Twelfth Apparition Of Our Lady Of Lourdes
From the beginning of the
Apparitions in the Grotto of Massabieille, the popular press - and many
individuals, most notably the 'free-thinkers'- had done all possible to put an
end to these curious events; when this had failed and it was clear that they
were powerless to stop what was happening, they resorted to the fall-back plan -
to misrepresent, distort and discredit the occurrences.
This was clearly seen in the lies being told about Bernadette in the papers -
she was described as mad, a neurotic, a cataleptic, an epileptic, a psychotic, a
fraud, a devious little liar, a fool who was manipulated by others... the list
was nearly endless.
Particular events at the Grotto were also played upon and misrepresented, taken
out of context in an attempt to give them meanings which they did not possess.
During the Twelfth Apparition such an event occurred. And as before, it was only
after the event was explained by Bernadette herself that it made sense and
cleared away the misrepresentations surrounding it.
Many people believed in the Apparitions, further, they were also certain of Who
was appearing; they felt sure it was none other then the Blessed Virgin Mary,
although Bernadette herself had never made this claim. Instead, the child had
always spoken of 'the Lady' (un damizelo) who appeared, but who, so far, had
declined to name Herself. But, believing that Bernadette was indeed in
communication with the Queen of Heaven, the followers often made attempts of one
sort or another to obtain souvenirs of the Apparitions and of Bernadette
Monday 1st March saw at least 1300 people at the Grotto - as Jacomet the police
commissioner stated in a report he sent the next day. But this number was based
solely on those counted by the gendarmes returning to the town after the
Apparition; it did not include those who left in other directions and did not
pass through Lourdes. That day, one of those present was a priest from nearby
Omex; the priest, Abbe Dezirat, had been only recently ordained. He was the
first cleric to visit Massabieille during the Apparitions. He described what
happened after Bernadettes arrival at 7:00am in the company of both of her
"From the moment she arrived, I watched her closely. Her face was calm, her look
unassuming, her walk most natural, neither slow nor hurried. No sign of
exaltation, not a trace of disease.
"The crowd on the road pressed close behind the child to get to the scene of the
Apparition. Once there, I did as the rest. When we arrived in front of the
Grotto, someone said - 'Let the priest through!'. These words, though spoken
softly, were easily heard, for there was deep silence over everything. They made
way for me and advancing a few paces I was quite close to Bernadette, a yard
away, not more.
"Between the moment when I got near to the child and the moment when the vision
began, there was scarcely time to recite a decade.
"By her posture and by the expression on her face, it was evident that her soul
was enraputred. What profound peace! What serenity! What lofty contemplation!
Her smile was beyond all description. The child's gaze, fixed on the Apparition,
was no less captivating. Impossible to imagine anything so pure, so sweet, so
"I had watched Bernadette with scrupulous care while she was making her way to
the Grotto. What a difference between what she was then and what she was as I
saw her at the moment of the Apparition. It was like the difference between
matter and spirit... I felt I was on the threshold of Paradise."
Here, Monsieur Jean Baptiste Estrade, present throughout the Apparition, takes
up the story - but it is also here that the misunderstanding of the day
"I witnessed that day a great display of religious enthusiasm. Bernadette had
just returned from her place under the spur of the rock. Kneeling down again,
she took her beads as usual from her pocket, but as soon as she lifted her eyes
again to the privileged bush, her face became sad. She held up her beads with
surprise as high as her little arm would allow there was a moments pause, then
suddenly went the beads back into her pocket. Instantly, she displayed another
pair which she waved and held up as high as the first. The look of anguish
vanished from her face. She bowed, smiled once more and recommenced her prayer.
"With a spontaneous movement, everyone took out their Rosaries and waved them.
Then they shouted 'Vive Marie' and went down on their knees and prayed with
tears in their eyes. The opponents of religion spread the rumour that Bernadette
had that day blessed the Rosaries".
One Paris newspaper printed the following article a few days later -
"That little actress, the millers daughter at Lourdes, collected round her again
on the morning of the 1st of March, beneath the Massabieille rock, nearly two
thousand five hundred boobies. It is impossible to describe the idiocy and moral
degeneration of these persons. The visionary treats them like a troop of monkeys
and makes them commit absurdities of every kind. This morning, the pythoness was
not inclined to play the seer, and to make a little variety in the exercises,
she thought the best thing was to play the priestess. Assuming a grand air of
authority, she ordered the fools to present their Rosaries and then blessed them
Since the day following the discovery of the Spring, the crowd had often
imitated Bernadettes actions at the Grotto, such as kissing the ground in
penance; today was no different, although the crowd had misinterpreted what had
If Bernadette had not blessed the Rosaries, then what had been the meaning of
the strange event which had just occurred? Later that day a priest asked the
child this same question; only after her explanation was the odd happening
Bernadette explained that while on her way to the Grotto earlier that morning, a
lady named Pauline Sans (who was the Lourdes seamstress) had spoken to her; she
had desired to have a memento of the Apparitions and so had asked the child if
she would be kind enough to use her (Madame Sans') Rosary that morning while the
Blessed Virgin was praying with her. Bernadette had agreed to this proposal.
As Bernadette was about to make the sign of the Cross, she took the Rosary from
her pocket but was not able to lift her hand to her forehead. The Lady asked
Bernadette where her own Rosary was - here, the child lifted the Rosary high in
the air for the Lady to see. But the Lady saw only too well "You are wrong" She
told Bernadette, "this Rosary is not yours".
Realizing she had Madame Sans' Rosary in her hand, she put it back into her
pocket and retrieved her own Rosary of black wood beads on a knotted cord,
bought previously by her mother. Again she lifted the beads.
"Use those", said the Lady sweetly, smiling at the child, and Bernadette was
able to begin her prayers.
The priest who asked the child to explain said to Bernadette "Is it true that
you blessed Rosaries at the Grotto today?".
Bernadette smiled. "Oh but Monsieur, women do not wear the stole!"
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