So why is Lourdes a place of pilgrimage, why do people come here in so many numbers?
Who comes to Lourdes?
- Healthy people
- Sick or disabled people
- God seekers
- Believers from different religions
In the year 1858 Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, at the Grotto of Massabielle, during the time of the eighteen apparitions. You can still see her body at the sanctuary in Nevers, France.
“I saw a lady dressed in white, she wore a white dress, an equally white veil, a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot.”
This message can be heard as: God is love and he loves us as we are.
Apparitions of Lourdes got their official recognition in the year 1862, and then the first local pilgrimages got organized.
But Lourdes becomes much more international in the twentieth century. After the devastating World War 2, the world needs reconciliation, needs peace and needs unity.
And in Lourdes sanctuary, all are welcome, all the differences are overcome. Those that are linked with the color of the skin, language, culture, age, wealth, poverty, handicap, and disease. Everybody can seek comfort in peace in this special please of Divine Mercy.
There are different reasons why people come to Lourdes
Sick and Disabled Persons
Officially, 80 000 sick or disabled persons from all over the world come to Lourdes each year.
The first cures in Lourdes happened during the Apparitions. Almost immediately, sick persons started to come to the Grotto, more and more, and increasingly far.
But people do not come only to heal their bodies, but also their hearts. And their number is far greater.
On Thursday 25th February 1858, the Virgin Mary asked Bernadette “Go drink at the spring and wash yourself there.” This invitation is for all of us.
The water of Lourdes is not to be confused with holy Water. It’s normal water, slightly calcareous, comparable to any other water from similar springs. It has no thermal virtue or specific property.
It’s completely independent from the Gave de Pau. An underground pipe drives this water to the baths and the water points of the Grotto.
The water of Lourdes has become popular because of the miracles. 50 official miracles are apparently linked to the use of this water, no matter if it has been drunk or used as a bath. Men have created the fountains, the baths and the way of the water.
Bernadette, when a nun at Nevers, gave only a few drops of Lourdes water to the sick, and used to say: “It’s faith and prayer which save”. She knew that the Grotto water has no special properties and still less any “magic power” to heal disease.
If you just go and take a bath or swim without the faith, it will just be a pagan ritual and which has nothing to do with strong catholic faith or as we can say: “Jesus, I trust in you!”
More on how to get Lourdes water in our article.
Near the Grotto, millions of candles continuously burn since 19th February 1858. That day, Bernadette arrived at the Grotto with a blessed candle that kept burning in her hand until the end of the apparition.
Before she left, the Virgin Mary asked her to let the candle burn at the Grotto. The same day, a few people came to the Grotto to burn candles.
This tradition has never ceased. The candles offered by the pilgrims keep burning day and night. Burning a candle at the Grotto does not replace a prayer, but it’s a tangible sign supporting a secret demand, an offering or an acknowledgement.
Each year, 700 tons of candles burn for you and those who have not been able to come.
The volutes of smoke represent millions of intentions of prayers and wishes.
Many people touch the rock of the Grotto. Not because of a supposed magical energy. In fact, touching the rock represents the accolade of God, solid as a rock. This sign of the rock, in the Bible and in the Christian tradition, is particularly rich.
Back in history, grotto’s have always been used as natural shelters and they have struck human imagination. In Massabielle, such as in Bethlehem or Gethsemane, the rock of the grotto is a supernatural place.
Source and images:
- Lourdes sanctuary – www.lourdes-france.org/en