St. Bernadette was born in Lourdes, France on January 7, 1844. Her parents were very poor and she was the first of nine children. She was baptized at St. Pierre’s, the local parish church, on January 9. As a toddler, Bernadette contracted cholera and suffered extreme asthma. Unfortunately, she lived the rest of her life in poor health.
(The clothing St.Bernadette wore)
On Thursday, February 11, 1858, fourteen-year-old Bernadette was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood, when a very beautiful 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.
Bernadette later described the woman as “uo petito damizelo,” meaning “a small young lady. Though her sister and friend claimed they were unable to see her, Bernadette knew what she saw was real.
Three days later, Bernadette, her sister Marie, and other girls returned to the grotto, where Bernadette immediately knelt, saying she could see “aquero” again. She fell into a trance and one girl threw holy water at the niche and another threw a rock that shattered on the ground. It was then that the apparition disappeared.
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.”
When Bernadette began to visit the grotto, her parents were embarrassed and attempted to stop her, but were unable to do so. On February 25, Bernadette claimed to have had a life-changing vision.
The vision had told her “to drink of the water of 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.
(Shoes of St.Bernadette)
During her sixteenth vision, which Bernadette claims to have experienced for over an hour, was on March 25. Bernadette claimed she had asked the woman her name, but her question was only met with a smile. Bernadette asked again, three more times, and finally the woman said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Though many townspeople believed she had indeed been seeing the Holy Virgin, Bernadette’s story created a division in her town. Many believed she was telling the truth, while others believed she had a mental illness and demanded she be put in a mental asylum. Some believed Bernadette’s visions meant she needed to pray for penance.
Church authorities and the French government rigorously interviewed the girl, and by 1862 they confirmed she spoke truth. Since Bernadette first caused the spring to produce clean water, 69 cures have been verified by the Lourdes Medical Bureau, and after what the Church claimed were “extremely rigorous scientific and medical examinations,” no one was able to explain what caused the cures.
Bernadette believed it was faith and prayer that was responsible for curing the sick.
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.
Many other chapels and churches has been built around it, including the Basilica of St. Pius X, which can accommodate 25,000 people and was dedicated by the future Pope John XXIII when he was the Papal Nuncio to France.
Following the miracles and constructions, Bernadette decided she did not like the attention she was getting and went to the hospice school run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, where she was taught to read and write. Though she considered joining the Carmelites, her health was too fragile.
(Convent where St.Bernadette lived and died)
On July 29, 1866, Bernadette took the religious habit of a postulant and joined the Sisters of Charity at their motherhouse at Nevers. Her Mistress of Novices was Sister Marie Therese Vauzou and the Mother Superior at the time named her Marie-Bernarde, in honor of her grandmother.
Bernadette spent the rest of her life there working as an infirmary assistant, and later a sacristan.
People admired her humility and spirit of sacrifice. Once a nun asked her if she had temptations of pride because she was favored by the Blessed Mother. “How can I?” she answered quickly. “The Blessed Virgin chose me only because I was the most ignorant.”
Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone in her right knee 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.
Even on her deathbed Bernadette suffered severe pain and, keeping with the Virgin Mary’s admonition of “Penance, Penance, Penance,” she proclaimed “all this is good for Heaven!” Bernadette’s last words were, “Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me. A poor sinner, a poor sinner.”
(St.Bernadette shortly after her death)
The nuns of Saint-Gildard, with the support of the bishop of Nevers, applied to the civil authorities for permission to bury Bernadette’s body in a small chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph, which was within the confines of the convent. Permission was granted on April 25, 1879, and on April 30, the local Prefect pronounced his approval of the choice of the site for burial. On May 30, 1879, Bernadette’s coffin was transferred to the crypt of the chapel of Saint Joseph, where a very simple ceremony was held to commemorate the event.
Thirty years later, on September 22, two doctors and a sister of the community exhumed her body. They claimed the crucifix and rosary she carried had been oxidized but her body remained incorrupt. The incorruption was cited as one of the miracles supporting her canonization.
The group washed and redressed Bernadette’s body then buried it in a new double casket. The Church exhumed her body again on April 3, 1919, and the doctor who examined her said, “The body is practically mummified, covered with patches of mildew and quite a notable layer of salts, which appear to be calcium salts … The skin has disappeared in some places, but it is still present on most parts of the body.”
In 1925, Bernadette’s body was exhumed yet again. This time relics were sent to Rome and an imprint of her face was molded, which was used to create a wax mask to be placed on her body. There were also imprints of her hands to be used for the presentation of her body, which was placed in a gold and crystal reliquary in the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the mother house in Nevers.
In 1928, Doctor Comte published a report on Bernadette’s exhumation in the second issue of the Bulletin de I’Association medicale de Notre-Dame de Lourdes, where he wrote:
“I would have liked to open the left side of the thorax to take the ribs as relics and then remove the heart which I am certain must have survived. However, as the trunk was slightly supported on the left arm, it would have been rather difficult to try and get at the heart without doing too much noticeable damage.
“As the Mother Superior had expressed a desire for the Saint’s heart to be kept together with the whole body, and as Monsignor the Bishop did not insist, I gave up the idea of opening the left-hand side of the thorax and contented myself with removing the two right ribs which were more accessible.
“What struck me during this examination, of course, was the state of perfect preservation of the skeleton, the fibrous tissues of the muscles (still supple and firm), of the ligaments, and of the skin, and above all the totally unexpected state of the liver after 46 years. One would have thought that this organ, which is basically soft and inclined to crumble, would have decomposed very rapidly or would have hardened to a chalky consistency. Yet, when it was cut it was soft and almost normal in consistency. I pointed this out to those present, remarking that this did not seem to be a natural phenomenon.”
Saint Bernadette is often depicted in prayer with a rosary or appealing to the Holy Virgin. 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.
Quotes of beautiful St.Bernadette
“If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces…never be afraid to pick up one of those pieces and begin again.Thats 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…”
“The Eucharist bathes the tormented Soul in light and love.Then the soul appreciates the words,”Come to me all who are sick and I will restore your health”.
“I shall spend every moment loving. One who loves does not notice her trials; or perhaps more accurately, she is able to love them.”
“Oh Jesus and Mary, let my entire consolation in this world be to love you and to suffer for sinners.”
“Oh Jesus, I would rather die a thousand deaths than be unfaithful to You!”
“Oh my Mother, to you I sacrifice all other attachments so that my heart may belong entirely to you and to my Jesus.”
“Love overcomes, love delights. Those who love the Sacred Heart of Jesus rejoice.”
“Jesus, my God, I love You above all things.”
What she said about her inner life:
“Jesus alone for Master, Jesus alone for Riches …”
“God speaks in the depths of the person, without the noise of words.”
“O Jesus, give me I pray … the bread of humility, the bread of obedience … the bread of charity.”
“I want my whole life to be inspired by love.”
“I shall always have enough health, but never enough love.”
“Our first movement doesn’t count but the second does.”
“I’m happier with my crucifix on my bed of pain than a queen on her throne.”
“They think I’m a saint… When I’m dead, they’ll come and touch holy pictures and rosaries to me, and all the while I’ll be getting broiled on a grill in purgatory. At least promise me you’ll pray a lot for the repose of my soul.”
“The Blessed Virgin used me like a broom and than put me back in my place”
“What will be the crown of those who humble within and humiliated without,have imitated the humility of the Savior in its fullness”
From the Private Notes of Bernadette Soubirous:
“My Jesus fill my heart with so much love that one day it will break just to be with you.My Jesus,you know I have placed a seal on my heart.Remain there always.”
“Watch over me Father,so that everything I may do with the intention of pleasing Jesus.”
“O Jesus and Mary, let my entire consolation in this world be to love you and to suffer for sinners.”
“O Jesus, I would rather die a thousand deaths than be unfaithful to you!”
“I must die to myself continually and accept trials without complaining. I work, I suffer and I love with no other witness than his heart. Anyone who is not prepared to suffer all for the Beloved and to do his will in all things is not worthy of the sweet name of Friend, for here below, Love without suffering does not exist.”
“I shall spend every moment loving. One who loves does not notice her trials; or perhaps more accurately, she is able to love them.”
“O my Mother, to you I sacrifice all other attachments so that my heart may belong entirely to you and to my Jesus.”
“I shall do everything for Heaven, my true home. There I shall find my Mother in all the splendor of her glory. I shall delight with her in the joy of Jesus himself in perfect safety.”
“From this moment on, anything concerning me is no longer of any interest to me. I must belong entirely to God and God alone. Never to myself.”
What she said a few days before her death:
“My Jesus! Oh, how I love him!”
“I am ground like a grain of wheat.”
“I won’t forget anyone!”
Last Words of St.Bernadette
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner.
Prayer of St.Bernadette
“Let the crucifix be not only in my eyes and on my breast, but in my heart.O Jesus! Release all my affections and draw them upwards. Let my crucified heart sink forever into Thine and bury itself in the mysterious wound made by the entry of the lance.”
O Saint Bernadette, who, as a meek and pure child, did eighteen times at Lourdes contemplate the beauty of the Immaculate Mother of God and received her messages, and who afterwards wished to hide yourself from the world in the convent of Nevers, and to offer thyself there as a victim for the conversion of sinners, obtain for us the grace of purity, simplicity and mortification that we also may attain to the vision of God and of Mary in Heaven. Amen.
NOVENA TO SAINT BERNADETTE SOUBIROUS
(Say for nine days, or as a perpetual novena.)
Dear Saint Bernadette, Chosen by Almighty God as a channel of His Graces and Blessings, and through your humble obedience to the requests of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, you gained for us the Miraculous waters of Spiritual and physical healing.
We implore you to listen to our pleading prayers that we may be healed of our Spiritual and physical imperfections.
Place our petitions in the Hands of our Holy Mother, Mary, so that She may place them at the feet of Her beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that He may look on us with mercy and compassion: (Make Petition)
Help, O Dear Saint Bernadette to follow your example, so that irrespective of our own pain and suffering we may always be mindful of the needs of others, especially those whose sufferings are greater than ours.
As we await the Mercy of God, remind us to offer up our pain and suffering for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins and blasphemies of mankind.
Pray for Saint Bernadette, that like you, we may always be obedient to the will of Our Heavenly Father, and that through our prayers and humility we may bring consolation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary that have been so grievously wounded by our sins.
Holy Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, Pray for us.
One Decade of the Rosary.
O Mary conceived without sin,pray for us who have recourse to Thee. (Say (3) Three Times)
To make a virtual pilgrimage to visit the convent of St.Gildard in Nevers France where the beautiful incorrupt body of St.Bernadette is: