Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vision of Foreign Mission

When John Bosco founded the Salesian Society, the thought of the missions still obsessed him, though he completely lacked the financial means at that time. One night, he dreamt again. Being on a vast plain, inhabited by primitive peoples, who spent their time hunting or fighting among themselves or against soldiers in European uniforms. Along came a band of missionaries, but they were all horribly massacred. A second group appeared, which Don Bosco at once recognized as Salesians. Astonished, he witnessed an unexpected change when the fierce savages laid down their arms and listened to the missionaries. The dream made a great impression on Don Bosco, because he tried hard to identify the men and the country of the dream.

For three years, Bosco searched among documents, trying to get information about different countries, thus identifying the country from his dream. One day, a request came from Argentina, which turned him towards the Indians of Patagonia. To his surprise, a study of the people there convinced him that the country and its inhabitants were the ones he had seen in his dream.

He regarded it as a sign of providence and started preparing a missionary there. Adopting a way of evangelization that would not expose his missionaries suddenly to wild, uncivilized tribes, he proposed to set up bases in safe locations where their missionary efforts were to be launched.

The above request from Argentina came about as follows: Towards the end of 1874, John Bosco received letters from that country requesting that he accept an Italian parish in Buenos Aires and a school for boys at San Nicolas de los Arroyos. Gazzolo, the Argentine Consul at Savona, had sent the request, for he had taken a great interest in the Salesian work in Liguria and hoped to obtain the Salesians' help for the benefit of his country. Negotiations started after Archbishop Aneiros of Buenos Aires had indicated that he would be glad to receive the Salesians. They were successful mainly because of the good offices of the priest of San Nicolas, Pedro Ceccarelli, a friend of Gazzolo, who was in touch with and had the confidence of Don Bosco. In a ceremony held on January 29, 1875, Don Bosco was able to convey the great news to the oratory in the presence of Gazzolo. On February 5, he announced the fact in a circular letter to all Salesians asking volunteers to apply in writing. He proposed that the first missionary departure start in October. Practically all the Salesians volunteered for the missions.

Saint John Bosco's Vision of Hell

The Holy Saint John Bosco had a Prophetic Vision of Hell in 1868 A.D., (*which is recorded in its entirety below.)
Many of the dreams of St. John Bosco could more properly be called visions, for God used this means to reveal His will for the Saint and for the boys of the Oratory, as well as the future of the Salesian Congregation. Not only did his dreams lead and direct the Saint, they also gave him wisdom and guidance by which he was able to help and guide others upon their ways. He was just nine years of age when he had his first dream that laid out his life mission. It was this dream that impressed Pope Pius IX so much that he ordered St. John Bosco to write down his dreams for the encouragement of his Congregation and the rest of us. Through dreams God allowed him to know the future of each of the boys of his Oratory. Through dreams God let him know the boys' state of their souls. On February 1, 1865 St. John Bosco announced that one of the boys will die soon. He knew the boy through the dream the night before. On March 16, 1865, Anthony Ferraris passed away after receiving the Last Sacraments. John Bisio, who helped Anthony and his mother during the former's last hour, confirmed the story of his part in this episode by a formal oath, concluding as foIlows: "Don Bosco told us many other dreams concerning Oratory boys' deaths. We believed them to be true prophecies. We still do, because unfailingly they came true. During the seven years I lived at the Oratory, not a boy died without Don Bosco predicting his death. We were also convinced that whoever died there under his care and assistance surely went to heaven."

*The Road to Hell
(Prophetic Dream of St. John Bosco 1868 A.D.)

On Sunday night, May 3 [1868], the feast of Saint Joseph's patronage, Don Bosco resumed the narration of his dreams:

I have another dream to tell you, a sort of aftermath of those I told you last Thursday and Friday which totally exhausted me. Call them dreams or whatever you like. Always, as you know, on the night of April 17 a frightful toad seemed bent on devouring me. When it finally vanished, a voice said to me: "Why don't you tell them?" I turned in that direction and saw a distinguished person standing by my bed. Feeling guilty about my silence, I asked: "What should I tell my boys?"

"What you have seen and heard in your last dreams and what you have wanted to know and shall have revealed to you tomorrow night!" He then vanished.

I spent the whole next day worrying about the miserable night in store for me, and when evening came, loath to go to bed, I sat at my desk browsing through books until midnight. The mere thought of having more nightmares thoroughly scare me. However, with great effort, I finally went to bed.

"Get up and follow me!" he said.
"For Heaven's sake," I protested, "leave me alone. I am exhausted! I've been tormented by a toothache for several days now and need rest. Besides, nightmares have completely worn me out." I said this because this man's apparition always means trouble, fatigue, and terror for me.

"Get up," he repeated. "You have no time to lose."

I complied and followed him. "Where are you taking me?" I asked.

"Never mind. You'll see." He led me to a vast, boundless plain, veritably a lifeless desert, with not a soul in sight or a tree or brook. Yellowed, dried-up vegetation added to the desolation I had no idea where I was or what was I to do. For a moment I even lost sight of my guide and feared that I was lost, utterly alone. Father Rua, Father Francesia, nowhere to be seen. When I finally saw my friend coming toward me, I sighed in relief.

"Where am I?" I asked.

"Come with me and you will find out!"

"All right. I'll go with you."

He led the way and I followed in silence, but after a long, dismal trudge, I began worrying whether I would ever be able to cross that vast expanse, what with my toothache and swollen legs. Suddenly I saw a road ahead.

"Where to now?" I asked my guide.

"This way," he replied.

We took the road. It was beautiful, wide, and neatly paved. "The way of sinners is made plain with stones, and in their end is hell, and darkness, and pains. " (Ecclesiasticus 21: 11, stones: broad and easy.) Both sides were lined with magnificent verdant hedges dotted with gorgeous flowers. Roses, especially, peeped everywhere through the leaves. At first glance, the road was level and comfortable, and so I ventured upon it without the least suspicion, but soon I noticed that it insensibly kept sloping downward. Though it did not look steep at all, I found myself moving so swiftly that I felt I was effortlessly gliding through the air. Really, I was gliding and hardly using my feet. Then the thought struck me that the return trip would be very long and arduous.

"How shall we get back to the Oratory?" I asked worriedly.

"Do not worry," he answered. "The Almighty wants you to go. He who leads you on will also know how to lead you back."

The road is sloping downward. As we were continuing on our way, flanked by banks of roses and other flowers, I became aware that the Oratory boys and very many others whom I did not know were following me. Somehow I found myself in their midst. As I was looking at them, I noticed now one, now another fall to the ground and instantly be dragged by an unseen force toward a frightful drop, distantly visible, which sloped into a furnace. "What makes these boys fall?" I asked my companion. "The proud have hidden a net for me. And they have stretched out cords for a snare: they have laid for me a stumbling-block by the wayside." (Psalms 139: 6)

"Take a closer look," he replied.

I did. Traps were everywhere, some close to the ground, others at eye level, but all well concealed. Unaware of their danger, many boys got caught, and they tripped, they would sprawl to the ground, legs in the air. Then, when they managed to get back on their feet, they would run headlong down the road toward the abyss. Some got trapped by the head, others by the neck, hand, arms, legs, or sides, and were pulled down instantly. The ground traps, fine as spiders' webs and hardly visible, seemed very flimsy and harmless; yet, to my surprise, every boy they snared fell to the ground.

Noticing my astonishment, the guide remarked, "Do you know what this is?"

"Just some filmy fiber," I answered.

"A mere nothing," he said, "just plain human respect.",

Seeing that many boys were being caught in those straps. I asked, "Why do so many get caught? Who pulls them down?"

"Go nearer and you will see!" he told me.

I followed his advice but saw nothing peculiar.

"Look closer," he insisted.

I picked up one of the traps and tugged. I immediately felt some resistance. I pulled harder, only to feel that, instead of drawing the thread closer, I was being pulled down myself. I did not resist and soon found myself at the mouth of a frightful cave. I halted, unwilling to venture into that deep cavern, and again started pulling the thread toward me. It gave a little, but only through great effort on my part. I kept tugging, and after a long while a huge, hideous monster emerged, clutching a rope to which all those traps were tied together. He was the one who instantly dragged down anyone who got caught in them. It won't do to match my strength with his, I said to myself. I'll certainly lose. I'd better fight him with the Sign of the Cross and with short invocations.

Then I went back to my guide. "Now you know who he is," he said to me.

"I surely do! It is the devil himself!"

Carefully examining many of the traps, I saw that each bore an inscription: Pride, Disobedience, Envy, Sixth Commandment, Theft, Gluttony, Sloth, Anger and so on. Stepping back a bit to see which ones trapped the greater number of boys, I discovered that the most dangerous were those of impurity, disobedience, and pride. In fact, these three were linked to together. Many other traps also did great harm, but not as much as the first two. Still watching, I noticed many boys running faster than others. "Why such haste?" I asked.

"Because they are dragged by the snare of human respect."

Looking even more closely, I spotted knives among the traps. A providential hand had put them there for cutting oneself free. The bigger ones, symbolizing meditation, were for use against the trap of pride; others, not quite as big, symbolized spiritual reading well made. There were also two swords representing devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, especially through frequent Holy Communion, and to the Blessed Virgin. There was also a hammer symbolizing confession, and other knives signifying devotion to Saint Joseph, to Saint Aloysius, and to other Saints. By these means quite a few boys were able to free themselves or evade capture.

Indeed I saw some lads walking safely through all those traps, either by good timing before the trap sprung on them or by making it slip off them if they got caught.

When my guide was satisfied that I had observed everything, he made me continue along that rose-hedged road, but the farther we went the scarcer the roses became. Long thorns began to show up, and soon the roses were no more. The hedges became sun-scorched, leafless, and thorn-studded. Withered branches torn from the bushes lay criss-crossed along the roadbed, littering it with thorns and making it impassable. We had come now to a gulch whose steep sides hid what lay beyond. The road, still sloping downward, was becoming ever more horrid, rutted, guttered, and bristling with rocks and boulders. I lost track of all my boys, most of whom had left this treacherous road for other paths.

I kept going, but the farther I advanced, the more arduous and steep became the descent, so that I tumbled and fell several times, lying prostrate until I could catch my breath. Now and then my guide supported me or helped me to rise. At every step my joints seemed to give way, and I thought my shinbones would snap. Panting, I said to my guide, "My good fellow, my legs won't carry me another step. I just can't go any farther." He did not answer but continued walking. Taking heart, I followed until, seeing me soaked in perspiration and thoroughly exhausted, he led me to a little clearing alongside the road. I sat down, took a deep breath, and felt a little better. From my resting place, the road I had already traveled looked very steep, jagged, and strewn with loose stones, but what lay ahead seemed so much worse that I closed my eyes in horror.

"Let's go back," I pleaded. "If we go any farther, how shall we ever get back to the Oratory? I will never make it up this slope."

"Now that we have come so far, do you want me to leave you here?" my guide sternly asked.

At this threat, I wailed, "How can I survive without your help?"

"Then follow me."

We continued our descent, the road now becoming so frightfully steep that it was almost impossible to stand erect. And then, at the bottom of this precipice, at the entrance of a dark valley, an enormous building loomed into sight, its towering portal, tightly locked, facing our road. When I finally got to the bottom, I became smothered by a suffocating heat, while a greasy, green-tinted smoke lit by flashes of scarlet flames rose from behind those enormous walls which loomed higher than mountains.

"Where are we? What is this?" I asked my guide.

"Read the inscription on that portal and you will know."

I looked up and read these words: "The place of no reprieve." I realized that we were at the gates of Hell. The guide led me all around this horrible place. At regular distance bronze portals like the first overlooked precipitous descents; on each was an inscription, such as: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25: 41) "Every tree that yielded not good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the the fire." (Matthew 7: 19)

I tried to copy them into my notebook, but my guide restrained me: "There is no need. You have them all in Holy Scripture. You even have some of them inscribed in your porticoes."

At such a sight I wanted to turn back and return to the Oratory. As a matter of fact, I did start back, but my guide ignored my attempt. After trudging through a steep, never-ending ravine, we again came to the foot of the precipice facing the first portal. Suddenly the guide turned to me. Upset and startled, he motioned to me to step aside. "Look!" he said.

I looked up in terror and saw in the distance someone racing down the path at an uncontrollable speed. I kept my eyes on him, trying to identify him, and as he got closer, I recognized him as one of my boys. His disheveled hair was partly standing upright on his head and partly tossed back by the wind. His arms were outstretched as though he were thrashing the water in an attempt to stay afloat. He wanted to stop, but could not. Tripping on the protruding stones, he kept falling even faster. "Let's help him, let's stop him," I shouted, holding out my hands in a vain effort to restrain him.

"Leave him alone," the guide replied.


"Don't you know how terrible God's vengeance is? Do you think you can restrain one who is fleeing from His just wrath?"

Meanwhile the youth had turned his fiery gaze backward in an attempt to see if God's wrath were still pursuing him. The next moment he fell tumbling to the bottom of the ravine and crashed against the bronze portal as though he could find no better refuge in his flight.

"Why was he looking backward in terror?" I asked.

"Because God's wrath will pierce Hell's gates to reach and torment him even in the midst of fire!"

As the boy crashed into the portal, it sprang open with a roar, and instantly a thousand inner portals opened with a deafening clamor as if struck by a body that had been propelled by an invisible, most violent, irresistible gale. As these bronze doors -- one behind the other, though at a considerable distance from each other -- remained momentarily open, I saw far into the distance something like furnace jaws sprouting fiery balls the moment the youth hurtled into it. As swiftly as they had opened, the portals then clanged shut again. For a third time I tried to jot down the name of that unfortunate lad, but the guide again restrained me. "Wait," he ordered.


Three other boys of ours, screaming in terror and with arms outstretched, were rolling down one behind the other like massive rocks, I recognized them as they too crashed against the portal. In that split second, it sprang open and so did the other thousand. The three lads were sucked into that endless corridor amid a long-drawn, fading, infernal echo, and then the portals clanged shut again. At intervals, many other lads came tumbling down after them. I saw one unlucky boy being pushed down the slope by an evil companion. Others fell singly or with others, arm in arm or side by side. Each of them bore the name of his sin on his forehead. I kept calling to them as they hurtled down, but they did not hear me. Again the portals would open thunderously and slam shut with a rumble. Then, dead silence!

"Bad companions, bad books, and bad habits," my guide exclaimed, "are mainly responsible for so many eternally lost."

The traps I had seen earlier were indeed dragging the boys to ruin. Seeing so many going to perdition, I cried out disconsolately, "If so many of our boys end up this way, we are working in vain. How can we prevent such tragedies?"

"This is their present state," my guide replied, "and that is where they would go if they were to die now."

"Then let me jot down their names so that I may warn them and put them back on the path to Heaven."

"Do you really believe that some of them would reform if you were to warn them? Then and there your warning might impress them, but soon they will forget it, saying, 'It was just a dream,' and they will do worse than before. Others, realizing they have been unmasked, receive the sacraments, but this will be neither spontaneous nor meritorious; others will go to confession because of a momentary fear of Hell but will still be attached to sin."

"Then is there no way to save these unfortunate lads? Please, tell me what I can do for them."

"They have superiors; let them obey them. They have rules; let them observe them. They have the sacraments; let them receive them."

Just then a new group of boys came hurtling down and the portals momentarily opened. "Let's go in," the guide said to me.

I pulled back in horror. I could not wait to rush back to the Oratory to warn the boys lest others might be lost as well.

"Come," my guide insisted. "You'll learn much. But first tell me: Do you wish to go alone or with me?" He asked this to make me realize that I was not brave enough and therefore needed his friendly assistance.

"Alone inside that horrible place?" I replied. "How will I ever be able to find my way out without your help?" Then a thought came to my mind and aroused my courage. Before one is condemned to Hell, I said to myself, he must be judged. And I haven't been judged yet!

"Let's go," I exclaimed resolutely. We entered that narrow, horrible corridor and whizzed through it with lightning speed. Threatening inscriptions shone eerily over all the inner gateways. The last one opened into a vast, grim courtyard with a large, unbelievably forbidding entrance at the far end. Above it stood this inscription:

"These shall go into everlasting punishment." (Matthew 25: 46) The walls all about were similarly inscribed. I asked my guide if I could read them, and he consented. These were the inscriptions:

"He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, and they may burn and may feel forever." (Judith 16: 21)

"The pool of fire where both the beast and the false prophet shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Apocalypse 20: 9-10)

"And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up forever and ever." (Apocalypse 14: 11)

"A land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order, but everlasting horror dwelleth." (Job 10: 22)

"There is no peace to the wicked." (Isaias 47: 22)

"There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:12)

While I moved from one inscription to another, my guide, who had stood in the center of the courtyard, came up to me.

"From here on," he said, "no one may have a helpful companion, a comforting friend, a loving heart, a compassionate glance, or a benevolent word. All this is gone forever. Do you just want to see or would you rather experience these things yourself?"

"I only want to see!" I answered.

"Then come with me," my friend added, and, taking me in tow, he stepped through that gate into a corridor at whose far end stood an observation platform, closed by a huge, single crystal pane reaching from the pavement to the ceiling. As soon as I crossed its threshold, I felt an indescribable terror and dared not take another step. Ahead of me I could see something like an immense cave which gradually disappeared into recesses sunk far into the bowels of the mountains. They were all ablaze, but theirs was not an earthly fire with leaping tongues of flames. The entire cave --walls, ceiling, floor, iron, stones, wood, and coal -- everything was a glowing white at temperatures of thousands of degrees. Yet the fire did not incinerate, did not consume. I simply can't find words to describe the cavern's horror. "The nourishment thereof is fire and much wood: the breath of the Lord as a torrent of brimstone kindling it." (Isaias 30: 33)

I was staring in bewilderment about me when a lad dashed out of a gate. Seemingly unaware of anything else, he emitted a most shrilling scream, like one who is about to fall into a cauldron of liquid bronze, and plummeted into the center of the cave. Instantly he too became incandescent and perfectly motionless, while the echo of his dying wail lingered for an instant more.

Terribly frightened, I stared briefly at him for a while. He seemed to be one of my Oratory boys. "Isn't he so and so?" I asked my guide.

"Yes," was the answer.

"Why is he so still, so incandescent?"

"You chose to see," he replied. "Be satisfied with that. Just keep looking. Besides, "Everyone shall be salted with fire." (Mark 9: 48)

As I looked again, another boy came hurtling down into the cave at breakneck speed. He too was from the Oratory. As he fell, so he remained. He too emitted one single heart-rending shriek that blended with the last echo of the scream that came from the youth who had preceded him. Other boys kept hurtling in the same way in increasing numbers, all screaming the same way and then all becoming equally motionless and incandescent. I noticed that the first seemed frozen to the spot, one hand and one foot raised into the air; the second boy seemed bent almost double to the floor. Others stood or hung in various other positions, balancing themselves on one foot or hand, sitting or lying on their backs or on their sides, standing or kneeling, hands clutching their hair. Briefly, the scene resembled a large statuary group of youngsters cast into ever more painful postures. Other lads hurtled into that same furnace. Some I knew; others were strangers to me. I then recalled what is written in the Bible to the effect that as one falls into Hell, so he shall forever remain. ". . . in what place soever it shall fall, there shall it be." (Ecclesiastes 11:3)

More frightened than ever, I asked my guide, "When these boys come dashing into this cave, don't they know where they are going?"

"They surely do. They have been warned a thousand times, but they still choose to rush into the fire because they do not detest sin and are loath to forsake it. Furthermore, they despise and reject God's incessant, merciful invitations to do penance. Thus provoked, Divine Justice harries them, hounds them, and goads them on so that they cannot halt until they reach this place."

"Oh, how miserable these unfortunate boys must feel in knowing they no longer have any hope," I exclaimed. "If you really want to know their innermost frenzy and fury, go a little closer," my guide remarked.

I took a few steps forward and saw that many of those poor wretches were savagely striking at each other like mad dogs. Others were clawing their own faces and hands, tearing their own flesh and spitefully throwing it about. Just then the entire ceiling of the cave became as transparent as crystal and revealed a patch of Heaven and their radiant companions safe for all eternity.

The poor wretches, fuming and panting with envy, burned with rage because they had once ridiculed the just. "The wicked shall see, and be angry, he shall gnash with his teeth, and pine away. . . " (Psalms 111: 10) "Why do hear no sound?" I asked my guide,

"Go closer!" he advised.

Pressing my ear to the crystal window, I heard screams and sobs, blasphemies and imprecations against the Saints. It was a tumult of voices and cries, shrill and confused.

"When they recall the happy lot of their good companions," he replied, "they are obliged to admit: "We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints. Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us, and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us." (Wisdom 5:4-6) "We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways, but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us ? or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us ? All those things are passed away like a shadow." (Wisdom 5: 7-9)

"Here time is no more. Here is only eternity."

While I viewed the condition of many of my boys in utter terror, a thought suddenly struck me. "How can these boys be damned?" I asked. "Last night they were still alive at the Oratory!"

"The boys you see here," he answered, "are all dead to God's grace. Were they to die now or persist in their evil ways, they would be damned. But we are wasting time. Let us go on."

He led me away and we went down through a corridor into a lower cavern, at whose entrance I read: "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched." (Isaias 66: 24) "He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, and they may burn and may feel forever." (Judith 16: 21)

Here one could see how atrocious was the remorse of those who had been pupils in our schools. What a torment was their, to remember each unforgiven sin and its just punishment, the countless, even extraordinary means they had had to mend their ways, persevere in virtue, and earn paradise, and their lack of response to the many favors promised and bestowed by the Virgin Mary. What a torture to think that they couId have been saved so easily, yet now are irredeemably lost, and to remember the many good resolutions made and never kept. Hell is indeed paved with good intentions!

In this lower cavern I again saw those Oratory boys who had fallen into the fiery furnace. Some are listening to me right now; others are former pupils or even strangers to me. I drew closer to them and noticed that they were all covered with worms and vermin which gnawed at their vitals, hearts, eyes, hands, legs, and entire bodies so ferociously as to defy description. Helpless and motionless, they were a prey to every kind of torment. Hoping I might be able to speak with them or to hear something from them, I drew even closer but no one spoke or even looked at me. I then asked my guide why, and he explained that the damned are totally deprived of freedom. Each must fully endure his own punishment, with absolutely no reprieve whatever. "And now," he added, "you too must enter that cavern."

"Oh, no!" I objected in terror. "Before going to Hell, one has to be judged. I have not been judged yet, and so I will not go to Hell!"

"Listen," he said, "what would you rather do: visit Hell and save your boys, or stay outside and leave them in agony?"

For a moment I was struck speechless. "Of course I love my boys and wish to save them all," I replied, "but isn't there some other way out?"

"Yes, there is a way," he went on, "provided you do all you can."

I breathed more easily and instantly said to myself, I don't mind slaving if I can rescue these beloved sons of mine from such torments.

"Come inside then," my friend went on, "and see how our good, almighty God lovingly provides a thousand means for guiding your boys to penance and saving them from everlasting death."

Taking my hand, he led me into the cave. As I stepped in, I found myself suddenly transported into a magnificent hall whose curtained glass doors concealed more entrances.

Above one of them I read this inscription: The Sixth Commandment. Pointing to it, my guide exclaimed, "Transgressions of this commandment caused the eternal ruin of many boys."

"Didn't they go to confession?"

"They did, but they either omitted or insufficiently confessed the sins against the beautiful virtue of purity, saying for instance that they had committed such sins two or three times when it was four or five. Other boys may have fallen into that sin but once in their childhood, and, through shame, never confessed it or did so insufficiently. Others were not truly sorry or sincere in their resolve to avoid it in the future. There were even some who, rather than examine their conscience, spent their time trying to figure out how best to deceive their confessor. Anyone dying in this frame of mind chooses to be among the damned, and so he is doomed for all eternity. Only those who die truly repentant shall be eternally happy. Now do you want to see why our merciful God brought you here?" He lifted the curtain and I saw a group of Oratory boys -- all known to me -- who were there because of this sin. Among them were some whose conduct seems to be good.

"Now you will surely let me take down their names so that I may warn them individually," I exclaimed. "Then what do you suggest I tell them?"

"Always preach against immodesty. A generic warning will suffice. Bear in mind that even if you did admonish them individually, they would promise, but not always in earnest. For a firm resolution, one needs God's grace which will not be denied to your boys if they pray. God manifests His power especially by being merciful and forgiving. On your part, pray and make sacrifices. As for the boys, let them listen to your admonitions and consult their conscience. It will tell them what to do."

We spent the next half hour discussing the requisites of a good confession. Afterward, my guide several times exclaimed in a loud voice, "Avertere! Avertere!"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Change life! "

Perplexed, I bowed my head and made as if to withdraw, but he held me back.

"You haven't seen everything yet," he explained.

He turned and lifted another curtain bearing this inscription: "They who would become rich, fall into temptation, and to the snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 6: 9) (Note: would become rich: wish to become rich, seek riches, set their heart and affections toward riches.)

"This does not apply to my boys! I countered, "because they are as poor as I am. We are not rich and do not want to be. We give it no thought."

As the curtain was lifted, however, I saw a group of boys, all known to me. They were in pain, like those I had seen before. Pointing to them, my guide remarked, "As you see, the inscription does apply to your boys."

"But how?" I asked.

"Well," he said, "some boys are so attached to material possessions that their love of God is lessened. Thus they sin against charity, piety, and meekness. Even the mere desire of riches can corrupt the heart, especially if such a desire leads to injustice. Your boys are poor, but remember that greed and idleness are bad counselors. One of your boys committed substantial thefts in his native town, and though he could make restitution, he gives it not a thought. There are others who try to break into the pantry or the prefect's or economer's office; those who rummage in their companions' trunks for food, money, or possessions; those who steal stationery and books...."

After naming these boys and others as well, he continued, "Some are here for having stolen clothes, linen, blankets, and coats from the Oratory wardrobe in order to send them home to their families; others for willful, serious damage; others, yet, for not having given back what they had borrowed or for having kept sums of money they were supposed to hand over to the superior. Now that you know who these boys are," he concluded, "admonish them. Tell them to curb all vain, harmful desires, to obey God's law and to safeguard their reputation jealously lest greed lead them to greater excesses and plunge them into sorrow, death, and damnation."

I couldn't understand why such dreadful punishments should be meted out for infractions that boys thought so little of, but my guide shook me out of my thoughts by saying: "Recall what you were told when you saw those spoiled grapes on the wine." With these words he lifted another curtain which hid many of our Oratory boys, all of whom I recognized instantly. The inscription on the curtain read: The root of all evils.

"Do you know what that means?" he asked me immediately.

"What sin does that refer to?"



"And yet I have always heard that pride is the root of all evil."

"It is, generally speaking, but, specifically, do you know what led Adam and Eve to commit the first sin for which they were driven away from their earthly paradise?"


"Exactly! Disobedience is the root of all evil."

"What shall I tell my boys about it?"

"Listen carefully: the boys you see here are those who prepare such a tragic end for themselves by being disobedient. So-and-so and so-and-so, who you think went to bed, leave the dormitory later in the night to roam about the playground, and, contrary to orders, they stray into dangerous areas and up scaffolds, endangering even their lives. Others go to church, but, ignoring recommendations, they misbehave; instead of praying, they daydream or cause a disturbance. There are also those who make themselves comfortable so as to doze off during church services, and those who only make believe they are going to church. Woe to those who neglect prayer! He who does not pray dooms himself to perdition. Some are here because, instead of singing hymns or saying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, they read frivolous or -- worse yet -- forbidden books." He then went on mentioning other serious breaches of discipline.

When he was done, I was deeply moved.

"May I mention all these things to my boys?" I asked, looking at him straight in the eye.

"Yes, you may tell them whatever you remember."

"What advice shall I give them to safeguard them from such a tragedy?"

"Keep telling them that by obeying God, the Church, their parents, and their superiors, even in little things, they will be saved."

"Anything else?"

"Warn them against idleness. Because of idleness David fell into sin. Tell them to keep busy at all times, because the devil will not then have a chance to tempt them."

I bowed my head and promised. Faint with dismay, I could only mutter, "Thanks for having been so good to me. Now, please lead me out of here."

"All right, then, come with me." Encouragingly he took my hand and held me up because I could hardly stand on my feet. Leaving that hall, in no time at all we retraced our steps through that horrible courtyard and the long corridor. But as soon as we stepped across the last bronze portal, he turned to me and said, "Now that you have seen what others suffer, you too must experience a touch of Hell."

"No, no!" I cried in terror.

He insisted, but I kept refusing.

"Do not be afraid," he told me; "just try it. Touch this wall."

I could not muster enough courage and tried to get away, but he held me back. "Try it," he insisted. Gripping my arm firmly, he pulled me to the wall. "Only one touch," he cornmanded, "so that you may say you have both seen and touched the walls of eternal suffering and that you may understand what the last wall must be like if the first is so unendurable. Look at this wall!" I did intently. It seemed incredibly thick. "There are a thousand walls between this and the real fire of Hell," my guide continued. "A thousand walls encompass it, each a thousand measures thick and equally distant from the next one. Each measure is a thousand miles. This wall therefore is millions and millions of miles from Hell's real fire. It is just a remote rim of Hell itself."

When he said this, I instinctively pulled back, but he seized my hand, forced it open, and pressed it against the first of the thousand walls. The sensation was so utterly excruciating that I leaped back with a scream and found myself sitting up in bed. My hand was stinging and I kept rubbing it to ease the pain. When I got up this morning I noticed that it was swollen. Having my hand pressed against the wall, though only in a dream, felt so real that, later, the skin of my palm peeled off.

Bear in mind that I have tried not to frighten you very much, and so I have not described these things in all their horror as I saw them and as they impressed me. We know that Our Lord always portrayed Hell in symbols because, had He described it as it really is, we would not have understood Him. No mortal can comprehend these things. The Lord knows them and He reveals them to whomever He wills.

Vision of the Great Ship

Imagine you are with me on the on a cliff overlooking a vast expanse of sea with no other land in sight except that which is under your feet. In the middle of the endless sea, soaring to the sky, are two solid, stout columns a short distance apart from each other. One is surmounted by a statue of the Blessed Virgin Immaculate, at whose feet hangs a large placard with the inscription: Auxilium Christianorum [Help of Christians]. The other column, far loftier and sturdier, supports a Host of proportionate size, and underneath it is another placard with the inscription: Salus Credentium [Salvation of believers]. From these two columns hang many chains with hooks and anchors in every direction to which ships can be attached.

The water is covered with a countless multitude of battling ships. The prow of each is fitted with beaks of iron that are like spears or arrows stabbing and piercing everything they hit. These ships are heavily armed with cannons, firearms, and incendiary bombs of every kind, even books, and all of them are thronging and chasing after a mighty ship, bigger and taller than any of them. The enemy ships try to ram this stately vessel, to set it on fire, and to damage it in every possible way while an escort fleet shields it. All the efforts of the Pope who captains the great ship are bent to steer it between those two columns against winds and waves that favor the enemy. The commanding general of the flagship, the Roman Pontiff, seeing the enemy’s fury and his auxiliary ships’ grave predicament, summons his captains. All the pilots gather around the captain and hold a conference, but the storm grows steadily more ferocious, and they are sent back to command their own ships lest they founder. When it again grows a little calmer, the captain summons his pilots for a second time as the flagship sticks to its course. The enemy ships keep trying in every way to block, damage and sink the great ship. They bombard it with everything they have: firearms, cannons and incendiary bombs, the beaks of their prows, and with fire from books and journals which they try to hurl into the big ship. The storm becomes dreadful and smashes the ships of the Pope so badly that the enemies let out shouts of victory. The Pope strains every muscle continuing to steer his ship between the two columns as fierce combat ensues and all the enemy ships move in and violently ram his ship again and again. Yet all the efforts of that multitude of ships are useless as their weapons shatter, their guns and cannons sinking into the sea. In a blind fury the enemy forces take to combating the big ship with their hands, fists, books, blasphemies, and curses. Unscathed and undaunted, the flagship keeps on its course.

It is true that at times a formidable ram splinters a gaping hole or wound into the hull of the great ship but immediately, a favorable wind breezes from the two columns and instantly heals the gash and the ship continues on its way. One blow gravely injures the Pope, who suddenly falls down. Those around him immediately help him to get up, but he is struck by a second blow, falls again, and dies. Another shout of victory goes up among the remaining enemies and indescribable rejoicing is seen on their ships. But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The assembled pilots elected another captain so quickly that the news of the preceding captain arrives with the news of the election of his successor. The enemy loses courage as the new Pope overcomes every obstacle and routs all the tottering ships with his. Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers his ship safely between the two columns. Once in between them, he attaches the prow to an anchor hanging from the column with the Host. With another anchor he attaches the other side of the ship to the column with the Blessed Virgin Immaculate.

Then total disorder breaks out over the whole surface of the sea. All the ships that so far had been battling the Pope’s ship scatter, fleeing and colliding with one another, some foundering and trying to sink the others. Then many of the small ships scurry to the columns and attach themselves to those hooks. Some ships, which had gallantly fought alongside the great ship, are the first to tie up at the two columns. Many others, which had fearfully kept far away from the fight, stand still, cautiously waiting until the wrecked enemy ships vanish under the waves. Then they too head for the two columns, tie up at the swinging hooks, and remain there all safe and secure with the main ship and the Pope.

A great perfect calm now covers the sea.

© 2006 Tim Bartel

Vision of deaths in the Sardinian Royal court

One friend of John Bosco was Justice Minister Urbano Rattazzi, who despite being anticlerical, nevertheless recognized the value of Don Bosco’s work.While Rattazzi was pushing a bill through the Sardinian legislature to suppress religious orders, he advised Don Bosco on how to get around the law and found a religious order to keep the oratory going after its founder’s death. Bosco had been thinking about that problem, too, and had been slowly organizing his helpers into a loose "Congregation of St. Francis de Sales." He was also training select older boys for the priesthood on the side. Another supporter of the religious order's idea was the reigning Pope, Blessed Pius IX.

In 1854, when the Kingdom of Sardinia was about to pass a law suppressing monastic orders and confiscating ecclesiastical properties, Bosco reported a series of dreams about "great funerals at court," referring to members of the Savoy court or of politicians.In November 1854, he sent a letter to King Victor Emmanuel II, admonishing him to oppose the confiscation of church property and suppression of the orders, but the King did nothing.[10] His activity, which had been described by Italian historian Erberto Petoia as having "manifest blackmailing intentions",[11] ended only after the intervention of Prime Minister Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. Despite such criticisms, the King's family suffered a surprising number of deaths in a short period. From January to May 1855, the King's mother (age 55), wife (33), newborn son and his only brother (33) all died.

Vision of Mary in A garden

In one dream, Mary led him into a beautiful garden. There were roses everywhere, crowding the ground with their blooms and the air with their scent. He was told to take off his shoes and walk along a path through a rose arbor. Before he had walked more than a few steps, his naked feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. When he said he would have to wear shoes or turn back, Mary told him to put on sturdy shoes. As he stepped forward a second time, he was followed by helpers. But the walls of the arbor closed on him, the roof sank lower and the roses crept onto the path. Thorns caught at him from all around. When he pushed them aside he only got more cuts, until he was tangled in thorns. Yet those who watched said, "How lucky Don John is! His path is forever strewn with roses! He hasn't a worry in the world. No troubles at all!" Many of the helpers, who had been expecting an easy journey, turned back, but some stayed with him. Finally he climbed through the roses and thorns to find another incredible garden. A cool breeze soothed his torn skin and healed his wounds.

In his interpretation, the path was his mission, the roses were his charity to the boys, and the thorns were the distractions, the obstacles, and frustrations that would stand in his way. The message of the dream was clear to John: he must keep going, not lose faith in God or his mission, and he would come through to the place he belonged.

Saint John Bosco's Vision of 1830

Fr Calosso's death was a great loss to me. I wept inconsolably over my dead benefactor. I thought of him in my waking hours and dreamed of him when I was asleep. It affected me so badly that my mother feared for my health. She send me foe a while to my grandfather in Capriglio.

At this time i had another dream.In it I was sorely reproached for having put my hope in men and not in our good heavenly Father

Memoirs of the Oratory of Saint Francis de Sales from 1815 to 1855 The Autobiography of Saint John Bosco

Saint John Bosco's first Visions

The dreams of Don Bosco are recorded in the Biographical Memoirs of Saint John Bosco, the huge biography published in Italian between 1898 and 1939. Father John Baptist Lemoyne (1839-1916) between 1883 and 1916 composed the first nine volumes of this ambitious undertaking, covering 1815-1870, and he laid out the fundamental work for volumes 10-18, which cover the rest of the Saint’s life and were completed by Fathers Angelo Amadei (1868-1945) and Eugene Ceria (1870-1957). Volume 19 covers the canonization process, 1888-1934. An index (volume 20) was published in 1948.

The sources for the estimated 153 dreams found in the Biographical Memoirs include Don Bosco’s written accounts, the chronicles of the first Salesians,[1] the notes, memoirs, and testimony of various contemporaries, and many conversations with Lemoyne. Don Bosco wrote down two dreams at some length and alluded to a few others in his own Memoirs of the Oratory; he wrote out or had a secretary transcribe ten others, basically as memoranda for their future narration or for their communication to those for whom they were meant.[2] That means, obviously, that the great majority have come to us based on their oral narration. Often he would narrate them to all the Oratory residents, sometimes just to some of the Salesians.

[1] The principal chronicles and diaries are those of three early Salesians who were leaders in the nascent Congregation: Frs. John Bonetti (1838-1891), Dominic Ruffino (1840-1865), and Julius Barberis (1847-1927); and of two of Don Bosco’s personal secretaries, Frs. Joachim Berto (1847-1914) and Charles Viglietti (1864-1915).

[2] Memoirs of the Oratory records six dreams (two in detail, one in outline). A critical edition by Cecilia Romero, I sogni di Don Bosco (Turin: LDC, 1978), presents ten others, either autograph manuscripts or allograph manuscripts annotated by the Saint.

John was about nine when he experienced his first extraordinary dream. This first dream, the most important one, would set the course for his whole life.It is recorded in his autobiographical Memoirs of the Oratory.

John saw himself playing with a crowd of neighborhood boys; many of them were fighting and swearing. He told them to stop, then leapt in with both fists when they did not. Suddenly a stranger, a noble and radiant gentleman, appeared. He told John that he needed to use kindness, not blows, to win over these children. John did not understand. The man said he would give him a teacher, and a majestic Lady showed up. She instructed John to watch, and the boys turned into wild animals—bears, goats, dogs, cats, etc. “This,” she told him, “is your field of work. Make yourself humble, strong, and energetic, so that you’ll be able to do for my children what you’ll see now.” And the beasts turned into gentle lambs. In his confusion, John began to cry. The Lady assured him that in due time he would understand. And he woke up.

Evidently John realized this was no ordinary dream, even if he did not understand it. Yet he was quite skeptical about it: “I wasted no time in telling all about my dream.... Each one gave his own interpretation.... But my grandmother, though she could not read or write, knew enough theology and made the final judgement, saying ‘Pay no attention to dreams.’ I agreed with my grandmother.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Her incorrupt body lies in the Convent of Saint Gildarde in Nevers

"As soon as she was dead," stated Sister Bernard Dalias, "Bernadette's face became young and peaceful again, with a look of purity and blessedness." The infirmarians clothed her in her religious habit. "We had no difficulty in doing so," observed Sister de Vigouroux, "for her body was supple even though she had been dead for two hours."

This photo was taken when she died in 1879

Bernadette died on 16th April 1879. Her body was buried in the small chapel dedicated to St.Joseph, within the convent grounds. In September of 1909, Bernadettes body was exhumed, as part of the process leading to her eventual canonisation. The hollowed-out tomb was extremely humid - her habit was very damp, the rosary held in her hands was rusted and her crucifix had turned green. Yet despite this, the body itself was perfectly preserved. Two further exhumations (in April 1919 and April 1925) were carried out. At the third , the skin was found to have discoloured slightly in places, due probably to exposure to the air following the forty-six years of burial. Because of this, the firm of Pierre Imans in Paris made light wax coverings for the face and hands. By June of 1925, the Cateland workshop in Lyon had finished the gilt and crystal reliquary which was to be the final resting place of the saint; the light wax masks were placed on the face and hands and the body was placed in the shrine. The same month, Pope Pius XI beatified Bernadette - she could now be called "Blessed" and her remains could be publicly venerated.

In August, the shrine was ceremonially placed in the main chapel of the convent, and the long line of pilgrims began to visit the convent. In 1933 Bernadette was declared a Saint - appropriately, this took place on December 8th, feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Life after the Apparitions

Bernadette in 1866
Later in life she became a Sister of Charity of Nevers, and was besieged by many faithful and religious.

Bernadette (in religion, Sister Marie-Bernarde) spent the latter part of her life at the convent, saying that she had come to hide herself. She sought God in the silence of the cloister, serving Him in humility and under the vows of her profession as a Sister of Charity of Nevers. She lived in the convent for thirteen years, spending a large portion of this time ill in the infirmary - when a fellow sister accused her of being a 'lazybones', she said that her 'job' was "to be ill".

Bernadette died on 16th April 1879.

The Lady of Lourdes had kept the promise She made to Bernadette in 1858 -
"I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next".

Although the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes were over for Bernadette (at least in this life), their message and mission were never to be forgotten. Bernadette silently offered all of her sufferings, internal and external, for the benefit of "poor sinners".

Eighteenth Apparition-LOURDES Last Apparition

Friday 16 July 1858

July 16th was the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - in the parish church there was an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under this title. While praying there in the early evening, Bernadette - who faithfully wore the Brown Scapular of Carmel all the days of her life - once more felt herself called by her Lady to come to the Grotto.

The Grotto was boarded up now and closed to the public, access to it forbidden and use of the water disallowed. But nothing could stop the child responding to the call of the Immaculate One.

She left the Church immediately and ran to the home of her Aunt Basile, to ask her to accompany her to the Grotto. Since the Grotto itself was now closed, the two took another path, across the field known as 'de la Ribere', leading to the right bank of the river Gave, opposite the vault and the niche. On the way to the rock, they met several of the Lourdes women; these followed the visionary, since it was obvious she was going back to the Grotto.

On the far side of the river, the child knelt to commence her prayers. Almost immediately, her little face was transfigured with the heavenly light of her beautiful Lady, who stood once more in the hallowed niche across the water.

"Yes! Yes! She is there!" exclaimed the little one. "She welcomes us and is smiling upon us across the barriers!". Then she began her intimate discourse with the Woman who so enraptured her and who was the sole reality for her at that moment.

It seemed to those present that at intervals during the dialogue, the child was almost trying to fly across the water, so far forward did she lean. But now the moment had come for the Lady to say farewell to her little protégé, her own child, who now would have to await her entry into Heaven before gazing upon Her beauty once more.

The child later declared that "The Blessed Virgin is so beautiful that when one has seen Her once, one would gladly wish to die so as to see Her again". That feeling was now to flower within the heart and soul of the faithful child.

As the sun was beginning to set, the Lady who called Herself the Immaculate Conception took Her leave of the child, ending the vision with Bernadette still in the fullness of her joy. As She disappeared, She cast one last smile upon Bernadette. Never again in this life would Bernadette see the Lady; now she could only wait for Her to keep the promise She had made at the second Apparition - "I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next".

Seventeenth Apparition-LOURDES

Wednesday 7 April 1858

The number of people traveling to the Grotto was steadily increasing, more so now that the mysterious Lady had finally identified Herself as the Immaculate Conception. Until this title had been announced, Bernadette had always called the Woman 'the Lady' - the people at the Grotto had also followed this example set by the little one. But after the Feast of the Annunciation, they were able to personalise the name of the Lady - there was now no doubt about Her identity; She was Mary, the Mother of God. And subsequently, She was referred to as Our Lady of Massabieille or Our Lady of the Grotto.

On Easter Sunday, 4th April 1858, the parish church in Lourdes was filled with people all day long. And throughout the day, people flocked to the Grotto. Commissioner Jacomet counted "in all, 3,625 visitors to the Grotto" between five in the morning and eleven at night.

The next day, Jacomet counted "3,433 strangers and 2,012 Lourdes people; in all 5,445 visitors" at the rock of Massabieille. Bernadette, however, had not been back to the Grotto since the day the Lady had named Herself.

On the Tuesday evening, 6th April, the child once more felt within herself the summons from the Lady of the niche - she was called to a further meeting.

It was the Wednesday of Easter week. At six in the morning, Bernadette was once more kneeling in prayer in front of her beloved Grotto, the place she would later call "a little piece of Heaven". The Lady was standing in the niche, bathed in the light of Heaven. Again the vision was a long one, lasting nearly forty-five minutes. The child was praying the Rosary as usual.

Doctor Dozous was present throughout the Apparition. He describes for us the scene as he watched it take place -

"Bernadette seemed to be even more absorbed than usual in the Appearance upon which her gaze was riveted. I witnessed, as did also every one else there present, the fact which I am about to narrate.

"She was on her knees saying with fervent devotion the prayers of her Rosary which she held in her left hand while in her right was a large blessed candle, alight. The child was just beginning to make the usual ascent on her knees when suddenly she stopped and, her right hand joining her left, the flame of the big candle passed between the fingers of the latter. Though fanned by a fairly strong breeze, the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching.

"Astonished at this strange fact, I forbade anyone there to interfere - and taking my watch in my hand, I studied the phenomenon attentively for a quarter of an hour. At the end of this time Bernadette, still in her ecstasy, advanced to the upper part of the Grotto, separating her hands. The flame thus ceased to touch her left hand.

"Bernadette finished her prayer and the splendour of the transfiguration left her face. She rose and was about to quit the Grotto when I asked her to show me her left hand. I examined it most carefully, but could not find the least trace of burning anywhere upon it. I then asked the person who was holding the candle to light it again and give it to me. I put it several times in succession under Bernadettes left hand but she drew it away quickly, saying 'You are burning me!'. I record this fact just as I have seen it without attempting to explain it. Many persons who were present at the time can confirm what I have said."

A neighbour called Julie Garros (who later joined Bernadette in the convent of Nevers as Sister Vincent) also witnessed this. She relates -

"As the Apparition continued, the candle gradually slipped down so that the flame was playing on the inside of her hand".

Bernadettes younger brother, Jean-Marie, recalled "seeing this very clearly as it passed between her fingers". Another neighbour present, a boy called Bernard Joanas, remembered that while this was taking place, Doctor Dozous checked the child's pulse but could find no irregularity. And that when someone was about to remove the candle from her, the woman was told by Doctor Dozous to "Leave her alone". "Bernadette, meanwhile, made no movement", stated the boy, who later became a curate in Lourdes and the Chaplain of the Lourdes Hospice run by the Sisters of Nevers.

Other witnesses later mentioned that this phenomenon also occurred earlier during the Apparitions, sometime before the end of February. At those times, people shouted to take the candle away from the child as it would burn her, although in fact she was not burned - despite the long period of time during which her hand was in contact with the flame.


Toward the end of the Apparitions, the civil authorities had made all sort of attempts to put an end to the occurrences at the Grotto of Massabieille. A number of doctors and psychiatrists had been called to examine her - the child submitted to each and every examination without question. The doctors concluded that while there still existed the possibility that the visions were the result of "some cerebral lesion", still they could not conclusively decide if this was the case. Other doctors were unwilling to discount the possibility that what was occurring was the result of a supernatural manifestation.

The Bishop of Tarbes, Monseigneur Lawrence, was also following the unusual events in Lourdes. As yet, he had not formally set up a Commission to investigate the alleged Apparitions.

Between the penultimate and the final Apparitions, the child was quite ill - as a result of her asthma she was sent to the mineral springs in Cauterets for recuperation (although this was not entirely effective).

Also, the Grotto itself had undergone some changes; workmen had widened the path leading to the Grotto and had completed the stone troughs into which the waters of the spring were to be redirected and allowed to collect, so allowing pilgrims to bathe in the water or to take it away in bottles.

Bernadette also made her First Holy Communion, on the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament - Thursday 3rd June 1858. Also on that day, she was invested by Abbe Peyramale with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - this scapular remained with her until death. Later, in the convent at Nevers, she would make her own scapulars as the need arose. Many of them can still be seen in the museum there.

That afternoon, Jean Baptiste Estrade and his sister were once again in the company of the child. Monsieur Estrade asked her -

"Tell me, Bernadette, which made you happier - receiving Our Lord or conversing with the Blessed Virgin?".

The child replied without hesitation - "I don't know. The two things go together and cannot be compared. All I know is that I was intensely happy in both cases".

That day, there were more than six thousand people in attendance at the Grotto, hoping for some heavenly manifestation; they were not to be disappointed, despite the fact that no vision occurred that day.

Among the people present, there were many who were sick and crippled. A labourer from the countryside had come together with his family, including a boy of six years who was suffering from paralysis of the spine. Again Doctor Dozous was present at the scene - and he wrote later that he had taken quite an interest in the poor family with the paralysed child.

"Since you have come" he said to the father of the child, "to obtain from the Blessed Virgin a cure which you have asked for in vain from science, take your child, undress him, and place him under the taps of the spring". This was duly done and the child was partially submerged in the cold water for a few minutes.

"The little invalid" continues the Doctor, "after he had been well dried and his clothes put back on, was laid on the ground. But he immediately got up by himself and made his way - walking with the greatest ease - toward his father and mother, who smothered him with vigorous hugs, shedding tears of joy".

But there were also unhappy events. The civil authorities were trying their best to have the Grotto closed to the public, and use of the water disallowed until it had been properly checked once more.

Further - and more worrying still - they were plotting to have the child arrested and committed on her next visit to Massabieille. This sad state of affairs was only halted by the intervention of Abbe Peyramale who - despite his lingering doubts about the visions themselves - was in no doubt about the innocence of the visionary. She might be deluded, but she was certainly no threat to the moral order of Lourdes or of France!

At this time, there were also a number of Satanic manifestations at the Grotto.

From the start of time, God had warned Satan that there would forever be enmity between him and the Woman. Lourdes was to be no exception to this rule.

The Satanic manifestation had begun during the fourth Apparition, when Bernadette had heard the cacophony of dark voices rising from the waters of the river, until silenced by the glance from the Virgin.

Now, toward, the end of the Visions, he would once more commence his assault. A young lady of Lourdes named Honorine, had been at the Grotto one day when she heard voices coming from within the empty Grotto - she said these voices produced a strange effect on her senses. This was repeated the next day, when Honorine again heard sounds - this time, savage howls and sounds like wild beasts in combat. The girl was terrified, and did not return to Massabieille for a number of weeks. The People of Lourdes said she was simply hysterical.

At the same time, a young man from Lourdes was passing the Grotto one day on his way to work before dawn. He crossed himself as he passed the rock, in honour of She who had been present there. Instantly, strange globes of light surrounded him and he felt unable to move. Terrified, he made the Sign of the Cross once more - as he did so, each of the globes of light exploded loudly around him and he was able to leave the place. As this was occurring, he could hear from within the Grotto, maniacal laughter and blasphemies.

Jean Baptiste Estrade witnessed some of the assaults of the father of lies. A lady from the Rue des Bagneres in Lourdes, named Josephine, was experiencing apparitions in the niche - this lasted for two days. Estrade watched what was happening, but said that while Bernadette was in ecstasy, he felt "transported" - with Josephine, he merely felt "surprised". And whereas Bernadette during her ecstasy was "transfigured", Josephine was simply beautiful. The girl in question related to Estrade that she had indeed seen strange figures within the niche, but that she had felt suspicious of them since they appeared to her to be evil in nature, not Heavenly.

One day a young boy named Alex returned to his home in Lourdes screaming and shouting, but so paralysed with fear that he could not tell his poor mother what was the matter. After several days, he calmed down sufficiently to relate the cause of his terror -

"When I left the house I went to walk with some other children by the side of Massabieille. When I reached the Grotto I prayed for a moment. Then, while waiting for my companions, I went up to the rock. Turning toward the hollow of the rock, I saw coming towards me a beautiful lady. This lady concealed her hands and the lower part of her body in an ashen coloured cloud, like a storm cloud. She fixed on me here great black eyes and seemed to wish to seize me. I thought at once that it was the devil and I fled".

Many other similar events occurred around this time.

Bernadette also had her own problems. There was a constant stream of visitors to the Cachot, all seeking an interview with the child and wishing to hear her relate a narrative of the Visions. The child submitted herself to all of this without hesitation, question or complaint. She saw it as an opportunity to fulfill the requests of the Lady for penance, although she later said that having to tell the same story from early morning till late at night each day, was a greater penance even than the asthma which was troubling her so much at this time. The poor child was constantly exhausted. To make matters worse, the authorities were once more threatening to imprison the child, claiming that she was receiving financial rewards for telling her story. Of course this was untrue; the family were still living in abject poverty and were frequently without sufficient money to feed the children.

On one occasion, Pierre - one of Bernadettes younger brothers - was found eating candle wax in the church, such was his hunger. He had previously accepted the gift of a small coin for showing a wealthy couple where the seer lived (although he neglected to mention that she was in fact his own sister). When Bernadette found out, she was very displeased and took him to the home of the couple in question, where he was forced to return the coin. Bernadette remained above any reproach of pecuniary - or other - gain until the day she died.

After all, the Lady had said that her happiness lay not in this life, but in the next.

Sixteenth Apparition-LOURDES

Thursday 25 March 1858

For the next twenty one days, Bernadette did not go to the Grotto in the early morning as she had been doing until then - she had not felt the call within herself which was her summons. But surely the matter had not reached a satisfactory conclusion - after all, the Lady had still not identified Herself, despite the child's repeated requests.

However, the child did go to the Grotto - but alone. She would go in the late afternoon and spend long hours in prayer and contemplation. But unlike the days of the visions, Bernadette would not kneel in her usual place; instead, she would go deep into the large rock vault at the base of the Grotto. There, cloaked in the gloom of the place, she would pour out her soul to the Lady of the Apparitions - whom she saw with the eyes of her soul, if not her body. By this time, some pious people in Lourdes had set up a small altar beneath the niche - upon an old table, they had placed a small statue of the Blessed Virgin, surrounded with flowers and candles. In fact, candles burned all over the Grotto. Whenever people were gathered at the place, they would begin to sing hymns to the Queen of Heaven. Nearly all of the pilgrims there would leave a small monetary donation, which would later be used to carry out the requests of the Lady. Strangely, none of this money was ever stolen - although it was left there with no-one to watch over it.

On the evening on March 24th, Bernadette told her parents of the feeling she had that she was being called to the Grotto once more by an interior impulse - she intended to return there in the morning. It had been a long time since the Lady had visited her - more than two weeks! How long that night was - try as she might, the child was unable to sleep. As soon as the first light of dawn began to pierce the darkness of night, she rose and quickly dressed.

There were a number of people present there at the Grotto already; it seemed they too felt there may be a fresh occurrence that day. But why today, after the silence of two weeks? That was simple to answer - today was the feast of the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary - the day he saluted Her as 'Full of Grace'.
So perhaps ....

Bernadette arrived at the Grotto at five in the morning, with her blessed candle in her hand. Her parents were with her. Even before she reached the rock, she could see the wondrous light filling the niche, in which stood her beautiful Lady.

"She was there", said
Bernadette, "tranquil and smiling and watching the crowd just as a fond mother watches her children. When I knelt down before Her, I begged Her pardon for coming late. Still kindly towards me, She made me a sign with Her head that I had no need to apologise. Then I told Her of all my love and regard for Her and how happy I was to see Her again. And after pouring out my heart to Her I took up my beads".

At this moment, the Figure bathed in the heavenly light moved from the niche down into the larger vault. Rising to her feet, Bernadette went into the vault to be closer to the Lady. She remained standing in front of Her and a conversation followed. Soon afterward, the oval of light moved back up into the niche once more and prayers were resumed.

Bernadette herself describes the conversation and events which followed this moment -

"Whilst I was praying, the thought of asking Her name came to 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 impulsion, the words fell from my mouth 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 smiled and bowed as before, still remaining silent.

"Then once more, for the third time, clasping my hands and confessing myself to be unworthy of the great favour 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 on the Miraculous Medal. At my 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 towards me, She said to me in a voice vibrating with emotion

'I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION' (Que Soy Era Immaculada Conceptiou)

"She smiled again, spoke no more, and disappeared smiling".

After the vision, Bernadette asked her aunt Lucille to allow her to keep the blessed candle which she had used throughout the Apparitions. Lucile agreed. Having obtained the necessary permission, Bernadette placed the candle between some of the rocks beneath the niche, where it slowly burned itself out.

Lucile asked why Bernadette had wanted to do this. She replied -

"The Lady asked me if I would leave the candle to burn at the Grotto - as it was your candle, I could not leave it there without your permission".

Leaving the Grotto, the child was laughing and smiling and quietly repeating some words to herself. Some neighbours from Lourdes came toward her and asked the cause of her happiness and what it was that she was saying. The child replied -

"Oh, I'm repeating the name the Lady has just this moment given me, for fear that I might forget it. She said to me, 'I am the Immaculate Conception' ."

The child was mispronouncing the word 'Conception' and had to be corrected.

From the Grotto, the little one went directly to the Presbytery - still smiling, still repeating the words which already were spreading so quickly throughout Lourdes.

She was still repeating them when she entered the garden of the Presbytery, where Abbe Peyramale was praying his Office. He asked what she wanted today, but the child did not hear his question.

"What's that you're saying, you conceited little thing!"

" 'I am the Immaculate Conception' it's the Lady who has just said these words to me!"

He asked if she knew what the words meant. She replied that she did not know their meaning.

"I see you are still being deceived. How can you say things you don't understand?" he asked.

"All the way from the Grotto I have been repeating the words 'I am the Immaculate Conception' for fear that I would forget them."

"Good!" added the Priest, "I shall consider what is to be done" and he entered the house, leaving the child and her aunt standing in the garden.

Later that day, the Priest admitted to a neighbour the effect of the child's words on him

"I was so amazed by it that I felt myself stagger and I was on the verge of falling."


Fifteenth Apparition-LOURDES

Thursday 4 March 1858

The whole of France was aware that Thursday 4th March was to be the last of the fifteen days during which Bernadette Soubirous had promised the mysterious Lady that she would be present at the Grotto of Massabieille.

What would happen today?

If the visions were a fraud, would all this nonsense cease? If real, would the Lady perform a great miracle to prove Her existence and presence? Who was the Lady? A soul from Purgatory? The Blessed Virgin Mary? The evil one in disguise? Perhaps today all would become clear.

Since early the previous evening, pilgrims had been arriving from all over France. They had travelled by horse, in carriages and on foot. Throughout the night torches had remained alight in front of the Grotto. Hymns were sung to the Queen of Heaven - surely this was the mysterious Lady of the visions? By morning, there were twenty thousand pilgrims in and around the Grotto of Massabieille.

Also present were a large number of gendarmes. Jacomet had felt the need for a strong police presence to prevent any of the trouble which always follows a large crowd. Consequently, he had called in extra police from the Garrison, all of whom were armed.

The night before, Jacomet - together with two colleagues - had undertaken a minute search of the Grotto, the niche and the entire rock of Massabieille. The niche was empty - no person, lamp, or any suspicious item was found within it. The same was true of the large vault beneath the niche - the only items found were a few coins, a small bouquet of flowers and a Rosary.

In the early hours of the morning, the search was repeated. Again, nothing suspicious was found.

Bernadette was present in the parish church for early morning Mass at six o'clock. After communion, she felt herself impelled to go to the Grotto - she left immediately. Her cousin - who had accompanied her to the Mass - ran after her once she noticed the little one had slipped quietly out of the Church, somewhat irritated at not having been told of the departure. Bernadette said she had not thought to tell her.

She arrived at the Grotto shortly after seven o'clock. The gendarmes cut a path through the crowd so that the child could reach the Grotto which had been the scene of so many marvels.

Bernadettes cousin, Jeanne Vedere, relates what happened -

"Holding a candle in one hand and her Rosary in the other, Bernadette recited her beads without a pause as far as the third Hail Mary of the second decade, her eyes fixed all the time on the niche and the rose bush. At that moment, a marvellous change came over her face and everyone cried out - 'Now she can see Her!' and they fell to their knees. I experienced at that moment such intense feelings of joy and happiness as I could never express; I felt the presence of a supernatural Being, but though I looked hard, I could see nothing."

Jeanne relates that the Rosary was prayed three times in succession that morning. At the end of her Rosary, Bernadette tried to make the Sign of the Cross. But once more, she was unable to lift her hand to her forehead despite three attempts. She later explained that she had finished her prayers before the Lady had finished Hers, and it was only once the Lady made the Sign of the Cross that the child could do the same.

The vision continued after the Rosary was finished. Not once did Bernadettes eyes move from the object of her delightful gaze. Jeanne Vedere counted eighteen smiles on the childs face during the vision. At one moment, Bernadette got up and walked forward into the vault at the base of the rock; Jeanne followed her. Later Bernadette said that at this point, the Lady had been so close that Jeanne could have put out her hand and touched Her. Bernadette went back to her usual place, but later went right into the vault once again and resumed the conversation.

Throughout the vision, Jacomet was always close by, scrutinising the child and taking notes in his little book. Of all those present, he alone stood throughout the Apparition, writing furiously.

This was to be the longest of all the visions, lasting more than an hour. At the end, Bernadette quietly finished her prayers and left the Grotto. People close by, as she was leaving the Grotto, asked the child how the vision had concluded. Bernadette said

"Just as usual. She smiled when She departed but She did not say goodbye to me".

"Now that the fortnight is up, you will not come again to the Grotto?" she was asked.

"Oh yes, I shall", replied the child. "I shall keep on coming, but I don't know if the Lady will appear again".

Fourteenth Apparition-LOURDES

Wednesday 3 March 1858

That morning there were around three thousand people present when Bernadette arrived at the Grotto at seven in the morning, accompanied by her mother. The child knelt and began her prayers as usual. But her face - although sweet - did not take on the radiance of other mornings. The Lady had not appeared.

One onlooker, Monsieur Clarens of Lourdes, wrote to the Prefect of Police at Tarbes two days later -

"The vision failed the little girl and this seemed to cause her deep distress. It is important to note this point, for it might not perhaps seem to favour the hypothesis of an hallucination".

The point of that statement was perfectly clear to many people present that day. Amongst them was the relative who allowed the Soubirous family to live rent-free in the Cachot, Andre Sajous.

Seeing the child's bitter sadness (she believed the Lady had not appeared because she had failed in her first visit to the priest the preceding day), he offered to go back to the Grotto with her. Her face lit up and she agreed. An hour and a half later (at nine in the morning) they were in front of the rock.

It was quieter there at that time, with only a few believers present. The remainder had departed once Bernadette had left earlier.

The Apparition took place in the same manner as before, with the Lady and her protégé joined in prayer.

After the Apparition, Bernadette went once more to see Abbe Peyramale. The Lady had asked once more about a Chapel. But this time the priest was a little less gruff in his approach, asking what was the purpose of the visit. The young girl replied that she had told the Lady about the priest's request of the previous day -

"She smiled when I told Her that you were asking Her to work a miracle. I told Her to make the rose bush, which She was standing near, bloom; She smiled once more. But She wants the Chapel".

Asking if Bernadette had money with which to build a chapel, the girl replied that she did not.

"No more have I! Ask the Lady to give you some!" responded the priest.

Later that day, more relatives of Bernadette arrived; the next day was the last day of the fifteen days and perhaps some great miracle would occur. Her cousin, Jeanne Marie Vedere, said to the child -

"I hear you did not see your Lady this morning", to which Bernadette replied -

"But I did see Her during the day!". Jeanne Marie asked her cousin why it had taken two visits to the Grotto before the Lady arrived; Bernadette said she had asked the Lady the same question and had received the following reply from Her lips -

"You did not see me this morning because there were some people there who wanted to see what you looked like in My presence - they were not worthy of this honour; they spent the night at the Grotto and they dishonoured it".

Thirteenth Apparition-LOURDES

Tuesday 2 March 1858

The thirteenth Apparition took place following the normal pattern, Bernadette arrived at the Grotto early in the morning, prayed the Rosary in the company of the Lady who remained silent except for the Glorias, then made her usual devotions and acts of penance.

After the vision, the child arose and appeared tremulous. She had been accompanied by both aunts - Basille and Lucile. Wondering what the Lady had said to make the child appear so anxious, Basille asked Bernadette what had happened. She replied -

"Oh I really am in great difficulty! The Lady has ordered me to tell the priest that She wishes a Chapel at Massabieille and I am nervous about having to go to the Presbytery. If only you knew how grateful I should be if you would accompany me!"

They left immediately to go and tell Abbe Peyramale of the Lady's request.

Upon arriving at the presbytery, the priest enquired -

"Well, what have you come to tell me? Has the Lady spoken to you?". Bernadettes anxiety increased.

"Yes, monsieur le cure. She has ordered me to tell you again that She wishes to have a chapel at Massabieille."

Peyramale - in his reply to the child - left her in no doubt what the priest thought of herself, of the Lady of the rock, of the messages being relayed to him, and (above all) at the inconvenience of the interruption she was causing to his normally quiet and routine life.

"It is high time for me to get out of the imbroglio in which the Lady and you seek to entangle me. Tell Her that with the priest of Lourdes She must speak clearly and concisely. She wants a chapel. What right has She to these honours which She claims? Who is She? Where does She come from? What has She done to deserve our homage? Don't let us beat about the bush - if your Lady is She whom you suggest, I will show Her a means of obtaining recognition and giving authority to Her messages. You tell me She stations Herself in a niche, above a wild rose bush. Well, ask Her from me to make the rose bush burst into flower suddenly in the presence of the assembled multitude. The morning when you come to tell me that this prodigy has occurred, I will believe your word and I will promise to go with you to Massabieille!".

The tone and volume of his reply terrified the poor child so much that she forget the second part of the message and left without having passed it on to the man shouting at her.

Afterwards, she realised her error. She asked her aunt to accompany her once more to the priests house, but met with a definite 'no'. She then asked both her parents - but they were more terrified of Peyramale than even Bernadette was. Later in the afternoon, the child spoke to one of her neighbour, a lady called Dominiquette Cazenave. She explained her predicament to this lady, who was more helpful than those she had already approached.

Madame Cazenave went to the presbytery in the late afternoon to arrange another meeting. She accomplished her task and the meeting was set for seven that evening.

At the appointed time, Bernadette and her neighbour found themselves in the priests company.

The child spoke -

"The Lady has ordered me to tell you that She wishes to have a chapel at Massabieille and now She adds 'I wish people to come here in procession'."

"My girl" replied Peyramale, "this is a fitting climax to all your stories! Either you are lying or the Lady who speaks to you is only the counterfeit of Her whom She pretends to be. Why does She want a procession? Doubtless to make unbelievers laugh and to turn religion into ridicule. The trap is not very cleverly laid! You can tell Her from me that She knows very little about the responsibilities and powers of the clergy of Lourdes. If She were really the One whom She pretends to be, She would know that I am not qualified to take the initiative in such a matter. It is to the Bishop of Tarbes, not to me, that She ought to have sent you!"

Bernadette spoke again. "But sir, the Lady did not tell me that She wanted a procession to come to the Grotto immediately - She only said, 'I wish people to come here in procession'. And if I understand Her rightly, She was speaking of the future and not of the present".

"We'll do better than that - we shall give you a torch and you shall have a procession all to yourself. You have many followers - you have no need of priests!" retorted Peyramale.

"But monsieur le cure, I never say anything to anyone. I don't ask them to come with me to the Grotto".

Peyramale was silent for a moment to collect his thoughts. A moment was all he needed.

"Ask the Lady Her name once more. When we know Her name, then She shall have a chapel - and I promise you, it won't be a little one either!"

Bernadette left the house. Now she smiled - despite her fear of the priest, she had carried out the task given to her by the Lady. She had given Abbe Peyramale the full message. Now it was up to him.

Twelfth Apparition-LOURDES

Monday 1 March 1858

From the beginning of the Apparitions in the Grotto of Massabieille, the popular press - and many individuals, most notably the 'free-thinkers'- had done all possible to put an end to these curious events; when this had failed and it was clear that they were powerless to stop what was happening, they resorted to the fall-back plan - to misrepresent, distort and discredit the occurrences.

This was clearly seen in the lies being told about Bernadette in the papers - she was described as mad, a neurotic, a cataleptic, an epileptic, a psychotic, a fraud, a devious little liar, a fool who was manipulated by others... the list was nearly endless.

Particular events at the Grotto were also played upon and misrepresented, taken out of context in an attempt to give them meanings which they did not possess. During the Twelfth Apparition such an event occurred. And as before, it was only after the event was explained by Bernadette herself that it made sense and cleared away the misrepresentations surrounding it.

Many people believed in the Apparitions, further, they were also certain of Who was appearing; they felt sure it was none other then the Blessed Virgin Mary, although Bernadette herself had never made this claim. Instead, the child had always spoken of 'the Lady' (un damizelo) who appeared, but who, so far, had declined to name Herself. But, believing that Bernadette was indeed in communication with the Queen of Heaven, the followers often made attempts of one sort or another to obtain souvenirs of the Apparitions and of Bernadette herself.

Monday 1st March saw at least 1300 people at the Grotto - as Jacomet the police commissioner stated in a report he sent the next day. But this number was based solely on those counted by the gendarmes returning to the town after the Apparition; it did not include those who left in other directions and did not pass through Lourdes. That day, one of those present was a priest from nearby Omex; the priest, Abbe Dezirat, had been only recently ordained. He was the first cleric to visit Massabieille during the Apparitions. He described what happened after Bernadettes arrival at 7:00am in the company of both of her parents -

"From the moment she arrived, I watched her closely. Her face was calm, her look unassuming, her walk most natural, neither slow nor hurried. No sign of exaltation, not a trace of disease.

"The crowd on the road pressed close behind the child to get to the scene of the Apparition. Once there, I did as the rest. When we arrived in front of the Grotto, someone said - 'Let the priest through!'. These words, though spoken softly, were easily heard, for there was deep silence over everything. They made way for me and advancing a few paces I was quite close to Bernadette, a yard away, not more.

"Between the moment when I got near to the child and the moment when the vision began, there was scarcely time to recite a decade.

"By her posture and by the expression on her face, it was evident that her soul was enraputred. What profound peace! What serenity! What lofty contemplation! Her smile was beyond all description. The child's gaze, fixed on the Apparition, was no less captivating. Impossible to imagine anything so pure, so sweet, so loving.

"I had watched Bernadette with scrupulous care while she was making her way to the Grotto. What a difference between what she was then and what she was as I saw her at the moment of the Apparition. It was like the difference between matter and spirit... I felt I was on the threshold of Paradise."

Here, Monsieur Jean Baptiste Estrade, present throughout the Apparition, takes up the story - but it is also here that the misunderstanding of the day occurred.

"I witnessed that day a great display of religious enthusiasm. Bernadette had just returned from her place under the spur of the rock. Kneeling down again, she took her beads as usual from her pocket, but as soon as she lifted her eyes again to the privileged bush, her face became sad. She held up her beads with surprise as high as her little arm would allow there was a moments pause, then suddenly went the beads back into her pocket. Instantly, she displayed another pair which she waved and held up as high as the first. The look of anguish vanished from her face. She bowed, smiled once more and recommenced her prayer.

"With a spontaneous movement, everyone took out their Rosaries and waved them. Then they shouted 'Vive Marie' and went down on their knees and prayed with tears in their eyes. The opponents of religion spread the rumour that Bernadette had that day blessed the Rosaries".

One Paris newspaper printed the following article a few days later -

"That little actress, the millers daughter at Lourdes, collected round her again on the morning of the 1st of March, beneath the Massabieille rock, nearly two thousand five hundred boobies. It is impossible to describe the idiocy and moral degeneration of these persons. The visionary treats them like a troop of monkeys and makes them commit absurdities of every kind. This morning, the pythoness was not inclined to play the seer, and to make a little variety in the exercises, she thought the best thing was to play the priestess. Assuming a grand air of authority, she ordered the fools to present their Rosaries and then blessed them all."

Since the day following the discovery of the Spring, the crowd had often imitated Bernadettes actions at the Grotto, such as kissing the ground in penance; today was no different, although the crowd had misinterpreted what had happened.

If Bernadette had not blessed the Rosaries, then what had been the meaning of the strange event which had just occurred? Later that day a priest asked the child this same question; only after her explanation was the odd happening demystified.

Bernadette explained that while on her way to the Grotto earlier that morning, a lady named Pauline Sans (who was the Lourdes seamstress) had spoken to her; she had desired to have a memento of the Apparitions and so had asked the child if she would be kind enough to use her (Madame Sans') Rosary that morning while the Blessed Virgin was praying with her. Bernadette had agreed to this proposal.

As Bernadette was about to make the sign of the Cross, she took the Rosary from her pocket but was not able to lift her hand to her forehead. The Lady asked Bernadette where her own Rosary was - here, the child lifted the Rosary high in the air for the Lady to see. But the Lady saw only too well "You are wrong" She told Bernadette, "this Rosary is not yours".

Realizing she had Madame Sans' Rosary in her hand, she put it back into her pocket and retrieved her own Rosary of black wood beads on a knotted cord, bought previously by her mother. Again she lifted the beads.

"Use those", said the Lady sweetly, smiling at the child, and Bernadette was able to begin her prayers.

The priest who asked the child to explain said to Bernadette "Is it true that you blessed Rosaries at the Grotto today?".

Bernadette smiled. "Oh but Monsieur, women do not wear the stole!"