Monday, February 11, 2008

My Nameday!

St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes

Today celebrates the 150th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France!

It was on this date, February 11th, 1858, that a beautiful lady appeared to a poor and sickly girl in a cave on the outskirts of a small town in France. The girl's name was Bernadette, the oldest of the five surviving children of Francois and Louise Soubirous. The site may have been about the least likely of places for a heavenly visitation; the cave at Massabielle was used as a dump, a poor place even for Bernadette and her companions to gather the firewood they were seeking. Nevertheless, it was here that the Blessed Mother, whose identity remained a mystery at first, chose to appear to a simple French peasant. Though St. Bernadette saw Our Lady 18 times in all, and asked her three times to tell her name, it was on the Feast of the Anunciation, March 25th of the same year, that "the damiezelo" or "Aquero" (as Bernadette called her) answered Bernadette's curiosity, saying:

"I am the Immaculate Conception."

Above: The only known photo of Bernadette at the Grotto, taken
several years after the apparitions.

In this way, Our Blessed Mother affirmed the title of the Immaculate Conception, a dogma which had only recently been declared by the Church.

In participating in giving glory to the Father in Heaven through this understanding of the Virgin Mary's particular worthiness to be the Mother of God, Bernadette began her path to sanctity.

And it was not an easy path.
St. Bernadette, though chosen perhaps for her extreme simplicity to carry the message of the Immaculate Conception, struggled like we all do to perfect her soul during her short 36 years. The critical eye of the public and the skeptical eye of the Church were harsh upon her from the first moment the world heard of the apparitions. Hers was also a naturally stubborn temperament, and Bernadette often battled to keep her temper against the constant distracting onslaught of curiosity seekers.

When she became a nun at the convent of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, France, (at 22 years old), the cynicism and persecution continued. She had always suffered from severe athsma and continued to suffer from poor health, but she suffered especially under the strict discipline and criticism of her superiors at the convent. Maybe God ordained this difficulty to perfect her soul in humility. Perhaps it was the devil determined to break this humble messenger of Our Lady. One way or another, it's certain that Bernadette did achieved heights of holiness because of or in spite of it all ~ and certainly with the help of her "Beautiful Lady."

On April 16, 1879, after a long and painful fight against tuberculosis, Bernadette died in the odor of sanctity and passed easily through the rigorous trials and examinations of the canonization process of the Church at the time. She was beatified in 1925 and canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1933.
Her body is one of the few God has allowed to remain incorrupt. Though her features have been covered with a thin veil of wax, the body of St. Bernadette is whole and entire today, 139 years after her death.
So, I selfishly claim two namedays ~ today as the feast of the Apparition and April 16th, which is St. Bernadette's actual feast day. I'm very proud that my middle name is Bernadette. My parents got to go to the shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Lourdes when my mother was pregnant with me. They were both so moved by their visit there that the only shadow dimming the trip was the trouble of figuring out a first name for the baby (me) to go with Bernadette. (I think they were not keen on Bernadette for a first name because they were sensitive to the fact that it would be unusual and difficult to spell). Anyway, this is a big feastday in my world! The 150th Anniversary! I just wish it were not occuring during Lent. I'm sure St. Bernadette and the Blessed Mother will be very happy if we just try to spend the day observing the season as perfectly as we can. But, I still yearn to make an angel food cake or something in celebration!

Ah, well.
Instead, for the next week, I'll post exerpts from my little book: The Personal Notes of Bernadette Soubirous. The book doesn't distinguish which are her own thoughts and which are quotations she copied down, but we know everything Bernadette wrote in her personal journal had special meaning for her and must have been helpful to her on the path to sanctity.

Quotes for the Feast of the Apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette:

Often meditate on the sufferings that Mary our dear Mother, endured at the foot of the Cross to which her dear Son was nailed; how deep must have been the sorrow of Mary's sensitive heart seeing that dear body bruised with blows, the torn flesh, the blood flowing from all parts of that sacred body!

Any other woman than Mary would have collapsed in the presence of such cruel suffering; it is only right that such a good Mother should be named the valiant woman, since she stands at the foot of the cross where Our Lord commends us in the person of St. John to his Mother, saying to her: "Woman, this is your son, and you, Son, this is your Mother."

O Mary, it was in the depth of sorrow, of trial that you became my Mother, I must therefore have great and entire trust in you; when going through trials from creatures and when my soul is exposed to temptation and desolation, I shall come and find refuge in your heart, my dear Mother, and I shall implore you not to let me perish, but to grant me the grace to be resigned and trustful in trial, and following your example to suffer with love. May I, like you, remain at the foot of the cross and nailed to the cross, should such be the will of your dear Son.

A child devoted to Mary can never perish; my dear Mother, have pity on me; I give myself entirely to you so that you will give me to your dear Son whom I want to love with all my heart.

(From notes taken during a retreat in 1874)
Holy Mass at the Grotto

Where Our Blessed Mother Appeared to St. Bernadette

View more pictures of St. Bernadette here.


Eileen said...

Happy feast day! Beautiful story and meditation, thank you.

Your mention of subdued celebration reminded me of how, a couple years ago, my birthday fell on Ash Wednesday.

We had all my "favorite" non-meat fasting foods. Yum.

And I started off that Lenten season a little bit grumpy...and was rewarded a year or two later with a birthday on the Friday after Ash Wednesday.

This time, I enjoyed all my "favorite" non meat foods, without the restriction imposed by fasting. Oh, joy.

Messing with my food never goes over well with me!!! Which is why there was probably a lesson or two in there that just sailed right over my head...

Definitely a work in progress here....(!) You seem to be handling it so much better! ;)

Marie said...

Bernadette was so beautiful. I must oneday buy the DVD movie with Jennifer Jones.

I also loved the painting of the apparition, how very beautiful. Oneday hopefully I will get to Lourdes...oneday...

Thankyou for sharing your love of Lourdes with us all:).

Peace to you:)


GrandmaK said...

Well, sister in Christ you and I have yet another thing in common. My confirmation name is Bernadette. The only difference is I was able to choose mine. It is so wonderful to reflect on how Christ and his Mother do indeed choose those who are humble, poor in earthly wealth, and with little formal education. The apparitions are not given to the rich, "wise" or powerful! Have a grand day in celebration of Christ among us in His saints!!

Bia said...

Oh what a beautiful post! I hadn't realized that it is the 150th anniversary. While I have never been to Lourdes, my Nonna went a couple of times and always returned very moved.

And I think celebrating with an angel food cake is a great idea.

I was moved by Bernadette's journal entry when she writes of the suffering of Mary...I have always wondered how Mary could have stood at the cross and watch her son suffer.

Anyway, happy feast day, and God bless!

Laura said...

You saved me...I have a priest coming into my class today to chat with the kids and they are NOT prepped to discuss this like they should be. AND I KNOW IT WILL BE HIS FIRST TOPIC! I have printed out your post to bring to recess duty with me so I can talk with them about it before the guest speaker!!!
You have made my day!!
P.S. I had chosen Bernadette as a confirmation name but one of my brothers (I believe) teased me and I changed it. I still wish it were Bernadette...

Marie said...

Bernadette is a beautiful name. I read a biography of St. Bernadette, one that I think you mentioned on here once.

Lisa said...

Eileen, thank-you! Two of my boys' birthdays always fall in Lent and it's such a bumme...I mean good opportunity to sacrifice! Since we fast and partially abstain throughout Lent, we celebrate on the closest Sunday, though, and nobody's disowned us yet. &:o) It does make it a challenge, though!~

Marie ~ She is a beautiful saint, inside and out, all ways. We watched Song of Bernadette today, and as always, it made me cry. Jennifer Jones was so good in it! (I didn't like her in "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, though...)

Cathy ~ Happy nameday to you today, too, then! To know her is to love her isn't it? Or I should say "them" because to love St. Bernadette is to love the Blessed Mother!

Bia ~ Wouldn't you have loved to have been in Lourdes today on the 150th anniversary?! The video I found that I posted showed a fair crowd at the candlelight procession, but it's got to have been crowded to the ends of the city tonight in Lourdes! I'm going to look for a video of tonight's celebration and try ot post it.

Marie ~ It is a beautiful name! I wouldn't have minded at all if my parents had given it to me for a first name. I turned out to be a pretty good speller and was ornery, regardless. Can't wait to hear your baby name choices!

Lisa said...

Laura ~ I'm so happy this might have been useful to your class! You'll have to tell us how they did!

Renee said...

Lovely post! Can you just imagine "being there" when the mass in the photo was shown? Oh so beautiful and oh so Holy! Thank you for this special post.