St. Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes, France, in 1844, and was baptized Mary Bernard. Her family was very poor, but strong in their faith.
On Feb. 11, 1858, a 14-year-old Bernadette received a vision of Our Lady at the banks of the Gave River, near Lourdes. Mary appeared in a cave to Bernadette for several weeks. Two weeks after her first visit, a spring emerged from the cave, and the waters miraculously healed the sick and the lame.
A month later, on March 25, Mary told Bernadette that she was “the Immaculate Conception,” and instructed her to have a chapel built at the site where she appeared.
Bernadette remained faithful to the words of Our Lady, despite opposition from the community and the authorities, who tried to shut down the construction of the chapel and cut off access to the spring. Bernadette found an ally in the Empress Eugenie of France, who intervened after her child was cured from the spring’s water, and the church was built.
In 1866, Bernadette entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in Nevers. She died a few years later, at the age of 35, after suffering from a painful, incurable illness. Pope Pius XI canonized her in 1933.