Blessed Memorial of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes/Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception – (11 February and 16 July of 1858) – Patron of the ill and infirm, protection from disease, France, 6 cities and a Diocese.
The memorial commemorates the eighteen (18) apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette Soubiroux that occurred between 11 February and 16 July of 1858 near the town of Lourdes in the Hautes-Pyrenees region of France. Though there would be other people with her, only Saint Bernadette could see the Lady.
During the 9th appearance, on 25 February, the Lady told Bernadette to drink from a spring that suddenly appeared in the grotto where the apparitions occurred. During the 12th appearance, on 1 March, a visitor washed her arm in water from the spring and some nerve damage in it was immediately cured. There is a tradition of miraculous cures at the grotto, or received by those who drink or are bathed in its waters. Bernadette later said that the water had no special properties but it helped focus the faithful who received the cures through faith and prayer.
During the 13th appearance, on 2 March, the Lady told Bernadette to tell local priests that they should build a chapel at the grotto and have processions to be made to it; the priests were understandably sceptical but due to the numbers of pilgrims coming to the area, construction of several churches was started within a few years.
During the 16th appearance, on 25 March, the Lady identified herself as “the Immaculate Conception”.
Due to the number of people gathering at the site and making treks to the area, on 8 June 1858, the mayor of Lourdes barricaded the grotto and stationed guards to prevent public access; visitors were fined for kneeling near the grotto or talking about it and Bernadette saw the last appearance of the Lady from outside the barricade. The grotto was re-opened to the public in October 1858 by order of Emperor Louis Napoleon III and the pilgrims have not stopped coming since.
• on 18 January 1862 Bishop Bertrand-Sévère Mascarou-Laurence, with the authorisation of Pope Pius IX, declared that the faithful are “justified in believing the reality of the apparition”
• national French pilgrimages to the site began in 1873
• the basilica of Notre-Dame de Lourdes was consecrated in 1876
• Blessed Pope Pius IX formally granted a canonical coronation to the statue of Our Lady in the courtyard of the basilica on 3 July 1876
• Church of the Rosary consecrated in 1901
• a special office and Mass were authorised by Pope Leo XIII
• observance of the feast extended to the whole Church by St Pope Pius X in 1907