Lourdes Part III: The Apparitions

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous eighteen times in the Grotto of Massabielle.

The apparitions began on February 11th and ended on July 16th in the year 1858.

Image of the 1st Apparition, Musée Sainte-Bernadette, Lourdes

Before going to Lourdes, I had some knowledge of the apparitions.

However, I didn’t know all of details or the connections between the apparitions and what currently takes place at the Sanctuary.

I recently discovered information about the apparitions on the official Lourdes website.

In this post, I’d like to share information for the first nine apparitions.

I’ll also share connections between past and present events in Lourdes.

Our Lady’s Apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858

First: February 11

Accompanied by her sister and a friend, Bernadette went to Massabielle on the banks of the [River] 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, and equally white veils, 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.

Second: February 14

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. Bernadette sprinkled holy water at her [to test if she was an evil spirit]. The Lady smiled and bent her head. When the Rosary ended she disappeared.

Third: February 18

For the first time, the Lady spoke. [She spoke in the local Occitan dialect because Bernadette didn’t understand French very well.] 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?” [A fortnight is two weeks.]

Fourth: February 19

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 Grotto

  • Pilgrims purchase candles to place here and offer their prayer intentions. They remain lit in front of the Grotto at all times and are replaced when they burn out.

The Chapel of Light

  • This is another location of meditation and prayer where pilgrims can place and burn candles. It’s located outdoors on the right bank of the River Gave. The candles placed here vary in size. (We saw many giant candles in that area!)

The Torchlight Marian Procession

  • As explained in a previous post, pilgrims process around the Square praying the Rosary and carrying lit candles every evening. This is my favorite way in which candles are used at the Sanctuary.

I didn’t know the connections between the fourth apparition and the use of candles at the Sanctuary until now.

What beautiful ways to honor Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes!

Fifth: February 20

The Lady taught her a personal prayer. At the end of the vision Bernadette is overcome with a great sadness.

Sixth: February 21

The Lady appeared to Bernadette very early in the morning. About one hundred people were present. Afterwards Dominique Jacomet, the Police Commissioner, questioned her. He wanted Bernadette to tell what she saw. Bernadette would only speak of “Aquéro” which means “that thing” in local dialect.

Seventh: February 23

Surrounded by one hundred and fifty people, Bernadette arrived at the Grotto. The Apparition reveals to her a secret “only for her alone.”

Eighth: February 24

The message of the Lady: “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!”

Ninth: February 25

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.” [The spring began to flow, with clear water, one day later.]


The Spring

  • At the back of the Grotto, to the left of the altar, pilgrims can see the flowing spring covered by an illuminated glass pane. Water has been flowing continuously from the spring since its discovery in 1858. It provides an estimated 27,000 gallons (102,000 liters) of fresh water daily.

The Fountains and Taps

  • In order to make the water available to all, it’s channeled to fountains and taps. This was put into effect in 1949 by Father Joseph Mailhet, a renowned hydro-geologist. People drink from the fountains and fill bottles from the taps. There are approximately 34 in total.
  • There’s no limit to the amount of water one is allowed to drink and take. They do ask that people only take what is necessary so the water is not wasted. We drank the water, cooked with it and took it home! (More on the water later.)

In the next post, I’ll share the information and connections for the last nine apparitions.

Stay tuned…

*The descriptions of the apparitions are from the official Lourdes website.