Eighth Apparition Of Our Lady Of Lourdes
Wednesday 24 February 1858
By now the newspapers were taking notice of the events at the Grotto. The local paper, the Lavedan, took a particular interest; unfortunately, its reports were neither accurate nor favourable. It promised to keep its readers informed of the “craze” concerning the “cataleptic” girl who had claimed to see “the Mother of the Angels”. Events at the Grotto were about to take a new turn. Until this point, the visions had appeared to be more or less personal in nature; the prayer taught by the Lady and the three secrets She had revealed all concerned Bernadette alone. Now, however, the universal nature of the Apparitions was about to become apparent. There were “four hundred to five hundred” people at the Grotto that day, as reported to the Lieutenant of Police by Constable Callet of the local gendarmarie. Immediately upon her arrival, Bernadette commenced her Rosary as she always did. Before a decade had been completed, the ecstasy began; the child leaned forward and her face was lit with a heavenly smile and once more she began to reflect the grace of She whom she beheld. She smiled and – without lowering her eyes – made a number of graceful bows. After several minutes, the ecstasy was interrupted; Bernadette turned to face the crowd and, referring to the long trailing rose bush, asked, “Who has touched the briar?”. The bush had been shaken by a young girl who was trying to get as close as possible to the visionary. The Lady had moved from the niche high in the rock, but had not disappeared; She had descended into the larger hollow at the base of the Grotto. Bernadette heard herself called and the ecstasy resumed, the child kneeling at the opening of the larger vault, within which the Vision was standing. Again Bernadette listened to the words of the beautiful Lady. The child’s face appeared sad and her arms fell to her side. There were tears upon her cheeks. She turned once more to face the crowd and three times she repeated, “Penitence…penitence…penitence!”. This was heard distinctly by those standing close to her, who quickly spread the words they had heard. Bernadette had given her first public message. The seer returned once more to her former place and the vision continued, while the entire crowd remained silent – struck by the sincerity on the face of the child. One person, however, had not lost the power of speech; the Lourdes quarter-master pushed his way toward the girl, and when he had reached her he asked – “What are you doing, you little actress?”. Bernadette was not even aware of his presence, much less intimidated by it. His only response was his own – “And to think that such follies can take place in the nineteenth century!”.