Our Lady of Lourdes | Fourth Apparition
Fourth Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes
Friday 19 February 1858
Hearing Bernadette relate what had occurred, her parents were distressed - not least of all by the strange promise made by the mysterious Lady. Until now, they had thought this was simply the product of a child's imagination... But now the Lady had spoken - and what words! If this was a real Lady, then who could it be? They considered that the child's description matched that of the Queen of Heaven. They immediately discounted this as a possibility; Bernadette was not worthy of such a grace. And the Mother of God would surely not appear in such a lowly place as the Grotto of Massabieille. Was it perhaps a souls from Purgatory? Or - most terrifying of all - was it the evil one? Why would She give no name? What did this mean?
They sought the advice of the wise Aunt Bernarde.
"If the vision is of Heavenly nature," said Bernarde, "we have nothing to fear. If it is some trickery of the devil, it is not possible that the Virgin should allow a child who trusts Her with such innocence of heart to be deceived. Moreover, we ourselves have done wrong in not going to Massabieille with her to see what is really taking place there. This we must do before anything else and then we shall be able to form an opinion based upon the facts themselves and decide upon a future line of action."
And so, the next morning, Bernadette was accompanied to the Grotto by both her parents and by her aunt, again leaving the house before dawn. Despite the precautions they took to remain unseen, some neighbours did see the small group - and began to follow. Eight people arrived at the Grotto along with the Soubirous.
Bernadette knelt and began her Rosary. All present noted how impressively this was made. Moments later her plain face was transfigured and illuminated; she no longer belonged to the world.
Louise had already heard how Bernadette's countenance was changed in the presence of the Lady - but still she found the change hard to believe.
The ecstasy lasted thirty minutes, after which Bernadette rubbed her eyes and appeared as one waking from a sleep. She remained happy after the conclusion of the vision.
On the way home, Bernadette said that the Lady had expressed Her satisfaction at the child's fidelity to her promise to return to the Grotto; She also said that later She would reveal secrets to the child.
Bernadette also related that during the vision, she had heard loud, quarrelling voices, which had seemed to rise up out of the river, telling her to escape. The Lady also heard the commotion; She had simply raised Her eyes in the direction of the voices, which were then seized with fear and began to disperse, finally fading away altogether.
No one paid much attention to this incidental detail at the time - only much later did they recall what Bernadette had told them that morning.