Saint Bernadette Soubirous

DEATH: APRIL 16, 1879.

Read More On St Bernadette

St Bernadette Novena


(We are nearing the celebration date (April 16) of our Patron Saint.  In preparation we are offering a 4 part series to learn more about her life and about celebrating her gifts to us)

Saint Bernadette Soubirous was the first of nine children in her family.  She died at age 35, and became the Patron Saint of the Sick, the Poor, the Sheep Tenders, and those ridiculed for their Piety.  

Bernadette suffered from illness and poverty her entire life, but despite her problems and youth, she was still able to accomplish so much through a devotion to serving Jesus, and in obedience to the words of our beloved Mother Mary.

In 1858, at the age of 14, Bernadette was the recipient of a heavenly vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary at a grotto in Lourdes, France.  She was to see the vision 17 more times. During the visits Mary spoke to her about the merits of prayer, penance, poverty and church.  Bernadette became the messenger and motivator of those words.  A heavy cross for her to bear. Many did not believe or support her.  But she persisted without question.     

Although her life was terribly difficult, she was not a miserable girl.  She maintained a deep, simple faith in God.  She didn’t mind any work she had to do, and never complained.       

That is one of the greatest gifts we learn from Saint Bernadette.  To accept our sufferings and afflictions gracefully, and without complaining.  To submit humbly to our daily activities.  And that we can invoke St Bernadette to help us be humble and obedient in all our states of life, even when things become difficult and tiresome.

St. Bernadette was the daughter of a successful miller.  However, the family fell on hard times; lost everything they had, and were forced to live in an old one room prison cell not deemed habitable for prisoners.  They worked as day labourers, barely surviving.  They suffered through a famine, an epidemic, plus ridicule and constant hunger due to their poverty.  Only three of her eight siblings lived past the age of ten.  St Bernadette contracted cholera, asthma, heart problems and many other ailments.  She had to work hard, plus care for her siblings, with little to eat, and seldom did she get proper rest.  Yet Bernadette accepted her life and the circumstances she was given with courage, humility, happiness and faith.    

St Bernadette never considered herself special for seeing the visions, and never wanted attention, even though she was ridiculed, interrogated relentlessly, left uncomfortable; and demeaned for hours and days on end.  And remember, she was only 14 years old.

She did as Mary told her with steadfast obedience.  She trusted the visions and experience were coming from God.   

She saw herself simply as an instrument through which God could work.   Dedicating herself to service was not simply a response to the apparitions she witnessed, but was an essential part of who she was.

There were things St Bernadette eventually could not do due to her illness. After many years of service she was finally limited to only being able to do needlework.  Yet she understood her limitations, and did not take advantage of them to avoid further work. Instead she accepted them with grace, forming a life that allowed her to do the most good despite her constraints.

It was the result of her virtues that Bernadette was chosen by God to receive the visions of Our Lady to inspire faith and hope for others for years to come.  It helped her convert many people in her short life, and also to prepare herself for a joyous life in heaven.  Through Mary and the visions, Jesus established a relationship with Bernadette, and helped her to serve and heal just as he had done.

Through her life and examples, St. Bernadette taught us:

  • Have COURAGE.  Be OBEDIENT.   Be HUMBLE.   Live a life of FAITH
  • Live a life of PRAYER and SACRIFICE
  • Hold firm to the convictions directed toward God
  • Be an instrument of service
  • Do all that you can in your circumstances

The spirit of St Bernadette is founded on the values of kindness, honesty and respect. Today, these should be reflected in all our relationships; and the way in which all of us treat each other and our children.

St Bernadette is not just the name of our Parish; it is in essence our IDENTITY and LEGACY.  She has shown us by her beautiful examples how to live life, and become Saints in our own way.  When we walk through the entrance of our church, we should be endeared to her virtues, her humble service, and path to our God.  Let us celebrate our Patron Saint’s life with Joy and Pride this year, and for years to come.  And let us try to follow her examples. 

During one of her visions at Lourdes, Bernadette was told  “to drink of the water of the spring, to wash in it, and to eat the herbs that grew there,” as an act of Penance. There was no water in the area visible, but Bernadette dug at a spot anyways, and found mud.  She then did as told, and washed in it.  People watching thought she was mentally ill, and needed help.  However, to everyone’s surprise, the next day at the grotto the muddy spring had become a clear spring of water, quite evident and flowing.

The first documented miracle with the water occurred at the site in 1858 when 38 year old Catherine Latapie, a farmer’s wife and mother of 4, felt a sudden urge to travel to Lourdes for healing.  Two years prior she had fallen from a tree and severely injured her right hand, and in particular two fingers were entirely paralized.  Catherine who wasn’t very devout, met Bernadette at the Grotto and simply dipped her hand in the spring that had formed there.  Immediately the paralysis in the fingers was gone, and she could move them just as before the accident.  She joined her hands and gave thanks to Mary.

One of the more recent proclaimed and publicized cure was that of singer Shakira. The Colombian-born artist experienced voice problems (throat hemorrhage)  in 2017. This resulted in cancellation of concerts and her tour; and put her in a deep depression. She tried meditation and hypnosis which didn’t help.  Doctors told her she needed surgery which she was against.  Her singing was her identity; and she felt it was over.  In 2018, Shakira went to the sanctuary of Lourdes where she had a spiritual experience. Soon after she was able to sing again. For Shakira and those around her, this recovery and return to the stage was miraculous. Did her Faith restore her ?

The Lourdes Commission that had examined Bernadette after the Visions ran extensive analysis on the water and found it had high mineral content, but nothing out of the ordinary to account for the cures and healing attributed to it.  Bernadette maintained throughout that it was ‘Faith and Prayer’ that cured the sick.  “One must have Faith and Pray.  The water will have no virtue without Faith”.

Bernadette used the water throughout her care ministry; but always with the same words to all, that Faith and Prayer cure and heal with the water.  Over 160 years the water has been attributed to 70 documented miracles and over 7000 healings, all to which the Catholic Church could find no other explanation.

If we interpret Bernadette’s words properly, we understand that the main virtue of the Lourdes water lies in the Faith that believers have in it, and in the sanctuary of Lourdes itself, where they recognize a divine intervention.  The water itself is not a medicine.

In 1909 Bernadette’s body was exhumed.  The Bishop and church representatives found her crucifix and rosary were both oxidized, but her body Incorrupt  (preserved from decomposition). The body was practically mummified, with skin still present on most parts of her body.  This was cited as yet another miracle from her faith, her apparitions, and the water she washed in that further supported her canonization.  She was then washed and re-clothed and reburied in a new double casket.

Unbelievably the body was exhumed again by the church in 1925; still in a state of perfect preservation of skeleton, muscle and ligament; and with a soft liver that should have been hard or decomposed years before.  A truly unnatural phenomenon.  

She was finally laid to rest in the chapel of the convent of Nevers.  

She died in pain, while praying the rosary; and in keeping with her Penance, Penance, Penance, she proclaimed  “all this is good for Heaven.”

Her final words at death were  “Blessed Mary, Mother of God, Pray for me”.  

In these trying times, it is wise for us to get back to basics; and reflect on the great gift we have been given, as Christians, through the examples and lives of the Saints. They are important to us because:

  1. They are Real.  They lived real lives on earth.
  2. They struggled with the same problems we do; and even much worse
  3. The Saints are our heavenly helpers.
  4. The messages and teachings from the Saints are timeless and timely
  5. The words and actions of the Saints are an authority on how we should live
  6. The Saints are the best role models for Sanctity  (quality of being holy and saintly)
  7. Establish a relationship with our Saints and they will be with us and help us

God gave us the Saints as our brothers and sisters, to inspire us, to protect us, and to intercede for us.  The keeping of the ‘Saints Feast Days’ is a keenly authentic form of Catholic spirituality.  It should be a special place in our hearts.

The Saints are a beacon in a darkening world, lighting the way for all of us.  Enrich your faith by deepening your friendship with your patron Saint.  They have so much to teach us if we listen to their words, and learn from their actions that made them Saints.

We share in all the graces won by the Saints; and they share in the Lord’s desire for us to reach Heaven.  They are one of the greatest treasures of our church.  They are our inheritance.

Indeed the Saints not only teach us that we should lead holy lives, but they show us how.  The church places their conspicuous virtues before us, so that by cultivating a friendship with a Saint, through prayer and learning about them, we can grow in our understanding of how they managed to live good lives in the face of all the temptations, and discouragement that the people of their own ages must have endured.  That is why it is so valuable for us to celebrate and observe their ‘Saints’ days.  We need their good examples and their prayers in our lives.

It is incumbent on each of us to commemorate in our own way, those Saints who have had a special influence in our lives, or who have won a special place in our hearts.  And when we honor one of the Saints, we honor God, and grow in our love for him at the same time.

By following the celebration suggestions, you can allow the holy spirit to work and to promote the power of your patron Saint before the throne of God.  The communion of Saints binds together the Blessed of heaven, the holy Souls in purgatory, and the Faithful on earth.

Christian tradition clearly shows us the way to open a window into heaven. If we place the saints in our home and church; honor and pray with them (especially on their feast days);  and turn to them for guidance or help in our lives, however great or small, we can experience their blessed protection, healing, and intercession. 

Lady of Lourdes  (Immaculate Mary)  Prayer for Healing:

Lord, look upon me with eyes of mercy, may your healing hand rest upon me, may your life giving powers flow into every cell of my body and into the depths of my soul, cleansing, purifying, restoring me to wholeness and strength for service in your Kingdom. Amen.

PPC of St Bernadette Parish


To further enjoy the ‘Celebration of St Bernadette’ this year, we invite you to pray the 9-Day St. Bernadette Novena, in the quiet reflection and warmth of your home, and with your family.

The Novenas are based on her actual quotes, and are the same prayers that she prayed.   

Pray the Novena and offer your personal intentions to: help those suffering from illness, help the poor, protect those ridiculed for their piety. and to help the Shepherds of mankind.  

Your life will truly be enriched by this experience and learning more about St Bernadette.

The Novena can be found at either of the websites below, or by just searching the internet for St Bernadette Novena.  If you still need further help, please contact the Parish Office.

For More info