The First Apparition
On February 11, 1858, the Mother of God came from Heaven and appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous of the town of Lourdes in the Pyrenees Mountains in France.
Accompanied by her sister and a friend, Bernadette went to the grotto of Massabielle on the banks of the river looking for driftwood to make a fire and sell some firewood to buy bread. Removing her socks to cross the little stream, she heard a great gust of wind in the stillness, she looked up towards the grotto:
“I SAW A LADY DRESSED IN WHITE, SHE WORE A WHITE DRESS, AN EQUALLY WHITE
VEIL, A BLUE BELT AND A YELLOW ROSE ON EACH FOOT.”
Bernadette made the Sign of the Cross with the lady and they prayed the Rosary together in silence. When the prayer ended, the most beautiful lady suddenly vanished.
Four years later, in 1862, the bishop of the diocese declared the faithful “justified in believing the reality of the apparition.” Pope Leo XIII authorized a special office and a Mass, in commemoration of the apparition, and in 1907 Pope Pius X extended the observance of this feast to the entire Church.
Bernadette was later canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church for living a holy life. She lived the Message of Lourdes she received for all of us in the Grotto.
Eleven February Apparitions
In the month of February, Our Lady appeared to Bernadette eleven times.
11 FEB – The First Encounter: Bernadette sees a most beautiful lady, dresses in white with a blue sash in the niche above the Grotto; they pray the rosary
14 FEB – Holy Water: Bernadette sprinkles Holy Water at the Lady; she smiles
18 FEB – The Lady Speaks: The Lady invites Bernadette to return to the grotto for fifteen consecutive days
19 FEB – Short and Silent Apparition: Bernadette brings a lighted blessed candle to the grotto
20 FEB – In Silence: The Lady teaches Bernadette a personal prayer; Bernadette is overcome with sadness
21 FEB – “Aquéro”: When questioned by the police, Bernadette speaks in her dialect only of “Aquéro,” or “that one”
23 FEB – The Secret: The Lady reveals to Bernadette a secret “only for her alone,” which Bernadette never reveals.
24 FEB – Penance: “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Would you kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!”
25 FEB – The Spring: At the instruction of the Lady, Bernadette digs in the mud and drinks of the dirty water that appears there “for sinners.”
27 FEB – Silence: The Apparition is silent. Bernadette carries out her usual acts of penance.
28 FEB – Penance: Crowds surround Bernadette as she kisses the ground as a sign of penance.
Our Lady appeared to Bernadette seven more times over the course of the following months. Just as Bernadette experienced these apparitions, we will send information regarding the apparitions out to the friends of the North American Lourdes Volunteers.
Our Lady’s Request
On March 2, 1858, Our Lady spoke to Bernadette, “Go, tell priests that the people are to come here in procession and to build a chapel.” Those who have visited Lourdes can easily recognize the images of the Rosary and the Eucharistic Processions that occur daily during the pilgrimage season.
The Rosary is the central element of the Marian Procession with the singing of the Ave Maria de Lourdes. The torchlight procession began, it seems, with the very origins of the pilgrimage, when the children of Mary came on Saturday after vespers, a candle in hand, to recite the rosary at the grotto.
Since the Middle Ages, Eucharistic Procession has been a form of veneration of the Body of Christ. At Lourdes, the procession is the oldest of the Sanctuary. It is a threefold affirmation: affirmation of the Real Presence of Christ in the consecrated host, affirmation of our need to see Him whom we love, and affirmation that the Son of God is always among us in our joys and our sorrows.
The Apparitions of March
1 MAR – The First Miracle: Over fifteen hundred people assemble, for the first time a priest among them. Catherine Latapie’s arm is healed after plunging it into the spring.
2 MAR – Message to the Priests: The Lady speaks to Bernadette asking that the people come in procession and that a chapel be built there. A local priest asks for the Lady’s name.
3 MAR – A Smile: When Bernadette asks the Lady for her name, she receives only a smile in response. The priest tells Bernadette, “If the Lady really wishes that a chapel be built, then she must tell us her name and make the rose bush bloom at the Grotto.”
4 MAR – The Day All Were Waiting For: On the last day of the fifteen days originally requested, around eight thousand people gathered around Bernadette at the Grotto; the Lady still does not reveal her name.
25 MAR – The Name They Awaited: Arising at dawn, Bernadette approaches the Grotto and finds the Lady already there. On this day, the Feast of the Annunciation, the Lady reveals, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
The time of the expected appearances having ended, we are left to contemplate the final words of Our Lady.
“I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Our Lady appeared twice more to Bernadette, once on the 7th of April and a final time on the 16th of July.