February 11, this Saturday, is the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1858, this was the day on which the Blessed Virgin appeared to a fourteen year old girl named Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, France. Over a period of five months, there were eighteen apparitions. Our Lady wanted to get people to abandon sin, to pray and to love God. So, she chose a simple poor peasant girl to convey the message.Father Stanley
Many of us are familiar with the events surrounding these apparitions. Bernadette was scrutinized again and again by Church and civil authorities. When it would have been easier for her to say that she was mistaken or might have dreamt of these apparitions, she stuck to the truth. The clincher to believing Bernadette's honesty was her relaying to the inquisitors the name that Mary called herself. Our Lady said that she is "the Immaculate Conception." It was four years earlier that the First Vatican Council defined the dogma of The Immaculate Conception, declaring that Mary was conceived without original sin. Bernadette was not aware of these proceedings and never even heard of the term "immaculate conception."
Our Saint was most obedient. She trusted when our Lady asked her to wash in the spring when there was no spring to be found. She went to the place to which Mary pointed and started digging with her hands. Soon, a spring of water started to the surface. This is the water that has been and continues to be instrumental in so many miraculous cures. Of course, it is not the water per se that does this, but God who has chosen this way to lead people to Himself.
There are a few significant points that we can understand from the apparitions at Lourdes. First, we see God's ever abiding love and mercy. People were going astray through sin and falling away from faith. God did not punish but sent his Mother to lead them back on the right road. She asked that a church be at the grotto, the place of the apparitions. What is a church for? The Sacraments! So that confessions can be heard, sins forgiven, Masses offered; so that Baptisms, Confirmations and marriages could take place. God did this for our spiritual well being and even in some cases for physical health.
Secondly, Lourdes teaches us about obedience. St. Bernadette showed her strong character and remained faithful to the truth. In spite of all interior suffering she obeyed our Lady. Obedience was also demonstrated by the Virgin. She did as God wanted and brought His message to us through our Saint. She also obeyed Christ her Son. The Church is the Body of Christ. The Church declared her "The Immaculate Conception." She accepted and declares herself the same.
Hopefully we come to know God's love for us more and more through Lourdes and respond with joyful obedience.