FIVE KEY LESSONS FOR THE LOURDES APPARITIONS
A most important dimension of the Apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous is the way in which their correlation to the liturgical days of that Year 1858 manifests the Church’s own Easter Catechesis. The Apparitions began with three preparatory visions: the Thursday before Ash Wednesday (Shrovetide), February 11th, “Forty Hours Sunday”, February 14th; and Thursday after Ash Wednesday, February 18th.
Then there followed 12 Apparitions occurring within the fortnight during which Our Lady asked Bernadette to visit her there at the Grotto. This fortnight encompassed the first two weeks in Lent. On the 9th Apparition, Thursday, February 25th, there occurred the revelation of the Lourdes underground spring, which began flowing steadily out of the side of the rock towards the River Gave. By the following day, Friday, February 26th, a day on which the Lady did not appear, the sign of the water from the rock was very evident to all.
Contrary to popular expectation, no great sign occurred at the end of the fortnight. It was on March 25th, however, the Feast of the Annunciation— “Lady Day”—and Thursday in Passiontide, that Bernadette received her 16th Apparition and the revelation of her mysterious visitor’s identity: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
The next to last Apparition, the 17th, was on Easter Wednesday, and the final one on July 16th, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Therefore, 17 out of the 18 Apparitions occurred during the time of the Church’s “sacred spring”.
Five Gospel Lessons on three days in particular help us to trace out the Easter Catechesis within the Lourdes Apparitions. These are Gospel Lessons according to the Roman Missal of those times. When a special Mass formula superseded the Lenten daily Mass, the Gospel for that Lenten Mass would be read after the priest’s final blessing as a “Last Gospel”, hence two Gospels for one day.
Ember Friday,1st Week in Lent (Feb. 26) St. John 19:31-37 (Christ’s wounded side, pierced by the lance, and there flowed out blood and water—the mystical symbol of the Easter Sacrament.)
St. John 5:1-5 (Christ heals a paralyzed man by the Pool of Bethesda—a figure of Baptism and forgiveness of sin.)
Lady Day, Thursday in Passion Week
St. Luke 1:26-38 (The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary—the dawn of salvation and the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception)
St. Luke 7:36-50 (The pardoning of the sinful woman by Christ in the house of the Pharisee— symbol of the soul redeemed by Christ.)