There have been many apparitions of the Virgin Mary. One of the most famous visitations of Mary was in Lourdes, in France, in the 1850's. Mary appeared to St Bernadette and several other children at Lourdes and since then the area has become one of Catholicism’s most popular pilgrimages.
St. Bernadette was born near Lourdes in 1844. She came from a large and loving family, and her parents were very religious. The young Bernadette was very religious, and loved to wander around the fields near her home in contemplation and prayer. From 1854 onward, her family experienced real difficulties. Her father was a miller and was falsely accessed of theft, leaving the family to experience real hardship. Young Bernadette frequently went hungry.
One day, Bernadette was searching for firewood for her family. It was the 11th of February, 1858, the day that she saw the first apparition of Mary. As Bernadette was approaching a grotto, she heard an almighty noise, and then everything went quiet. In the grotto she saw a beautiful young woman. Bernadette did not know that the vision was the Virgin Mary, but she fell to her knees and prayed the Rosary with the lady. The vision disappeared after a few minutes. Bernadette told her sister about the apparition. Her sister was worried it could have been an evil spirit that Bernadette saw.
St. Bernadette returned to the grotto with her two sisters, and again the Virgin appeared to her. Her sisters did not see the apparition, but they were astounded by their sister. She was transfigured during her visions of Mary, and this persuaded them that their sister was indeed seeing the Virgin and Mother of Jesus.
The virgin appeared to Bernadette only. The story of the young girl who saw Mary caused a sensation. Some in the local community were supportive of Bernadette, while others mocked her. On one occasion, the Virgin told her to scrape the ground, and miraculously a spring of fresh water appeared from nowhere. The Virgin also urged her to tell the Church to build a chapel to her at the site of the Grotto.
In total, the Virgin appeared 16 times to St Bernadette.
The Church accepted that the Virgin had appeared to St. Bernadette. Eventually they built a series of chapels and churches around the grotto and it quickly became a world-wide centre of pilgrimage. The spring at the grotto has miraculous powers. There have been sixty miracles reported by those who visited the grotto.
After the end of the apparitions, St. Bernadette became a novice nun with the Sisters of Charity. She worked in her convent’s hospice. However, her health was poor, and she eventually contracted tuberculosis. St. Bernadette died in 1879, at the age of 35.
She was canonized as a Saint by Pope Pius XI on the 8th of December, 1933.
Many of those who have been miraculously cured at Lourdes believe that St. Bernadette was responsible.
St. Bernadette and her apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes has fortified many in their faith during testing times.