On 11 February 1858, Our Lady appeared to a farm girl named Bernadette Soubirous in Massabielle, Lourdes in France. The Virgin appeared to her dressed in white, with a blue sash and holding a rosary. This was to be the first of 1b apparitions. When asked by Bernadette to state her name on the prodding of a church authority, the Lady answered, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. Thus started a universal devotion to our Lady of Lourdes.
On 28 July 1858, the Bishop of Tarbes formed a commission to study the apparitions and after 3 years, the supernatural events were deemed genuine, that it was indeed the Blessed Virgin that Bernadette saw. A pastoral letter was circulated in 1862 that announced the findings.
It was almost 25 years later that the Capuchin Fathers came to the Philippines to introduce the devotion. In 1886, Fr. Bernardo de Cieza, Superior General of the Capuchins, requested Filipino sculptor Manuel Flores to carve the statue of Our Lady. Assisting him was the Capuchin, Fr. Antonio de Valencia, whose father was a renown sculptor in Spain. The 1.5 meter image was carved in the round, painted and outfitted with a gilded aureola, a crown, and rosary. It was first publicly shown for veneration in 1892. The Capilla de Capuchinos was newly-finished in 1898 when the Philippine-American War began. The fathers promised to dedicate the church to Her if Manila was spared, and indeed, the city was left untouched by the siege.
By the 1900s, the devotion was entrenched in the country, and a confraternity was organized under the counsel of the Capuchin superior. One important aim was to promote the definition of the 1854 dogma of Pius IX.
At the height of the War, the image was stowed for safekeeping at the San Agustin Church, Intramuros, the only church that remained standing after the bombing of Manila. In March 1945, the Lourdes Virgin was brought from the chapel of Santisimo Rosario of UST to the chapel of Sta. Teresita in Quezon City. It was finally installed in Lourdes Church on Retiro, Quezon City.
Feast Day: 11 February
Shrine: Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Q.C.