By Christina Hermoso
The Roman Catholic Church observes on Thursday, April 16, the Feast of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, a well-known Christian mystic and visionary, whose visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858 paved the way for the worldwide devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes.
Marian devotees and pilgrims traditionally visit the Chapel of St. Bernadette in Nevers, France, where she died in 1879, and where her incorrupt body lies. The Marian shrine is visited annually by more than five million pilgrims and tourists.
When she was 14 years old, St. Bernadette had visions of the Blessed Mother at least 16 times from Feb. 11 (now observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes) until July 16, 1858 at the Cave of Massabielle in Lourdes, France. Dressed in white with a blue belt, a rosary in her hands, and two golden roses at her feet, Our Lady, who later introduced herself as the Immaculate Conception, asked St. Bernadette to pray the holy rosary for the conversion of sinners, to build a chapel at the apparition site, and to drink from a spring of miraculous water.
After a canonical investigation, the apparitions were declared as “worthy of belief” by the Vatican. St. Bernadette was canonized by Pope Pius XI on Dec. 8, 1933. She is widely venerated as the patron saint of body illnesses.