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.