Denver, Colo., Feb 10, 2013 / 06:09 am
On Feb. 11, the Catholic Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, recalling a series of 18 appearances that the Blessed Virgin Mary made to a 14-year-old French peasant girl, Saint Bernadette Soubirous.
The Marian apparitions began Feb. 11, 1858, ended July 16 that year and received the local bishop's approval after a four-year inquiry.
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 say their medical conditions have been cured through pilgrimage, prayer and the water flowing from a spring to which Bernadette was directed by the Blessed Virgin. Experts have verified 67 cases of miraculous healing at Lourdes since 1862.
St. Bernadette also has her own liturgical memorial, which occurs Feb. 18 in France and Canada and April 16 elsewhere. Born in January 1844, the future visionary was the first child of her parents Francois and Louise, who both worked in a mill run by Francois. Their family life was loving but difficult. Many of Bernadette's siblings died in childhood, and she developed asthma. Economic hardship and an injury suffered by her father cost them the mill in 1854.