Thursday February 11th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes – a celebration of Our Lady’s first appearance on February 11, 1858 (also a Thursday) to a young Bernadette Soubrious at a grotto near Lourdes, France. The Feast Day was joyously celebrated last year at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Halasuru, Bangalore, India – read all about it here, and see the Schedule of Events for 2021 too!
The Blessed Mother appeared eighteen times to (now) Saint Bernadette over the next five months as she eventually revealed herself as The Immaculate Conception. An intercession of healing developed through the apparitions at Lourdes. A spring of what would turn out to be miraculous water was uncovered, and this miracle would lead to many more through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes. Today, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes at the site of the apparitions in France is visited by over three million annually; and millions more across the world will celebrate Our Lady’s Feast Day on February 11th. Read more about Our Lady of Lourdes at https://churchwonders.com/mary-saints/mother-mary/our-lady-of-lourdes-a-devotion-of-healing/
A particularly beautiful celebration of the Feast Day occurs each year at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Halasuru, Bangalore, India – and the events on February 11, 2020 were no exception. Read more about Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Halasuru at https://churchwonders.com/india-churches/our-lady-of-lourdes-church-halasuru-bangalore-india/
In 2020, the Feast Day occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic had reached a zenith in India; and, as such, was a well-attended series of events starting nine days before with a flag hoisting ceremony and continuing through the evening of February 11th, 2020 with the culminating Procession, Rosary, Benediction, Adoration and Mass.
The Feast Day celebration occurred at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Halasuru, a neighborhood in the east-central part of the IT metropolis, Bangalore, India. The church is an ideal location for such a celebration with a large brick courtyard underneath a canopy of trees set far back from the busy commercial street at the front. The skies were clear and the air was warm as dusk settled over the grounds of the large, primarily Tamil-speaking parish. By 5:45 p.m., the crowd was gathering as individuals and families made their way up the tree-lined path to the site of the celebration. Most of the attendees arrived on foot, but there were also motorbikes and a few cars entering the compound with the church staff providing directions for parking.
At the end of the driveway, was the church – the interior of which was quiet with worshippers sitting in contemplation and praying in the midst of the celebratory decorations including red and white ribbons with colored string lights draped from the ceiling and sprays of flowers covering the altar backdrop – as well as surrounding the statues of Mary on the left and Joseph and Baby on the right. The statue of Mary wore a crown of red and gold and had a queue of faithful waiting to offer prayers while touching her feet.
The courtyard was filled with hundreds of white plastic chairs in neat rows on either side of a center aisleway facing an altar table, candles and chairs for the clergy set up in the Lourdes Grotto at the front of the congregation’s chairs. The Grotto is a life-size replica of the holy site in France with a cave carved out at the bottom of a stack of rocks and Saint Bernadette on her knees at the left. In the upper right corner is a beautiful image of Our Lady with the label, “I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION” as Mary called herself at the sixteenth apparition in 1858. Today, the Grotto was covered with greenery and white flowers; and as the skies grew dark, the Grotto, along with the church façade was bathed with rotating colors of blue, pink and green. At the back of the congregation, on the edge of the playfield, was a white (later to be lighted) statue of Our Lady of Lourdes within a circular pillared, red-cross-topped shrine on an elevated platform. The shrine would soon be surrounded by the faithful reaching toward, and touching, the image while offering prayers. It was a beautiful scene of faith on a warm Deccan February evening.
The outside of the church building was also decorated with long rows of white string lights which contrasted nicely with the rotating colors shown upon the façade of the church when darkness fell. The rotating colors of blue, pink and green were stunning beneath the red cross of the steeple glowing in the night, and the words “Our Lady of Lourdes Church” in white.
At approximately 6:00 pm, the attendees rose from the mostly occupied chairs serving as pews and began forming a procession of twos and threes which would lead the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes on the carried palanquin through the surrounding neighborhood. The procession was led by candle bearers and moved very slowly transacting the route in about 30 to 40 minutes. The life-sized statue of Our Lady of Lourdes stood atop a palanquin decorated with two layers of colored flowers over a gold frame with the words “Ave Maria”. Our Lady was clothed in blue with a white lace gown and draped with a red and yellow garland while holding a Rosary. She wore a blue and gold crown with a gold halo. The palanquin was quite heavy and supported on poles on the shoulders of approximately fifteen men and women.
As the procession was away, the remaining folks in the courtyard prayed the Rosary, until the procession came up the main aisle and the statue was placed to the right of the altar in the grotto. At that time, an Adoration and Benediction service was held, including the praying of The Angelus and ringing of church bells. A beautiful rendition of “Immaculate Mary” sung by the congregation in Tamil wafted through the courtyard and surrounding neighborhood.
The High Mass was led by Monsignor S. Jayanathan, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Bangalore, along with many concelebrant priests including Fr. Arokya Swamy D., the Pastor of the parish. The Mass was conducted in a mix of Tamil, Kannada and English – with the bulk in Tamil as it was the most familiar language for many of the attendees. The Monsignor is a very eloquent speaker and provided many insights during the services and the sermon. His sermon was focused on the appropriateness of honoring Mary as the first and best disciple, and as interceder for all – particularly as an interceder for the sick on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes where so many miracles have occurred in Her name at Lourdes, France and throughout the world. Monsignor led the Adoration, Benediction and Mass. To end the Feast Day celebrations, he initiated a special blessing and prayers to Our Lady of Lourdes for the sick.
All seemed reluctant to have the celebrations end and lingered in the front near the Grotto and image of Our Lady that was processed on the palanquin, and in the back near the other lighted image of Our Lady of Lourdes. There were prayers, silent and aloud, touching of the feet and photographs in an attempt to prolong the joyful scene – and more intercessions of healing were offered, on this special feast for the sick, and could be heard as the crowd made its way in the night to the busy street in front to make their way home.
The 2021 celebration is already underway with a flag hoisting ceremony on February 5. The culminating Feast Day festivities will occur on Sunday February 14th with the Rosary, Benediction and Adoration to be followed by a High Mass at the Grotto in three languages. If you are able to attend you will not be disappointed!