Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Feast of Our Lady's Apparition at Lourdes

On a Thursday afternoon 154 years ago, the Blessed Mother appeared to a simple peasant girl in rural France.  Today marks the anniversary of that heavenly visit, the first of eighteen total, during which the Blessed Mother identified herself as the Immaculate Conception, thus definitively approving the Church's proclamation of the dogma of the Immaulate Conception four years earlier (Dogmatic bull Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854).

The only known picture of St. Bernadette at the Grotto in Lourdes.
(Taken at a visit after the apparitions had ceased)
 Here is the story of that first visit in St. Bernadette's own words:

"The Thursday before Ash Wednesday it was cold and the weather was threatening. After our dinner, our mother told us there was no more wood in the house and she was vexed. My sister Toinette and I, to please her, offered to go and pick up dry branches at the riverside. My mother said no, because the weather was bad and we might be in danger of falling into the Gave. Jeanne Abadie, our neighbour and friend, who was looking after her little brother in our house and who wanted to come with us, took her brother back to his house and returned the next moment telling us that she had leave to come with us. My mother still hesitated, but seeing that there were three of us, she let us go. We took first of all the road which leads to the cemetary, by the side of which wood shavings can sometimes be found. That day we found nothing there. We came down by the side which leads near the Gave and having arrived at the Pont Vieux we wondered if it would be best to go up or down the river. We decided to go down and taking the forest road we arrived
at Merlasse. Then we went into Monsieur de la Fittes field, by the mill of Savy.

"As soon as we had reached the end of this field, nearly opposite the grotto of Massabieille, we were stopped by the canal of the mill we had just passed. The current of this canal was not strong for the mill was not working, but the water was cold and I for my part was afraid to go in. Jeanne Abadie and my sister, less timid than I, took their sabots in their hands and crossed the stream. However, when they were on the other side they called out that it was cold and bent down to rub their feet and warm them. All this increased my fear and I thought that if I went into the water I should get an attack of asthma. So I asked Jeanne, who was bigger and stronger than I, to take me on her shoulders. 'I should think not!' she answered - 'If you won't come, stay where you are!'.

"After the others had picked up some pieces of wood under the grotto, they disappeared along the Gave. When I was alone, I threw some stones into the water to give me a foothold, but it was no use. So I had to make up my mind to take off my sabots and cross the canal as Jeanne and my sister had done.

"I had just begun to take off my first stocking when suddenly I heard a great noise like the sound of a storm. I looked to the right and to the left, under the trees of the river, but nothing moved; I thought I was mistaken. I went on taking off my shoes and stockings, when I heard a fresh noise like the first. Then I was frightened and stood straight up. I lost all power of speech and thought when, turning my head toward the grotto, I saw at one of the openings of the rock a bush - only one - moving as if it were very windy. Almost at the same time, there came out of the interior of the grotto a golden coloured cloud, and soon after a Lady, young and beautiful, exceedingly beautiful, the like of whom I had never seen before, came and placed herself at the entrance of the opening, above the rose bush. She looked at me immediately, smiled at me and signed to me to advance, as if She had been my Mother. All fear had left me, but I seemed to know no longer where I was. I rubbed my eyes, I shut them, I opened them; but the Lady was still there continuing to smile at me and making me understand that I was not mistaken. Without thinking of what I was doing I took my Rosary in my hands and went on my knees. The Lady made with Her head a sign of approval and Herself took into Her hands a Rosary which hung on Her right arm. When I attempted to begin the Rosary and tried to lift my hand to my forehead, my arm remained paralysed, and it was only after the Lady had signed Herself that I could do the same. The Lady left me to pray all alone; She passed the beads of Her Rosary between Her fingers but She said nothing; only at the end of each decade did She say the Gloria with me.
"When the recitation of the Rosary was finished, the Lady returned to the interior of the rock and the golden coloured cloud disappeared with Her".

When asked to describe the Lady of the vision, Bernadette said -

"She has the appearance of a young girl of sixteen or seventeen. She is dressed in a white robe, girdled at the waist with a blue ribbon which flows down all along Her robe. She wears upon Her head a veil which is also white; this veil gives just a glimpse of Her hair and then falls down at the back below Her waist. Her feet are bare but covered by the last folds of Her robe except at the point where a yellow rose shines upon each of them. She holds on Her right arm a Rosary of white beads with a chain of gold shining like the two roses on Her feet."

Bernadette then continued with her story -

"As soon as the Lady had disappeared Jeanne Abadie and my sister returned to the Grotto and found me on my knees in the same place where they had left me. They laughed at me, calling me an imbecile and asked me if I would go back with them or not. I now had no difficulty in going into the stream and I felt the water as warm as the water used for washing plates and dishes.

'You had no reason to make such an outcry' I said to Jeanne and my sister Marie, while drying my feet; 'the water of the canal is not as cold as you would make me believe'. They replied, 'You are fortunate not to find it so - we found it very cold'.

"I asked Jeanne and Marie if they had noticed anything at the Grotto - 'No', they answered. 'Why do you ask us?'. 'Oh, nothing' I replied indifferently. But before we got to the house, I told my sister Marie of the extraordinary things which had happened to me at the Grotto, asking her to keep it a secret.

"Throughout the whole day, the image of the Lady remained in my mind. In the evening, at family prayer, I was troubled and began to cry. My mother asked what was the matter. Marie hastened to answer for me and I was obliged to give the account of the wonder which had come to me that day.

'These are illusions' answered my mother - 'You must drive these ideas out of your head and especially not go back to Massabieille'.

"We went to bed but I could not sleep. The face of the Lady, so good and gracious, returned incessantly to my memory and it was useless to recall what my mother had said to me; I could not believe that I had been deceived."
The story of the rest of the apparitions can be found here.

Bernadette's incorruptible body as it appears today.
 Celebrating the Day
My parents visited Lourdes in 1964 and were so moved by their experience there that they named their first daughter after the humble visionary of the grotto. And so you are reading the words typed here by Lisa Bernadette. And St. Bernadette truly is my patron, my heavenly friend. I love her dearly. And for my consecration to the Blessed Mother this past year, I chose Our Lady under the title of The Immaculate Conception for my guide and intercessor.  
 So this day is a double celebration for me.  Unfortunately, I missed Mass this morning because I'm battling illness, but we'll pray our family rosary today for St. Bernadette's intercession, as well, of course, that of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception.  We'll watch The Song of Bernadette, and the girls won't need much prodding to make a special dessert for dinner tonight. (I'll leave it up to them what they think that needs to be!)  And I'll copy off a handful of the following coloring pages to leave on the dining room table for the children to work on as they choose.

Click to copy.
Also, Charlotte, at Waltzing Matilda has a more simple Immaculate Conception to color here.
Strangely, I have not been able to find a single coloring page that actually pictures St. Bernadette!  But the following photograph if printed small works well for the little ones to color.  We'll print this one out and make a quilled frame for it to put at our little shrine today.

1 comment:

AnchorMama said...

Oh my! As many times as I have heard the story, I don't think I've ever heard it in her own words. Gives me chills!

Thanks for the beautiful coloring page!