Many people believe in God because they have had a “religious experience” This can happen in different forms such as a miracle happening to the person – maybe recovering from a terminal illness. Some people say that they have had a vision or dream about God or a holy person like Jesus. Other people believe that they communicate with God and that sometimes their prayers are answered. A life changing event often points people to thinking about religion and the purpose / meaning of their lives.
Some people have experiences which they believe make God’s power and love very real to them. Experiences such as miracles, visions and answers to prayer can change an individual’s faith and life.
Every year millions of Christian pilgrims travel to Lourdes. This French town has become a place of pilgrimage because it is believed that in 1858, a young girl, Bernadette Soubirous, had a series of visions of the Virgin Mary.
Here is the story:
What happened was this...
A young woman named Bernadette Soubirous was out with her sisters gathering firewood. The sisters went on ahead of her and she suddenly heard a sound like a storm. Looking across a stream she saw the figure of a woman dressed in white with a blue sash.
The woman did not speak to Bernadette but made the sign of the cross before disappearing. This figure appeared to Bernadette many more times over a two week period and told her that a Chapel should be built at that spot; that she should drink from a particular spring; and that she should pray for sinners. Bernadette asked the woman who she was. The woman informed Bernadette that she was the Immaculate Conception". This is a phrase that is used to describe Mary the Mother of Jesus.
At first many people found this story hard to believe but gradually as people came to believe her the chapel was built. People visit Lourdes to go to the chapel and to be healed by the spring water that Bernadette discovered. It is these miracle healings that encourage the pilgrims to visit Lourdes. There are now three chapels built in the grounds, the largest of which can hold thirty thousand people! Bernadette was made a saint in 1933.
Over the years, many individuals have claimed to have been healed of illnesses/ disabilities by bathing in the spring waters near to where the appearances took place. Some of the “healings” have been verified by medical experts who cannot explain how they happened.
Various explanations have been put forward to explain these events but the individuals concerned are convinced that they have experienced a miracle from God that has transformed their lives.