Sainte Bernadette de Lourdes
Saint Bernadette of Lourdes
In the south of France, close to the Pyrenees Mountains, there is a little town called Lourdes.
Millions of Christian pilgrims from all over the world visit this place every year.
Inside a cave (the Grotto of Massabielle) in the town, there is a very special spring of water, discovered in 1858 by a fourteen-year-old girl called Marie-Bernarde Soubirous.
She was born in 1844 and was the oldest of nine children. Three of her brothers and sisters died in infancy. The family lived in extreme poverty in one tiny room within a mill.
As a child, Bernadette contracted cholera and this left her weak and in poor health for the rest of her life. She also suffered from asthma.
On the 11th February 1858, whilst collecting firewood, the young girl experienced a vision. She saw a beautiful lady dressed in a white veil, a blue sash and a golden rose on each foot. The beautiful lady also held a rosary of pearls.
The lady hovered in the air at the entrance of the grotto. She told the girl to return each day for the next fortnight. This two week period is known as The Holy Fortnight - la Quinzaine Sacrée.
Marie-Bernarde did as she was told and each day the same lady spoke to her. In total, she saw the lady eighteen times. That lady is called Our Lady of Lourdes.
On the 25th February, (during the ninth visitation), the 'small, beautiful lady' (believed to be Mary, the Mother of Jesus) told Marie-Bernarde to drink from the water of the grotto. This was a confusing command because there was no water in the grotto of Massabielle!
Nevertheless, Marie-Bernarde obeyed, and started scratching at the ground. She found some water but at first it was dirty. Eventually, the water flowed more clearly and she was able to drink it!
The newly-discovered spring of clean water flowed!
It is believed that the water is very special and that many sick people have been miraculously healed by touching or drinking the water. Every day, sick people visit Lourdes in the hope that the water will cure them. Second to Paris, it is the most visited French town!
When you visit Lourdes, you can fill bottles of the precious water to take home.
The girl who discovered the spring was made a saint in 1933 and is now called Saint Bernadette.
In 1879, at the age of just 35 years, Bernadette died in the convent of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers where she had lived and worked as a nurse and a nun since the age of twenty-two.
In French this organisation is called Les Soeurs de la Charité de Nevers.
The date on which Saint Bernadette is remembered every year is 16 April. This is the date when she died. She is the patron saint of people who live in poverty, shepherds and shepherdesses and the town of Lourdes. Today, Saint Bernadette can be seen lying, as if asleep, in her gold and crystal tomb in the chapel of Saint Gildard at the convent. In fact, she is referred to as 'The Sleeping Saint of Nevers.'