Our Blessed Lady of Lourdes appeared for the third time to Bernadette Soubirous on February 18. As you may recall, Bernadette was a simple girl, uneducated in the way of the Catechism, but deeply faithful despite countless hardships. We know that she carried a Rosary with her at all times, but prior to the visits from Our Blessed Mother, had not yet mastered all the prayers. Beginning on February 11, 1858, The Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Bernadette a total of 18 times in Lourdes, France. The final visitation occurred on July 16, 1858. Since that time, hundreds of millions of pilgrims have visited Lourdes, with crowds reaching 40,000 on average during busier times of year. Over 60 miraculous cures have been recorded in the grotto where the Blessed Virgin appeared, or due to the curative properties of the spring which appeared during the apparitions.
Following the second apparition of Mary in the grotto as Massabielle on February 14, Bernadette’s mother had forbidden her to return, as the small community had begun to gossip about the already beleaguered family. However, the talk had attracted the attention of one of the town’s wealthier residents, Jeanne-Marie Milhet. As it just so happened, Bernadette’s mother worked for Madame Milhet doing washing and mending from time to time. When her employer pressed her to allow Bernadette to return to the grotto with her, Bernadette’s mother had no choice but to give in. On February 18, Bernadette, accompanied by Madame Milhet and a companion, visited the grotto. Madame Milhet believed that the woman visiting Bernadette was a deceased friend, known for her piety in the village.
“Would you be kind enough to write your name down?” Bernadette inquired, again afraid. The beautiful young lady, clothed in white with a blue sash and yellow roses on her feet, smiled gently and spoke for the first time. She said, “It is not necessary. What I have to say to you does not need to be written down.” Surprisingly, she answered Bernadette in the local dialect in which she had been spoken to. Still smiling, she inquired of Bernadette, “Would you have the kindness to come here for a fortnight?” (In this case, fifteen days). In this case, however, she used formal language, the first time anyone had spoken to Bernadette in that manner. In that moment, Bernadette reported that the Blessed Virgin looked at her "as one person looks at another person"-- as a person worthy of love, respect, and human dignity.
Bernadette, joy overcoming fear, promised that she would. Our Blessed Mother replied with a promise of her own. “I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the other.” She then disappeared.
Bernadette reported to her companions that she was most sure that it was not Madame Milhet’s deceased friend who she was conversing with. Together they returned to town, with Bernadette recounting the events of the day to her mother, and gaining permission to return to the grotto for the next fifteen days. The others who had accompanied her reported that Bernadette had been entranced, speaking aloud, but receiving no replies that were audible to the onlookers. Interest in the story continued to grow throughout the small town. Bernadette would return to the grotto each day, as promised, and during that time would be blessed by the presence of Our Blessed Mother.
O Brilliant star of purity,
Our Lady of Lourdes,
triumphant in your coronation,
show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God,
Queen and Mother,
be our comfort, hope, strength,
and consolation. Amen.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Saint Bernadette, pray for us.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."