Bernadette Soubirous

1844-1879

St. Bernadette Soubirous is pictured in this undated photo provided by the Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. (CNS photo/Durand, courtesy of Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes) (Sept. 12, 2008)

As a child in a poor French family in the Hautes-Pyrenees town of Lourdes, Bernadette suffered both asthma and cholera. Uneducated, she had not made her first Communion by 1858, the year she experienced 18 visions of a beautiful lady calling herself the Immaculate Conception and calling for penance and pilgrimage. Bernadette was unchanged by this extraordinary experience, and in 1866 became a member of the Sisters of Charity, taking the name Maria-Bernarda. Chronically ill after 1875 with worsening asthma and tuberculosis of the bones, she died at age 35. When she was canonized in 1933, it was not for being the Lourdes visionary, but for her simple life of prayer, devotion and obedience.

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