That Our Blessed Mother was immaculately conceived — that she was born without the taint of original sin — was confirmed during apparitions at the southern end of France in the range of mountains known as the Pyrenees. We can’t be sure we know all the details, for the seer, St. Bernadette Soubirous, was an intensely private person. But we do know the main part of her experience occurred between February and July of 1858, when Mary appeared 18 times to her.
This was in a small cave or grotto along the River Gave at the city of Lourdes. Bernadette was out looking for firewood with her sister and a neighborhood friend when the apparitions occurred. She was a humble girl and hailed from a destitute family that was so poor it could not even afford a house but had to find quarters in a donated hovel that once had been the local cachot or jail. So cramped were the quarters that for a time Bernadette was sent to live with a family that employed her as a shepherdess.
Most of you know the story. It was there that she called herself the “Immaculate Conception,” confirming a new Church dogma.
“Pray for sinners,” said the Virgin to Bernadette, underlining the serious nature of life and how we must always watch over our own conduct, as well as help other people by praying for their conversion. We are people of God, and when one sinner—just a single sinner—is brought back to the fold, the entire universe is positively affected.
“Penitence,” Mary had also said at Lourdes, indicating how important it is for all of us to meditate on our faults and atone for them while we’re still on earth. “Penitence, penitence.”
This is so important for our nation right now: purity. It is purity that was the focus of apparitions to American seer Mildred Neuzil in Ohio, and purity that was the focus of fascinating apparitions in Ecuador.
The more we purify ourselves during life– the more we pray and sacrifice — the less time we will have to spend in Purgatory.
Sometimes God wills that we suffer in order to correct some aspect of our personality or in order for us to spiritually advance. Many times the struggle and sacrifice of ill health are part of God’s inscrutable, mysterious plan. Or such tribulation may be needed to purify us. These are things we will not know until the day of reckoning.
But what we know now and what we are celebrating since Saturday is the immaculate nature of Mary. This is what gives her such power. This is what allows her to shield us under her white veil! When one is pure, the devil has no claim to our territory.
At Lourdes, Mary is immaculate, and those who follow her are shielded from temptation. Those who follow her are cleansed. It’s no idle fact that during the apparitions Bernadette was transformed into radiant beauty. But to enjoy such light we must do our part in detaching from the things of this world. Mary wants us to divorce ourselves from materialism. She told Bernadette she could not promise happiness in this world, but only in the next.
Thus we contemplate the importance of always keeping in mind that earth is a passing place — a temporary place — and while we are here we are on testing ground, in exile. “Detach, detach, detach” was as much the message from Lourdes as “penitence, penitence, penitence.”
The purer you become — the closer to the Immaculate Mother — the farther you are from worldliness.
[resources: A Life of Blessings]