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Meditation 474
The "Miracle" of Lourdes

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In 1858 in a grotto near Lourdes, France the Virgin Mary is supposed to have appeared eighteen times to a fourteen year-old peasant girl. Since that time the waters of the spring in the grotto have reputed to have curative powers and Lourdes has been a place of pilgrimage for those seeking a cure for their ailments.

Formal records were not kept in the early years, but in 1882 a medical committee was established to validate claims of cures, so the numbers of claimed cures and number of those considered miracles is known.

Currently seven million visit the shrine each year. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that well over a hundred million have made the pilgrimage. So how many cures do you think are claimed at this renowned shrine?

About seven thousand. That's not seven thousand out of last year's seven million visitors. That is seven thousand total cures claimed in the 128 years of record keeping.

And how many of those seven thousand claimed cures have been validated as miracles?

A mere 66.

Suppose that out only one in ten of the pilgrims is seeking a cure (This is a low estimate given that Lourdes is a healing shrine.) So we have at least ten million who have visited looking for a cure. Less than one tenth of a percent have reported a cure. And of those claimed cures, a little less than one percent have been validated as miracles.

These numbers are not impressive. I would suggest the chance of a getting a cure (even a non-miraculous one) from a visit to Lourdes is less than a spontaneous remission while sitting at home.

Even the Catholic Church seems troubled by the paucity of miracles at their star attraction. Because of the strict rules about declaring a miracle, the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes wants a new class of miracles created, "authenticated healings," with a lower standard of proof.

It looks like an attempt to build up the numbers to keep the people coming (not to mention keeping the euros filling the coffers.)

The real miracle of Lourdes is that it continues to attract millions each year, in spite of the failure to cure the overwhelming majority of those seeking a miracle.