In 1858, Our Lady appeared in Lourdes to the 14 years old St. Bernadette Soubirous. On February 18, Our Lady asked Bernadette to come to the grotto for a fortnight. During one of the apparitions within the fortnight, Our Lady asked the priests to come to the grotto in procession and to build a chapel there. The parish priest, Father Peyramale, demanded to know the name of the Lady.
The last day of the fortnight was March 4. After the apparition on March 4, Bernadette was not sure whether she would see Our Lady again. However, Our Lady did appeared to Bernadette three more times.
On March 25, Our Lady revealed her name to Bernadette. Here is an account of the apparition by Bernadette: “When I was on my knees before the Lady, I asked her pardon for arriving late. Always good and gracious, she made a sign to me with her head that I need not excuse myself. Then I spoke to her of all my affection, all my respect and the happiness I had in seeing her again. After having poured out my heart to her I took up my rosary. While I was praying, the thought of asking her name came before my mind with such persistence that I could think of nothing else. I feared to be presumptuous in repeating a question she had always refused to answer. And yet something compelled me to speak. At last, under an irresistible impulse, the words fell from my month, and I begged the Lady to tell me who she was. The Lady did as she had always done before; she bowed her head and smiled but she did not reply. I cannot say why, but I felt myself bolder and asked her again to graciously tell me her name; however she only bowed and smiled as before, still remaining silent. Then once more, for a third time, clasping my hands and confessing myself unworthy of the favor I was asking of her, I again made my request. … The Lady was standing above the rose-bush, in a position very similar to that shown in the miraculous medal. At the third request her face became very serious and she seemed to bow down in an attitude of humility. Then she joined her hands and raised them to her breast. …. She looked up to heaven…. then slowly opening her hands and leaning forward towards me, she said to me in a voice vibrating with emotion: “I am the Immaculate Conception!”
Pope Blessed Pius IX declared that Mary was the “Immaculate Conception” only four years earlier in 1854. The title was unknown to Bernadette, who still could not read or write.
While Bernadette headed to the rectory to tell the parish priest, she repeated along the way “Immaculate Conception,” so that she would not forget them. Upon hearing the name of the Lady, Father Peyramale was astonished. He was unable to talk to Bernadette and quickly sent her away. Now he was convinced that Bernadette had seen Our Lady.
On April 7, Our Lady appeared again to Bernadette. During the Apparition, Bernadette kept her candle alight. The flame licked along her hand without burning it. People started to scream: “She is getting burned.” But she remained motionless. A doctor near Bernadette confirmed with his watch that for more than 15 minutes her hand was on the flame without moving whatsoever. Everyone screamed “ miracle!” The doctor confirmed that Bernadette’s hand was unharmed.
After the apparition, the doctor took another candle and, without warning, touched the flame to Bernadette’s hand. Bernadette immediately cried out in pain and exclaimed: “Oh, do you want to burn me?”