Of the eighteen apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette, no less than fourteen took place during Lent.
We need to consider the calendar of the apparitions alongside the liturgical cycle. As the date of Easter varies from year to year, the discrepancy with the liturgical calendar of 1858 becomes more or less important. In 1858, Easter was celebrated on 4th April.
On 17th February, Bernadette undoubtedly received the ashes. The next day began the fifteen days of apparitions. It fell completely therefore during the start of Lent. The time was particularly apt for the call to penance, on 24th February, and the penitential gestures of the days that followed.
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is marked by the receiving of ashes: the priest places a little ash on the forehead of each of the faithful, as a sign of our human weakness, but also of hope in God’s mercy.
Ashes are distributed at each Mass in the Sanctuary.