The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes in 1858. The 1st of the 18 apparitions was on the 11th February, which became the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes and is now also the World Day for the Sick. To begin with the 'beautiful woman' was silent, praying the rosary silently with Bernadette. When the 14 year old girl asked who she was, she answered: "I am the Immaculate Conception" (the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception had been proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on 8th December 1854). Lourdes is in the very south of France, in the foothills of the Pyrénées, and the pilgrimage destination for millions. The sick and suffering have a very special place in Lourdes; there have been many physical healings from bathing in the spring water that Our Lady showed to Bernadette, but most often spoken of is the grace and spiritual healing that is found in Lourdes. Testimonies about Our Lady in Lourdes are included below (you can download the free mp3 Totus2us audio recordings individually by right/double clicking on the play buttons).
Saint John Paul II was twice a pilgrim to Lourdes: in 1983 and 2004 (his last pilgrimage abroad). Papa Benedict XVI was a pilgrim in 2008 for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical, Le Pèlerinage de Lourdes, warning against materialism on the centenary of the apparitions at Lourdes, and John Paul II gave us his apostolic letter, Salvifi doloris, on the salvific meaning of suffering on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes 1993.
Ben, from England
"I went to Lourdes as a medical student and spent a month studying the miracles and cures with Alessandro, who's the head doctor there. .. In fact, there are 67 miracles which have been officially recognised by the bishop, and there are 7000 miracles which have not been classified by the Church but the medical committee .. believe to be miracles or not explained by science. ..
But it's not just the physical miracles which at Lourdes really struck me. It's also the atmosphere there is so encouraging, it's so maternal, it's all centred around Mary, and through Mary to Jesus."
3 2us by Father Alexander Sherbrooke
"What happened in Lourdes, as then as today, Our Lady came to those who were suffering greatly because of poverty, illness, brokenness in their lives. Our Lady comes to teach us and to lead us to her Son Jesus. She wants to show us the way to understand that we are loved unconditionally by God."
3 2us by Monsignor Leo Maasburg
"Sickness and suffering are a big puzzle to human beings. We're all created for health - health is the normal state of man. But sickness and suffering are a reality of our life, nobody can avoid it completely, it will hit everybody at a certain moment in their life. Since we believe that for God there is no trash, everything he has permitted he can use for a good end, the secret of suffering and of sickness reveals a big mystery, a mystery of God's greatness. I believe this was the reason of Our Lady's appearing on 11th February 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous."
Pope Saint John Paul II words about his 2004 pilgrimage to Lourdes
General Audience, Wednesday, 11 August 2004 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
"Dear Brothers and Sisters, next Saturday and Sunday, I will be making an Apostolic Pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Lourdes. In that blessed place, I shall have the joy of celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption into Heaven of Mary Most Holy.
The reason for my pilgrimage is the 150th anniversary of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, proclaimed by Bl. Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854. Four years later, the Virgin appeared to St Bernadette in the grotto at Massabielle, introducing herself precisely as "the Immaculate Conception". I therefore consider this opportunity to return to Lourdes in consonance with this luminous truth of faith as a special gift of Providence.
In a single act of praise to God and to the Virgin, I will embrace the two great Marian mysteries: the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption into Heaven in body and soul. In fact, they constitute the beginning and the end of Mary's earthly life, combined in the eternal present of God who called her to take part in a very special way in the saving event of the Redemption brought about by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The pilgrimage will have three public moments: on Saturday afternoon, the recitation of the Holy Rosary; in the evening the traditional aux flambeaux (torchlight) procession; lastly, on Sunday morning, the solemn Eucharistic Concelebration. In addition, on arriving at the Shrine and before leaving it, I will have the opportunity to pray in silence at the Grotto. On every occasion I will carry in my heart the thanksgiving and supplication of the whole Church, and, I would say, of the whole world, which can find peace and salvation in God alone.
Indeed, what message did the Lord want to address to humanity through Our Lady of Lourdes? Briefly, it can be summed up in a famous saying from Sacred Scripture: God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live (cf Ez 33: 11). In addressing young Bernadette, Mary wanted to recall this fundamental Gospel message: prayer and penance are the way through which to affirm Christ's victory in every individual person and in society.
3. To change our conduct, however, we must listen to the voice of our conscience in which God has inculcated the sense of good and evil. Unfortunately, in a certain way modern men and women sometimes exhibit a loss of the sense of sin. It is essential to implore for them an inner reawakening that will enable them to rediscover to the full the holiness of God's law and the moral commitments that derive from it.
I am preparing to depart for the Shrine of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes with these intentions in mind. I ask you all to accompany me in spirit, so that the pilgrimage of the Successor of Peter may bear abundant fruits for the entire People of God."
Annie, from London
"Another helper came over to me out of the blue (I think she was an Italian lady who I'd never seen or met before) and she said 'You're Anne, aren't you.' and I said yes. I didn't think at the time it was strange that she knew my name. She said to me: ‘I've been directed to you, the Virgin has directed me to you and wants me to give you a message. She says that she knows you've been having a difficult time for some time now and as she stands here now, she's looking at you with all encompassing and unconditional love and you would weep for joy if you knew how much she loves you.' And with that the lady (the helper) gave me a hug and walked away and I then went into the healing waters in Lourdes, was immersed and came out again."
From a letter by St Mary Bernadette Soubirous:
One day, when I had gone with the two girls to collect wood by the bank of the river Gave, I heard a sound. I turned toward the meadow and saw that the trees were not moving at all. I looked up and saw a grotto. And I saw a Lady wearing a white dress with a blue sash. On each foot she had a yellow rose; her rosary was the same colour.
When I saw her, I rubbed my eyes. I thought I must be mistaken. I put my hands in my pocket, where I kept my rosary. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but I could not life my hand to my forehead; it fell back. Then the Lady crossed herself. I again tried, and although my hand was trembling, I was eventually able to make the sign of the cross. I began to say my rosary. The Lady slipped the beads of her rosary through her fingers, but she did not move her lips. When I finished the rosary, she immediately disappeared.
I asked the two girls if they had seen anything. They said, 'No', and asked what I had to tell them. I told them that I had seen a Lady wearing a white dress but that I did not know who she was. But I warned them to keep silent about it. Then they urged me not to go back there, but I refused. I went back on Sunday, feeling drawn by an inner force.
The Lady spoke to me a third time and asked me if I was willing to come to her over a period of a fortnight. I replied that I was. She added that I must tell the priests to have a chapel built there. Then she told me to drink at the spring. Not seeing any spring I was going to drink from the Gave. She told me that she did not mean that, and pointed with her finger to the spring. When I went there I saw only a little dirty water. I put my hand in it, but I could not get hold of any. I scratched, and at last a little water came for drinking. Three times I threw it away; the fourth time I was able to drink it. The the vision disappeared, and I went away.
I went back there for 15 days, and each day the Lady appeared to me, with the exception of a Monday and a Friday. She reminded me again to tell the priests to build the chapel, asked me to wash in the spring, and to pray for the conversion of sinners. I asked her several times who she was, but she gently smiled at me. Finally, she held her arms outstretched and raised her eyes to heaven and told me that she was the Immaculate Conception.
During that fortnight she also revealed three secrets to me, and forbade me to disclose them to anyone. I have kept them faithfully to this day.
Sarah, from Ireland
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer some years ago and 10 days after my operation I was in Lourdes. The surgeon told me that the type of tumour I had .. the cancer medication would have no effect. So I dedicated my life and I promised Our Lady that I would return to Lourdes for five consecutive years and she has taken care of me. I've never taken medication for the cancer and she's taken care of me every step of the way and that's 14 years ago. She's my mother and that's the highest thing I can say, that she's my mother and I love her."
Nur, from Turkey
"What Our Lady means to me - I regard her as my mother, as Jesus' mother. She is the Immaculate Conception, she is the Mediatrix of all graces. I especially love her in Lourdes, I've been going there every year and what I feel there is just indescribable. I feel peace, love and it is all Our Lord's and Our Lady's peace. No matter how crowded it is, you can feel that peace and it's just lovely being there."
Collette, from England
"I've been to Lourdes since a little girl and I have a great connection with that place and the peace Mary gives you as our mother, no other person can do that. And it's not about her, she does it to bring us to the Lord, to show us her son, and that's the greatest gift any mother could give somebody: the gift of Our Lord and Saviour."
Lorraine, from Ireland
"I had a real sense of God's healing presence, it was something so tangible & He was so real to me. I can remember the following days really praying at the Grotto. It was just the peace. I didn't want to leave. I can remember just saying prayers that I'd learned as a child. I knew that God was real, that Mary was real, & that I wanted to have a relationship with them. I suppose that healing I experienced on that night, it changed the direction of my life. When I came back from Lourdes, all of my friends noticed that I just had this peace, I was calm, I accepted who I was & I knew at that moment & from then on that I was a child of God & that I was really loved by Him."
Nida, from Lebanon (in English, French & Arabic)
"I came to Lourdes from Lebanon to thank Our Lady because she makes with me so many miracles. She is the Queen of my heart and the Lady of our family. And she is the mother of the creature and the Creator. Thanks for this Saint Mary, mother of Jesus Christ."
Sister Beatrix PCC (in enclosed community at Ty Mam Duw in North Wales)
"Our Lady was my constant companion because I could turn to her at any time, through many difficulties, and it was she who brought me into the Church because like a good mother she brought me to her Son. I went to Lourdes on an all night vigil in my early 20s ... and in the grotto in the early hours of the morning I gave my life entirely to Our Lord."
Fiona, from England
"It has been just such an incredible blessing in my life to be part of this parish trip to Lourdes for the last 22 years as a helper with the elderly who we take with us... The Lourdes week for me is the week around which the whole of the rest of my year revolves. And very year I've gone I have learnt more and more about the love of Our Lady, and the really special place she has for us as our intercessor, and she has become my first port of call for intercessory prayer. And I think of it really very much like just asking one of my friends to pray for me, but the difference is that this particular friend has got a very special place in the heart of God, and we know how much He will listen to her and how much He will react to anything that she asks of Him. And it's a real honour for us to be able to give her that special place in the hearts as well."
Catherine, who's 25 & from England: "I think the thing I liked the most about Lourdes (I’d never been before and I didn’t really know what to expect) was, once I got there, I realised just how much of a holy place it was. You can really, really feel that and you can feel Our Lady’s presence and definiitely just overwhelmed by love."
Dante, who's 18 & from the Philippines: "Overall it was a really good experience. I mean it enlightened me how big the Catholic faith is, like how important it is to everyone around the world because I saw a lot of people from different nationalities all joining together as one, under one religion. .. The most amazing part about my time there was the candlelit Mass at night which was amazing because the entire place was just illuminated by just people and their candles."
Dino, from England
"I have a devotion to Our Mother - I made my First Communion in Lourdes and she is a special person that always stays with me."
Christian, from England
"I first think I met Mary in 1997 in Lourdes … I had a very, very moving and real and living experience with the Westminster Diocesan Pilgrimage. ..And I think if anybody really wants to witness the love and the power and the spirit of Mary, there is no better place (in my view at least) than Lourdes. The magicalness of her touch is incredible. Lourdes is considered to be a place of miracles and, let me say, it's a place of hundreds of minor miracles that happen continually and consistently throughout the day. And it really needs to be experienced to be believed. So for me, Mary is obviously immaculate but just the most wonderful influence in my life."
Cécile, from France
"I went to Lourdes with a group of young people and I didn't really know what I was expecting from this pilgrimage, I was just happy to be with Christian friends. With one of my closest friends we decided to go to the Grotto, to be in the water at the place where the Virgin Mary appeared. While I was waiting to go to the baths, I had a really weird feeling; suddenly I really didn't want to go there, everyone was really annoying me and seeing all the ladies waiting to go to the baths and it was really irritating me. I was really angry inside of me and not feeling well, it was really a weird feeling. I wanted to leave but then I was with my friend, so I just stayed. Then I entered the room where we had to be prepared to go into the baths and all those feelings of anger started to disappear but I was really confused. Then the lady brought me into the bath and I had suddenly a deep feeling of relief and when I came out, I kept crying for an hour and a half, and I just didn't understand what was going on. After, over the following days, I had a really a deep peace in my heart and I knew that the Virgin Mary had really restored me in my desire to be holy."
Sister Maria (a Sister of Mercy), from Ireland
"I feel Mary is a loving caring mother and I always feel she is with me at all times, in times of joys and sorrows, in times of darkness and light. And when I minister in the hospital, I have a great devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes and I feel she's helping not only myself, but all the sick who are in deep pain and distress. And when we say the Hail Mary, it is powerful, and the Lourdes holy water. So I thank God for Our Lady, and I feel she's with me for the rest of my life, I praise you Lord, through Mary our Mother of Mercy. Amen."
Robin, from England
"My first meeting of Mary was, in a big time basis, was going to Lourdes. The statue in the grotto and the candles remain in my mind since my first visit to Lourdes, and I went to Lourdes several times. She's a constant help, she's an eternal help. She's always been there when I needed her and like any mother does, keeps it a constant without question and without asking whys and wherefores. So with her in mind, especially praying the rosary, it means that there's always somebody there that you can talk to and be appreciated for what you're trying to do, and she'll always understand, that's the good thing about her."
Bernadette, from England
"Having the name of Bernadette brought me to a very close affinity with Our Lady of Lourdes. I could completely identify with that encounter - looking at Bernadette in her simplicity and in her poverty and in her weakness, I could identify that from my own experience. And she was open to hear the word of Our Lady speaking to her heart. And when I put myself into Bernadette's shoes and I look at Our Lady, I see heaven and earth meeting."
Frankie, from England
"As you get nearer to the Grotto, you can feel the peace, you can feel the quietness & I really think Our Lady literally leads you by the hand to bring you closer to her son's heart in Lourdes .. It's a great place of challenge, but also as well in the silence realising what's important, what's worth living for & fighting for. I've been very blessed as well to witness young people go to confession out in Lourdes .. who haven't been for a number of years, and I've really seen them be touched by God's spirit of love.. I think it's to do partly with the powerful intercession of Our Lady, who invites people to come closer to the face of love, which is the face of Christ Himself as they encounter Him, not only in the Eucharist and in the Sacraments but in the face and love of other pilgrims."
Sister Bruna, from Italy
"St John Bosco wouldn't stop praying the rosary with the boys because the rosary is a biblical prayer. That's what Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes had - the rosary. The rosary is to pray to God. And meditating on the mystery is just like you read a description in the mystery of Jesus. So, when the family used to pray together saying the rosary, the family that prays together, stays together. So we have to revive our faith in the rosary, we have not to be ashamed. We don't need to preach, it's the way we live our life, and not to be afraid to say our faith in the rosary. Repetition is good; repetition revives the mind. We get bored with repetition, not with the rosary. And then Our Lady is there to guide us to her Divine Son and we have to remember every time she appears, it is with the rosary."
Father Rod OSB (a Benedictine monk & priest at Worth Abbey), from England
"Mary has always been with me, at times perhaps I was unaware of her gentle, loving presence, but I think, as I look back on my life, I see her gentle love, her guiding hand beside me, watching over and guiding me. In a remarkable way I think that awareness came upon me when I first visited Lourdes, where her presence there touched me deeply and began for me a journey that I guess I hadn't expected I'd be making, this journey towards monasticism and the priesthood, that journey of responding to the still, small voice of the Lord."
Sister Yolanda PCC (in enclosed community at Ty Mam Duw), from England
"It doesn't matter which shrine you look at, which story of apparition you hear, Our Lady is always urging us to pray, and perhaps the one that comes to mind the most to me is Lourdes, where she said 'Pray for sinners.' So, if I put Mary and the Holy Spirit together, the answer to the equation is we must pray."
Bria, from the US
"Lourdes was an incredible experience. It is such a place of love, so unique and so different from anywhere else in the world. You have people from all over who’ve journeyed to meet Our Lady and spend time with Our Lord. They’re all helping each other to get there, so that whatever ailment you may have, be it mental, physical, whatever, you can bring it there and people are able to help you. It is such a place of prayer, so peaceful and wonderful, and almost like what the world should be."
Ruth, from the UK
"I went to Lourdes for the first time when I was 16, where I was very deeply moved by Mary's presence in the Grotto and the stillfulness of the Grotto at night. "
Pope John Paul II's prayer to Mary
Grotto of Massabielle, 14 August 2004 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
"As we turn to Mary Most Holy, let us pray together with Bernadette: 'Good Mother, have mercy on me; I give myself entirely to you, that you may give me to your dear Son, whom I wish to love with my whole heart. Good Mother, grant me a heart all aflame for Jesus.'
Holy Mary, poor and humble Woman, blessed by the Most High!
Virgin of hope, prophecy of the new times, we join in your song of praise, to celebrate the mercies of the Lord, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the full liberation of humanity.
Hail Mary, humble servant of the Lord, glorious Mother of Christ!
Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling of the Word, teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to his appeals in the intimacy of our conscience and to his manifestations in the events of history.
Hail Mary, Woman of sorrow, Mother of the living!
Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve, be our guide along the paths of the world.
Teach us to live and spread the love of Christ, to stand with you beneath the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified.
Hail Mary, Woman of faith, first of the disciples!
Virgin Mother of the Chruch, help us always to give an account for the hope which is in us, trusting in the goodness of man and the love of the Father.
Teach us to build the world from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the irreplaceable fruitfulness of the Cross.
Holy Mary, Mother of believers, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. Amen.