Bernadette

1844-1879. Roman Catholic visionary. Eldest child of a poor miller, surnamed Subirous, of Lourdes, France, she had a series of visions between 11 February and 16 July 1858, in a cave by the river Gave. She believed that the young, beautiful lady who spoke to her in some of the eighteen apparitions was the Virgin Mary, who had the title of “the Immaculate Conception.” At first the church authorities disbelieved her, and their distrust was heightened by an epidemic of false visionaries. In 1866 she was admitted to the convent of the Sisters of Charity at Nevers. She suffered from chronic asthma, but her life was seen as holy, and she died at the age of thirty-five. She was beatified by Pius XI in 1925 and canonized in 1933. Lourdes has become one of the greatest centers of pilgrimage in Western Christendom.