As the fortnight continued, the apparition renewed her requests for prayer and penance. On 2ndand 3rd March other requests were made: ‘Go and tell the priests that people are to come here in procession and to build a chapel here.’ The following day the fortnight ended. A huge crowd had gathered and, after Bernadette had said the rosary, they questioned her, but there had been no further message or revelation.
On 25th March, the Feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette again visited the grotto. The apparition appeared. Bernadette asked her who she was and received the reply ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’. Bernadette kept repeating these words on her way to tell the parish priest. She did not understand what they meant, but the parish priest did. Pope Pius IX had pronounced the dogma of the Immaculate Conception four years earlier.
Our Lady was to grant Bernadette two further apparitions, one in April and the final one on 16thJuly. By then the authorities had put barricades round the grotto to prevent anyone from entering, so she saw Our Lady from the opposite bank of the River Gave and described her as ‘more beautiful than ever’. The barricades were taken down on the order of Napoleon III.*
Bernadette had received her First Communion on 3rd June, the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Life was not easy for Bernadette following the eighteen apparitions as she disliked the publicity that surrounded her. The questions of the curious she would answer briefly. She would be irritated should anyone offer her gifts or money. In July 1860 she moved to the hospice at Lourdes to complete her neglected education and stayed there for six years.
As early as July 1858, the local bishop had set up a commission to study the apparitions and some reported cures. In January 1862, the commission’s findings prompted the bishop to declare: ‘We judge that Mary Immaculate, Mother of God, really did appear to Bernadette
While at the hospice Bernadette decided to join the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction of Nevers. She was accepted in November 1864, but her entry was delayed because of her poor health, the death of her brother Justin (aged ten) and the bishop’s wish that she attend the inauguration of the building of the crypt above the grotto in May 1866. She arrived at the convent at Nevers in July 1866. She was professed as Sister Marie-Bernard and, in spite of frequent bouts of ill-health, worked in the sacristy and infirmary. She spent the rest of her life at Nevers until her early death on 16th April 1879 at the age of 35. This day is celebrated as her feast-day.
Her incorrupt body lies in a glass casket in the Convent of the Sisters of Nevers.