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St. Bernadette of Lourdes
Feast Day
 
Born on the 7th of January 1844 in the town of Lourdes, nestled at the foothill of the Pyrenees mountains, Bernadette Soubirous would become famous the world over for the visions of Our Lady that she experienced at just 14 years of age.
 
The first of nine children, Bernadette was born into a very poor family who lived in a state of squalor. Her childhood was a bleak childhood, marred by poor health which she suffered from a very early age.
 Her mundane life however would be transformed on the 11th of February with her first vision of a very beautiful lady above a bush in a grotto as she went to gather wood. The vision of the woman dressed in blue and white with a rosary in her hands prompted the young Bernadette to fall to her knees and begin to pray. Although in the company of her sister and friend, Bernadette was the only one to see the “petito damiezelo” (the small young lady). Bernadette however never doubted for one minute that what she had seen was real.
 
"Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me. A poor sinner, a poor sinner."
 
 
 
 
 
 
Further visions would occur during Bernadette’s visits to the grotto but the vision on the 25th of February she described as a truly “life-changing vision.” During the vision, Our Lady asked her "to drink the water from the spring, to wash in it and to eat the herb that grew there" as an act of penance. The next day, the grotto's muddy waters had been cleared and fresh clear water flowed.
 
St Bernadette at the grotto
 
The visions continued and during the vision on the 2nd of March, Our Lady commented, “a chapel should be built, and a procession formed.” Bernadette approached the local priest, who, for fear that it might promote some type of “fanaticism” within the parish discouraged this. The priest asked Bernadette to ask for a sign – to make the rose bush beneath the niche bud and flower even though it was the middle of February. This happened! When the priest later asked Bernadette to get the Lady to identify herself, Bernadette asked the question to which Our Lady replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
 
After investigations by both church and state, Bernadette’s request was eventually granted, and a chapel erected. The sanctuary at Lourdes would flourish, eventually becoming one of the major Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world - Bernadette had always believed that it was faith and prayer that were curing the people who arrived.
House of St Bernadette
House of St. Bernadette
 
Exhausted by the attention and subsequent struggles, Bernadette became a boarder in the local school run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. She would later take the religious habit and remain in Nevers for the rest of her life, working as an infirmary assistant and later a sacristan.
 
Bernadette was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone and died, aged 35, in the Sainte Croix (Holy Cross) Infirmary of the Convent of Saint-Gildard, while praying the holy rosary – her last words being, "Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me. A poor sinner, a poor sinner."
 
 
Bernadette was beatified in 1925 and canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1933. The incorrupt body of St. Bernadette lies in the chapel of the St. Gildard convent in Nevers while the once remote town of Lourdes has flourished into a major pilgrimage destination with the faithful arriving from the world over to seek healing.
 
The incorrupt body of St. Bernadette
 
The incorrupt body of St. Bernadette in the chapel of the St. Gildard convent in Nevers
 
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