A 14 year shepherd girl named Bernadette Soubirous reported seeing Mary appear to her while she was out gathering firewood in the countryside. Mary identified herself as “the Immaculate Conception” and told Bernadette of the location of a spring, promising miraculous healings from its waters. Since 1862, over sixty medical cures associated with Lourdes have been certified as “miraculous” by the Catholic Church, which established its own Medical Bureau in 1883 to review and evaluate claims of cures. The Apparitions was approved in January 18, 1862.
Thursday 11th february 1858
Accompanied by her sister and a friend, Bernadette went to Massabielle on the banks of the 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.
Sunday 14th february 1858
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. She sprinkled holy water at her. The lady smiled and bent her head. When the Rosary ended she disappeared.
Thursday 18th february 1858
For the first time, the Lady spoke. 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?”
Friday 19th february 1858
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.
Saturday 20th february 1858
The Lady taught her a personal prayer. At the end of the vision Bernadette is overcome with a great sadness.
Sunday 21th february 1858
The Lady appeared to Bernadette very early in the morning. About one hundred people were present. Afterwards the Police Commissioner, Jacomet, questioned her. He wanted Bernadette to tell what she saw. Bernadette would only speak of “AQUÉRO” (“that thing” in local dialect)
Tuesday 23th february 1858: the secret
Surrounded by 150 persons, Bernadette arrived at the Grotto. The Apparition reveals to her a secret “only for her alone”.
Wednesday 24th february 1858
The message of the Lady:
“Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!”
Thursday 25th february 1858
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.”
Saturday 27th february 1858
Eight hundred people were present. The Apparition was silent. Bernadette drank the water from the spring and carried out her usual acts of penance.
Sunday 28th february 1858
Over one thousand people were present at the ecstasy. Bernadette prayed, kissed the ground and moved on her knees as a sign of penance. She was then taken to the house of Judge Ribes who threatened to put her in prison.
Monday 1st march 1858
Over one thousand five hundred people assembled and among them, for the first time, a priest. In the night, Catherine Latapie, a woman from Loubajac, 7 kilometres away , went to the Grotto, she plunged her dislocated arm into the water of the spring: her arm and her hand regained their movement.
Tuesday 2nd march 1858
The crowd becomes larger and larger. The Lady asked her:
“Go and tell the priests that people are to come here in procession and to build a chapel here.”