On that fateful morning on February 11 of 1858, little Bernadette Soubirous had no idea how life would be changed for her forever. She accompanied her sister, Toinette, and her friend, Jeanne Abadie, nicknamed “Baloum” to gather firewood at a dump. They went in search of it while Bernadette stayed behind. There she encountered a beautiful lady of about sixteen who held a large rosary standing in the midst of the field in Massabielle. Overcome with awe, Bernadette knelt and grasped the rosary beads from her pocket and began to pray. After the recitation, the young woman disappeared.
Toinette and Jeanne were angry that Bernadette had not helped them carry the firewood. But Bernadette had her mind on something else. She asked her chums if they had seen anything out of the ordinary, but they had not. Bernadette told Toinette and later Baloum and then word was out that the young girl had seen a vision. Mrs. Soubirous thought it was all in her daughter’s imagination and forbade her to return to the grotto.
Her mother relented as did her father and Bernadette returned with her companions, armed with a flask of holy water which Bernadette sprinkled on the lady to see if she was from God. The lady smiled. Her friends could not see the lady, but they prayed the rosary along with Bernadette. Later, crowds assembled at the grotto during the visits of the lady to Bernadette.
The lady returned for sixteen apparitions in the months to come. No one initially believed the young asthmatic girl. The political authorities wanted to discredit her and three doctors examined her to find out if she was mentally ill. Her pastor, Dean Peyramale, had no faith in her claims, either. He later told Bernadette that if the lady wanted a chapel to be built “with processions” as she had told Bernadette, she should supply the money for its construction. He also said to ask the lady for her name. “No name, no chapel.”
On March 25, the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, the lady said to Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” So now everyone knew that it indeed was, the Blessed Virgin who had made appearances to the sleepy village of Lourdes and its inhabitants were overjoyed.
Bernadette also did some strange things like walking on her knees up to the grotto, kissing the ground: looking very sad and shedding tears. Bernadette tried to explain to the people that the Blessed Mother had requested these things as penances for the conversion of sinners. She was ridiculed for this.
Later, when the Blessed Mother told her to drink and wash at the stream and Bernadette dug in the mud, people mocked her and thought she was mad. A short time later, a spring bubbled forth which worked miracles and which attracts thousands each year who are in need of physical or spiritual healing.
Bernadette sought anonymity but could not find it at Lourdes. She later became a religious of the Sisters of Nevers where she had still more trials as well as the joy of following God’s will. For the Immaculate Conception had told her, “I cannot promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.”
“Bernadette, The Only Witness” by Rev. John W. Lynch, S.M. was used as a source of reference for this blog.