Lourdes Pilgrimage

Lourdes 2008 Canton 034Lourdes: a History

On February 11, 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous (or Soubiroux) as she searched for firewood in the remote Grotto of Massabielle. More visions followed, for a total of 18, with the last occurring on July 16, 1858.

The Virgin Mary appeared as a young and beautiful lady (“lovelier than I have ever seen,” Bernadette said) and told the young girl to drink from a natural fountain in the grotto (previously undiscovered) and to tell the priests to build a chapel on the spot and make processions to the grotto.

Lourdes 2008 Canton 018It was only four years later, in 1862, that the bishop of the diocese declared the faithful “justified in believing the reality of the apparition” and a basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle by M. Peyramale, the parish priest.
A statue of the Madonna of Lourdes was erected at the site in 1864. In 1873 the great French pilgrimages to Lourdes were inaugurated. Three years later, the basilica was consecrated and the statue solemnly crowned.

Pope Leo XIII authorized a special office and a Mass in commemoration of the Lourdes apparitions and in 1907 Pius X extended the observance of this feast to the entire Church. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is now observed on February 11.

Bernadette Soubirous entered the Monastery of Nevers in 1866. She died there after a long period of illness in 1879. She was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933. Like many saints, her body has remained miraculously preserved.


Lourdes 2008 Canton 2 139The Pilgrimage, the Order of Malta, and Lourdes

The first International pilgrimage of the Order of Malta to the Sanctuary of Lourdes was held from 18 to 25 May 1958. In that year, 465 members of the Order followed 69 patients or maladies. The pilgrims were from seven countries.
Since then, the International Pilgrimage has grown to include about five thousand members of the Order accompanying and helping fifteen hundred patients from more than thirty countries.

Lourdes 2008 Canton 112The pilgrimage has a special significance for the Order of Malta, beyond what it means to be The Pilgrim Church for the rest of the church. The hospital in the eleventh century was the foundation of our Order in Jerusalem and was specifically designed to assist the pilgrims to the Holy Land. Later on, the protection of pilgrims contributed to the militarization of our Order in the twelfth century. The Order itself has been in a continuous pilgrimage, having to move out of Jerusalem to Rhodes, then to Malta, and now Rome.

Lourdes as our pilgrimage target will also have a special meaning. It is not only a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, but the special link of Lourdes to our patients or malades gives it a particular approach and attraction for the Knights and Ladies of the Order. In Lourdes, we have the opportunity, like no other place, to have the personal encounter with our sick and needy to which our spirituality and charisma direct us.