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Bernadette was the daughter of François Soubirous, a miller, and the oldest of six children; they lived in hard poverty. At the age of fourteen, in 1858, Bernadette saw the first of eighteen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at a rock called Massabielle in Lourdes. Mary told Bernadette to drink from the spring that flowed under the rock. The other content of Bernadette's visions was simple, and focused on the need for prayer and penance.
Bernadette was a sickly child; she suffered most of her life from tuberculosis, and some of the people who interviewed her following her revelation of the visions thought her simple-minded. But despite being rigorously interviewed by officials of both the Roman Catholic Church and the French government, she stuck consistently by her story.
Still, disliking the attention she was attracting, she became a nun in the Sisters of Notre Dame de Nevers, in whose convent she spent the rest of her brief life. She eventually died of her illness at the age of thirty-five. She took no notice of the development of Lourdes as a pilgrimage shrine, and was not present for the consecration of the basilica there in 1876.
She was canonized in 1933, not so much for the content of her visions, but rather for her simplicity and holiness of life. One miracle that was cited in support of the cause for her sainthood was that her body was exhumed and found to be "incorrupt" --- preserved from decomposition, perhaps by supernatural means. It was transferred to a reliquary in her shrine. Her life was given a fictional treatment in Franz Werfel's novel The Song of Bernadette, which later was made into a motion picture.