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Saint of the week

The Lourdes visionary who expected to be boiled on a grill in Purgatory

St Bernadette (April 16) grew up in the direst extremes of poverty

By on Monday, 16 April 2012

St Bernadette grew up uneducated, undernourished, and asthmatic

St Bernadette grew up uneducated, undernourished, and asthmatic

The eldest of nine children, only four of whom survived childhood, Marie-Bernarde Soubirous (1844-79) was born at Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. After her father, a miller, lost his job in 1854, the family was exposed to the direst extremes of poverty.

“Bernadette” grew up uneducated, undernourished, and asthmatic, obliged to work as a waitress and a farmhand. The little girl spoke in a Basque dialect, and could scarcely read or write. She did, however, imbibe from her parents a deep Catholic devotion.

By 1856 the Soubirous were living in an abandoned prison cell which stank of sewage. On February 11 1858 Bernadette, with her sister, Toinette, and a friend, went to gather firewood. In a grotto beside the river Gave, at a place used as a watering hole for pigs, she saw a vision of a “Lady” wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot.

Bernadette’s companions saw nothing, and she herself wondered whether her experience had been an illusion. Three days later, though, she returned to the grotto, and again saw the apparition.

On February 18, her third visit, the vision spoke for the first time, asking for her presence over the next fortnight. Next day, the Lady instructed Bernadette to tell the priests to build a chapel at the grotto.

Crowds began to gather to witness the phenomenon of the small girl in ecstasy. The police, concerned, interrogated Bernadette, who related her experiences with clarity and conviction.

Local interest quickened after the Lady told Bernadette to drink from a muddy trickle in the grotto. By the morrow the trickle had turned into an active spring.

On March 4, at the end of the prescribed fortnight, a crowd of 10,000 gathered to watch Bernadette. In fact, she would experience three more apparitions, bringing the total to 18. Chivvied by the parish priest, she insisted that the Lady should give her name. “I am the Immaculate Conception,” came the reply, in perfect Basque dialect.

Spectators saw the flames of a candle lick Bernadette’s fingers for a quarter of an hour without producing any effect.

“I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the next,” the apparition had told her.

In 1866 Bernadette entered a convent in Nevers where she suffered much from an unsympathetic mistress of the novices. Her character, however, remained a rare blend of simplicity and strength until, at 35, her frail health finally gave way.

She refused suggestions that she should return to Lourdes. “They think I’m a saint,” she observed. “When I’m dead they’ll come and touch holy pictures and rosaries to me, and all the while I’ll be getting boiled on a grill in purgatory.”

  • Lance Eccles

    Gascon, Bernadette’s native language, isn’t a “Basque dialect”. It bears no relation to Basque.

  • Clfoxcreek

    For further reading, Wikipedia has an interesting entry under “Gascon dialect”, including several good links.

  • Cjkeeffe

    Oh if only we moderns had such a sense of sin we would reform ourselves. The loss of the sense of sin is I think the biggest disease inflicting both the Church and teh world today.

  • Honeybadger

    I understood Bernadette’s dialect was actually Bigourdan!

    The Sisters of St Gildard were instructed to humiliate Bernadette – this was to test her character more than anything - she was a ‘famous’ visionary, after all, as in asking themselves various pertinent questions such as ‘would all this go to her head?’, ‘Will she miss all the fuss and attention?’ and so on and so forth.

    Bernadette (Sister Marie-Bernarde) was neither of these.

    If there was anytime when the world NEEDS Lourdes more than ever, it is NOW! The issues of life, disability, sickness, humanity and faith are highlighted there.

    Please God and His Holy Mother, I’ll return.

  • Drowningfish84

    Ah the days of the Saints and Holy Popes…
    Someday they will return, after the Antipopes fall, and the Apostate Bishops run out of funds.

  • RAF

    FAITH A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE TOLD BY FORMER SEMINARIAN CONFORMS WITH THE CURRENT CHURCH’S VIEWS GOD IS WITHIN US OR AS POPE PAUL 11 SAID WE ARE GOD?
    RELATIVEISM SEEMS TO CREEP IN OUR LIVES.  CHURCH’S VIEW ON THE SANCTITY OF LIFE IS MUCH THE SAME.  THANKS TO http://WWW.VATICANCATHOLIC.COM I NOW KNOW THE TRUTH

  • NDB

     
    So happy to find a true fellow traditional Catholic trying to wake these V2 “Catholics” up.  I’ve been a faithful follower of MHFM for two and a half years now.  All you on here that think V2 is legitimately Catholic need to go to Most Holy Family Monastery as RAF said the address is http://www.vaticancatholic.com.  They are the only ones that defend the true authentic Catholicism which has been blaspehemed and hidden from the world since Vatican 2.  COME THERE AND FIND OUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AFTER VATICAN 2. STOP GOING TO ALL THE NOVUS ORDO COUNTERFEIT MASSES IF YOU WANT TO SAVE YOUR SOUL.  WE HAVEN’T HAD A LEGITIMATE POPE SINCE PIUS XII. EVERY FIGURE HEAD INCLUDING JOHN XXIII AND AFTER HAS BEEN WHAT REAL CATHOLICS CALL AN ANTIPOPE.  GO VISIT THE SITE NOW AND FIND OUT WHAT IT TRULY MEANS TO BE A CATHOLIC AND LEAVE THIS DESOLATE WHORE OF BABYLON.