February 11

Notre-Dame de Lourdes, Lourdes, Hautes-Pyrénées, Midi-Pyrénées France

On February 11, 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, 14, went to gather firewood with her younger sister and a friend. When they came to the canal near the River Gave, the other girls waded through, but Bernadette stopped to take off her stockings. As she told the police chief ten days later, "I heard a very loud noise in the hedge above Massabielle Grotto; I looked that way and I saw the bushes moving, and behind them something white; I looked a moment, then I knelt and prayed; That One smiled at me and vanished into the Grotto." 

Over the next five months, Bernadette saw the lady she called simply That One ("Aquerò") at the Grotto 17 times more, accompanied by ever more onlookers as word spread. No one else saw the apparition, but many were convinced by the girl's radiant, angelic countenance while in ecstasy. 

On February 25, "She told me to go, drink of the spring." That One indicated some bare ground near the grotto. Bernadette dug there with her hands. "But there I only found a little muddy water. At the fourth attempt I was able to drink. She also made me eat the bitter herbs that were found near the spring, and then the vision left and went away." The 300 witnesses were disconcerted to see the angelic face covered with mud and grass. 

On March 1, Bernadette's friend Catherine Latapie regained the use of her dislocated arm after plunging it into the spring, now a torrent. It was the first of the many healings at Lourdes. 

On March 25, Bernadette asked the Lady's identity. "She lifted up her eyes to heaven, joined her hands as though in prayer, … and said to me, 'Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou,'" incorporating into the uneducated girl's Pyreneen dialect the terminology of the papal dogma issued four years before: "I am the Immaculate Conception." 

St. Bernadette became a Sister of Charity of Nevers, where her incorrupt body is now enshrined. 

Our Lady of Lourdes became the major Marian devotion of the next century, beloved as a source of spiritual and physical healing, a beacon of faith. The image of Mary as Bernadette saw her -- standing, hands folded in prayer, a long white veil over her head, a long blue sash hanging from the waist of her white gown and a long white rosary from her arm -- has been reproduced around the world in every country where Catholics have had a presence, and even the Grotto itself (Philippines, US, Indonesia). The Catholic Church celebrates February 11 as her feast day, though in Lourdes, the biggest pilgrimage is on the feast of the Assumption, August 15. 

Shrine's site: www.lourdes-france.org. (Information also from Maximilien-M. François, "Sainte Bernadette et Lourdes," www.prieurestlouis.org, 07-02-2007 and other sources. Picture of grotto statue from Aude Siao-Ling Marie (Samia) 1994-2004, www.aude-samia.org.)   

Also commemorated this date:

bulletNuestra Señora de la Corteza, Acarigua, Portuguesa, Venezuela. Image appeared in the bark of a tree, 1702.
 

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly