After a difficult year for the shrine in which 95% of pilgrimages were canceled, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars, Lourdes has been working both to host sanitary and safe pilgrimages for the summer of 2021 while offering online resources.
From Feb. 11 to Feb. 12, Lourdes is hosting an online conference with 850 registered participants, mostly made up of pilgrimage directors, local hospitality leaders, and religious tourism professionals.
Lourdes has also published a 60-page health charter outlining its new health measures for the processions, use of Lourdes spring water, and other elements that typically make up a pilgrimage.
“The Word of God that we have just heard … invites us to look far ahead, to turn resolutely towards the Lord, to receive from him the true hope, the concrete hope,” Hérouard said in his homily.
“Yes, the Lord invites us to look beyond the difficulties of the present moment, to broaden our horizon, to open our hearts … It is about recognizing that our life is bigger, more beautiful, than what we know and understand, and that beyond the sufferings and difficulties that we may experience personally or collectively, we are in the hand of God, it is he who opens the future to us.”
The feast of Our Lady of Lourdes coincides with the World Day of the Sick, established by St. John Paul II in 1992.
Lourdes has been known as a sanctuary for the sick for more than a century. The shrine contains a spring through which miraculous healings have been documented.
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Feb. 11 marks the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to the young St. Bernadette Soubirous in the Grotto at Massabielle in 1858. Bernadette said: “I saw a lady dressed in white: she was wearing a white dress, and a white veil, a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot.”
The Virgin Mary went on to appear to Bernadette in Lourdes a total of 18 times. In the ninth apparition, on Feb. 25, 1858, Our Lady instructed Bernadette to “drink from the fountain and bathe in it.” The young girl began to scratch gravel off the ground and discovered a spring that still provides approximately 27,000 gallons of fresh water each week.
There have been more than 7,000 miraculous recoveries attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes at the shrine, fewer than 100 have been recognized by Lourdes officials, while others have been documented by bishops in local dioceses. An official miraculous recovery must generally be a complete, spontaneous, and immediate healing from a documented medical condition.
The latest official miracle attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes was declared in 2018.
In this year’s message for the World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis said that Christ’s death and resurrection gave full meaning to the experience of illness.
He wrote: “The Gospel frequently makes this clear by showing that Jesus heals not by magic but as the result of an encounter, an interpersonal relationship, in which God’s gift finds a response in the faith of those who accept it. As Jesus often repeats: ‘Your faith has saved you.’”