MYTH OR MIRACLE? This Easter 20,000 Pilgrims Will Descend on Lourdes. Now a Fascinating New Book Tells How a Young Girl's Visions Inspired the Most Famous of All Christian Shrines .

Daily Mail (London), April 3, 1999 | Go to article overview

MYTH OR MIRACLE? This Easter 20,000 Pilgrims Will Descend on Lourdes. Now a Fascinating New Book Tells How a Young Girl's Visions Inspired the Most Famous of All Christian Shrines .


Byline: ANNE DE COURCY

GET UP and walk,' commanded the voice as Jean-Pierre Bely, crippled by multiple sclerosis for 15 years, lay on his hospital bed in the small French town of Lourdes.

'A feeling of cold, getting stronger and stronger, invaded me. Then there was a sensation of heat, slight at first then difficult to bear,' the 63-year-old grandfather remembers.

Jean-Pierre felt a force pull him up from his sickbed, found his legs dangling over the edge and took his first steps for years.

'I stumbled, like a child learning to walk, but I felt stable on my legs .

. . I felt a marvellous liberating force. I was happy, euphoric,' he says.

He had not come to Lourdes, the most famous Christian shrine, expecting a cure.

Like hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, sick and healthy, who have travelled there from all over the world, he was seeking peace and solace.

But last month, after 12 years of investigation, Jean-Pierre's recovery from MS was recognised as a miracle by the Vatican - the first since 1976 and only the 66th in the history of Lourdes.

This weekend an Easter congregation of more than 20,000 will descend on the town for the start of the pilgrimage season.

Between now and October, more than five million people will bathe in the curative waters - and stories of miraculous healing will be told over and over.

But it is the story behind the making of the shrine that is truly extraordinary: a combination of political, economic, geographic and social factors that resulted in a vision seen by just one ignorant teenager inspiring millions.

In a new book, historian Ruth Harris reveals the motives, actions, beliefs and culture of the overlapping worlds of this corner of 19th-century France which formed the legend that is Lourdes.

AT THE heart of the legend is 14-year-old Bernadette Soub-irous, a peasant girl in poor health, and her 18 visions of 'a young girl in white,' in what became known as the Grotto of Lourdes.

What makes her story so astounding is that no one else - and hundreds were present during her later visions - saw anything and yet they believed.

To comprehend the full effect of these visions and why they were accepted as authentic, we must remember that apparitions were not unknown in France in this, the 'age of Mary'. The Mother of God represented hope, consolation, grace, pity, help and comfort and her porcelain image adorned the homes of rich and poor alike.

In 1830, a young nun, Catherine Laboure, had seen the Virgin in Paris - visions that heralded the special devotion of Catholics to Mary as the Immaculate Conception.

In 1842 Mary appeared to Alphonse Ratisbonne, a Jew from Alsace, who was instantly - and publicly - converted and became a priest. In 1846, a luminous Virgin predicted death and destruction when she appeared to two shepherd children at La Salette, an isolated Alpine commune.

Then, on February 11, 1858, came the first of the visions seen by the girl who became known as Bernadette of Lourdes.

Lourdes was a small market town of 4,000 people lying in the Hautes Pyrenees. It was cut off by geography, culture and, above all, language from the rest of France.

A few miles from the Spanish border, its people spoke a patois and couldn't easily understand their neighbours from the next valley. It was a world of its own, unchanged for 500 years, with a deeply Catholic population brought up on stories of miracles and pilgrimages. The community had little sense of being French, and disdain for the state manifested itself in lawbreaking on a grand scale.

The townsfolk were mostly peasants - shepherds, farmers, forestry workers, quarrymen and millers. Bernadette's father, Francois, a failed miller, had no regular employment but worked wherever he could. He was considered to be one of the lowest of the low. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

MYTH OR MIRACLE? This Easter 20,000 Pilgrims Will Descend on Lourdes. Now a Fascinating New Book Tells How a Young Girl's Visions Inspired the Most Famous of All Christian Shrines .
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.