. After parental cross-examination, she and her sister received corporal punishment for their story.[13][14][15]

Three days later, 14 February, Bernadette returned to the Grotto. She had brought holy water as a test that the apparition was not of evil provenance: “The second time was the following Sunday.Then I started to throw holy water in her direction, and at the same time I said that if she came from God she was to stay, but if not, she must go. She started to smile, and bowed … This was the second time.”[11][14]

Bernadette’s companions are said to have become afraid when they saw her in ecstasy. She remained ecstatic even as they returned to the village. On 18 February, she spoke of being told by the Lady to return to the Grotto over a period of two weeks. She quoted the apparition: ” The Lady only spoke to me the third time. … She told me also that she did not promise to make me happy in this world, but in the next.”[11][13]

After that the news spread and her parents took interest. Bernadette was ordered by her parents to never go there again. It was a shock when people heard her story as it was so unlikely. She went anyway, and on 24 February, Bernadette related that the apparition asked for prayer and penitence for the conversion of sinners.

Bernadette witnessing the apparition of the Virgin Mary. Stained glass, Bonneval.

The next day, she said the apparition asked her to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found there. This made her dishevelled and some of her supporters were dismayed, but this act revealed the stream that soon became a focal point for pilgrimages.[16]

Although it was muddy at first, the stream became increasingly clean. As word spread, this water was given to medical patients of all kinds, and many reports of miraculous cures followed. Seven of these cures were confirmed as lacking any medical explanations by Professor Verges in 1860. The first person with a “certified miracle” was a woman whose right hand had been deformed as a consequence of an accident. Several miracles turned out to be short-term improvement or even hoaxes, and Church and government officials became increasingly concerned.[17] The government fenced off the Grotto and issued stiff penalties for anybody trying to get near the off-limits area. In the process, Lourdes became a national issue in France, resulting in the intervention ofemperor Napoleon III with an order to reopen the grotto on 4 October 1858. The Church had decided to stay away from the controversy altogether.

Bernadette, knowing the local area well, managed to visit the barricaded grotto under cover of darkness. There, on 25 March, she said she was told: “I am the Immaculate Conception” (“que soy era immaculada concepciou”). On Easter Sunday, 7 April, her examining doctor stated that Bernadette, in ecstasy, was observed to have held her hands over a lit candle without sustaining harm.[17] On 16 July, Bernadette went for the last time to the Grotto. I have never seen her so beautiful before, she reported.[17]

The Church, faced with nationwide questions, decided to institute an investigative commission on 17 November 1858. On 18 January 1860, the local bishop finally declared that: The Virgin Mary did appear indeed to Bernadette Soubirous.[17] These events established the Marian veneration in Lourdes, which together with Fátima, is one of the most frequented Marian shrines in the world, and to which between 4 and 6 million pilgrims travel annually.

The crowned image of Our Lady of the Rosary granted a Canonical Coronation by Pope Pius XI on 3 July 1876. During that same year, an oversized golden Laurel wreath was placed at the base as well as a stellar halo was attached to the head of the image; both no longer present.

In 1863, Joseph-Hugues Fabisch was charged to create a statue of the Virgin according to Bernadette’s description. The work was placed in the grotto and solemnly dedicated on 4 April 1864 in presence of 20,000 pilgrims. Bernadette Soubirouswas later canonized as a Saint. The veracity of the apparitions of Lourdes is not an article of faith for Catholics. Nevertheless, all recent Popes visited the Marian shine. Benedict XV, Pius XI, and John XXIII went there as bishops, Pius XII as papal delegate. Working with Le pèlerinage de Lourdes he also issued, an encyclical on the hundredth anniversary of the apparitions in 1958. John Paul II visited Lourdes three times during his Pontificate, and twice before as a Bishop.

Position of the Catholic Church[edit]

The sanctuary basilica built atLourdes directly above the site of the apparitions

Approval of Lourdes

On 18 January 1862, Bishop Laurence, the Bishop of Tarbes, declared: “We are inspired by the Commission comprising wise, holy, learned and experienced priests who questioned the child, studied the facts, examined everything and weighed all the evidence. We have also called on science, and we remain convinced that the Apparitions are supernatural and divine, and that by consequence, what Bernadette saw was the Most Blessed Virgin. Our convictions are based on the testimony of Bernadette, but above all on the things that have happened, things which can be nothing other than divine intervention”.[18]

Nature of approval

Because the apparitions are private, and not public revelations, Catholics are not required to believe them. They do not add any additional material to the truths of the Catholic Church as expressed in public revelation. In Roman Catholic belief, God chooses whom he wants cured, and whom he does not, and by what means. Bernadette said, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”

Holy Mass of “Our Lady of Lourdes”

The Catholic Church celebrates a mass in honor of “Our Lady of Lourdes” (optional memorial) in many countries on February 11 of each year — the anniversary of the first apparition. There had long been a tradition of interpreting the Song of Songsas an allegory of God’s love for the Church, so up until the liturgical reforms following Vatican II, a passage from this Old Testament book was used during the mass for its reference to the “beloved” appearing in a cleft of a rock[19] and its parallel with what Catholics have described as the “Mother of the Church”[20] being seen in the cleft of a rock in Lourdes.[citation needed]

Popes and Lourdes[edit]

Pope John Paul II in the Grotto of Massabielle, in the Lourdes Shrine.

In the past 150 years, popes have taken great interest in Marian apparitions such as Fatima and Lourdes. Pope Pius IX approved the veneration in Lourdes and welcomed and supported the building of the Cathedral in 1870 to which he donated several gifts. He approved the veneration and promoted Marian piety in Lourdes with the granting of special indulgences and the formation of local Lourdes associations.[21] Pope Leo XIII crowned Our Lady of La Salette and issued an apostolic letter Parte Humanae Generi in commemoration of the consecration of the new Cathedral in Lourdes in 1879.[22] Pope Benedict XV, when archbishop of Bologna, organized a diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, asking for the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin there. In 1907, Pope Pius X introduced the feast of the apparition of the Immaculate Virgin of Lourdes. In the same year he issued his encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis, in which he specifically repeated the permission to venerate the virgin in Lourdes.[23]

Pope Benedict XVI placing a novelty crown[a] on Our Lady of Lourdes for the plenary indulgence he attached for pilgrims of the World Day of the Sick. 11 February 2007. Saint Peter’s Basilica.

During the pontificate of Pope Pius XI reported apparitions occurred in Our Lady of Beauraing and Our Lady of Banneux. In 1937, Pius XI nominated Eugenio Pacelli as his ‘Papal Delegate’ to personally visit and venerate in Lourdes. Pius XI actively furthered the venerations in Lourdes by beatifying Bernadette Soubirous on 6 June 1925. He canonized her on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1933 and determined her Feast Day to be 18 February.[24] Bernadette, who suffered from asthma and bone cancer, had lived on the borderline of social acceptance in the church during her lifetime.[25]18 February is the day the Virgin Mary reportedly told Bernadette ‘that she did not promise to make me happy in this world, but in the next.’[11]

Pope Pius XII, commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Immaculate conception dogma, announced a Marian year, the first one on Church history. In his encyclical Fulgens Corona, he described the events in Lourdes as follows:

It seems that the Blessed Virgin Mary herself wished to confirm by some special sign the definition, which the Vicar of her Divine Son on earth had pronounced amidst the applause of the whole Church. For indeed four years had not yet elapsed when, in a French town at the foot of the Pyrenees, the Virgin Mother, youthful and benign in appearance, clothed in a shining white garment, covered with a white mantle and girded with a hanging blue cord, showed herself to a simple and innocent girl at the grotto of Massabielle. And to this same girl, earnestly inquiring the name of her with whose vision she was favored, with eyes raised to heaven and sweetly smiling, she replied: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” [26]

The Rosary Basilica, Lourdes

Le pèlerinage de Lourdes, the only encyclical written on Lourdes, was issued on the centenary of the apparitions at Lourdes. The encyclical represents one of the strongest pronouncements of the papal magisterium on Marian apparitions in the history of the Catholic Church. The Pope presents Mary as the model of alternative lifestyle. The school of Mary teaches selflessness and charity.

In the school of Mary one can learn to live, not only to give Christ to the world, but also to await with faith the hour of Jesus, and to remain with Mary at the foot of the cross. Wherever providence has placed a person, there is always more to be done for God’s cause. Priests should with supernatural confidence, show the narrow road which leads to life. Consecrated and Religious fight under Mary’s banner against inordinate lust for freedom, riches, and pleasures. In response to the Immaculate, they will fight with the weapons of prayer and penance and by triumphs of charity. Go to her, you who are crushed by material misery, defenseless against the hardships of life and the indifference of men. Go to her, you who are assailed by sorrows and moral trials. Go to her, beloved invalids and infirm, you who are sincerely welcomed and honoured at Lourdes as the suffering members of our Lord. Go to her and receive peace of heart, strength for your daily duties, joy for the sacrifice you offer.[27][28]

One of the churches built at the site, the Basilica of St. Pius X, can accommodate 25,000 people. At the request of Pius XII, it was consecrated on 25 March 1958, by the Patriarch of Venice, cardinal Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII. Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, had visited Lourdes as archbishop of Milan. He became the first pope to visit a 20th-century Marian apparition site, when he went to Fatima at the fiftieth anniversary of the first apparition on 17 May 1967.[29] Pope John Paul II undertook three pilgrimages to Lourdes, the last one shortly before his death. Pope Benedict XVI visited Lourdes commemorating the 150th anniversary of the apparitions in September 2008. Five years later, on 11 February 2013, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, he announced his decision, unprecedented in modern times, to resign from the papacy, effective 28 February 2013. Born on St. Bernadette Soubirous‘ feast day 16 April in 1927, three days after his 78th birthday the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected to the See of Peter on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave and celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005.

Lourdes water[edit]

Main article: Lourdes water

The location of the spring was described to Bernadette Soubirous by an apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes on 25 February 1858. Since that time many thousands of pilgrims to Lourdes have followed the instruction of Our Lady of Lourdes to “drink at the spring and wash in it”.

Although never formally encouraged by the Church, Lourdes water has become a focus of devotion to the Virgin Mary at Lourdes. Since the apparitions, many people have claimed to have been cured by drinking or bathing in it,[30] and the Lourdes authorities provide it free of charge to any who ask for it.[31]

An analysis of the water was commissioned by Mayor Anselme Lacadé of Lourdes in 1858. It was conducted by a professor in Toulouse, who determined that the water was potable and that it contained the following: oxygen, nitrogen, carbonic acid, carbonates of lime and magnesia, a trace of carbonate of iron, an alkaline carbonate or silicate, chlorides of potassium and sodium, traces of sulphates of potassium and soda, traces of ammonia, and traces of iodine.[32] Essentially, the water is quite pure and inert. Lacadé had hoped that Lourdes water might have special mineral properties which would allow him to develop Lourdes into a spa town, to compete with neighbouring Cauterets and Bagnères-de-Bigorre.[30]

Secular views[edit]

Miracles are important events in the Christian Bible and are thus part of divine revelation for the faithful Christians. Yet the advent of rationalism and the social sciences renewed the search for natural explanations of miracles in general and the events in Lourdes in particular. Historical, psychological, natural analogies and other empirical explanations have been forwarded, all of which are welcomed by the Catholic Church, provided they are generally open-ended and unbiased.[33]Analogies are most common in Marian apparitions, they indicate that the person involved used popular images and common language. They do not by themselves support arguments for or against the apparition itself.

Thus, Bernadette described the apparition as uo petito damizelo (“a tiny maiden”) of about twelve years old. Bernadette insisted that the apparition was no taller than herself. At 1.40 metres (4 ft 7 in) tall, Bernadette was diminutive even by the standards of other poorly nourished children.[34]

Bernadette described that the apparition was dressed in a flowing white robe, with a blue sash around her waist. This was the uniform of a religious group called theChildren of Mary, which, on account of her poverty, Bernadette was not permitted to join (although she was admitted after the apparitions).[35] Her Aunt Bernarde was a long-time member.

The statue that currently stands in the niche within the grotto of Massabielle (illustrated above) was created by the Lyonnais sculptor Joseph-Hugues Fabisch in 1864. Although it has become an iconographic symbol of Our Lady of Lourdes, it depicts a figure which is not only older and taller than Bernadette’s description, but also more in keeping with orthodox and traditional representations of the Virgin Mary. On seeing the statue, Bernadette was profoundly disappointed with this representation of her vision.[36]

Historical context[edit]

The Virgin Mary askedJesus to make wine from water at the Marriage at Cana. This was the first miracle of Jesus according to the New Testament.[37]

Many Marian apparitions, although they may occur in different ages and cultures, share similarities. Bernadette’s visions took place against a cultural backdrop of apparitions and other supernatural events that bear some resemblance to Bernadette’s experiences. It is likely that Bernadette would have known of, and may even have been influenced by, such events, which were woven into the fabric of her society.

For example, in nearby Lestelle-Bétharram, only a few kilometres from Lourdes, some shepherds guarding their flocks in the mountains observed a vision of a ray of light which guided them to the discovery of a statue of the Virgin Mary. Two attempts were made to remove the statue to a more prominent position; each time it disappeared and returned to its original location, at which a small chapel was built for it.[38]

More importantly, in the early sixteenth century, a twelve-year-old shepherdess called Anglèze de Sagazan received a vision of the Virgin Mary near the spring at Garaison (part of the commune of Monléon-Magnoac), somewhat further away. Anglèze’s story is strikingly similar to that of Bernadette: she was a pious but illiterate and poorly educated girl, extremely impoverished, who spoke only in the local language, Gascon Occitan, but successfully convinced authorities that her vision was genuine and persuaded them to obey the instructions of her apparitions. Like Bernadette, she was the only one who could see the apparition (others could apparently hear it); however, the apparition at Garaison’s supernatural powers tended toward the miraculous provision of food, rather than healing the sick.

Mid-nineteenth century commentators noted the parallels between the events at Massabielle and Garaison, and interestingly, interpreted the similarities as proof of the divine nature of Bernadette’s claims.[39] At the time of Bernadette, Garaison was a noted center of pilgrimage and Marian devotion.

There are also several similarities between the apparition at La Salette, near Grenoble, and Lourdes. La Salette is many hundreds of kilometres from Lourdes, and the events at La Salette predate those in Lourdes by 11 years. However, the lady of La Salette was large and maternal, not petite and girlish, and had a darker, more threatening series of messages. It is not certain if Bernadette was aware of the events at La Salette.[40]

Similarity to other visions[edit]

When comparing the various visions of Jesus and Mary, Saint Bernadette’s vision in Lourdes is somewhat similar to the case of Saint Juan Diego‘s vision in 1531 inMexico. Both saints reported visions in which a miraculous lady on a hill asked them to request that the local priests build a chapel at that site of the vision. Both visions had a reference to roses and led to very large churches being built at the sites. Like Our Lady of Lourdes in France, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a major Catholic symbol in Mexico. And like the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the largest and most visited Catholic churches in the Americas.

The Sanctuary[edit]

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes or the Domain (as it is most commonly known) is an area of ground surrounding the shrine (Grotto) to Our Lady of Lourdes in the town of Lourdes, France. This ground is owned and administrated by theChurch, and has several functions, including devotional activities, offices, and accommodation for sick pilgrims and their helpers. The Domain includes the Grotto itself, the nearby taps which dispense the Lourdes water, and the offices of theLourdes Medical Bureau, as well as several churches and basilicas. It comprises an area of 51 hectares, and includes 22 separate places of worship.[41] There are six official languages of the Sanctuary: French, English, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and German.

The Lourdes Medical Bureau[edit]

To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fraudulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau (Bureau Medical) was established at the request of Pope Saint Pius X. It is completely under medical and not ecclesiastical supervision. Approximately 7000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a miracle, of which 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable miracle by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.[42]

The officially recognized miracle cures in Lourdes are among the least controversial in the Catholic world, because Lourdes from the very beginning was subject to intense medical investigation from skeptical doctors around the world. All medical doctors with the appropriate specialization in the area of the cure have unlimited access to the files and documents of the Lourdes Medical Bureau (Bureau Medical),[43] which also contains all approved and disapproved miracles. Most officially recognized cures in Lourdes were openly discussed and reported on in the media at the time. Nevertheless, there were a few instances where medically ascertained incomprehension turned out not to be miracles, because the illness reappeared in later years. In the vast number of cases however, the judgment of the medical and ecclesiastical authorities was upheld as beyond medical explanation in later on critical investigations.[44]


Skyline of the sanctuary at Lourdes

The pilgrimage site is visited by millions of Catholics each year, and Lourdes has become one of the greatest pilgrimage sites of the world. Various unusual occurrences are reported to take place, not only subsequent to bathing in or drinking the water of the Lourdes Spring, but also during the daily Eucharistic procession. Miraculous healings have been claimed, and a number of these have been documented by the Lourdes Medical Commission. Large numbers of sick pilgrims travel to Lourdes each year in the hope of physical healing or spiritual renewal.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1939, Henry K. Dunn directed Miracle at Lourdes for MGM’s Miniature series. It is a short film about a terminally ill woman who hopes to be healed at the shrine.
  • In 1943, the events became the basis of the film The Song of Bernadette. Jennifer Jones played the title role while Linda Darnellportrayed the Virgin Mary. The film won several Academy Awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actress for Jones. At the first Golden Globes ceremony in 1944, Jones received the award for Best Actress and the film won Best Picture.
  • In 1959, singer Andy Williams recorded a song entitled The Village of St. Bernadette.
  • Also in 1959, Loretta Young filmed The Road, an episode of her popular television show, in Lourdes.
  • Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt performed a duet version of the Leonard Cohen song Song of Bernadette in concert in New Orleans.
  • In 2009 Jessica Hausner wrote and directed the French feature film Lourdes starring Sylvie Testud. The fictional drama tells the story of wheelchair-bound Christine, who in order to escape her isolation, makes a life changing journey to Lourdes, the iconic site of pilgrimage in the Pyrenees.
  • ‘Bernadette’ – An opera in three acts by Gloucestershire composer Trevor Jones in which Our Lady of Lourdes is described as ‘a beautiful white lady’.

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up^ Catholic Online: Apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes First Apparition
  2. Jump up^ “2009 Catholic Almanac”. /
  3. Jump up^
  4. Jump up^
  5. Jump up^ What Mary Means to Christians: An Ancient Tradition Explained by Peter Stravinskas 2012, Paulist Press ISBN 0809147440 chapter on “Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe”
  6. Jump up^ ‘The Catholic Almanac’s Guide to the Church by Matthew Bunson 2001 ISBN 0879739142 page 194
  7. ^ Jump up to:a b c Fr. Paolo O. Pirlo, SHMI (1997). “Our Lady of Lourdes”. My First Book of Saints. Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate – Quality Catholic Publications. pp. 49–50.ISBN 971-91595-4-5.
  8. Jump up^ The Blackwell Companion to Catholicism by James Buckley, Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt, Trent Pomplun 2010 ISBN 1444337327 page 317
  9. ^ Jump up to:a b Burke, Raymond L.; et al. (2008). Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons ISBN 978-1-57918-355-4 pages 850-868
  10. Jump up^ R Lauretin, Lourdes, Dossier des documents authentiques, Paris: 1957
  11. ^ Jump up to:a b c d Catholic Pilgrims: Apparitions at Lourdes
  12. Jump up^ [Taylor, Thérèse (2003). Bernadette of Lourdes. Burns and Oates. ISBN 0-86012-337-5]
  13. ^ Jump up to:a b [L Laurentin, Lourdes, Marienlexikon, Eos Verlag, Regenburg, 1988, 161]
  14. ^ Jump up to:a b Harris, Ruth. Lourdes, Allen Lane, London, 1999, p 4
  15. Jump up^ [Harris, Ruth. Lourdes, Allen Lane, London, 1999, p 4]
  16. Jump up^ Harris 7
  17. ^ Jump up to:a b c d Lauretin 162
  18. Jump up^ Lourdes France: The encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary
  19. Jump up^ “Song of Songs”, 2:14, retrieved 29 May 2007
  20. Jump up^ “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church”, Catechism of the Catholic Church 963, retrieved 29 May
  21. Jump up^ Josef Schmidlin, Papstgeschichte, München 1934, 317
  22. Jump up^ Bäumer Leo XIII, Marienlexikon, 97
  23. Jump up^ Bäumer, Pius X Marienlexikon, 246
  24. Jump up^ Hahn Baier, Bernadette Soubirous, Marienlexikon, 217
  25. Jump up^ Hahn Baier 217
  26. Jump up^ Fulgens Corona, 3
  27. Jump up^ Le pèlerinage de Lourdes, 57
  28. Jump up^ Le pèlerinage de Lourdes, 40 ff
  29. Jump up^ Bäumer Paul VI, 128
  30. ^ Jump up to:a b Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 312.
  31. Jump up^ Richard Clarke, 2008 Lourdes, Its Inhabitants, Its Pilgrims, And Its Miracles ISBN 1-4086-8541-8 page 38
  32. Jump up^ Lourdes 4
  33. Jump up^ Stöger, Erscheinungen in Marienlexikon, 395 ff
  34. Jump up^ Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 72.
  35. Jump up^ Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 43.
  36. Jump up^ Visentin, M.C. (2000). “María Bernarda Soubirous (Bernardita)”. In Leonardi, C.; Riccardi, A.; Zarri, G. Diccionario de los Santos (in Spanish). Spain: San Pablo. pp. 1586–1596. ISBN 84-285-2259-6.
  37. Jump up^ 14th century fresco from the Visoki Dečani monastery
  38. Jump up^ Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 39.
  39. Jump up^ Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 41.
  40. Jump up^ Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 60.
  41. Jump up^
  42. Jump up^ Where Scientists are looking for God, The Telegraph, 16 January 2002. Retrieved 7 August 2012
  43. Jump up^ Müller, 767
  44. Jump up^ Müller 768