"I raised my head and looked towards the grotto. I saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her Rosary."
This was the way fourteen year old St. Bernadette described her first encounter with The Blessed Virgin Mary in a grotto on February 11th, 1858. She appeared to her again a few times in the days to follow, and after her third visit, she asked Bernadette to visit the grotto every day for the following two weeks. She experienced a total of eighteen apparitions and it wasn’t until the last apparition when Mary revealed herself to be the Immaculate Conception, that she came to know it was Our Lady herself that had been appearing to her.
Our Lady instructed Bernadette to drink from the stream and to wash herself there. Bernadette had no idea what stream she was referring to as there were none, but Our Lady pointed to the exact spot in the ground and Bernadette began to dig. Soon streams of water began to flow from it and the people that once ridiculed Bernadette began to experience miraculous healings from the water that flowed from the spring. To this day the spring still runs in the grotto and millions of people travel to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and bathe in the waters of the spring. Conversions and healings continue to happen today to those who make the pilgrimage.
Last summer Trey and I had the blessing of visiting Lourdes and experienced a newfound peace, consolation, and deeper devotion to Our Lady. In the midst of luscious green mountains, is nestled the stunning basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is built upon the grotto itself where she appeared to Bernadette. Along the rocky walls there have been several faucets that have been built to distribute the water to many visitors at a time. The water from the spring is safe to drink, and many people leave with bottles filled up to take back home.
We treated the few days we were there as a retreat, praying at the foot of the grotto for our personal intentions and all those of our friends and family, we recited the Rosary together in the basilica or along the river, we visited the Adoration chapel and spent time with Jesus in the Eucharist, and participated in the daily processions. It’s an overwhelming sense of joy and peace in the midst of a place where so many who are ill or disabled come to seek healing from the Lord through Our Lady’s intercession. Trey describes our visit to Lourdes as “visiting Heaven on Earth.” The very real and physical representation of people’s faith that you witness through their travels, their surrender as they bathe in the waters of the spring, the eucharistic and rosary processions, it all moves you to praise and glorify God.