This year marks the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France. On the occasion of the celebrations, Pope Benedict XVI has extended the opportunity for the faithful to receive a plenary or full indulgence.
According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant the faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.
"The forthcoming 150th anniversary of the day in which Mary Most Holy, revealing herself as the Immaculate Conception to Bernadette Soubirous, wished a shrine to be erected and venerated in the place known as 'Massabielle' in the town of Lourdes," the decree reads, "calls to mind the innumerable series of prodigies through which the supernatural life of souls and the health of bodies has drawn great advantage from the omnipotent goodness of God."
The faithful who venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary in the place 'upon which her feet trod,' draw nourishment from the Holy Sacraments, express the firm intention to lead future Christian lives of increasing faithfulness" are able to "achieve a vivid perception of the significance of the Church,” the prelates note.
The connection between Mary and the church is also evident in the events of Lourdes. In the year 1854 the Church declared that Mary was conceived without sin, which is known as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Only four years later, when the apparitions of Mary to St. Bernadette took place “Mary Most Holy showed herself to ... Bernadette Soubirous using the words of the dogmatic definition: 'I am the Immaculate Conception,’” the decree explains.
"In order to draw increased fruits of renewed sanctity from this holy anniversary," the decree explaisn, "the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decided to concede the gift of Plenary Indulgence" to the faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father), in the following ways:
The first way to obtain the indulgence is to visit the following places in Lourdes between December 8, 2007 and December 8, 2008, preferably in the order suggested: (1) the parish baptistery used for the Baptism of Bernadette, (2) the Soubirous family home, known as the 'cachot,' (3) the Grotto of Massabielle, (4) the chapel of the hospice where Bernadette received First Communion, and on each occasion they pause for an appropriate length of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, ... and the jubilee prayer or other Marian invocation."
If the faithful are not in Lourdes, but wish to receive the plenary indulgence, then during the week of the anniversary of the first apparition, which is the week of February 2, 2008 through February 11, 2008, and they must visit “in any church, grotto or decorous place, the blessed image of that same Virgin of Lourdes, solemnly exposed for public veneration, and before the image participate in a pious exercise of Marian devotion, or at least pause for an appropriate space of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, ... and the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
There is also a provision for those who are unable to fulfill the previous two ways of obtaining the indulgence. Those who "through sickness, old age or other legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain the Plenary Indulgence ... if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, on the days February 2 to 11, 2008, in their hearts they spiritually visit the above-mentioned places and recite those prayers, trustingly offering to God, through Mary, the sickness and discomforts of their lives."
For more information on Our Lady of Lourdes click here.