On February 11, thousands of people commemorate the first apparition of Blessed Mary to Saint Bernadette. It is a celebration marking the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 28th World Day of the Sick, which is a day instituted by Saint John Paul II in 1992 and celebrated for the first time in Lourdes on February 11, 1993. This coincidence indicates that as we mark the apparition of Blessed Mary, it is also a remainder that we need to pray seeking the Divine Mother’s care and healing of the sick, the suffering and the oppressed.
On this day, the Catholic Church marks the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, reflecting on a series of 18 appearances that the Blessed Virgin Mary made to a 14-year-old French peasant girl, Saint Bernadette Soubirous.
February 11, 1858… an indelible date with holy impressions
The Marian apparitions, which began on February 11, 1858, ended July 16 that year. On this day, Bernadette went to gather firewood with her sister and a friend. As she approached a grotto near a river, she saw a light coming from a spot near a rosebush. The light surrounded a woman who wore a white dress and held a rosary. Seeing the lady in white make the sign of the Cross, Bernadette knelt, took out her own rosary, and began to pray. When she finished praying, the woman motioned for her to approach. But she remained still, and the vision disappeared.
Coming soon after the 1854 dogmatic definition of her Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Mary's appearances at Lourdes turned the town into a popular travel destination. Thousands of people had their medical conditions been cured through pilgrimage, prayer and the water flowing from a spring to which Bernadette was directed by the Blessed Virgin. There have been verified 69 cases of miraculous healing at Lourdes since 1862.
The Immaculate Conception told Bernadette that true happiness cannot be found externally, but only within intimate spirit. Honesty, accepting responsibility, goodness and generosity lead to happiness. Saint Bernadette said "I am happier on my bed of pain than a queen on her thrown. To obey is to love, suffering in silence for Christ is joy, to love sincerely is to give everything, above all suffering"
The World Day of the Sick coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes which serves as a reminder to believers to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses, to reflect on caring for those who are sick, as well as to those who provide care to them. With the world suffering from the pandemic, it is time to vehemently pray for the sick and implore Blessed Mary's intercession to heal them.
Our Lady of Lourdes,
You revealed your name to Bernadette
By simply saying “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
May we discover the joy of a forgiveness that never falters,
Instill in us the desire for a rediscovered innocence and a joyful holiness.
Help the blinded sinner.
You who gave birth to the Savior of the world,
Look tenderly on our beautiful but tragic world.
Open in us the path of hope,
Guide us to the One who is the Living Source,
Jesus, your Son, who teaches us to say Our Father.