Why all Christians Should Remember St. Bernadette

Oct 4, 2018   //   by admin   //   Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on Why all Christians Should Remember St. Bernadette

On the 7th January1844 the little town of Lourdes in France bore witness to the birth of a baby girl who would grow up to become one of the more prominent Catholic figures in history.

The world would later come to know Bernadette Soubirous as St. Bernadette. Born the eldest of nine children to a miller Francois Soubirous and his wife, a laundress called Louise she was baptised at the local parish church, St. Pierre’s two days later, the day of her parent’s wedding anniversary.

Desperately poor, the family lived in poverty, squashed into a single tiny room. A sickly child, Bernadette was raised in part by her aunt and had little in the way of formal education, remaining unable to read or write for most of her life.

Her Visions

On 11th February 1858,Bernadette, then aged 14 was our gathering firewood with her sister, and a friend near the grotto of Massabielle (Tuta de Massavielha) when she experienced her first vision. Whist the other girls crossed the small stream in front of the grotto, Marie Bernadette stayed behind, looking for a safe and dry place to cross.

When she finally sat down to take her shoes off, the sound of the wind filed her ears, yet the landscape remained still and calm. She gazed across the horizon and spotted a dark alcove and saw a dazzling light and a white figure.

According to historical accounts, the woman inBernadette’s vision wore blue and white and smiled at her before her hands made the sign of the cross with a rosary and gold. She fell to her knees, took out her own rosary and began to pray.

Three days later,Bernadette and the girls returned to the grotto. Kneeling, she fell into a deep trance. One of her companions threw holy water and another a rock, which is said to have shattered when it hit the ground and disappeared. These have come to be known as the first of 18 visions of what she referred to as a ‘aquero’ or a small, young lady.

Upon her next visit, on 18th February 1858, it was said that the vision of the small, young lady asked Bernadette to return to the grotto every day for a fortnight. This period of almost daily visions came to be known as la Quinzaine sacree or ‘holy fortnight.’ The vision did not identify herself until Bernadette’s seventeenth visit, the townsfolk, intrigued by her experiences, believed her to be witnessing the virgin Mary. Bernadette herself never once claimed this to be the case, only identifying the vision as an ‘aquero.’

A Scientific and Medical Examination of St. Bernadette’s Visions

Unsurprisingly, Bernadette’s visions drew a great deal of attention. The townsfolk were divided in their opinions on whether she was telling the truth. Some believed her to be suffering from a mental illness and demanded that she be admitted to an asylum.

In 1862, after conducting extremely rigorous scientific and medical examinations of the water surrounding the grotto, the Lourdes Medical Bureau failed to find an explanation for the visions, with the church proclaiming them to be inexplicable.

Bernadette requested that the local priest build a chapel on the site of her visions – something that the church acquiesced to. This gave rise to several chapels and churches at Lourdes.  Today, The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is one of the preeminent Catholic pilgrimages in the world.

St. Bernadette’s Time in Nevers

Never entirely comfortable with the attention her vision’s garnered, Bernadette eventually travelled to a hospice school that was run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. Here she learned to read and write.

On 29th July 1866, along with 42 other candidates, she took the religious habit of a postulant (one who is seeking ordination to the diaconate or priesthood) and joined the Sisters of Charity at Nevers.

She spent the rest of her life here, working as an assistant in the infirmary and later as a sacristan, creating beautiful embroidery for altar cloths and vestments. She eventually died at the age of 35 on 16th April 1879 while praying the holy rosary and her body was laid to rest in the Saint Gildard Convent.

The Exhumations of Marie Bernadette Soubirous

Bishop Gauthey of Nevers and the church exhumed the body if Bernadette Soubirous on 22nd September 1909. According to historical accounts, although the crucifix in her hand and her rosary were both oxidized, her body appeared incorrupt – preserved from decomposition. This was cited as one of the miracles to support her canonisation.

The church exhumed her body for a second time on April 3rd 1919. The body was observed to have a notable layer of calcium salts, but the skin was still present on most of the body. In 1925, the church exhumed her body once more. Her personal affects were sent to Rome and a precise imprint of her face was moulded so that the Pierre Imans in Paris could sculpt a wax mask – something that was common practice in France at the time.

Bernadette Soubirous was declared blessed and beatified on 14th June 1925 by Pope Pius XI. She was canonised on 8th December 1933. Today, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is expanded to include several other chapels and churches in honour of St. Bernadette.

The Basilica of St. Pius X is one such holy place and can accommodate up to 25,000 people. Dedicated by the future Pope John XXIII when he was still the Papal Nuncio to France, The Basilica of St. Puis X is one of the more notable pilgrimages Christians the world over take every single year.

buy facebook likes