Born Marie at Lourdes, France, on January 7, the oldest child of miller Francis Soubirous and his wife, Louise, she was called Bernadette as a child, lived in abject poverty with her parents, was uneducated, and suffered from asthma. On February 11, 1858, while collecting firewood on the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes, she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a cave above the riverbank.
Her report provoked skepticism, but her daily visions of the Lady from February 18 through March 4 drew great crowds of people. Despite great hostility on the part of the civil authorities, she persisted in her claims, and on February 25 caused a spring to flow where none had been before. On March 25, the vision told her it was the Immaculate Conception and directed her to build a chapel on the site.
In 1866, she became a Sister of Notre Dame at Nevers, and she remained there until she died at Nevers on April 16. Lourdes soon became one of the great pilgrimage centers of modem Christianity, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring, and after painstaking investigation the apparitions were ecclesiastically approved. Bernadette was canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
"Let the crucifix be not only in
eyes and on my breast, but in my heart.
Prayer to St. BernadetteO Saint Bernadette, who, as a meek and pure child, did eighteen times at Lourdes contemplate the beauty of the Immaculate Mother of God and received her messages, and who afterwards wished to hide yourself from the world in the convent of Nevers, and to offer thyself there as a victim for the conversion of sinners, obtain for us the grace of purity, simplicity and mortification that we also may attain to the vision of God and of Mary in Heaven. Amen.
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