First Apparition – Thursday 11 February 1858

On this morning when the family awoke in the damp and miserable Cachot there was no more firewood for the fire and Bernadette pleaded with her mother to be allowed to find some new firewood. Eventually her mother consented although she as always was concerned for her daughter and whether she would suffer another asthma attack. Bernadette and her sister Toinette and a friend Jeanne Abadie were told to fetch some firewood for the fire. They went to an area where there was a small cave running near to the river called Massabielle. Her sister and friend raced on and quickly removed their socks in order to cross the stream. Bernadette did not want to cross the stream as she had been told by her mother not to get wet and risk catching a cold. However whilst being teased by her sister she eventually decided to cross the stream to help find the fire wood.

Bernadette’s own account of the events follows (Taken from “Ecrits de Saint Bernadette”)

Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still: I went on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head to look at the grotto, I saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white.”

“The Lady made a sign for me to approach; but I was seized with fear, and I did not dare, thinking that I was faced with an illusion. I rubbed my eyes, but in vain. I looked again, and I could still see the same Lady. Then I put my hand into my pocket, and took my rosary. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but in vain; I could not raise my hand to my forehead, it kept on dropping. Then a violent impression took hold of me more strongly, but I did not go.”

“The Lady took the rosary that she held in her hands and she made the sign of the cross. Then I commenced not to be afraid. I took my rosary again; I was able to make the sign of the cross; from that moment I felt perfectly undisturbed in mind. I knelt down and said my rosary, seeing this Lady always before my eyes. The Vision slipped the beads of her rosary between her fingers, but she did not move her lips. When I had said my rosary the Lady made a sign for me to approach, but I did not dare. I stayed in the same place. Then, all of a sudden, she disappeared.

I started to remove the other stocking to cross the shallow water near the grotto so as to join my companions. And we went away. As we returned, I asked my companions if they had seen anything. ‘No,’ they replied. ‘And what about you? Did you see anything?’ ‘Oh, no, if you have seen nothing, neither have I.’ “

“I thought I had been mistaken. But as we went, all the way, they kept asking me what I had seen. I did not want to tell them. Seeing that they kept on asking I decided to tell them, on condition that they would tell nobody. They promised not to tell. They said that I must never go there again, nor would they, thinking that it was someone who would harm us. I said no. As soon as they arrived home they hastened to say that I had seen a Lady dressed in white. That was the first time.”