(1844–1879) A devout peasant to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared eighteen times between February 11 and July 16, 1858, when she was 14. The apparitions occurred in a grotto near Lourdes, southern France. Mary enjoined Bernadette to “pray for sinners” and gave the warning “Penitence!” The grotto is now surmounted by the Church of the Rosary, which contains numerous crutches and gifts memorializing miraculous cures credited to Our Lady of Lourdes.
The apparitions at Lourdes
Bernadette Soubirous was the eldest child of a poor milling family from the village of Lourdes, in southwest France at the foot of the Pyrenees. On February 11, 1858, Bernadette was gathering firewood near a rocky grotto. Alerted by a noise like a storm, she turned towards the grotto. There in one of the openings of the rock she saw a lone rosebush that waved as if blown by a secret wind. A golden cloud formed there and soon after a lady of magnificent beauty appeared above the rosebush.
She looked to be sixteen or seventeen years old and was dressed in a long white robe that was tied at the waist with a flowing blue ribbon. A long white veil almost covered her hair and fell down at the back to below her waist. Her feet were bare but for the last folds of her robe and the gleaming yellow rose that graced each foot. On her right arm was a rosary of white beads and a gold chain that, like the roses on her feet, shone as though made of the sun.
Bernadette took her rosary in hand and knelt on the ground. The Lady led the rosary in silence but prayed aloud with Bernadette each “Glory be to the Father.” Bernadette did not yet know with whom she prayed. When the rosary was completed, the Lady returned to the golden-clouded hollow of the rock and disappeared.
Mary visited the child eighteen times at the grotto. Bernadette was told to bring a lighted candle on her visits and to pray for sinners. At the eighth visit, Mary exhorted her with the statement, “Penitence! Penitence! Penitence!” On the ninth visit, Mary told Bernadette to “drink from the fountain and bathe in it.” Bernadette was puzzled, since there was no source of water in the grotto. She began to dig at the ground with her fingers. In moments a bubbling pool was formed from which Bernadette drank and washed her face.
Large crowds accompanied Bernadette on her visits to the grotto. Clerical and secular investigations and harassments had been initiated. Bernadette stood for her Lady before all and courageously continued to visit the grotto. In the thirteenth visit, Mary asked Bernadette to have the clergy build a chapel at the grotto and have the people go there in procession.
At their sixteenth visit, Mary revealed her identity by declaring, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette did not know what “Immaculate Conception” meant, but it became a phrase that sealed in hearts and minds the world around the beauty, validity and God-magnificence of that radiant Lady who blessed Bernadette and the entire world with her presence.
Miracles of healing
The pool that flowed to the hand of Bernadette at the command of beloved Mother Mary is charged with miraculous healing properties. Today its flowing waters minister to the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs of those who come in faith to bathe in its waters.
Some time after the pool appeared, a crippled man left his crutches propped against the grotto rock as a sign of his miraculous healing. Today thousands of crutches and candles blaze a message of gratitude for the merciful bounty of the Mother of God. An international board of medical examiners verifies the stream of legitimate healings that yet flows from the shrine of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Verified against the highest standards of professional inquiry, the healings at Mary’s fountain of living water continue to bear witness on earth of the eternal wisdom of our Father-Mother God in heaven.
Following the apparitions, Bernadette served as a Sister of Notre Dame at the Convent of Saint-Gildard, where for more than seven years she endured the painful and debilitating disease of tuberculosis of the bone. During the last two years of her life she developed a large tumor on her knee, which she kept a secret as long as she could so she would not be relieved of her duties. Her life is portrayed in the film The Song of Bernadette (1943) based on Franz Werfel’s novel by the same name.
The ascended lady master
Bernadette is now ascended. Bernadette has said that she made her ascension without ever having come to taste the fruits of this world. Even further, she never really knew about the wickedness, the degradation and the darkness of the world. From the time she was a child to the time of her ascension she dwelled in the innocence of God, thus proving that one does not have to have the wisdom of this world, one does not have to taste of the pleasures and the pain of this world in order to know God. She communed with the angels and with Mother Mary and lived a life of grace and purity. Only after she made her ascension and looked at the world was she apprised of this ugliness and its temptations.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 24, no. 12March 22, 1981.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 31, no. 39July 13, 1987.
Lectures by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, December 3, 1973, and October 28, 1974.
- Frances Parkinson Keyes, “Bernadette and the Beautiful Lady,” in A Woman Clothed with the Sun: Eight Great Appearances of Our Lady in Modern Times, ed. John J. Delaney (Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books, Doubleday and Co., 1961), p. 133.
- Ibid., p. 137.