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160th anniversary of the torchlight processions in Lourdes

From 7th to 9th July 2023, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes will be celebrating the 160th anniversary of the torchlight processions with the Capuchin Friars Minor, some of whom are also “chapelains”: the “guardians” of the chapel that requested Mary of Bernadette Soubirous on 2nd March 1858.

2023 is a special year for the Capuchin friars and for Lourdes, because it is the 160th anniversary of the Torchlight Processions.

The Capuchin Friars Minor, the Association for the memory of Father Marie-Antoine (APMA), the Padre Pio prayer groups, the entire Capuchin family and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes invite you to celebrate this event on the 7th, 8th and 9th July 2023.



In 2013, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Torchlight Processions, on the initiative of the Association for the memory of Father Marie-Antoine, a bust of Father Marie-Antoine de Lavaur was inaugurated at the end of the Espelugues Stations of the Cross. The internationally renowned torchlight procession, known was introduced in Lourdes in 1863 by the Capuchin. His biographers wrote:

“One evening in 1863, it was about nine o’clock, night had almost fallen, the statue of the Virgin had not yet been erected in the hollow where the Immaculate appeared. Twenty people were praying there. About the same number of candles were burning at the foot of an image of the Virgin. Everything was silent. “These candles need to be walking and singing,” said the Capuchin to himself. No sooner said than done. Everyone was invited to pick up one of the candles. Carried in the hands of the pilgrims, these torches formed a semi-circle in front of the Grotto, to the hymn Ave Maris Stella. The following day, there were a hundred candles, then thousands and thousands that walked along the winding path of ‘Les Lacets’, the esplanade or the prairie.

Père Marie-Antoine

What is a procession?

On 2nd March 1858, the Lady who appeared to Bernadette Soubirous asked her, “Go and tell the priests to build a chapel here and that people should come in procession”. But what is a procession?

A procession is quite simply the act of moving forward, of progressing. Getting started. But this movement must be communal so that it is not just any procession, it must be formal. We do not walk in procession in the same way that we walk during a hike.

The Marian torchlight procession quickly formed at the Grotto, and it has always been a joyful and festive occasion. This procession, with people carrying candles in their hands, is closely connected with evening prayer, the prayer of the Rosary, the homage paid to the Virgin Mary.

The song of the Ave Maria of Lourdes was sung for the first time in 1873 by a pilgrimage from Vendée. Pilgrims and visitors to Lourdes have been singing this song together every evening at 9:00 p.m. now for 150 years…

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