The recognition: 1862
On 18th January 1862, in the name of the Church, the bishop of Tarbes, Mgr Laurence published a document in which he officially recognizes the apparitions in Lourdes. In this document, after recalling the description of the Apparitions, he explained the reason for the lack of haste which the church has in examining supernatural things: she demands definite proof, before admitting to them and to proclaiming them as divine, because the devil can lead people astray by taking on the form of an angel of light : "We are inspired by the Commission comprising of wise, holy, learned and experienced priests who questioned the child, studied the facts, examined everything and weighed all the evidence. We have also called on science, and we remain convinced that the Apparitions are supernatural and divine, and that by consequence, what Bernadette saw was the Most Blessed Virgin. Our convictions are based on the testimony of Bernadette, but above all on the things that have happened, things which can be nothing other than divine intervention".
"We judge that Mary Immaculate, the Mother of God, really did appear to Bernadette Soubirous, on eighteen occasions from 11th February 1858 at the Grotto of Massabielle, near the town of Lourdes ; that these Apparitions bear the characteristics of truth ; that the faithful can believe them as true. We humbly submit our judgement to the judgement of the Sovereign Pontiff, who is responsible for governing the Universal Church".
Extract of the solemn declaration by Mgr Laurence on 18th January 1862
The first argument of the Bishop was that Bernadette did not wish to deceive: she was sincere and her testimony gives all the guarantees that we could wish for. "Who could not admire, on meeting her, the simplicity, the openness, and the modesty of this child? She only spoke when she was spoken to. She spoke without exaggeration and with a touching naivety. To the many questions asked of her, she gave clear and precise answers always to the point, without hesitation and stamped with a strong conviction."
The Bishop underlined that Bernadette was not shaken by threats or tempted by generous offers by saying : "Always in control of herself, she has, in the many different interrogations to which she was submitted, constantly maintained what she said, with nothing added, nothing retracted. The sincerity of Bernadette is, thus, unquestionable." But the Bishop goes further in his argument: sincere, Bernadette is not mistaken : "But if Bernadette does not want to deceive, was she not deceived herself? How could she believe to see and hear what she did not see and hear? Was she not the victim of hallucinations? How could we believe her? The wisdom of her answers reveals in this child a spirit of goodness, a quiet imagination, good sense beyond her years. Religious feelings never showed in her a spirit of exhalation; nobody could prove in the young girl neither intellectual disorder, nor change of mind nor unusual personality nor morbid feelings which would allow her to give way to a creative imagination."
And the Bishop added that Bernadette saw not once but eighteen times, suddenly, when nothing was prepared there and that there were other times when she waited and saw nothing. He notes that her expression changed during the Apparitions and that she heard in a language that she did not always understand, but which she always remembered. "These circumstances put together do not allow us to believe in a hallucination, the young girl has truly seen and heard a being calling herself the Immaculate Conception. And this phenomenon cannot be explained naturally, we have good reason to believe that the Apparition is supernatural".
the marvels of grace
To complement the testimony of Bernadette, the Bishop recalls "the marvellous things that have been happening since the first event. If one judges the tree by its fruits, we can say that the Apparition as seen by the young girl is supernatural and divine, because she has produced supernatural and divine results". The Bishop recalls how the crowds grew and gathered during the Apparitions and afterwards when the Apparitions had ended : "pilgrims came from faraway districts and neighbouring countries hurrying to the Grotto...to pray and ask favours from the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Souls already Christian are strengthened in virtue, people frozen into indifference have been brought back to the practice of their religion, obstinate pilgrims are reconciled with God after having Our Lady of Lourdes invoked in their favour. These wonders of grace, which have a universal and lasting character, can only have God as their author, do they not come, as a result, to confirm the truth of the Apparitions?"
After the wonderful things that happened "for the good of souls", the Bishop moved on to the results produced by way of physical healing, especially among the sick who imitated Bernadette by drinking and washing themselves in the place pointed out by the Apparition, asks if this was not an indication of a supernatural power coming down upon the spring of Massabielle "In this way, sick try the water of the Grotto, and this is not without success, many were sick who did not respond to the most stringent of treatments, and who suddenly recovered their health. These extraordinary cures have had an immense effect...Sick people of all countries request the water of Massabielle...we cannot list here all the favours granted, but what we want to say is that it is the water of Massabielle which has cured those who were sick and who were abandoned or declared incurable. These cures have been obtained by using a water which in itself has no special curative qualities, according to those skilled in chemistry who have carried out rigorous tests." These cures are permanent, specifies Mgr. Laurence, who wonders what had caused them: "Science, which was consulted on this subject, responded negatively. These cures are thus the work of God." Because, the Bishop remarks, they are directly linked to the Apparition which is the point of departure and inspiration of the confidence of the sick."
THE JUDGEMENT OF THE BISHOP
To conclude, the Bishop said : "There is thus a direct link between the cures and the Apparitions, the Apparitions are of divine origin, since the cures carry a divine stamp. But what comes from God is the truth! As a result, the Apparition, calling herself the Immaculate Conception, that Bernadette saw and heard, is the Most Holy Virgin Mary! Thus we write: the finger of God is here."
And the Bishop making reference to the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX at the end of 1854 states : "Then about three years afterwards, the Virgin Mary appeared to a child telling her: 'I am the Immaculate Conception...I want a church built here in my honour'. Does this not appear that she wants to confirm, by a monument, the infallible word of the successor of St. Peter?" Then, following the invoking of the Holy Name of God we have the text of the mandate carrying the official recognition of the Apparitions that we cited at the beginning.
Apparitions for the Church
This judgement of the Church is essential because the Apparitions add nothing to the creed: they are a reminder of an era that tends to forget, as a prophetic Visitation to our world.God does not focus on the wonderful or extraordinary by appearances we motioned for us to return to the Gospel is the Word of His Son, the Word of Life. Compliance of the Gospel message to the authenticity of the life of the witness, the fruits of holiness that follow for the people of God: these are the criteria for authenticity of an apparition in the church.