Saturday February 11 is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes marks the observance of the World Day of the Sick. This celebration is a reminder to pray for the sick and to recognize all those who work in health care and serve as caregivers.
February 11 is the anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette in a little grotto in the Pyrenees Mountains of France in 1858. At that time, no one understood how and why the Blessed Virgin Mary would appear to a 14-year-old uneducated shepherdess. However, the Blessed Virgin Mary ended up appearing to St. Bernadette 18 times. Thousands of people witnessed the apparitions where many healings and miracles occurred.
At one time the Blessed Virgin Mary told St. Bernadette to bathe and drink from an unknown spring which was hidden under the ground. At first Bernadette dug into the dirt and ended up being ridiculed as she became covered in mud. However, eventually the water started to run clear. Since that time the spring has been continually flowing. On the Feast of the Annunciation, The Blessed Virgin Mary announced her name to St. Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” These events led to the veneration of Mary in Lourdes which has become a place of prayer, pilgrimage, conversion, and healing. The apparitions at Lourdes have been approved by the Catholic Church as private revelations in which devotion to them is up to the believer. Many documented healings continue to occur even to this day which confirm this to be a very holy place.
My family and I have had the opportunity to visit Lourdes, France twice. The first was on a pilgrimage to France in 2004. The second was before I started my studies in clinical psychology in 2008 which was the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. The grounds consist of the sanctuary of the holy grotto as well as huge beautiful above ground and underground Churches. What particularly fascinated me were the Eucharistic and candle light Marian processions. In addition extremely beautiful chants and prayers were broadcast out into the court yards and gardens throughout the day as one walked around. The area also has a hill in which one can climb and observe the stations of the Cross. The campus at Lourdes is populated with the sick in wheelchairs, on stretchers, with crutches, and on foot. Many come to drink and bathe in the miraculous spring water. I had the opportunity to bathe in the water myself in 2004.
I remember the water being very cold as wet towels were slung across my bare back before I descended into carved out rock tubs into which the water was channeled. In spite of its frigidity, this experience brought my mind to Jesus at the pillar. It was a very joyous experience. I offered my slight inconvenience for those sick around me. My second pilgrimage was to dedicate and offer my studies and future work in psychology. I hope to one day be able to go back and volunteer at their counseling clinics, even if just for a couple of weeks. Please pray that I get to see that dream and for my future employment situation.
The Office of Readings has a very beautiful reading about our call to help the sick from a sermon by Blessed Isaac of Stella:
Why, brothers, are we so little concerned to seek one another’s well-being so that where we see a greater need, we might show a greater readiness to help and carry one another’s burdens? For this is what the blessed Apostle Paul urges us to do in the words: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ;” and also: “Support each other in charity.” For this surely is the law of Christ…Why can I not patiently bear the weaknesses I see in my brother which either out of necessity or because of physical or moral weakness, cannot be corrected? And why can I not instead generously offer him consolation…This is indeed the law of Christ who truly “bore our weaknesses” in His passion and carried our sorrows out of pity, loving those he carried and carrying those He loved…
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.