I learnt the story of Mary of Lourdes during one of our story sessions from my mother during my childhood and the image was imprinted in my mind ever since. The world welcomed the image of Mary Lourdes on February 11th 1856. Mother Mary through these children is uniting all her children and under her protective mantle.
At a time when I knew Mary as the Holy Mother and Virgin Mother it was difficult to address her as Our Lady of Lourdes. My grandmother explained how the name came about after she appeared in different parts of the world. When she was appeared in Velankani she became Our Lady of Velankani and when she appeared in Carmel she was called the Our Lady of Carmel. When she appeared in Lourdes she became known as Mother of Lourdes. Even though she has so many names the fact that it is the same mother was taught me since my younger days. Mother Mary prays to her son Infant Jesus for each and every one of our intentions and this was something I had made a mental note of since my childhood days. So it was easy to understand how Mary obeyed the will of God and how she rushed to help Elizabeth. Are we able to empathize with the people who are suffering and lend a helping hand like Mother Mary?
But one person has been entrusted to bring this message to the world and that is the 14 year old Bernadette of Lourdes. She along with her sister and friend would often go to the forest in Massabielle to gather firewood. Bernadette saw a small maiden in white, with a golden rosary and blue belt fastened around her waist, and two golden roses at her feet. She was invited by Mary to recite the rosary and immediately after the rosary the vision disappeared. This goes on to prove that Bernadette was chosen as the ambassador of God to the whole world. Mother Mary desires each one of us to become the ambassadors of Christ.
The first apparition of Mother Mary in Lourdes was on 11 February, 1858. Mother Mary continued to appear for 18 times and during one of the apparitions to Bernadette she was told by Mother Mary, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This has been acknowledged by the then Pope Pious IX on 8th December 1854.
During her third appearance she promised to make Bernadette happy not in this life but next. One day Bernadette was asked to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found there. Although it was muddy initially the water cleared and this water was given to medical patients of all kinds, and many reports of miraculous cures followed. Even today the spring gives out almost 20000 gallons of water every day. People throng the Church in Lourdes in thousands everyday proclaiming that the miracles have not ended. Tens of thousands attend the rosary procession and the rally every day and they attain Jesus through Mother Mary.
Not all of us may get an opportunity to visit Lourdes or drink from the spring. But we can certainly pray the rosary every day in our families with complete devotion and drink from the spring that flows from the Holy Eucharist. On 11th February when we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes let us place all our intercession our lives in the hands of Mary our Mother and attain Jesus through her.
Fr Antony Parakkadavil