Today we celebrate Our Lady’s appearance to a young peasant girl, Bernadette, in 1858 in Lourdes, France. Through a set of private revelations, Mary revealed herself as “the Immaculate Conception.” What does this title mean, and what should we know about Our Lady of Lourdes? Ellyn von Huben explains.

1. THE STORY OF ST. BERNADETTE IS NOT JUST FOR GIRLS

Bernadette is a perennial favorite when young ladies chose their confirmation names. And girls certainly do love watching the film version of “The Song of Bernadette”. (Winner of the very first Golden Globe award for best motion picture, by the way!) I wouldn’t say that watching this movie was the thing that led to my conversion…but it sure didn’t hurt!

Our Lady did not appear at Lourdes just to touch the hearts of tween girls throughout the ages. There is, indeed, much that speaks to the heart of the young girl. But anyone, of any age or gender can find in the story of St. Bernadette a story that will resonate truth within their hearts.

The appearance of Our Lady at Lourdes was not just for Bernadette – it could be heard by all; a sign for all pointing to Our Lady’s son, Jesus Christ.

2. THIS GREAT SAINT WAS A PRODUCT OF ‘POOR CATECHESIS’

Much is being discussed on Catholic internet sites regarding the state of modern catechesis and how it should be improved. St. Bernadette could be called a product of poor, minimal catechesis. But Bernadette started her faith life the best way possible – whether for a provincial child of the 1850s or a very modern, prosperous young person. She was the product of a strong “domestic Church”.

She had the minimal schooling of a poor girl of her time, compounded by missing lessons due to ill health and the fact that she was needed at home to help care for siblings. To the chagrin of the teaching Sister preparing her for her First Holy Communion, Bernadette was a technically abysmal Catechism student. But she received the most important preparation – that which can hardy be replicated in a classroom – being raised in a family whose greatest riches were their faith. There is profound understanding in this heart which would one day write, “I was nothing, and of this nothing God made something great. In Holy Communion I am heart to heart with Jesus. How sublime is my destiny.”

It was the young Bernadette’s lack of schooling which made her testimony regarding the apparitions all the more believable. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been defined by Pope Pius IX just four years before Bernadette’s visions. The quote “I am the Immaculate Conception” coming from the lips of a young, rural girl possessing minimal scholarship had an indisputable veracity.

Read more at Word on Fire.