We continue our re-publishing of previous posts chronicling the miraculous unfolding of events that took place at Lourdes in 1858. For an introduction to the series, see here. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
Today, February 23, marks the anniversary of the seventh apparition of Our Blessed Mother to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at the grotto in Lourdes. Beginning on February 11, 1858, The Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette Soubirous a total of 18 times bringing a message of prayer, penance, poverty, and participation. Through these posts, we continue our journey with Saint Bernadette as we encounter Our Blessed Mother through her eyes, memories, and words. The previous six visitations (February 11, 14, 18, 19, 20, and 21) were greeted by disbelief from Bernadette’s family, friends, local authorities, and local religious. Despite overwhelming pressure to recant her story and stop visiting the grotto as Masabielle, Bernadette’s simple and deep faith continued to draw her back to the loving and peaceful smile of Our Lady of Lourdes. Even threats of imprisonment could not prevent it!
Despite her hours of interrogation by the local police commissioner following the sixth apparition on February 21, and the fact that the Blessed Virgin did not appear on the 22nd, Bernadette returned to the grotto on the morning of February 23. It is estimated that a crowd of approximately 250 followed her, watching, and hoping to experience what she claimed to see. Among them were local church authorities.
During the seven first apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, Saint Bernadette generally has a face radiant with joy, happiness and light, although there are moments of tears. Between the eighth and twelfth apparitions, this changes dramatically- the face of Bernadette becomes hard, sad and sorrowful. And to the observers, her actions are those of someone quite out of their mind. As we continue this journey of reflection on the apparitions at Lourdes, we will see that even the most incomprehensible actions to the human mind have deep meaning to God. The visions at Lourdes, through the messenger of the Blessed Virgin, communicate the Lord’s deep love and sacrifice for each of us, and place us at the center of the message of Lourdes.
Saint Bernadette, you have long sought the Lord where he called you to.
You were sure the Lord would guide you.
You surrendered yourself completely in the hands of God.
Like Mary, you were confident in the Lord.
Bernadette, inspire me in the same confidence, the same generosity, and the same patience.
Lord, enlighten me on my path and give me the strength to say “yes” when I hear your call.
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."