The State of Virginity

The State of Virginity
I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided. The virgin - indeed, any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has the cares of this world to absorb her and concerned with pleasing her husband. I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


In 1848, Claire Casterot (Bernadette's grandmother), decided to leave Boly Mill and go to live with her eldest daughter who was then married. She took her other children with her. Because of the strained relationship between Francois Soubirous (Bernadette's father) and his in-laws and overcrowding in the mill, this was probably the best solution for them. But without Claire Casterot's experience and being too accommodating with their customers, Francois and Louise (Bernadette's mother) soon encountered financial difficulties. To make matters worse, times were changing and the new steam-powered mills were beginning to threaten their livelihood.

In 1849, Francois was blinded in the left eye in an accident while repairing his millstone. On 4th January 1851, his young son, Jean-Marie died. On 24th June 1854, the Soubirous were forced to leave Boly Mill because they were unable to pay their rent. After a short stay in Laborde House, they leased Baudean Mill but they fared no better at the Baudean Mill. In 1855, a cholera epidemic claimed 38 lives in Lourdes. Bernadette recovered but her illness left her with chronic asthma. In the same year, Claire Casterot died leaving Francois and Louise 900 francs with which they rented the mill at Arcizac. But the harvests that year and the next were bad and Lourdes was struck by famine. Ruined and with two more children to support the family ended up at Rives House, a "miserable shack" but they could not even afford to pay the modest rent. In November 1856, Francois was reduced to penury. He found himself without a stable job, without a house but with a wife and four children to support. He was neither able to feed his family nor to pay his rental. Evicted and homeless, the Soubirous family moved into the Cachot.

This humble dwelling at 5 rue des Petit Fosses has been called the Cachot because it was used as a jail. In 1824, the authorities condemned the building as unfit for human habitation because of its damp, unhealthy condition and lack of security. A builder, Jean Pierre Taillade, bought this building precisely at the time when it was abandoned by the authorities concerned. He left it to his grandson, Andre Sajous, in 1848.

In 1856, his cousin, Andre Sajous, offered the Cachot to Francois rent-free as a temporary refuge. Penniless and homeless, the Soubirous family moved into the Cachot. The only room, 4.4 metres by 4 metres, accommodated the six members of the Soubirous family. The family remained in their temporary home until July 1858 when Father Peyramale rented the Lacade Mill for them. This was the harshest representation of the family's misery.

In order to survive, the whole family had to work. Francois became a day-labourer; Louise (Bernadette's mother) washed clothes or worked as a farm-hand in order to earn some money. Bernadette looked after her brothers and sister, collected bones and scrap iron which she sold to the rag-and-bone woman, and even helped in her aunt's tavern. But these meagre sources of income were barely enough to make ends meet. On 27th March 1857, Francois was accused of stealing two sacks of flour and was arrested and imprisoned but was released a week later through lack of evidence. "It was his destitution that made me think that it could have been him," admitted the plaintiff. As a pauper suspected of theft, Francois found it even more difficult to find work. Times were bad and famine raged throughout the whole region.

It was while living in the Cachot that the apparitons occurred. It was from the Cachot that Bernadette went on 11th February 1858 to fetch some firewood at Massabielle with her sister, Toinette, and a friend, Jeanne Abadie. From 11th February 1858 to 16th July 1858 she saw the Holy Virgin 18 times.

The Cachot has been preserved in its original condition. Next to it is a little museum where mementoes of Bernadette are displayed. Here can be found the gilt-covered wooden statue of the Virgin Mary before which Bernadette used to pray when it was in the old parish church of St. Peter.

The Cachot and the little museum next to it are the property of the Sanctuary. The building is looked after by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, the order to which Bernadette belonged. Admission is free. Opening hours: 9.00 am to Noon; 2.00 pm to 7.00 pm.

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