In 1858, the Holy Virgin appeared 18 times to the young Bernadette Soubirous at the Massabielle cave in Lourdes. This July 16, the Marian city remembers the 18th and last apparition of the Mother of God to the young girl.
On the morning of Thursday February 11, 1858, Bernadette , her little sister Marie known as Toinette and Jeanne Abadie, a friend, left to collect kindling between the Gave and the Savy mill canal. It was on this day, facing the cave, that the 14-year-old girl saw in the niche of the rock a female silhouette which she described as follows: “A lady dressed in white; she had a white dress, a white veil, a blue sash and a yellow rose on each foot.” This will be the first of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the young Bernadette Soubirous. Apparitions which took place from February 11 to July 16, 1858.
1 THURSDAY FEBRUARY 11
While Bernadette Soubirous goes to look for wood in the Massabielle cave, accompanied by her sister and a friend, she sees a Lady, silent, dressed all in white, appear to her in the cavity of a rock. She smiles at him, then goes deeper into the cave again. Bernadette makes the sign of the cross and recites the rosary with the Lady. Once the prayer is finished, the Lady suddenly disappears. Troubled, Bernadette returns home and tells her parents what she saw, who hardly believe her story.
2 SUNDAY FEBRUARY 14
Bernadette feels an inner force that pushes her to return to the cave, despite her parents’ prohibition. Finally her mother allowed her to return there, accompanied by a few friends. Arriving at the cave, the teenager kneels and recites a rosary. After the first ten, she sees the same Lady appear, smiling at her with her head tilted. Bernadette throws holy water on him. The Lady smiles at him and as soon as the prayer of the rosary is finished, she disappears.
3 THURSDAY FEBRUARY 18
It is only during the third apparition that the Lady speaks to Bernadette. The latter presents him with a writing desk and asks him to write his name. But the Lady said to him: “It is not necessary.” And added: “I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other. Will you do me the favor of coming here for two weeks? » Thereafter, Bernadette went to the cave every day for the next fifteen days.
4 FRIDAY FEBRUARY 19
At the request of the Lady, Bernadette goes to the grotto for the first day of what will become the fortnight of apparitions. On February 19, she comes to the cave with a blessed and lit candle. It is also from this gesture that the custom of carrying candles and lighting them in front of the cave was born.
5 SATURDAY FEBRUARY 20
During this fifth apparition the Lady taught Bernadette a personal prayer . At the end of the vision, a great sadness invades Bernadette.
6 SUNDAY FEBRUARY 21
During the sixth apparition, Bernadette goes to the cave early. About a hundred people accompany him because his story begins to spread in the city. The apparition takes place in ecstasy and silent contemplation. Subsequently, Bernadette is questioned by police commissioner Jacomet. He wants her to tell her what she saw because this event disturbs public order. Bernadette only speaks to him about “Aquero” (“that” in Béarnese). He forbids him from returning to the cave, to which his father, François Soubirous agrees.
7 TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23RD
Bernadette obeyed her parents and on Monday February 22 did not go to the cave. Tuesday the 23rd, no longer able to stand it, she returned, followed by 150 people. During this seventh apparition, the Lady reveals a secret “just for her”. Bernadette will never reveal it.
8 WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24
During the eighth apparition, Bernadette Soubirous received a message of prayer and penance from the Lady: “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for the conversion of sinners! Go kiss the earth in penance for sinners! “.
9 THURSDAY FEBRUARY 25
During the ninth apparition, around 300 people went to the scene with Bernadette around 5 a.m. The Lady introduces herself to the young girl. Bernadette says: “She told me to go and drink from the spring (…). I only found a little muddy water. On the fourth try I was able to drink. She also made me eat some grass that was near the fountain then the vision disappeared and I left. » In front of the crowd who asked him: “Do you know that people think you are crazy for doing things like that?” » She replies: “It is for sinners. »
10 SATURDAY FEBRUARY 27
For the tenth appearance, more than 800 people are present. This apparition is silent. Bernadette drinks the water from the spring and performs the usual acts of penance.
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11 SUNDAY FEBRUARY 28
More than a thousand people witness the ecstasy. Bernadette prays, kisses the earth and crawls on her knees as a sign of penance. She is then taken to Judge Ribes who threatens her with prison. “I will never give it up,” Bernadette retorts.
12 MONDAY MARCH 1
Defying the ban, Bernadette returns to the cave for the twelfth apparition. More than 1,500 people are present, and among them, for the first time, a priest. In the night, Catherine Latapie , a friend from Lourdes, goes to the cave. She dips her dislocated arm in the spring water: her arm and hand regain their suppleness. This will be the first miracle of Lourdes which will be recognized by the Church in 1862.
13 TUESDAY MARCH 2
For the thirteenth apparition, the Lady said to Bernadette: “Go and tell the priests that we come here in procession and that we build a chapel there”. The young girl transmits the message to Father Peyramale, priest of Lourdes. He wants to know the name of the Lady. It also requires proof: seeing the rose bush (the rosehip) in the cave bloom in the middle of winter.
14 WEDNESDAY MARCH 3
In this fourteenth apparition, from 7 a.m., more than 3,000 people are alongside Bernadette at the grotto. But the Lady does not appear. After school, Bernadette feels the call of the cave again. She leaves immediately, and the Lady is there. The teenager then asks him his name again. But she only has a smile in response. Bernadette leaves to ask the priest to build a chapel. To which the priest Peyramale replied: “If the Lady really wants a chapel, let her say its name and make the rose bush in the cave bloom.”
15 THURSDAY MARCH 4
The ever-increasing crowd (around 8,000 people) awaits a miracle for this last day of the fortnight but the Lady remains silent. Priest Peyramale sticks to his position. He wants to know the Lady’s name.
For twenty days, Bernadette no longer goes to the cave because she no longer feels the irresistible attraction. During this time, she was questioned by Commissioner Jacomet, the mayor of Lourdes and the imperial prosecutor.
16 THURSDAY MARCH 25
March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation . That day, at 5 a.m., Bernadette once again felt the irresistible call of the cave. The Lady finally reveals her name, but the rose bush (or rosehip) on which she sets foot during her Apparitions does not bloom. Bernadette recounts: “She raised her eyes to the sky, joining in prayer her hands which were outstretched and open towards the earth, and said to me: Que soy era immaculada councepciou”.
At the end of this apparition, the young girl runs off to see the priest Peyramale and constantly repeats, on the way, words that she does not understand. These words disturb the brave priest. Bernadette was unaware of this theological expression which designates the Blessed Virgin. Four years earlier, in 1854, Pope Pius IX had made it a truth of the Catholic faith (dogma of the Immaculate Conception ).
17 WEDNESDAY APRIL 7
Another 12 days pass without appearances, during which Bernadette is again subjected to interrogations and medical examinations. The seventeenth apparition takes place very early in the morning. During this apparition, Bernadette holds her lit candle. Her prayer is so fervent that she does not feel the flame which surrounds her hand for a long time without burning it. This fact is immediately noted by the doctor, Doctor Douzous.
18 FRIDAY JULY 16
Three months have passed since the last appearance. The Lourdes affair took on national proportions. On July 16, Bernadette felt the mysterious call of the cave, but access to Massabielle was prohibited and closed by a fence. No one can access it. Bernadette therefore stands opposite, on the other side of the Gave… It is here that the last apparition of the Virgin Mary takes place . “It seemed to me that I was in front of the cave, at the same distance as the other times, I only saw the Virgin, I have never seen her so beautiful! », Bernadette later confided.