France : Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11, 2008

Source: FSSPX News


One hundred and fifty years after the day of the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous, Mgr. Jacques Perrier, the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, celebrated a Mass in the meadow opposite the grotto of Massabielle. More than 50,000 pilgrims, from all over the world, as well as 25 bishops and 800 priests. “The message of Lourdes, is first and foremost a presence which gives us confidence and helps us to face difficulties”, said Mgr. Perrier. The torch-lit procession marked the day’s closing ceremony. The Italians were in the majority and the Italian television RAI broadcasted the ceremonies from Saturday February 9 onwards. “We had 15,000 booked to come but the final number was 35,000 altogether”, said Fr. Mario Biffi, chaplain of the sanctuaries at Lourdes and coordinator of Italian pilgrimages. “The French come rather on August 15 and are usually in the majority among the 6 million pilgrims we receive every year. This jubilee year we expect 8 million pilgrims! On February 11, the Italians were simply more numerous “, said the bishop of Lourdes.

In Rome, on the same day, one of Bernadette’s relics was carried in procession along the via della Conciliazione to St. Peter’s Basilica, escorted by around 15 Italian policemen on white horses. Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, recited the Angelus with the faithful. He spoke of “the ignorance” of the young seer and the humble origins of her family before inviting the pilgrims to “go to Mary” after the example of Bernadette. The faithful then sang the Ave Maria of Lourdes in front of the reliquary placed on the main altar of the basilica. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health, celebrated a Mass there at 4:00 pm. At 6:30pm the French Catholics living in Rome were able to follow a torch-lit  procession in the Vatican gardens to a reproduction of the Lourdes grotto  where Mass was celebrated by Mgr. Pierre-Etienne Pillot, rector of the national church Saint-Louis-des-Français.

On Sunday February 10, during the Angelus, Benedict XVI recalled that : “This year, the beginning of Lent providentially coincides with the 150th anniversary of the apparitions at Lourdes. Four years after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX, Mary appeared for the first time, on February 11 1858, to Saint Bernadette Soubirous, in the grotto of Massabielle. Other apparitions followed, accompanied by extraordinary events, and finally Our Blessed Lady took her leave of the young seer, revealing to her, in the local dialect : ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’ The message which Our Lady continues to spread at Lourdes is a reminder of the words which Jesus pronounced at the beginning of his public ministry and which we hear many times during these days of Lent : ‘Convert and believe the Gospel’, pray and do penance. Let us accept Mary’s invitation which echoes that of Christ and ask her to grant that we enter into Lent with faith, in order to live this time of grace with an interior joy and a generous commitment”. (Souces : Apic/