Our Lady at Lourdes and Fatima: Two Great Apparitions and the Mystery of Their Secrets

At Fatima, the Virgin Mary warned the world of the alarming moral decadence into which it was falling. At Lourdes, we see the expression of Marian graces, through conversions and portentous healings, considered miraculous.

Newsroom (12/02/2022 14:30,Gaudium Press) Eight million pilgrims come – in normal times without a pandemic- to the Grotto of Massabielle, on the banks of the river Gave, in Lourdes of the Pyrenees region of France. They come with their illness, travelling from the most remote places, to where the “Lady dressed in white” appeared on 18 occasions to the rustic 14 year old peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous. It all began on 11 February 1858.

It was a marvellous force of attraction for people, and witnessed by incredible miracles. In order to remove doubts and to demonstrate the unfathomable compassion of Mary Most Holy, the Church set up a medical committee to examine the sick before they were bathed in the water of the healing spring. There have been more than six thousand cures which are unexplainable by medicine, and 64 real miracles which are considered indisputable.

“The miracle was crushing me”

At that time, an ungodly famous French writer secretly traveled to Lourdes, intent on collecting information for a book against the prodigies occurring there. Seeing his faith strengthened and his hope unbroken, on his return to Paris he said to his in-laws: “I fled because the miracle was crushing me”.

Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira made a lofty comment in the 1960s: “Lourdes grants the sick such conformity with suffering that there is no news of anyone who, being there and not being cured, has taken an attitude of rebellion. On the contrary, people return to their homes immensely resigned, satisfied that they were able to pay their visit to the famous grotto of miracles and contemplate Mary’s goodness to the other unfortunate ones who are not with them”.

Apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes and Fatima

Lourdes, alongside Fatima, occupies a position of greatness among the apparitions of the last two centuries. Both have a deep connection – they give us a presentiment of the promised Kingdom of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At Fatima, the Virgin warned the world of the alarming moral decadence into which it was entering. At Lourdes we see the expression of Marian graces, through conversions and portentous healings, to the point of being considered synonymous with miracles.

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They are not without a hint of mystery regarding “secrets” communicated by the ‘Lady in white’. At Fatima three secrets are known so far. At Lourdes, the seer received “three secrets”, plus the request to suffer for “a great sinner”, whom she does not identify.

In the 19th century, a new world of technology, money, and inventions were influencing the lives of men, creating chimeras that put aside the evangelical teachings.

One of Our Lady’s greatest victories against the devil

Dr. Plinio rightly affirmed that: “Lourdes is one of the most extraordinary manifestations of Our Lady’s struggle against the devil, since this apparition took place at the height of the persecutions and contempt moved by the anticlericalism of the nineteenth century to weaken the Church.”

It was the pontificate of Blessed Pius IX who – to combat this wave of supercilious atheism that was sweeping over hearts, – proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. The result of a special inspiration confirmed from Heaven by the apparitions of Lourdes, when Bernadette saw a vision of a Lady: “dressed in white, with a veil that was also white, a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot”.

A Lady of few words

If we turn back to those moments and go through the apparitions in the unique cave, we will find few words -at least revealed ones- that the Blessed Virgin transmitted, and the difficult moments that this simple peasant girl went through. A strong opposition attempted to end to this singular “adventure” of Bernadette.

Until the third apparition, the image was silent, with moments of prayer – the only thing Bernadette knew was the Rosary – and of silent contemplation. She began to communicate with Bernadette, not in French, but in the local dialect, Patois. She asked for prayers and sacrifices for sinners; She ordered the fountain to be dug with Bernadette’s own hands; and requested the young girl to “ask the priests to build a chapel. I want everyone to come in procession”. In the various apparitions the Blessed Virgin said, “I want many people to come here”, “ask God on the part of sinners! Penance, penance, penance!”

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The assistants did not see the “Lady”, but they felt Her presence and were moved by the ecstasies of the seer. The public influence increased and the commissioner of the area forbade the people from going to the Grotto. These were during times when atheism was putting pressure on popular piety, to discourage it.

A wealth of miracles

The people asked for proof, as they always do. The Lady indicated to Bernadette where to dig with her hands, to make a hole, from which a fountain would emerge. Bernadette drank from the spring, wetting her face too, and getting muddy. They all jeered, saying that she had gone mad. Oh, mysterious designs of God! The sensitive enthusiasm diminished and the spectators became disenchanted. It was the 25th of February.

There is the fountain of miracles at Lourdes, well known by humanity, and a symbol of the inexhaustible graces granted to all those who go there on pilgrimage. The water, analyzed by renowned chemists, is shown to be: clear, very pure, natural, without thermal properties, and no bacteria can survive in it. It has been proven: one after the other, patients of all types bathe in the pools of Lourdes and are not contaminated with anything.

Three weeks later, on 4 March, the “anonymous” messenger, at Bernadette’s insistence and at the request of the parish priest, revealed who She was: “I am the Immaculate Conception”, a title that was unknown to the men and women of the day.

The secrets of Lourdes

But the “mystery” of Lourdes is centred on the apparitions of 23, 24 and 25 February, in which “the Lady in white” communicated three secrets to Bernadette. On the 23rd, a secret was given that concerned Bernadette alone and that she could not reveal to anyone, and a prayer that Our Lady asked her to repeat, but that She did not want her to make public. On the 24th, She revealed a personal secret to Bernadette, and then disappeared. On the 25th, She said to the young seer: “My daughter, I want to entrust the last secret to you alone; like the other two, you will not reveal them to anyone in this world”.

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The last apparition, on 16 July, took place discreetly. It was at a distance, separated by the waters of the River Gave and the people who would not allow the commissary to approach the grotto.

At certain moments of young Bernadette’s painful agony, it was heard that she was offering it in reparation for the unknown “great sinner“. The assistant sister asked her about it and Bernadette answered by putting her finger to her mouth as a sign of silence.

Bernadette fulfilled her mission

As the years went by, her person diminished, and the cave, with its fountain and its miracles, came to the fore. Bernadette left Lourdes in 1866. She had fulfilled her mission. She accomplished, with great dedication, all the sufferings and obstacles put in her way by the devil during this stage. She entered religious life, saying, “I never imagined that I would suffer like this”, in the midst of the terrible trials she endured; and no one made her suffer more than some of the nuns in her community. When her body was exhumed in 1933, it remained incorrupt. It was believed that she was “an expiatory victim of her three secrets” and of the “Great Sinner”, whom she never revealed to anyone, according to the words of the historian Pierre Claudel in his book” The Mystery of Lourdes”.

By Father Fernando Gioia

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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