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Lourdes France,  Holy Healing Water

Bernadette Soubirous was born on Monday January 7th 1844. She was the first child of Francois and Louise. Bernadette's mother was unable to nurse her after an accident occurred when she was a few months old. Bernadette, therefore, went to live with her foster mother in Bartres. She had two other sisters and six brothers, five of her brothers, however, died before they were ten.

Her father was a miller. He ran the Boly Mill, but tended to give the product away to the poor instead of selling it. This took a toll on the Subirous family and eventually the family was reduced to poverty. There only option was to move into the cachot (a one room abandoned jail).

Bernadette was a very sick girl and nearly died of cholera when she was ten. When she was thirteen her parents sent her back to Bartres. Shortly after her fourteenth birthday, Bernadette returned to Lourdes and began to prepare for her First Holy Communion. Bernadette still could not read or write and didn't even speak French.

It was on February 11th 1858 that Bernadette and her two sisters were out gathering firewood. Bernadette was left behind as her sisters crossed a small stream. She heard a sound like a storm and looking across the stream she saw the apparition for the first time in a grotto at the foot of rock called Massabielle. She saw a lady dressed in white with a blue sash and a yellow rose on each foot. The lady did not speak, but made the sign of the cross. The vision disappeared suddenly.

The lady did not speak until the third time she appeared to Bernadette. She asked Bernadette if she would like to meet her there every day for a fortnight, Bernadette said she would. She told Bernadette to tell the priests to have a chapel built there. Then she told her to drink at the spring. Not seeing one, she went to drink from the stream. The lady told Bernadette that the stream wasn't there, but pointed to a pool of muddy water. Bernadette scraped at the muddy ground and eventually fresh water appeared. She drank some and the vision disappeared.

Bernadette returned every day for a fortnight and on every occasion but for two, the vision appeared. The lady insisted many times that the priests must build a chapel there, and that Bernadette must wash in the spring and that she must pray for sinners. During the fortnight the lady told Bernadette three secrets. Many times Bernadette asked the lady who she was, but she would only smile. Eventually the lady said "Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou" - I am The Immaculate Conception. When asked by the priest if she knew what that meant, Bernadette did not. The phrase had only been applied to Mary four years before and would only be known amongst the clergy, so it was very improbable that an illiterate poor French girl would have heard it.

Thus the local priest came to believe Bernadette's story and later Church investigations have confirmed the apparitions as genuine. There have been numerous miraculous healings reported related to the shrine and especially the water of the spring.

Lourdes became one of the major pilgrimage destinations in the world, and the spring has produced 27,000 gallons of water each week since emerging during Bernadette's visions. She was not involved in the building of the shrine, as she remained hidden at Nevers. Bernadette was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.

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