The Deception of Lourdes

There have been hundreds of purported appearances of Mary around the world over the centuries, but the Catholic church only officially recognizes a small number (16?). I would guess the two most famous alleged appearances were at Lourdes, France in 1858 and at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. There are VERY large shrines at both sites to accommodate the millions of pilgrims who visit each year. For the purpose of this post, let’s take a closer look at the alleged Lourdes apparition.

Fourteen-year-old, Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, the eldest daughter of a miller, claimed that a Marian apparition, which she named “Aquero” (translated “that which I am speaking of”), appeared to her eighteen times at the grotto of Massabiell (French-Bigorre dialect: ancient rock) between 11 February and 16 July 1858. The messages from the alleged apparition were simple, including the need for prayer and “penance.” As part of the sixteenth appearance, Aquero was alleged to have identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception.” Pope Pius IX had declared the immaculate conception of Mary as a dogma of the church only four years prior in 1854. When news of Bernadette’s allegations spread throughout the area, the local people were divided as to their authenticity, but some began to claim miraculous healings from the spring water at the grotto. The Catholic church launched an investigation and in 1862 ruled that the apparitions were authentic.

Bernadette joined a religious order, the Sisters of Charity, in 1866 and died in 1879 of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-five. Pope Pius XI canonized Bernadette as a saint in 1933. Her wax covered corpse, which is claimed to be “incorrupt,” is displayed at the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the mother house of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, France. The story of the alleged apparitions at Lourdes was actually made into a Hollywood film, “The Song of Bernadette” in 1943.

What to make of the Marian apparition at Lourdes and elsewhere? The purported entity never speaks of the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, but always admonishes the visionary/visionaries to double-down in their attempts to merit their salvation, with exhortations for more and more prayer, penance, reliance on sacramentals (e.g., religious medals, rosary, holy water, scapulars), obedience to church authorities, and works-righteousness in general. Bernadette, like the other visionaries, was either a religious hysteric or a tool of a demonic entity. The bottom line for all of these apparitions is they encourage devotion and worship of Mary among pious Catholics. Six-million Catholics from around the world visit the shrine at Lourdes, France each year. Yes, folks, that’s 6,000,000 souls per year or 16,438 per day.

Out of curiosity, I checked Amazon to see if there was any commerce in the “holy water” of Lourdes and sure enough there were MANY examples (see photo above for just one example). Poor, credulous Catholics chase after apparitions that exhort them to work harder at meriting their salvation, while the genuine Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, goes unheeded.

Below is just one example of the popular Mariolatrous views within Catholicism:

“God the Son imparted to his mother all that he gained by his life and death, namely, his infinite merits and his eminent virtues. He made her the treasurer of all his Father had given him as heritage. Through her he applies his merits to his members and through her he transmits his virtues and distributes his graces. She is his mystical channel, his aqueduct, through which he causes his mercies to flow gently and abundantly.” – from “Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” by St. Louis de Montfort

In contrast, the Bible mentions nothing about Mary in connection with salvation.

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” – John 3:36

In fact, Mary is conspicuously missing in all of the epistles of the New Testament.

Are the apparitions of Mary really Mary?
https://carm.org/are-the-apparitions-of-mary-really-mary

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Postscript: Writing this post motivated me to check our local library system to see if they had any good examinations of the apparitions at Lourdes. Sure enough, they had “The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto” (1967) by Alan Neame. I’m about one-third of the way through this very interesting book, which I will be reviewing down the road.

 

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Photo above: Catholic Mariolaters gather at the Massabiell grotto at Lourdes. Bernadette Soubirous claimed Mary appeared to her eighteen times in the rock cleft where a statue has been placed.

43 thoughts on “The Deception of Lourdes

    1. Thanks, Sally. Yes, the Catholic system relies very heavily on these blessed “sacramentals,” which would be known as talismans and amulets in other cultures. They’re trusting in the creation rather than the Creator.

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      1. I remember also having blessed salt, and someone encouraging me to bury a statue of St. Joseph inside down in our yard if we wanted to sell our house.
        Thanks for all the information you post.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I remember being attracted to all these things, thinking it made Christianity seem more holy. Our Baptist church did not allow candles. They were considered to be too mesmerizing, and it was felt that they would detract us from making study notes on the pastor’s sermon.
        Very interesting about your Polish ancestry. I once had a great devotion to St. Faustina and had plans to visit her shrine.
        Interesting, isn’t it, how the Lord changes us.

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      3. The recent popularity of the Faustina phenomenon is very interesting. I’ve referred to it briefly in the past but I need to devote an entire post to it.
        RE: the Lord changes us.
        Yes, praise God for releasing us from legalism and ritualism.

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie. Catholics would object that “devotion” (aka worship) to Mary always leads to Jesus, but the argument is sophistry meant to justify Marian idolatry.

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    1. Yes, Catholicism has soooooo many spurious traditions. I’m sure many of the traditions we were taught in parochial school by the nuns I’ve forgotten about at this point. It takes somebody like Anders to jog my memory. And I’m sure there are thousands of other peculiar traditions that we were never taught. It’s a bottomless snake pit.

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  1. I’m looking forward to the book review. I think you hit it on the head: “Bernadette, like the other visionaries, was either a religious hysteric or a tool of a demonic entity.”

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    1. Thanks! The book I’m reading points out quite well that Bernadette was thoroughly indoctrinated into Mariolatry and that she had been schooled in fables of Marian appearances to school-aged children like herself in Southern France.

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      1. Sometimes, like with this current book and the previous one, I stick little strips of paper between the pages where I want to refer back to something.

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      2. From one reader to another, I’m very anal about marking up books. No judgment on those who do! 🧐 Naw, I get by with my little paper tab and I can find the reference easily from there.

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  2. Our European tour back in 2013, they took us to Lourdes. It was so sad to see these lost souls worshipping a statue with such adoration and devotion. And don’t anyone dare tell them the hopelessness of it all. Blindness is so destructive. And pride is a killer to the soul.

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    1. Thanks for the good comments, Crissy. I have never been to one of the major Catholic shrines like Lourdes. I can imagine it is very sad to see. Catholic rites and traditions appeal greatly to the physical senses. For credulous Catholic worshipers, these things are like a drug. To abandon them would be unthinkable. Yes, Catholics take great, great pride in their institutional church, yet have no relationship with Christ.

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    1. Yes, it’s a possibility that certain foods and also food and/or sleep deprivation could lead to hallucinations. The “mystics” of the Middle Ages practiced such extreme forms of asceticism/self-deprivation resulting in “visions.” The fascinating book I’m reading about the Lourdes apparitions, written by a skeptic, examines many of the circumstances that could explain Bernadette’s “visions.”

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    1. Yup, people are constantly chasing after “miracles” rather than digging into the Word. We see this even in some movements of the evangelical church.

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    1. Thanks, sister! I’m glad you stopped in with your previous comments and this howdy! Yes, I know what you mean about busyness. I’m actually glad the Lord led me to the series of conference videos that I’m currently posting, one per day. They’re great videos that I pray will bless some souls, and it’s also a chance to take a little break from writing.

      Yes, Maranatha!

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  3. Enjoyed reading this Tom.

    This is something we actually wrote about when our page was very much in its infancy.

    Lourdes really does just capitalise on people’s weakness and / or desperation. For any church to do that is reprehensible.

    What we found really remarkable is that Lourdes has more hotels than any other town or city in France, except Paris. Incredible for a remote town with 17,000 residents.

    It is big business.

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    1. Thanks for the good comments! I’m finishing an excellent book written back in the 1960s that takes a very skeptical view of Lourdes. Yes, the alleged apparition was exploited for financial as well as political reasons.

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