The Miracle Cures of Lourdes -Miraculous healings

By Jim Dunning

Strange as it may seem, out of 7000 cases recorded over the past 150 years by the Medical Bureau of Lourdes, only 67 have been officially recognised as miraculous by the Church. This is undoubtedly because of the strict criteria applied to all the cases put forward. Nevertheless, Lourdes is besieged year after year by thousands of pilgrims, many of whom are seeking spiritual rather than physical relief. There has been criticism of the vulgar display of religious objects in the local shops, but this should not be allowed to detract from the value of the pilgrimages. No one goes to Lourdes simply to buy religious goods.

Why are so few cures accepted by the Church as miraculous? The reason is that the requirements set out by the International Medical Committee of Lourdes for the validation of a miracle cure are extremely strict. The illness in question must be serious and the cure sudden and complete. There must be no need for convalescence. Another requirement is that no regular medication has been given since this would give rise to the possibility that the cure resulted from the treatment. Ironically, once a person is completely cured, it is no longer possible for tests to be carried out to verify the existence of the illness!

There is, of course, previous documentation to be considered with a view to establishing the medical history. And an assessment of the patient’s personality will help to eliminate false claims, genuine illusion or hysteria. A judgement is then made as to whether the cure is beyond the usual medical prognosis for the particular illness. When all these steps have been followed, a decision will be reached to either take no action or to undertake further examination, or to record the event as an “unexpected cure” for subsequent validation. The Bishop of the patient’s diocese, together with a doctor assigned by that Bishop, will then be advised of the result of the preliminary examination.

At Stage Two of the process, professional experts on the Committee compare the medical documents from before the alleged cure with those issued afterwards to ensure that there has been a definite change from a precisely diagnosed illness to a recovered state of health. What was earlier labelled an “unexpected cure” can then be designated a “confirmed cure”. According to the findings, each case is filed under the heading: ‘no further action’, or is validated under the heading: ‘supported and confirmed’.

The Third Stage sees the official recognition by the whole Committee of the exceptional nature of the cure in the light of the present state of scientific knowledge. The cure must not have a medical explanation; indeed, it must be seen to have occurred contrary to all medical predictions. The Bishop of Tarbes & Lourdes then forwards the complete file to the Bishop of the cured person’s diocese. That Bishop will then ‘canonically’ recognise the cure as miraculous on behalf of the Church.

It is clear that those cases which succeed in being officially recognised as miraculous have undergone a rigorous screening. There seems little doubt that many of the non-recognised cures are also genuine, in spite of their having failed to clear every obstacle in the prudently strict path to canonical recognition. That the Church is cautious in declaring a cure is understandable, even commendable.

An examination of the accepted cures associated with Lourdes is interesting. Most have taken place at Lourdes itself, but some have occurred elsewhere, either through prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes or through application of water originating from the Grotto.

Not surprisingly, the first cures were recorded soon after the start of the apparitions in February, 1858. The first was that of a local married woman named Catharine Latapie who had a paralysed right hand caused by a fallen tree. On 1st March, 1858, less than three weeks after the first apparition, this 38-year old mother made an early morning visit to the Grotto and bathed her arm in the small pool fed by the spring first unearthed by Bernadette. Immediately her fingers were cured and she returned home to give birth the same day to her third child. Twenty-four years later that child became a priest.

More newsworthy at the time was the cure of a local quarry worker aged 54. Louis Bouriette had lost the sight in his right eye after an explosion in a mine. He asked for some water from the same source, and after praying earnestly and bathing his eye several times, he discovered that his sight was completely restored. This was in March, 1858, only weeks after the start of the apparitions.

A sick boy of 16 named Henri Busquet was refused permission to visit Lourdes by his parents, but a neighbour provided him with some Lourdes water and the agonising throat ulcer caused by tuberculosis disappeared completely. This was only ten weeks after the first apparition and was the first miraculous cure attributed to Lourdes from outside the area. There have been many other such cures, though not all have been authenticated.

To counter any suggestion that psychology might play a role in these miraculous cures, one has only to point to those cases involving very young children who could not possibly have expected any result from their experience at Lourdes. The most dramatic of these was that of a Lourdes child named Justin Bouhort. He was not yet two years old and on the point of death when his mother said a prayer and plunged him into the icy water at the grotto, to the consternation of onlookers who screamed in protest. She took him home and put him to bed. Within days his health improved. This happened less than five months after the first apparition. Justin lived long enough to attend Bernadette’s canonization in Rome on 8th December, 1933.

A more recent cure took place on 9th October, 1987, when Jean-Pierre Bely, aged 51, was suddenly cured of multiple sclerosis while participating in a Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes. He enjoyed perfect health for the next 18 years before his death in 2005. Other recent cures are still under investigation.

In the intervening years many cures have been effected, either at Lourdes or elsewhere, frequently after immersion in the shrine’s baths, or through the application of water from the Grotto’s spring, combined always with prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes. The water itself has been analysed and shown to have no therapeutic value. In the shrine’s history eight cures have been recorded as coinciding with the blessing of the sick by the Blessed Sacrament during or immediately after the Eucharistic Procession.

Statistics relating to the 67 officially recognised cures make interesting reading. No less than 55 of those concerned were French, 6 were Italian, 3 were Belgian, while Germany, Austria and Switzerland accounted for the remaining 3. Some 80% of those cured were females, among whom were 8 nuns. And 6 people were cured through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes without coming to the shrine. The most common illness recorded during the first 60 years was tuberculosis, though the whole range of sickness has been represented. The youngest person was almost two years old, the oldest being 64. [Note that these figures are from the officially recognised list, however over 7000 cases of cures have been reported, as previously mentioned.]

In case it might be thought that the number of cures at Lourdes is diminishing, it is worth pointing out that as recently as 2005, no fewer than forty ‘spontaneous declarations’ of cures were examined by the International Medical Committee. Five of these cases were considered worthy of further examination and yet another was confirmed as ‘exceptional’ after 13 years of restored health. No wonder the shrine at Lourdes continues to attract many thousands of visitors each year from every part of the globe. Bernadette, that most modest of saints, must be very pleased.

-Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

Click here to go to part 1 of this story, St Bernadette and Lourdes.


Gary said...

I am wondering and have written to the Sanctuary @ Lourdes regarding the case of Eugenie Trois, the young blind girl who met Bernadette before and after the last apparition, Bernadette told her to go wash in the spring and was instantly cured, the cure did not last that long and she died a year later, wonder why she is not considered one of the cured?

Boo said...

For cures to be authenticated miracles by the Church, (eg. confirmed as divine in origin) they usually have to be permanent. This is because temporary cures could be caused by natural means, or by demonic means. Of course, it could be divine in origin also - remember Jesus resurrected the widow of Naim's son. He eventually died, but that doesn't mean a miracle didn't actually occur when Jesus raised him to life.
Many of the cures at Lourdes are also spiritual in nature, so even if a person remains ill in body, they may be healed in mind or spirit. And I also think of the blind young man who went to Padre Pio in search of a cure, but Padre Pio told him that his blindness would remain because God foresaw it would protect him from what otherwise would have resulted in the man's spiritual corruption.
As for Eugenie Trois, aside from other possibilities, it is quite possible that she was cured for a short time as a blessing for a specific purpose. I would think that if she died and went to heaven her cure not being permanent would pale into insignificance. Pax

Unknown said...

I would like to know if the spring is still there and can people drink from it.

Anonymous said...

Maria Q

The last time I was there the spring and the baths were all there an working. I had a friend who was there in September and all was working.

John M

Anonymous said...

I visited the grotto at Lourdes in 2016. After a systemic bacterial infection (from psittacosis) I was left with severe heart disease which was undetectable on EKG. Several of my pets were also infected (leaving a dilated cardiomyopathy of the heart confirmed by doppler ultrasound, 1 cat, one guinea pig and one parrot). As a human with a normal EKG, it was impossible for me to get my insurance to pay for a doppler ultrasound of my heart. I suffered for 6 years with out of breath walking any distance, needing to sleep 16 hours after I ran 15 minutes (only did this twice) and 6-7 hour days which required naps during the day and 12-14 hour nights of sleep. I was always so tired and my heart ached every day. (I was in my late 30s, early 40s).

I had been told that my mother could not get pregnant. After my Uncle brought back water from Lourdes on his pilgrimmage, he gave some to my mother. She was not Christian and accidently thought it was for drinking to be blessed. She drank it and was soon pregnant. I was 4.4 lb and very underdeveloped (hospitalized a month afterward for lung development). She only gained 10 lb during the pregnancy. So grateful to St. Bernadette, she named me, her daughter after her as a middle name and had me baptized.

As a child, my beloved mother died, and one day, very sad, I was looking through a book of saints when I found the story of Saint Bernadette. I heard a woman's voice (I'm clairaudient) say, "You will grow up to become a veterinarian and marry a Frenchman." So, I began teaching myself French at 9 yo.

As an adult with persistent signs of this heart disease so many years later, I felt as if Bernadette wanted me to come to Lourdes. (Yes, I became a veterinarian until I lost memory of my studies with the psittacosis infection which also had ruined my heart.) My French husband finally brought me in June of 2016 to this blessed place. I was so moved that I cried with joy through much of my short visit. I love Bernadette. My heart had been aching for several days quite badly before arriving in Lourdes. So, as I prayed at Lourdes and felt great pain in my chest, I thought I was going to die, and I peacefully accepted this at the thought of getting to meet Bernadette and to be in heaven. My heart felt as if hands were in my chest. After this agony, all pain in my heart left.

The fatigue has gone. The pain has gone. I can run now. I am very, very happy and grateful. I think the nuns knew something was happening as they kept eyeing me with interest, but I had no proof of my horrid heart condition, and so said nothing. I don't need to prove it to anyone as it is gone now, and I am incredibly grateful to St. Bernadette. On the way home in the plane to America, I felt a sharp, healing pain along my arteries in both forearms and inside my legs, as if my arteries were being descaled. After we landed, I had no swelling of the feet and my blood pressure had dropped 20 points. (On our trip from America to France, my feet and legs were swollen the whole 7 days after arriving, despite me propping them up on my suitcase each night, all night.)

Thank you, Bernadette. I am forever grateful to you and will forever love you. You have made me realize how bountiful God is and how great my faith is.

Anonymous said...

Oops! Excuse me, I did not mean to be disrespectful and refer to her without her title. I think of her so often with gratitude, that I have become too familiar with her in my mind. She is definitely, Saint Bernadette.

Glenn Dallaire said...

Thank you so much Anonymous for posting a bit of your wonderful spiritual journey with us! Most especially, thanks be to God for His infinite mercy upon us and thanks be to our Blessed Mother and St Bernadette for obtaining your healing.

May God bless you and your loved ones,
Glenn Dallaire

Anonymous said...