The apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes began on 11 February 1858, when Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year old peasant girl from Lourdes had seen a “lady” in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town.
She saw a light in the grotto and a little girl, as small as she was, dressed all in white, apart from the blue belt fastened around her waist and the golden yellow roses, one on each foot.
Three days later, Bernadette returned to the Grotto with the two other girls, who reportedly became afraid when they saw her in ecstasy. Bernadette remained ecstatic when they returned to the village.
On 18 February, she was told by the Lady to return to the Grotto over a period of two weeks.
The Lady allegedly said: I promise to make you happy not in this world but in the next.
- On February 24th, for her eight apparition, the Lady said, “Penitence”, then, “Would you pray to God for the conversion of sinners ?”
- On 25 February, during her ecstatic trance in the grotto, Bernadette began to dig in the earth until a small puddle of water appeared. She was asked to drink from the water, which at first was rather muddy, but became increasingly clean. As the word spread, this water was given to medical patients of all kinds, after which numerous miracle cures were reported.
- On February 27th and 28th, and March 1st, “aquero” appeared again at Massabielle, where a clear spring now flowed.
- During the thirteenth vision, on March 2nd, the Lady said, “Tell the priests to let the people come in procession and let a chapel be built”.
- On March 3rd, she repeated her instructions. But the parish priest, Father Peyramale, required a sign. “First let her tell you her name, then have her make the rosebush at the Grotto flower”, he said.
- On March 4th, the last day of the fortnight, the Lady said nothing.
- Not until the 16th apparition, on March 25th, did she say, “I am the Immaculate Conception“. Bernadette ran to repeat these words to an astonished Father Peyramale.
- On Easter Sunday April 7th, nearly a thousand people witnessed the “miracle of the candle”. Her examining doctor stated that Bernadette, in ecstasy, was holding her hands over a candle without receiving any burns.
- On July 16th, since the authorities had fenced off the Grotto, Bernadette slipped away to the meadow on the far bank of the Gave for an eighteenth and final meeting with her Lady. “Never had I seen her looking so beautiful”, she said.
- She gave Bernadette a message for all: “Pray and do penance for the conversion of the world.“
- In the apparitions Bernadette was told to instruct the village priest to build a chapel in the grotto, which many people would soon come to visit.
- The Church investigated Bernadette’s claims for four years before approving devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes.
- On 18 January 1862, Bishop Laurence, the Bishop of Tarbes, gave the solemn declaration: “We are inspired by the Commission comprising wise, holy, learned and experienced priests who questioned the child, studied the facts, examined everything and weighed all the evidence. We have also called on science, and we remain convinced that the Apparitions are supernatural and divine, and that by consequence, what Bernadette saw was the Most Blessed Virgin. Our convictions are based on the testimony of Bernadette, but above all on the things that have happened, things which can be nothing other than divine intervention”. 
- Pope Pius IX authorized the local bishop to permit the veneration of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes in 1862.
- The first person with a “certified miracle” was a women, whose right hand had been deformed as a consequence of an accident.
- To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fraudulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau (Bureau Medical) was established at the request of Pope Pius X. It is completely under medical and not ecclesiastical supervision. Approximately 7000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a miracle, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable miracle by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church
- Four to six million pilgrims visit the shrine each year, from around the world, and it is estimated that more than 200 million pilgrims have come to Lourdes since 1860.
- No one leaves Lourdes without a gain in faith. Moral and spiritual cures are more marvelous than physical cures.
- • Some go to Lourdes with lifetime prejudices, yet their minds are cleared in a sudden manner. Frequently skepticism gives way to faith; coldness and antagonism become whole hearted love of God. Again and again those who are not cured of bodily pain receive an increase of faith and resignation – true peace of soul.
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