Friday 16th july 1858 : the final apparition
For more than three months now, Bernadette Soubirous has not had an apparition of the one who, on 25th March, presented herself, saying, “I am Immaculate Conception. “
In fact, the last apparition dates back to Passover Wednesday, 7th April 1858. Many events have taken place in the grotto, without Bernadette being involved in any way. The turmoil that reigns for some time encourages the authorities to prohibit access to the grotto from 15th June. Signs, boards, barricades are put up. Shortly after, because of the potentially explosive situation, the bishop goes as far as to forbid Catholics to go to the grotto. Two weeks later, his spirits being appeased, the bishop lifts his ban. Mary can return to Massabielle.
On the evening of 16th July, Bernadette feels once again that irresistible inner compulsion that draws her to the grotto. It is a feeling she knows well, but one she has not experienced for a long time. She leaves, accompanied by Lucile Castérot, the youngest of her aunts, just 20 years old. But this time she knows what to expect and prepares for it. Firstly, she wears borrowed clothes which are a little too big for her, so as not to be recognised. Secondly, she chooses another route not going directly to the grotto, but in front of it. They do not cross the Gave, remaining on the right bank of the stream.
Bernadette kneels in front of the grotto, but at a certain distance from the hollow. It is about half past ten in the evening. Slowly, as the Virgin Mary taught her, she makes a generous sign of the cross. Then she begins to pray the rosary.
On her right is her aunt Lucile and, on her left, two young girls, members of the parish association of the Children of Mary, who each carry a lighted candle in their hands. The night has almost fallen, but in the light of the candles, her three neighbours can see the transfigured face of Bernadette, radiating the happiness of another world.
The Immaculate Virgin is here for the eighteenth time. No words are exchanged. Yet, communion between the Mother of God and the young girl from Lourdes is intense. After this last apparition, Bernadette simply says, “Mary was more beautiful than ever“. She will specify that she saw the Blessed Virgin, as during the apparitions, that is to say, very close to her.
Bernadette knows that she has just experienced her last meeting on this earth with the Immaculate Virgin.
During this Bernadette Year, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes invites you to light a candle on the dates of each of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette.