In 1858 St. Bernadette asked for the name of the beautiful Lady who was appearing to her. The Beautiful Lady answered her "I am the Immaculate Conception." Why didn't she simply tell her she was the Mother of God? Or why didn't she say "I am immaculately conceived."

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    Did Bernadette not herself identify the woman as the Virgin Mary? Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 14:57
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    @djc I don't think she did, definitely not at first. (although my reference is the Song of Bernadette, not anything official).
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 18:20
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    Your question reminds me of the title of Fr. Karl Stehlin's Who Are You, O Immaculata?, which discusses Our Lady of Lourdes / Immaculate Conception and St. Bernadette.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 20:38
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    @DJClayworth No, Our Lady never revealed her name to St. Bernadette. She simply stated: I am the Immaculate Conception.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 11:20
  • @DJClayworth She did: "All I saw was Our Lady ... She was more beautiful than ever" Commented Dec 27, 2019 at 18:19

4 Answers 4


#Our Lady of Lourdes appears to St. Bernadette and tells her "I am the Immaculate Conception".

Joan Cruz's See How She Loves Us: 50 Approved Apparitions of Our Lady, § "Our Lady of Lourdes":

Members of the family and countless visitors had implored Bernadette several times to ask the identity of the Lady. Bernadette had done so, but the Lady had not responded. During the sixteenth apparition on March 25, 1858, the Feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette asked once more. This time the Lady responded in the Bigourdane dialect, “Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou,” which means, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

In the year 1854, four years before the start of the apparitions at Lourdes, Pope Pius IX had declared [in Ineffabilis Deus] the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary to be an “article of faith” to be believed by all Catholics. The doctrine was neither understood nor discussed among persons of Bernadette’s station in life,* so it was reasonable that Bernadette did not understand the words spoken by the Lady.

*Her family was extremely poor, living in a barn with a window facing a dunghill.

St. Bernadette—who was 14 years old, unlettered, and failed her catechism exam—couldn't even pronounce "Immaculada Conceptiou" when she told others this was who the Lady said she was. However, priests certainly knew that the Immaculate Conception is the Mother of God. There is no way St. Bernadette could have fabricated this, which proves the miraculous nature of the Our Lady of Lourdes apparitions.

#Why she said "I am the Immaculate Conception" and not "I am immaculately conceived"

Fr. Karl Stehlin's Who Are You, O Immaculata? p. 114 (PDF p. 132) explains:

At Lourdes the Immaculate Virgin answered St. Bernadette: ‘I am the Immaculate Conception!’ With these words she clearly stated that she is not only immaculately conceived, but is the Immaculate Conception. In the same way, a thing that is white is something other than whiteness itself, and a perfect thing is something other than perfection itself. When God spoke about Himself, He said to Moses, ‘I am Who am,’ that is, it belongs to My essence that I always have my being from Myself, without beginning. In contrast, the Immaculate Virgin has her beginning in God, is a creation, is a conception. Nevertheless she is the Immaculate Conception.

She is, as St. Maximillian Kolbe put it, "the quasi-incarnation of the Holy Ghost." She and the Holy Ghost can both be properly called the Immaculate Conception (ibid. pp. 50-51, PDF pp. 68-69):

We can say likewise that she is the greatest, most excellent, purest Temple of the Holy Ghost. Mary herself corroborates this truth when she defines herself at Lourdes: “I am the Immaculate Conception” and thus assigns to herself the title that in the strict sense is an attribute of God (“I am...”) and is applied in particular to the Holy Ghost, who within the Trinity is the eternally perfect, “immaculate” conception of the Father and the Son.

If among creatures a bride takes the name of her husband by the fact that she belongs to him, unites herself with him, makes herself like unto him and together with him becomes the source of new life, how much more should the name of the Holy Spirit, "Immaculate Conception", be the name of her in whom He lives with a love which is fruitful in the entire supernatural economy?4

4. Final article of February 17, 1941, KR 212-213

(taken from this answer)

  • Ineffabilis Deus definition described Mary was immaculately conceived. How come Mary when She introduced Herself it does not rhyme with the definition of the Dogma as what She stated was claiming a "title" that belong to a person or a spirit. "I am the Immaculate Conception' is a noun not an adjective like the word " immaculately conceived. This is mystery that Id like to be answer. Is the noun "Immaculate Conception" a Divine person? Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 21:09
  • @itzsophia'svlogs See the second § added to my answer.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 23:12
  • Thanks, your link above to St. Kolbe described the meaning of "I am the Immaculate Conception" as "possessed". Mary's being is possesed by the Holy Spirit meaning all her thoughts, words and actions are coming from the Holy Spirit. Thanks for the added explanation. Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 23:21

There is a simple analogy that helps explain Mary's words.

We read in St. Luke's Gospel that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and she conceived a child: Jesus. It is a reality that Mary was the spouse of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is truly the eternal Immaculate Conception. By becoming the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary takes His name in the same way a bride takes the name of her husband in a human marriage (particularly in those times). Mary then is the created Immaculate Conception while the Holy Spirit is the eternal Immaculate Conception. In a very real way, this is Mary's true identity (spouse of the Holy Spirit) and is the most correct and most descriptive name she can give herself.


Brought into the Church largely through the prolife movement I have always thought that an intended effect of Mary's declaration is to teach us to respect the inviolability and holiness of life from the the first instance of existence. And from this flows the need to sanctify human love, consecrate marriage and purify our participation in the creative act of God in bringing new life fresh from His hands into the world.

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    Welcome John, to Christianity.SE. While this is an interesting interpretation of what looks like Catholic teaching (by the Church do you mean the Catholic Church, or another one?) SE sites are not discussion forums. Our format is constrained to answering the question as posted. Please take the tour and visit the help center to get an idea for how SE sites work. Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 14:21

Why did Our Lady of Lourdes say “I am the Immaculate Conception” and not “I am immacutalely conceived” or “I am the Mother of God”?

Simple Answer

The answer is very simple, it would be wrong if Blessed Virgin Mary would answer the question of St. Bernadette asking "Who are you?" with a description "I am immaculately conceived". There's no way St. Bernadette can identify the Blessed Virgin Mary with that answer.

Next, if the Blessed Virgin Mary answered St. Bernadette with "I am the Mother of God" it would negate the purpose of the apparition which is very much related to previous apparition of Mary to St. Catherine of Laboure with a prayer invocation;

"O Mary conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to thee." - Catherine Laboure (Wikipedia)

The Blessed Virgin Mary answered St.Bernadette question with the words "I am the Immaculate Conception" is the truthful answer because Mary was not the one speaking but a Divine Person. Mary was possessed by the Holy Spirit and St.Maximillian Kolbe has a good explanation on this mystery.

Please see my full answer on the subject of "quasi-incarnate". Are there biblical passages supporting a "quasi-incarnation" attributed to the mystical union of the Holy Spirit and Mary?

In closing the Ineffabilis Deus defined that Mary was preserved from all stains of original sins. But Mary's revelation saying "I am the Immaculate Conception" speaks of a person revealing Herself thru Mary's humanity was in no way present to the contents of the Dogma of Immaculate Conception. In a way this is a profound revelation and St. Maximillian Kolbe gave us the a good reflection how to grasp the meaning of the revelation "I am the Immaculate Conception.

The nature of the union [of the Holy Ghost and Mary] consists in the union of wills. Mary identifies so thoroughly with the will of God that one can speak about a quasi-incarnation of the Holy Ghost in Mary.

The Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity was not made flesh. Yet our human word "spouse" cannot express the reality of the relation between the Immaculata and the Holy Ghost. We can therefore say that the Immaculata is in a certain sense an "incarnation of the Holy Ghost". The Holy Ghost, whom we love, is in her, and through her we love the Son. The Holy Ghost is very little appreciated.

  1. Maximilian Kolbe always insisted that of course there can be no question here of a real incarnation of the Holy Ghost, which would be heretical. Instead he is searching for words and concepts that portray more profoundly the intimate relation between Mary and the Holy Ghost. Therefore the qualifier “quasi” is very important here, so as to make clear that there is only a certain analogy with the mystery of the Incarnation.
  2. Conference dated February 5, 1941, in KMK p. 428

Note: This citation was taken from Geremia's answer as provided above.

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