The Grotto of Massabielle

The cave was located outside the country, difficult to reach because it is at the foot of a cliff, lapped by the impetuous channel of the mill of Savy and dangerously close to the river Gave. The interior was almost completely blocked by piles of cobblestones, mud and water. It was then called “la tutte aux cochons,” (the den of pigs) because it seems like there were going to graze the pigs owned by the municipality. It was a place of ill-reputed and isolated, but the girls want to go there, in a place that does not belong to anyone, because no one can accuse them of stealing something.

And right there, the Virgin bursts into poor life without hope of Bernadette, as God erupts impetuously, in the lives of men, heralded by a gust of wind, the breath of life. And just to her, that in this country was called “la merdeuse” due to the smell nauseating that she brought with her from the cachot, appears the Lady. Only at the third appearance she will speak in the dialect of Bigorre, the only language that Bernadette knows, turning to her with “you” and asked: “Will you be so kind as to come here every day for fifteen days?”.

“She looked at me as a person talking to another person” she would later say Bernadette that is accustomed to a very different treatment and with enthusiasm she says yes, just like Mary replied to the angel’s announcement.

The most appearances are held in silence and in prayer, there are few times in which Mary speaks to Bernadette, but in those words is contained the whole prophetic message of Lourdes. In the third apparition: “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other”. Then silence until February 24, the date of the eighth appearance: “Penance, penance, penance. Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground in penance for the conversion of sinners”. And the next day the Virgin asks to go to drink and eat grass.

Meanwhile, the country and its surroundings are upset by this story, more and more people gather to watch the little Bernadette at the grotto. That day they saw her dig on the ground, bring to her mouth the mud and then eat the grass. The crowd is confused and many think she is crazy.

The gestures of Bernadette, seemingly incomprehensible, are truly prophetic.

At the moment you can only see the sin that smears man and reduces him like an animal, just two days after Bernadette finds the clear water flowing from the source: is the water of life that erases sin and restores to man the light of his face that is in the likeness of God, it is the call to our baptism.

Jesus had said: “You must be born again from the water and the spirit”, the ugliness of sin that dirty us is washed by divine grace.

At the thirteenth appearance, March 1st, Mary says to Bernadette to ask the priests to go there in procession and to build a chapel.

Bernadette concentrates all her courage to report this message to the parish priest, Father Peyramale, whose severity and surly nature of which she has a awe. She courageously resisted at the commissioner and prosecutor’s interrogations, but the pastor is a whole other thing. She just say to the parish priest that the lady wants the priests go in procession there, that he explodes in a furious reaction and accuses her of being a liar. Bernadette runs away, but when she realizes that the message has not reported, she discloses all her courage and returns to Abbé Peyramale to report the second desire of the Lady.

On 25th March, the day of the sixteenth apparition, the Virgin finally reveals his identity: “Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou” (“I am the Immaculate Conception”). Bernadette has not the faintest idea of the meaning of those words, but repeating them continuously for fear of forgetting them, she run to the parish and all in one breath repeats those mysterious words.

All resistors of the pastor dissolve instantly and from that moment Father Peyramale firmly believes that the Lady, Aquerò (“that thing”, as he called Bernadette), is really Mary and he took under his fatherly protection the little Bernadette.

Meanwhile, the story of the apparitions spread throughout France, a growing crowd rushes to the cave, the newspapers talk about it, scientists and doctors decide on the mental health of Bernadette, the authorities fear riots and enclose the area . The 18th July is the day of the last apparition, Bernadette cannot reach the cave, but must remain beyond the river. But the distance does not detract the intensity of her relationship with the Virgin, and she will later say with great longing: “I’ve never seen her so beautiful”.

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