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!
In 1858, Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at the grotto in Lourdes eighteen times, each time 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 first twelve visitations occurred in February (February 11, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, and March 1). The Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Lourdes, communicated the message of Lourdes to all mankind, through Saint Bernadette. She implored us, saying, “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. (For personal reflections on my experience at Lourdes, see here, here, and here).
During the eight to twelfth visitations, Our Blessed Mother had repeated her instructions to pray for sinners, and to offer acts of penance to God for their salvation. During these times, Bernadette engaged in bizarre behaviors, at least in the opinion of the curious onlookers who now numbered close to 2,000 each day. Bernadette’s actions, kneeling, moving on her knees, kissing the ground in penance for sinners, eating bitter grasses, and washing and drinking the spring water were reflective and representative of the Passion of Our Lord, made manifest through the message of Lourdes.
On March 2, Bernadette, accompanied by her aunts, returned to the grotto, now having to force her way through the crowds. As was her custom, she knelt with a lit blessed candle, prayed the Rosary, and engaged in acts of penance for sinners. The Blessed Mother appeared and gave Bernadette two commands. First, Bernadette was to go to the local priests and tell them that people should come to the grotto in procession. Second, the beautiful lady requested that a small chapel be built on the site.
Bernadette thanked Our Blessed Mother, and with her aunts accompanying her, went to the local priest to relay the request. Bernadette was quite frightened, more so than when she spoke with the police, but nonetheless presented herself to Father Peyramale (whom she called “Monsieur le Cure”). Upon telling him that the beautiful lady had requested the people come in procession to the grotto, Father Peyramale inquired as to the lady’s name (as Bernadette continued to refer to her as aquero.) Bernadette did not claim to know her name. Father Peyramale, doubting the truth of the story based upon Bernadette’s level of education and failure to yet make her First Holy Communion, sent her away. She returned several hours later, undeterred, to mention that aquero had also requested a chapel be built. He demanded that the next time she saw the beautiful lady that she ask her name.
“I went to see Monsieur le Cure to tell him that the Lady had asked me to go tell the priests to have a chapel built at the Grotto and that people should come there in procession. He looked at me for a moment and then he said to me in a rather stern tone: ‘Who is this Lady?’ I answered that I did not know. Then he instructed me to ask her name and to come back and tell him.”
Bernadette agreed to do as the priest requested, and returned home knowing that she had promised to go to the grotto every day for fifteen days, and that in two days, those fifteen days would be over. But the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Lourdes, would appear five more times to Saint Bernadette over the coming months.
“I shall spend every moment loving. One who loves does not notice her trials; or perhaps more accurately, she is able to love them… Why must we suffer? Because here below pure Love cannot exist with suffering. O Jesus, Jesus, I no longer feel my cross when I think of yours.”
(from the Private Notes of Saint Bernadette)
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."