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Why We Need Lourdes

February 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Diana von Glahn, Healing, Marriage, Mary, Pilgrimage

Why do we need Lourdes?

Of all of the Marian shrines in the world, Notre Dame de Lourdes in France is most associated with healing.


Bernadette Soubirous and the Lady

On February 11, 1858, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous went to Massabielle on the banks of the river and saw a lady dressed in white in a grotto. She saw her a few more times before the lady asked her to return every night for a fortnight, and Bernadette complied. One of the evenings, in front of almost 300 people, Bernadette began to dig in the ground like a dog. She pulled herbs out of the ground and ate them like a goat.

Later, she said that the lady had asked her to drink of the (nonexistent) spring and eat the bitter herbs she found growing out of the ground.

I always wonder, “Why is this happening? What's the point?”

Centuries later, more than million people visit Lourdes every year, seeking healing from the miraculous waters that bubble up from the hole that Bernadette dug. Of the approximately 7,000 unexplained cures reported from Lourdes, 69 have officially been recognized as miracles (read about them here). No one could have foreseen that. Except for Mary. (Read about the apparitions here or watch The Song of Bernadette.)

When someone asked Bernadette why she ate the bitter herbs, she said it was a penance for sinners.

Why is This Happening? What's the Point?

When people are sick or when their loved ones fall ill, they often ask the same question I asked of Bernadette's mysterious actions: “Why is this happening? What is the point?”

This weekend, God introduced a little suffering into my life, and to be honest, I asked those two questions.

Originally, this blog was supposed to be a virtual visit to Lourdes. I was going to tell you about this awesome Kickstarter project I'd launched last week, in the hopes of raising money to produce a series on the California Missions in time for the canonization of Bl. Junipero Serra.

Then, life took an unexpected turn. I spent this past weekend in the hospital with my husband.

Then I made a decision.

I explained it all in this video:

and this blog post.

Father Bartunek, in his introduction to the Anointing of the Sick retreat guide, reminds us that:

Sickness and death were not part of God’s original plan for the human family; they were consequences of original sin. And when the moment comes for us, or for those whom we love, we face a critical choice:

Will we allow illness and suffering to lead us to “anguish, self-absorption…despair, and revolt against God”? Or will we allow these moments to make us “more mature” so that we can “discern…what is not essential” and “turn toward that which is”? (cf. CCC 1501)

Vicki Burbach quotes from The Sinner's Guide:

The just, knowing that God is their Father and the Physician of their souls, submissively and generously accept as the cure for their infirmities the bitter chalice of suffering. They look on tribulation as a file in the hands of their Maker to remove the rust of sin from their souls, and to restore them to their original purity and brightness.  — The Sinner’s Guide (Chapter 21, Paragraph 1)

and this jewel from The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur:

Lord, be Thou blessed for my present suffering, because I dare to hope that it is the gentle answer of Thy Heart. I offer it all to Thee, all of it: sufferings of body, heart, and soul, all my privations, my interior desolation, my great spiritual solitude. Use these humble offerings for the intentions and substitutions Thou knowest, for souls, and for the Church. Accept a tithe of it in expiation of my sins and for the work of reparation that Thou does entrust to souls that are dearest to Thee. — The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 137-138 (The Journal: 1911-1914, July 16, 1913)

One of the readings from last week's In Conversation with God dealt with the co-redemptive value of pain and sickness. The great thing about the reading is that it explains how we can move past the “What is this happening?” part and get on toward making our suffering useful:

In order to benefit from this wealth of grace that reaches us in one way or another, we need a long-term preparation, by practicing daily a holy detachment from self, so that we are prepared to bear sickness or misfortune gracefully if Our Lord permits them. Begin now to make use of everyday opportunities such as foregoing cheerfully something you may have to do without, putting up uncomplainingly with small recurring pains, practicing little voluntary mortifications and putting into practice the Christian virtues. [St J. Escrivá, Friends of God, 124]

Fernandez, Francis (2011-12-04). In Conversation with God – Volume 3 Part 1: Weeks 1 – 6 in Ordinary Time (Kindle Locations 2950-2958). Scepter UK Ltd. Kindle Edition (bold emphasis mine).

Today, as Lent nears and my pilgrimage of life takes a sharp and unexpected turn, I'm going to do my best to incorporate this kind of endurance training in my spiritual life. It's not going to be easy. I think I'll start by reading and putting into practice Dan Burke's fantastic post on The 7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God

But before I go, let me get back to the question that started off this post: Why DO we need Lourdes?

We need Lourdes because it brings us hope. And when you're suffering, there's nothing better to lift your spirits.

We need Lourdes because, by going there and using its miraculous waters, we show God that we believe as the Leper said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”

We need Lourdes because, sometimes, God wills to heal our hearts, but not our bodies. When we turn to the Mother of God and ask for her prayers, we will grow in faith, hope, and love, and eventually grow in the ability to trust in the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.

We need Lourdes because, as this beautiful song puts so eloquently, “There is a reason for it all.” Even when we don't know what it is.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Art: Lourdes Basilica, Milorad Pavlek, 2005; all Wikimedia Commons. Other images and video: copyright The Faithful Traveler, LLC, all rights reserved, used with permission.

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About Diana von Glahn

Diana is the co-producer (along with husband, David), writer, editor, and host of The Faithful Traveler, a series on EWTN, which explores the art, architecture, history and doctrine behind Catholic churches, shrines and places of pilgrimage throughout the world. She is also the author of "The Mini Book of Saints". She blogs, posts updates to Facebook, uploads videos and photos to her website, and sells DVDs of both seasons of The Faithful Traveler.

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  • Habib Karam

    Thanks Diana. We are praying for you and David.
    St. Thomas Aquinas said “God allows evil only so as to make something better result from it”. Stay strong.

  • Maureen

    Hi Diana, Thanks for the video update. It was a tear-jerking emotional moment for me. I will keep you and David in constant prayer.
    I have to let you know that I read your blog last October about the miracle of the sun, and watched the Faithful Traveler’s doc about the Blue Army Shrine in Washington, NJ. What struck me most was that I lived in NJ for 10 years, and never got to visiting that Shrine. Living now in Toronto, I am doing all I can to get closer to the Blessed Mother- She is changing my life in ways I can’t comprehend or explain. Thanks to you and David, and with the Blessed Mother by my side, I am travelling with family and the Blue Army to Fatima next month, and of course- I am taking tips from the Faithful Traveller’s experience in Lisbon and Fatima.
    I will miss you a great deal!!!!
    Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to help your family or this Travel apostolate you started.
    Keeping you in prayers

  • M

    So sorry to hear about David’s illness, Diana. I’ll keep you both in my prayers.

  • Melinda

    Our lives and the lives of our loved ones can change in an instant, as I can attest. However, most importantly, Jesus never leaves us. He loves you. I lift you, your husband David and your entire family up in prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • LizEst

    David and you are in my prayers, Diana. May the Lord hold both of you in the palm of His hand.

  • I will pray for you too!

  • Jeanette

    I will pray a novena prayer to St. Philomena for you and David. God bless you for all that you and David have done for His people and, no doubt, will continue to do.

  • Lindia

    Praying for you and David as you take this turn in your lives. May the Lord wrap you in His peace.

  • MTG

    May God bless and keep you both and give you every grace needed in this time of tribulation. Be assured you are in the hands of Jesus, our divine physician.

  • Pingback: Twelve Things about Our Lady of Lourdes that Caught My Eye Today (Feb. 11, 2015) |

  • Sista T


  • Sista T

    The Mystery of Faith can be found in the Life, death and resurrection of Christ, The Holy Trinity. Through out The Mysteries starting at The Agony in The Garden, Jesus turns to God, trust in God, Man chooses his own way and opinion, and chooses to reject what he can not let go of, his own wants and desires. The Lord said, The one of looses his life will find it, and The one who holds on to it will loss it, The Broken heart can not bare the suffering because they don’t believe in the resurrection enough to see the truth, Love is greater than all things, and it replaces suffering with life eternal. Think of the Mysteries of the resurrection when you feel crushed and can bare no more, for forty days as many days as he suffered in the desert he witnessed to the dispiles his return, Look put your fingers in my wounds in my hands, Faith believes without seeing. Believe that love has overcome the grave, and we all suffer for a little while,It is your opportunity to love more, to trust more, to believe in God more, Give it to the one who gave all for all for the love of you, for not only did Jesus love us, suffered and died for us, but His mother has made to endure it with Him, to show you how, Pray, Prayer has saved my life, because it is heard. Believe

  • Sue Bee

    Don’t you mean February 11, 1858 – not 1862? Was’t Bernadette 14 years old, not 18? She’s been my Confirmation saint for over 44 years!

    • LizEst

      Thank you, Sue Bee. We apologize for our error and have made the correction. Obviously, Diana and David are going through a lot in their lives at this time. May I suggest, in the future, a personal note to either Dan, myself, or the author of the post, as a more compassionate way to alert us to an error like this? You can find an author’s email address right under their biographical information (next to their picture), when you click on “Mail”. Blessed Lent to you and your family.

      • I only JUST saw this! 🙂 Thank you Liz, for making the correction. Yeah, I had a lot on my mind when I wrote this. Apologies for the error.

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