Cathedral Basilica to Host Evening Prayer on Feb. 11
Catholics around the world will join together during the month of February to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes. To honor the Blessed Virgin Mary on the occasion of this sesquicentennial event, Pope Benedict XVI has granted a Plenary Indulgence to those who honor her in a special way.
On this joyful occasion, all of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Newark are invited to participate in a celebration of evening prayer on Monday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m., at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street, Newark, where, having fulfilled certain conditions, they will have the opportunity to gain the Plenary Indulgence. Archbishop John J. Myers will preside at the evening prayer.
The faithful may gain a Plenary Indulgence (the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due to sin) between Feb. 2-11, by fulfilling the usual conditions of celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, receiving Holy Communion and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father. In addition, the faithful must participate in a Marian devotion before an image of Our Lady of Lourdes set up for public veneration, concluding with the recitation of "The Lord's Prayer," "The Creed," and an invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, such as the "Hail Mary."
Those who attend the Feb. 11 observance at the Cathedral will have the opportunity to join in community with parishioners and faithful from all four counties of the archdiocese. During this special observance, a prayer of re-consecration of the archdiocese to the Blessed Mother under the title of "Immaculate Conception" will take place.
The Archdiocese of Newark, since the very beginning of its establishment, has been devoted to the Blessed Mother under the title of the Immaculate Conception. The name of Mary under that title is patroness of the archdiocese, Seton Hall University and Immaculate Conception Seminary (both located in South Orange), as well as several parishes throughout Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Union counties. Because of these devotions, the archdiocese continues to hold a special relationship with the Blessed Mother.
The first appearance of the Blessed Mother to Bernadette Soubirous (born Jan. 7, 1844) took place in Lourdes, France-at the grotto of Massabielle-on Feb. 11, 1858. While out collecting firewood with her sister, Tionette, and a schoolmate Jeanne Abadie, Bernadette-who was 14 years old at the time-saw a vision of a lady "dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white."
Although the Blessed Mother did not speak to Bernadette until their third meeting, they prayed the rosary together. It was not until the 16th apparition that the Blessed Mother identified herself as "the Immaculate Conception." This was significant because, although Bernadette did not know it at the time, Pope Pius IX had declared belief in Mary as the Immaculate Conception to be a doctrine of the Catholic faith just four years earlier.
On Feb. 26, 1858, the Blessed Mother told Bernadette to drink from a stream, even though none was present. Bernadette scratched at the ground and found water to drink. That stream flows today and many believe its waters provide healing powers. Presently, the apparition site at Lourdes contains the location of the grotto and the stream where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared.
The 18th and final apparition took place on July 16, 1858. Since then, 6 million people visit Lourdes each year on pilgrimage. Thousands of the faithful have claimed to have been healed by bathing in the waters there.
The Church, in 1862, recognized the apparitions at Lourdes as authentic. Pope Pius XI, on Dec. 8, 1933, named Bernadette a saint. She died on April 16, 1879.
(Editor's note: Father Thomas A. Dente, director of the archdiocesan Office of Divine Worship, contributed to this article.)