3 Miracles and Gifts of Our Lady of Lourdes — Books, Ice Cream, and a Church for Disney World
Aside from the 70 cases that have passed rigorous scientific scrutiny, and the thousands of reported healings, Our Lady of Lourdes has continued to bring graces and miracles (both great and small) to her devoted children worldwide.
When Our Blessed Mother appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 in Lourdes, France, she left behind a miraculous spring. Only 70 healings are officially recognized by the Catholic Church, but more than 7,000 miraculous recoveries have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes at the shrine.
Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old miller's daughter, reported 18 apparitions from “a Lady” between Feb. 11 and July 16. After the first apparition, Bernadette told her mother that a “lady” spoke to her in the cave while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend.
During the 16th apparition on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, the “lady” revealed: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This title, based on a newly-defined dogma, was unknown to Bernadette, who had little education. It meant that the “lady” was claiming to be Mary, the Mother of God.
The previous month, before hundreds of onlookers, the lady told Bernadette to “drink of the spring.” Bernadette dug in the mud and drank murky water. A spring began to flow. In March, more than one thousand people were present during another apparition when Catherine Latapie, who had a dislocated her arm two years earlier, dipped it in spring and herparalyzed fingers regained complete movement.
The International Medical Association of Lourdes is an international panel of about 40 people from different medical specialties to investigate whether the cures reported can be explained medically. The healing must be complete, spontaneous and immediate, from a documented medical condition. This documentation verifies the Church’s approval of Lourdes as a place of miracles, but that does not mean they are the only miracles or answers to prayers. Even beyond the thousands reported to the Church are people who experienced answers to prayers. Here are three examples.
National Shrine rooted in Lourdes
The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida, is a church built for tourists who began flocking to Walt Disney World in 1971. It has seating for 2,000 people, with an overflow space for another 1,000. During Easter (in non-pandemic years) it’s typical for 36,000 people to attend 12 Masses.
It all began with Msgr. Joseph Harte’s prayer at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1979. “Please help me, Blessed Mother,” he pleaded. Msgr. Harte told the Register in a previous article about the shrine that he had been appointed “director of tourism” by Bishop Thomas Grady in 1975. There were so many Catholics coming to the vacation destination and nowhere to put them for Mass.
“I asked Our Lady to take care of everything, and did she ever!” Father Harte said. As tourism kept expanding, he imagined “a spiritual oasis” for the world. “It turned out even more beautiful than I originally envisioned,” he said. “It grew into a magnificent shrine. I give the Mother of God all the credit.”
Although the bishop had given his blessing for a shrine, there was no funding. But Catholics throughout the diocese contributed prayers, volunteer time and fundraising, and visitors became part of the shrine family, donating and receiving newsletter updates so that within seven years everything was paid for.
Healing at Lourdes Leads to Priesthood
A miraculous healing at Lourdes, getting hugged by Pope John Paul II, and meeting Mother Teresa, were all a part of Father Christy David Pathiala’s family vacation in 1989 when he was 7 and his brother 10. He is a priest from India serving temporarily in Bismarck, North Dakota.
The family had walked through town headed to the spring-fed baths to take their turn among pilgrims to be dipped into the miraculous spring. Father Christy spotted an ice-cream parlor and pulled on his mother’s sari. “Can I have ice cream?” he asked. It was a silly request. Ice cream could have sent him to the hospital.
As a very young child, Christy had a sudden seizure where he ended up in the intensive care unit, unconscious and unresponsive for 12 hours. He was not expected to survive and if he did, he would be abnormal or paralyzed. His parents prayed hard and suddenly the medicine started working. But after his recovery, sudden temperature changes — even just standing in front of a fan — would send him back to the hospital with a high fever needing to be packed in ice to bring it back down. Eating ice cream was not an option for him.
But in Lourdes this day, his mother told him: “If you have faith in our Lady, you can have ice cream.”
“I didn’t really understand what was happening,” he said, “but I thought, ‘I’m getting ice cream!’” When they got to the baths, just ahead of him was a lady with a severely disabled son in a wheelchair. After Christy came out of the water and stepped back outside, the lady with the disabled son walked over to him. “She handed me five francs and said, ‘Go have your ice cream.’” he said. “She gave my brother a coin too.” Father Christy said he later wondered if the woman was the Blessed Mother and if her son was Jesus.
His mother announced: “Even if he dies, we are buying him ice cream.” His mother kept those two coins and has them in a special pouch to this day. Christy did not get sick from the cold that day or ever again.
It was during that 1989 trip that Father Christy developed a close relationship with the Blessed Mother and felt the first glimmer that perhaps God was calling him to the priesthood. In 2010, he was ordained in India, where only 1.55% are Catholic — although in his home state of Keralite in Southern India, 19% are Christian and of those, 55% are Catholic.
Best-Selling Author Credits Our Lady
Anthony DeStefano believes the Blessed Mother is behind the success he’s had as a New York Times best-selling author. His relationship with her began with Our Lady of Lourdes. “Ever since I saw the movie The Song of Bernadette as a little boy, I’ve been fascinated by the story of Lourdes,” he explained to the Register.
Beginning in his teens and early twenties, DeStefano began praying to get just one book published. “I just wanted to be a published author,” he said. “For years, though, I couldn’t come up with any good ideas for books. But then I consecrated myself to Our Lady, after reading True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, and I couldn’t stop the ideas from coming.”
DeStefano has authored over 20 best-selling books with his newest being the children’s book, Our Lady's Picture Bookwhich he dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. It is a follow-up to Our Lady's Wardrobe. The new one highlights Mary's unique role in salvation history by explaining some of her most famous titles. Both books inspire children with beautiful images and an understanding that Mary always lead us to her Son Jesus Christ.
“I finally got to make a visit to Lourdes a few years ago, in the dead of winter, when all the hotels were closed and there were practically no tourists,” DeStefano said. “For three days, my wife and I got up early in the morning — around 5 a.m. — and in the dark made our way through the narrow, winding streets to the sanctuary area.
“Every morning we were able to go to the exact location where Bernadette first saw Our Lady. The spot is clearly marked. We would kneel there in the dark, holding a candle and saying our Rosary — just as Bernadette did— while looking up the whole time at the softly lit grotto and the white statue of Mary. It was a wonderful time, and to this day I feel Our Lady was taking special care of us.”
- Our Lady of Lourdes
- Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe
- Anthony DeStefano