Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick
WE celebrate today the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was on February 11, 1858, that the Blessed Mother first appeared to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France.
It was a week before Ash Wednesday when the mother of Bernadette noticed that they had run out of firewood in the house. Bernadette and her sister Toinette volunteered to go and pick up branches at the riverside. At first, the mother expressed her disapproval because of the bad weather. Jeane Abadie, their neighbor, offered to go with the two children and the mother consented. They decided to go southward to Merlasse.
When they reached the end of the Monsieur de la Fittes field, nearly opposite the grotto of Massabieille, her companions left Bernadette behind because she was reluctant to cross the cold river due to her constant poor health. Soon afterwards, she heard a rustling noise and caught sight of a beautiful lady in a hollow of the Massabieille rock. Bernadette fell to her knees and prayed the Rosary. The lady identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception’’ and requested that a church be built on that site. The apparition was followed by 17 more until July 16, 1858.
It was on February 25 that the young Bernadette was told by the lady to scratch at the ground. The lady then asked her to drink and wash in a spring that came up. In a matter of days, the spring began to be the source of many miraculous occurrences.
The water still flows today, and continues to be a source of God’s healing through the Blessed Mother’s intercession for many people. This is why Pope John Paul II pronounced that February 11, the day the Blessed Mother first appeared to Bernadette in 1858, be specially designated as the World Day of the Sick. The apparition was finally approved by the Church in 1862 and a church in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary was dedicated in 1901. The grotto of Lourdes in France is now one of the most visited pilgrim sites in the whole world.
In the Litany of Loreto, one of the titles attributed to the Blessed Mother is “Health of the Sick.’’ It is not Mary who heals the sick. It is her Son Jesus Christ who brings about healing to many people. Mary just allows herself to be used as an instrument of God’s grace of healing.
On this feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Lourdes, may we receive the healing grace of God through her. Moreover, like Mary, let us allow God to use us as his instruments of healing to all those in need of this grace. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!