When Jesus was on the cross, Mary and the apostle John were there with him. From the cross, Jesus looked at them and said to John, “Behold your Mother.” (John 19:26-27) With these words, Mary became the mother of us all, and like any good mom, she loves her children very much. Every now and then, she even visits us! This lesson is going to focus on two places she has done so: Lourdes and Guadalupe.
Introduction Video and Opening Prayer
Lourdes and the Immaculate Conception
December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. A solemnity is the highest form of celebration in the Catholic Church. All Sundays are considered solemnities as well, because on Sunday we remember what happened on Easter – the highest of all solemnities!
Many people mistakenly believe the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus being conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. In fact, it actually refers to Mary being conceived by her mother, Saint Anne (Jesus’ grandma!) We say Mary’s conception was immaculate, because she was conceived without original sin.
The Miraculous Medal references the Immaculate Conception. Do you know someone who wears one?
Original sin is something we are all born with as a result of Adam and Eve sinning. Because they fell from God’s grace by eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, mankind has struggled with sin ever since. Baptism forgives original sin, but we still struggle with temptation which often leads us to commit other sins. This is why we need Jesus as our savior!
When Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes in 1858, she identified herself by saying “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Mary did this so the priests would know Bernadette was telling the truth. You see, Bernadette, a young peasant girl, had no way of knowing what the phrase meant. The Catholic Church had only officially declared Mary was conceived without sin four years earlier in 1854. When the priests heard Bernadette say what the lady’s name was, they were amazed – this young girl had truly seen Mary, the Mother of God.
In the Grotto, where St. Bernadette received her visions of Mary, there is a statue depicting Mary as she appeared to her.
The words beneath her say “Que soy era immaculada concepciou.”
That is how you say “I am the Immaculate Conception” in the French dialect St. Bernadette spoke.
By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada – France-002009 – Our Lady of Lourdes, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38269784
To this day, pilgrims from all over the world come to visit Lourdes. When we use the word pilgrim this way, we mean someone who is traveling for a religious purpose, to a holy place so they can grow closer to God.
Many people go to Lourdes in the hope that by bathing in the waters of the spring St. Bernadette discovered, they will be healed of any physical ailments they are suffering. Over the years, 7000 healings have been reported, with 70 of them being officially declared miracles by the Church! Read more about these miraculous healings.
Our Lady of Guadalupe: Patroness of the Americas
On December 12th, the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A feast day is a celebration in the Church that gives special recognition to a particular saint or event, but is one step lower in importance than a solemnity. A feast day is still a very important celebration though! Learn more about solemnities and feast days.
You will learn more of the story surrounding Our Lady of Guadalupe in this lesson’s featured saint section. However, it is a good idea to learn a bit about why she is considered the patroness of the Americas.
A patron saint is a saint associated with a particular group or cause. Patron saints pray to God in a special way for the cause with which they are associated. This is called intercession. Because Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas, that means she is the special intercessor for everyone living in North America, Central America, and South America.
What makes Mary’s appearance as Our Lady of Guadalupe so special to the Americas? One answer would be the incredible number of people who converted to Catholicism following her appearance to St. Juan Diego in 1531. Because Mary’s image on the tilma resembled an Aztec princess, 9 million Aztec Indians converted to Catholicism in only 7 years following the apparition! It was one of the biggest conversions in the Church’s history.
“After the apparition, many accepted faith in Jesus Christ.”
Do I have to believe in Lourdes and Guadalupe?
Public vs. Private Revelation.
Nowadays, some people have a hard time believing in miracles. Other people don’t need miracles to help them have faith, it just comes naturally to them. There are also other people who come to believe by witnessing miracles. (Jesus converted many people this way!)
It is undoubtable that millions of people have come to believe in Jesus and the Catholic Church through the miracles that occurred at Lourdes and Guadalupe. This is part of the reason the Church has declared them to be worthy of belief. That being said, no Catholic is required by the Church to believe in these apparitions, although there are plenty of reasons to believe!
The reason Catholics do not have to believe in Lourdes and Guadalupe is because of a difference between public and private revelation. Public revelation is something revealed by God to the whole Church that has to be believed. Examples of public revelation include Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, the Holy Trinity, and The 10 Commandments.
Private revelation is something God has revealed to an individual like St. Bernadette or St. Juan Diego. The Church declares it is “worthy of belief” but does not require us to. That being said, God can allow these revelations for our benefit, while we do not have to believe in them, it is to our advantage if we do. Lourdes and Guadalupe are great examples of this. By practicing these devotions, we know we will grow closer to God.
One final note: While the apparitions in Lourdes are a matter of private revelation and therefore optional for the faithful, Mary’s immaculate conception is part of the public revelation and must be believed. To learn more about the Immaculate Conception, watch the video by Fr. Mike Schmitz in this lesson’s More to Explore section.
This lesson’s featured saints are St. Bernadette and St. Juan Diego. Mary appeared to them both in the apparitions we have learned about this lesson. Below are two movies about their lives. We strongly encourage you to watch one or both of them if you have time. Each movie is about half an hour long.
In order to watch the videos, you will need to be logged in on formed.org St. Mary Magdalen Parishioners can sign up for a free account. In order to sign up, follow these instructions:
- Click the sign up button in the center of the screen. This will bring you to a menu with several options for how to sign up.
- Select ‘Sign up as a parishioner.’
- Once you have done so, type in “St. Mary Magdalen” and select our parish.
- You will then be able to enter your name and email address which will sign you into formed.
- Please choose to stay signed in.
If you choose not to watch the videos above, please listen to these brief saint biographies from Franciscan Media:
Let Us Pray
This lesson’s prayer challenge is to choose one of the following to prayers and add it to your Destined Journal. Once you have done so, decorate it however you want. In the middle ages, monks worked tirelessly to decorate the pages of their prayer books. These books are known as “illuminated manuscripts.” Here is what they looked like:
Choose one of these prayers to print and decorate:
Live It Out Activities
This lesson’s featured activity is a craft which will allow you to make your own tilma, just like St. Juan Diego’s. Use the two buttons below to learn everything you need to make your tilma!
You can also explore some other Marian apparitions, one of which is in Wisconsin! Use this worksheet to help you keep track of what you learn while exploring the article below:
More to Explore
Check out this jaw-dropping article about the miraculous qualities of the tilma.
Learn more about the Immaculate Conception:
Learn more about Our Lady of Guadalupe: