Lourdes, France (Monday, February 15, 2016, Gaudium Press) During three days, the Sanctuary of Lourdes celebrates the anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Bernadette which took place 158 years ago. The main event was the International Mass of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes celebrated on February 11 at 10 am.
The pilgrimage of Lourdes is founded on the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to a poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux. The first apparition occurred 11 February, 1858. There were eighteen in all; the last took place 16 July, of the same year. Bernadette often fell into an ecstasy.
The mysterious vision she saw in the hollow of the rock Massabielle was that of a young and beautiful lady. “Lovelier than I have ever seen” said the child. But the girl was the only one who saw the vision, although sometimes many stood there with her. Now and then the apparition spoke to the seer who also was the only one who heard the voice.
Thus, she one day told her to drink of a mysterious fountain, in the grotto itself, the existence of which was unknown, and of which there was no sign, but which immediately 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. It was only four years later, in 1862, that the bishop of the diocese declared the faithful “justified in believing the reality of the apparition”. 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. 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 11 February.
With information from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Catholic Encyclopedia