The Answer Is: Lourdes

Question: If you had to choose one word, and it couldn't be someone's name or "Mother," that would call to mind all of Mary's care, tenderness, and love for her children, what word would you choose?

Answer: "Lourdes."

As we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on Feb. 11, let's take a look at the reasons we remember the miraculous events in a tiny town in France.

After 165 years in the spotlight, the word "Lourdes" has migrated from its original meaning naming a nondescript market town lying at an altitude of 1,375 feet in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwest France near the Spanish border. Today, "Lourdes" evokes everything good we associate with Our Lady, including her Immaculate Conception (at Lourdes, she told young Bernadette Soubirous that this was her name).

Nearly 6 million pilgrims visit Lourdes each year to journey to the place where the Blessed Mother appeared to Bernadette between Feb. 11 and July 16, 1858.

Message of repentance
Mary appeared to Bernadette 18 times. These appearances have, collectively, become the seminal Marian apparition and, along with Fatima, the most influential on the post-modern world. Through Mary's revelations, the world would receive the urgent, maternal message of repentance as a way of restoring humankind to health in Christ.

On Feb. 11, 1858, Bernadette and two other girls - her sister Toinette and their school chum Jeanne Abadie - went outside to gather firewood. Bernadette searched where the waters of the Savy Mill join the fast-flowing Gave de Pau River. The girls walked to where the Gave branches west, past the banks of the Grotto. They arrived at the bank on the opposite side of the Gave, facing the massive outcropping of the Massabielle.

Bernadette wandered downstream. Alone and out of sight of her sister and Jeanne, Bernadette heard what she described as a "sound like a gust of wind." In her words:

Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still. ... I heard the same sound again.

As I raised my head to look at the grotto, I saw a lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle, and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary. The beads were white. The Lady made a sign for me to approach, but I was seized with fear and I did not dare, thinking that what I faced was an illusion.

It was no illusion. The lady Bernadette saw was Mary, the Mother of God. Bernadette stood transfixed before the lady, who made the Sign of the Cross with a Rosary she held in her hands.

At once, Bernadette, who had been shaking violently, felt the fear melt away. In complete calm and peace of mind, she began praying the Rosary, her eyes constantly on the apparition.

This is a lesson for all, to keep eyes constantly on Mary, our Mother, who leads us to Jesus.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!


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