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The Apparition did not speak until the third appearance, and therefore its identity was a matter of considerable speculation. Pious villagers Jeanne-Marie Milhet and Antoinette Peyret, on hearing Soubirous' description of the apparition, thought it was the returning spirit of one of their friends, who had died a few months before.

Although not part of Catholic doctrine, the concept of the revenant was deeply rooted in Pyrenean superstition. According to tradition, revenants rarely spoke, but communicated their messages in writing, and so Milhet and Peyret furnished Soubirous with paper, a pen, and an inkpot to take with her, in case the apparition should make use of them. On her third visit, she said that the "beautiful lady" asked her to return to the grotto every day for 15 days.

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At first her mother had forbidden her to go, but Soubirous persuaded her mother to allow her. Soubirous said that the lady told her that she did not promise to make her happy in this world, but in the next. Although she spoke in Occitan , the regional language that Bernadette whose French was poor used, the apparition used a remarkably formal form of the language in her request: The significance of this politeness was not lost on the observers. It would be very unusual for anyone to adopt this formal form of address when speaking to a penniless, working-class peasant girl such as Bernadette.

Armed with a lighted candle for protection, Soubirous came to the grotto. This originated the custom of carrying lighted candles to the grotto. Eight people were present including Soubirous's mother and two of her aunts, one of whom, Aunt Bernarde, was her godmother and the most influential member of her mother's family. Soubirous's story caused a sensation with the townspeople, who were divided in their opinions on whether or not Soubirous was telling the truth.

Soon a large number of people followed her on her daily journey, some out of curiosity and others who firmly believed that they were witnessing a miracle.

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Thirty people were present. Soubirous reported later that the lady had taught her a prayer, which she said every day of her life, but never wrote down or repeated to anyone. By this time, the news was spreading to other towns, and many people assumed that Soubirous's lady was the Virgin Mary. Over people were present, and the apparition said to her: About people were present. Jean-Baptiste Estrade a tax inspector , Duffo a court official , and the officers from the garrison were present.

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Soubirous said later that the lady had told her a secret, which was only for her alone; this secret was never revealed to anyone. The message of the lady was: Pray to God for sinners! Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners! Seeing no fountain I went to drink at the Gave. She said it was not there; she pointed with her finger that I was to go in under the rock. I went, and I found a puddle of water which was more like mud, and the quantity was so small that I could hardly gather a little in the hollow of my hand.

Nevertheless I obeyed, and started scratching the ground; after doing that I was able to take some. The water was so dirty that three times I threw it away. The fourth time I was able to drink it. She made me eat grass growing in the same place where I had drunk; once only; I do not know why.

May 13, 1917

Then the Vision disappeared and I went home. Soubirous was interrogated again.

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The spring reportedly began to flow a day later. There were almost 1, people present. Local housewife Catherine Latapie, nine months pregnant, who had a paralysis of the ulnar nerve in one arm following an accident, reported regaining full movement after bathing her arm in the spring.

Simultaneously, she went into labor and had to leave almost immediately to give birth. She gave an account of these events to local physician Dr. Pierre Romaine Dozous, who began to collect information on healings at the spring. The lady commanded Soubirous: Peyramale had ordered the priests to have nothing to do with the grotto, for it was the general practice of the clergy to discourage religious visionaries. After Soubirous was questioned before the parish clergy and dismissed, the parish priests could not agree on what course to take.

Previously, Father Peyramale had told Soubirous that the requests for the procession and chapel could not be fulfilled unless and until the lady's name was known. On this occasion, Soubirous asked for the lady's name; according to Soubirous, the lady only smiled. The third time I went to see M. Then he commissioned me to ask her name and to come and tell him.

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The next day when I arrived at the grotto I recited my rosary and then asked her, from M. When I got back I went to M. But, I could not help going. I came back for a fortnight. The vision appeared every day, except one Monday [22 February] and one Friday [26 February]. She repeated to me several times that I was to tell the priests they were to build a Chapel there, and I was to go to the fountain to wash, and that I was to pray for sinners. During this fortnight, she told me three secrets which she forbade me to tell anyone. I have been faithful until now. 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. At last I tried for the fourth time. 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. I said yes, and so as not to forget the words, I had repeated them all the way home. Peyramale decided to go to Tarbes to visit the bishop.

The bishop determined that Peyramale should remain away from the grotto. Pierre Romaine Dozous, the town physician, originally watched the apparitions from a skeptical viewpoint. He believed Soubirous, whom he knew well, was in her right mind aside from the apparitions.

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  4. Bernadette seemed to be even more absorbed than usual in the Appearance upon which her gaze was riveted. I witnessed, as did also every one else there present, the fact which I am about to narrate. She was on her knees saying with fervent devotion the prayers of her Rosary which she held in her left hand while in her right was a large blessed candle, alight.

    The child was just beginning to make the usual ascent on her knees when suddenly she stopped and, her right hand joining her left, the flame of the big candle passed between the fingers of the latter.

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    Though fanned by a fairly strong breeze, the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching. Astonished at this strange fact, I forbade anyone there to interfere, and taking my watch in my hand, I studied the phenomenon attentively for a quarter of an hour. At the end of this time Bernadette, still in her ecstasy, advanced to the upper part of the Grotto, separating her hands.

    The flame thus ceased to touch her left hand.

    Bernadette finished her prayer and the splendour of the transfiguration left her face. She rose and was about to quit the Grotto when I asked her to show me her left hand. List them in the combox! Do DO do do, do DO do…. The idea behind it for better or worse is that the sculpture incorporates various ethnicities, making Mary a universal. I see more African than others, but I do see that this is a mix. I see this statue in the same light as I see pictures of the Gospel from Africa in which Jesus is black, or from Korea in which Jesus is Asian.

    I know that Jesus and the disciples were Mediterranean Jews, which would mean they would likely have certain features, but I also understand them as being people who transcend that physicality. It is good to have Jesus and Mary in whom we can see ourselves. The Mary of popular devotion takes countless forms, Eastern and Western: Yet remarkably despite vast diversity of cultures, styles and traditions, there is still something recognizable about Mary from culture to culture, tradition to tradition.

    The Mother of God Enthroned in Eastern iconography is somehow recognizably the same figure as the Virgin of a Western pieta, or the miraculous medal image.