The 18 Apparitions
First apparition: the first contact.
Bernadette came with two other girls to collect firewood. She felt a gust of wind, although the trees did not move. All of a sudden, there is a light in the grotto. The light had the shape of a young girl. Bernadette rubbed her eyes. She is afraid. She takes out her rosary. She wants to make the sign of the cross. She is unable to do so. The Apparition makes the sign of the cross. Bernadette copies her. She says the rosary. No word is exchanged.
Second apparition: the smile.
Bernadette's parents did not want her to return to the grotto. But they allow themselves to be convinced. Is the Apparition from God or from the devil? To be clear about it Bernadette takes holy water from the parish. When the lady appears, Bernadette sprinkles her with it. The lady smiles, but she still does not speak.
Third apparition: the promises.
The apparition does not come from the devil. But who is she? What is her name? When Bernadette asks her to write it, the lady replies: "it is not necessary." The lady proposes a daily meeting to Bernadette: "Would you do me the favor of coming here for two weeks?"
Bernadette is completely astonished. The Lady had spoken to her in a very respectful way. Bernadette promises. The lady responds with another promise: "I promise you happiness, not in this world but in the other."
February 19 to February 23
Fourth to seventh apparitions: prayer.
Bernadette was faithful to her promise. She came every day. The 22nd of February, the lady did not appear: it is a test for Bernadette. The town authorities want to stop her from going to the grotto. She is accused of causing public disorder. They threaten her with prison.
The apparitions are, above all, a time of prayer. The face of Bernadette radiates such beauty that the crowd increases daily in order to see her. The lady and Bernadette talk, but Bernadette repeats nothing: it is the time of personal secrets.
February 24 to March 1
Eighth to twelfth apparitions: penance and the discovery of the spring.
In these days of February and of March the Church is in the season of Lent. The Bishop of the diocese had recommended spending Lent with special emphasis on prayer, preaching and penance. At the grotto Bernadette hears and repeats the words of the lady: "Penance, penance, penance. Pray to God for the conversion of sinners." At her request, Bernadette walks on her knees in the grotto. Once, she eats the grass growing there. All of that, "for sinners", like Christ who humbled himself even to death on the cross.
On February 25th, the Lady directs Bernadette to a place in the grotto where she discovers a spring: "Go drink from the spring and wash yourself there. At first, it is just a puddle of water, all muddy. But as the hours pass it becomes more plentiful and clearer: like grace which triumphs over sin. On the 26th February the lady does not appear. It is a Friday of Lent.
March 2 to March 4
Thirteenth to fifteenth apparitions: a call to the Church.
The lady sends Bernadette on a mission: "Go to the priests and tell them that that people should come here in procession and that a chapel be built here.” It is a new test for Bernadette because she doesn't want the burden of facing the parish priest of Lourdes who does not believe in the apparitions of a lady who has never given her name.
The two weeks end in this way, without any spectacular sign, apart from the spring and the first healings.
Sixteenth apparition: the disclosure of the name.
Three weeks have passed without anything happening. The parish priest had not, of course, organised a procession. Nevertheless, the people continue to go to the grotto to pray, even though Bernadette no longer goes there.
On March 25th, the day of the Annunciation, Bernadette feels herself called again. At the fourth request of Bernadette, the Lady, finally, says her name: "I am the Immaculate Conception.” The angel, at the Annunciation, had greeted her by calling her "full of grace.” Bernadette ran to repeat the message to the parish priest.
This time, he is convinced and he will not change his mind: the little one, who wasn't able to retain the simplest catechism lesson, could not have invented those words.
Seventeenth apparition: in the light of Easter.
The two final apparitions, like the first two are again silent. We are in the week following Easter. Bernadette comes holding a large candle, which had been given to her, in her hand. The candle burns during the apparition: by now Bernadette's hands encircle the flame itself. At the time, no pain, nor any sign of burning afterwards. A good symbol of the Christian life: the light of the Risen one shines through the lives of holy people.
Eighteenth apparition: farewells.
Once again, Bernadette feels herself called. The authorities have closed the access to the grotto. Bernadette stands at a distance from the grotto. She hides herself so as not to be recognized. She will say afterwards that she never saw Our lady looking so beautiful. The day is July 16, the feast of Our lady of Mount Carmel, this wonderful mountain of Israel.
The apparition took place at the end of the day. Bernadette was aware that it was the last. It did not matter to her too much, because she knows that in heaven it will be even more beautiful.