Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, one of my favorite feast days and my favorite Marian apparition.
151 years ago, in 1858, Mary first appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a sickly and uneducated young girl from a poor family. Mary would subsequently return to Bernadette in the grotto at Lourdes seventeen more times, with the last occurring on July 16, 1858. These apparitions began with Bernadette being seen as crazy or a liar, but by the last apparition, both she and Our Lady of Lourdes had grown large followings. Even after Bernadette joined a convent a few years after the apparitions, people would continue to visit her, perhaps hoping to see what was so special about this girl that Mary had chosen to her, this girl some had already dubbed a saint, or thinking some of her holiness might rub off on them. She died in 1879 at age 35.
Miracles began to occur at the apparition site while Mary was still appearing to Bernadette there, and the grotto at Lourdes, France became a very popular pilgrimage site and remains so today. The spring that Mary had instructed Bernadette to unearth during one apparition is believed to have healing waters, and many miracles have been attributed to the water.
Today, Our Lady of Lourdes is a popular devotion for many people. The story of Mary appearing to this young but obedient child, the site of which would become the site of countless miracles, is inspiring to us living in a time when science and skepticism are the gods of the day. "For those who believe, no proof is necessary; for those who don't, no proof is sufficient." It is not required that Catholics believe in apparitions such as Our Lady of Lourdes, but it is certainly comforting, to me at least, to think that Mary, and God through her, takes an active role in our lives to the point where she allows herself to be seen by those here on earth. Personally, I think it is a pretty great thing to contemplate - especially when realizing that Mary did not come for her own glory, but all for the glory of God.
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin did prepare a worthy dwelling for your Son, we humbly request that we, who celebrate the apparition of the same Blessed Virgin, may obtain health of soul and body through the same Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.
To read more about the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, read our article here.
Visit our special section on Our Lady of Lourdes here, where you'll find lots of books, statues, and other items about Our Lady and St. Bernadette.