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".
Chinese New Year
8 years ago