Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 eighteen times from February 11 to July 16.
On Sunday February 21, there were over a hundred people gathered and Our Lady appeared to Bernadette in the early morning.
As soon as she had come before the grotto, Bernadette knelt down and prayed the Rosary. At one point, her face became sad. After the apparition, Bernadette said, “The Lady, walking away from me for a moment, directed her glance afar, above my head. Then looking down upon me again, she said, ‘Pray for the sinners.’ I was quickly reassured by the expression of goodness and sweetness which I saw return to her face, and immediately she disappeared.”
On Tuesday February 23, Our Lady revealed to Bernadette a secret which was “only for her alone”.
During the apparition on Wednesday February 24, Bernadette, in tears, turned to the on-lookers and said, “Penance! Penance! Penance!”, words she later explained that she heard from the lips of the Lady. Our Lady also said, ” You’re to pray to God for sinners.” Our Lady directed Bernadette to do penance for the conversion of sinners by going up the slope of the cave on her knees and by kissing the ground.
The famous “Lourdes water” originated from the apparition on February 25. Bernadette recalled: “While I was in prayer, the Lady said to me in a friendly, but serious voice, ‘Go, drink and wash in the spring.’ As I did not know where this spring was, and as I did not think the matter important, I went towards the river. The Lady called me back and signed to me with her finger to go under the grotto to the left; I obeyed but I did not see any water. Not knowing where to get it from, I scratched the earth and the water came. I let it get a little clear of the mud, then I drank and washed.”
Some people in the crowd made fun of Bernadette, whose face was daubed with mud. By the end of the day water was running from the cave to the river. Within a week, the spring was yielding what has since been its constant flow 32,000 gallons a day.
On February 27, Bernadette drank the water from the spring and recited the Rosary before Our Lady. Bernadette did penance by kissing the earth for the conversion of sinners.
On Sunday February 28, over one thousand people were present. Bernadette prayed, kissed the ground and moved on her knees as a sign of penance.
The first recognized miracle at Lourdes occurred on March 1. Catherine Latapie was nine months pregnant, and she walked nine kilometers to bathe here paralyzed arm in the “healing” spring. Healed on the site, she returned home to immediately give birth to a son.
On March 2, Our Lady had a message for priests. She said, “Go, tell the priests to come here in procession and to build a chapel here.” Bernadette spoke of this to Fr. Peyramale, the parish priest of Lourdes. He wanted to know only one thing: the Lady’s name.
On March 3, Bernadette went to the Grotto and asked the Lady for her name. The response of Our Lady was a smile. The parish priest told Bernadette, “If the Lady really wishes that a chapel be built, then she must tell us her name and make the rose bush bloom at the Grotto.”
The apparition on March 4 lasted about forty-five minutes, during which Bernadette smiled thirty-four times and bowed twenty-four times.