Bernadette Soubirous was the oldest daughter in a family of nine children in France in the mid-19th century. The family was extremely poor, and Bernadette was a sickly child. When she was 14 years old, she was gathering firewood in the woods when she experienced her first vision: she heard rushing wind but saw nothing move except a wild rose in a niche in a nearby grotto. Then “a dazzling light and white figure” appeared, which she called “a small young lady.” A few days later, Bernadette and some girls returned to the grotto. Again Bernadette saw the vision, but the girls with her did not see anything. A few days later she returned and saw the “vision” again, and the lady asked her to return to the grotto every day for a fortnight (two weeks).
While some people believed the young woman, many others doubted Bernadette’s reports of her visions. Many people, both believers and non-believers, began to accompany her on her trips to the grotto. In response to pressing questions, Bernadette finally asked the lady, “Would you kindly tell me who you are?” The vision replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” She also asked that a chapel be built at the site. This escalated interest in Bernadette, her vision, and the grotto.
Eventually, the Church confirmed the legitimacy of the apparitions, and the vision was named ‘Our Lady of Lourdes.’ Countless inexplicable healings have taken place at Lourdes; it is now one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world, welcoming 5 million visitors each year.
After many people came to believe in the apparitions, St. Bernadette joined a convent and lived the rest of her life as far away from the spotlight as possible. She said, “The Virgin used me as a broom to remove the dust. When the work is done, the broom is put behind the door again.” Bernadette died from a chronic illness on April 16, 1879, at age 35, in the convent. Her final words were, “Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me! A poor sinner, a poor sinner,” and she died holding a rosary. One miracle that counted toward the canonization of St. Bernadette is the incorruption of her body.
Get to know the patron saint against poverty, of bodily illness, and of people ridiculed for their faith through this playlist inspired by her life — featuring themes of humility and hope, and artists Penny & Sparrow and The Civil Wars.