Bernadette was the daughter of François Soubirous, a miller, and his wife Louise, a laundress, and was the eldest of five children who survived infancy. Bernadette was born on 7 January 1844, and baptized at the local parish church, St. Pierre's, on January 9. Bernadette's poor family lived in a single un-heated room. On 11 February 1858, Bernadette, then aged 14, was out gathering firewood and bones with her sister and a friend at the grotto of Massabielle outside Lourdes, when she had an experience that completely changed her life and the town of Lourdes where she had lived. On this day Bernadette claimed she had the first of 18 visions of what she termed "a small young lady" standing in a niche in a rock. Her sister and her friend stated that they had seen nothing. On her next visit, she said that the "beautiful lady" asked her to return to the grotto every day for fifteen days. At first she told her mother, but she didn’t believe her so she had forbidden her to go, and Bernadette could not persuade her mother to allow her to go. The supposed apparition did not identify herself until the seventeenth vision, although the townspeople who believed she was telling the truth assumed she saw the Virgin Mary, Bernadette never claimed it to be Mary. Bernadette described the lady as wearing a white veil, a blue girdle, and had a golden rose on each foot; she held a rosary of pearls. Bernadette’s story caused a sensation with the townspeople, who were divided in their opinions on whether or not Bernadette was telling the truth. Some believed her to have a mental illness, and demanded she be put in an asylum. She soon had a large number of people following her on her daily journey, some out of curiosity and others who firmly believed that they were witnessing a miracle. The other contents of Bernadette's reported visions were...
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