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Bernadette Soubirous – Visionary of Lourdes


The lady asked Bernadette to return every day for a fortnight and so began the daily visions which embarrassed her parents and consumed the local parish…

On January 7, 1844, Bernadette Soubirous was born to Francois and Louise Soubirous in Lourdes, France.

She was the first of their nine children, and they lived in extreme poverty. Bernadette attended a day school, but due to her ill health, she was not in school very much, and as a result, she was barely literate. When she was about three, Bernadette contracted cholera, leaving her with debilitating asthma for the rest of her life.

On Thursday, February 11, 1852, when she was fourteen, Bernadette was sent to gather firewood with her younger sister Toinette, and some other girls soon joined them.

The Vision

Lagging beyond the girls who jumped across a small stream in front of a grotto called Massabielle, she had a vision of a dazzling light surrounding a beautiful lady clothed in blue and white. She smiled at Bernadette before making the sign of the cross and, taking up her rosary, began to pray. Bernadette immediately fell to her knees and, taking her rosary from her apron pocket, began to pray with the lady.

None of the other girls could see the lady, but Bernadette insisted she was real and three days later when she returned with her sister Marie she again fell to her knees and in a trance-like state began to pray. The lady had returned.

The lady now asked Bernadette to return every day for a fortnight, which she did, and so began the daily visions which embarrassed her parents and consumed the local parish and authorities. Crowds began to form around the grotto.

On February 25, the lady of the vision told young Bernadette to drink the water of the spring and eat the herb that grew there as an act of penance, which she did to the horror of the many onlookers.

However, the muddy waters of the grotto’s stream flowed clear and fresh the next day. When asked by her parish priest what name the lady had given, Bernadette replied, “Immaculate Conception.”

After intense questioning, the church authorities and the French officials concluded that Bernadette was speaking the truth. Sixty-nine cures had been verified since the water had cleared, and there was no medical explanation for the cures.

Shy Bernadette disliked the attention she received as a result of the miracles, so she left Lourdes and went to a school run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, where she learned to read and write.

Religious Life

In July of 1866, she took the habit of a postulant of the Sisters at their motherhouse in Nevers, and they gave her the name Marie-Bernarde. The young visionary spent the rest of her life there working humbly as an infirmary assistant and sacristan until her death at the age of thirty-five on April 16, 1879, while praying her rosary. She suffered severe pain at the end of her life and declared, “all this is good for heaven.”

Bernadette’s body remains incorrupt, and this is one of the miracles cited supporting her canonization. She reposes at the Espace Bernadette Soubirous Nevers, the former motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. Saint Bernadette is the patroness of Lourdes, France, illness, and those mocked for their piety.

Her feastday is April 16th.

St. Bernadette – Pray for us!

Download the free saint of the month poster designed by Emily Prause using the button below. You can pin it to your classroom wall or place it on your refrigerator to help your children learn more about Saint Bernadette.

Download Printable Saint Page

Click here for more Saint of the Month posters!

About Mary Ellen Barrett

Mother of seven children and two in heaven, Mary is wife to David and a lifelong New Yorker. She has homeschooled her children for eleven years using Seton and an enormous amount of books. She is a columnist for The Long Island Catholic and blogs here . Meet Mary Ellen.
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