She lived from: 1844 – 1879 A.D.
Feast Day: 16th April
Related Article : St Patrick
“Love overcomes, love delights, those who love the Sacred Heart rejoice”
Marie Bernarde Soubirous, who became known as Bernadette, was born in the small town of Lourdes in France in 1844. Her father was a miller at the Boly Mill, which was also where he lived with his family. Eventually, he lost his job. The family were then forced to move and ended up living in a dungeon which had previously been the local jail. On 11th February 1858 she was gathering wood beside the River Gave when she saw a vision of a young woman at the mouth of a cave on the other side of the river. Bernadette went to the cave and and the young woman asked her to visit there for the next fourteen days, which indeed she did. During this time, the young woman identified herself to Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception. Bernadette passed on many messages from her to the people. In particular, she wanted them to show sorrow for their sins and to pray for world peace. She also requested that a church be built in memory of these apparitions.
During one of them, the lady, as Bernadette referred to her, told her to drink water from the cave. The water was traditionally muddy. When Bernadette returned the following day, the mud had disappeared and the water was flowing crystal clear. Bernadette also bathed in the water and ate some herbs and said later on that it was an instruction from the lady, as a sign of traditional penance. Seven miraculous cures are recorded as having occurred during that time. From that moment, the water has been deemed to contain curative properties.
For those of you who have visited Lourdes, you may have taken away very special memories of the Grotto, the stone altar, the running stream, the baths and the lit candles burning brightly.
Over the years, the Catholic Church has recognised 65 miraculous cures in the name of Bernadette. Once the visions had stopped, she was regularly interrogated by Church officials who were very dubious about her descriptions of what she had seen and heard. Although Bernadette had always suffered with bad health, she bore the criticism that she received from others with patience and strength of character. In 1866 she joined the Carmelite Order of the Sisters of Charity at Nevers taking the name of Bernadette.
Although she was now sheltered in the Convent from further false accusations, some of her superiors were jealous of her because of her notoriety. Bernadette remained at the Convent for the rest of her life. Over the years, her health deteriorated and she died in 1879 at the age of 35 years old. In 1909 her body was exhumed and was found to be incorrupt, that is, it had not degraded. Her body is encased in a glass shrine in Nevers and can be visited by anyone who wishes to see her. In 1933 Pope Pius XI canonised her as St Bernadette due to her humility and her trust in the religious faith that characterised her entire life.