Sixteenth Apparition – Thursday 25 March 1858

In the early morning Bernadette awoke as usual but this time there was once again the familiar inner call to return to the grotto. The call of the Lady was strong and she could not resist it. Bernadette full of joy went to the grotto to meet the lady. It had been 3 weeks since she last saw the Lady and she did not know whether she would ever see her again. This time she was determined to obtain the lady’s name, so that she could finally tell Fr Peyramale whom she was seeing in the Apparitions.

“Would you be so kind as to tell me who you are?”

There was no answer to the question. She repeated the question a further three times as she had practised so often, The answer finally came:

QUE SOY ERA IMMACULADA CONCEPTIOU. (“I am the Immaculate Conception.”)

The Lady had finally revealed her name, but the wild rose bush, on which she stood during the Apparitions, did not bloom. Bernadette own account of this momentous moment is as follows ;

“I went every day for a fortnight, and each day I asked her who she was, and this petition always made her smile. After the fortnight I asked her three times consecutively. She always smiled. At last I tried for the fourth time. She stopped smiling. With her arms down, she raised her eyes to heaven and then, folding her hands over her breast she said, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’ Then I went back to M. le Curé to tell him that she had said she was the Immaculate Conception, and he asked was I absolutely certain. I said yes, and so as not to forget the words, I had repeated them all the way home.”

Bernadette departed the Grotto immediately and ran to Fr Peyramale repeating continuously in her mind the words the Lady had said. She told Fr Peyramale what the Lady had said and he replied that the Lady could not have a name like that. The priest was now concerned and shaken, and was unable to talk to Bernadette and needed time to consider what he had been told. She left the Priests house without being told what the title meant.

Fr Peyramale wrote to the bishop that evening and advised him of what had happened that day and that he was of the opinion that this young ignorant girl could not have invented the story. It was only in 1854 four years earlier that the church had declared that Mary was the “Immaculate Conception” This term would have been unknown to Bernadette who still could not read or write and was only then learning her catechism to prepare for first Holy Communion.

Lourdes was now in a state of unrest and near frenzy. The Bishop concerned at the unacceptable sight of the upheaval in the town intervened, denouncing the abuses and false visionaries etc. He arranged for the civil authority to barricade the grotto to prevent anyone having access. The crowds of believers however were to repeatedly to destroy the barricades which the local authority would re–erect. Meanwhile, Bernadette returned to a quieter life.