Our Lady of Lourdes | Ninth Apparition
Ninth Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes
Thursday 25 February 1858
The events of this day caused the by-passers to re-assess what they believed about Bernadette and her visions. At the time, what was happening was unclear - only later did the true nature of that day's apparition become clearer. Afterward, the day would never be forgotten.
The narration of the scene is given by Mademoiselle Elfrida Lacrampe, whose parents owned the Hotel des Pyrenees at that time, and who had the joy of being present as the marvellous events occurred. This morning, the vision began even before dawn.
"It was not yet light; we had a lantern to light us. Bernadette did not keep us waiting long", she recounts. Bernadette approached in the company of her aunt, walking rapidly toward her destination; as she came nearer, she called to the crowd, "Let me pass, let me pass!".
Mademoiselle Lacrampe continues -
"At this moment, when nearly all the sightseers had arrived, there were, I think, about four hundred people in front of the Grotto and under the rocks near the Gave. Approaching her place, Bernadette raised her dress a little so as not to muddy it, then knelt down. I was standing on the right, up against the rock, almost beneath the niche where the Apparition used to come.
"The child had not recited a decade of her beads when all of a sudden she set off on her knees and began to clamber in this way up the slope that led to the interior of the Grotto. She passed in front of me, a short distance away. On reaching the entrance to the vault, she gently - and without pausing - pushed aside the branches that hung down from the rock. From there she went on towards the back of the Grotto. The crowd was pressing close behind her.
"When she reached the back of the Grotto, Bernadette turned about and came back, still on her knees, down the same slope. I witnessed there a tour de force and I ought to have marvelled more at the ease and dignity of this child's movements in such a posture and on deeply sloping ground that was very uneven and strewn with stones which jutted out sharply here and there. At the time I saw nothing in Bernadette’s movements, apart from the tour de force, but a ridiculous wriggle, for it seemed to me purposeless."
Mademoiselle Lacrampe lost sight of the child at this moment, being surrounded by the pressing crowd. But Aunt Bernarde was more fortunate,
"Everyone was astonished. Finding nothing, the child turned off towards the river" she stated.
But despite seeing the events occurring before them, those close by were unable to explain them. Only Bernadette could supply this. And she was soon required to do so.
It is important to state here that until that moment, there had been NO water in the Grotto other than a little stagnant water, probably collected rainwater. Just at this moment, Bernadette went towards the wild rose bush, pushed it aside and kissed the rock, then fell once more into ecstasy. She got up and seemed embarrassed - she walked toward the River Gave, then stopped and looked back, like one who has been called, and went in a different direction, into the opening at the base of the rock, on the left hand side. Looking once more towards the niche, she appeared puzzled. She then began to dig with her hands. Muddy water surfaced, which she scooped up and three times threw away. She drank the fourth scoop. Later, in the convent, she joked to the Sisters that three times she threw the water away before drinking - and that this was why Our Blessed Lady made her ask three times for Her Name, before revealing Her identity!!
When the watchers saw her mud-covered face they thought she was insane and laughed at her. Unaware of all this, Bernadette continued in her ecstasy until 7:00am, long after the sight-seers had departed.
Leaving the Grotto, a neighbour asked Bernadette to explain what had occurred. She replied:
“Whilst I was in prayer, the Lady said to me in a serious but friendly voice - 'Go, drink and wash in the fountain'. As I did not know where this fountain was, and as I did not think the matter important, I went towards the Gave. The Lady called me back and signed to me with Her finger to go under the Grotto to the left; I obeyed but I did not see any water. Not knowing where to get it from, I scratched the earth and the water came. I let it get a little clear of the mud then I drank and washed."
Seeing what was happening - but not understanding - the crowd wondered if Bernadette was mad after all. Why had she smeared her angelic little face with muddy water? What could it mean? Horrified, they watched in silence. Their distress was increased as they watched the child eat some wild herbs growing at the foot of the rock.
Unknown to the crowd, the Lady had pointed once more to the floor of the Grotto and told her little one - "Go, eat of the herbs you will find there". She then made her impressive Sign of the Cross once more, before coming away from the vault, kneeling once more and watching as the vision faded.
Quickly, Aunt Bernarde took hold of the child and ushered her away from the Grotto, fearful of the crowd who were calling out to the child that she was insane. No one had bothered to examine the hole where the child had been digging; all were too concerned only with their reputations - after all, it would be embarrassing to have to admit to being fooled by this imbecile girl.
Later that afternoon, on the spot where Bernadette had knelt digging, the trickle had become a ribbon of water which was hollowing out its own channel in the topsoil.
A twenty-year debate followed about the origin of this spring, until finally the Abbe Richard, a famous hydro-geologist at the time, declared after a long and careful study, that the spring was miraculous in its discovery and in its effects, although not in its existence.
Later studies concluded that the rock itself is the source of the water, perfectly pure other than minimal deposits of salts, and that it contains NO therapeutic ingredients.
On 6 May 1858, a chemist by the name of Latour issued a statement on the water -
"The water … is very limpid, inodorous and without any strong taste; ...it contains the following ingredients - chlorides of soda, lime and magnesia, bicarbonates of lime and magnesia, silicates of lime and aluminium, oxide of iron, sulphate of soda, phosphate, organic matter.."
He speculated that at some point a 'curative element' would be found in the water, but this never happened. A further analysis, by Monsieur Filhol, of the Toulouse Faculty of Sciences (in August 1858) declared -
"The extraordinary results which I am informed have been obtained by the use of this water cannot, at least in the present condition of scientific knowledge, be explained by the nature of the salts whose existence is revealed by analysis".
Analyses since that date have reached similar conclusions. And yet still the water from this spring flows - in itself not miraculous, not therapeutic. But countless miracles have resulted from its use since that happy day.
Friday 26 February 1858 - A Second Time, THE LADY DOES NOT APPEAR
On the following morning, Friday 26th February 1858, Bernadette went to the Grotto as usual. Doctor Dozous, who watched the child that morning, said that she knelt and prayed her Rosary for "a long time" that morning, but at the end of her prayers she was sad and distressed. The Lady had not appeared.
By that day, however, Bernadette was once more in favour with the crowd at Massabieille - their insults and laughter were forgotten, washed away by the flowing waters of the spring which Bernadette had said was there, having been told so by her Lady.