Lourdes Sanctuaire in France
When I was young, the ligaments around my knees did not form properly. I struggled walking and bending my constantly aching knees—I actually walked sideways, and sometimes my parents even had to bend my legs for me. The specialist told my parents I would lead a life of little activity.
I recall at age 6 my mom telling me the story of Our Lady of Lourdes in France: how Mary appeared there “a long time ago” (1858) to a poor, uneducated girl named St. Bernadette, told her to dig in the ground at her feet and that she would find a spring of healing water. So Bernadette dug, and water appeared just as Mary promised. My mom said the spring still flowed and healed many people. (Lourdes is also where Mary revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception—but my little 6-year-old mind wasn’t ready for such a concept!)
She then showed me a small bottle of Lourdes water my grandparents had brought from a recent trip there. She traced the sign of the cross on my knees with the holy water and prayed for healing.
The next time I had X-rays done, the doctor was speechless. My ligaments were normal, and he had no explanation as to why. I was able to walk and sit with no problem, my knees no longer ached, and I went on to lead a normal, very active life.
There have been 70 medically confirmed miracles at Lourdes. My family didn’t seek medical confirmation of a healing in my case—the X-ray and permanent change were good enough for us!
To this day, 6 million people a year make a pilgrimage to the “Lourdes Sanctuaire.” Although the immersion baths in the church have been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic (save for “exceptional circumstances,” according to www.lourdes-france.com), pilgrims may still go to the baths to wash their face, hands and forearms with water from the miraculous spring poured by hospitality volunteers. By the grotto from which the spring originates, there are also 18 fountains from which pilgrims may drink or wash their face with the healing water—18 to represent the number of times Mary appeared there to St. Bernadette. Special taps are also available for pilgrims to take home a bottle of the water—just as my grandparents had done.
But there is more at Lourdes to bring about healing than the water. Every day the sanctuary offers Mass, adoration, the sacrament of reconciliation, the praying of the rosary—and the opportunity for as much private prayer as a pilgrim desires.
And every evening at 9 p.m. from March 25 through November 1, pilgrims can participate in a candlelit Marian procession—a tradition begun in 1863. Such a sight and sound to behold! Thousands of souls from around the globe processing through the site, reciting the rosary and singing Marian hymns—all illuminated by the magnified glow made from thousands of little flames. After participating in this procession one evening in 1983, St. John Paul II declared, “In this peaceful night we keep watch, we pray, no longer in the secret of our hearts, but as a great crowd on the move, following the risen Jesus Christ, each one lighting the way for the other.”
Many go to Lourdes in hopes of a specific cure. But let us not limit God! He cures as He knows best, whether that be physically, emotionally, spiritually or through relationships. As with any pilgrimage, the primary goal is to draw closer to God, to listen for His message specifically meant for you—whether it be as loud as a thunder clap or as soft as a whisper, and whether it happens during the pilgrimage or after.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!