The Annual Lourdes Pilgrimage
Roman Catholics believe that our Blessed Mother appeared to a French peasant girl – Bernadette Soubirous – on 18 occasions over a period of months in 1858. Our Lady requested that people come to Lourdes on pilgrimage. Lourdes draws six million people a year.
After careful examination, the Catholic Church declared the events at Lourdes worthy of belief and has encouraged Catholics to pray to our Lady of Lourdes. It, however, does not insist that Catholics believe this historical event as an Article of Faith.
The Church has recognized 66 miracles there; the International Medical Committee of Lourdes, a group of about 20 physicians, has certified another 2,000 unexplained cures. Many of the pilgrims are sick hoping for physical healing and often experience interior miracles – people who are ill, even dying, who are able to leave Lourdes with an inner peace they did not feel before. Bernadette died in 1879, was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI. Pope John Paul II visited Lourdes again in August, 2004. He has made Marian piety one of the centerpieces of his papacy.
The International Order of Malta Pilgrimage to Lourdes is generally held from the first Friday in May for one week. Over 5,000 pilgrims – members of the Order, auxiliary, clergy, physicians and nurses – bring hospital pilgrims and their caregivers to Lourdes from throughout the world. Last year some 30 members and their families of the Canadian Association came to Lourdes.
The Canadian Association has been participating in the International Order of Malta Pilgrimage to Lourdes since about 1993.
During the pilgrimage, we wear the service uniform of the Order with a badge showing our nationality on our left shoulders and for the dames and lady helpers on a badge on the front of their uniforms. We join with our confreres throughout the world in living the 900-year-old mission of the Order; Obsequim pauperum (service to the sick and the poor) and tuitio fidei (witness or defense of the faith).