For Catholics, Lourdes is one of the world’s most beloved shrines. In 1858 in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes, France, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to a 14-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous. Our Lady identified herself as the Immaculate Conception. She gave Bernadette a message for all: “Pray and do penance for the conversion of sinners.” The Church investigated Bernadette’s claims for four years before approving devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. Lourdes has since become one of the world’s most famous shrines, attracting more than six million pilgrims each year. There have been thousands of miraculous cures at this shrine. Lourdes has also had a special place in the hearts of many popes in the past 156 years. St. Pope John Paul II made three pilgrimages to Lourdes, and proclaimed February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, as the World Day of the Sick.
No one leaves Lourdes without many gifts and graces. Moral and spiritual cures, more marvelous than physical cures, continuously take place. Some go to Lourdes with lifetime prejudices, yet their minds are suddenly cleared. Skepticism frequently gives way to faith; coldness and antagonism become wholehearted 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.
Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of mercy, health of the sick, refuge of sinners, comfort of the afflicted, you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings. Deign to cast upon me a look of mercy. By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary, whence you dispense your favors, and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with unbounded confidence, to implore your material intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the grant of my requests. I will endeavor to imitate your virtues, that I may one day share your glory, and bless you in eternity.