The village of Lourdes in the Pyrenees of southern France was the site of a miraculous series of visions in 1858. Beginning on February 11, at the nearby Grotto of Massabielle, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous allegedly saw the Virgin Mary 18 times. Two weeks later, a spring appeared at the grotto.
Eight million pilgrims now visit the shrine each year, and they say that the waters manifest remarkable healing powers. The Catholic Church has documented some 7,000 cases of unexplained cures at the shrine there, and they’ve declared dozens of them as official miracles.
10. Catherine Latapie: Paralyzed Fingers
The first ever person reportedly healed at Lourdes had previously fallen from a tree while pregnant. Her hand broke her fall and saved the baby. But she dislocated her upper arm, tearing through a major bundle of nerves and paralyzing two of her fingers—permanently, or so people presumed.
During the very early morning hours of March 1, 1858, Catherine visited Lourdes, still pregnant. She met Bernadette, and the two prayed together. When Bernadette discovered the stream there for the first time, Catherine bathed her hand in it, and her fingers could move as they had before the accident. She returned home later that evening and gave birth to the son she was carrying. In 1882, 24 years later, that son was ordained a priest.
9. Henriette Bressolles: Tuberculosis, Renal Failure, And Internal Paralysis
Henriette Bressolles was a military nurse who served from 1914, the beginning of World War I. Somehow, despite such horrific bloodshed, she came through the war unscathed. In 1918, however, she was admitted to a military hospital with Pott’s disease, a type of tuberculosis that appears in the spine instead of the lungs. Along with this disease came paralysis of the intestine and bladder and a form of meningitis. From 1922 on, she was confined to a plaster body cast and subjected to numerous treatments for her increasingly severe and complicated ailments.
Over the next few years, things only got worse. Henriette developed uremia, in which the kidneys break down and the waste products in urine remain suspended in the blood. But on March 7, 1924, she was taken to visit Lourdes. After a visit to the grotto, she felt a “painful crack” and within days was completed cured—and mobile.
8. Jean-Pierre Bely: Multiple Sclerosis
Jean-Pierre Bely spent several years as an intensive-care nurse before finding himself switching to the role of patient. In 1972, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and his nervous system failed him over the next decade. He went from using a cane to a wheelchair to being completely bedridden.
In October 1987, he made a rare departure from his bed for a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The day after his visit, he experienced a new sensation in his skin. It was cold, and it was a bit painful, but it then turned into a growing feeling of pleasant warmth. He then slowly discovered then could move his arms—and, eventually, even walk.
He felt so self-conscious about his recovery that on his way to the train station for his return home, he slipped back into a wheelchair.
7. Louis Bouriette: Partial Blindness
When Joseph and Louis Bouriette were caught in a quarry explosion in 1853, only Louis managed to escape alive. Yet he didn’t escape uninjured—doctors diagnosed him with “incurable amaurosis,” or permanent blindness, in his right eye. He lived with the injury for 20 years, until he heard the news of the Lourdes grotto in March 1858. He couldn’t visit the spring there himself, but he sent his daughter to fetch some of the water for him.
The water was reportedly muddy, but he bathed his right eye in it repeatedly. Three days later, his bad eye began to visualize objects. Soon, he regained full vision. His physician since the accident, a Dr. Dozous, documented the recovery, fully expressing his astonishment.
6. Francis Pascal: Total Blindness, Meningitis
Francis Pascal from Beaucaire in France was the second ever child to be healed at Lourdes. In 1937, at the age of three, Francis developed meningitis, leaving him blind and without any real use of his limbs. Several doctors certified his condition.
He bathed in the healing waters twice in 1938. After the second dip, before his mother even set him down on the ground, the boy suddenly pointed a finger at a nearby tricycle on the esplanade. His sight returned, and his limbs regained their ability to function.
A 1946 visit to the Medical Bureau of Verifications, his first full examination, stated that “cure confirmed, maintained for more than eight years, for which no medical explanation was possible.” He spent much of his later life enjoying his sight by reading classical novels.
5. Yvonne Fournier: Paralyzed Arm
In 1940, 17-year-old Yvonne Fournier was working in a factory in St. Alevis, France when a machine belt caught her left arm. She received nine subsequent operations on the arm, but they did little—her arm was completely paralyzed.
Then in 1945, Lourdes hosted a nationwide pilgrimage, the first since World War II’s end. Some 50,000 French Catholics visited the shrine, and Yvonne was there on the pilgrimage’s fist day, August 19. Function and feeling returned to her arm as soon as she dipped it into the water.
Her healing was one of two that the Lourdes Medical Bureau recognized that week. The other was a case from the previous year, in which a 20-year-old Frenchwoman, just hours from death, was cured of her lung disease.
4. Rose Martin: Throat Cancer
In 1945, Rose Martin from Nice was diagnosed with throat cancer, and two separate operations did little to treat her. By 1947, she was practically comatose.
To take her to Lourdes, Rose’s family had to give her heavy doses of camphor and morphine just to make the trip bearable. It took three dips in the water for the anesthesia to wear off, and her disease appeared to wear off along with it. She felt a distinct improvement, and she began to move on her own power. On her return to Nice, doctors could find no trace of her illness.
3. Sister Marie Marguerite: Kidney Failure, Angina, Edema
Sister Marguerite’s cure didn’t actually happen at Lourdes, but she did have access to the water from its grotto. This encouraged many who couldn’t get to Lourdes but still sought its healing power—the source of such miraculous healing could evidently be transported.
In 1924, she was suffering from renal disease, angina, edema (severe swelling) in her legs, and all of the accompanying pain. As her condition deteriorated, those caring for her replaced all of her medications with water from Lourdes. At the same time, the other sisters of her convent began nine days of prayer, known as a novena, to Our Lady of Lourdes for Sister Marguerite.
On the last day of the novena, Sister Marguerite’s pain began to subside, and she completely recovered from her illnesses. The next day, she was performing her regular duties at the convent.
2. Marie Savoye: Failing Heart Valves
For 13 years, Marie Savoye from Cambrai in northern France suffered from rheumatic mitral valvular heart disease. In addition to her weak heart, she had a constant fever and continually spat blood. In 1901, she wanted to go to Lourdes, but her doctors said she was too ill to be placed in the actual water there. Yet that didn’t seem to prevent her from receiving Lourdes’s healing benefits.
During a ceremony for her at Lourdes called the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, all of her symptoms suddenly disappeared. She spent much of the remainder of her life helping others out of appreciation for the physical and spiritual help she’d received.
1. Marie Borel: Intestinal Fistulas, Abscesses
Marie Borel was from Mende, in Lozère, in the rural, mountainous area of southeast France. Since she was 22, she suffered repeated attacks of acute appendicitis. Although an appendectomy in 1925 at Montpelier Hospital resolved that medical issue, she developed a series of other stomach-related problems, including rips in her intestinal tract. Complication upon complication occurred, subsequent operations were unsuccessful, and in addition to developing two more abscesses, she experienced back pain that prevented her from walking for almost three years.
On August 21 and again on August 22, 1907, she was immersed in the water at Lourdes. It was noted at that time that when the bandages that covered her abscesses were removed, the abscesses were largely healed, ultimately leading to a full recovery. Not only that, the bandages themselves were inexplicably dry.
M.J. Szimanski has spent the past 20 years in various communications fields and currently purports to be a writer. Should this list not demonstrate the latter, he recently authored the book Bereaveability: Spending a Lifetime Avoiding the Reality of Your Death. He resides in Salem, Massachusetts.