Lourdes: a place of prayer and healing
This week we would like to share another apparition story with you, one located in France.
Lourdes is a small town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees–a mountain range on the border of France and Spain. Prior to the 19th century the town was best known for its fortified medieval castle, the origins of which go back to Roman times.
In 1858 the site became famous for an apparition of the Blessed Mother, and since then it has become one of the most important pilgrimage destinations of the Catholic world. The Mother of God appeared to a fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, eighteen times between February and July 1858.
Today, Lourdes is home to a population of about 13,000, but it receives more than 5,000,000 pilgrims annually from all over the world. Most visit between the beginning of April and the end of October.
On February 11, 1858, Bernadette, her sister, and a friend were collecting dead wood on the banks of the Gave River, when suddenly she heard what sounded like a gust of a wind. Strangely, nothing moved except for a wild rose that was growing in the Grotto, but then the apparition began: “I saw a lady dressed in white, she wore a white dress, and equally white veils, a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot.” Bernadette made the sign of the cross and prayed the rosary. After she finished, the Lady disappeared.
The Lady Speaks
The second apparition took place just a few days later. Bernadette prayed the rosary again, and the Lady vanished without uttering a word. Then on February 18, during the third apparition, the mysterious woman in white finally spoke. When Bernadette asked her name, she responded: “It is not necessary.”
Afterwards, Bernadette came to the Grotto nearly every day. News about the unusual occurrences she witnessed spread so that more and more people came to the place with her. At the beginning of March, the crowd already consisted of eight thousand people.
The Lady Reveals Her Name
Many were coming to the place of the apparitions and Bernadette communicated the messages given to her by the lady, who asked for acts of penance and prayer by sinners. On March 2, she also asked the girl to tell the clergy that there would be processions at the site and that she desired that a chapel be built. Despite Bernadette’s words and the fact that the very first miracle was recorded on March 1, the parish priest of Lourdes, Fr. Peyramale, remained skeptical. He demanded two proofs: first, the name of the Lady, which had not yet been revealed; and second, to see a bush of wild roses bloom in the middle of winter. There were another two apparitions following his demands, but the priest was unmoved.
The Lady revealed who she was on March 25, saying, “Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou (I am the Immaculate Conception). Bernadette did not understand what this meant, so she ran to the priest, repeating what she heard from the Lady. The priest was troubled, as the young girl couldn’t have known this theological expression. In fact, it was only dogmatically defined by Pope Pius IX four years earlier.
The Final Apparition
After revealing her name, the Blessed Mother appeared two more times, on April 7 and July 16, the latter being the feast of the Mother of God of Mount Carmel. Bernadette described the last vision as follows: “I felt that I was in front of the Grotto, at the same distance as before, I saw only the Blessed Virgin, and she was more beautiful than ever!”
Since the apparitions began, an increasing number of people visited Lourdes to pray to the Blessed Mother and to drink the water from the source she showed the young Bernadette. More than 7,000 cases of unexplained cures have been recorded at Lourdes over the years, 70 of which have been deemed miraculous. The last recognized cure happened to Sister Bernadette Moriau in 2018.
Ukrainian Presence in Lourdes
In the late 1970s, the Bishop of Tarbes allowed Ukrainians to build a church, and in 1980 Cardinal Joseph Slipyj and Pope John Paul II blessed the project. Once it was agreed that the church would be built, Ukrainians from all over the world set out to help realize the project, and eventually the Ukrainian Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Lourdes was built in 1982. Fr. Vasyl Pryima raised funds for the church’s construction, and the donors represented the Ukrainian diaspora in Europe, North and South America, as well as Australia. The building itself was also a gift from Myroslav Nimtsiv, a Ukrainian architect from the United States.
Since 1980, Fr. Priyma was assisted by Fr. Pavlo Kohut, who organized volunteers for construction lasting two years. Fr. Kohut also invited from Poland Jerzy Novosielsky, professor of icon painting, to paint the church. The iconostasis was painted by Petro Kholodny, a prominent graphic artist from Ukraine.
The church was consecrated in 1982 in front of many pilgrims by His Eminence Archbishop Myroslav-Ivan Lubachivsky, with the participation of Monsignor Henri Donze, Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes.
By Kylyna Kurochka