Our Blessed Mother appeared in a radiant light to St. Bernadette on Feb. 11, 1858. Most people know about the healing waters at Lourdes, but do you know what Our Lady said and how these messages can help you live more closely to Jesus each day, especially during Lent?
When I first heard about the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, I was captivated by the fact that she appeared to a poor girl and that millions of people now flock to Lourdes each year for healing. I thought it would be wonderful to travel there and bring my sick loved ones in hope of being healed by the spring waters. But as I’ve grown in my faith, I see the deeper meaning behind Lourdes: If we look to Our Lady, she is always a bright light that leads us to Jesus.
The healing spring leads many to travel to France in hopes of physical healing. More importantly, however, when they travel to Lourdes, they learn about the messages Mary gave to St. Bernadette. Although their physical ailments might not be cured, pilgrims are often led to a more profound conversion and inspired to live more closely united to Jesus.
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We can learn so much from Our Lady of Lourdes and the messages she gave to St. Bernadette. Let’s look at just a few of them and see how these timeless lessons can help us draw nearer to Jesus on the cross. By looking at what Mary did and how she told us to behave, we can strive more earnestly for holiness.
Be a light to others
Mary appeared in a dungy and darkly lit grotto. Our souls can be filthy, too, especially when we are not in the state of grace. We have so many opportunities to cleanse our souls and prepare for the resurrection of Our Lord. Lent is another opportunity to look deeper at ourselves and reflect on what God is asking us to change.
When Our Lady first appeared, she didn’t talk but rather made the sign of the cross. There is so much power in the sign of the cross. Yet, how often do we neglect to do this? Making the sign of the cross with reverence each morning can change our lives. By looking to the cross, our true sign of redemption and love, we can learn to unite our sufferings with Christ and carry our crosses more faithfully.
Mary said, “You will not be happy in this world, but in the next.” Let’s face it: we don’t really want to hear this. Our current culture is all about being happy right here, right now. Many people will do anything to be satisfied. But we know this world isn’t the end, and the bigger picture is the hope of being united to God for all eternity in heaven. Our lives constantly change, and we live with daily ups and downs. Sometimes we endure great trials: suffering, sadness and pain. Even though we might not “feel” happy, we are called to live these trials with the interior joy of knowing that God is the one who is in control.
“Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16). We need to be a light to those around us, no matter what is happening. As children of God, we are called to live cheerfully because of the hope given to us in Christ. We are called to faithfully live our vocation to the best of our ability and turn again to God each time we fall. Lent is a reminder of the joy that awaits us after our earthly time of reflection and sacrifice.
Follow the way of Jesus
Our Lady said, “Penance!” Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk 16:24). Penance can be difficult. Whether it’s inflicted on us through suffering or we choose a specific penance, it isn’t easy. We know that we are supposed to “offer it up,” but we are so weak at times.
On the other hand, it’s easy to want to take on many penances, but we should pray about what is best for our lives and our vocations. Simplicity is crucial. The simplest thing done to the best of our ability is better than the grandest thing that never gets finished. We also need to remember that it is only by God’s grace that we can do any good. We can begin by asking God in prayer what we ought to sacrifice.
Our Mother told Bernadette to “Pray for poor sinners.” Since we are all poor sinners, this might seem like the easiest of Mary’s messages. While it sounds uncomplicated, do we pray sincerely and passionately for those who have left the Faith? Do we pray for our enemies? During Lent, let’s build a habit of praying fervently for the conversion of souls, especially those we love who have pushed God away.
Just as we can be an intercessor for others, do we ask Mary to be our intercessor? Our Lady said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” She is full of grace, just as the angel told her on the day of the Incarnation. She is the pure vessel that carried Our Lord, and she can help to carry us during our lives. Let us ask Mary for her intercession to follow Christ this Lent and always.
Heal us, Lord
People go to Lourdes to be healed — in their minds, bodies or souls. We all want to be healed. Any affliction can wreak havoc on us. But the greatest healing we all need is to be converted and to grow in our faith. We need to look at our trials through a divine lens and see the bigger picture. We all look for miracles, but the true blessing is not relying on ourselves and instead placing our trust, confidence and hope in God. Lent is a great opportunity to turn back to God for healing by frequenting the sacraments, especially by going to confession in order to prepare our hearts and souls for Easter.
Our Lady inspires us to see beyond the moment. When the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette, she was gentle and compassionate. She was loving and kind to Bernadette while she gave her messages from heaven. During Lent and each day of our lives, we, too, can follow in the way of Our Lady. Let us live our vocations with joy, ask the Immaculate Conception to lead us, listen to her son, and offer penance and prayers for the conversion of others.
Questions for reflection
When I reflect on the messages of Lourdes today, I am inspired to look deeper at myself. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What do I need to do to prepare myself for the coming of Jesus?
- Is my soul clean, or is it time to go to confession?
- Do I need to be more reverent when I make the sign of the cross?
- Do I live joyfully, or am I always searching for something to make me “feel” happy?
- What kind of penances should I adopt each day?
- Who do I need to pray for?
Let’s place our intentions at the foot of the cross and ask our Blessed Mother to lead us to Jesus.