Skip to Content

The time of trial

Bernadette Soubirous temps des epreuves

In November 1844, Louise burnt herself and was no longer able to feed Bernadette who had to be sent to a foster mother outside Lourdes in the village of Bartres.

Bernadette stayed in Bartres for about 18 months. The separation was not just painful; it was also expensive (5 francs per month). In April 1845, the first sorrow hit the Soubirous in the form of the death of their second child, Jean at the age of 2 months. Then things began to go badly in the mill. François was a good man and was never in a hurry about being paid, especially by his poorest customers.

New events take place in 1850 when the health of Bernadette worsened: she suffered from asthma as well as with her stomach and spleen. Then, the father of Bernadette injured in his left eye when it was struck by a chip that flew off while repairing a mill stone. In 1854, when Bernadette was 10, the family had to move. Bernadette was forced to leave her "mill of happiness"

Furniture was transported to the Laborde house and her father started to seek precarious work to provide food for his four children. From being a miller, François Soubirous became a manual worker. Louise also began working: housework, washing and agricultural work.

During the autumn of 1855, cholera struck Lourdes. Bernadette was not spared. Her delicate health since the age of six became worse and the asthma would always be with her.

The death of grandmother Castérot helped the financial situation. They were able to buy some animals and rent the Sarrabeyrouse Mill in Arcizac-ez-Angles. But the contract that François signed was to ruin him.

During the winter of 1856-57 the Soubirous decided to have one less mouth to feed and Bernadette was taken in by Aunt Bernarde to work in her bar.

One of the important things for Bernadette in her daily life was her faith. She knew nothing about the catechism, but that did not stop her being brought up as a Christian. She knew the "Our Father" in French as well as the "Hail, Mary". She always carried her rosary beads.

At the beginning of 1857, because of unemployment, the Soubirous were evicted from the Rives household and had to find refuge in the Cachot, a dark room of 3.72m by 4.40m. In 1856, their descent into misery continued and starvation was on the horizon.

On 27th March 1857, the police visited the Cachot. They took François away with them as a thief. Two sacks of flour had been stolen from the Maisongrosse Bakery. He accused François Soubirous of taking them.

In September 1857 Bernadette returned to the home of her foster-mother, Marie Lagües, to help the family a little. In the evening her foster-mother gave her some rudimentary lessons in the catechism. Bernadette was not happy being away from homer so she returned to the Cachot on 17th January 1858. To continue learning her catechism she went to the Sisters in the Hospice.