Bernadette, On Earth as it is in Heaven
One of the many treasures my mother has given me is an original French Paris Match book on Bernadette Soubirous, better known as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, whose feast day is remembered today. Each page holds historic photographs of her life and recounts the 18 apparitions of Our Lady to Bernadette; the place: Lourdes in southern France in 1858. Below are some rare anecdotes translated from the French book.
“My name is Bernadette Soubirous, 14 years old, from Lourdes, neither able to read or write and have not yet made my first communion.”
Bernadette was accustomed to tending to the sheep herd in the nearby prairie, when she once said:
“I’m bored here; please tell my parents to come fetch me, I want to return to Lourdes to attend school.”
That famous day, February 11, 1858 was extremely cold. Her mother exclaimed “go gather some dry lavender twigs” as there was no more firewood. As Bernadette meandered by the river, she noticed a golden glow coming from a rocky hollow, saying: “A lady smiled at me.” This is what Bernadette reported to the village priest and police:
“I cannot explain this occurrence, but I can confirm that this Lady is real, she moves and speaks like us — she was so beautiful! I told the Lady “if you are from God, come again. The Lady responded “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Despite the village mocking her, Bernadette returned to this spot to meet the Lady 18 times. The ‘Lady’ instructed her to eat the grass and scratch the ground, where water sprung. She charged Bernadette to request that the local priest build a chapel at the source. Later in April 1864, a stone statue was erected as the Lady of the Grotto of Lourdes. Bernadette commented:
Ah! this statue is beautiful, but it isn’t her! The difference is: like earth as it is in heaven.”
Drawn by faith, pilgrims began to flock at the grotto receiving healings from drinking and bathing in the holy spring. Millions visit this miraculous site yearly…it’s a voyage to behold.
I was 9 or 10 when I walked this promenade with my grandmother. We took the train from Avignon to the Pyrenees region. She tightly held my hand. We visited all the tourist shops, one I remember well with creaky wooden plank floors flanked by glass cased counters full of souvenirs. And, I can still wear the silver etched roses bangle and the fluorescent blue pinkie ring she gave me from that store! That was the best ever summer vacation I spent with Mame Jane!
Many years later while praying to our Lady of Lourdes, I received an inkling that Mame Jane had consecrated me to Her when I remembered dipping my feet into the pool of miraculous water. From that encounter, I can always return to our precious pilgrimage with grateful contemplation.
Saint Bernadette and Sweet Holy Mary of Lourdes, Pray for us