Grotto of Lourdes Poelberg

Source: Willem Vandenameele

The grotto was created on the initiative of the sisters in faith at a time when, following the apparitions of Mary by Bernadette Soubirous in a Lourdes grotto, numerous Lourdes grottos were being built throughout Flanders.

Lifting the stones with horses is not easy, but the Mother Superior, who donated the land for the monastery garden , called on neighbors and school children to help. On September 16, 1938, the Poelberg Cave was inaugurated with a big ceremony.

There is also a procession with seven chapels.


Caves were imitated everywhere along the lines of the Cave of Lourdes , where Maria Bernadette appeared.

Everything we know about the apparitions and the message of Lourdes comes from Bernadette. Only she saw it. who is it then ? Three periods of his life can be distinguished: the years of his childhood in a poor family; a "public" life at the time of apparitions and testimonies; and finally a "hidden" life as a nun in Nevers.


When discussing the apparitions, Bernadette is often portrayed as a poor, sick, and ignorant girl residing in the cachot. Of course, but it wasn't always like that. Born on January 7, 1844 at the Moulin de Boly mill, she was the first daughter and heir of François Soubirous and Louise Castérot, who married for love. Bernadette grew up in a close family where they loved and prayed. These ten happy years in those crucial years of his youth have given him a strong personality and a beautiful poise. The subsequent descent into misery will not diminish his human wealth. Bernadette, 14 years old, is 1.40 m tall. He has asthma attacks. It has a lively, spontaneous, spontaneous and voluntary character that cannot hide. She has a certain self-esteem and this does not go unnoticed by her mother Vauzou in Nevers, who said of her: "A strict character, very sensitive". Bernadette felt sorry for her weaknesses and fought them vigorously. A strong but uneducated personality. No school for Bernadette: she had to serve in Aunt Bernarde's cabaret . No catechism: his rebellious memory contains no abstract formulas. At the age of 14 she can neither read nor write and suffers, she feels abandoned. Then she answers. September 1857: They sent her to Bartrès. On January 21, 1858, Bernadette returned to Lourdes, where she intended to celebrate First Communion. He did it on June 3, 1858, during the apparitions.


The apparitions began on February 11, 1858. To help her parents , Bernadette took it upon herself to collect dead wood from the banks of the Gave . Here he faces the riddle. A sound "like a gust of wind", a light, a presence. Displays remarkable common sense and judgment; Thinking he is wrong, he mobilizes all his human resources: he looks, he rubs his eyes, he tries to understand. Then he turns to his colleagues to check their impressions: “Did you see anything?”. Then he turns to God: he prays his rosary. He turns to the Church and accepts a confession tip from Father Pomian: "I saw a white thing in the form of a lady." Education surprised: "Aquero, I didn't tell the Blessed Virgin ... Lord, you changed everything for me." He says what he saw with a detachment, a surprising freedom: "It's my responsibility to tell you, not to make you believe."

It explains the phenomena precisely without adding or subtracting anything. Once, frightened by Father Peyramale's harshness, she adds: "Mr. Rector, the lady keeps asking about the chapel ...". In his mandate on the apparitions, Archbishop Laurence emphasizes "the simplicity, frankness and modesty of this child ... he tells us everything without affectation, with touching wit ... and answers the many questions put to him and gives them an answer without hesitation, clear and precise, imbued with a strong conviction, impervious to threats and advantageous offers: "Bernadette's sincerity is unquestionable: she did not mean to deceive." But she was not wrong... the victim of a hallucination? Quote: Bernadette's calmness, her sanity, the lack of any elevation in her house and also the fact that the apparitions are not Bernadette's fault: they happen when Bernadette didn't expect them. To arrive at these conclusions, Bernadette had to ask herself answering to curious admirers, journalists and others appeared before civil and religious commissions of inquiry.

Life in Cachot is no longer possible under these circumstances , Bernadette must be protected. Father Peyramale and Mayor Lacadé agree: Bernadette is admitted to the Sisters of Nevers hospital as a “needy patient” ; he arrived there on July 15, 1860. At the age of 16 he learned to read and write. Later he often wrote to his family and even to the Pope! He visits his parents who have moved into "Dad's house". He treats some sick people, but above all he seeks his way: he is useless and without a dowry, how can one be religious? Eventually it comes down to the Nevers sisters "because they didn't dress me". From that moment it was clear to him: "In Lourdes, my mission is over." Now he has to make room to let Maria have all the space.


She herself uses the phrase "I came here to hide" . In Lourdes it was Bernadette, the psychopath. In Nevers she becomes Sister Marie-Bernard the Saint. We often talk about the strictness of the superiors towards her, but it is important to understand that Bernadette was a special case: it was necessary to remove her from the news , to protect her and also to protect the community. Bernadette tells the story of the apparitions to the community of sisters assembled the day after her arrival, after which she does not need to say anything more. He stayed at the motherhouse, where he happily tended to the sick . There is no work for her the day she can start, so the bishop says "the prayer" for her. Pray for sinners,” said the lady. She will remain faithful to you. "My weapons," she wrote to the Pope, "are prayer and sacrifice." Her endless lectures in the salon: "Those poor bishops had better stay at home". Lourdes is far away... he returns to the grotto, never again ! But every day he makes a pilgrimage in his head. He will not speak of Lourdes, he will live there." You must be the first to bring the message,” said Father Douce, his confessor. And indeed, after being a male nurse, he slowly got sicker . He will make it "his work" and an act of perfect love, accepting all the crosses, for sinners: "They are truly our brothers and sisters" During the long sleepless nights, united with the Masses celebrated worldwide, she offers herself as "living crucifix" in the gigantic struggle of darkness and light, connected to Mary, focused on the mystery of salvation, looking at the crucifix: "Here I find my strength".

He died in Nevers on April 16, 1879, aged 35 . The Church canonized her on December 8, 1933, not because she benefited from the apparitions, but because she responded to them.


Source: Willem Vandenameele

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