The Story of St. Bernadette and Lourdes – Part VIII: The Last Apparition

by Bernard St John

Introductory Remarks:

Here we continue with the eighth part of our account taken from Bernard St John’s out-of-print 1904 book, The Blessed Virgin in the Nineteenth Century: Apparitions, Revelations, Graces.

The beginning of the series can be found here.

We will also note that we think Bernard St John’s text is a fine book indeed, well-written and clearly well-researched, drawing on many sources. We hope in fact to republish the book ourselves (with some additional commentary).

In the meantime, in addition to this series on Lourdes, the interested reader can also find extracts from Bernard St John on Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, as well as La Salette (in a series starting here) and Our Lady of Pontmain (in a series starting here).

We would also like to point the reader to a very, very fine modern book on Marian Apparitions by Donal Foley. This is a most important volume for us and thus we have reviewed it in great depth here – RB.

From Bernard St John:

On July 16th, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, there was another Apparition. On the afternoon of that day Bernadette had felt, as on previous occasions when she was about to see the Apparition, an impulse to go to the Grotto. Accordingly, thither she went accompanied by one of her aunts.

It was evening when they reached the spot.

Others were there before them. They took up their position on the farther bank of the Gave, facing the palings enclosing the Grotto. The oval aperture in the rock remained open to the view of all.

Bernadette’s eyes were fixed upon it at once. She knelt down, lifted her hands in prayer, and then almost immediately exclaimed: “She is there! She is smiling at us from over the barrier! “

Her upward glance and forward-bent attitude, and the expression of more than human joy that lit her face, told spectators what was going on.

She was having her last glimpse of Heaven by the rock of Massabiello.

This time there was no message for the Christian world; there were no words for Bernadette herself as on previous occasions.

The Apparition only looked and smiled; but in that look and in that smile the small, frail girl drank in happiness too great for human words to express.

When the glorious Apparition had departed, the sun was sinking beyond the horizon, having just before suffused with roseate gold the rolling Gave, while its last pink flushes were still lingering on the mountain heights around.

But Bernadette saw nothing of this. She rose from her knees, carrying with her the remembrance of a vision beside which the beauty of the material world was as darkness.

A bishop was among the visitors at Massabiello in July. This was Mgr. Thibaud, Bishop of Montpellier. The prelate was confronted with Bernadette and closely examined her.

Conversing with M. Estrade, he heard as follows: “Monseigneur, I have seen celebrated actresses on the stage.

These were but as grimacing and gesticulating statues beside Bernadette.

These, by dint of great effort, succeeded in pourtraying human passions; she, as an angel might have done, reflected in her person the virtues and beatitude of Heaven.”

Mgr. Thibaud left Lourdes a firm believer in the Apparitions.

About that time the Bishop of Tarbes appointed a commission to inquire into the Lourdes phenomena. This body could not begin its work at once because of the restrictions on the Grotto.

Early in August, the water of the spring became again the object of chemical analysis, the analyst this time being M. Filhol, a reputed chemist of Toulouse.

The result was to distinctly affirm that the water in question contained no medicinal property whatever.

Napoleon III

Great was the disappointment of the adverse party on hearing this, and great the joy of the advocates of the Lourdes miracles.

Henceforth the Prefect had not the shadow of an excuse for excluding the public from the Grotto precincts on the ground that the spring therein might possibly come under state control.

Nevertheless, obstinacy and prejudice continuing to prevail in Baron de Massy’s mind, the site of the Apparitions continued to remain forbidden ground.

But the fiat of one high in authority was about to scatter to the winds the orders of subalterns.

Napoleon III, going to Cauterets in the autumn of 1858, heard something of what was going on at Lourdes. Complaints were even made to him concerning the tyrannical measures in connection with the Grotto.

The Emperor saw clearly into the matter at once, and gave orders that the Grotto should be immediately thrown open to the public.

Shortly afterwards Prefect de Massy was transferred from Tarbes to Grenoble, and, about the same time, M. Jacomet, the Police Commissary of Lourdes, was sent to Aries.

Oppression by the civil power was to cease now, and the new devotion was to beat liberty to expand.

To be Continued …

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