The Annunciation 1st Mystery
Mosaic from the Rosary Basilica, Lourdes, early 1900's
The fortnight of apparitions had concluded. "Aquero" had not yet revealed her name. And yet she had already asked much of Bernadettecrawling in the mud, eating bitter grass, humiliation by the fickle crowds, the chapel. The small town was also put under strain. Swelling to several times its population, tensions increased as expectations on one fourteenyearold girl carried the residents and visitors on an emotional roller coaster.
Aquero had also given much in return. The message of penance and prayer for sinners taught those who were willing to open their hearts that there was a poverty worse than physical destitution. Bernadette herself was among the poorest of any child in town. The healing waters were a lasting sign that brought miracles. Many were converted.
Grotto of Massabielle June, 1998
What was next?
After three weeks, life had regained some normalcy. The faithful still gathered at the grotto, but Bernadette was not to be seen. She was busy studying her catechism and preparing for her first Holy Communion. In the early morning hours on March 25th, Bernadette awoke with the familiar inner call to return to the grotto. This was a call that she could not resist. The day was an important one in the churchthe feast of the Annunciation, a day when young Mary of Nazareth also received a call in her own poor dwelling. An angel visited to announce that she would become the mother of the Saviour.
|Thursday, March 25, 1858
||Bernadette joyfully rejoined the lady in the grotto. It had been 3 weeks since she saw Aquero and had not known whether she would ever appear again. This time she was determined to obtain the lady's name, so that she could finally tell the priest. Bernadette was characteristically stubborn, and she repeated four times the question she had practiced so often, "Would you be so kind as to tell me who you are?" The answer finally came: "I am the Immaculate Conception."
"I went every day for a fortnight, and each day I asked her who she wasand this petition always made her smile. After the fortnight I asked her three times consecutively. She always smiled. At last I tried for the fourth time. She stopped smiling. With her arms down, she raised her eyes to heaven and then, folding her hands over her breast she said, 'I am the Immaculate Conception.' Then I went back to M. le Curé to tell him that she had said she was the Immaculate Conception, and he asked was I absolutely certain. I said yes, and so as not to forget the words, I had repeated them all the way home."
Bernadette planted a candle between two rocks as a gift, a sign of her prayer and the revelation, and then ran home. Running all the way, she repeated these strange words over and over so that she would not forget them. Of course the words were spoken in her native Bigourdan dialect and were completely unfamiliar, "que soy era Immaculada Councepciou."
Fr. Peyramale said that a woman cannot have a name like that. "You are mistaken. Do you know what that means?" The priest was shaken, and unable to talk to Bernadette. He quickly sent her away, and she left without the privilege of understanding the meaning of the title. She was only told later that afternoon that the Blessed Mother carried that title.
"She could never have invented this ... " wrote Fr. Peyramale to the bishop that evening.
The Church declared that Mary was the "Immaculate Conception" only four years earlier in 1854. The title would certainly have been unknown to Bernadette since it was not broadly discussed in the liturgy, and Bernadette still could not read or write. She was only then learning her catechism to prepare for first Holy Communion, a task undertaken typically by children six or seven years her junior. It was her poor health and her family's poverty that had hindered her education.
Two more apparitions were to occur following Our Lady's announcement that she was in fact the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of God. Lourdes was in a state of unrest. False visionaries and other troublemakers created a frenzy in the town. The Bishop finally intervened, denouncing such abuses. Civil authorities barricaded the grotto and prevented access. The barricades were repeatedly destroyed and reerected. Meanwhile, Bernadette returned to a quieter life. After the seventeenth apparition, the Soubirous finally left the Cachot. With no knowledge that she would ever see the Virgin Mary again, Bernadette went on to receive her first Holy Communion on June 3rd. She was indeed the first to live the message of penance, receiving visitors tirelessly and repeating the events over and over. This wore greatly on her health and hindered her education.
Wednesday, April 7, 1858|
|Three days after Easter, Bernadette again felt the inner call to the grotto. She arrived with a candle in hand. Already gathered, the regular daily crowd fell silent as Bernadette immediately went into a rapture. All was quiet until Dr. Dozous pushed noisily through the crowd to be at the visionary's side. He had always been a skeptic, and now arrived "in the name of science."
The large candle that Bernadette was holding burned down until she was barely holding a wick. Dr. Dozous observed the flames licking at Bernadette's fingers for a full ten minutes. When the ecstasy was over, he examined her fingers, which had not been harmed or affected in any way. Bernadette had not felt the flames at all. From that moment, Dr. Dozous became an ardent supporter of the apparitions and an important witness. He returned immediately to Commissioner Jacomet's office to have the account recorded in writing.
The Assumption 14th Mystery
Mosaic from the Rosary Basilica, Lourdes, early 1900's
"Bernadette seemed to be even more absorbed than usual in the Appearance upon which her gaze was riveted. I witnessed, as did also every one else there present, the fact which I am about to narrate.
She was on her knees saying with fervent devotion the prayers of her Rosary which she held in her left hand while in her right was a large blessed candle, alight. The child was just beginning to make the usual ascent on her knees when suddenly she stopped and, her right hand joining her left, the flame of the big candle passed between the fingers of the latter. Though fanned by a fairly strong breeze, the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching. Astonished at this strange fact, I forbade anyone there to interfere, and taking my watch in my hand, I studied the phenomenon attentively for a quarter of an hour. At the end of this time Bernadette, still in her ecstasy, advanced to the upper part of the Grotto, separating her hands. The flame thus ceased to touch her left hand.
Bernadette finished her prayer and the splendour of the transfiguration left her face. She rose and was about to quit the Grotto when I asked her to show me her left hand. I examined it most carefully, but could not find the least trace of burning anywhere upon it. I then asked the person who was holding the candle to light it again and give it to me. I put it several times in succession under Bernadette's left hand but she drew it away quickly, saying 'You are burning me!'. I record this fact just as I have seen it without attempting to explain it. Many persons who were present at the time can confirm what I have said."
|Friday, July 16, 1858
||Obedient to the Bishop and the restrictions of the civil authorities, Bernadette was living peacefully far from the turbulence. On the feast
of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, she was drawn
one final time to Massabielle. The grotto was now blockaded. Bernadette's irresistible call led her across the Gave River to the far side
of the meadow.
"I thought I was at the
Grotto, at the same distance as I was the other times. All I saw
was Our Lady ... She was more beautiful than ever."
At 8pm Bernadette and the Virgin Mary silently made their final goodbyes amidst a still crowd. She had seen Our Lady from a few hundred yards across the river, and yet she felt as if Mary was right before her.
Continue to the next page for the
Investigation that confirmed the Apparitions
Chronology of Apparitions at Lourdes
Photographs of St. Bernadette and Lourdes