Our Lady of Lourdes

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Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes is an apparition of the Virgin Mary who first appeared in Lourdes, France in 1858 to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous. She is frequently called upon for miraculous healing of disease and incurable afflictions. Since Our Lady of Lourdes identified herself as the Immaculate Conception, her feast day is December 8th.

In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous and her two sisters ventured out into the French countryside to gather wood. While crossing a stream near the Grotto of Massabielle, Bernadette heard two gusts of wind, but none of the trees around her swayed. She then saw an apparition of a young girl, her size, dressed all in white, with a blue sash, and yellow roses on her feet. Bernadette tried to keep her vision a secret, but her sister told her parents. After her parents interrogated them, they punished the girls with corporeal punishment for their story. Three days later Bernadette returned with her sisters and brought holy water to make sure the apparition was not evil. When the vision appeared, they sprinkled holy water at it, and it merely tilted its head in gratitude for the gesture. The lady told the girls to return to the grotto over the course of the next few weeks. On February 25th, Bernadette was instructed to drink from a fountain in the grotto. Seeing no fountain present, Bernadette began to dig in the ground. She dug until a spring of water emerged which ran muddy at first, then cleared. On March 25th, the apparition identified itself as the Immaculate Conception. On July 16, Bernadette visited the grotto for the last time. Facing nation-wide questions, the Church decided to start an investigating commission on November 17th, 1858. On the 18th of January 1860, the local bishop declared that the Virgin Mary did indeed appear to Bernadette Soubirous. Bernadette was canonized as a saint on the 8th of December 1933. The water of Lourdes is attributed with miraculous healing properties and millions of people travel to the grotto each year on sacred pilgrimages to collect this water for bathing and drinking.

Our Lady of Lourdes is depicted wearing an entirely white robe and mantle with a blue sash, standing in a stone grotto. The grotto usually includes the flowing spring of miraculous water at her feet. Around her head is a radiant halo with the words "Je suis l'immaculée conception" ("I am the immaculate conception."). Her images frequently include a young Bernadette kneeling before her apparition. In the African Diasporic religion religion of Voodoo, which has been syncretized with Catholic practices, including the veneration of Catholic Church saints, Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady Maria Dolorosa are associated with the lwa Erzuli Freda.

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