Our Lady of Lourdes

Indulgence granted for 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance in Lourdes, France


by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

LA CYGNE — Just because you can’t drop everything and fly to France doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes — and receive the plenary indulgence granted for the occasion to boot.

On Dec. 5, 2007, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI would grant the faithful a plenary indulgence for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparition, which began on Feb. 11, 1858.

The center of attention, naturally enough, will be at the shrine built at the Grotto of Massabielle, where St. Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the apparition.

The archdiocese, however, will also mark the occasion at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in La Cygne, in Linn County. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann will celebrate an anniversary Mass at 11 a.m. on Feb. 2 at the parish. Confessions will be heard from 9 to 10 a.m., followed by a rosary at 10 a.m. There will be a spaghetti dinner in the parish hall following the Mass.

Don’t feel too bad if you didn’t know the anniversary was approaching. Father Jerry Arano-Ponce, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, plus parishes in Mound City and Osawatomie, didn’t know either.

“I started getting phone calls and e-mails from people who were asking what the parish was planning for the reception of the indulgences,” he said. “At that point, I was caught off guard.”

But not for long. Father Arano-Ponce promptly contacted the archbishop, who was pleased to make space in his calendar to go to La Cygne.

Bernadette Soubirous, just 14 at the time of the apparitions, came from an impoverished peasant family. On Feb. 11, 1858, she and two companions were gathering firewood by a river. When Bernadette went near the Grotto of Massabielle , she saw a rosebush that seemed to be moving around as if by the wind — only there was no wind at the time. Suddenly, a beautiful lady appeared from the grotto and proceeded to pray with her.

This happened 18 times.

During the course of her appearances, the lady told Bernadette to dig a hole, from which healing waters issued. The lady also asked her to tell the local pastor to build a chapel there.

Finally, the lady identified herself by saying, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

A simple peasant girl, Bernadette had received only a simple catechesis in the faith, said Father Arano-Ponce. It was therefore unlikely that she would have known that just four years earlier the pope had declared the Immaculate Conception to be official church doctrine.

Even those with no special devotion to Lourdes, said the La Cygne pastor, might benefit from making the short pilgrimage. The anniversary is a good time for Catholics to be strengthened by one of the “pillars” of the Catholic faith, which is a special love and veneration for Jesus’ mother, said Father Arano-Ponce.

It is also an opportunity for the faithful to benefit from the salutary effect of the indulgences.

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