Feast of St. Bernadette of Lourdes (April 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bernadette

Image in the Public Domain




Also known as Marie-Bernarde Soubirous and Sister Marie-Bernard

French feast day = February 18

Marie-Bernarde Soubirous, informally known as Bernadette, was an illiterate peasant girl of Lourdes, France, when her reality changed.  Our saint, born on January 7, 1844, was the eldest daughter of Louise Soubirous and Francois Soubirous, a miller.  Her health was fragile; asthma prevented her from attending school more often than she did.  From February 11 to July 16, 1858, at the Massabielle Rock, St. Bernadette, just 14 years old, experienced 18 visions and received messages from a woman who identified herself as the Immaculate Conception.  This changed not only our saint’s life, but the lives of countless people.  St. Bernadette, initially unaware of the meaning of that term, learned from a priest that this was St. Mary.

[Aside:  Contrary to common, theologically illiterate misunderstanding, the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth are different.  The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of St. Mary without original sin, so she would be a fit vessel to become the Mother of God.  I recall hearing certain Protestant ministers as well as lay people confusing the Immaculate Conception for the Virgin Birth.  One should, when in doubt theologically, consult a catechism for definitions of terms.  Also, although the status of the Immaculate Conception, as a dogma, dates to 1854, the idea, as a doctrine, dates to the Patristic Era.]

St. Bernadette, always honest and never self-seeking, had to overcome opposition from her family, local priests, and civil authorities.  Some considered our saint to be too stupid to have had such an experience.  In being consistent in her story, was St. Bernadette being obstinate?  Certain authorities thought so.  The discovery of a healing spring brought blessings to many people and much displeasure to others.  All of these realities made St. Bernadette a center of attention.  This was difficult for her.

The Church, however, eventually sided with the visionary.  In 1862 the diocese declared that the faithful were justified in affirming the reality of the visions.  Fourteen years later Our Lady’s command that a church edifice exist on the location came to fruition with the consecration of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.  In 1901 Church officials consecrated the larger Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Furthermore, Pope Pius XI beatified our saint in 1925 and canonized her eight years later.

St. Bernadette escaped the attention she was getting at Lourdes by going to the convent of the Sisters of Charity at Nevers.  At first she was merely a student at the boarding school, where she finally learned to read and write.  Then, in 1866, our saint became a novice in the order.  As Sister Marie-Bernard St. Bernadette earned her reputation for kindness, holiness, and joyfulness.  Much of the time, however, she was in agony due to tuberculosis of the bone.  She accepted what Our Lady told her:  she would suffer in this world.

St. Bernadette died on April 16, 1879.  She was 35 years old.

Above:  Lourdes, 1890-1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-05297

Lourdes has long been a destination for pilgrims seeking healing.  Documented medical recoveries have occurred, but most healings have been of a spiritual variety.  The terminally ill have left still dying, but at peace with that reality.

Would God work through an illiterate peasant girl to help many people during and after the lifetime?  Why not?  Would the Mother of God appear to a seemingly insignificant person at a garbage dump?  Why not?


Usually I adapt a collect and list readings specified from a liturgical volume.  This time, however, I feature an original collect and list passages of scripture I have selected.

Gracious God, the source of life, healing, and wholeness,

you choose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

Thank you for the scandal of grace evident in many lives,

especially that of your servant Saint Bernadette Soubirous,

and for the continuing legacy of her fidelity to you.

May we, by your grace, also be instruments of your agape in the world.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Samuel 3:1-4:1

Psalm 131

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Matthew 19:13-15





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