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For 5 months, the Immaculate Conception sent a message of conversion
For five months, between February and July of 1858, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, “a young lady” appeared to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. Introducing herself as the “Immaculate Conception,” the “Lady” asked that a sanctuary be built on the landfill where the apparitions took place.
Bernadette, the asthmatic child of the poorest family in town, soon became an object of discredit. Despite the derision and suspicion, however, she remained persevering in the obedience she learned in the “School of Mary,” a term Pope Pius XII would coin.
It was thanks to her abiding to the guidelines of the Lady that a fountain sprung up in that place. Its waters, endowed with healing powers, have been the vehicle for 70 miracles already confirmed by both science and the Church, alongside thousands of other claims from pilgrims.
The girl told the parish priest that the Lady requested a chapel be built on the grotto. He initially rejected the request, but Bernadette’s instructions eventually helped confirm the authenticity of these supernatural events and the complex concepts involved in them.
“I am the Immaculate Conception,” the Lady had said, according to Bernadette. But how could that poor girl know that four years earlier the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been promulgated by Pope Pius IX? She did not even know what the word “conception” meant.
Local authorities wanted to prevent the crowds from visiting the place. In fact, they tried to convince the bishop, who eventually created a commission to investigate the facts.
Four years later the apparitions were declared authentic and in 1876, the basilica on the grotto was finally consecrated.
Thanks to the apparitions in Lourdes, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception spread widely and helped improve the understanding of the divine logic of preserving Mary from sin.
Bernadette died in a convent, 20 years after the last apparition. Her body remains incorrupt. During the third exhumation, in 1925, wax coatings were placed on her face and hands before the body was moved to a glass reliquary.