The Seventh Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes
The works of the good God are always crossed by the rage of the devil and by the ignorance or the passions of men. The great things which were being prepared at the grotto of Lourdes for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, were therefore quickly attacked and misrepresented. Some cried out: "Superstition, illusion, folly!" "This little girl is insane," they said, "she must be shut up!" Others spoke of impostures, fraudulent tricks. "It is a cheat; ail will end with money. This child is playing a disgraceful farce. Justice should interfere."
Other, more moderate souls, admitted that they could not doubt either of the child's character and thought that it most probably was a natural phenomenon, which comes within the range of medicine. Science knows perfectly the strange effects of catalepsy, hysteria, and hallucination. Their suggestion was that a physician should examine the thing closely, and as a result the so-called visions will melt away like snow in the sun. The town of Lourdes was literally turned upside down. The pressure was now mounting on Bernadette.
Sunday, February 21st: After the 6th Apparition, she was hauled off to the police station to be grilled and threatened; her father, under intimidation, had take the side of the police, which resulted in both the police and her father forbidding her to go back to the grotto again. She was threatened with prison if she were to disobey. Bernadette had much to suffer, before the evidence of the truth and power of the Immaculate Virgin would triumph over all obstacles,
This decision caused the local parish priest to intervene angrily. "This child is innocent!" cried the priest, indignantly, when the police chief and the mayor of Lourdes came to announce the decision; "This child is innocent! You could find no pretext upon which to prosecute her. Such a measure will be the most odious persecution, the more odious that it strikes a poor defenseless creature. The prefect cannot, by any law, have Bernadette arrested! As a priest, as pastor of this parish, I owe a duty to all, and especially to the weakest I know my duty as a pastor. Go, then, and tell the Prefect that his officers will find me at the threshold of this poor family, and that they shall have to pass over my body, before they touch a hair of this poor little girl s head."
St. Bernadette recounts these painful moments in her own words thus: "Dominique Jacomet the police commissioner! He was suspicious of everyone. He took hold of my hood as I left the church and said, "Qu'em bas sequi—follow me." He took me to his office and the questioning began. 'My name is Bernadette, I said. I could not say if I was thirteen or fourteen, as I had never learned to count. He tried to suggest I was seeing Our Blessed Lady. I insisted I saw only 'Aquero.' Jacomet knew that 'Aquero' means 'reverence in the presence of a sacred reality.' He wrote down with a goose-quill every word I said. Then he read it back to me— all twisted, untruthful, incorrect. 'Sir,' I protested, 'you are altering everything I say. 'You Brazen hussy!' he blazed, and the tassel on his cap shook as he ranted in anger. At that moment the door opened, and my father stood there saying, 'I am the father of this little one.' Next day, at catechism class, the girls shunned me as a criminal, and the Sister Superior thanked God had been arrested for my misbehavior. One woman called me a brat, another slapped my face."
Monday, February 22nd: Bernadette had intended to reluctantly obey and comply with order banning her from visiting the grotto, but was led there by an irresistible force. However, Our Lady failed to appear and Bernadette left disillusioned, sad and in tears. Her father questioned her about that 'irresistible' visit and then, to Bernadette's great joy, changed his mind about forbidding her from visiting the grotto. The next day, Tuesday, she would return to the grotto once again with her father's blessing.
The 7th Apparition (Tuesday, February 23rd)
The crowds were starting to grow as word got around. About 150 people were present for this apparition, including some of the leading villagers who had come part out of curiosity but also a desire to mock the "ignorant fools" for their gullibility. The watchers included Jean-Baptiste Estrade, a local tax inspector who was sent by Fr. Peyramale, the parish priest, to see what was going on. Also present was Duffo (a court official), and the officers from the garrison who had come to witness the "show." However instead of having their suspicions confirmed, they were astonished by what they saw and turned into "believers and witnesses." There is nothing for 'public consumption' that emerges from this 7th Apparition. Bernadette said later that the Lady had told her a secret, which was for her alone, and was never revealed to anyone.
In the midst of a dense crowd of .from eight to ten thousand persons, Bernadette arrived as usual at the grotto, about daybreak. She had knelt down in her usual place, outside the cavern; in her left hand was a blessed taper, in the other her rosary. Suddenly she heard the blessed voice of the Queen of Heaven calling her: "Bernadette!"
"Here I am!" immediately answered the child.
"I have a secret to tell you, for yourself only, which concerns you alone!" said the Mother of God. "Do you promise me never to reveal it to any one?"
"I promise you."
The dialogue continued. Although the Blessed Virgin and the child spoke aloud, no one heard them.
"What! you did not hear?" said she on coming out of her ecstacy. "Yet the Lady spoke aloud. She has such a sweet voice!"
The Blessed Virgin then taught her a prayer, making her repeat it, word for word, with maternal condescension. This prayer the child recited at every apparition; but she would never make it known to any one.
"And now, my daughter" added the Blessed Virgin, "go and tell the priests that a shrine must be erected here, and that they.must come here in procession." These words ended the apparition for that day.
On leaving the Rocks of Massabielle, Bernadette immediately repaired to the pastor s house. The latter had as yet never spoken to her.
"Are you not Bernadette?" he asked gravely and almost sternly, as soon as he saw her coming towards him.
"Yes, it is I, sir!" quietly answered the humble messenger of the Blessed Virgin.
"Well, Bernadette, what do you want of me? What brought you here?"
"I came, Father, on the part of the Lady, who appears to me in the grotto of Massabielle!"
The priest seemed to treat the matter very lightly and not to believe it. The child repeated with an air of candor, and with great confidence, the words of the apparition.
"And you do not know this Lady's name?" asked the pastor.
"No!" answered Bernadette. "She did not tell me who she was."
"Those who believe you, imagine that it is the Blessed Virgin Mary. But take care; you alone say you see her; if you falsely pretend to see her in the grotto, you are taking the way never to see her in Heaven."
"I do not know if it is the Blessed Virgin, Father"; answered the child; "but I see the vision as I see you, and she speaks to me as truly as you speak to me. And I come to tell you, from her, that she wants a shrine to be raised to her at the Rocks of Massabielle, where she appears to me."
Much agitated, the good Father Peyramale made her repeat the very words used by the Lady at the grotto. Berandette said: "After having confided to me the secret which concerns me and which I can not reveal to anyone. The Lady added: 'And now, go and tell the priest that a shrine must be erected here, and that people come in procession to it.'"
After a moment s reflection, the pastor replied: "I cannot take your word for this, you understand. Tell this Lady that she must make herself known. If she is the Blessed Virgin, let her show it by some miracle. She appears to you, you tell me, on a wild ruse-bush? It is now February; tell her, from me, that if she wishes a shrine built, she must make the rose-bush bloom." And he dismissed her. What had passed between the child and the priest was soon known in the town. Curiosity and excitement were general; and several free-thinkers of the neighborhood resolved to go henceforth to the grotto, in order to assist at the exposure of the "superstition."