Exactly 160 years ago this year, a lady in white with a blue sash appeared to an illiterate teenager who was gathering ﬁrewood for the family’s hearth, in a sun-dappled grotto in southwestern France.
The place was Massabielle, a pasture and garbage dump on the outskirts of the quiet market town of Lourdes. Since that fateful day in February 1958, Lourdes was forever transformed, becoming one of the world’s most important Catholic pilgrimage sites, on the same plane as Fatima in Portugal, the Holy Land, and Vatican City in Rome.
Today, the city of Lourdes welcomes six million visitors every year from all parts of the globe. They come to pray at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes for various intentions — most particularly for healing from illnesses — and bathe in the water of Lourdes, which flows from the spring at the Grotto that gushed out during one of the apparitions. The Church has officially recognized 70 cured ascribed to the local waters as having no physical or psychological basis other than their healing powers.
During the months of March to October, this city at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountain range swells from its usual population of 15,000 to 5,000,000. Despite this, on does not need to worry about accommodation as it boasts the second greatest number of hotels in France per square kilometer in Paris.
Trivia: Besides marking the 160th anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s fateful appearance to St. Bernadette, February 11 this year was also the XXVI World Day of the Sick.
This article appears in the April 2018 issue of My Pope Philippines Magazine. Buy our back issues now for your daily dose of inspirational stories!