By Barbara Kralis
©Barbara Kralis 2004
It was more than 150 years ago. The recently defined and promulgated dogmatic title was miraculously given to an illiterate peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, from the farming village of Bartrès. The Blessed Mother proclaimed to her in l858 "I am the Immaculate Conception."
The theologically profound title, "I am the Immaculate Conception," held no meaning for the young fourteen year old who had difficulty memorizing her simple daily prayers.
To no avail, they tried to trick Bernadette into recanting her miraculous visitations.
The first apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes began on February 11, 1858, at the rocky grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes in Southern France. Bernadette Soubirous was to see her beautiful Lady, a radiant woman, or "Aquero," seventeen more times.
At the third miraculous apparition, on February 18, the Blessed Mother asked Bernadette to come to the grotto every day for two weeks. She told Bernadette that if she did as she was asked, that she could not promise Bernadette happiness in this life, but she could and would promise it in the next.
Young Bernadette, the messenger of the Immaculate, followed the Blessed Mother's wishes and visited the grotto daily.
At one of the apparitions, Our Lady told Bernadette to scratch at the muddy earth and to drink and wash from an invisible stream of water. Later the stream became visible to all. It was discovered to have miraculous healing powers that would attract hundreds of millions of people from around the world.
Our Blessed Mother told Bernadette that she came primarily to tell the world of her Son's message of repentance and prayer for the conversion of humanity.
Has her miraculous plea ever been so needed as in our own times?
That first year of 1858, three miraculous cures took place. The reputation of Lourdes as a place of healing grew rapidly.
As with all miracles performed by Jesus, He did so not to show His power but to convince mankind that God exists.
In 1862, after rigorous examination and testimony of many, the Church declared the apparitions at Lourdes as authentic.
Part of the Blessed Mother's requests was to build a chapel at the site where she appeared to Bernadette. Today stands a large Basilica that has held more than 30,000 pilgrims at one time.
Saint Pius X, wishing to establish greater devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, proclaimed the Shrine of Lourdes, located in the region of the Hautes-Pyrénées, "the seat of Her immense kindness."
Bernadette died in l879. Pope Pius XI declared her a Saint on December 8, 1933. Her body is publicly displayed and remains incorrupt for over 125 years in the chapel of the convent of Nevers. The once invisible miraculous spring now produces over 30,000 gallons of water per day.
Six million pilgrims come to Lourdes each year. The multitudes come from around the world - the sick, the poor, the downtrodden, the psychologically confused, the spiritually wrought, and the never-ending handicapped.
The grace one receives on a pilgrimage to Lourdes varies from person to person. Some people come for physical healings and instead they receive from the Compassionate Immaculate the needed grace to bear the Cross God has given them.
Newly arrived miserable, anxious pilgrims come looking for peace and find the grace to change their lives and flee materialism and comforts.
The addicted come for release from demons and find the resolve, with God's grace, to miraculously abandon their vices.
Some people come following Mary's call for an increase of faith; they return home renewed spiritually and sometimes, surprisingly, physically well.
The fallen away come to Lourdes for proof of the existence of God and their prayers are answered through the gift of the Sacrament of Confession and repentance.
None of these miraculous healings is recorded, but they exist by the tens of thousands, perhaps millions.
The sight of hundreds of handicapped persons in wheelchairs and carried on stretchers making the upper 'Stations of the Cross' is a never to be forgotten holy pageant. The evening ...
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