On 11 February 1858 she was collecting scraps of wood on the bank of the River Gave, near Lourdes, when she was granted a vision of the Virgin Mary. She showed people the cave in which Mary had appeared. Most of them mocked her but from 18 February until 4 March Bernardette continued to see and talk with the Blessed Virgin each day. Crowds gathered, drawn by her reports and by the mysterious appearance of a spring. Then on 25 March another vision of Mary told Bernardette that she must build a chapel at the place where the appearance took place.
Today this spot is one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in the world for the waters of the spring seem to have miraculous healing properties. Bernardette's lifelong ambition had been to become a Carmelite nun herself, but for many years her general ill-health, particularly her asthma, prevented this. Then, in 1966, she joined the sisters of Notre Dame at Nevers. She refused to return to Lourdes even in 1876 went the great basilica there was consecrated.
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