Bernadette, the oldest of four children, lived in Lourdes, a town in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains in France. Her father had been financially ruined and the family lived in a small room in a building that was once the town jail. Here, in Bernadette’s own words, is an account of how the apparitions began:
First of all, let me say it is a great joy for this paper to be presented at the site of Our Lady’s apparitions to St. Bernadette in 1858, wherein she revealed herself to be the Immaculate Conception. It is especially fitting since the basic premise of this paper on Our Lady’s coredemption in the three apparitions of Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima is that these apparitions reveal that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Motherhood of God the Son, and of us, is not meant to be construed by us as a mere sentimental abstraction. Rather, heaven wishes to convey to us in these apparitions that Mary’s Motherhood of God and her spiritual Motherhood of us are at the very heart of the Blessed Trinity’s work of redemption of the entire created order. In other words, the Divine Maternity of God the Son and the spiritual maternity of you and me are, in their very nature and essence, coredemptive. Our Lady is Co-redemptrix because she is Mother of God the Son, the Divine Redeemer of the entire created order. She is likewise Co-redemptrix because she is the true Mother of all the living because Jesus Christ, her Divine Son, is Life himself and the Divine Savior of all humanity.
Let us begin by considering what is now commonly meant among orthodox Catholics by Marian coredemption and the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Co-redemptrix. The literal meaning of the word coredemption is that there is redeeming activity at work "alongside" or "with" that of the Redeemer in the mystery of our redemption. The title, Co-redemptrix, specifically signifies that the one operating alongside the Redeemer is a woman. We know from Gen. 3:15 that this woman is the promised Woman whose seed will crush Satan and his effects in the created order. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (1). The woman whose seed was destined to crush the head of Satan from all eternity can be none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, the very Mother who conceived and gave birth to God the Son as Incarnate, virginally.
Immaculate Mary and Bernadette Soubirous
In these months we are honoring two special vocations in God’s plan of salvation—the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary and one of her special protégés, Bernadette Soubirous.
The solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8, and honors the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without original sin. February 11 is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the date of the first appearance of Our Lady to Bernadette. April 16 is the feast day of St. Bernadette.
In 2008 we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions at Lourdes, where she identified herself to St. Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception. In 2004 we observed the 150th anniversary of Bl. Pope Pius IX’s solemn definition of this dogma on December 8, 1854. Bl. Pius IX explained that Mary was preserved from original sin by a “singular grace and privilege” given her by God “in view of the merits of Jesus Christ,” Redeemer of the human race. Mary, like every other human being, needed the redemptive benefits of Christ. But in anticipation of what God did for all through Christ, she alone was preserved from original sin “from the first moment of her conception.” As one writer asserted, hers was a “redemption by exemption.” By her Immaculate Conception she was conceived in the fullness of grace, in the state of closest possible union with God in view of her future role as the Mother of the Redeemer. [...]