Lourdes, France

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Lourdes, France
Lourdes is known worldwide for the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, an important place of Catholic pilgrimage. Every year millions visit the Massabielle Cave, where in 1858 the Virgin Mary would have appeared to a woman who lived there. Pilgrims can drink or bathe in water that springs from a source in the cave.

The apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes began on February 11, 1858, when 14-year-old peasant Santa Bernadette Soubirous was questioned by her mother, who claimed to have seen a "lady" in Massabielle's cave, about a mile from the while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. The "lady" also appeared on other occasions to Santa Bernadette.

Pope Pius IX authorized the local bishop to allow the veneration of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes in 1862.

On February 11, 1858, Santa Bernadette Soubirous went with Sister Toinette and Jeanne Abadie to collect some firewood in order to sell it and buy bread. As she took off her shoes and socks to cross the water, near Massabielle's cave, she heard the sound of two gusts of wind, but the trees and bushes did not move. St. Bernadette saw a light in the cave and a girl, as small as she, dressed in white, with a blue belt tied around her waist with a rosary in her praying hands and yellow gold roses, one on each foot. Santa Bernadette tried to keep it a secret, but Toinette told her mother. For this reason she and her sister received corporal punishment for their history. Three days later Santa Bernadete returned to the cave with the other two girls.
On February 18, she was informed by the lady to return to the cave for a period of two weeks. You would have said, "I promise to make you happy not in this world, but in the next." After word spread, law enforcement and municipal authorities began to take interest. Santa Bernadette was forbidden by her parents and Police Commissioner Jacomet to go there again, but she went anyway. On February 24, the apparition called for prayer and penance for the conversion of sinners. The next day, the apparition invited Santa Bernadette to dig the ground and drink the spring water he found there. As word spread, this water was administered to patients of all kinds, and many miracle cures were reported. Seven of these cures were confirmed as devoid of any medical explanation by Professor Verges in 1860. The first person with a certified miracle was a woman whose right hand had been deformed as a result of an accident. The government banned the Grotto and issued tougher sanctions on anyone trying to get close to the off-limits area. In the process, Lourdes' apparitions became a national issue in France, resulting in the intervention of Emperor Napoleon III, with an order to reopen the cave on October 4, 1858. The Church decided to stay completely away from the controversy.

Santa Bernadette, knowing the locals well, was able to visit the cave at night, even when the government banned it. There, on March 25, the apparition told him, "I am the Immaculate Conception." On Easter Sunday, April 7, the doctor examined the young saint and observed that her hands were holding a lighted candle and yet had no burns. On July 16, Santa Bernadette last went to the Grotto and reported that "I had never seen her so beautiful before." Faced with national questions, the Church decided to establish a commission of inquiry on November 17, 1858. On January 18, 1860, the local bishop declared that: "The Virgin Mary did indeed appear to young Bernadette Soubirous." These events established the Marian cult of Lourdes, which, together with Fatima and Aparecida, is one of the most frequented Marian shrines in the world, to which 4 to 6 million pilgrims travel annually.
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