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Thursday, November 13, 2014
Bernadette and Lourdes
I recently read Franz Werfel's 'Song of Bernadette' and came across an oddity i want to comment on. There is no doubt that Bernadette was in the presence of a light body that never provided a named identity while many light bodies have provided real names that you and i can associate with and often of biblical derivation.
When she did provide her name, she referred to herself as the Immaculate Conception. At the time, the doctrine was promulgated but hardly in common usage at all. Yet it was a clear message to the priest. We do not know if we can make the leap to Mary or simply accept that through the light body, such had happened.
Whatever the interpretation it is clear that the light body directly intervened in 1858 to establish a healing spring that could become a devotional center for Christianity. What better than a legitimate center of miraculous healing. Do observe that the soul must be worthy of such a blessing.
Rather importantly, this occurred at the dawn of the modern era when already plenty could be done to both publicize and prove out the events and that is what happened.
Bernadette and Lourdes - 1858
The apparitions at Lourdes took
place only four years after the proclamation of the dogma of the
Immaculate Conception, in 1854, and given their nature it is only
natural to see a strong link between the two.
On Thursday 11 February
1858, fourteen year old Bernadette Soubirous saw a beautiful young girl
in a niche at a rocky outcrop called Massabielle, about a half mile
outside the town. She was near a wild rose bush and surrounded by a
brilliant light and a golden cloud, smiling, with her arms extended
towards Bernadette, who took out her rosary beads.
When she had finished
praying the rosary the apparition beckoned to her, but Bernadette did
not move and the girl smiled at her before disappearing. She later
described how she had seen a young girl of about her own age and height,
clothed in a brilliant and unearthly white robe, with a blue girdle
around her waist and a white veil on her head.
This was the beginning of a
whole sequence of apparitions, eighteen in all, which occurred during
the spring and early summer of 1858. Mary first spoke to Bernadette on
18 February when she asked her if she would come to the grotto for a
fortnight. Thursday, 25 February, saw a crowd of about three hundred,
and the discovery that was to make Lourdes famous, that of the
miraculous spring in the grotto.
During subsequent apparitions
Mary asked for a chapel and processions, but Fr Peyramale, the local
parish priest, insisted that the Lady would have to reveal her name
before anything could be done about such matters. Early on March 25, the
feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette made her way to the grotto, where
the beautiful Lady was already waiting for her.
Bernadette asked the
Lady her name and after joining her hands at the breast and looking up
to heaven she said, "I am the Immaculate Conception."
Bernadette hurried off toward
the presbytery, repeating the Lady's strange words, so as not to forget
them. She met Fr. Peyramale and left him dumbfounded with the words "I
am the Immaculate Conception"; he realised that the Lady had indeed
answered his request for her name. Although the message of Lourdes was
now complete, Bernadette again saw Mary on the Wednesday after Easter,
April 7, remaining in an ecstasy for about three quarters of an hour.
She was able to receive her
first Holy Communion on the feast of Corpus Christi, and significantly
she saw Mary for the last time from outside the grotto, on 16 July, the
feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Bishop Laurence set up a
Canonical Commission into the apparitions and their cause on July 28.
This body first interviewed Bernadette in mid-November, and was
impressed by her testimony and by a growing number of cures. It was not
until January 1862 though, nearly four years after the apparitions, that
the bishop delivered his verdict on Lourdes in a Pastoral letter, a
verdict that silenced those hostile to Bernadette.
"We adjudge that the
Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, really appeared to Bernadette Soubirous
on February 11th, 1858, and subsequent days, eighteen times in all, in
the Grotto of Massabielle, near the town of Lourdes: that this
apparition possesses all the marks of truth, and that the faithful are
justified in believing it certain. We humbly submit our judgement to the
judgement of the Supreme Pontiff to whom is committed the Government of
the whole Church."
It is extraordinary,
considering its importance, how little was said at Lourdes by Mary. Her
words could certainly be contained on a single side of notepaper.
"It is not necessary." (On being offered pen and paper by Bernadette and asked to write down what she wanted)
"Would you have the graciousness to come here for fifteen days?"
"I do not promise you happiness in this world, but in the next."
"Pray for sinners."
"Go drink at the spring and wash yourself in it."
"Penance! Penance! Penance!"
Bernadette was also told to eat some leaves from a green herb.
"Kiss the ground as a penance for sinners."
"You will tell the priests to have a chapel built here."
A reiteration of
the request for a chapel and a further one that people should come to
the grotto in procession. Mary explained to Bernadette why she had not
seen her because, "there were people here who wanted to see your face in
my presence, and they were unworthy of it. They spent the night at the
Grotto and profaned it." "I am the Immaculate Conception."
Sources: Laurentin, Bernadette of Lourdes,; Deery, Our Lady of Lourdes; de Saint-Pierre, Bernadette and Lourdes.