On February 11 1858, St. Bernadette, at the age of 14, had the first, of almost twenty visions, of Our Lady at Lourdes. When Bernadette first encountered the Blessed Virgin, Bernadette was in the grotto and she saw the Beautiful Lady perched in a niche. She didnt know who she was. Bernaette asked her who she was and the Beautiful Lady just smiled at her. The Beautiful Lady asked Bernadette to drink from the spring and there was none. St. Bernadette began diging in the dirt when miraculously a spring appeared.
The Lady gave Bernadette two messages to be made public: the first was an urgent call to penance, and the second was that the priests were to construct a chapel on that site. Bernadette gave the Abbe the message from Our Lady. The Abbe asked many questions of Bernadette and she recounted the story simply and to the best of her ability.
The Abbe asked,
"What is this lady's name?"
"I don't know"
"You have not asked her?"
"Yes, but when I ask her, she smiles but does not reply."
"And you assert that she has instructed you to tell me that she wants a chapel at Massabielle?"
"Girl," he cried, "you are out of your mind! A lady who goes and perches on a rock, a lady you do not know, a lady who is perhaps as lunatic as you! This lady comes and tells you to invite us to have a chapel built for her! And you accept such messages? And you think we are fools enough to listen to them?"
Then calming down a bit: "Since you stick to this lady, find out first who she is, and if she thinks she has a right to a chapel. Ask her from me to prove it by making the rose-bush at the grotto flower immediately."
Bernadette asked several more times for the Lady's name, but the Lady continued to smile and tell her to ask the priests to build the chapel.
Then the visions stopped for three weeks. In that time, the Abbe could not help but notice not only the miraculous cures taking place in his parish, but also an incredible resurgence of the faith and a return to the sacraments by the townspeople.
Then on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March, Bernadette again experienced the 'irresistible urge' to go to the grotto. When she came with relatives, over a thousand people were gathered there. The Beautiful Lady was already in the niche waiting for her. The rosary and prayers were said, and during her ecstasy, Bernadette gathered her courage and asked the beautiful Lady, once, twice, and then a third time: "Madame, will you be so kind as to tell me who you are?"
The Lady opened her arms and lowered them, letting the rosary slip down to her wrist, then she rejoined her hands, raised her eyes and said, "I am the Immaculate Conception"
Bernadette went back to the Abbe and told him what the Lady had said.
"What's that you say, you conceited little thing?"
"It is the Lady who has just said these words to me."
"Do you know what that means?"
"No, monsieur le Curé."
"I see you are still being deceived. How can you say things that you don't understand?"
"All the way from the grotto, I have been repeating, 'I am the Immaculate Conception'."
Through many hours of interrogation, the Abbe decided Bernadette was telling the truth. The only thing left to do is contact the bishop.
The Bishop of Tarbes approved the Apparitions in 1862 after exhaustive investigations as to their authenticity:
"We judge that Mary the Immaculate, Mother of God, did truly appear to Bernadette Soubirous on 11 February 1858, and on subsequent days, to the number of 18 times in all, in the grotto of Massabielle, near the town of Lourdes."
Before Bernadette left Lourdes in 1866 to enter the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, she witnessed the blessing of the Lourdes' Basilica.
Portrait of Bernadette in 1866 before she left for Nevers.
Prayers to Our Lady of Lourdes Go back to Our Mother
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