In 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times between February 11 and July 16 to young Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes. Born at the the mill of Boly (in the city of Lourdes) on January 7, 1844, the young visionary made her first communion on June 3, 1858, on the feast of Corpus Christi, shortly before the last apparition. She ardently desired to receive her First Holy Communion and was prepared by the Sisters of the Hospice of Lourdes.
Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical letter Le Pèlerinage de Lourdes (The Lourdes Pilgrimage), on July 2, 1957, explained how “Lourdes is the City where the Host has triumphed. Corpus Christi is perpetually celebrated there,” to quote Bishop Pierre-Marie Théas (Lourdes, Terre de Marie): “The fiftieth anniversary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin gave St. Pius X occasion to bear witness in a solemn document to the historic connection between this act of the Magisterium and the apparitions at Lourdes. ‘Pius IX,’ he wrote, ‘had hardly defined it to be of Catholic faith that Mary was from her very origin exempt from sin, when the Virgin herself began performing miracles at Lourdes’ (Encyclical Letter Ad Diem Ilium, February 2, 1904). Soon afterward he created the episcopal title of Lourdes, attached it to that of Tarbes, and signed the introduction of the cause for the beatification of Bernadette.
“It was especially reserved to this great Pope of the Eucharist to emphasize and promote the wonderful harmony existing at Lourdes between Eucharistic worship and Marian prayer. ‘Devotion to the Mother of God,’ he noted, ‘has led to a flowering at Lourdes of remarkable and ardent devotion to Christ our Lord’ (Letter of July 12, 1914). It could not have been otherwise. Everything about Mary directs us to her Son, our only Savior, in anticipation of whose merits she was immaculate and full of grace. Everything about Mary raises us to the praise of the adorable Trinity; and so it was that Bernadette, praying her rosary before the grotto, learned from the words and bearing of the Blessed Virgin how she should give glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
“We are pleased in this centenary year to adopt as Our home the homage rendered by St. Pius X: "The unique glory of the shrine of Lourdes lies in the fact that people are drawn there from everywhere by Mary to adore Jesus Christ in the august Sacrament, so that this shrine - at once a center of Marian devotion and a throne of the Eucharistic mystery - surpasses in glory, it seems, all others in the Catholic world” (Brief of April 25, 1911).