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. Mary requested that people come to Lourdes on pilgrimage – which they have been doing for almost 150 years. Lourdes draws six million people a year
The Church has recognized 69 miracles there (click here to see a PDF list of the first 67 and here for a news article about the 68th). 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 last Wednesday of April to the first Wednesday in May each year. Over 5,000 pilgrims – members of the Order, auxiliary, clergy, physicians and nurses – bring Malades (French for “the sick”) and their caregivers to Lourdes from throughout the world. Typically there are over 800 from the three Associations of the Order of Malta in the United States; the American Association, U.S.A.; the Western Association, U.S.A.; and the Federal Association, U.S.A.
The American Association has been participating in the International Order of Malta Pilgrimage to Lourdes since 1986. In recent years we have brought over 300 pilgrims each year, including approximately 50 Malades and their caregivers who are our special guests. They are cared for by the Knights and Dames, the Association’s Auxiliary, our physicians, nurses and clergy. The travel expenses for the Malades and their caregivers are funded by the American Association.
During the pilgrimage, we wear the service uniform of the Order with a patch showing our nationality, and join with our confreres from 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 (nurturing, witnessing and protecting the faith).