Monday, February 11, 2008

The Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes

... in its 150th anniversary.

Born Marie-Bernarde Soubirous to a humble and devout family in the little town of Lourdes, France, St Bernadette is the eldest of the six children of Monsieur François Soubirous and Madame Louise (née Castérot) Soubirous. The Catholic Faith forms an integral part of their life, and it is the Holy Faith, and their love and support for one another, that sustained them even though they lived in extreme poverty.

St Bernadette, being the eldest of the children in the family, took on the responsibility of herding the sheep. She prays the Rosary each time she brings her sheep to graze.

On 11 February 1858, while the fourteen-year-old Bernadette was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend near the grotto at Massabielle just outside Lourdes, she had a vision of 'a small young Lady' standing at a niche in the rocks. The Lady asked that she returned to the grotto every day for fifteen consecutive days. This was the first of eighteen Apparitions of a Lady that Saint Bernadette had seen in the grotto. No one else could see the beautiful Lady.

On the ninth vision of St Bernadette, the Lady told the young seer to drink the water that flowed under the rock and eat the plants that grew there freely. The ground was hard and dry, and there was no known spring at the reported location. However, St Bernadette did as was instructed, but there was no springwater that came forth. Many people became sceptical of the Apparitions that St Bernadette claimed to have seen - but not for long.

During the sixteenth of the Lady at the grotto, St Bernadette asked the Lady what her name was. The Lady only replied by smiling lovingly back at the young girl. St Bernadette had to ask the same question three times before she got the answer from the Lady: 'Que soi er'immaculada concepcion.' ('I am the Immaculate Conception.' It is in Occitan, the dialect used in Lourdes.) This confirmed the doubts of Saint Bernadette - the Lady she had been seeing in the Apparitions was the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Blessed Virgin Mary

These apparitions of our Blessed Mother in Lourdes was a sure sign that our Lady is well pleased with the definition and promulgation of the dogma of her Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX just four years ago, on 8 December 1854.

On January 18, 1862, Bishop Laurence, the Bishop of Tarbes, gave the solemn declaration: "We are inspired by the Commission comprising wise, holy, learned and experienced priests who questioned the child, studied the facts, examined everything and weighed all the evidence. We have also called on science, and we remain convinced that the Apparitions are supernatural and divine, and that by consequence, what Bernadette saw was the Most Blessed Virgin. Our convictions are based on the testimony of Bernadette, but above all on the things that have happened, things which can be nothing other than divine intervention".

After the series of Apparitions as seen by St Bernadette was declared to be worthy of belief by the Church, the grotto where the Apparitions took place soon became the largest Marian Shrine in the Roman Catholic Church and a major site for pilgrimage, attracting millions of Catholics each year. A beautiful statue of Our Lady of Lourdes placed in the niche of the rock, marking the sacred site of the Apparitions. When St Bernadette saw the statue, she was, however, utterly disappointed by the representation of the glorious Lady she saw in her visions.

Many people claimed to receive miraculous cure at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, but only 68 have been certified by the Lourdes Medical Bureau and the Catholic Church as medically inexplicable. Some were healed of their illness by drinking from the spring at the grotto, some by merely praying piously at the sanctified spot, and others, during the visits of our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist to the Sanctuary.

Processions were held at the famous Marine Shrine of Lourdes each year, with the thousands, nay, millions of pilgrims uniting their voices to pray and sing praises to the Most Holy Virgin.

Immaculate Mary

Immaculate Mary!
Our hearts are on fire,
That title so wondrous
Fills all our desire.

Ave, ave, ave, Maria!
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

We pray for God's glory,
May His Kingdom come!
We pray for His Vicar,
Our Father, and Rome.


We pray for our Mother
The Church upon earth,
And bless, sweetest Lady,
The land of our birth.


For poor, sick, afflicted
Thy mercy we crave;
And comfort the dying
Thou light of the grave.


There is no need, Mary,
Nor ever has been,
Which thou canst not succour,
Immaculate Queen.


In grief and temptation,
In joy or in pain,
We'll ask thee, our Mother,
Nor seek thee in vain.


O bless us, dear Lady,
With blessings from heaven.
And to our petitions
Let answer be given.


And crown thy sweet mercy
With this special grace,
To behold soon in heaven
God's ravishing face.


Now to God be all glory
And worship for aye,
And to God's virgin Mother
An endless Ave.


In death's solemn moment,
Our Mother, be nigh;
As children of Mary
O teach us to die.


No comments: