Bernadette, On Earth as it is in Heaven

Artful Writing

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


Artful Writing

Saint Josephine Bakhita

“As the Master desires,” Josephine Bakhita would say her lifelong. At age 9 taken in slavery from her Darfur Sudan home and brought to Italy, Josephine encountered her ‘Divine Master’ through much cruel human trafficking…her back scarred with over 100 blows.  In her words:

“Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself, “Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?  I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage.”

Her gentleness, sweet voice and love of children  eventually gained her freedom, became a Canossian nun, died in 1947 and was canonized a saint in 2000.

…today is a noble remembrance of her sacrificial life…

…most appropriate for Black Heritage Month…


The Church of Saint Gonsalo Garcia in Vasai, India

Today we honor the life of Gonsalo Garcia, the first native Indian saint born near Mumbai of a Portuguese father and Indian mother.  At 24 he followed the Jesuits catechizing the Japanese for 8 years until in 1597 a persecution of foreigners imperiled his life along with Saint Paul Miki and Companions.  All were forced to march to Nagasaki to their executions on crosses.  On their arrival, Gonsalo asked:  “Is this mine?”  He was the first to be lanced to death.


The faith of Martyrs is best explained by Saint Augustine (+430) when he wrote:

“You must love in order to be victorious.  There is no lack of persecution.  The devil is always the persecutor…Why have I said all this…That when you celebrate the birthdays of the martyrs you may imitate the martyrs…even nowadays there is no lack of daily persecutions…All you have to do is remember you have a commander who has already preceded you in heaven…trust in him who gave you the strength to win, because he himself won the victory over the world.”

Whatever our daily trials may be, let us be brave to have the faith of the Martyrs…because LOVE is victorious!

Gracia1Saint Gonsalo Garcia of India, Pray for us



Red Hills and White Shell by Georgia O’Keefe


These bold, crisp, curvy splashes of rose coral, yellow and creamy beige strokes are like hot lava spewing out of the ground, leaving a fiery glow above the molten rocks.  How surprisingly Georgia O’Keefe inspires me to write about this painting especially after saying:

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”

Looking deeper into the ‘Red Hills and White Shell,’  I see myself walking through poppy fields plucking each petal as they evaporate with the likes of hot summer breezes in Provence.  As I cocoon deeper into the shell, as when in my mother’s warm womb, I sense mother was preparing and protecting me from the world I would eventually encounter.   Georgia’s words and art cajole my heart when she further explains:

“I find that I have painted my life – things happening in my life – without knowing.”

Georgia’s flaming desert sunset reminds me of my mother’s simmering furnace of love  knowing she is waiting for me as I write my way home.






‘Beckoning the Peace of Wild Things’ Painting by Greg Newbold

of the novelist, poet, cultural critic and farmer

Wendell Berry

Artful Writing

“We may deeply affect a place we own for good or ill, but our lives are nevertheless included in its life, it will survive us, bearing the results.”

Adapted from Berry’s essay The Long-Legged House (1969)