It has been taught by the Church and the great mystics themselves that those favored with supernatural experiences should exercise discernment concerning what happens to them, and even resist it. Without the benefit of this advice, Bernadette follows these practices naturally. From the first apparition she rubs her eyes and grasps her rosary for protection. She doubts the visions since her friends see nothing. At the second apparition, she throws holy water at the apparition. During the course of eight interrogations, she takes great care that her statements never exceed precisely what she has seen.
On the day following the discovery of the spring (February 26th), Bernadette returned to the grotto. She was disheartened from the events and persecutions of the prior day, fearing that all was coming to an end. But, everything was just beginning. Water began flowing strongly from the spring, and a few spectacular miracles quickly renewed the expectations of the followers.
The next two days (Saturday February 27th and Sunday 28th) brought the crowds back. About 1,150 were present on Sunday, about onethird of Lourdes' population. Of course by now, people were arriving from afar to witness the miracles. Judge Ribes brought Bernadette in again for questioning, hoping to discourage her from going to the grotto. But she had made a promise to go there for fifteen days.
|Monday, March 1, 1858
||Almost fifteen hundred people gathered. An astounding number of conversions were taking place, and the town parish was not certain what to make of it all. On this day, the first recognized miracle occurred. Catherine Latapie, nine months pregnant, walked 9 kilometers from her home in the neighboring village of Loubajac to bathe here paralyzed arm in the "healing" spring. Healed on the site, she returned home to immediately give birth to a son. Recognized in 1862 as the first approved miracle of Lourdes, her healing testified of the truth of the apparitions.
A visiting priest, Fr. Desirat, was standing next to Bernadette on this day:
"What struck me was the joy, the sadness reflected in Bernadette's face ... Respect, silence, recollection reigned everywhere. Oh it was good to be there It was like being at the gates of paradise."
Fr. Desirat, Lourdes, March 1st, 1858
The Soubirous family is still
destitute. They are still lodged in the Cachot.
François has no stable job. Food is hard to come by. And, Bernadette fiercely refuses
gifts and money. Events have become more stressful. Jacomet and his policemen hover around the family, and interrogations and prison are a constant threat.
Above all their troubles, the light from Massabielle shines on the poor
household and the family within.
Aquero (the Lady) has revealed to Bernadette a destitution
worse than poverty and sickness. The Lady
has asked her
to pray for sinners and do penance for them. After all, sin is the great destitution, sinners are the poorest
of the poor.
Finally, not only a message was given, but a command. The fortnight had ended without Aquero yet revealing her true name. But, her request was a formidable one.
|Tuesday, March 2, 1858
||"Go and tell the priest to build a chapel here and to have people come in procession." At the end of her ecstasy on this fifteenth apparition, Bernadette heard these words. The task would be a daunting one. Monsieur le Curé (Fr. Peyramale) was not an easygoing personality. He was also quite impatient with the grotto story. Bernadette was determined to convey the message, and accompanied by her two aunts for support, she found herself on the front steps of the presbytery. Turned away at first and called a liar by the furious priest, she and her aunts left quickly, but not before the priest forbade her from returning to the cave.
With bravery, Bernadette resolved to try again. Before the night was over, she was accompanied by a friend of the priest to deliver her message. Bernadette was questioned thoroughly in front of the entire parish clergy. Her task was accomplished.
Fr Peyramale was left confused after Bernadette's visit. The parish priests no longer could agree. Bernadette's confessor, the prudent Fr. Pomian, was content to wait for further developments. Peyramale felt it was time to act. He went to Tarbes to pay a visit to the bishop, Msgr. Laurence. The bishop concluded that Peyramale should remain safely away from the grotto, although Peyramale had grown eager to inspect the location firsthand.
Bernadette was to return to Fr. Peyramale on three consecutive days to deliver her message. On March 3rd he gave her a cool reception. Thousands of people had flooded into Lourdes, several times the population, eagerly awaiting the last day of the fortnight (March 4th). Expectations of a spectacular sign had spread through the town. With the priest's approval, a guard was posted at the grotto through the night. He responded to Bernadette,
"If the lady wants her chapel, let her tell you her name, and ask her to make the rosebush at the grotto flower"
|Thursday, March 4, 1858
Bernadette set out on what may have been her last meeting with the lady, the last day of the fortnight. She serenely made her way through a crowd of 10,000, and went into a rapture that lasted for well over an hour in an atmosphere of peace and fervour. The crowd was quiet. Afterwards, many who had came expecting to see wonders were disappointed. Bernadette returned deep in thought to Le Cachot. The crowd pressed against her, wanting to see and touch her. She repelled the crowd and refused money that people tried to slip into her hands. Her one desire was to see the priest once more.
"The third time I went to see M. le Curé, to tell him that a Lady had ordered me to go and say to the priests that they were to have a chapel built there, he looked at me for a moment, and then he said to me in a rather gruff tone, 'Who is this lady?' I answered that I did not know. Then he commissioned me to ask her name and to come and tell him. The next day when I arrived at the grotto I recited my rosary and then asked her, from M. le Curé what her name was, but all she did was to smile. When I got back I went to M. le Curé to tell him that I discharged his commission, and her only response was her smile; then he said she was laughing at me and that I would do well not to go to her again. But, I could not help going."
Life rapidly returned to normal after the fortnight ended. Crowds continued to gather at the grotto, but Bernadette returned to school and was preparing for her first Communion. The priest, however, remained troubled. On March 18th, Bernadette was again subjected to a formal interrogation. Questioned by the authorities about the socalled miracles and her intentions, she claimed that she did not believe she had cured anyone. She was also submitted to repeated medical examinations to prove her sanity.
St. Bernadette and Lourdes pages
Chronology of Apparitions at Lourdes
Photographs of St. Bernadette and Lourdes