Bernadette

The word 'SAINT' generally means someone whose life on earth is over and who is now in God's company in heaven. This person may have stepped away from God's will at times as we all do. This is someone who is human like us, but who has tried to say 'yes' to God the way Mary did. This is someone whose whole life was a 'Yes' to God, instead of a 'No'! We honour all saints- every member of the Church wants to live the life that Christ expects of us.

Bernadette was born in 1844 and died 1879. She was the daughter of Francois Soubirous, a miller, and was the oldest of six children, who lived in acute poverty. When she was 14 years of age, in 1858, she experienced, in the space of six months a series of eighteen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the rock of Massabielle, Lourdes. The Virgin revealed herself as, 'The Immaculate Conception', asked that a chapel be built on the site of the vision, and also told Bernadette to drink from a fountain in the grotto. No fountain was to be seen, but when Bernadette dug at a spot indicated to her, a spring began to flow. The water is still flowing from this spring and shows remarkable healing power.

The visions contained simple messages. They were principally concerned with the need for prayer and penance. Since then, Lourdes has become the most famous modern shrine of Our Lady.

Bernadette was a frail, sick child who suffered from asthma. She led an ordinary simple life. Some people thought her stupid. But she was very courageous and always told the truth. At the time of the apparitions, she was subjected to a series of searching interrogations by the clergy and by minor state officials: from all these she emerged with her story unshaken. However, she suffered considerably from publicity and curiosity. Eventually, in 1866 she entered the convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Nevers, where she then spent the rest of her days. She died at the young age of thirty-five after many years of illness which she bore heroically.

When Lourdes became a famous shrine for pilgrimage, Bernadette was cut off from it and she was not present at the consecration of the basilica in 1876. The only magnificent and extraordinary time in her life was during the months when she witnessed apparitions; before and after that her life was very ordinary.

On 8 December 1933, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Bernadette was declared a Saint by Pope Pius XI. Around her shrine are inscribed the words of the great promise made to her at Lourdes by the Most Blessed Virgin, and fulfilled by Her:

"I do not promise that you will be happy in this world, only in the next."

Her feast day is on April 16th, but often, in France, on February 18th. Bernadette led a simple life with few pleasures. She was a delicate child and frequently ill, but she still led a life of hope, trust, simplicity, courage and integrity that made her grow closer to God. Because Our Lady appeared to Bernadette in Lourdes people go there to find hope in their lives. Bernadette had hope and this is what she gives to others that visit Lourdes every year.

She was not perfect, but she let God direct her life and because of her courage and hope she is an example to us. It is known that miracles have occurred in Lourdes. From hearing about these miracles, people are quite rightly given hope and it was one lady who gave people that hope, and she is deserves to be called Saint Bernadette.

Let us all welcome the Millennium with hope and let hope be in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Thank you for the loving example that you have shown us, Bernadette, may your hope live on in every ones' heart.

Jocelyn Krajewska Year 9
St. Michale's Convent School,
Barnet, London.