The Sanctuary of Lourdes
In the Shrine of "Our Lady of Lourdes" the Madonna is celebrated in relation to one of the most venerated and well-known Marian apparitions. The episodes date back to 1858 in the French town of Lourdes, located in the Pyrenees; in this place, from February to July of that year, a farmer of the age of 14, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed to have seen for 18 times appear a "beautiful lady" inside a cave, near the suburb of Massabielle. According to what the young woman reported, the lady presented herself dressed entirely in white and with a blue belt around her waist.
In the grotto of Lourdes indicated by Bernadette a statue was dedicated to the Madonna in 1864 and over the years a sanctuary has developed around the statue. The pilgrimage to Lourdes is one of the most impressive movements of the faithful, so that more than 700 million people have visited this place since 1864 to today. During the first appearances, Bernadette and the "lady in white" are alone, but with the passing of the day the voice spreads and more and more people go near the cave to see these apparitions, very frequent especially at the beginning ( between February and March). Only at the end of March, the Lady unveils her identity, hitherto unknown: "Que soy was Immaculada Councepciou", using the words of the Gascon dialect, she says the only language spoken and known by Bernadette. "I am the Immaculate Conception", says the Lady in the presence of the thousands of faithful who came to see her. The Marian apparitions in that of Lourdes are considered "private revelations" by the Catholic Church and formal recognition took place in 1862, four years after the first appearance.
The Shrine of Lourdes today consists of three basilicas: the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the Basilica of "Our Lady of the Rosary" and the Basilica of St. Pius X, also known as the "underground" basilica and able to accommodate over 20 thousand faithful. Beyond the river, just in front of the cave, are the adoration chapel and the tent. The entire complex is the third sanctuary of the Christian religion in the world for the attendance of the faithful, behind the Vatican basilica of San Pietro and the Basilica of "Our Lady of Guadalupe".
Among the reasons that make the sanctuary of Lourdes one of the most frequented religious places there is the hope of benefiting from miraculous healings, since many times sick or sick faithful have regained their health after having made a pilgrimage to the Shrine. Until 2006 there were 68 cases of miraculous healing defined by the Church, the last of which occurred in 1965. Alongside the prayers to the Madonna, healing is invoked with the ritual that involves immersion in the pools that are they were made using the water from the spring, which was found near the grotto just by Bernadette on indication of the Madonna. From the same source comes the water of the fountains, which the faithful can drink, filling also cans and bottles in order to take it home. The first Pope to reach these places was John Paul II in the days of mid-August of 1983, who then returned there in the same period more than twenty years later, in 2004. He later visited the shrine also the successor of Pope Wojtyla, Benedict XVI, who went to Lourdes in September 2008.
The sacred celebrations of the Shrine include two processions every day: the Eucharistic one, during which the "Santissimo Sacramento" is carried in procession to the Basilica of Saint Pius X, where prayers to the Madonna of Lourdes and the Marian procession take place. The latter is also known as a torchlight procession and took place for the first time on 18 February 1858, the day in which the third apparition of the Immaculate Conception took place. On that date a group of people began to follow Bernadette with torches. During the Marian procession the rosary and other prayers to Mary in different languages are recited. This is the program of the summer season, while during the winter the initiatives are reduced, for obvious climatic reasons, in a remarkable way, with the exception of the day in which the anniversary of the first appearance is celebrated. to say on February 11th.
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