O ever-Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy,
health of the sick, refuge of sinners,
comforter of the afflicted,
you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings;
look with mercy on me.

By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes,
you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary,
whence you dispense your favours;
and already many sufferers have obtained
the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal.

I come, therefore, with complete confidence
to implore your maternal intercession.

Obtain, O loving Mother, the grant of my requests.
(mention your petition)
Through gratitude for your favours,
I will endeavour to imitate your virtues,
that I may one day share your glory. Amen.

Background information on one of the world's most famous places of healing.

Apparent divine healings are a challenge to our natural way of thinking. Are the stories true? Is the evidence reliable? Are the explanations we are given true? Do they prove God exists and heals, or is that only for the gullible? This is a brief summary of the apparent miracles at Lourdes.
A world-famous place of healing

Lourdes is a village in southern France, close to the Pyrenees mountains and the Spanish border. Many healing miracles are reputed to have occurred there since 1858, when a 14 year old girl claimed to have 'seen' a beautiful lady that Roman Catholics believe was the mother of Jesus. Of the estimated 200 million people who have sought a cure there, millions claim to have been healed.
Where possible, people claiming healing are examined on the spot by a medical bureau, and the information is reviewed by an international commission of medical specialists, independent of the Catholic Church and including sceptics. To be regarded as authentic, claims have to satisfy four requirements:
the illness and cure was well documented,
the illness was serious and was unable to be effectively treated,
the symptoms disappeared within hours, and
the healing lasted for sufficient time to ensure the 'cure' was not just a temporary remission (e.g. in the case of leukemia, 10 years is required).

The miracles
Most claims lack sufficient evidence to be verified, but 68 miracles have passed this stringent checking and have been proclaimed as authentic, while several thousand other remarkable cures have been documented. Some examples of claimed healings include:
Margerie Paulette, 22 years old, cured of tubercular meningitis in 1929.
Mademoiselle Dulot, cured of stomach and liver cancer in 1925.
Louise Jamain, cured in 1937 of tubercular peritonitis.
Jeanne Fretel, cured in 1949 of tubercular peritonitis.
Rose Martin, cured of cancer of the uterus in 1947.
Vittorio Micheli, cured of a malignant tumour of the hip in 1963.
Serge Francois, cured of a herniated disc in 2002.

The stories of a few other 'approved miracles' are outlined below at Some stories.
Doubts and questions
These miracles which have passed the medical commission's strict criteria are apparently sufficiently well documented to meet any reasonable requirement for evidence. If we are willing to be convinced by evidence, then the evidence is there that in each of these cases, something very unusual happened.
Many atheists and rationalists are quite sure that miracles cannot occur, and thus may not be willing or able to be convinced by any evidence. Therefore they probably will not be convinced here, and will look for natural explanations or, despite the evidence, question the truth of the stories.
Protestant christians may also be sceptical that God would heal via the Virgin Mary, and in a place where they may believe superstition is prevalent. But again, how can they explain the evidence?
Some stories

Jean-Pierre Bely
Jean-Pierre Bely was paralysed with multiple sclerosis, and was classified by the French health system as a total invalid when he went to Lourdes in 1987. He received 'the anointing of the sick', and when he returned home he was able to walk. Subsequently, virtually all traces of the illness disappeared. Patrick Fontanaud, an agnostic physician who looked after Bely, said there is no scientific explanation for what occurred.
Gabriel Gargam

Gabriel Gargam was severely injured in a railway accident in 1900, in which he was almost crushed to death and was paralysed from the waist down by a crushed spine. A court ordered the railway to pay him compensation because he was "a human wreck who would henceforth need at least two persons to care for him." His condition continued to deteriorate. He was not a religious person, but his mother persuaded him to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes, very weak, fed via a tube and lapsing into unconsciousness. But at Lourdes his paralysis disappeared and he was able to walk, although still very thin and weak. Within a short time, he was eating normally, able to resume work and he lived to 83.
Serge Perrin

Serge Perrin began to suffer neurological problems in 1964 at age 35, and was subsequently diagnosed with thrombosis in the left carotid artery, for which surgery was nor recommended. He visited Lourdes in 1969 as his condition worsened, but there was no improvement. His deterioration continued until 1970, when he was almost blind and unable to care for himself alone. At his wife's insistence, he visited Lourdes as second time and received the anointing of the sick. By that afternoon, he could walk without the aid of a walking stick and could see without using spectacles. He returned home, fully cured, as was confirmed by a serious of medical tests.
Dr Michael Moran evaluates Lourdes miracles reports
By Sharon Ferguson BBC News NI

When Belfast doctor Michael Moran began volunteering in Lourdes 17 years ago, he had no idea that he would end up becoming part of a small, select team that evaluates miracles at the Catholic religious shrine in France.
The small market town lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and is famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes that are reported to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous.
The trainee ENT surgeon is the first doctor from Ireland to take a place on the panel.
Dr Moran said his appointment came "very much by surprise".
"I'd been volunteering in Lourdes for years and had the normal contact that any doctor would have with the medical bureau there," he said.
"Around about November 2012, I started to get a few emails which suggested that something might happen soon and it was actually in 2013 that I was proposed and confirmed as a member."
The panel is made up of about 40 people from around the world who come from different medical specialties, backgrounds and levels of training.
Their role is to decide whether or not cures that people claim to have had at Lourdes are explicable medically.
"It's very much a scientific committee so we are not the people who can say the word miracle - that's something for the church to comment on," Dr Moran said.

"I think the important thing is that members of the committee have to set whatever their beliefs are aside, be they pro or con Lourdes as a place to go, a place of miracles and a place of healing.
Image caption The shrine is one of the most famous Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, attracting nearly six million visitors every year

"The committee is really convened as a group of professional people who sit with the best medical evidence and can even request more medical evidence to substantiate what has been claimed by the person."
A number of cases are currently under assessment.
The committee meets annually, but a decision can take many years to reach.
"Because of the need for a length of time for the cure to fulfil the criteria that are quite strictly set by the church, we would discuss cases year-to-year that don't really change very much and we're just really waiting for a certain timeframe to be passed for us to comment further or request further examination or tests," he said.
Since 1858, there have been 69 verified miracles or cures in Lourdes.
"Those are the ones that we have absolutely certain medical evidence and we can stand over," Dr Moran said.
'Something different'

"The most recent one was a lady with extremely high blood pressure who had a benign tumour on her adrenal gland that was secreting adrenaline and keeping her blood pressure very high and she felt suddenly well.
"That's a characteristic, that you suddenly feel something different has happened, she felt it when she was in the bath in Lourdes and that was in the 1980s and that was only just confirmed in 2011."
He said the first cure was of a paralysed arm that regained function suddenly.
"Another classic example of that is a gentleman from Italy who had a tumour of the pelvis and although you can see the destruction of the pelvic bone on x-rays which are available for the public to view in Lourdes, the bone actually re-grew, both in the pelvis and the femur in an anatomically correct way that would be very hard to explain," he said.
Michael said miracles were just the "tip of the iceberg" at Lourdes.
"First of all it's a place where people can go on holiday when maybe they're terminally ill and couldn't otherwise get insurance," he said.
Image caption As well as studying for a PHD in cancer research at Queen's University Belfast (QUB), he is also an ear, nose and throat (ENT) registrar in the Belfast Trust

"There's the holiday aspect of it, but there's so much that people get from it spiritually, both as carers and as sick and disabled."

Is there a chance that some of those who visit Lourdes come under the influence of the "placebo effect"?
"From the committee's point of view, what we're really doing is what we currently can medically explain or not explain, so there's certainly things that have happened, not in Lourdes, that we can't explain also," he said.
"Our role is really to discuss things that happened there at a specific time that people really do believe was related to their spiritual experience."
For some, the fields of science and religion do not sit easily side-by-side.
"I'm quite happy with both in the sense that I feel there's a role for both," he said.
"I know not all scientists or medics would believe that, but I certainly have seen people get a lot of great spiritual relief from Lourdes.
"I myself have also had an overwhelming experience that you can't really describe because it's such a peaceful place and it's a place where the sick are really put first and it strikes you that if Belfast hospitals and hospitals around the world were like that all the time, then the world would generally be a better place.
So what do his friends and family make of his honorary role?
"I don't generally tell people," he said.
"It's not that I'm ashamed of it or anything, it's just that it hasn't really come up in conversation because it's personally for me such an honour and such a big deal and it's not the sort of job you can apply for.

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