The celebration honors a series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, who appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous over a period of 6 months from February 11 to July 16, 1858. During that time there were 18 apparitions, and this year’s theme, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” is drawn from the very words spoken to St. Bernadette by Our Lady in the 16th apparition.
The annual Lourdes celebration is expected to draw more than 700 pilgrimage directors and hospitality presidents from around the world to take part in the discussion. This year’s guest speaker is Mgr. Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, who will discuss the theme of the event.
The festival begins on Saturday the 8th, and the four-day gathering will be full of presentations from priests and academics, as well as workshops on the facilitation of pilgrimages. Each day offers several opportunities to attend Mass, and each night will feature a communal praying of the Rosary by torchlight.
The celebration at Lourdes coincides with the World Day of the Sick, established on February 11 — the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes — by Pope St. John Paul II in 1992. The World Day of the Sick, a Catholic observation, is close to the heart of the sanctuary at Lourdes, which hosts pilgrims from all over the world who seek healing in the miraculous waters.
This year, for the XXVIII World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis called for “generous gestures” to the sick, poor, excluded, and all those who “bend under the burden,” as well as the medical professionals who work tirelessly to help. He offered them a message of comfort and hope in order to continue their work, following the path mapped out by the Lord Jesus, with the intercession of Mary.
This weekend, as part of the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Sanctuary expects to receive around 45,000 pilgrims who are sick or disabled, seeking intercession. Mass offered by Mgr. Fisichella will be available, as well as Adoration and a blessing of the sick.
While the feast day celebration is in February, the shrine’s greater pilgrimage season will open up in April. This season will begin with several highly anticipated events, such as:
April 5-8: The FRAT, pilgrimage bringing together 10,000 young people from the Ile-de-France on the theme “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life.”
April 6-13: 1st “Simon of Cyrene” pilgrimage to celebrate 10 years of the association, which founded 12 shared houses in France for able-bodied and handicapped people.
April 11-18: HCPT (Handicapped Children’s Pilgrimage Trust) English-speaking pilgrimage for disabled children
For more information, visit the Sanctuary’s website.