Actor Zac Efron visited Lourdes in an surprisingly Catholic second episode of his Netflix documentary Down to Earth with Zac Efron. The episode focuses on drinking water and its potential healing qualities.
The episode begins with church bells ringing and images of Our Lady of Lourdes and the beautiful Lourdes sanctuary.
The High School Musical star told Rolling Stone in a 2007 interview he “was raised agnostic, so we never practiced religion.”
He opens the episode with “We’re somewhere in Europe, about to meet Dr. Alessandro de Franciscis–the permanent residing physician of the Office of Medical Observations here at the most famous healing shrine in the world.
“He is the official doctor who was appointed by the regional bishop. This is an incredibly special and holy place, and he’s a really, really big deal.”
Efron later continues his Lourdes story during the episode’s final 10 minutes.
The various camera shots then focus on Benedictine rosaries, Lourdes candles, statues of Our Lady, the Lourdes grotto, and a photo of St. Bernadette.
“Water can provide more than just hydration. There is also a spiritual aspect to it,” Efron says. “We are on our way to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, the most famous healing shrine in the world.
“It is here that four to six million people come each year – specifically for the water.
“Most of the people come in search of a miracle. We are seeking answers.”
Efron continues his narration with the story of St. Bernadette:
“As the story goes, in 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to a 14-year-old peasant girl here in Lourdes. The young girl, Bernadette, was instructed by the apparition to uncover a natural spring and to drink and bathe from the water.
“Bernadette’s furious digging into the mud led the townspeople to think she was mad. Yet, when water eventually began to flow, her vision was determined to be real, and thus, a miracle.
“To this day, that water continues to flow from the spring, and thousands have claimed miraculous healing as a result of drinking and bathing in it.”
Efron then speaks with Dr. Alessandro de Franciscis.
Dr. Franciscis explains the thorough miracle approval process.
Efron continues, “Since the 1700s, the Catholic Church has seven strict and clear criteria for a health event or healing to be determined a miracle.”
The doctor shows Efron and his friend, Darin Olien, approved miracles. Both men look shocked and amazed by the miracles. Upon leaving, Efron said the information “was really mind-blowing.”
“In the last case, considered a miracle in 2018, over 300 doctors studied the case looking for a medical explanation, but none could be found,” Efron says.
“If it seems like having a cure deemed a miracle is hard, that’s because it is. Over the past 135 years, out of 7400 claims submitted to the Lourdes Medical Bureau, only 70 have been substantiated and verified by the bishop as miracles.”
Efron then introduces Lourdes chaplain Fr. Jim Phalan, CSC.
“Fr. Jim leads us to the grotto, where it all began back in 1858.”
“It’s hard to believe that back in the 1800s, a 14-year-old girl that people wrote off as crazy, had a miraculous, holy vision, right here at this very spot,” Efron says. “There is no denying the sacred feeling you get, just by being here.”
“And when people walk away from this experience, real or imagined, there’s a change.”
Fr. Phalan explained that Lourdes “is not about magic or superstition. It’s about symbols.”
While lighting a candle at the grotto, Efron explains that “intentions of prayer are left by lighting a candle at the sanctuary.”
“Prayer means different things to different people, but what I found, is that sometimes just taking the time to ask, it can help bring peace,” he says. “I don’t expect everything I pray for to be answered, but sometimes taking the time to ask is comforting in itself.”
Efron and Olien then walk the sanctuary’s grounds.
Efron attends evening torchlight procession in Lourdes
“Whether or not you believe in the power of prayer, when you witness thousands of people at a candlelight vigil like this, there’s no denying the energy,” Efron explains.
“My thoughts are almost in a pure, meditative state. And I feel like I’m a part of something much greater than myself.”
“I definitely believe there’s some kind of power in group prayer. All of these people coming together for prayer, creating one massive force.
“Does it work? I don’t know. But you can’t deny the extraordinary peace and beauty that is going on right here.”