The last apparition Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette Soubirous took place on July 16, 1858. On that day, Bernadette felt urged to visit the grotto which was fenced, guarded, and prohibited. She was accompanied by her aunt and some neighbors and crossed through the grassland adjacent to the grotto. They knelt as close as possible to the grotto without actually arriving there. Bernadette saw Our Lady and said: “she never appeared so glorious.” At 8pm Bernadette and the Virgin Mary silently made their final goodbyes amidst a still crowd. She had seen Our Lady from a few hundred yards across the river, and yet she felt as if Mary was right before her.
The last apparitions of both Lourdes and Fatima were connected to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The last apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes took place on July 16, the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. During this apparition, Our Lady remained silent. At the conclusion of the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima on October 13, 1917, Lucia saw the Blessed Mary appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The apparition of Our Lady of Mount Carmel remained silent. The silent of Our Lady during both apparitions reminds us that the devotion of the brown scapular is a silent devotion. Countless faithful wear the brown scapular silently to honor Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the dying who are too weak even to recite prayers, the wearing of the brown scapular is their final devotion to Our Lady before departing from earthly life.
After the apparitions, in order to escape visitors, Bernadette went to live at the convent. As her fame continued to grow, she withdrew more and more. She referred herself as “the broom placed behind the door once it has been used.” At twenty-two, she traveled to the motherhouse at Nevers to join the Sisters of Charity. Her novitiate was not easy. The novice-mistress, feared that Bernadette would become proud due to the apparitions, was very severe with her. Bernadette faithfully performed the menial tasks assigned to her, at first in the convent kitchen, later as assistant infirmarian. Bernadette suffered from poor health and she was finally given work in the sacristy. Bernadette displayed a real gift for design and color in embroidering the sacred vestments.
Once a nun asked her if she had temptations of pride because she was favored by the Blessed Mother. She answered quickly, “How can I? The Blessed Virgin chose me only because I was the most ignorant.” On another occasion, she said, “They think I’m a saint… When I’m dead, they’ll come and touch holy pictures and rosaries to me, and all the while I’ll be getting broiled on a grill in purgatory. At least promise me you’ll pray a lot for the repose of my soul.”
During her final years, Bernadette developed tuberculosis of the bone in the right knee, a most painful condition which she bore stoically. On her death-bed, in a spasm of pain, Bernadette pressed the crucifix closer to her, and cried, ” Penance, Penance, Penance, all this is good for Heaven!” As the nuns of the convent knelt round her bed to repeat the prayers for the dying, they heard her say in a low voice, “Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me! A poor sinner, a poor sinner”. Bernadette died on April 16, 1879 at the age of 35. As soon as the news spread, people came streaming towards the convent, chanting, “The saint is dead! The saint is dead!”
Bernadette’s body was buried in the convent grounds. When it was exhumed in 1908, it was found to be intact and uncorrupted. Bernadette was canonized on December 8, 1933.