Saint of the Month
St. Bernadette was born in Lourdes, France on Jan. 7, 1844. Her parents were very poor, and she was the first of nine children. As a toddler, Bernadette contracted cholera, suffered extreme asthma, and lived the rest of her life in poor health.
On Feb. 11, 1858, 14-year-old Bernadette was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood, when a very beautiful, small lady appeared to her above a rose bush in a grotto, called Massabielle (Tuta de Massavielha). The woman wore blue and white and smiled at Bernadette before making the sign of the cross with a rosary of ivory and gold. Bernadette fell to her knees, took out her own rosary and began to pray. Though her sister and friend claimed they were unable to see her, Bernadette knew what she saw was real.
On February 18, Bernadette said “the vision” asked her to return to the grotto each day for a fortnight. With each visit, Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary and the period of daily visions became known as “la Quinzaine sacrée,” meaning “holy fortnight.”
During her sixteenth vision, the woman finally said her name: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Church authorities and the French government rigorously interviewed Bernadette, and by 1862, they confirmed she spoke truth. And, 69 cures have been verified by the Lourdes Medical Bureau.
Bernadette asked the local priest to build a chapel at the site of her visions, and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is now one of the major Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world.
Bernadette spent the rest of her life there working as an infirmary assistant, and later a sacristan. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was unable to take part in convent life. She died in the Sainte Croix (Holy Cross) Infirmary of the Convent of Saint-Gildard at the age of 35 on April 16, 1879, while praying the holy rosary.
She was beatified in 1925 and canonized by Pope Piuis XI in December 1933. Saint Bernadette is the patroness of illness, people ridiculed for their piety, poverty, shepherds, shepherdesses, and Lourdes, France.