There was no spring, but a young Bernadette had complete faith in Our Lady that she knelt down on her knees and started to dig until a pool of muddy water appeared. Since then, over two hundred million pilgrims have visited the French town at the bottom of The Pyrenees Mountains. Lourdes has become the most famous healing shrine in the world.
On February 11, 1858, a poor and sickly fourteen-year old girl saw a lady dressed in white in the small grotto called Massabielle (Old Rock.) The lady was the loveliest thing Bernadette had ever seen. The Lady would appear to her seventeen more times in a span of five months. She instructed Bernadette to pray for the conversion of sinners, to invite people to come to procession, and to tell the priests to build a chapel for her at Massabielle. It was on her 16th apparition that The Lady finally said, “Que soi era Immaculada Concepcion” (“I am the Immaculate Conception.”)
“One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes stands on 124 acres. Most commonly visited spots are The Crypt, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Upper Basilica), The Rosary Basilica, The Basilica of Saint Pius X, and The Church of St. Bernadette (canonized by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1933.)
The heart of the Sanctuary remains to be The Grotto of Massabielle with a statue of the Virgin Mary, hands joined in prayer, gazing up at the heavens. People patiently wait their turn to stand before Our Lady, touching the rock and leaving flowers and photos. Candles burn brightly in front of the grotto. Nearby are spigots where people can collect water from the spring. There are special baths made for the pilgrims who wish to immerse themselves in the water.
A Place of Healing
The Sanctuary is open year-round, but pilgrimage season at Lourdes begins on Easter until the end of October. The Torchlight Marian Processions for which Lourdes is famous for begins at 9pm starting at the meadow all the way to the front of the basilicas where the rosary is recited in several languages.
Lourdes is for everyone; side-by-side are the most devout of believers and those struggling with their faith, the disabled and the heartbroken. The prayers whispered in different tongues from people of different cultures and backgrounds all with the same devotion and hope. Even in the darkest of times, there is light. Miracles happen everyday.
DID YOU KNOW?
Nutella founder Michele Ferrero was a huge devotee of Our Lady of Lourdes. He went on pilgrimage to Lourdes every year taking with him his top manager. All of his office and factories had a statue of Our Lady. It is believed that the Grotto of Massabielle inspired the popular Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Mr. Rocher is even quoted as saying, “The success of Ferrero we owe to Our Lady of Lourdes; without her we can do little.”