Back in the 1850s, an young girl, Bernadette, saw 18 apparitions of Mary in the town's local grotto. Even if a crowd was standing with her, she was the only one who could see and hear this beautiful lady. On one such account the spirit asked her to go and drink from a fountain within the grotto which at that time, did not exist. At that same moment, though, water came gushing from the rocks, and it is this water source that has attributed to 1000s of miraculous healings. One source tells me the church has only officially recognized around 67 as real miracles (with many more under investigation), but there have been over 8000 cases reported of healing of some sort. As you can imagine, it took the church a few years and some skepticism to officiate Bernadette's sightings, but in the end, they officiated the sighting and followed one of Mary's requests and built a church over the grotto. Once the first miracles started occurring, 1000s of pilgrims began flocking to this sight to get a look at the grotto and hope to be healed as well by it's powerful waters.
|A garden of rosaries (St. Bernadette pictured)|
Once we parked, though, and started towards the church, I couldn't believe my eyes; there was a nonstop stream of wheelchairs, all with their own lane on the sidewalk, going to and from the church. Holy crap, this is for real! People really are coming here to be healed! I don't thing I've ever seen such a diverse group of sick, disabled, crippled group of people, all speaking different languages all together at once. Maybe this place really does have some magic?
|Filling up on some magic drink|
Basilica of the Rosary, built over the grotto
A marvelous church built over a grotto
|Plaques along the side of the church in about 20 different languages|
reading "Come and drink at the spring, and wash yourself there"
All us pilgrims
In the end, Adam and I both agreed it was a great stop to make, if anything, just to see what the power of belief does to a town and to its visitors. In addition, it also gave me the chance to understand a bit more about the difference between our two religions, as I took for granted the idea of Saints and pilgrimages, and the rosary, all that stuff really is a Catholic thing. Good thing, I suppose, that someone had a Catholic along for the ride to shed some light on all this : )