Lourdes apparitions

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Saint Bernadette Soubirous Bernadette Soubirous.png
Saint Bernadette Soubirous

The Marian Apparitions at Lourdes were reported in 1858 by Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old miller's daughter from the town of Lourdes in southern France.

Bernadette Soubirous 19th-century French saint

Saint Bernadette Soubirous, also known as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, was the firstborn daughter of a miller from Lourdes, in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées in France, and is best known for experiencing Marian apparitions of a "young lady" who asked for a chapel to be built at the nearby cave-grotto at Massabielle. These apparitions are said to have occurred between 11 February and 16 July 1858, and the lady who appeared to her identified herself as the Immaculate Conception.

Miller person who produces flour or other products by operating a mill

A miller is a person who operates a mill, a machine to grind a grain to make flour. Milling is among the oldest of human occupations. "Miller", "Milne", and other variants are common surnames, as are their equivalents in other languages around the world. Milling existed in hunter-gatherer communities, and later millers were important to the development of agriculture.

Lourdes Commune in Occitanie, France

Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is part of the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Occitanie region in south-western France. Prior to the mid-19th century, the town was best known for the Château fort de Lourdes, a fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its center.


From 11 February to 16 July 1858, she reported 18 apparitions of "a Lady". Soubirous described the lady as wearing a white veil and a blue girdle; she had a golden rose on each foot and held a rosary of pearls. Despite initial skepticism from the Roman Catholic Church, these claims were eventually declared to be worthy of belief after a canonical investigation, and the apparition is known as Our Lady of Lourdes.

Our Lady of Lourdes Title of Mary, mother of Jesus, related to her alleged apparitions in Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in honour of the Marian apparitions that reportedly occurred in 1858 in the vicinity of Lourdes in France. The first of these is the apparition of 11 February 1858, when 14-year old Bernadette Soubirous told her mother that a "lady" spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar apparitions of the "Lady" were reported on seventeen occasions that year, until the climax revelation of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception took place.

According to Soubirous, her visions occurred at the grotto of Massabielle, just outside Lourdes. On 16 July 1858, Soubirous visited the grotto for the last time and said: "I have never seen her so beautiful before." [1] [ page needed ] On 18 January 1860, the local bishop declared: "The Virgin Mary did appear indeed to Bernadette Soubirous." [2] In 1958, Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Le pèlerinage de Lourdes ("The pilgrimage to Lourdes") on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions. Pope John Paul II visited Lourdes three times; Pope Benedict XVI visited Lourdes on 15 September 2008 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions.

Grotto any type of natural or artificial cave that is associated with modern, historic, or prehistoric use by humans

A grotto is a natural or artificial cave used by humans in both modern times and antiquity, and historically or prehistorically. Naturally occurring grottoes are often small caves near water that are usually flooded or liable to flood at high tide. Sometimes, artificial grottoes are used as garden features. The Grotta Azzurra at Capri and the grotto at the villa of Tiberius in the Bay of Naples are examples of popular natural seashore grottoes.

Pope Pius XII 260th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, was head of the Catholic Church from 2 March 1939 to his death. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, most notably the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.

Soubirous was canonized a saint in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.

February 1858

The 1st appearance (11 February)

Our Lady of Lourdes: An artwork depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing on the grotto, in front of Bernadette Soubirous. Notre Dame de Lourdes.JPG
Our Lady of Lourdes: An artwork depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing on the grotto, in front of Bernadette Soubirous.

On Thursday, 11 February 1858, a week before Lent would begin on Ash Wednesday, a 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous was out gathering firewood with her sister Toinette and a friend at the grotto of Massabielle outside Lourdes. There, she reportedly had the first of 18 visions of what she termed "a small young lady", not in French but in the regional Occitan: uo petito damizelo, standing in a niche in the rock. Her sister and the friend stated that they had seen nothing.

Ash Wednesday First day of Lent in the Western Christian calendar

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. Ash Wednesday is traditionally observed by Western Christians. Most Latin Rite Roman Catholics observe it, as do some Protestants like Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, some Reformed churches, Baptists, Nazarenes and Independent Catholics.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Occitan language Romance language

Occitan, also known as lenga d'òc by its native speakers, is a Romance language. It is spoken in southern France, Italy's Occitan Valleys, Monaco, and Spain's Val d'Aran; collectively, these regions are sometimes referred to as Occitania. Occitan is also spoken in the linguistic enclave of Guardia Piemontese. However, there is controversy about the unity of the language, as some think that Occitan is a macrolanguage. Others include Catalan in this family, as the distance between this language and some Occitan dialects is similar to the distance among different Occitan dialects. In fact, Catalan was considered an Occitan dialect until the end of the 19th century.

On realizing that she alone, and not her companions, had seen the apparition, Soubirous asked her sister not to tell anyone what had happened. Toinette, however, was unable to keep silent, and told their mother, Louise Soubirous. Because their mother had suspected the children were lying, both girls received a beating, and Soubirous was forbidden to return to the grotto again. A few days passed and Soubirous asked for permission to go again with her siblings and the permission was granted. [3]

The 2nd appearance (14 February)

The second time was the following Sunday. I went back because I felt myself interiorly impelled. My mother had forbidden me to go. After High Mass, the two other girls and myself went to ask my mother again. She did not want to let us go, she said that she was afraid that I should fall in the water; she was afraid that I would not be back for Vespers. I promised that I would. Then she gave me permission to go.

Solemn Mass Full ceremonial form of the Tridentine Mass

Solemn Mass is the full ceremonial form of the Tridentine Mass, celebrated by a priest with a deacon and a subdeacon, requiring most of the parts of the Mass to be sung, and the use of incense. It is also called High Mass or Solemn High Mass. However, in the United States the term "High Mass" is also used to describe the less elaborate Missa Cantata, which lacks deacon and subdeacon and some of the ceremonies connected with them. This article deals with Solemn Mass as celebrated according to the Tridentine use.

Vespers sunset evening prayer service in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours

Vespers is a sunset evening prayer service in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours. The word comes from the Greek ἑσπέρα ("hespera") and the Latin vesper, meaning "evening". It is also referred to in the Anglican tradition as evening prayer or evensong. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe evening services.

I went to the Parish Church to get a little bottle of holy water, to throw over the Vision, if I were to see her at the grotto. When we arrived, we all took our rosaries and we knelt down to say them. I had hardly finished the first decade when I saw the same Lady. Then I started to throw holy water in her direction, and at the same time I said that if she came from God she was to stay, but if not, she must go. She started to smile, and bowed; and the more I sprinkled her with holy water, the more she smiled and bowed her head and the more I saw her make signs. ...Then I went on saying my rosary. When I had finished it she disappeared and we came back to Vespers. [4]

Troubled by the notion that the apparition might represent an evil spirit, Soubirous used the holy water as a test. A further and positive reassuring sign was the apparition's beautiful bare feet; evil apparitions (even when taking human form) were believed to have cloven hooves or animal paws. [5]

The 3rd appearance (18 February)

The Apparition did not speak until the third appearance, and therefore its identity was a matter of considerable speculation. Pious villagers Jeanne-Marie Milhet and Antoinette Peyret, on hearing Soubirous' description of the apparition, thought it was the returning spirit of one of their friends, who had died a few months before. Although not part of Catholic doctrine, the concept of the revenant was deeply rooted in Pyrenean superstition. According to tradition, revenants rarely spoke, but communicated their messages in writing, and so Milhet and Peyret furnished Soubirous with paper, a pen, and an inkpot to take with her, in case the apparition should make use of them. [6]

On her third visit, she said that the "beautiful lady" asked her to return to the grotto every day for 15 days. At first her mother had forbidden her to go, but Soubirous persuaded her mother to allow her. Soubirous said that the lady told her that she did not promise to make her happy in this world, but in the next. [7]

Although she spoke in Occitan, the regional language that Bernadette (whose French was poor) used, the apparition used a remarkably formal form of the language in her request: "Would you have the goodness to come here for fifteen days?" (Occitan : Boulet aoue ra gracia de bié aci penden quinze dias?; French : Voulez-vous me faire la grâce de venir ici pendant quinze jours?). The significance of this politeness was not lost on the observers. It would be very unusual for anyone to adopt this formal form of address when speaking to a penniless, working-class peasant girl such as Bernadette. [8]

The 4th appearance (19 February)

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes Sanctuary NDL 3.jpg
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Armed with a lighted candle for protection, Soubirous came to the grotto. This originated the custom of carrying lighted candles to the grotto. Eight people were present including Soubirous's mother and two of her aunts, one of whom, Aunt Bernarde, was her godmother and the most influential member of her mother's family. [9]

Soubirous's story caused a sensation with the townspeople, who were divided in their opinions on whether or not Soubirous was telling the truth. Soon a large number of people followed her on her daily journey, some out of curiosity and others who firmly believed that they were witnessing a miracle.

The 5th appearance (20 February)

Thirty people were present. Soubirous reported later that the lady had taught her a prayer, which she said every day of her life, but never wrote down or repeated to anyone. By this time, the news was spreading to other towns, and many people assumed that Soubirous's lady was the Virgin Mary. [10]

The 6th appearance (21 February)

Over 100 people were present, and the apparition said to her: "You will pray to God for sinners." [11] [12] Afterwards Soubirous was interrogated by Dominique Jacomet, the police commissioner. Her father, François Soubirous, eventually assured the commissioner that the affair would cease. [13]

The 7th appearance (23 February)

Lourdes Basilica of the Apparitions Catedral de Lourdes (Altos Pirineos).jpg
Lourdes Basilica of the Apparitions

About 150 people were present. Jean-Baptiste Estrade (a tax inspector), Duffo (a court official), and the officers from the garrison were present. Soubirous said later that the lady had told her a secret, which was only for her alone; this secret was never revealed to anyone. [10]

The 8th appearance (24 February)

About 250 people were present. The message of the lady was: "Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners! Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!" [10]

The 9th appearance (25 February)

[The Lady] told me that I should go and drink at the fountain and wash myself. Seeing no fountain I went to drink at the Gave. She said it was not there; she pointed with her finger that I was to go in under the rock. I went, and I found a puddle of water which was more like mud, and the quantity was so small that I could hardly gather a little in the hollow of my hand. Nevertheless I obeyed, and started scratching the ground; after doing that I was able to take some. The water was so dirty that three times I threw it away. The fourth time I was able to drink it. She made me eat grass growing in the same place where I had drunk; once only; I do not know why. Then the Vision disappeared and I went home. [14]

Soubirous was interrogated again. The spring reportedly began to flow a day later.

The 10th appearance (27 February)

About 800 people were present.

The 11th appearance (28 February)

Over 1,000 people were present. Soubirous was questioned by Judge Ribes afterwards.

March 1858

The 12th appearance (1 March)

There were almost 1,500 people present. Local housewife Catherine Latapie, nine months pregnant, who had a paralysis of the ulnar nerve in one arm following an accident, reported regaining full movement after bathing her arm in the spring. Simultaneously, she went into labor and had to leave almost immediately to give birth. She gave an account of these events to local physician Dr. Pierre Romaine Dozous, who began to collect information on healings at the spring.

The 13th appearance (2 March)

The lady commanded Soubirous: "Go, tell the priests to come here in procession and to build a chapel here." [15] [12] Accompanied by her two aunts, Soubirous went to ask Father Peyramale; he forbade her to go to the grotto, and dismissed her. Peyramale had ordered the priests to have nothing to do with the grotto, for it was the general practice of the clergy to discourage religious visionaries. [11] Soubirous was determined and returned with one of the priest's friends to ask again. After Soubirous was questioned before the parish clergy and dismissed, the parish priests could not agree on what course to take.

The 14th appearance (3 March)

Previously, Father Peyramale had told Soubirous that the requests for the procession and chapel could not be fulfilled unless and until the lady's name was known. On this occasion, Soubirous asked for the lady's name; according to Soubirous, the lady only smiled.

The 15th appearance (4 March)

Over 9,000 people were present.

The third time I went to see M. le Curé, [16] to tell him that a Lady had ordered me to go and say to the priests that they were to have a chapel built there, he looked at me for a moment, and then he said to me in a rather gruff tone, 'Who is this lady?' I answered that I did not know. Then he commissioned me to ask her name and to come and tell him. The next day when I arrived at the grotto I recited my rosary and then asked her, from M. le Curé what her name was, but all she did was to smile. When I got back I went to M. le Curé to tell him that I discharged his commission, and her only response was her smile; then he said she was laughing at me and that I would do well not to go to her again. But, I could not help going. [14]

I came back for a fortnight. The vision appeared every day, except one Monday [22 February] and one Friday [26 February]. She repeated to me several times that I was to tell the priests they were to build a Chapel there, and I was to go to the fountain to wash, and that I was to pray for sinners. During this fortnight, she told me three secrets which she forbade me to tell anyone. I have been faithful until now. [14]

The 16th appearance (25 March)

Our Lady of Lourdes: Mary appearing at Lourdes with rosary beads. The words on her halo are: French: Je suis l'Immaculee conception
(I am the Immaculate Conception). LdyLourd.jpg
Our Lady of Lourdes: Mary appearing at Lourdes with rosary beads. The words on her halo are: French : Je suis l'Immaculée conception (I am the Immaculate Conception).

I went every day for a fortnight, and each day I asked her who she was–and this petition always made her smile. After the fortnight I asked her three times consecutively. She always smiled. At last I tried for the fourth time. She stopped smiling. With her arms down, she raised her eyes to heaven and then, folding her hands over her breast she said, "I am the Immaculate Conception." Then I went back to M. le Curé to tell him that she had said she was the Immaculate Conception, and he asked was I absolutely certain. I said yes, and so as not to forget the words, I had repeated them all the way home. [18]

Peyramale decided to go to Tarbes to visit the bishop. The bishop determined that Peyramale should remain away from the grotto.

April 1858

The 17th appearance (7 April)

Dr. Pierre Romaine Dozous, the town physician, originally watched the apparitions from a skeptical viewpoint. He believed Soubirous, whom he knew well, was in her right mind aside from the apparitions.

He reported:

Bernadette seemed to be even more absorbed than usual in the Appearance upon which her gaze was riveted. I witnessed, as did also every one else there present, the fact which I am about to narrate. She was on her knees saying with fervent devotion the prayers of her Rosary which she held in her left hand while in her right was a large blessed candle, alight. The child was just beginning to make the usual ascent on her knees when suddenly she stopped and, her right hand joining her left, the flame of the big candle passed between the fingers of the latter. Though fanned by a fairly strong breeze, the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching. Astonished at this strange fact, I forbade anyone there to interfere, and taking my watch in my hand, I studied the phenomenon attentively for a quarter of an hour. At the end of this time Bernadette, still in her ecstasy, advanced to the upper part of the Grotto, separating her hands. The flame thus ceased to touch her left hand. Bernadette finished her prayer and the splendour of the transfiguration left her face. She rose and was about to quit the Grotto when I asked her to show me her left hand. I examined it most carefully, but could not find the least trace of burning anywhere upon it. I then asked the person who was holding the candle to light it again and give it to me. I put it several times in succession under Bernadette's left hand but she drew it away quickly, saying 'You are burning me!'. I record this fact just as I have seen it without attempting to explain it. Many persons who were present at the time can confirm what I have said. [18]

On 8 June 1858, the mayor of Lourdes barricaded the grotto and stationed guards to prevent public access. Visitors were fined for kneeling near the grotto or talking about the grotto. [19]

July 1858

The 18th appearance (16 July)

This was the final appearance. Because the grotto was barricaded by the local government, Soubirous knelt outside the fence by the riverbank. [7] "I thought I was at the Grotto, at the same distance as I was the other times. All I saw was Our Lady ... She was more beautiful than ever." [18]

Later developments

The grotto reopened to the public in October 1858 by order of Emperor Louis Napoleon III. [19] Soubirous received no further apparitions after the 18th appearance (on 16 July 1858), and she did not feel any desire to visit the grotto afterwards. The people, however, kept on visiting. In 1866, Soubirous left Lourdes to join a religious order.

Several churches were eventually built at Lourdes, including the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Basilica of St. Pius X.

Soubirous was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 1933. Her Feast Day is celebrated on April 16; in France and Canada, it is celebrated on February 18. [20]

See also


  1. Laurentin & Marienlexikon.
  2. Lauretin & Marienlexikon, p. 162.
  3. Lasserre 1906, p. 47.
  4. "Apparitions at Lourdes". Catholic Pilgrims. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  5. Harris 1999, p. 57.
  6. Harris 1999, p. 59.
  7. 1 2 "Marian Apparitions". University of Dayton. Archived from the original on 2013-03-15.
  8. Harris 1999, pp. 5, 59.
  9. Harris 1999, p. 5.
  10. 1 2 3 "The Apparitions in 1858". lourdes-france.org.
  11. 1 2 "St. Bernadette". ewtn.com.
  12. 1 2 Fr. Paolo O. Pirlo, SHMI (1997). "Our Lady of Lourdes". My First Book of Saints. Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate - Quality Catholic Publications. pp. 49–50. ISBN   971-91595-4-5.
  13. Catholic Online. "Catholic Online: Apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sixth Apparition". Catholic.org. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  14. 1 2 3 "The fortnight". Catholic Pilgrims. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  15. lourdes (2003-10-21). "The encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary". Lourdes France. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  16. Monsieur le Curé ("the parish priest") refers to Father Peyramale.
  17. University of Notre Dame: A Cave of Candles: The Story behind the Notre Dame Grotto. Retrieved on 24 September 2006.
  18. 1 2 3 "I am the Immaculate Conception". Catholic Pilgrims. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  19. 1 2 "Lourdes 4". Nd.edu. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  20. "Church recalls Our Lady of Lourdes apparitions on Feb. 11". Catholic News Agency.

Works cited

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