In 1862, the Bishop of Tarbes officially recognize the authenticity of the apparitions of Lourdes. The current Catechism of the Catholic Church (at no. 67) indicates that the apparitions “shall not have role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully at one time in history”.
Accompanied by her sister and a friend, Bernadette went to Massabielle on the banks of the Gave to collect bones and dead wood. Removing her socks in order to cross the stream, she heard a noise like a gust of wind, 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 and said the Rosary with the lady. When the prayer ended the Lady suddenly vanished.
Bernadette felt an inner force drawing her to the Grotto in spite of the fact that she was forbidden to go there by her parents. At her insistence, her mother allowed her; after the first decade of the Rosary, she saw the same lady appearing. She sprinkled holy water at her. The lady smiled and bent her head. When the Rosary ended she disappeared.
For the first time, the Lady spoke. Bernadette held out a pen and paper asking her to write her name.
She replied; “It is not necessary” and she added: “I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other. Would you be kind enough to come here for a fortnight?”
Bernadette came to the Grotto with a lighted blessed candle. This is the origin of carrying candles and lighting them in front of the Grotto.
The lady taught her a personal prayer. At the end of the vision Bernadette is overcome with a great sadness.
The Lady appeared to Bernadette very early in the morning. About one hundred people were present.
Afterwards the Police Commissioner, Jacomet, questioned her. He wanted Bernadette to tell what she saw. Bernadette would only speak of “AQUÉRO” (“that thing” in local dialect)
Surrounded by 150 persons, Bernadette arrived at the Grotto. The Apparition reveals to her a secret “only for her alone”.
The message of the Lady: “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!”
Three hundred people were present. Bernadette relates; “She told me to go, drink of the spring (….) I only found a little muddy water. At the fourth attempt I was able to drink. She also made me eat the bitter herbs that were found near the spring, and then the vision left and went away.” In front of the crowd that was asking “Do you think that she is mad doing things like that?” she replied; “It is for sinners.”
Eight hundred people were present. The Apparition was silent. Bernadette drank the water from the spring and carried out her usual acts of penance.
Over one thousand people were present at the ecstasy. Bernadette prayed, kissed the ground and moved on her knees as a sign of penance. She was then taken to the house of Judge Ribes who threatened to put her in prison.
Over one thousand five hundred people assembled and among them, for the first time, a priest.
In the night, Catherine Latapie, a woman from Loubajac, 7 kilometers away , went to the Grotto, she plunged her dislocated arm into the water of the Spring: her arm and her hand regained their movement.
The crowd becomes larger and larger. The Lady asked her: “Go and tell the priests that people are to come here in procession and to build a chapel here.” Bernadette spoke of this to Fr. Peyramale, the Parish Priest of Lourdes. He wanted to know only one thing: the Lady’s name. He demanded another test; to see the wild rose bush flower at the Grotto in the middle of winter.
From 7 o’clock in the morning, in the presence of three thousand people, Bernadette arrived at the Grotto, but the vision did not appear! After school, she heard the inner invitation of the Lady. She went to the Grotto and asked her again for her name. The response was a smile. The Parish Priest told her again: “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.”
The ever-greater crowd (about eight thousand people) waited for a miracle at the end of the fortnight.
The vision was silent. Fr. Peyramale stuck to his position. For twenty days Bernadette did not go to the Grotto, she no longer felt the irresistible invitation.
The vision finally revealed her name, but the wild rose bush, on which she stood during the Apparitions, did not bloom. Bernadette recounted: “She extended her arms towards the ground, then joined them as though in prayer and said Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou (I am the Immaculate Conception)”. The young visionary left and, running all the way, repeated continuously the words that she did not understand. These words troubled the brave Parish Priest. Bernadette was ignorant of the fact that this theological expression was assigned to the Blessed Virgin. Four years earlier, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared this a truth of the Catholic Faith (a dogma)
During this Apparition, Bernadette had to keep her candle alight. The flame licked along her hand without burning it. A medical doctor, Dr. Douzous, immediately witnessed this fact.
Bernadette received the mysterious call to the Grotto, but her way was blocked and closed off by a barrier. She thus arrived across from the Grotto to the other side of 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!”