On his day, 11 Feb 1858, the Blessed Virgin made her first appearance to Bernadette in the grotto at Lourdes. Six weeks later, Our Lady would confirm to Bernadette that she was the Immaculate Conception, a fact that had been Dogmatically defined barely three years prior (8 Dec 1854 HERE).
Ah, sweet Bernadette. She was but 14 years old.
Yet chosen by God to receive this miraculous message and teach it to the world.
Most of the depictions, paintings, statues of this miracle are wrong. The picture I posted above is all wrong. Bernadette was so poor, her family lived in a one-room windowless cellar with a dirt floor. Her first encounter with Our Lady was during a hunt for firewood, trudging through mud, so she would have been wearing not just rags, which is all she owned, but the worst rags she had.
The other illusory image is that of the Blessed Virgin. She actually appeared as a 14 year old, same age as Bernadette, and even shorter than Bernadette’s diminutive 4’7″… which was caused by malnutrition. Mary was appearing at the age when she herself conceived… which aligns with her pronouncement of her own Immaculate Conception on the Feast of the Annunciation, Christ’s conception, which took place at the grotto on 25 March 1858.
When these depictions began appearing even within her own lifetime, especially the statuary, Bernadette was very upset with their inaccuracy. She also despised her celebrity, and once she entered the convent, wanted only to pray and offer penances. She was chronically sick. Mary had promised her suffering in this life, but happiness in the next. Suffering is a tool to attain holiness, and Mary was no stranger to suffering in her own lifetime. These things are meant as examples for us. Bernadette died 16 April 1879, and was raised to the altars on 8 December 1933. Her famous quote, upon reflecting on her own fate while in this world:
“What do you do with a broom when it is done being used? You put it behind a door; and that is what the Virgin has done with me.”
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Saint Bernadette, pray for us.
“O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?” Romans 11:33-34