Portal:Saints/Selected biography/May 2008

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Bernadette of Lourdes

Saint Bernadette, born Marie-Bernarde Soubirous (January 7, 1844 – April 16, 1879), was a miller's daughter from the town of Lourdes in southern France. Her real Occitan (close relative language to Catalan) name is Maria Bernada Sobirós, aka Bernadeta (little Bernada). From February 11 to July 16, 1858, she reported eighteen apparitions of "a Lady." Despite initial skepticism from the Catholic Church, these claims were eventually declared to be worthy of belief after a canonical investigation. After her death, Bernadette's body remained incorruptible, and the shrine at Lourdes went on to become a major site for pilgrimage, attracting millions of Catholics each year. On December 8, 1933 she was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church; her Feast Day is celebrated on April 16.

Bernadette (the sobriquet by which she was universally known) was the daughter of François Soubirous (1807 – 1871), a miller, and his wife Louise (nee Castérot) (1825-1866), a laundress, and was the eldest of six children who survived infancy. Louise actually gave birth to 9 children (Bernadette, Jean 1845 – 1845, Jean-Marie 1848 – 1851, Toinette 1846, Jean-Marie b. 1851, Justin 1855-1865, Bernard-Pierre b. 1859, Jean 1864 – 1864 and a baby girl named Louise 1866 – 1866). Bernadette was baptized at the local parish church, St. Pierre[disambiguation needed]'s, on January 9, which was her parents' wedding anniversary. Bernadette's godmother was Bernarde Casterot, her mother's sister. Hard times had fallen on rural France and the family lived in extreme poverty. Neighbours reported that the family lived in unusual harmony, apparently relying on their love and support for one another and their religious devotion.