Among of Marian apparitions in France during the 19th century, the most famous one is Our Lady of Lourdes. Mother Mary appeared to the fourteen year old Bernadette Soubirous eighteen times from February 11 to July 16 in1858.
On Thursday February 11, Bernadette went with her sister and a friend to collect dry wood at Massabielle on the banks of the Gave. When she was getting ready to cross the stream, she heard a noise like a gust of wind. Bernadette looked up towards the grotto and saw Our Lady. She later recalled: “I saw a lady dressed in while, she wore a white dress, an equally white veil, a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot.”
Our Lady held a long white and gold rosary with a beautiful golden cross between her fingers. Bernadette took her rosary from her pocket and tried to make the sign of the cross. However, her hand became paralyzed and was unable to make the sign of the cross. Then Our Lady took the cross of the rosary and made the sign of the cross. Bernadette was finally able to make the sign of the cross and began to say the rosary. As Bernadette prayed the rosary, Our Lady passed the beads of her rosary between her fingers, but remained silent. When the prayer finished Our Lady disappeared.
Bernadette asked the other girls if they had noticed anything, but they said no. She told them her experience and asked them to keep silence, but Bernadette’s sister told her mother. Her mother told Bernadette not to daydream and not to return to the grotto.
On Sunday February 14, the girls insisted on receiving permission to return to the grotto. People thought what had happened to Bernadette was from the devil, and so she was told to return to the grotto and sprinkled holy water.
At the Grotto, Bernadette asked the people to kneel and pray the holy rosary. Our Lady appeared and Bernadette sprinkled holy water and said: “If you come from God, come near us.” The holy water touched Mary’s feet and she came closer to Bernadette with a gentle smile. Bernadette took the rosary, made the sign of the cross, and started praying. When the rosary ended, Our Lady disappeared.
On the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, February 18, a lady and a religious wanted to accompany Bernadette to the grotto. They attended holy Mass with her at 5:30 am then went to the grotto. Bernadette walked so fast as if a greater force was pushing her. She kneeled and started to pray the rosary. She saw Our Lady at the end of the grotto. The two companions of Bernadette also kneeled, prayed the rosary, and lit a blessed candle.
Bernadette handed a paper to Our Lady and asked her to write down her name. Our Lady said, “It is not necessary” and she added, “Would you be kind enough to come here for a fortnight?” Bernadette said, “Yes”. Our Lady said, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other.” For the next two weeks, Bernadette went to the grotto.
On Friday February 19, 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. There was a brief and silent apparition of Our Lady on that day.
The next day, February 20, Our Lady taught her a personal prayer. Bernadette recited the prayer daily for the rest of her life, but she never revealed the prayer to anyone.
On February 21, Our Lady asked Bernadette to pray for sinners.