SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11: Years before “Immaculate Conception” became a common term in the Christian Church, a single event cemented it in history: the Marian apparition at Our Lady of Lourdes. On Feb. 11, 1858, a 14-year-old peasant girl reportedly saw a “lady” in the grotto of Massabielle while she was gathering firewood. In the past 154 years, more than 60 cases have been accepted as inexplicable miracles at the site where the peasant girl says the “Immaculate Conception” asked her to dig for a spring. Each year, millions of people still flock to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Bernadette Soubirous reported the “lady” to have yellow roses on each foot—in a practice that, to this day, remains popular for pilgrims to imitate with Marian statues. (Wikipedia has details.) When the apparition instructed Bernadette to ask local clergy that a chapel be built at the grotto, clergy demanded to know the apparition’s name. Bernadette was told: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” What Bernadette did not know is that, just three years earlier, Pople Pius IX had proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Sources agree that Bernadette would not have been familiar with the term. (Get hymns and readings at Women for Faith and Family.)
For pilgrims who can’t travel to France, many churches offer a Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes during February. At St. Bernadette Parish in Massachusetts, 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the congregation’s novena. (Read the article in the Catholic Free Press.) St. Bernadette’s pastor attests that many “favors have been granted” to those who have faithfully attended the 9-day novena each year. (Anyone wanting to pray the novenas can do so with help from the Global Catholic Network.)
Pope Pius X knew that “miraculous” cures from Lourdes would be under intense investigation, and as such, he quickly requested the establishment of the Lourdes Medical Bureau. From its earliest days of receiving pilgrims, the grotto at Lourdes has housed an on-site Bureau Medical that welcomes any scientist in search of proof of the approved miracles. The Lourdes Medical Bureau continues to leave its records open to any medical doctor who specializes in the area of any cure.