Today marks the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and Day of the Sick, a story of a series of immaculate visions by St Bernadette who herself had suffered illness in her lifetime. Students from Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School and Loreto College students gathered for Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Prahran this morning to celebrate.
‘It was on this day that a young girl named Bernadette said she saw a lady who was standing in a little grotto holding Rosary beads for the very first time. This happened in a little town called Lourdes in the south of France in 1858,’ explained Fr Brendan Hayes during his homily.
He went on to explain how Bernadette Soubirous, a young girl from a poor family, had seen the vision of Our Lady 18 times. When she saw the Lady she was in the grotto, holding Rosary beads, wearing a white gown with a blue sash and had yellow roses at her feet, she asked her sister Toinette and friend Jeanne Abadie who she was with at the time to collect firewood to not tell anyone what she alone had seen. When her sister Toinette could not keep the secret, their mother forbade her from returning to the Grotto again.
‘Bernadette did go back. She wasn’t a disobedient child; she was just very drawn to the apparition of the Lady.’
According to Fr Brendan, the story of St Bernadette’s encounter with Our Lady correlates symbolically with the story of the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus turns water to wine, after Mother Mary points out that the wedding guests had nothing to drink.
‘Our Lady told Bernadette she should go and drink at the grotto and wash herself there. Seeing no water, Bernadette was confused. But Our Lady called her back and pointed at a spot just below the grotto to the left. Bernadette began digging with her hands and eating the herbs, she uncovered a puddle of muddy water.’
‘Bernadette obeyed Our Lady and carried on scratching the ground until she was able to drink some water.’
‘We know water is a sign of Baptism and we also know that water is a sign of Jesus,’ he said.
As Bernadette kept experiencing the visions, Fr Brendan also explained to the students how the parish priest in Lourdes at the time ‘thought this young girl might be telling the truth.’ And one day the priest asked Bernadette to ‘ask the lady who she is.’
‘So Bernadette did. And the Lady said I am the Immaculate Conception. What a strange thing to say! She could have said “I am Mary, Mother of Jesus.” But she said she was the Immaculate Conception. Because of Bernadette’s poor background and lack of education—in part owing to the fact that she had missed many days of schooling due to illness—she would not have been familiar with this particular description used for Mother Mary, which gave further proof to her miraculous experiences.
‘Let’s be grateful for the Blessed Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of Jesus and pray that she is close to us on this special day.’