Feast celebrated February 11
In 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes in southern France, Our Lady appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl.
She revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception, asked that a chapel be built on the site of the vision, and told the girl to drink from a fountain in the grotto.
No fountain was to be seen, but when Bernadette dug at a spot designated by the apparition, a spring began to flow. The water from this still flowing spring has shown remarkable healing power, though it contains no curative property that science can identify.
The Virgin appeared 18 times to the little peasant who would latter become St. Bernardette, but the most important apparition was the 16th: On the evening on March 24th, Bernadette told her parents of the feeling she had that she was being called to the Grotto once more by an interior impulse - she intended to return there in the morning. It had been a long time since the Lady had visited her - more than two weeks! How long that night was - try as she might, the child was unable to sleep. As soon as the first light of dawn began to pierce the darkness of night, she rose and quickly dressed.
Bernadette arrived at the Grotto at five in the morning, with her blessed candle in her hand. Her parents were with her. Even before she reached the rock, she could see the wondrous light filling the niche, in which stood her beautiful Lady.
Bernadette herself describes the conversation and events which followed this moment - "Whilst I was praying, the thought of asking Her name came to my mind with such persistence that I could think of nothing else. I feared to be presumptuous in repeating a question She had always refused to answer and yet something compelled me to speak. At last, under an irresistible impulsion, the words fell from my mouth and I begged the Lady to tell me who She was.
"The Lady did as She had always done before; She bowed Her head and smiled but She did not reply.
"I cannot say why, but I felt myself bolder and asked Her again to graciously tell me Her name; however, She only smiled and bowed as before, still remaining silent.
"Then once more, for the third time, clasping my hands and confessing myself to be unworthy of the great favour I was asking of Her, I again made my request.
"The Lady was standing above the rose bush, in a position very similar to that shown on the Miraculous Medal. At my third request, Her face became very serious and She seemed to bow down in an attitude of humility. Then She joined Her hands and raised them to Her breast. She looked up to Heaven.
"Then slowly opening Her hands and leaning towards me, She said to me in a voice vibrating with emotion
'I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION'
"She smiled again, spoke no more, and disappeared smiling".
In 1862 Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.