The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Bernadette Soubirous

photograph of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, c.1858; swiped off Wikimedia CommonsArticle

In one of the well-known apparitions of 1858, the ever-blessed Virgin promised that she would make her favored child, Bernadette Soubirous, “happy, not in this world, but in the next.” What Mary promises she surely fulfills. On 13 August 1913, Pius X signed the decree inaugurating Bernadette’s process of beatification. Every one in Rome has the greatest interest in its happy and speedy promotion. After the last apparition, 28 July 1858, Bernadette disappeared altogether from Lourdes. Her work at the pilgrimage was done, her connection with the Shrine was severed and in her after life there are recorded no visions, ecstasies, or the like, but only trials and humiliations. This shows that she had not been an overwrought, wonder-seeking hysteric.

On 8 July 1866, she entered the convent of Saint Gildard of the Sisters of Charity at Nevers. Here she was to be known as Sister Mary Bernard. We may easily understand that she was universally treated with a certain esteem and reverence. But she was not in the least moved by it. On the contrary, she was always rather painfully affected when friends came to see her. She never believed that on account of the heavenly favors accorded her she was entitled to any prerogative above her sisters. All of them were deeply touched by her humility and modesty. God had sent her to the school of the cross that she might learn her own littleness and that her character might be purged of all the imperfection that might cling to it. The Blessed Virgin had not promised her a happy life in this world. Yet there have been probably very few who have enjoyed so profound a peace of mind and so genuine a joy as Bernadette. She died in her thirty-fifth year on 16 April 1879, at Nevers, quite forgotten.

Of the exhumation of her body, 22 September 1909, an eye-witness relates:

“Not the least trace of corruption nor any bad odor could be perceived in the corpse of our beloved sister. Even the burial dress was intact. The face was somewhat brown, the eyes slightly sunken and she seemed to be sleeping. The damp funeral garments were exchanged for new ones. The body was placed in a new zinc coffin lined with white silk. Within it was placed a record enclosed in a glass tube, and giving an account of the opening of the coffin and of the condition of the body. After this the coffin was again deposited in the mortuary chapel in our garden.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Constantine Kempf, SJ. “Bernadette Soubirous”. The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, 1916. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 March 2018. Web. 21 February 2019. <>