This year marks the 160th anniversary of when Bernadette Soubirous announced to fellow villagers in the French town of Lourdes that she was experiencing visions of the Mother of God. An understandably sceptical local community at first didn’t believe the girl who would go on to be known the world over as St Bernadette of Lourdes.
Today, Lourdes is one of the most prominent sites of pilgrimage across the world. Tens of thousands of Irish people go there every year to experience the transformative power of the shrine.
Lourdes is a place of miracles – many people who were suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses have reported that they were cured while there – and a place where people find consolation and the fortitude to keep going.
Perhaps, the true essence of Lourdes are the countless small miracles that happen there on a daily basis. Time and again one will meet people who come to Lourdes expecting a physical cure, and find instead peace and serenity.
One pilgrim reflected recently on his experience of knowing Lourdes to be a place where those who arrive fit and able are often those who leave the most transformed having experienced their need of God.
Lourdes is above all associated with the sick and the unwell – it’s for this reason that the Feastday of Our Lady of Lourdes is also World Day for Prayer for the Sick – a celebration that assures people experiencing illness that they are central to the concerns of the Christian community.