What is the story of St Bernadette?

If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces… never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again. That’s the beauty of being alive… We can always start all over again. Enjoy God’s amazing opportunities bestowed on us. Have faith in Him always. – St Bernadette

At Joe Walsh Tours we would like to share the story of St Bernadette of Lourdes, also named Saint Bernadette Soubirous, whose visions led to the establishment of the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, which has become a major pilgrimage site for Catholics around the world.


Who was St Bernadette?

Born in January 1844 in Lourdes, France, St Bernadette, was the eldest child of a poor family, François Soubirous, a former miller, and Louise Castérot, which had 6 children. She spent her childhood living in poverty with her family, in one small room, with no access to education and suffering most of her life from asthma and poor health conditions.

St Bernadette is remembered and honoured today for her series of visions of the Virgin Mary, which took place at the Grotto of Massabielle, when she was 14 years of age.

When was the first and final vision of St Bernadette?

In February 11, 1858, St Bernadette had her first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a cave known as the Grotto, situated on the outskirts of Lourdes, while she was collecting firewood with her friend and sister.

As per Bernadette visions, it is believed that the Lady appeared to be a girl of approximately 16 years old, wearing a white robe, with yellow roses on her feet and carrying a rosary on her right hand.

The Lady asked Bernadette to drink water of a spring situated under the rock, however, after digging in the ground, Bernadette could not find any water. It was days later when some water started to flow miraculously which Bernadette drank, washing also her hands on it. The water appears today to have healing properties. This puddle would later become a pool and a sacred spring.

The Lady also requested that a chapel should be built in the same place of the apparitions.

In one of the visions, on the feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, 25 March, the Lady announced her identity with the following words: “I am the Immaculate Conception” which lead Bernadette to realize her visions were in fact the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Virgin Mary appeared a total of 18 times to St Bernadette, with her final apparition happening on July 16, 1858, same day of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

What happened to Bernadette after the apparitions?

Despite her visions, Bernadette faced skepticism and opposition from some members of her community, such as the local clergy, civil authorities and her parents. However she transmitted the message of the Blessed Virgin Mary and had faith in her own visions.

She eventually joined the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, where she lived a humility life until her death at the age of 35, in 1879.

Her visions were finally accepted in 1862 by the local bishop and the construction of a Basilica started on the same year.

Today, St. Bernadette is remembered for her wit, kindness and devotion to the Virgin Mary. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1933, with her visions being authenticated, and Lourdes becoming a place for Catholic Pilgrimage.

Pilgrims will be able to find the believed incorrupt remains of the saint at the chapel of the St. Gildard convent, in Nevers.

Our Lady of Lourdes Feast is celebrated on April 16th, and in France is also celebrated in February 11th, with many people visiting the grotto to celebrate the Marian Apparitions.

Lourdes, a special place of Pilgrimage

Lourdes was initially a regional pilgrimage destination since Bernadette apparitions occurred. However, as many curative and healing miracles were reported, many pilgrims go now on a pilgrimage to Lourdes,hoping to be healed.  It is believed that Lourdes has curative powers and some visitors bathe in what is known as ‘Bernadette’s Spring’.

Some of the most important and sacred sites to visit on a Pilgrimage to Lourdes are the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, with its sacred grotto and the statue of Virgin Mary, and two Basilicas, which includes numerous facilities for pilgrims and the sick, as well as Bernadette’s spring.




For more information about Lourdes visit PILGRIMAGE TO LOURDES

See you on your next pilgrimage!

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