Our Lady of Lourdes:
“I am the Immaculate Conception”
By Ryan Hicks
In 1854 St. Pope Pius IX declared the teaching of Mary’s Immaculate Conception to be infallible dogma. This teaching was, however, the main Catholic dogma that I struggled to accept prior to my conversion. Like most Protestants, I believed that affirming Mary’s sinlessness detracted from Christ’s perfection. In fact, however, the Immaculate Conception can be found in the Church Fathers as early as the 4th century. I will quote just two of the most respected theologians of the early Church, St. Augustine and St. Gregory Nazianzen. “We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord; for from him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin.” – St. Augustine, circa 400 AD
“And in every way, He became a man, save sin; after she had been prepurified [Latin translation: immaculata] with respect to soul and body through the Holy Spirit (for it was necessary that His birth be honored, and virginity be honored prior to that); and every way He was born a man, save sin.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen, circa 360 AD.
Furthermore, in 1858, we received further confirmation of this teaching – this time from Our Lady herself! In Lourdes, France, a 14-year old girl named Bernadette Soubirous experienced 18 apparitions of Our Lady. The Church was initially skeptical of St. Bernadette’s testimony, until Our Lady revealed her name. On March 25th, 1858, the apparition of Our Lady spoke to St. Bernadette, saying “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Since St. Pope Pius IX had only declared this teaching to be dogma four years prior, and since Bernadette was a merely a 14-year old peasant girl with no theological education, the fact that she said the apparition used the title of “Immaculate Conception” immediately lent her story credence in the eyes of the local priest.
Since 1858, there have been over 69 verified healing miracles to date for people who have used the waters at Lourdes, including the healing of paralytics and the regrowth of bones which had been damaged by tumors. For more information on the healings at Lourdes, please see the following BBC interview with Dr. Michael Moran: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26334964
After much deliberation, I realized that by paying respect to Our Lady and recognizing her Immaculate heart, I was taking nothing away from Jesus Christ, but rather, I was affirming that He was God incarnate, and that he, being the Savior of all mankind was also Our Lady’s savior, but in prepurifying her, he saved Our Lady in a more excellent way. It makes sense then, that as God prepurified Mary that he would purify the faithful by various healings in the waters of Lourdes.