On February 11th the little town of Lourdes, in the Haustes- Pyrenees, in south-western France, will start the celebrations of the centenary of St.
On February 11th the little town of Lourdes, in the Haustes- Pyrenees, in south-western France, will start the celebrations of the centenary of St. Bernadette's visions of the Virgin Mary which revealed to the world the healing shrine which is now visited annually by nearly 2,000,000 people.
It was on February 11th, 1858, that Bernadette Soubirous, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a miller, saw her first apparition of the Virgin in the grotto on the banks of the Gave. The portrait of the French peasant girl, whose name is now known throughout the world and who was canonised in 1933, hangs in a Lourdes Museum.
The body of Bernadette lies in a large glass casket, her head and hands, covered in wax, exposed to public view, in the Chapel of la Maison Mere des Soeurs de la Charite de Nevers, where she was taken after exhumation in 1909.
When Bernadette was twenty -two she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame at Nevers and she died, aged thirty-five, in 1879.
The Lourdes of a hundred years ago bears little resemblance to the busy pilgrim town of today with its hotels and pension, churches and hospitals and shop windows filled with objects de piete.
Lourdes is preparing to receive more visitors in its centenary year than ever before.
The real importance of Lourdes to suffering humanity is not the cures - and there have been several - but the evidence that certain of them offer of the existence of a Higher Power to which, if men and women are prepared to surrender in this modern, materialistic age, nothing is impossible.