The experience of the Apparitions
On 11th February 1858, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous left the Cachot with her sister and a friend to collect firewood on the banks of the Gave at Massabielle.
It all began with a gust of wind in the poplars. In the crevice of a rock, Bernadette noticed a “lady dressed in white” “I thought I had made a mistake … I rubbed my eyes … I looked again and I still saw the same lady.”
“Would you do me the favour of coming here for the next fortnight?”
Between February and July, the Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette.
The Lady did not reveal her name until 25th March, during the 16th apparition. However, during most of the other apparitions no words were spoken.
On 18th February, during the 3rd apparition, Bernadette heard the Lady’s first words: “Would you do me the favour of coming here for the next fortnight?
Towards the end of the fortnight, on 24th and 25th February, Bernadette received a message: “Pray for sinners” … and the Lady asked her “to drink at the fountain and wash herself there.” After scratching the muddy ground in the grotto, Bernadette discovered a spring.
On 2nd March, the Lady assigned a double mission to Bernadette: “Go and tell the priests that people are to come here in procession and to have a chapel built here.”
“She was looking at me. It was just like two people in conversation.”
These amazing encounters with Mary made Bernadette realise that God was interested in her, that he was close to the poorest, to those ignored and excluded by the world.
During all this time, Bernadette did not allow herself to be intimidated either by her questioners or by the crowd. She remained simple and free.
“I have been asked to tell you about it, not to make you believe it.”
After this she stayed at the Hospice in Lourdes, run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. For her it was a time to reflect on what she wanted to do with her life.