On February 11, 1858, the Mother of God came from Heaven and appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 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.
The Apparitions of February
Bernadette sees a most beautiful lady, dressed in white, with a blue sash, in the niche above the Grotto. They pray the rosary.
Bernadette sprinkles Holy Water at the Lady. She smiles.
The Lady invites Bernadette to return to the grotto for fifteen consecutive days.
Short and Silent Apparition. Bernadette brings a lighted blessed candle to the grotto.
The Lady teaches Bernadette a personal prayer. Bernadette is overcome with sadness.
When questioned by the police, Bernadette speaks in her dialect only of “Aquéro,” or “that one.”
The Lady reveals to Bernadette a secret “only for her alone,” which Bernadette never reveals.
“Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Would you kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners?”
At the instruction of the Lady, Bernadette digs in the mud and drinks of the dirty water that appears there “for sinners.”
The Apparition is silent. Bernadette carries out her usual acts of penance.
Crowds surround Bernadette as she kisses the ground as a sign of penance.
Our Lady’s Request
The Apparitions of March
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
The Apparitions of April & July
During this apparition, Bernadette protected her candle from blowing out. As she held her hand close, the flame licked her hand without burning it, which was immediately witnessed by Dr. Douzous.
Bernadette’s way to the Grotto was blocked and closed off by a barrier. She thus came to the Grotto across the Gave. “I felt that I was in front of the Grotto, at the same distance as before, I saw only the Blessed Virgin, and she was more beautiful than ever!”