Saint Bernadette Soubirous

16th April

Saint Bernadette Soubirous was a fourteen-year-old peasant girl, poor, simple, uneducated, small in stature. She was from Lourdes, France.

She had a miserable childhood but she was not miserable! As a toddler she contracted cholera and continued to suffer from severe chronic asthma.

She was the eldest of six children, three other siblings had died in infancy. Although sickly, her days were full of hard work, missing school and Catechism lessons to stay at home and help out. She did not know how to read and had been kept from her first Holy Communion because she had missed out on learning basic articles of the Catholic Faith.

Bernadette and her family were extremely poor, living in one tiny room that had been a prison cell. It was cold and damp and ‘visited’ by mice and rats. They had three beds, one for the parents, one for the girls and one for the boys.

This simple peasant girl was chosen to give the message of love God has for all mankind “as the adopted children of His Blessed Mother.” Bernadette had the experience of eighteen apparitions of Our Lady in the Grotto of Lourdes. Even after this singular experience Bernadette continued to experience suffering. She was ridiculed, her experience of the apparitions was questioned and she was even threatened with imprisonment.

She entered the convent of the Sisters of Charity, where she carried out humble work and was not given any special treatment. In silence, she endured extreme pain as she became seriously ill with tuberculosis of the lungs and bones. This humble saint died at the age of thirty-five.

Today, the Grotto of Lourdes is visited by millions each year. Miracles of cure have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes when they are immersed in the waters of a stream that sprouted during one of the apparitions and have continued to flow. Due to this, the 11th February, the date of the first apparition, is dedicated as the World Day of the Sick.

It was at Lourdes, that Our Lady herself proclaimed “I am the Immaculate Conception.” to Bernadette. Four years before, the Pope had declared as a truth of the Catholic Faith (a Dogma), that Our Lady, from the moment she was conceived, was not touched by sin.

Saint Bernadette lives on in the legacy of her message of love in the Grotto of Lourdes!

In one of the apparitions, Our Lady asked Bernadette, repeatedly, to do ‘Penance’ for the conversion of sinners. Bernadette offered her sufferings and other silent sacrifices as prayer for this purpose.

Lead the children to discover that Penance, besides being sorry for our wrongdoings also means making an effort not to do what pleases us straightaway!

Encourage children to find ways how they can do this in simple ways in their daily life:

  • not to grumble when food is not to their liking or not their favourite,
  • not grabbing the first piece of cake/cookie,
  • being ready to give up/share a toy/tablet,
  • not insisting in always having their way what television programme to watch, what game to play,
  • offering to do a chore they don’t like.

During the first apparition, Our Lady carried the Rosary of white beads. The first gesture She made was the Sign of the Cross in a prayerful manner and together with Bernadette, who took out her Rosary beads from the pocket of her worn out dress, prayed the Rosary. 

  • Consider explaining what the Rosary really is! It is ‘the story’ of the life experiences of Our Lord, Our Lady and St. Joseph.
  • Make it possible to have Rosary Beads ‘visible’ in the home.
  • Suggest that together with their mobile, children may carry a colourful Rosary beads chaplet in their bag.

Pope Francis several times insisted on how we make the Sign of the Cross forgetting that it is in reality “the badge of our Faith.”

Let us show them how to PRAY the Sign of the Cross and not simply make it.

For Family Prayer Time  dedicate time to:

  • Praise and thank God for so many things that we take for granted. Let them express their own experiences, even the simplest things.
  • You may start yourself thanking God for giving you your own children! One of the adults may start by thanking God for providing carers who prepare food, wash clothes. . . .
  • Pray for the sick in hospitals, in their homes, for those who take care of them. Mention by name those they know.
  • Pray for so many people who do not have adequate living conditions, because they live in refugee camps, fleeing from their homes.

Establish the habit of praying the Sign of the Cross and saying a prayer before and after meals, before starting homework or any other task.

Suggestion: Worth watching movie “The Song of Bernadette” 

St. Bernardette was the first child of Francois and Loise. They lived in poverty, so her father had to work very hard to take care of the family. At a very young age she started receiving visions from Mother Mary in Massabielle. 

Activity: Build a grotto for Mary!

All you need is: Picture of Mother Mary, Cardboard a bit bigger than the size of Mary’s picture, popsicle sticks, decorations, glue stick and liquid. 


  1. Stick the Picture of Mary on the Cardboard. 
  2. Stick the popsicle sticks around the picture to create a frame. 
  3. Decorate your new grotto with decorations. 
  4. Hang it in your room or prayer corner and recite the Rosary with your family!

Don’t forget to send us some pictures!

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.