Feast day to honour the healing power of Our Lady of Lourdes

By Antony Lawes, 11 February 2024
A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes is seen in the grotto of the Sanctuary of Lourdes. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


The Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes on Sunday, 11 February, is a time for all in our Diocese to reflect on the power of prayer and faith in the act of healing. But for some, this day has an added importance.

Several of our parishes are named after Our Lady of Lourdes, and celebrate this special day, while other members of the Diocese have travelled on pilgrimage to Lourdes and been touched by the power of what happens there.

The feast day commemorates the first appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a 14-year-old French girl, Saint Bernadette Soubirous, near a grotto where she lived in the town of Lourdes, in 1858.

St Bernadette continued to receive appearances by the Virgin Mary over the following few months, and at one of these, she was told to drink from a muddy stream. Two days later, St Bernadette found that the stream was clear, and this was also noticed by a crowd who had begun to gather with her at the grotto. Soon people who had drunk from the stream began to report being healed of their illnesses.

One of the first cases of healing was recognised four years later as the first miracle at Lourdes; there have been 69 such miraculous healings since that time, and thousands of other pilgrims report being deeply changed by visiting the site.

So important is this day for healing that in 1992 Pope St John Paul II decreed the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes to also be the World Day of the Sick.

For Fr Henry Huu Duc Tran, the Parish Priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills, this feast day is a chance to reflect on his upbringing in Vietnam and to gather his parish together in prayer and festivities.

He remembers his parish in Vietnam had its own grotto where he and his family would go to pray.

“This grotto was also famous amongst both local parishioners and non-Catholics living in the area,” Fr Henry says.

“People flocked in to pray, and many prayers were answered there.”

He says the feast day is a time for his Seven Hills parish to bond “spiritually and festively”. They begin with the Eucharist in the morning and then follow with a lunch and live music, which celebrates the multicultural nature of the community.

This reminds everyone of “who we are as a faith family and to be proud of our identity as children of Our Lady of Lourdes, known for her generosity to grant healing to those who come to ask for help”, Fr Henry says.

“We are inspired to be a source of healing and peace to others no matter who and where we are.”

One of Fr Henry’s parishioners, Daniel La Guidara, has travelled to Lourdes with his family, and says while they felt “the healing nature of this most sacred of sanctuaries”, this opportunity to heal was also present in his own parish.

“Our parish might not emanate the same level of grandeur as Lourdes itself, but it provides us the opportunity to regularly come together to celebrate the healing and saving power of God, Jesus Christ and, just as importantly during the week of our patron saint, Mary the Mother of God,” he says.

James Camden, Head of the Mission Enhancement Team, was one of the leaders of the Diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2023, which also visited Lourdes.

He says taking the group to Lourdes before World Youth Day was intentional.

“When you see hundreds of teenage volunteers assisting wheelchairs into the shrine each night you can’t help but be inspired by the ‘hope’ that Our Lady and the healing waters bring to so many,” he says.

“But even more hopeful is the generosity and compassion shown by these teenagers giving up their time to be of service. We know now what a transformational experience this witness was to our Parramatta pilgrims.”

One of these pilgrims wrote of their experience at Lourdes, after they had returned from WYD23.

“When we were at Lourdes, I saw the large amount of sick and ailing people who had gathered to be healed. I was struck by the sheer strength of their faith and their willingness to completely put their trust in the intercession of Mary and in God. I was inspired by the way that the Church is so globally connected, to see people of different races, travelling such a far distance to be there. It inspired me to fully put my trust in God, and to stay confident in my faith.”

While another wrote:

“Heading towards the Grotto for the first time at Lourdes one of the young men in my group became emotional, he was overwhelmed with the connection he was having to the sacred place and remembering his grandmother who had said to him when he was very little that one day he would go to Lourdes. It was an honour to accompany him at that time. Upon reaching the Grotto, I had my own unexpected emotional response to the sacred. I’ve never quite been a Mary fan girl, until then. The following experiences of the Rosary during the pilgrimage has had a profound effect on me.”


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