Lourdes, 1858

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for February 12, 2012)

 Apparition at Massabielle
An illustration of the Apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette Soubirous within the grotto of the massive rock, known by the people of Lourdes as the “Massabielle”, along the bank of the River Gave. Bernadette’s first apparition was on February 11th, 1858. She was to receive 17 more . The last one occurred on July 16th, 1858. Although the picture shows Our Lady as if visible to all, Bernadette alone saw her. The onlookers saw only Bernadette in her ecstasy.

On February 11th we celebrate the patronal feast-day of our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes. One hundred and fifty-four years ago a poor girl named Bernadette Soubirous from the town of Lourdes, France, claimed that she saw a mysterious young girl,
dressed in white, within the rocks of the Massabielle along the River Gave. The report caused a sensation and much controversy
among the Lourdais. In the course of successive apparitions, the mysterious visitor, seen only by Bernadette, revealed to the girl an underground spring by the rocks which began to flow copiously into the River Gave (the famous Lourdes spring). On March 25th, 1858, the visitor gave Bernadette her name: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” After careful investigation, the local Bishop eventually judged the testimony of Bernadette Soubirous as “worthy of belief”. The Church has incorporated a feast of the first apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes into her official liturgy.

One of the objections made to the first promoters of Lourdes was that these outside commentators were superimposing a
sentimentalized and idealized picture of life in the Pyrenees—as if Lourdes was a kind of idyllic, pristine mountain town, solid in its traditions and Christian values, uncontaminated by the currents of godless modernity. Such deliberately crafted sentimentalization, it is true, hardly does justice to the real-world suffering in which Bernadette and her impoverished family lived.

The region of the Upper Pyrenees was generally suffering from worsening economic and social conditions. In 1828, the French government tried to control access to the communal forestland, which covered a third of the mountains. Access to the communal forest, however, was crucial to the survival of the poor. Beginning in the early 1830s armed revolt spread throughout the countryside. It became known as the War of the Demoiselles. Pyrenean men dressed in white after the legendary fairy-spirits who were believed to inhabit the deep woods. They would carry out raids against the forest guards in an effort to recover their historic rights. This civil strife and the government’s attempts to suppress it lasted through the 1850s. By then the women and children carried on the fight by acts of civil disobedience, defiantly taking bundles of wood from the forests despite the penalties which included fines and imprisonment. This was the local world visited by Our Lady in 1858.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for February 12, 2012

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for the week of February 12, 2012

Bulletin: MaryImmaculate-2012-02-12.pdf

Front Cover: An illustration of the Apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette Soubirous within the grotto of the massive rock, known by the people of Lourdes as the “Massabielle”, along the bank of the River Gave.  Bernadette’s first apparition was on February 11th, 1858.  She was to receive 17 more.  The last one occurred on July 16th, 1858.  Although the picture shows Our Lady as if visible to all, Bernadette alone saw her.  The onlookers saw only Bernadette in her ecstasy.

Pastor’s Note: Lourdes, 1858


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Maria Regina Mundi

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for August 22, 2010)

In the summer of 1991 I was present among the 1 million pilgrims who had converged on the Polish city of Czestochowa for the celebration of World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II. The feast for the World Youth Day Mass with the Pope was the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, August 15th.

World Youth Day 1991

A most remarkable feature of that World Youth Day was that it was the first of these biennial events after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent implosion of the Communist dictatorships in the “iron-curtain” countries of central and eastern Europe, so there were youth delegations from all of these countries there in significant numbers, identified in the crowds by their national flags and their hand-made banners. I remember my surprise at finding myself next to two Soviet Russian girls in the throng of people greeting the Pope upon his arrival to the city, August 14th. They had very limited English and I had no Russian, but they knew enough to make themselves understood. Communism had done all it could (with massive violence) to stamp out religion, especially Christianity…and here the youth of the Communist societies had come to cheer the Pope, looking to the Gospel of Jesus and not to Marx and Lenin for their inspiration.

One of my most cherished memories is of the all-night vigil that was kept around the monastery of Jasna Gora. The night was overcast and slightly foggy, so it was difficult to see where you were going and exactly what were the surroundings. I remember marching in silence
with the procession of people trying to get closer to the shrine. It was between two and three in the morning of August the 15th.

The number of people who had come to Czestochowa had vastly exceeded both the authorities’ expectations as well as the city’s
capacity to hold them. The open space around the shrine, the roads leading to it, as well as the wooded park-space was jammed with people long before dawn. Yet, despite the crowd there was no disorder. Everything was quiet and hushed. Somewhere in the dark mist could be heard the singing of a Latin refrain:

    Maria regina mundi,
    Maria regina coeli,
    Tibi assumpta, tibi assumpta
    Vigilamus, vigilamus.

    (Mary Queen of the world,
    Mary Queen of heaven,
    To thee assumed, to thee assumed
    We keep vigil.)

Three days after the Pope’s triumphal visit to Czestochowa, the hard-line Communists within the Soviet military staged a coup d’état against the reformist leader Gorbachev, whom they placed under arrest. It looked as if all of the hopes for a peaceful, post-Cold War Europe had been misplaced. Tanks in the streets had shut down the popular aspirations for freedom from Communism as they had so many times before during the Cold War: Berlin, 1953, Hungary, 1956, Prague, 1968. But then, suddenly, the tables turned, the Communist hard-liners had to back down in the face of popular opposition, Gorbachev was released. The day that the coup d’état failed was August 22nd, 1991—the feast of the Queenship of Mary and the old feast of her Immaculate Heart.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

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