The Eighteen Apparitions which make up the wondrous event of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 were spread out in a seemingly haphazard manner. The first Apparition was on February 11th, the second on February 14th, the third on February 18th. Then there followed a fortnight of Apparitions between February 19th-March 4th, except for February 22nd and February 26th. After the 15th Apparition on March 4th, Bernadette did not have a visitation until March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation, when the Vision revealed her name: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The next to last Apparition was on April 7th, and the final one months later, on July 16th.
The haphazardness of the Apparitions, however, seems less so once we connect them to the time of year in which they occurred. The first Apparition occurred on Thursday of Sexagesima Week, the Second on Sunday in Shrovetide, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the Third on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. The “Fortnight” of Apparitions between February 19th-March 4th encompassed the First Sunday in Lent, the Lenten Ember Days, the Second Sunday in Lent, and the Second Week of Lent through Friday. If we look at the Catholic Liturgy for those days, in the Mass and in the Divine Office as it was at that time, we find some startling correspondence between the Apparitions and the content of faith.
For example, Our Lady directed Bernadette to dig and uncover the spring of water on Thursday, February 25th, 1858. The next day, February 26th, was Ember Friday in Lent. By then the spring water was gushing forth from the Massabielle into the River Gave. The Gospel Lesson for Mass was from John 5:1-15, which relates how Jesus healed a paralyzed man who was lying helplessly by the healing Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. The water of Lourdes points us to consider the Pool of Bethesda in the Gospel, which in turn symbolizes the waters of Baptism. Christ’s miracles of healing for physical sickness in the Gospel are given as a sign of His greater divine power to heal the soul of its sickness to sin. Just so, the healing miracles to come through the Lourdes spring are but the outward sign of the inward grace at work in bringing sanctifying grace to human souls. Significantly, Our Lady inexplicably did not appear to Bernadette on the 26th—the day when the spring’s power was made so manifest. It was as if she had stepped back to draw attention to the work of her Divine Son Jesus.