Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Marie Bernarde Soubirous (Bernadette) was born on January 7 of 1844 in Lourdes - a modest town with a population of 4,135 and a passageway for travelers on their way to the surrounding towns.
Her family lived a very simple life working at the Boly Mill, East of the town, for decades. Her parents endured several financial hardships due to competition from new steam-powered technology and to illness and death in the family.
Unable to pay the rent, her parents were forced to leave the Boly Mill when Bernadette was 10 years old. Their life of poverty continued to worsen and, three years later, they had to move into the Cachot, the punishment cell of a disused prison; a filthy hole that a cousin lent them out of kindness.
In order to help her family make ends meet Bernadette, looked after her siblings while her parents worked. She also collected wood and scrap iron to sell in the market and helped in her aunt’s tavern.
A few months into living in the Cachot life for the Soubirous family was made even more difficult. Bernadette’s father, François Soubirous, was accused of stealing from the bakery. He was arrested, imprisoned and then released a week later due to lack of evidence. Reduced from master-miller to day laborer, Bernadette’s father sent her to work as a farm-girl in the nearby village of Bartrès in the care of family friend Marie Lagües as to make “one less mouth to feed”.
On the farm, Bernadette minded the sheep and did the household chores during the day. In the evening ,Marie Lagües tried to teach her the catechism. Bernadette, who spoke only the local dialect, simply could not remember the answers she had to make in French. More often than not these lessons ended in shouting and tears.
After less than a year at the farm, Bernadette convinced her father to allow her to return to Lourdes. On January 21st of 1858, she began attending the paupers’ class at the hospice run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers.
To be continued...BACK TO LIST