Between February 11 and July 16, 1858, the Blessed Virgin appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a little 14-year-old shepherd girl.
On March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, Our Lady told Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This declaration, whose meaning St. Bernadette did not understand, came as a sort of confirmation of the recent proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception that Pope Pius IX had solemnly defined four years earlier, on December 8, 1854.
The Mother of God was preserved from the stain of original sin in view of the redemptive work that her Son would come to accomplish. At the foot of the Cross, she was made the Mother of all her Son’s disciples in order to protect them and lead them on the path to Heaven.
The liturgy commemorates these mysteries: the Gospel is that of the Annunciation (March 25) and the Epistle that of the Woman of the Apocalypse, clothed with the sun and crushing the head of the serpent.
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin didst prepare a worthy dwelling for Thy Son, we humbly beseech Thee that we who celebrate the Apparition of this same Blessed Virgin may obtain health of soul and body. (Collect of the Mass)