February 16, 2012.
) Every February 11, thousands of pilgrims flock to Lourdes, France to the site where Bernadette Soubirous
saw 18 apparitions
of the Virgin Mary.
It occurred in this grotto, where today pilgrims from across the world gather to celebrate Mass, pray at the statue of the Virgin Mary, and pass through the cave, touching it's walls, just as Bernadette did 154 years ago. Fr. Caesar Atuire
CEO, Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi“Coming back to Lourdes on February 11, the anniversary of Our Lady to Bernadette is always an occasion to sort of remind ourselves that Mary is with us, and in times of difficulty she's even willing to suspend the laws of nature to help her children.”
The evening before the anniversary, a massive candlelight
vigil is held every year, with an illuminated statue of the Virgin Mary at the head of the procession. Pilgrim“I read about it, heard about, and with the story of Bernadette, I just had to be here to see it for myself.”Pilgrim“I came to regenerate myself spiritually and to feel the emotion from the Madonna that you don't feel at home. FLASH 40.59 I feel good, I'm with my family, it's a great feeling, and I'm at peace.”
These crowds also faced cold winds and temperatures below freezing to take part in the ceremony, though many seemed too caught up in the moment to mind the cold.Pilgrim“The cold? No, even the cold is one thing that the body can support. And there are many people who don't have the luck I have to be healthy enough to find their way here, so I'm lucky to be able to arrive on my own legs in a place like this.”
Many of these pilgrims come to renew their faith, others come to pray for cure to a disease. Lourdes has been the site of 67 recognized miracles
by the Catholic Church.
However, for every recognized miracle, there are thousands of other cases of people who say they feel better after drinking this mountain spring water.
The stories of the apparitions, the beautiful landscape, medieval castle and the sanctuary, make Lourdes one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the world, with at least 6 million visitors