On Feb. 11, 1858, a young, Bernadette Soubirous, a poor French girl, was collecting firewood near a grotto with her sister and another friend.

As she looked up, she had a vision of a beautiful lady,” wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her Rosary.”

When Bernadette returned home, she told her parents what she had seen, and taken aback, they forbade her from going back to the grotto. A few days later, however, Bernadette was allowed to return to the grotto, and the Lady appeared to her again. On her third visit to the spot, the Lady asked Bernadette to come back to the grotto every day for the next two weeks.

During the subsequent visits, the Lady asked for a chapel to be built on the grounds. There, Bernadette could pray for the conversion of sinners, and she could drink the spring water that flowed from the grotto.

When word of her apparitions had spread, Bernadette was detained, interrogated and harassed by the civil authorities as if she were a common criminal. Even so, Bernadette endured saying, “There was something in me that enabled me to rise above everything. I was tackled from all sides, but nothing mattered, and I was not afraid.”

Eventually the villagers, came to the girl’s rescue and demanded that she be released.

The townspeople believed that Bernadette had seen the Blessed Virgin, and they also came to the grotto to pray. The water that flowed from the grotto was found to have miraculous healing properties.

On March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, the Lady appeared at the grotto again, saying, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” They were the last words that the apparition shared with Bernadette.

The Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception had only recently been pronounced by Pope Pius IX a few years previous, on Dec. 8, 1854. This infallibly defined dogma declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”

Bernadette suffered greatly through her chronic poor health, as well as through the jealousy and suspicion from others because she was given the grace of visits from the Blessed Mother. She was not surprised as during one of their conversations Our Lady had told her, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other.”

Four years after Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to St. Bernadette, the local bishop ruled that the apparitions were authentic. St. Bernadette eventually entered a religious house where she continued to suffer physically, uniting her suffering to Christ, and died at an early age.

A beautiful church has been erected on the grounds near the grotto at Lourdes. After Rome and the Holy Land, Lourdes, France, is the most popular place of pilgrimage for Catholic faithful. The water of Lourdes is readily available to all pilgrims, and numerous healings have been medically documented to have occurred there, as well as conversions to the faith because of these miracles.

St. Bernadette’s feast day is Feb. 18th.

Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: The Story of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes. (2013, February). The Catholic Company.