This feast day commemorates the first of eighteen apparitions of Our Blessed Mother which occurred 11 February 1858. T, the last took place the same year on 16 July.
Our Lady appeared at a grotto of the cliff by the bank of the Gave river, near the town of Lourdes, France. A spring appeared AFTER the first few apparitions and became known for the frequent occasions when the sick regained their health after drinking the water of the spring.
The local church officials at first discouraged gathering at the apparition spot but as the news of miraculous healings had spread the Bishop of Tarbes carried out an official investigation and then gave permission for the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin at the grotto. Soon a church was built. Vast crowds of the faithful have come and continue to come to Lourdes each year
During the eighth apparition on February 24th 1858 Our Lady asked this of us: “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners! Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!”
During the ninth apparition on February 25th Bernadette recounts “[The Lady] told me that I should go and drink at the fountain and wash myself. Seeing no fountain, I went to drink at the Gave. She said it was not there; she pointed with her finger that I was to go in under the rock. I went, and I found a puddle of water which was more like mud, and the quantity was so small that I could hardly gather a little in the hollow of my hand. Nevertheless, I obeyed, and started scratching the ground; after doing that I was able to take some. The water was so dirty that three times I threw it away. The fourth time I was able to drink it. She made me eat grass growing in the same place where I had drunk; once only; I do not know why. Then the Vision disappeared, and I went home.”
On the feast of the Annunciation (25
March) Our Lady said: “I am the Immaculate Conception” confirming the ex
cathedra statement of Pope Pius IX years before.
Bernadette herself suffered illness offered for the sake of souls. She died at the age of 35 on April 16th 1879, while praying the holy Rosary. Her final words were, “Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me! A poor sinner, a poor sinner”.
There are about 70 scientifically investigated and inexplicable miracles related to Lourdes and thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of others not formally investigated. Fr. Meikle personally knows someone miraculously cured of a terminal illness by use of its water.
Pope St. Pius X extended to the Universal Church the feast already granted to certain places by Leo XIII which we celebrate on the 11th of February.
Adapted from the Catholic Encyclopedia and the Divine Office.
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for thy Son, we humbly beseech thee; that we, who celebrate the appearance of the same Virgin, may obtain health of soul and body.
Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.