Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11th. A Feast Day. So, let’s celebrate and have a feast for we have been given a great thing for confirming us in our Faith. Saint Bernadette asked who the Lady was when she met Her at the grotto at Lourdes and the reply was, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Saint Bernadette had not heard of the dogma declared by Pope Pius IX only a few years before and she didn’t understand this. However, when her priest and then the bishop heard that she was told this, they knew that this was not the imagination of a young child making this up. The story is much more than just that and many articles are available on the internet that explain the apparitions, the persecution of Saint Bernadette, the transformation of the town of Lourdes into the pilgrimage site it has become, the miraculous healings of dozens confirmed by the Church and the thousands of others claimed, and many other fascinating facts related to her and Our Lady. Of course, youtube has many videos in several languages that we can watch. One of my favorites is a movie called “The Song of Bernadette” which you can watch here; gather the family and enjoy. And here is another movie, “Bernadette Soubirous” in several parts and also very good.
Our Lady of Lourdes has been a part of my whole life. This is the name of my childhood parish, where I was baptized, made my First Holy Communion, where I was confirmed, where I went to grammar school and where I learned the Rosary from real nuns. I was given a medal for my First Communion which I still wear around my neck, with Saint Bernadette on one side and the image of her kneeling before Our Lady at the grotto on the reverse. Despite all of my wanderings over the 40 years since I was given that, I never lost it and I treasure it. I still do not know how I managed to not lose it since it has not always been on me and for many years I did not practice the Faith. It’s as if She never wanted me to forget Her no matter where I went and what I did, and truth be told, I never stood for anyone mocking Her, even when I was not a practicing Catholic, even when I thought I had no Faith.
I have also another special treasure that is very dear, which is my great grandmother’s Rosary beads that she brought back from Lourdes probably over a hundred years ago. My grandmother gave them to me many years ago and I use them once in a while because I don’t want anything to happen to them that would cause me to lose them.
As I have recounted elsewhere, I reverted to the Faith about a decade ago after many years. One night right after my instant reversion, I sat alone still stunned and in wonder at what happened, still incredulous that it happened to me, still perplexed how I was not too long ago an atheist and yet had become a believer, and why that would happen to someone like me, from nowhere. Not seeking, not wondering, not in dire straits, but it happened when I would have least expected and how I would have least expected. If I sat down to write a story about a man returning to Faith, it would not be as it happened to me. That night, I told myself that I had to pray. It may sound easy, but I had not prayed in decades. I didn’t know where to begin aside from the Lord’s Prayer. It came to me to pray a Hail Mary, and I did, the words slowly coming back to me. It also struck me to pray the Rosary. I then sought out the prayers and how to pray the Rosary, which I had forgotten. I didn’t have Rosary beads. I mentioned the next day to my wife that I needed to get Rosary beads. She reminded me that I had my great grandmother’s that she had put away for me. I used them then to pray the Rosary, holding those beads from Lourdes, with a small capsule in the back of the Crucifix that had contained water from the spring but had since dried up, and I had almost a sensation of being at Lourdes coupled with the flood of memories of my youth at my parish church of our Lady of Lourdes, praying the Rosary before the sculpture of the grotto scene behind the altar.
Today I honor Our Lady as Our Lady of Good Success and just learned that She told of Pope Pius IX declaring the dogma of Her Immaculate Conception 200 years before he did. It’s uncanny that She revealed Herself to Saint Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception. It’s all tied together for me, but so very difficult to explain in just words. Sometimes for us all, the Faith is like that, just too difficult to explain in mere words.
By the way, Saint Bernadette is also uncorrupted, her body still beautiful after more than a century after her death, and can be seen in the many photographs and videos available if you are not able to visit her yourself in France.
Have a wonderful and happy Feast Day!