Bernadette Soubirous, after an absence of three weeks from her visits to the grotto in Massabielle to see ‘The Lady’, felt a sudden irresistible urge to return there during the night of the 24th/25th March 1858. On the feast of the Annunciation, early in the morning of the 25th, ‘The Lady’ appeared to Bernadette for the sixteenth time, and smiled at her. After approximately an hour in which Bernadette had remained entranced as she gazed upon the beautiful face, the Lady finally gave an answer to Bernadette’s repeated question asking her what her name was:
“I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION”.
This statement from the Lady (who was, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary) confirms the infallible Doctrine of Pope Pius IX, who had spoken “ex catedra” four years earlier. He had declared that the Virgin Mary, alone of all human beings who have ever lived (except for Jesus, and our first parents, Adam and Eve) was conceived without the stain of original sin in her mother’s womb.
This is “The Lady clothed with the sun”, who will “crush the head of the serpent”, Mary Immaculate.
Bernadette did not understand what Our Lady was saying to her, and had to repeat these strange words to herself over and over in her Gascon dialect (“Que soi era Immaculada Concepcion”) all the way back to the parish priest, Fr. Dominique Peyramale, for fear of forgetting them! Only later was the meaning explained to her, and she realised that her ‘Lady’ was indeed The Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Our Lady had also announced her Immaculate Conception to Sister St. Catherine Labouré during the apparitions at the Rue du Bac back in 1830. She also taught Sister Catharine the following prayer:
“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee”
Our Lady gave Sister Catharine the miraculous medal, which was at first called: “the medal of Mary of The Immaculate Conception”, and told to spread the devotion.
The Novena in Honour of the Immaculate Conception starts on 30th November. Here is the beautiful Novena composed by St. Maximilian Kolbe: http://www.corazones.org/oraciones/oraciones_maria/novena_inmaculate_conception_kolbe.htm