St. Bernadette relics tour comes to two parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Mineral Wells and St. Francis of Assisi in Graford are among only 42 locations in the United States where the faithful can venerate the relics of St. Bernadette Soubirous during a special tour that originated recently in Lourdes, France.
The relics will be on display July 20-22 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 108 NW 4th Ave., in Mineral Wells. On July 22, the relics will also visit St. Francis of Assisi Church, 14965 N. State Highway 16, in Graford.
This year marks the first time the relics have traveled from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, in the south of France, to the United States. Relics of St. Bernadette are normally housed in a reliquary at the shrine site, which attracts more than 6 million people annually.
Father Thomas D’Souza, SAC, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Mineral Wells and St. Francis of Assisi in Graford, said he was surprised when he received a call from one of the tour organizers asking if he was interested in hosting St. Bernadette’s relics at his parishes.
“I said, ‘Certainly, I’m interested,’” Fr. D’Souza recalled, further explaining that he contacted Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson, who was also strongly in favor of bringing the relics to this area.
“It is a great privilege for us to host these relics,” Fr. D’Souza said. “The relics of St. Bernadette will bring us such great spiritual love for Jesus and Mary. People will be very moved in the presence of the relics.”
The priest said the faithful will come away with some good memories of their participation during the veneration of the relics and might even experience their own miracles of faith in the process.
Fr. D’Souza said he also plans to lead a novena in advance of the relics’ visit to the parishes he serves.
“I think this whole experience will strengthen the faith of people who learn the story of St. Bernadette,” Fr. D’Souza said, “and how as a poor girl she experienced these apparitions of the Blessed Mother again and again.”
Over the course of several months starting in 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to 14-year-old Bernadette at the Grotto of Massabielle, on the present sanctuary site, with messages calling for penance and prayers for the conversion of sinners.
On one visit, Our Lady asked the peasant girl to dig in the ground, and to drink and wash in the water that would appear. Onlookers saw Bernadette digging frantically, eating dirt, and eventually drinking muddy water.
Soon, however, clear spring water began to flow. Since that time, millions of people have bathed in the healing water of Lourdes, with several thousand miraculous recoveries attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes at the site. Of those, 70 cases have been officially recognized by the Catholic Church, with the most recent in 2013.
Now, people in North Texas have the opportunity to experience the same healing water from Lourdes — all without making a 5,000-mile pilgrimage to France.
For the first time ever in the United States, local Catholics will be able to drink and wash in the water from Massabielle Grotto, participate in a Marian candlelight procession accompanied by the relics of St. Bernadette, and venerate the relics of one of the world’s most beloved saints.
“For miracle-minded Catholics and those with a Marian devotion, St. Bernadette Soubirous is one of the most noteworthy saints in the modern history of the Church,” EWTN’s “Miracle Hunter” Michael O’Neill told the North Texas Catholic.
“Not only was she the recipient of 18 visions of the Virgin Mary and the one who unearthed the healing spring that has resulted in many healing miracles still happening at Lourdes today, the body of St. Bernadette inexplicably lies in a state of near perfect preservation, making it one of the most remarkable such cases in the history of the Catholic Church.”
The Miracle Hunter continued, “For faithful who venerate the relics of St. Bernadette, they will be connecting in a very rare and real way with one of the great Marian saints of history.”
Monsignor Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, rector of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, was a central figure in making that connection possible. He was involved for several years in the process of bringing the relics to the United States.
Msgr. Dumas told the North Texas Catholic that he and his colleagues in France have been driven to “spread the spirituality of Our Lady of Lourdes in the world. It is what we live for at the Sanctuary.”
The rector thanked Bishop Olson for the opportunity to accommodate the relics for the faithful of North Texas and said the 9,000-mile journey the relics will make as they wind their way throughout the U.S. has been “a beautiful challenge.”
Just as Mary helped St. Bernadette uncover a spring that led people to the miraculous healing spring water in Lourdes, she is doing the same now through this special tour, he said.
“When we welcome the relics of St. Bernadette,” Msgr. Dumas said, “we also welcome the Virgin Mary, and hear her invitation to go to the spring. Mary always leads us to Christ, the risen one.
“Today, being close to the relics of Bernadette is a way to draw from the spring. It is a way of refocusing our life on Christ, the unique mediator between God and humanity,” the monsignor said.
“By our closeness to the saints in the communion of saints, it is the grace of Christ, the grace of salvation, that we receive.”
To the faithful of the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Lourdes Sanctuary rector said: “I strongly believe that the visit of the relics will be full of graces for those who participate. Pope Francis has given a plenary indulgence for those who visit the relics, confess, attend Mass, and pray for the pope’s intentions.
“When Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary, she communicated the happiness of heaven to her. That promise of the happiness of the other world is here for us today. The veneration of the relics of Bernadette gives us a foretaste of this happiness.”
In reference to Matthew 5:6, Msgr. Dumas said, “It also strengthens our faith in God who comforts the afflicted and satisfies those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
The rector concluded, “The veneration of relics is all about faith. We thank God for the faith of His saint, and as we reflect on and learn more about this saint’s faith, we pray that God will renew and increase it in ourselves.”
The St. Bernadette relics tour was organized by the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, in partnership with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, North American Lourdes Volunteers, Hospitalité de Miami, and the Order of Malta.
The U.S. tour of the relics began in April, and by August will have made parish and cathedral stops in 21 states. The only locations for the relics tour in Texas include the two parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston.
For more information on the 2022 Relics of St. Bernadette Tour, including a tour map, Prayers of Consecration to Mary, Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes, Novena to St. Bernadette Soubirous, and more, visit: StBernadetteUSA.org.