The Fourth Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes
On the morning of Friday, February 19th, the first day of the mysterious fifteen days of visits spoken of by Our Lady, Louise Soubirous, Bernadette’s mother, whose heart was deeply stirred by all the strange news which report brought to her cottage, determined to go herself with her daughter to the Grotto. At daybreak, therefore, both of them, accompanied by her Aunt Bernarde, godmother of the child, carefully traversed the Rue des Petits-Fosses, well wrapped up in their hoods, for the north wind was bitterly cold. In a short time quite a retinue had joined them on the river-banks, the first-fruits of those crowds of Lourdes who will nevermore cease to flock there in ever-increasing numbers, until around 100 persons were present, with the tendency peculiar to all such gatherings, some suspecting a trick of the Evil One in so sensational an event, others inclined to see in it only some selfish trickery, or maybe morbid hallucination, while the majority were beginning to see in it the finger of God. What happened before the eyes of the family just now come?
Always clad in her poor black dress, her head covered with her little white woolen capulet, she quietly advanced, taper in hand, knelt down before the grotto, took her Rosary and prayed as if she were alone. Everything about her breathed innocence, truth, and candor The heavenly apparition disappeared almost always at the instant when the favored little one had finished her Rosary.
After the usual rites (bows, prostrations, and prayer), the little child, as before, was rapt in ecstasy, more sensibly than on previous occasions. When the overjoyed mother and housewife saw her Bernadette thus supernaturalized, and as if carried away by angelic bliss, with those unearthly smiles that lit up her countenance, usually so very plain, with transports of unearthly joy, which made her frail body tremble, she wept, she grew anxious, and complained that they had changed her child, whilst around her the stupefied bystanders said to one another, pointing at the young wonder worker: “How beautiful she is!” All who saw Bernadette in ecstasy declared that they never beheld anything like it on earth, and that long years after, their impression of it was as vivid as on the first day.
The heavenly vision lasted nearly half-an-hour, amid the respectful silence of the crowd. When Bernadette returned to herself, calm, but visibly moved, her first greetings were for her mother, thus proving that religion, even when rapt to the heavens, so far from checking the lawful feelings of Nature, only makes them stronger, while purifying them. And whilst she came to her side, amid the friendly cortege, whose astonishment began to show itself by veneration, the child-seer, becoming the poor, ragged daughter of a miller, informed them that, pleased with her punctuality, the beautiful Lady was going shortly to confide to her important revelations.
She told them also that this morning, when their conversation was most interesting, a hubbub of uncouth noises, contrasting hideously with the sweet voice of the unknown Lady, had sounded quite close to them, as if coming from underground near the waters of the canal; and these voices, wrangling, shouting together, and disputing, like the discordant cries of a mob quarrelling, filled the air with barbarous dissonance. At one time, even, one of these voices, harsh and grating, cried out, doubtless to terrify the timid child: “Save yourself! Save yourself!” But the shining and glistening Lady had only to raise her head, frown with displeasure, and with an imperious glance turn towards the river, and at once this horrible discord, undoubtedly from Hell, ceased as if by magic.
Could the Evil One have foreseen at this hour that this spot of earth, fraught with destiny, was going to pass from under his sway, where he had hitherto performed his horrid rites? And was he not then trying to thwart the designs of Providence, as he will eventually try in so many ways, either by violence or craft? Only what avails the insolence of the bad angels, joined to their fury, in the presence of her who, terrible.