Our Blessed Lady of Lourdes to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Massabielle—the Holy Grotto of Lourdes. Over the previous 6 months, Bernadette had been graced by seventeen apparitions and visitations with Our Blessed Mother. Today would mark the last.
The Marian apparitions at Lourdes are for me, personally relevant and moving. Writing about the final apparition, I can’t help but experience a small portion of the loss that Bernadette must have felt, knowing this was to be the final time she would see the aquero—the Immaculate Conception—the beautiful lady—Mary, the Mother of God on earth. It is difficult to imagine how Bernadette moved forward with her life of religious service and obedience after experiencing that loss, and easy to imagine how the events of the world must have paled in comparison to her miraculous encounters with heaven.
For me, it was Lourdes which began this year of prayer—a year that is now more than half over! Having never really thought about going on pilgrimage, I was called—out of the blue—by Our Blessed Mother. Mary brought me to Lourdes, where in the Holy Grotto, praying the Rosary before the statue of Our lady, I experienced the most profound sense of peace, acceptance, and love I have ever known. (For more on my personal experience at Lourdes, visit personal reflections, water, rock, light, way of the cross). Following my return from Lourdes in October 2009, I again felt the gentle call of Mary to start this blog. I resisted until the new year, and the rest is history!
Chronicling the apparitions at Lourdes has been a reminder of the impetus for this blog, and I encourage you to join me in praying for continued inspiration and grace from Our Blessed Mother to continue this year of prayer.
Bernadette Soubirous. Through these posts, we have journeyed with Saint Bernadette as we encountered Our Blessed Mother through her eyes, memories, and words. The previous seventeen visitations occurred in February, March, and April of 1858:
1st Apparition: The First Contact (February 11)
2nd Apparition: A Smile from Our Blessed Mother (February 14)
3rd Apparition: Promises (February 18)
4th Apparition: Peace (February 19)
5th Apparition: Silence (February 20)
6th Apparition: Prayer (February 21)
7th Apparition: Prayer and Silence (February 23)
8th Apparition: Penance (February 24)
9th Apparition: Holy Water (February 25)
10th Apparition: Prayer for Sinners (February 27)
11th Apparition: Penance (February 28)
12th Apparition: Silent Rosary (March 1)
13th Apparition: Procession and Chapel (March 2)
14th Apparition: Demanding a Miracle (March 3)
15th Apparition: Asking a Name (March 4)
16th Apparition: The Immaculate Conception (March 25)
17th Apparition: Miracles of the Flame (April 7)
18th Apparition: Farewell (July 16)
“Penance, Penance, Penance. Pray to God for sinners.” Our Blessed Mother further invited Bernadette to drink and bathe in the muddy water of the grotto, after which a clear flowing spring came forth where none had existed before. Our Lady of Lourdes commanded, “Go drink in the spring and wash yourself there,” something that faithful pilgrims continue to do each day During the sixteenth visitation, upon Bernadette’s repeated questioning, our Blessed Mother revealed her name. She said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Following this revelation, even the local authorities believed!
more radiant and beautiful than ever”—on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Our Lady met her gaze, but said nothing. Bernadette also later reported an awareness that this would be the final time she would see the Blessed Virgin while on earth. She wrote in her journal: “It seemed to me that I was at the Grotto, at the same distance as the other times. All I could see was the Virgin. I had never seen her so beautiful.”
poverty of spirit, not denying our gifts or talents, but acknowledging that they are precious gifts of our Lord and Savior. This leaves us open to the word of God, willing to answer His call, and advance His glory, not our own. We strengthen our hearts of prayer, finding praise and thanksgiving to the Lord in not only our quiet moments of contemplation, but in our moments of service and witness to others. We offer penance for our sin and for those of others, not just in sacrifice and acts of penance, but true conversion of heart and return to God. This penance involves remembering what the price of allowing sin into our lives is, what we lose from separation from our Lord. It also calls us to forgiveness, both of ourselves and of others. And lastly, we are moved to participation-- not just in pilgrimage-- but as active members of our faith community, the Church. This pulls us from isolation or individual worship, and reminds us that we are members of the Church, and we share a communion with one another, with the saints who have gone before us, and with Our Blessed Mother.
You remembered all things
and pondered them in your heart.
Help me to do the same.
It is you who lived in obscurity in Nazareth.
Show me the way to love every day.
It is you who spent company with Jesus.
Help me to make real the experience of my pilgrimage of faith.
I also offer to you in prayer those I met in Lourdes,
especially the sick and those with disability.
You asked for a chapel to be built.
I pray for the community of which I am a member of.
Continue to look upon me,
You, the Immaculate Conception,
Mother of Mercy. Amen.
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."