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5 fascinating facts about the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes

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On Feb. 11, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. In Lourdes, France, in 1858, thirteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous was collecting pieces of wood as part of her daily chores when she noticed a startling wind and rustling sound. The noise came from a nearby grotto. When Bernadette looked toward it, she saw it filled with a golden light, and a beautiful lady.

It was at this grotto that the Blessed Mother appeared to Bernadette 18 times and where millions of Catholic pilgrims visit the healing waters at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Records have been kept from the exchanges between Bernadette and our Blessed Mother. Here are five of the most fascinating facts about the apparitions that took place at the grotto:

1. The Paralyzation 

When Bernadette first saw the beautiful lady in the grotto during the first apparition, on Feb. 11, 1858, it is said that she immediately smiled at Bernadette and signaled to her to come closer, in the same way a mother motions to her child. Bernadette took out her rosary and knelt before the Lady, who also had a rosary on her right arm. When Bernadette tried to begin saying the rosary by making the sign of the cross, her arm was paralyzed. It was only after the Lady made the sign of the cross herself that Bernadette was able to do the same. The Lady remained silent as Bernadette prayed the rosary, but the beads of her rosary passed between her fingers.

2. The Secret Prayer

During the fifth apparition, which took place on Feb. 20, 1858, the Lady taught Bernadette a prayer, which she recited everyday for the rest of her life. However, she never revealed the prayer to anyone, but she did say she was told to always bring a blessed candle with her. This is why candles perpetually burn at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

3. The Lady shares her Name

At the sixteenth apparition, on March 25, 1858, the feast of the Annunciation, the Lady revealed her identity to Bernadette, calling herself the “Immaculate Conception.”

4. The Burn of Fire

Bernadette never forgot to bring a lighted candle to the grotto since she was told to do so by the Lady. During the seventeenth apparition, on April 7, 1858, Bernadette unconsciously placed one of her hands over the burning flame. Witnesses saw the flame burning through her fingers, and yet she was able to pray for fifteen minutes with the flame burning her hand. As she emerged from her prayer, she was unscathed and didn’t even notice cries of horror from the people in the crowd. Dr. Dozous, a well-known physician from Lourdes, took another lit candle, and without warning, placed the flame to her hand. Bernadette immediately cried out in pain.

5. The Miracle of Bernadette’s Body

After the apparitions ended, Bernadette went on to become a Sister of Charity. She died at age 34, on April 16, 1879. She was buried on the convent grounds in Nevers, France. Thirty years later, on Sept. 22, 1909, her body was exhumed and found completely intact. A second exhumation took place on April 3, 1919. The body was found in the exact same state as it had been ten years earlier. Bernadette was canonized a saint on Dec. 8, 1933 by Pope Pius XI.


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