Lourdes Holy Water

Our Lady of Lourdes, the miracle of the spring water.


The miracles of Lourdes

Lourdes is especially known « as ground of miracles ». In France at first, then all over the world, the miracles widely contributed to the celebrity of this small become Pyrenean village one of the Sanctuaries the most famous marials to the world. In fact these miracles are only miracles of cure and, surprising paradox, the words of the Virgo to Bernadette never hint at the disease or at the cure! Nevertheless, from the Appearances, the extraordinary cures are a part of the chronicle of Lourdes. On February 25th, 1858, during the 9th Appearance (central place on 18), one month before the Virgo gives its name, onto its indications, Bernadette updates laboriously a source in the heart of the cave of Massabielle, by digging the ground with the fingers. It is in the contact of this water that, three days later, a first cure takes place, then the others in the days and the months which follow. We think at first of a healing virtue of the water of the Cave, but analyze them will reveal fast that it is nothing. More and more numerous cures will not moreover delay occurring except the contact with the water, whether it is during the eucharistic procession, during a mass, even in thousands of kilometres of the Sanctuary, with or without the participation of the water. We have difficulty in imagining the dimension of the phenomenon "cure" today. During a pilgrimage of some days how National, first pilgrimage organized for the patients from 1873, the number of patients adducing a cure affected what we can have at present on average in one year! It is necessary, for example, to read again the collection of the magazine The Pilgrim of 1877: on September 1st and during five weeks, it is going to dedicate its pages to the relation of 24 cures arisen during the National Pilgrimage of August 15th. Twenty four cures with which, besides, nobody will be recognized supernatural by the Church, even if the catholic press of time, in an evident concern of apologétique, makes hardly the detail between cure and miracle...

But I would like to end the history of Lourdes which is rather surprising: it is because, when the Appearances were recognized, the cures would have been able to dry up: now, just like the source, they are never going to dry up. It is surprising because it is rather frequent that in places of appearances mariales there are extraordinary phenomena at first to facilitate the difference but, later, there is necessarily less. Now, in Lourdes, the cures are going to continue, always so numerous until today, and it is what what makes the originality of Lourdes, - what we could call her charisma-.


The 1st cure is going to pass totally unnoticed, on one hand because it takes place at night, on the other hand, because the person who is going to benefit from it - you go to visit why - will tell its history only later. It was about a 38-year-old housewife, Catherine Latapie, living in a small village in 6 km of Lourdes, Loubajac, who had 4 had children, among whom two had died very young, and encircled with a 5th forward child. Catherine had fallen from a tree two years previously and had been made a dislocation of the right shoulder which had not been handled in time and which had thus provoked an irritation of the nerve which crosses spends, the ulnar nerve, there what provokes an ulnar paralysis. It is a very annoying paralysis because in shrinkage, definitive when she is installed: she could not thus use any more the arm, and you indeed think that it was a handicap very important for a woman in the campaign in this time. At night from Sunday till Monday, March 1st she wakes up and she has - as she is going to tell later - a " internal motion " we can say, who urges her to leave to the Cave of Massabielle. She does not hesitate, wakes her two children and leaves in the Cave, at night, on foot naturally. Arrived there, she is going to discover the source, which was still only a slender net of water, to put it the hand and at the time, she finds the complete usage of the hand and the arm. But she has no time to react because, at the same moment, she feels 1ères pains of the enfantement - that she knew well because she had already given birth 4 times - and she has only the time to return at her - still on foot - to put in the world a little boy whom she is going to call Jean-Baptist, who will become a priest: we know thus exactly the date, on Monday, March 1st, 1858, by this birth, registered in the registers of the Registry office of the village. And naturally, Catherine will have of what take charge in the days and the weeks which are going to follow and will think of telling his history only later. I find that it was all the same important to know that this 1st cure was at the origin of a new life.

Very for a long time, we are going to believe that the 1st cure of Lourdes it was that of Louis Bouriette - that one made a lot of noise because it is the man of Lourdes, very exteriorized, who is going to cry out loud and clear his cure; the history is known: 20 years previously, in a career, he had blown up some dynamite and had received the brightness in the eye, what had made him blind; come to the source pulled by sister, because he said to himself "non-believer", he is going to put of this water, muddy still, on the eyes, and is going to find the sight.

And then he is going to have a 3rd cure, dated - on July 6th - which also deserves to be told. It is about that of the small Justin Bouhort, been born 18 months previously, considered not viable for the medicine of time. His mother - As all the mothers - had made everything to maintain him alive and hearing about what had been supposed to be for Louis Bouriette decide - against the opinion of all its circle of acquaintances - to take him to the Cave. And there, she goes even farther: we had stopped to hold the water which became more and more plentiful and he had formed of the sorts of natural cisterns where Mrs Bouhort has the cap to plunge completely her child into this ice-cold water (she makes only 10 - 12 °). People all around were completely terrified saying himself « he is not going to go out of it alive! » And on the contrary, when stood out some water, he was maybe blue but in any cases he had found life and vigour, so much and so that he is going to live old in full shape appears: we have moreover photos of him in the canonization of Bernadette in Rome in 1933...

The first recognitions

Thus, these cures, really surprising and unexpected, you imagine well that they are going to ask question in the civil and religious authorities. Because following these, the others are going to take place and the others else... We even spoke « about epidemic of cures »! And Mgr. Laurence, the Bishop de Tarbes of time, from the end of the appearances, in the end of July, 1858, goes - very intelligently - set up a Medical Commission to begin to authenticate these assertions of cure. Medical commission which we know very well, steered by the Prof.. Vergez, teacher who has passed aggregation of Medicine Thermale of the faculty of Montpelier, which spent its summers in the region where there were many thermal springs. We asked him moreover if this source was not a thermal spring because you imagine well the mayor of time rubbed itself hands, saying himself: « here is the good source which is going to attract of the world! ». Well not! It had no property either thermale or medicinal. Thus: first surprise! At least, the Prof.. Vergez is going to convene all people who adduced cures, to receive them, to interrogate them and to examine them, to make successive reports to the Bishop; and, finally, January 18th, 1862, Mgr.. Laurence is going to recognize the Appearances of Lourdes in his famous Pastoral, less than 4 years after the beginning of the Appearances, what is very fast in the history of the mariales appearances. This Pastoral is going to base on one hand on Bernadette's testimony which was always of a light and a transparency extraordinary, - little just like this source-, but also, let us not forget it, on these cures arisen since and already authenticated by the medicine. And finally Mgr.. Laurence as representing some Magistery of the Roman Catholic Church is going to retain 7 cures, three about which I spoke to you and four others and be going to say: « These cures are miracles: I see the hand of God there ».

The medical supervision of the cures

The cure - I speak for the moment about the physical cure - is thus a fact, a phenomenon, which is visible, constatable, analyzable, specially by the medical profession. In front of the influx of the cures, the Bishop of time and his successors are thus going to continue to ask for the opinion of the specialists whom are the doctors to be able to be made a precise opinion on these assertions of cures. And so in 1883 the Office of the Medical Observations built up itself: institution of 120 years recognized all over the world for its seriousness and its rigour. This one always includes a permanent doctor, attached to the Sanctuary, which receives the declarations of the persons which esteem to have benefited from a favour of cure by the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes (all the words are important), but also all the professionals of health who wish to give their opinion onto such or such file, it is the tradition to the Medical Office.

The objective is going to be to confirm that there was indeed a real cure by an inquiry with the doctors who made the diagnosis of the disease with all the corresponding documents; we shall also look if this cure has no explanation of natural or medical order, if it is highly improbable.

We arrive there then at the only medical conclusion possible to say: " unexplained cure " in the current state of the medical science.

Recurring question: « then how much there was of cures in Lourdes? »... I know nothing about it: I can only speak to you about cures declared to the Medical Office. Since it exists - for 120 years - we have archives where one recorded all the declarations of cure: today we reach 7000 cures. And on 7000, the Church recognized at present only 66 miracles. Because it is indeed the Church which recognizes the miracles, not the doctors. We are only the intermediate stage, enter the word of the cured patient who recognizes in the event that he lived a meaning of spiritual order, and the word of the Church which will be that of the bishop of the diocese where lives the beneficiary.

Cure or miracle?

It is necessary to be aware that the word "miracle" is a booby-trapped word, especially used by the society which likes getting back the religious words to put them in their sauce, in particular in media! There are goalkeepers who are "crucified" because they lost the balloon; you have « big mass » humanitarian demonstrations, " economic miracle ", " medical miracle ", etc..... Then today, regrettably, the term "miracle" is led astray by its sensewhere we hold only the sensational side, the unexpected which arrives, the incredible which exists: it is what what makes the scoop, the front pages, the audimat! It is thus imperative to make the difference between cure and miracle.

In Lourdes, the miracles are miracles of cure, not the others, although the Virgo never said that there would be cures in Lourdes. Nevertheless there was from the beginning and there is always today! Less, it is necessary to recognize it, but also let us recognize that the medicine made more progress in 150 years than during all the rest of its history since Hippocrate! And God acts at first and above all by the human mediations, by the medicine and the doctors, the Church having never been set against the medical researches (as far as it respect the dignity of the man).

The miracle it is an interpretation which is given to this fact of cure. And who can give this interpretation at first? There is only a single person: the one who is profitable there (or its circle of acquaintances, if it is about a child or about an unconscious person). Somebody falls of the 2nd floor of a building without hurting: can we speak for it of a miracle? No! Not necessarily, it can be a stroke of luck or all that we want. It will be a miracle only if the person who fell said « I was specially protected by God ». There we can begin to envisage the event as a miracle. Thus the word of the beneficiary is fundamental. Moreover we shall consider and we shall study only the cases of the persons which come to declare themselves voluntarily, spontaneously, to the Medical Office. It is the first time and it is essential.

But, lastly, it will be the Church which will decide, because the miracle is religious and even more than religious, it is a "Christian" fact. The miracle is registered in the Christian tradition because it if origin in the miracles of the Christ who made numerous miracles, and in particular, numerous miracles of cures. Thus the only Roman Catholic Church which can say, in fine, if she considers good to recognize officially the miracle, to approve it in a sense.

The canonical inquiry Furthermore, the Church is careful on this subject and she is right of the being, especially today when, once again, we tend to stop only in the sensational side. So it put conditions so that a cure is recognized supernatural, what we call the criteria of Lambertini. Cardinal Lambertini, future pope Benoît XIV, had worked out these criteria in 18th century for the Congregation for the cause of the Saints.

And thus the Church asked Lourdes since 1908 - for the Fiftieth anniversary of the appearances - that we refer to Lourdes to the criteria of Lambertini, what we make since. You know that to beatify, then canonize a servant of God, already recognized respectable for its exemplary and evangelic life, is needed a miracle - generally is a miracle of cure - which takes place after its death recognized by the person profitable as being of for the intercession of that or the one that we want to beatify. The criteria of Lambertini are very logical and always remain true today. You go to see: they are really very restrictive conditions.

The 1st criterion, it is because the disease is grave, of unfavourable preview. We are not going to shout in the miracle for a button which is going to disappear down at the bows!

Secondly, the disease has to be known, it has to be listed by the medicine: we do not leave on the vagueness.

Thirdly, this disease have to be organic, lésionnelle, that is there are objective, biologic, radiological criteria, all which exists at present in medicine; what means that today still we shall not recognize cures of pathologies without objective precise criterion as the psychic, psychiatric, functional, nervous diseases etc. It does not mean that we cannot be cured of these diseases, but in the criteria of the Church, it will not be recognized as miracle in the current state of things.

Fourthly, there should not have of treatment which comes to interfere in the cure. There, you see that it is not simple when any disease receives treatment. It is about a work of medical difference mattering today.

The 5th criterion is very important, which is the moment of the cure itself: the cure must be sudden, sudden, immediate, we could say: immediate, without convalescence. It it never sees itself in medicine. It is a fundamental differential criterion.

After the cure, there are another two criteria: it is necessary whether it is not simply a regression of the symptoms but indeed a return of all the vital functions, and finally, whether it is not simply a forgiveness but indeed a cure, what wants to say something durable and of definitive.

They are thus criteria of exclusion and, after all, there is nothing surprising that on 7000 cures declared in 150 years to the Medical Office, only 66 were proclaimed supernatural by the Church. Moreover no Catholic is in the obligation to consider in the miracles of Lourdes, (I indeed say « about Lourdes » and not in the miracles of the Gospel).

Science and faith

The most important, the most differential criterion, it is the 5th criterion on which it is necessary to return because today we speak about many of " spontaneous forgiveness ". We know people who have serious illnesses, short-term fatal preview, which, in a surprising way, survive, that is they are always alive after 2 years, 3 years, while they were condemned by the medicine. It is a part of exceptions of the nature. You know that the medicine is not an exact science: it addresses individuals who always have particular reactions and we have exceptions of which we can make nothing; we put aside them, it is everything, it is insignificant. Whereas in the supernatural cure - divine - Because it is a question a lot of divine cure here, it is the person herself who knows it. She knows it very well. She can bury it and keep guard it for her, hide it, but she knows him it very well and she will not forget him it. Because there was for her really God's passage. It is not at first a cure of medical order. There is really something that we cannot forget, and who is really a founder in the existence of somebody but, once again, whom we can receive or refuse - it is the freedom of the children of God-. Thus it is a first time. There is something strong that the person knows that she lived; she can tell what she lived at this moment, what she felt - that they always tell in a identical way, whose exact date they can give. Finally, it is them who are going to give the meaning. And it is there where it becomes interesting bus by giving a sense to these cures this one becomes significant! You see as it is very important.

And it is here that is situated the report science-faith. The difference of such a fact has to be situated at two levels:

1) A scientific, medical level, where the doctor, as man of science and art, exercise its profession with all the possible rigour following its training and its experiment to validate, ratify, insure, a cure

2) A spiritual level, which is situated, he, in the order of the faith, whom the scientific exam cannot annex or darken, which takes into account the context in which the cure took place.

Indeed, a cure can be recognized as supernatural only if it fills simultaneously two conditions:

1) it escapes the usual laws known for the evolution of the disease in question;

2) it} brings the beneficiary and the witnesses to recognize a spiritual meaning in this event.

There are thus two hillsides to be considered in a report of cure:

1) The abnormal fact: it is the phenomenon cure itself, which is characterized in this that it is completely unexpected with regard to the usual medical forecasts;

2) The sign, which invites to consider in the God's special intervention through Our Lady of Lourdes (as for the cures of Lourdes).

In front of a surprising cure, it is indispensable to hold together these two approaches of the same reality: the abnormal fact and the sign, by distinguishing them but without separating them.

If we stay only in highly-rated scientific, we overturn into the scientism, the rationalism, which remains there to say: unexplained cure, statistical exception in the laws of nature... If we envisaged only highly-rated magnificent, it would still be graver, we would fall in the credulity and, soon, in the fidéisme and even the illuminisme!

The miracles of cure oblige us to hold together the science and the faith, in a permanent dialogue of how and why, from a fact which becomes the truth with part of the meaning which we can give him.

The deep sense of the miracles of cure

The visible supernatural cures remain exceptions. They are, we have just said it, signs. It is the definition of the miracle: a sign which God makes us through a strong and personal event. Signs, God in fact a lot; otherwise, how it would make to speak to us?! There is The Word, there is a Church, the Sacraments but it makes the other signs, only « we have ears and we do not hear, eyes and we do not see!... » Then It is from time to time obliged to make to us a little stronger signs to strike us, that we can or not receive because a sign, by definition, always addresses our freedom. Otherwise it is not any more a sign! If there is a sign which says "no smoking" there will be always some which will smoke: we are free... There are those who say « I I shall believe in the miracles when there will be an one-armed person who will leave with the two arms, there, I shall believe! » Damage, it is not any more a sign, it is the miracle which does not leave us free: it is not any more a miracle, because God leaves us always free, and in any miracle, there is mystery! It is Blaise Pascal who said « in the miracle there is enough light for those who indeed want to believe and enough darkness for those who do not want! » We have all wonder in front of a sign and to give an answer, and a personal answer, which opens. What also means that, as doctor, thus scientific, I shall not prove a miracle. If a miracle proved to itself, it would not be any more a miracle, because it would not be any more a sign... No, I look for all the elements which converge to bring me to this conviction that there is cure unexplained. After what, it is it believer who can speak and believe, in his conscience, that this cure is supernatural. And the one does not prevent the other one, on the contrary!

Certainly, it a majority of patients or handicapped persons who are not cured in their body, it is true... Nevertheless they leave by testifying: « I came for nothing, I received something. I leave more hardly with a bigger peace and I want to return because it allows me to assume better my disease, my handicap or my suffering. » Is not it very important? They leavewith the other one "lived", thanks to the climate of faith, listening, tenderness prégnant here by Marie's presence. On the other hand I believe that if there are still physical cures aujourd' hui-even if they are not very numerous - they are indispensable because they are the visible only ones and consequently them sign all other not visible cures which take place in Lourdes. And these those are uncountable! It is the cures of the heart, the cures of the soul, the cures of the sin that do in the Chapel of the Reconciliation without Lourdes. I believe that the permanent miracle of Lourdes takes place there: in the Chapel of the Reconciliation of Lourdes. The chaplains say it and repeat it. And then all the cures which we need in a difficult world, an aggressive world, a disturbing world, specially for the young people and even for the least young: Wounds which poison the existence, which surround us and can prevent us from advancing in the spiritual life. My conviction it is that Lourdes is a place of cure for all, today, in 21th century.

People who pray in the crowd in front of the Cave of the appearances, the patients in big number and at the right place, always accompanied by people equipped with wheelchairs, with women with headgear or with joyful and helpful young people. During the 48th international military Pilgrimage ( Pmi), we discovered a edge of life of the " big family " of Lourdes consisted of million persons come from different horizons. Why to drink some water of Lourdes, to wash himself there and to bathe there? Why to kiss embrace or to gettouch the cliff of the Cave? Why to offer a wax candle or to carry the light? Actually, the symbols of Lourdes are alive and meaning. " Go to drink to the source and to wash yourselves there ", here is for what the Virgo Marie asked to Bernadette Soubirous, on February 25th, 1858, during the 9th appearance (pénitentielles appearances). This invitation is sent to all those and all those who go to pilgrimage in Lourdes. Today, it is easy to answer this demand of the Virgo more that formerly, when the source of the Cave still turned in the middle of garbage and some mud. Contrary to what many people could think, the water of the source is not to be confused with some holy water. The spring water is a commonplace water, slightly calcareous, which is forwarded, as it was explained us, by a subterranean channeling to reserves which, themselves, feed water sources in the Cave. The popularity of the water of the Cave of Lourdes arose from miracles which it engendered. Indeed, the most frequent visible means which made miracles to Lourdes, it is the use of the water of the source, either in application, or in ingestion, or in bath. “ In the catholic faith, through the natural elements and the sacraments, it is always a God who cures, by the intercession of the Virgo Marie and the prayer of the Christians ”, lets know Sister Laurence, one of the numerous encadreuses of Pmi. The famous water of the source of Lourdes is thus a sign, not an idol, clarifies our adviser. Bernadette Soubirous said herself " we take the water as a medicine it needs to have the faith, it is necessary to pray: this water would have no virtue without the faith! ”. The water of Lourdes is the sign of another water: that of the baptism. “ Every time the gesture of the water is carried out, today, it is the person who finds a sense in its life. It is the heart which cleanses itself and releases itself ”, points out one been used by the pilgrimages of Lourdes. Pilgrims, tourists, children, teenagers, parents, grand parents, healthy persons, sick or handicaped persons, persons who look for God or for believers of various religions... The human variety which we were able to observe during the 48th Pmi in Lourdes exists, as it is said, almost since the previous history of this militaro-catholic assembling. Indeed, since about 150 years, notes a French-Italian pilgrim whom we approached, the crowds are for the meeting, coming from all the continents. Nevertheless, raises our interlocutor, the world success of Lourdes was not beforehand written at feet of Pyrenees, until young one dreamer, poor man and ignoramus, passes on messages of punishment which she did not still understand. Today, Kick out enjoys the reputation of " town of the miracles ". What strikes most the pilgrim of Lourdes, or especially the simple guest, it is patients' presence in sanctuaries. That would be Lourdes without them? They are everywhere and have everywhere the first place. On May 19th, 20th and 21st, 2006, it is dozens sick and handicaped thousand persons, stemming from different country, that leaned in the cliff of the appearances to find a sense in their physical or moral suffering. In spite of the sometimes unbearable spectacle of certain wounds or certain infirmities, we feel in Lourdes as in a haven of peace. The enjoyment, here is indeed the reality of what lives in the heart of many of these persons during their passage in Lourdes. In the collective imagination, Lourdes is the town of the miracles, that is the town of the supernatural cures. The first cures of Lourdes, we learnt, arose during the appearances of the Virgo to Bernadette Soubirous, from February 1st till July 16th, 1858. Since, patients come to the Cave, more and more numerous, and from more and more distant horizons. In the time, tells one Kicked out, the sight of the patients moved so profoundly certain persons as they proposed spontaneously their help. “ The group of these people and these women of willingness did not stop growing ”, it confides. Under our eyes, during the 48th Pmi, people of willingness returned services to the reception of the patients on the Esplanade of the Rosary, to the Cave, to the swimming pools. It is hospitable and hospitable which are pleasantly of use the pilgrimage to Lourdes. But the cure of bodies cannot however darken the cure of hearts. From then on, Lourdes is lived more than ever as a place of tenderness, sweetness and reconciliation of hearts.