With gratitude Bernadette thanked her. When she was able, she relayed the answer to the parish priest who was truly moved. The feeling he had within all along that this was truly of God seemed confirmed. Only four years earlier the Church had promulgated the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with the words: "We define that the Blessed Virgin was preserved from every taint of original sin...from the first moment of her conception." An uneducated girl, Bernadette came to understand the meaning of the Lady's answer only later that evening which finally turned her joy into endless bounds. Yes, this Lady was the Mother of God.
Again on April 7, the Wednesday after Easter, Bernadette was pulled back to the grotto. She immediately fell into an ecstatic state. A medical doctor Dr. Dozous was on hand, determined to examine this state she was in, to prove that it was false...if he could. He couldn't for before he could get close enough to examine Bernadette, there was a loud cry from the huge crowd mulling around the area in anticipation. Bernadette knelt, holding the top of a candle placed upon the ground in front of her. Her wrists braced the candle, and her fingers were laced above the wick. Yet the flames licked up and into the girl's unprotected hands and fingers. But there was no look of pain on Bernadette's face; only the ecstasy of joy. When later Dr. Dozous examined Bernadette carefully, searching for burns, he discovered none!
The months of May and June that year were chaos for Lourdes a zealous people began to build a chapel to the Lady who had so graced their humble village through the even more humble peasant girl Bernadette. It wasn't until July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, that Bernadette felt compelled to return to the grotto. She waited until dark, but still several hundred people were awaiting her. Bernadette knelt down, holding a candle in her hands.
The girl began to pray the Rosary, and soon a smile of surprise lit up her entire countenance. Even though now she was much further from the grotto than she had been before, she later related: "It seemed to me that I was in the grotto, no more distant than the other times. I saw only the Holy Virgin."
No words were spoken, but through the interior knowledge mystically imparted, Bernadette realized this was her last vision of Our Lady. There had been eighteen visions in all. Because of the constant attention and clamoring of the crowds of locals as well as visitors from all over France and Europe, Bernadette moved to the Lourdes hospice and school run by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Nevers. There Bernadette lived and studied until, on April 4, 1864, at the age of 20, she made a firm decision to join the Sisters of Nevers near Paris. On July 4, 1866 she left her beloved Lourdes by train enroute for Paris.
Already a sizeable chapel stood at Massabielle. Bernadette's feelings about this last visit to the beloved grotto where our Heavenly Mother had graciously visited her were never made known. When Bernadette arrived at the convent on Sunday, July 8, 1866, she was asked for the first and last time to speak of the apparitions. All the nuns gathered to hear her. But the following day, Bernadette, now 22, began a life of silence, prayer and anonymity. She was given the name Sister Marie-Bernard and assigned to work among the sick. Her own health became even more precarious. So much so that she made her religious profession earlier than the others, taking her vows on October 25, 1866. Through the grace of God she survived death, but her health was a factor for the next 13 years. At the age of 29 she realized and struggled with the knowledge that she was of no practical use to the work of the community whatsoever; that's how sick she had become. In December 1878, Bernadette's health failed for the last time at the age of 34. Less than six months later, on April 16, 1879 this small woman who stood only 4' 8" tall, breathed her last. She died at Nevers never having returned to Lourdes.
To this day Bernadette's body lies in state in the convent chapel at Nevers...miraculously preserved! Holy Mother Church did not take long to consider the holiness of Bernadette. It was fittingly on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1933 that Pope Pius XI capped the Holy Year by canonizing Bernadette.
But confirmation by the Church of the apparitions of Lourdes as worthy of belief came much more quickly. On January 18, 1862, less than four years after the visions and while Bernadette was still a student at the School of Notre Dame de Nevers in Lourdes, the bishop of the Diocese of Tarbes released the letter commending devotion to Lourdes as a Marian site worthy of belief.
As each year passed, Lourdes was transformed. Bernadette would hardly have recognized the village or the grotto where she had first seen Our Lady. Today, 27,000 gallons of water are generated from the spring which started when Bernadette drank "mud." Every day 350,000 people pass by the grotto. Five thousand healings have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes over the years, although Holy Mother Church officially recognizes only 64 of them. The chapel the Blessed Mother instructed Bernadette to have built, is now actually four chapels. The latest, the Church of St. Pius X, holds as many as 20,000 people and is built beneath the ground - the largest underground church in the world. Incidentally, it was Pope Saint Pius X who decreed in 1907 that the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes would be celebrated every February 11th for the universal Church. It had first been established as a local feast in Southern France in 1891 with the approval of Pope Leo XIII. It was during his regime that the Church of Notre Dame and the Church of the Rosary were finished, built into the rock of Massabiele, very near the grotto. But the only chapel Bernadette ever saw was the first, built into the rock. Even in her own lifetime, this small chapel could not contain the many pilgrims who came to pay homage to the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, who graciously invited an uneducated poor girl to come and pray with her, that Our Lady might intercede for all who would believe!
Today Lourdes is one of the most loved apparition sites in the world. Over six million people make pilgrimages to this holy place annually. There are medical centers and a hospital there which staffs a worldwide organization of professionals volunteering their time and expertise to serve as stretcher-bearers and wheelchair attendants so that the sick, crippled, handicapped and infirm can access the healing waters originating from the miraculous spring. There have been thousand of physical cures there and countless spiritual cures that can never be accounted for until we all reach Heaven. Here on earth the story of Bernadette has been captured in the novel "Bernadette" by Franz Werfel and beautifully depicted in the Hollywood production "Song of Bernadette". Here in the United States there are many shrines to Our Lady of Lourdes, the most authentic replicas of the famous grotto is on the campus of the University of Notre Dame and at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, Illinois where the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, devoted to the Immaculate Conception, conduct a candlelight Rosary nightly during the summers. There are also Lourdes Shrines in Emmitsburg, Maryland; Dayton, Ohio; Detroit; Litchfield, Connecticutt; and San Antonio, Texas.
At the original shrine there is a daily candlelight procession where thousands upon thousands from all over the world join in offering their prayers for the intentions of the Blessed Mother. Truly Lourdes has played a vital role in this modern Age of Marian Apparitions - not necessarily for the conversion messages imparted as Our Lady conveyed at La Salette, Fatima and even today at Medjugorje and other ongoing apparitions - but more for the confirmation of Church Doctrine - her Divine Son's True Church on earth and the miraculous healing power of God through the waters from the spring near the Grotto. Pope John Paul II has made more than one pilgrimage to Lourdes, so totally devoted to Our Lady.
I solemnly tell you that my little ones shall be gravely persecuted now, particularly by many who wear the garments of my Divine Son's priests and by numerous of those consecrated to my Divine Son. Oh! How I weep because satan causes such disunity and sweeps so many of my children into the abyss. Oh! do not, my little ones, let down your guard, for the voices of those who profess my Son shall be raised against you and if you do not pray you shall be swept into the darkness of the apostasy!
How the spiritual darkness has flooded the world. How lazy man has become, till my Divine Son is pushed aside. Oh! You would do well to pray ceaselessly lest the Justice which comes from God's Mercy shall catch you unprepared.
Therefore, I solemnly tell you that if you return to my Divine Son, if you convert your heart and live a just and upright life you must not fear the Justice which is already in place. Rather, you shall then understand that such Divine Justice comes from and compliments Divine Mercy, which will leave no trace of evil upon the world.
Pray! Pray! Pray! I invite you to convert your heart now and come beneath my Immaculate Mantle. How I love you. I bless you. I long to bring you to my Son. Thank you for responding to my Call!
For all who scoff; who deny God's Infinite Power, I solemnly tell you that soon shall come that great miracle and sign which shall be for all the world that visible mark of God which shall be proof of my presence and my words.
I invite all my children to be gathered now beneath my Immaculate Mantle. I urge and beseech you to convert your hearts now and allow me to lead you to my Divine Son. I ask you to become living prayers, filled with love for my Son, who is Merciful Love. I ask you to open your hearts to hear me, to be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit that your minds might be opened and enlightened.
O! I tell you that satan's plans are furious and he brings them to completion because my little children do not believe, do not work at loving my Son. They want only earthly, worldly pleasure and do not give any effort to faith, which is God's gift to men.
Therefore, revive your faith and allow love to blossom in your hearts. I will help you. I am your Mother. Pray! Pray! Pray! Time is urgent. I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!
As winter approached, war engulfed their nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, the elderly man received a telegram that his beloved son was missing in action.
The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season-a season that he and his son had so looked forward to in the past, would visit his house no longer.
On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. He opened the door and was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. The soldier introduced himself to the old man by saying," I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you. "As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man's son had told everyone of his- and his father's- love of fine art work. " I'm also an artist, " said the soldier, "and I want to give you this." As the old man began to unwrap the package, paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man's son. Though the world would never consider it a work of genius, the painting featured the young man's face in striking detail.
Overcome with emotion, the old man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the portrait above the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars worth of paintings. And then the old man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.
During the days and weeks that followed, the man learned that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart. As the stories of his son's gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease his grief, as he realized that, although his son was no longer with him, the boy's life would live on because of those he had touched. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the priceless pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation, since, with the old man's passing, and his only son dead, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas day, the way he had received his greatest gift. The day finally arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world's most spectacular paintings. Dreams could be fulfilled this day; greatness could be achieved as some could say," I have the greatest collection."
The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum list...It was the painting of the old man's son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. "Who will open the bidding with $100?" he asked. Moments passed as no one spoke. From the back of the room came, "Who cares about that painting? It's just a picture of his son. Let's forget it and get on to the good ones." More voices echoed in agreement. "No, we have to sell this one first," replied the auctioneer. "Now who will take the son?"
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. "Will you take $10 for the painting? That's all I have. "Will anyone go higher?" called the auctioneer. After more silence he said, "Going once, going twice...Gone!" The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone shouted, "Now we can get on with it and bid on these treasures!"
The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced that the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Then someone spoke up and asked, "What do you mean it's over? We didn't come here for a portrait of some old man's son! What about all of these other paintings? There are millions of dollars worth of art work here. We demand an explanation!"
The auctioneer replied, "It's very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son...gets it all." Just as the art collectors discovered on that day... The message is still the same...the love of the Father....a Father whose son gave his life for others...And because of that Father's love...Whoever takes the Son gets it all!
Johann Guttenberg publishes the first bible. After this the proverbial barn door would be swung open and the age of reason did not reason well, leaving individual interpretation of the Bible that created diversity and division resulting in the Protestant Reformation.
Pope Leo XIII issues his fifth encyclical on Saints Cyril and Methodius entitled Grande munus.
Death of Saint Therese of Lisieux, also called the "Little Flower" and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus from Tuberculosis at the tender age of 24. For more on this saint, see TODAY'S LITURGY.
Pope Pius XII ushers his fifth encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Providentissimus Deus (November 18, 1893) on the Divine Spirit and promoting biblical studies.
Pope Paul VI convenes the 3rd Synod of Bishops in Vatican City.