We continue our re-publishing of previous posts chronicling the miraculous unfolding of events that took place at Lourdes in 1858. For an introduction to the series, see here. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
For twenty days, since the fifteenth apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes on March 4, 1858, Saint Bernadette had not returned to the grotto. Having fulfilled her initial promise to pray the Rosary at the grotto every day for a fortnight, she no longer felt drawn there, and so, Bernadette stayed home. However, on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel had declared Mary as “full of grace,” Bernadette felt the irresistible invitation to return to the grotto.
Throughout the first fifteen visitations, the Blessed Virgin had brought a message of prayer, penance, poverty, and participation to all people, through the most unlikely of messengers, Bernadette Soubirous. Through these posts, we continue our journey with Saint Bernadette as we encounter Our Blessed Mother through her eyes, memories, and words. The first fifteen visitations occurred in February and March 1858 (February 11, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, and March 1, 2, 3, and 4). Our Lady of Lourdes implored us all, saying, “Penance, Penance, Penance. Pray to God for sinners.” Our Blessed Mother further invited Bernadette to drink and bathe in the muddy water of the grotto, after which a clear flowing spring came forth where none had existed before. Our Lady of Lourdes commanded, “Go drink in the spring and wash yourself there,” something that faithful pilgrims continue to do each day. (For personal reflections on my experience at Lourdes, see here, here, here, and here).
On the evening of March 24, as Bernadette lay in bed trying to sleep, she again felt the irresistible urge to return to the grotto. She was up before the sun, and with her parents, made her way to the grotto as Massabielle. They were surprised to find a large crowd gathered.
Bernadette prayed the Rosary in earnest, washed and drank from the spring, and kissed the ground as penance for sinners. She was again graced, for the sixteenth time, by the appearance of Our Blessed Mother. Summoning her courage, Bernadette asked the beautiful lady her name, but received no answer. She then asked three more times, each time more anxious than the last, but eager to please the local priest and authorities. On the fourth try, Bernadette inquired, “Mademoiselle, would you be good enough to tell me who you are?”
“Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou.” I am the Immaculate Conception.
Our Blessed Mother spoke to Bernadette in the local dialect, but she did not know the words. Anxious that she might forget what was said, and relieved that she finally had an answer to give to Father Peyramale, Bernadette hurried to the parish church to convey the news. All the way there she repeated the words over and over out loud, to ensure that she wouldn’t forget. When she reached him, she repeated the words, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
In Saint Bernadette’s own words: “At the end of fifteen days, I asked her name three times in a row, and it was only when I dared to ask a fourth time that she told me. Until that moment, her two arms had been extended, but now she folded her hands together at her breast, and, raising her eyes to heaven, she said, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’ These were the last words she said to me. So once again, I went to Monsieur le Cure to tell him that she had said she was the Immaculate Conception. He asked me if I were absolutely sure and I said yes. In fact, in order to be sure not to forget these words, I had repeated them to myself the entire way back!”
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Thou are all fair, O Mary.
And the original stain is not in thee.
Thou art the glory of Jerusalem.
Thou art the joy of Israel
Thou art the honor of our people.
Thou art the advocate of sinners, O Mary.
Virgin, most prudent, Mother, most tender, pray for us.
Intercede for us with Jesus our Lord.
In thy conception, Holy Virgin, thou wast immaculate.
Pray for us to the Father Whose Son thou didst bring forth.
O Lady! Aid my prayer. And let my cry come unto thee.
Pray for us, Our Lady of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception.
Pray for us, Saint Bernadette.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."