Miracle At Lourdes, France
St Bernadette Today
Unchanged Since Death 1879
On 18 April 1925, Bernadette's body was exhumed for the third and final time.
After 46 years, her body was still intact and uncorrupted.
Our Lady of Lourdes 128 years after death
You can see her body in the Church of Lourdes
A Life of Pain and Suffering Without Bitterness
Bernadette was to suffer poor health for the rest of her life ever since 1855, when her city of Lourdes was hit by an outbreak of cholera, and she was hit by the fever where 38 people died and hundreds more were affected
In 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared to her, she was just a fourteen-year-old peasant girl in Lourdes; a small town in the Pyrenees in the south of France.
*Bernadette Soubirous Our Lady of Lourdes
On Thursday, February 11, 1858, a poor, sickly, unlettered peasant girl of Lourdes, France went with her sister and another girl to fetch sticks. Bernadette Soubirous, age 14, who knew little of her catechism but was devoted to the will of God, experienced her first apparition of a lovely Lady at the Grotto of Massabielle.
See the Webcam
*Webcam Grotto of Massabielle
Upon seeing the Lady, who had a rosary draped over her right arm, Bernadette began praying the Rosary. Bernadette did not know who the Lady was at this time. This is Bernadette's description of the Lady at that first apparition ...
"While I was saying the Rosary, I was watching as hard as I could. She was wearing a white dress reaching down to her feet, of which only the toes appeared. The dress was gathered very high at the neck by a hem from which hung a white cord. A white veil covered her head and came down over her shoulders and arms almost to the bottom of her dress. On each foot I saw a yellow rose. The sash of the dress was blue, and hung down below her knees. The chain of the rosary was yellow; the beads white, big and widely spaced."
Thereafter commenced a series of apparitions of the Lady to Bernadette at the Grotto. There were eighteen in all; the last took place July 16, of the same year. Bernadette often fell into an ecstasy during these apparitions, as was witnessed by the hundreds who attended the later visions, though no one except Bernadette ever saw or heard the apparition.
One day, the Lady told the girl to drink of a mysterious fountain within the grotto itself, the existence of which was unknown, and of which there was no sign. But Bernadette scratched at the ground, and a spring immediately bubbled up and soon gushed forth. On another occasion the apparition bade Bernadette go and tell the priests she wished a chapel to be built on the spot and processions to be made to the grotto.
At first the clergy were incredulous. The priest said he would not believe it unless the apparition gave Bernadette her name. After another apparition, Bernadette reported that the Lady told her, "I am the Immaculate Conception". Though the girl was unfamiliar with the term, the Pope had declared the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary in 1854.
Word soon spread about the apparitions and more and more people accompanied Bernadette to the Grotto, but only Bernadette could see the Lady. At these apparitions the Lady told Bernadette to "Pray to God for sinners!" Bernadette, as instructed by the Lady, also kissed the ground several times to do penance for sinners. At one of the apparitions Bernadette, following instructions of the Lady, scratched at the muddy earth and began to drink and wash from an unknown stream. Only later was the stream discovered to have miraculous healing powers.
The village Curé had asked Bernadette to inquire of the Lady who she was. On March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, also known as Lady Day, the Lady told Bernadette her name. She said, "I am the Immaculate Conception." Only a few years ago the Holy Father, Pius IX, had declared ex cathedra as dogma of the Faith that the Blessed Virgin Mary had been conceived without the stain of original sin.
Four years after Bernadette's visions, in 1862, the bishop of the diocese declared the faithful "justified in believing the reality of the apparition" of Our Lady. A basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle by M. Peyramale, the parish priest. In 1873 the great "national" French pilgrimages were inaugurated. Three years later the basilica was consecrated and the statue solemnly crowned.
Bernadette died on 16th April 1879. Her body was buried in the small chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph, within the convent grounds.
In 1883 the foundation stone of another church was laid, as the first was no longer large enough. It was built at the foot of the basilica and was consecrated in 1901 and called the Church of the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII authorized a special office and a Mass, in commemoration of the apparition, and in 1907 Pius X extended the observance of this feast to the entire Church; it is now observed on February 11.
*Lourdes France Official Website
Millions of pilgrims venture every year to Lourdes. Miracles still flow from the miraculous waters of Lourdes. The message of Our Lady of Lourdes is about the healing Mercy of God. Lourdes is also about the need for prayer and penance.
St. Bernadette testified to this call of Our Lady of Lourdes by living the rest of her life in humble prayer and suffering in a convent in France.
The site has since become the greatest of all modern Christian shrines with more than five million pilgrims visiting each year, many of which are seeking cures from illnesses at a miraculous spring of water, that the Holy Virgin revealed in a grotto.
Details of the Exhumations
On September 22, 1909, Bernadettes body was exhumed, as part of the process leading to her eventual canonisation. Bishop Gauthey of Nevers, together with other Church representatives and officials, entered the convent Chapel and took an oath upon the Holy Bible to tell the truth. Bernadette appeared exactly as she had been on the day of her death.
The hollowed-out tomb was extremely humid - her habit was very damp, the rosary held in her hands was rusted and her crucifix had turned green. In her hands she held a Rosary, which was rusting, and a Crucifix, which was covered in verdigris. The body was completely intact.
There was no smell and no trace of corruption was seen on the little body in the coffin. Doctor Jourdan, the surgeon who was present for the exhumation, has left a written record in the Community archives describing what occurred -
"The coffin was opened in the presence of the Bishop of Nevers, the mayors of the town several canons and ourselves. We noticed no smell. The body was clothed in the habit of Bernadette's order. The habit was damp. Only the face, hands and forearms were uncovered."
"The head was tilted to the left. The face was dull white. The mouth was open slightly and it could be seen that the teeth were still in place. The hands, which were crossed upon the breast, were perfectly preserved, as were the nails. The hands still held a rusting Rosary. The veins on the forearms stood out."
After the identification, the Sisters washed the body and dressed it in a fresh habit. It was then placed in a new coffin lined with white silk, and lowered back into the tomb. The entire process was completed at half past five in the evening.
On 13 August 1913, Pope Pius X authorised the introduction of the Cause for Canonisation - Bernadette could now be given the title 'Venerable'. This meant that body had to be exhumed once again. This process was interrupted by the war, and the body was not re-exhumed until 3 April 1919. The process was the same as before - as were the results. The body remained intact.
On 18 November 1923, the Holy Father announced the authenticity of Bernadette's virtues - her beatification could now proceed.
Consequently, a third exhumation was needed. This time, relics were to be taken from the body - these would then be sent to Rome, to Lourdes and to Houses of the Sisters of Nevers throughout the world.
On 18 April 1925, the exhumation took place. Bernadette had been dead more than forty six years. Yet, her body remained uncorrupt. Doctor Talon, a surgeon, removed the relics. Three years later he wrote a report about this exhumation, for a medical journal. In it, he described his amazement at the perfect preservation of the skeleton and the muscles in particular, as well as the liver which - he stated - should have deteriorated entirely very soon after death. he concluded that "this did not seem to be a natural phenomenon". The body itself was perfectly preserved.
At this exhumation, it was noted that a small portion of the skin on the face had discolored slightly, due probably to the washing the body had received and its exposure to the organisms of the air. Consequently, it was decided to cover the face and hands with light wax masks. The firm of Pierre Imans in Paris was contacted, and they agreed to make the necessary masks.
Also, the Armand Catelan workshop in Lyons had been contacted and they would make a beautiful reliquary for the body of the deceased Sister.
By June of 1925, the Cateland workshop in Lyon had finished the gilt and crystal reliquary which was to be the final resting place of the saint; the light wax masks were placed on the face and hands and the body was placed in the shrine. The same month, Pope Pius XI beatified Bernadette - she could now be called "Blessed" and her remains could be publicly venerated
On 14 June 1925, Pope Pius XI declared Bernadette 'Blessed' - her relics could now be exposed for public veneration. But the reliquary was not yet ready. So the body was put in the small chapel dedicated to Saint Helen, which was then officially sealed.
On 18 July, the shrine was ready. The body of the Beata was clothed once more in a new habit and was then transferred to the shrine. The reliquary was made of silver, gilt and crystal. On it were depiction's of the Apparitions at Lourdes, and lilies - the symbol of Bernadette's purity. Crowning the reliquary were the initials 'N.D. de L.' Notre Dame de Lourdes, entwined around which was a Rosary. The Office of Virgins was sung by the assembled Sisters. The shrine was solemnly transferred to the main chapel of the convent on 3 August 1925.
In August, the shrine was ceremonially placed in the main chapel of the convent, and the long line of pilgrims began to visit the convent. In 1933 Bernadette was declared a Saint - appropriately, this took place on December 8th, feast of the Immaculate Conception
The Lady of Lourdes had kept the promise She made to Bernadette in 1858 - "I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next."
The warm, dry weather makes long walks in the grounds very pleasant. Its very easy to imagine Saint Bernadette herself walking here, especially as there have been few changes since that time. Behind the convent, at the end of an avenue of chestnut trees, is the tiny chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph.
This was one of Saint Bernadette's favorite places for quiet prayer, as she had a fond love of the Spouse of Mary. It was later to become her resting place during the forty-six years of her burial. It is very plain and simple, with a stained-glass window of Our Lady above the small altar. Inset into the wall is the tombstone from Saint Bernadette's original grave
At the bottom of the garden is the statue of Our Lady of the Waters, Saint Bernadette's favorite statue; "It has something of the beauty I saw" she used to say about it. It was placed here following the discovery of a spring nearby, hence the name.
Upstairs in the convent is the Saint Croix (Holy Cross) Infirmary. This is the room in which Saint Bernadette died in April 1879, having entered the "white chapel" of her sick-bed the previous December.
It is now a chapel proper, used by the Sisters themselves for quiet prayer. There is an inspirational atmosphere in this room, stemming from the knowledge that this is where the thirty-five year old sister spent the last months of her life before once more seeing the heavenly smile of her Beautiful Lady.
Bernadette's long periods of illness were never wasted on self-pity or bitterness - each became for her an opportunity of self-knowledge and personal and spiritual growth. For her, illness was not a burden but a special gift from her loving God, whose supreme gift was the Cross.
*Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette
*Our Lady of Lourdes
*Lourdes, France Photos
*Lourdes, France Photo Gallery
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