Yesterday, February 11 was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was the anniversary of her first appearance in 1858. I have a special love for the Blessed Mother under this title because even as a little girl I have had a love for the poetic, touching account of her apparitions to Bernadette. I chose Bernadette as my Confirmation name.
The humble, poverty-stricken girl who was asthmatic and humble during her life shows that Our Lady, in following her Son’s footsteps, chooses the weak and lowly to bestow her favors upon. She includes them in evangelizing members of the Church and the world and for the conversion of sinners.
It was on March 25th, 1858, the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord that the Blessed Virgin, who up until that time had concealed her identity, revealed herself as the “Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette did not understand the meaning of the words but relayed them to her pastor, Dean Peyramale, who had initially not believed in the apparitions.
He had told Bernadette, that if she did not give her name, “there would be no chapel or processions” which the lady had requested. Bernadette was most concerned that she convey the message to her pastor because she wanted to fulfill the beautiful lady’s request. Bernadette had grown to love her so very much.
She prayed the rosary with Our Lady and made acts of penance for the conversion of sinners as The Blessed Virgin prompted. Bernadette even dug in the mud, washed her face in it and swallowed some of it when told to “drink and wash at the spring.” The crowd who accompanied Bernadette on her visits to the grotto thought she had gone mad and mocked her.
But a short time later, a spring bubbled up which caused healings among the inhabitants of Lourdes. It is the same spring to which thousands of pilgrims flock each year for physical cures and spiritual conversions.
Bernadette had to suffer standing by her reports of the apparitions of Our Lady. She was questioned and threatened by the civil authorities with jail. Three doctors examined her to see if Bernadette was of sound mind. Initially, even her family did not believe her. Yet Bernadette stood resolute in her resolve that what had happened was real. She was courageous and unflinching in her testimony. We should imitate her when moments of standing up for morals or for the Catholic faith present themselves to us.
The anonymity which Bernadette so craved was denied her. She could not find it in Lourdes. The young woman moved away from her beloved family and village and became a religious of the Sisters of Nevers. There, too, she underwent trials partly because of her lack of education and also her fame as the seer of Lourdes. However, her studies in academics improved there.
She worked as the infirmarian but also suffered from illness. Bernadette also experienced the peace of soul that comes when we do the will of God. She remembered the words of the Blessed Virgin, “I cannot promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.”