Saint Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an impoverished miller in Lourdes, France. Her family resided in the basement of a decrepit building when, on February 11, 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave by the Gave River. At 14, Bernadette was a virtuous but academically slow child, who had yet to receive her first Holy Communion and suffered from asthma since early childhood.

Over several weeks, Bernadette witnessed 18 apparitions. The final one occurred on July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Initially met with skepticism, Bernadette’s visions gradually drew large crowds. She reported that the apparition, a young girl around 16 or 17 years old dressed in white with a blue sash and yellow roses at her feet, commanded her to build a chapel at the site and to use a newly emerged spring for healing.

The turning point came on March 25, when the apparition revealed herself as “the Immaculate Conception,” a title whose significance Bernadette only understood later. This identification contributed to the Church’s 1862 affirmation of the visions’ authenticity. Lourdes then evolved into a major pilgrimage and healing site, famous for its reported miracles.

Bernadette’s own life remained fraught with suffering. Public attention and official scrutiny drove her to seek refuge in a convent, where she struggled with ongoing health issues. Despite her illnesses, she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame.

She died on April 16, 1879, at 35, and was canonized in 1933.

Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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