World Day of The Sick takes place each year on 11th February. It was on this date in 1858 that Mary, God’s Mother, first appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes in the south of France.

Fr Tom Ryan, Parish Priest for the Shannon community.

By Fr Tom Ryan, Parish Priest for the Shannon community.

Ever since people have been coming in their millions to the site of the apparitions. No new doctrine was revealed at Lourdes. Bernadette’s role was simply to communicate to each of us, especially when sick, that Mary is indeed our Mother.

It is a privilege for me, as Pilgrimage Director each year, to represent the Killaloe Diocese at this international gathering in Lourdes on 11th February to pray for all of us.

This year was particularly special as the 70th official miracle in the 160-year history of Lourdes was announced on that day. The miracle was the healing of a nun, Sr. Bernadette Moriau, who had been suffering from severe paralysis for many years.

Sr. Bernadette, who is now 70 years old, had been suffering from “Cauda equina syndrome”, caused by a spill of the softer central portion of the disc that causes pressure on the bundle of nerves below the end of the spinal cord. She has been unable to walk since 1987.  The miracle took place ten years ago on the 11th July 2008 but was only announced this year on the 11th February.

In February 2008, Sr. Bernadette’s doctor invited her to travel on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes scheduled for 3rd to 7th July 2008.

At the Grotto, she felt the mysterious presence of Mary and little Bernadette. The nun did not pray for healing but for the conversion of her heart and the strength to continue her path as a sick person.

On her return home to Besles, near Beauvais, where Ryanair fly into from Ireland, the healing took place on the 11th July, four days after her return from Lourdes.

She was praying in the Adoration Chapel of her convent, re-living in her heart the strong moment of the blessing of the Sick with the Blessed Sacrament in Lourdes and she really felt the presence of Jesus. At the end of Adoration, she felt a warmth in her body. She felt good.

Going back to her room, Sr. Bernadette got rid of her prostheses, crutches, corset and stopped the neurostimulator. She immediately started to walk without any help.

As a witness, she called her Sisters in the Community who saw the change. Her doctor took note of the healing and subsequently presented it to the Lourdes Medical Bureau (Bureau des Constatations Médicales) in Lourdes.

For a cure to be recognised as medically inexplicable, certain facts require to be established:

• The original diagnosis must be verified and confirmed beyond doubt

• The diagnosis must be regarded as “incurable”

• The cure must happen in association with a visit to Lourdes, typically while in Lourdes or in the vicinity of the shrine itself (although drinking or bathing in the water are not required)

• The cure must be immediate (rapid resolution of symptoms and signs of the illness)

• The cure must be complete (with no residual impairment or deficit)

• The cure must be permanent (with no recurrence)

The case was examined over the past ten years by a panel of medical experts, believers and non-believers. Their verdict concluded that Sr. Bernadette Moriau’s recovery, “remains unexplained in the current state of our scientific knowledge”.

Bishop Jacques Benoit-Gonin of Beauvais proclaimed the miracle and on 11th February this year, the Bishop of Lourdes, Nicolas Brouwet, announced the declaration during Mass at the shrine’s basilica.

Miracles do happen and continue to happen. Many of them are never publicly acknowledged but are known only by the person or people associated with them.

Each year for the past 62 years the Killaloe Diocese organise pilgrimages to Lourdes direct from Shannon Airport. It takes less than two hours to fly from Shannon to Lourdes. Over the years thousands of pilgrims have experienced what many describe as a little taste of Heaven on earth.

Booking forms are now available from all 58 parishes or any of the Churches if you would like to travel to Lourdes on this year’s Killaloe Diocesan Pilgrimage from 26th June to 1st July.

A special section is reserved for sick or assisted pilgrims who are cared for in the sanctuary by a team of medical and caring volunteers from different parishes.

If you are interested in travelling this year ask your local priest for details or contact Fr Tom Ryan, Pilgrimage Director, on 061-364133.

It’s impossible to put into words what the experience of Lourdes is like, but be assured it never fails to be a marvel and should be experienced by all at least once in a lifetime.