In 1858, in a cave, named Massabielle, situated in Lourdes in the Pyrénées of southern France, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on eighteen occasions to Bernadette Soubirous, a very poor, 14-year-old girl. The first of the apparitions took place on February 11th and the last on July 16th.

The lady - wearing a white dress with a blue sash and with gold roses at her feet - asked that a chapel be built on the site of the vision and told Bernadette to drink from a fountain in the Grotto. "Go, drink of the waters and bathe yourself there." Though no fountain was to be seen, when Bernadette dug at a spot designated by the apparition a spring began to flow.

The water from this still-flowing spring has shown remarkable healing power, though it contains no curative property that science can identify. And, still today, the Blessed Mother encourages us to approach the waters of grace with confidence.

Bernadette died in 1879, was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI. Pope John Paul II visited Lourdes in August, 2004.

Since 1858 millions of pilgrims have visited Lourdes.  The International Order of Malta Pilgrimage to Lourdes is generally held from the last Wednesday of April to the first Wednesday in May (the Sunday of the pilgrimage must fall on the first Sunday in May). Nearly 4,000 Knights and Dames from all over the world travel to Lourdes to learn firsthand what belonging to the Order of Malta really means - devotion, service, and fellowship. Dressed in distinctive uniforms and ministering to the sick and disabled (referred to as “Malades” in French), the members of the Order form an international community of faith and service.

Generally between 250 and 300 pilgrims from the Western Association participate in the pilgrimage. This includes around 50 malades, that is, men, women and children facing significant, and often life-threatening, medical challenges.  Malade candidates who are practicing Catholics may, by invitation, submit a malade application to the Western Association. For more information please contact us at

Making the pilgrimage can be a profound religious experience. Linked as it is with hands-on service, the pilgrimage offers unique spiritual gifts to all.

The Summer Youth Pilgrimage

Each summer members of the Western Association travel to Lourdes to host the Summer Youth Pilgrimage.  The group consists of approximately 24 young adults (ages 17-18) and 8 adult chaperones, including a registered nurse and a priest Chaplain of the Order.

In Lourdes we will serve with the Hospitalité by assisting those in need of care on their pilgrimage to Lourdes at the train station, in the Domaine, at the Grotto, and in the baths.

We also will participate in spiritual activities, including daily Morning Prayer, daily Mass, evening prayer, a penance service with private confession, the Stations of the Cross, praying the Rosary in procession, and evening reflections.

We will learn about the life of St. Bernadette, tour the village of Lourdes, and hike to the nearby village of Bartres.