Our Lady appeared to Bernardette, under the aspect which humanity more expected: The Immaculate Conception, whose purity shines over a dumpsite to signify that it is she who purifies the world from the composite putrefaction in which all its values rot away in her purity.
Mary, daughter of the common folk, born in a humble village of poor people, appeared to Bernardette, daughter of labourers in a humble village of mountaineers. This was at a time in which the recent proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pius IX in 1854, had crudely bared the contrast between the Ideal of purity, incarnated by the Mother of God and transfused in the doctrine and practice of Christians, and the reality of a degradation in unbridled vice and passions promoted by materialistic and positivistic philosophical trends, favoured by politics aimed at demolishing the Church’s ethics to destroy the dignity of the person.
The urgent value of that apparition was immediately consolidated by the miracles at the grotto of Lourdes, with which the divine Mother helped numberless sons on earth to recover bodily health and pureness of soul. And the value grew and increased after the urgency was understood by the Christians who saw that the water freed people from physical illness together with the moral one: Mary, water arising from the Eternal, purifies human blood to free it from all ugliness.
The Pope (Pius XII), in his Encyclical for the centenary celebration, highlighted the actuality of the healing action through which the virgin, who is stainless Purity, increasingly rises against the corruption of customs and ideas, advocated with the instruments of art, politics and example.
Mary, dressed in white and blue represents the Ideal of Life against Death which is preceded by vice. The New Eve, if the old one gave in to the Enemy already at the first encounter, she rises since her conception, when from the merits of the newborn Son she drew forth the privilege of Immaculateness.
With her he entered into human existence, a new element: absolute purity, humanity without a stain, and that divine health which mankind needed most to stop their moral and intellectual decomposition. The Immaculate Conception thus means the most radical – divine – strike of the rod to reverse the course of history heading for dissolution.
The significance of the apparitions and miracles is easy to see and was thus expressed to an unschooled and gross girl and is universal (and therefore diffused among gentry and classes of every place and category). Pureness is an essential, preliminary condition of life and coexistence, for all and for always: but especially for our time, in which we thought of exalting the physiological value of the flesh, degrading it to perversions against nature.
Master of life, the Church offers the Immaculate to the peoples as the ideal of beauty without shadows: as Mother and Virgin she transmits God to us; she gives us Jesus who, as the “Way, the Truth and Life,” is the Health of mankind.
Igino Giordani, The meaning of Lourdes, New City, n.3, 5.2.1958, p.5.