samedi 18 février 2012

Sainte BERNADETTE SOUBIROUS, vierge, voyante et religieuse



Sainte Bernadette Soubirous

Le 16 avril 1879 s'éteignait à Nevers Sainte Bernadette Soubirous qui y vécut dans le cloître une vie humble et cachée après avoir été dépositaire des révélations de Notre Dame dans son village natal de Lourdes.

SOURCE : http://www.paroisse-saint-aygulf.fr/index.php/prieres-et-liturgie/saints-par-mois/icalrepeat.detail/2015/04/16/6185/-/sainte-bernadette-soubirous

SAINTE BERNADETTE SOUBIROUS

Voyante de Lourdes, et Religieuse à Nevers

(+1879)

Le nom de Bernadette, l'humble et douce privilégiée de la Vierge Immaculée, est inséparable de celui de Notre-Dame de Lourdes (fête le 11 février). La Voyante étant plus connue que la sainte religieuse, nous rappellerons de préférence en ce jour, celle que le Pape Pie XI a béatifiée le 14 juin 1925, sous le nom de Soeur Marie-Bernard, de la Congrégation de Nevers.

C'est huit ans après les apparitions que Bernadette arrivait au couvent de Saint-Gildard, le 7 juillet 1866. On comprend qu'elle y fut un objet de pieuse curiosité, non seulement pour les Soeurs, mais aussi pour les personnes du monde. Toutefois, cette curiosité, quand elle s'en apercevait, ne troublait point son calme et son humilité, tant elle vivait recueillie, tout entière à la pensée de Dieu, de Jésus et de Marie.

Dieu permit que les humiliations ne lui manquassent pas de la part des supérieures. La Sainte Vierge lui avait promis de la rendre heureuse, "non pas en ce monde, mais au Ciel."

Elle eut aussi beaucoup à souffrir des crises d'asthme qui déchiraient sa poitrine. On lui confia successivement les charges d'infirmière et de sacristine. Bientôt, elle n'eut plus qu'un état, celui de victime: victime de pureté, elle avouait ne pas connaître le péché; victime d'humilité, elle se regardait comme "un balai qu'on met dans un coin".

Il fallait l'entendre dire: "Marie est si belle que, quand on L'a vue une fois, on voudrait mourir pour La revoir." Ce bonheur lui arriva le 16 avril 1879. Toute sa vie de religieuse, comme celle de Voyante abonde en traits pleins de charme et d'édification.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.


Sainte Bernadette Soubirous, vierge

Fille aînée d’une famille pauvre de meuniers, Bernadette Soubirous est accueillie en janvier 1858 à l’Hospice de Lourdes, dirigé par les Sœurs de la Charité de Nevers, pour y apprendre à lire et à écrire afin de préparer sa première communion. En février 1858, alors qu’elle ramassait du bois avec deux autres petites filles, la Vierge Marie lui apparaît au creux du rocher de Massabielle, près de Lourdes. Dix huit Apparitions auront ainsi lieu entre février et juillet 1858. Chargée de transmettre le message de la Vierge Marie, Bernadette résistera aux accusations multiples de ses contemporains. En juillet 1866, voulant réaliser son désir de vie religieuse, elle entre chez les Sœurs de la Charité de Nevers à Saint-Gildard. Elle y mène une vie humble et cachée. Bien que de plus en plus malade, elle remplit avec amour les tâches qui lui sont confiées. Elle meurt le 16 avril 1879.

SOURCE : http://www.paroisse-saint-aygulf.fr/index.php/prieres-et-liturgie/saints-par-mois/icalrepeat.detail/2015/02/18/5395/-/sainte-bernadette-soubirous-vierge4


Sainte Marie-Bernard Soubirous, vierge

Petite fille ignorante d’un modeste meunier montagnard, Marie-Bernadette Soubirous fut choisie par la Sainte Vierge pour être témoin des célèbres apparitions, qui, depuis lors, ont conduit en pèlerinage à Lourdes tant de foules chrétiennes. Les apparitions avaient lieu en 1858 ; neuf ans plus tard, Bernadette entrait chez les Soeurs de Charité de Nevers, où elle reçut le nom de Sœur Marie-Bernard. Elle y mena une vie pieuse et simple, et mourut après une longue maladie le 16 avril 1879, à l’âge de 36 ans. Pie XI la canonisa en 1933.

La date du 18 février a été choisie pour sa fête afin d’en faire l’octave de la fête des Apparitions du 11 février. Certains diocèses ont inscrit sa fête le jour de sa naissance au ciel, le 16 avril.



Sainte Bernadette Soubirous [1]

Décret de la S. Congrégation des Rites [2]

sur l'héroïcité de ses vertus

Le 18 novembre 1923 eut lieu dans la salle ducale au Palais du Vatican la cérémonie de lecture solennelle du Décret sur l'héroïcité des verus de la Vénérable Bernadette Soubirous. Cette Cause « intéresse l'univers catholique tout entier » à cause des rapports qui la rattachent au grand fait de Lourdes, et dans une lettre à ses diocésains Mgr. Chatelus, évêque de Nevers, déclare qu'elle est « particulièrement chère au Pape [ancien pélerin de Lourdes], qui en possède tous les détails et en désire le succès ».

Sur cette question : « Est-il bien établi, dans le cas et pour l'effet dont il s'agit, que les vertus théologales de Foi, d'Espérance et de Charité envers Dieu et le prochain, ainsi que les vertus cardinales de Prudence, de Justice, de Force et de Tempérance et leurs annexes, ont été pratiquées à un degré héroïque ? »

Quand on parcourt la vie de la Vénérable Servante de Dieu Sœur Marie-Bernard Soubirous - vie qui s'acheva dans le court espace de trente-cinq ans, - il est impossible, si on examine avec soin et jusque dans le détail la manière de vivre et d'agir de la Vénérable, de n'y pas rencontrer quelques imperfections ou défauts, mêlés aux actes des vertus chrétiennes. C'est pourquoi, afin d'être à même de porter sur la question posée un jugement exact, deux points, semble-t-il, sont à élucider et à résoudre. Premièrement : La preuve de l'héroïcité des vertus pratiquées par Soeur Marie-Bernard ressort-elle suffisamment et légitimement des faits ? Deuxièmement : Cette preuve ne souffre-t-elle aucun préjudice de la présence desdites imperfections ?

Enfance de Bernadette.

Pour reprendre les choses d'un peu plus haut dans l'histoire de notre Vénérable, nous la voyons d'abord naître dans un humble village de montagne, de parents pieux, et de modeste condition, bientôt contraints de subir tous les inconvénients de la pauvreté. L'enfant n'en fut naturellement pas exempte : de là cette santé débile dont elle eut à souffrir dès ses premières années. Néanmoins, à peine son âge le lui permet-elle, qu'elle n'hésite pas à entrer en service et à garder les troupeaux pour subvenir selon son pouvoir aux besoins de sa famille et venir en aide à ses parents.

On comprend qu'au milieu des occupations de la vie des champs la jeune fille n'eut guère le moyen de corriger ce que pouvait avoir d'un peu rude sa nature d'enfant de la montagne. Cependant, sans avoir reçu aucune éducation humaine, elle faisait de surprenants progrès dans la pratique de toutes les vertus domestiques et surpassait les jeunes filles de son âge et de sa condition par son ardeur pour la piété et son zèle à apprendre la doctrine chrétienne, l'Oraison dominicale, la Salutation angélique, le Symbole et les autres prières. C'était un bonheur et un charme de la voir et de lui parler ; son visage, sa conversation, toute sa démarche respiraient cette candeur d'âme naïve, fruit de la simplicité et de l'innocence, et toute entière fondée sur l'humilité. C'est pourquoi Dieu, « qui choisit ce qui est faible en ce monde pour confondre ce qui est fort » (I Cor, I 27), a élu cette jeune enfant pauvre, cachée et inconnue du monde, pour être l'instrument de sa toute-puissance dans l'incomparable prodige qui s'accomplit à Lourdes, près la grotte de Massabielle, et jeta un si vif éclat sur le milieu du XIX° siècle.

La Voyante de Massabielle.

Cette jeune enfant, dont il a été question jusqu'ici, et dont nous venons d'esquisser le portrait physique et moral, se reconnaît aisément, et le nom si populaire de Bernadette se présente de lui-même à l'esprit. C'est Bernadette, en effet, qui, par un privilège de la divine bonté, fut favorisée, en l'an 1858, des apparitions réitérées de la Bienheureuse Vierge Marie : apparitions par lesquelles fut confirmé le dogme catholique de l'Immaculée-Conception de cette même Bienheureuse Vierge, défini et promulgué, quatre ans auparavant, par le pape Pie IX, de sainte mémoire[3]. Du 11 février 1858, en effet, jusqu'au 16 juillet de cette même année, plusieurs apparitions eurent lieu, durant lesquelles la Bienheureuse Vierge Marie se montra à Bernadette, l'entretint souvent et, avec la plus grande bienveillance, l'exhorta à prier pour les pécheurs, à baiser la terre, à faire pénitence, et lui ordonna de faire savoir aux prêtres qu'elle voulait qu'on lui élevât en cet endroit un sanctuaire, où l'on viendrait lui adresser des supplications solennelles. Elle lui enjoignit en outre de boire de l'eau d'une fontaine encore cachée sous terre, mais prête à jaillir, et de s'y laver. Il y eut d'autres faits, que nous omettons. Celui-ci toutefois ne saurait être passé sous silence : comme Bernadette insistait pour savoir le nom de celle qu'elle avait été jugée digne de contempler si souvent, la Bienheureuse Vierge Marie, joignant les mains à la hauteur de la poitrine, et élevant les yeux au ciel, répondit : « Je suis l'Immaculée Conception. » Or, ceci se passait le 25 mars, jour de la fête de l'Annonciation de la Bienheureuse Vierge Marie, dans lequel l'Eglise honore également le mystère de l'Incarnation. Cette coïncidence souligne ainsi avec autant d'opportunité que d'éloquence le lien étroit qui existe entre la Maternité divine et l'Immaculée Conception.

L'épreuve

Il serait trop long de rapporter ici tout ce que Bernadette eut à souffrir pour défendre la réalité de ces apparitions surnaturelles. Cette réalité fut reconnue d'abord par l'évêque de Tarbes[4], après une enquête juridique, puis confirmée d'une manière éclatante par les célèbres miracles qui suivirent bientôt. Il arriva ce qu'on pouvait prévoir ; le nom et l'histoire du sanctuaire de Lourdes devinrent irrévocablement associés au nom et au souvenir de Bernadette. On comprend aisément que la voyante allait se trouver alors exposée à une forte tentation, et ses vertus subir une redoutable épreuve, surtout son esprit de pauvreté et son humilité. Mais rassurons-nous. Admirons plutôt ce souci constant qu'elle a de se dérober à la curiosité des pélerins, qui rivalisaient d'adresse pour la voir, la visiter, la combler de cadeaux, et de fuir les louanges et les applaudissements des hommes.

La Soeur Marie-Bernard

C'est encore dans cette louable intention que Bernadette se retira dans l'hospice que les si dévouées Sœurs de la Charité et de l'Instruction chrétienne de Nevers[5] dirigeaient à Lourdes, et que, après quelques années passées dans cet établissement, instruite et formée par les Sœurs, elle sollicita et obtint d'être admise dans leur Congrégation. Elle se rendit donc à la maison-mère de la Congrégation, à Nevers, et, après son temps de probation, y prononça ses voeux ; son nom de Bernadette fut changé en celui de Sœur Marie-Bernard. C'est en s'acquittant avec une sainte ardeur de toutes les charges et obligations propres à son nouvel état que Sœur Marie-Bernard devint le modèle des soeurs de Nevers, ses compagnes, dans l'intimité desquelles elle passa les treize dernières années de sa vie.

Conclusion : l'héroïcité des vertus de Bernadette.

Nous avons là, comme en un germe fécond, tous les éléments d'une réponse motivée à la double question posée. Le zèle ardent et inlassable, en effet, avec lequel Sœur Marie-Bernard n'a cessé de tendre à la perfection dans tous ses actes ; la victoire éclatante qu'avec le secours de la grâce divine elle a remportée sur elle-même, tant par le soin vigilant qu'elle mit à se préserver de la vaine gloire, à laquelle l'exposait la grande notoriété de son nom, que par le courage joyeux et ardent avec lequel elle s'efforça de réprimer et d'adoucir sa rudesse native ; son entrée dans l'état religieux, où elle progressa chaque jour en perfection : tout cela nous fournit manifestement la démonstration nécessaire et désirée de l'héroïcité des vertus de Sœur Marie-Bernard.

Les légères imperfections ne nuisent pas à cette héroïcité.

Et la valeur de cette démonstration n'est en aucune façon infirmée par ce fait qu'elle n'est pas parvenue à ce résultat du premier coup, que dans le chemin de la perfection, où elle s'était résolument engagée, elle a pu laisser parfois paraître quelques imperfections ou défauts ; car, selon la sentence bien connue de saint Grégoire le Grand, et qui trouve ici son application, « lorsque nous nous détournons de l'amour de cette vie corruptible, c'est " comme pas à pas " que notre coeur s'achemine vers les réalités invisibles. Partis des régions inférieures, nous n'atteignons jamais le sommet " du premier coup " ; car, dans sa poursuite de la perfection, notre âme, en perpétuelle ascension, ne parvient au but que lentement et " par degrés ».

La Cause de Bernadette intéresse tout l'univers catholique.

Aussi le jugement de cette Cause de choix fut-il des plus faciles à porter, même en appliquant les règles les plus rigoureuses. Son heureuse issue réjouira à juste titre à la fois le diocèse de Nevers, qui vit les dernières années de Sœur Marie-Bernard et garde ses restes sacrés, et le diocèse de Tarbes et Lourdes, qui la vit naître, et où elle passa son enfance et sa jeunesse, jusqu'à l'âge de vingt-deux ans. Mais cette Cause ne saurait rester renfermée dans ces étroites limites. Elle intéresse l'univers catholique tout entier. Partout où règne et fleurit le culte de la Vierge Immaculée de Lourdes, les fidèles accueilleront avec la plus grande joie la nouvelle de la promulgation du présent Décret apostolique, qui termine l'enquête commencée il y a deux ans sur l'héroïcité des vertus de Sœur Marie-Bernard.

Ses étapes.

Les deux Congrégations antepréparatoire et préparatoire, furent en effet suivies de la Congrégation générale, qui se réunit le 7 août dernier, en présence de Notre Très Saint Père le Pape Pie XI. Dans cette Congrégation, S. Em. le cardinal Antoine Vico, préfet de la Sacrée Congrégation des Rites, en lieu et place du Révérendissime rapporteur[6] le cardinal Nicolas Marini, d'illustre mémoire, décédé quelques jours auparavant, soumit à la discussion le Doute suivant : « Est-il bien établi, dans le cas et pour l'effet dont il s'agit, que la Vénérable Servante de Dieu Soeur Marie-Bernard a pratiqué à un degré héroïque les vertus théologales de Foi, d'Espérance et de Charité envers Dieu et le prochain, ainsi que les vertus cardinales de Prudence, de Justice, de Force et de Tempérance, et leurs annexes ? » Leurs Eminences les Cardinaux et les pères consulteurs donnèrent chacun à leur tour leur avis.

Notre Très Saint Père le Pape, après avoir entendu avec joie et pesé avec attention ces avis, se réserva le soin de prononcer lui-même le jugement suprême. Puis il exhorta tous les assistants à implorer, en attendant, avec lui, la lumière divine par de ferventes prières. Lorsqu'il eut décidé de manifester son intention, il désigna ce jour du XXVI° dimache après la Pentecôte. C'est pourquoi, après avoir célébré avec une grande dévotion les Saints Mystères, il manda au Vatican S. Em. le cardinal Vico, évêque de Porto et de Sainte-Rufine, préfet de la Sacrée Congrégation des Rites et rapporteur de la Cause, le R. P. Ange Mariani, promoteur général de la Foi, et moi-même, secrétaire soussigné ; puis en leur présence il fit solennellement cette déclaration : « Il est bien établi, dans le cas et pour l'effet dont il s'agit, que la Vénérable Servante de Dieu Sœur Marie-Bernard a pratiqué, à un degré héroïque, les vertus théologales de Foi, d'Espérance et de Charité envers Dieu et le prochain, ainsi que les vertus cardinales de Prudence, de Justice, de Force et de Tempérance, et leurs annexes. »

Il ordonna en conséquence que ce Décret fût proclamé et enregisté dans les Actes de la Sacrée Congrégation des Rites, le quatorzième jour des Calendes de décembre de l'année MDCCCCXXIII[7]

+ A. card. VICO, év. de Porto et Ste-Rufine,

préf. de la S. C. des Rites.

ALEXANDRE VERDRE, Secrétaire.

[1] En vertu de l'ancien Droit, elle a été proclamée Vénérable quand fut signé par Pie X le Décret sur l'introduction de la cause de béatification (13 août 1913).

[2] Décret concernant les diocèses de Nevers ou celui de Tarbes et Lourdes, pour la Cause de Béatification et de Canonisation de la Vénérable Servante de Dieu Sœur Marie-Bernard Soubirous, de la Congrégation des Sœurs de la Charité et de l'Instruction chrétienne de Nevers (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, I. 12-23, pp. 592-596).

[3] « Nous déclarons, prononçons et définissons que la doctrine, qui tient que la bienheureuse Vierge Marie a été, au premier instant de sa conception, par une grâce et une faveur singulière du Dieu Tout-Puissant, en vue des mérites de Jésus-Christ, Sauveur du genre humain, préservée intacte de toute souillure du péché originel, est une doctrine révélée de Dieu, et qu'ainsi elle doit être crue fermement et constamment par tous les fidèles. C'est pourquoi, s'il en était, ce qu'à Dieu ne plaise, qui eussent la présomption d'avoir des sentiments contraires à ce que nous venons de définir, qu'ils sachent très clairement qu'ils se condamnent eux-mêmes par leur propre jugement, qu'ils ont fait naufrage dans la foi et se sont séparés de l'unité de l'Eglise, et que, de plus, par le même fait, ils encourent les peines portées par le droit s'ils osent manifester par parole, par écrit ou par quelque signe extérieur, ce qu'ils pensent intérieurement » (Pie IX : Bulle « Ineffabilis Deus », 8 décembre 1854).

[4] Mgr. Bertrand-Sévère Laurence. Né le 7 septembre 1790, à Oroix (Hautes-Pyrénées), commença ses études avec le curé de Juncalas où il était apprenti-barbier, et les termina au séminaire d’Aire-sur-l’Adour où il sera professeur. Ordonné prêtre le 29 avril 1821, par l’évêque de Bayonne, il fonde et dirige le séminaire de Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre (9 août 1822). Vicaire général de l’évêque de Tarbes (1833), il est aussi supérieur du grand séminaire. Nommé évêque de Tarbes le 31 décembre 1844), il meurt à Rome le 30 janvier 1870.

[5] Congrégation religieuse fondée en 1680 à Saint-Saulge, en Nivernais, par le bénédictin Jean-Baptiste de Laveyne et l’oratorien Charles Bolacre, pour servir et médicamenter les pauvres, enseigner et catéchiser les petites filles, orner les églises. Les premières religieuses, réunies par Marie-Scholastique de Marchangy (morte en 1729), furent formées à l’hôpital de Nevers et émirent leur profession en 1683. La maison mère fut transférée à Nevers (1685) et la première règle fut approuvée, en 1700, par Mgr. Vallot. Réorganisé après la Révolution, l’Institut se développa au XIX° siècle où il reçut son décret définitif d’approbation (20 août 1870).

[6] Il s'agit du cardinal ponent, c’est-à-dire du juge dont la fonction est d’être, azuprès de ses collègues, le rapporteur de la cause à juger et le rédacteur de la sentence finale.

[7] Le XXVI° dim. après la Pentecôte est le 18 (et non 11) nov. , le 14° (et non 19°) jour des Calendes de décembre (et non de novembre).

Prières

O Jésus et Marie, faites que toute ma consolation en ce monde soit de vous aimer et de souffrir pour les pécheurs.

Divine Mère, offrez-moi à Jésus. Prenez mon cœur et enfoncez-le dans le cœur de Jésus.

O Marie, ma tendre Mère, voici votre enfant qui n'en peut plus ; faites qu'à votre exemple je sois généreuse dans tous les sacrifices que Notre Seigneur pourra me demander dans le cours de ma vie. Ma Mère, venez à mon aide. Accordez-moi la grâce de mourir à moi-même pour ne plus vivre que de mon doux Jésus et pour mon Jésus. Union, union intime avec lui, comme saint Jean, dans la pureté et dans l'amour. Ainsi toute à Jésus, qu'il me sera doux de mourir avec Jésus.

Mon âme, réjouissez-vous d'avoir un trait de ressemblance avec Jésus : rester cachée dans l'impuissance.

Porter la Croix cachée dans mon cœur à l'exemple de Marie ; oui, j'irai au parloir avec joie quoique mon âme soit dans la tristesse. Je dirai : mon Dieu, j'y vais, mais à condition qu'une âme sortira du purgatoire ou que vous convertirez un pécheur.


Prière à Sainte Bernadette

Ô Sainte Bernadette, qui simple et pure enfant, avez dix-huit fois, à Lourdes, contemplé la beauté et reçu les confidences de l'Immaculée et qui avez voulu ensuite vous cacher dans le Cloître de Nevers et vous y consumer en hostie pour les pécheurs, obtenez-nous cet esprit de pureté, de simplicité et de mortification qui nous conduira nous aussi à la vision de Dieu et de Marie au Ciel. Ainsi soit-il.


Le 3 février 1858 eut lieu la 3e apparition de ND de Lourdes

Le 18 février

Bernadette tend plume et papier à la dame en lui disant : Voudriez-vous avoir la bonté de mettre votre nom par écrit ? Elle répond : Ce n'est pas nécessaire. Voulez-vous avoir la grâce de venir ici pendant quinze jours ? Je ne vous promets pas de vous rendre heureuse en ce monde, mais dans l'autre.

Le 21 février

Vous prierez Dieu pour les pécheurs.

Le 23 ou 24 février

Pénitence, pénitence, pénitence.

Le 25 février

Allez boire à la fontaine et vous y laver. Allez manger de cette herbe qui est là. Allez baiser la terre en pénitence pour les pécheurs.

Le 2 mars

Allez dire aux prêtres de faire bâtir ici une chapelle. Qu'on y vienne en procession. Durant la quinzaine, la Vierge apprit une prière à Bernadette, et lui dit trois choses qui ne concernaient qu'elle, puis elle ajouta d'un ton sévère : Je vous défends de dire cela à personne.

Le 25 mars

Je suis l'Immaculée Conception.

SOURCE : http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/02/18.php



SAINT BERNADETTE SOUBIROUS

VIRGIN, PATRONESS OF LOURDES—1844-1879

Feast: February 11

Bernadette's canonization in 1933 was the culmination of a process which had been started nearly three-quarters of a century earlier: she is, therefore, a saint of modern times, and the remarkable facts of her life are readily accessible to all. Her story even challenges the interest of those who do not share the Catholic faith. Christianity had its beginnings among humble people without influence or riches, such as Bernadette. Perhaps it is a natural human instinct to rejoice when the lowly are lifted up to the heights, and especially when a child, neglected and untaught, is chosen for special grace and favor, thus becoming an instrument for good.

Born in Lourdes, France, on January 7, 1844, Bernadette was the first child of Francois and Louise Soubirous. At the time of her birth, Francois was a miller, operating a mill which had belonged to his wife's people. He was a good-natured, easy-going man, with little ability for carrying on a business, and before many years the mill had been forfeited for debt. During most of Bernadette's childhood he was an odd job man, picking up a day's work as opportunity offered, and, from time to time, escaping from his problems and responsibilities by turning to the delusive comfort of alcohol. His wife and children, naturally, were the chief sufferers from his ineffectualness. Louise, whose family was of somewhat better economic status than her husband's, was a hard worker, a warm-hearted neighbor, and exemplary in her observance of Catholic rites. Within a short space of years many children were born to her, only five of whom survived infancy. After Bernadette, there was another girl, Toinette Marie, and three boys. To help feed and clothe them it was often necessary for their harassed mother to go out to work by the day, doing laundry and other rough tasks for the more prosperous citizens, and, on one occasion, at least, helping to harvest a crop of grain. A peasant woman of the region has told of seeing little Bernadette, then about twelve, carrying the youngest baby to Louise in the field, to be nursed during the noon-day rest period. As a child, Bernadette not only did more than might be expected in caring for the smaller children, but helped in their moral and religious training as well.

Bernadette was never strong, and from the age of six she showed symptoms of the respiratory ailment that later became a chronic affliction. It is not clear at this early stage whether she suffered from asthma or tuberculosis, but we know that her mother was anxious about her health and made an effort to provide special food for her. When Bernadette was thirteen she was sent to the neighboring mountain hamlet of Bartres, to the home of one Marie Arevant, her foster mother. It was here that Bernadette had been taken for a few months when she was still an infant, to be nursed by Madame Arevant, who had just lost a baby. The woman now had a large family and little Bernadette made herself useful in the house and in the fields. One of her duties was to tend a small flock of sheep that grazed on a hillside nearby; it is this brief phase of her girlhood that has inspired artists to picture her as a shepherdess. Her life was a lonely one, and we get the impression that she was overworked and homesick while she remained in this peasant home. At all events she sent word to her parents that she wished to leave Bartres. One thing seemed especially to disturb her at this time; although she was now fourteen, she had not made her First Communion. Her foster mother had tried half-heartedly to prepare her, but after one or two sessions had impatiently given it up, saying that Bernadette was too dull to learn.

When Bernadette went back to Lourdes, it made her very happy to be admitted to the day school conducted by the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction. This was a teaching and nursing order whose mother-house is at Nevers, in central France. A hospice, a day school, and a boarding school were maintained at Lourdes by these devout nuns, who were, as a group, unusually well trained. Thus Bernadette at last began her secular education, and, under Abbe Pomian, continued to prepare for First Communion. She was also learning a little French, for up to this time she spoke only the local dialect. The nuns discovered that beneath a quiet, modest exterior, Bernadette had a winning personality and a lively sense of humor. This might have been a happy and constructive time for the little girl had it not been for the ever-increasing shadows of poverty at home.

After moving from one poor location to another, the Soubirous family was now living in a single room of a dilapidated structure in the rue des Petits Fosses; this damp, unwholesome place had once served as a jail and was known as Le Cachot, the Dungeon. Above loomed an ancient fortress, and the narrow cobbled street had once been a part of the moat. The town of Lourdes, itself very old, is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of France, lying in the extreme southwest, near the Spanish frontier, where the Pyrenees mountains rise sharply above the plains. From the craggy, wooded heights, several valleys descend to converge at this site, and the little river Gave rushes through the town, its turbulent current turning the wheels of many mills. There are escarpments of rock in and around Lourdes, the most famous being the Massabeille, a great mound jutting out from the base of a plateau. On the side facing the river it had an arch-shaped opening which led into a sizeable grotto-a grotto that was soon destined to become famous in every part of the world. At this time the Massabeille had, if not exactly an aura of evil, a touch of the sinister. According to legend, it had been sacred to the pagans of prehistoric times; now it served as a shelter for fishermen or herdsmen caught by sudden storms.

It was very cold on February 11, 1858, the day that was to mark the beginning of such an extraordinary series of events at the rock of Massabeille. When Bernadette returned from school her mother gave her permission to go down by the river to pick up driftwood and fallen branches. Toinette Marie, aged nine, and Marie Abadie, aged twelve, a neighbor's child, went with her. When the three girls reached the Massabeille, the two younger ones took off their wooden shoes to wade across an icy mill-stream which here joined the river. Bernadette, more sensitive, hung behind. Standing alone beside the river, she had started to remove her stockings when she heard a noise like a sudden rush of wind. Looking up towards the grotto she saw some movement among the branches, then there floated out of the opening a golden cloud, and in the midst of it was the figure of a beautiful young girl who placed herself in a small niche in the rock, at one side of the opening and slightly above it. In the crannies around this niche grew stunted vines and shrubs, and in particular a white eglantine. Bernadette, staring in fascination, saw that the luminous apparition was dressed in a soft white robe, with a broad girdle of blue, and a long white veil that partially covered her hair. Her eyes were blue and gentle. Golden roses gleamed on her bare feet. When the vision smiled and beckoned to Bernadette, the girl's fear vanished and she came a few steps nearer, then sank reverently to her knees. She drew her rosary from her pocket, for, in moments of stress, she habitually said her beads. The mysterious being also had a rosary, of large white beads, and to quote Bernadette's own account: "The Lady let me pray alone; she passed the beads of the rosary between her fingers, but said nothing; only at the end of each decade did she say the Gloria with me." When the recitation was finished, the Lady vanished into the cave and the golden mist disappeared with her. This experience affected Bernadette so powerfully that, when the other girls turned back to look for her, she was still kneeling, a rapt, faraway look on her face. They chided her, thinking she had passed the time praying to escape the task of gathering fuel. Tying up their twigs and branches into faggots, they started for home. Too full of her vision to keep quiet about it, before they had gone far Bernadette burst out with the whole wondrous story; she asked the girls to say nothing at home. But Toinette told Madame Soubirous that same evening, and soon the news spread further. Bernadette wished to go back to the Massabeille the next day, but her mother, after talking the matter over with a sister, refused her permission.

Bernadette now showed the independence of spirit-some were to characterize it as obstinacy-that became one of her outstanding traits. When she told her confessor of the apparition, Abbe Pomian made light of it, thinking the girl suffered from hallucinations. Nevertheless, on the following Sunday Bernadette asked if she might go to the grotto and her father told her she might go if she took a flask of holy water with her, to exorcise the apparition should it prove to be a demon. Bernadette, advancing ahead of several little friends who accompanied her, knelt before the grotto and soon the vision appeared as before. On their return the excited girls, although they had seen nothing, naturally began to tell their versions of the affair, and soon the town buzzed with varying reports and rumors. On the next market day the peasants heard of these strange happenings. The story reached the Mother Superior of the convent, who took a firm stand: she announced to the class preparing for Communion, comprising Bernadette's friends and companions for the most part, that they must stop talking and thinking of this matter. Bernadette's teacher, Sister Marie Therese Vauzous, was even hostile.

The apparition was manifest to Bernadette for the third time on Thursday, February 18, when she went to the grotto accompanied by two women of Lourdes who thought the "damiezelo," as Bernadette called her, was the returning spirit of a young woman, one of their dear friends, who had died a few months before. On this occasion the same little figure appeared to Bernadette, smiled warmly, and spoke, asking Bernadette to come every day for fifteen days. Bernadette promised to come, provided she was given permission to do so. Since neither her god-mother, who was her mother's sister, nor the priest actually forbade it, Bernadette's parents offered no objection. On the following day her mother and aunt went with her, and on subsequent visits great crowds of people gathered on the Massabeille, or down by the river, hoping to see or hear something miraculous. During these two weeks the excitement increased to such a pitch that the civil authorities felt obliged to take action. The police were not content to threaten the Soubirous family; they must take Bernadette to the local police office for questioning and try to make her admit that it was all an elaborate hoax. Bernadette emerged from this and many another ordeal somewhat shaken but obdurate. The authorities continued to try to discredit her. They even gave currency to the report that the whole thing had been thought up by Bernadette's poverty-stricken parents, so that they might derive some profit from it. Francois and Louise Soubirous, from being puzzled, worried, and uncertain at the outset, had now come to believe in the supernatural character of their daughter's experiences, and stood loyally by her. They did not dream of exploiting the affair in their own interest. As a matter of fact, pious, well-meaning people were bringing them gifts of money and food, sometimes asking for a token from Bernadette. These offerings were declined; even Bernadette's small brothers were cautioned to accept nothing. The girl herself was adamant in her determination to have no part in any kind of trafficking; the record of her complete honesty and disinterestedness is clear and unquestioned. However, she found the sudden notoriety unpleasant, and this sensitivity to being stared at and talked about and pointed out was to last throughout her life. People began to gather at the grotto in the middle of the night, awaiting her appearance. It was rumored that she had a miraculous, healing touch. Several cures were attributed to her.

On Sunday, February 21, a number of persons went with her to the grotto, including citizens who had been highly skeptical. On this occasion, Bernadette reported later, the apparition said to her: "You will pray to God for sinners." On February 26, while she was in the trance-like state which lasted as long as she saw the vision, Bernadette crawled inside the grotto, and, at the Lady's bidding, uncovered with her bare hands a little trickle of water from which she drank and with which she bathed her face, still at the Lady's direction. This tiny spring continued to well up and by the next day was flowing steadily down into the river: to this day it has never ceased to gush forth from the grotto. The people regarded its discovery by Bernadette as a miracle.

On March 2 Bernadette saw the apparition for the thirteenth time. It was on this day that the Lady bade Bernadette to tell the priests that "a chapel should be built and a procession formed." Bernadette had no thought but to obey, in spite of the open hostility of the cure of Lourdes. Dean Peyramale, an imposing man of excellent family and background, received Bernadette and reprimanded her harshly, asking her to inquire the name of her visitant, and to tell her she must perform a real miracle, such as making the eglantine bloom out of season, to prove herself. During the preceding weeks he had ordered the priests to have nothing to do with the grotto, for it was the general practice of the clergy to discourage or ignore religious visionaries. Very often such persons were ill-balanced or suffering from delusions. As a matter of fact, Bernadette's experiences were proving contagious, and before long many others, young and old, were claiming to have had supernatural visions at the grotto and elsewhere. Dean Peyramale's stand of determined opposition was based on the necessity of restoring order in the parish.

On March 25, Lady Day, Bernadette started for the grotto at dawn. When the vision appeared to her, Bernadette said: "Would you kindly tell me who you are?" When the girl had repeated the question twice more, the Lady replied: "I am the Immaculate Conception. I want a chapel here." This answer, when reported by Bernadette, caused the local excitement to rise to a still higher pitch and the feeling grew that Bernadette's visitor was the Blessed Virgin. Only four years before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been promulgated. The seventeenth apparition took place on April 7, and the final one, more than three months later, on July 16. By that time, the grotto, which the people were trying to make into a sanctuary and place of worship, had been barricaded by the town authorities to discourage worshipers and curiosity-seekers from congregating there. During the twenty-one years that she was to remain on earth, Bernadette never again saw the vision. The accounts of what she had seen and heard, which she was obliged to repeat so often, never varied in any significant detail.

Meanwhile the news of the phenomenal happenings at Lourdes had reached the very highest ecclesiastical and government circles: the bishop, the prefect, even Emperor Napoleon III and his pious wife Eugenie, became actors in the drama. On October 5, the mayor of Lourdes, on orders from above, had the grotto reopened. It was thought that the empress herself had had a voice in this decision. At all events, it seemed to be the only appropriate response to the overwhelming demand of the people for a shrine Bernadette's visions, the new spring, and the cures that were being reported, all had taken a profound hold on the popular imagination.

Due to a lucky turn, Bernadette's family was now more comfortably situated, and, to escape visitors, Bernadette went to live at the convent. Even there, intrusions upon her privacy were allowed; these she bore as patiently as she could. While her fame not only continued but steadily grew, Bernadette herself withdrew more and more. At the age of twenty she decided to take the veil. Since the state of her health precluded the more ascetic orders, it was considered best for her to join the Sisters who had taught and sheltered her. At twenty-two, therefore, she traveled to the motherhouse of the convent. Her novitiate was full of trials and sorrows. Acting under the quite unfounded notion that Bernadette's visions and all the attendant publicity might have made the young woman vain or self-important, Sister Marie Therese Vauzous, now novice-mistress at Nevers, was very severe with her former pupil. Although she made life difficult for Bernadette, the little novice met all tests with perfect humility. She cheerfully performed the menial tasks assigned to her, at first in the convent kitchen, although this work must have taxed her strength. Later, when it was noted that her sympathetic manner made her a favorite with sick people, she was appointed assistant infirmarian. Her step and touch were light, and her very presence brought comfort. But during these years, Bernadette was suffering from the chronic disease which was slowly draining her life away. She was finally given work in the sacristy, where cleverness with the needle made her work admired and cherished. She displayed a real gift for design and color in embroidering the sacred vestments. To all tasks she brought a pure grace of spirit and an utter willingness to serve.

In September, 1878, Bernadette made her perpetual and final vows. Her strength was ebbing away, but even when she was confined to wheel chair or bed, she went on with the fine needlework. And now she had more time for prayer and meditation. There is little outward drama in the life of a nun, but in Bernadette's case there was steady activity, steady growth, in things of the spirit. She had been told by her vision that she would not attain happiness in this world. Her childhood had been sad, and maturity had brought no easing of the burden she must carry. During the last two years of life a tumor developed on one knee, which was followed by caries of the bone. She suffered excruciating pain. One day, when a Superior came to visit her and said, "What are you doing in bed, you lazy little thing?" Bernadette simply replied, "I am doing my stint. I must be a victim." She felt that such was the Divine plan for her.

The nuns, the novice mistress, and the Superior had all long since come to regard her as the vessel of Divine grace and to believe in the reality of those visitations of her youth. She still suffered from the curiosity of visiting strangers. Not only did nuns and priests come to Nevers but celebrities from Paris and other parts of France came to see for themselves the now famous Bernadette. Disliking publicity as she did, yet not wishing to remain isolated and aloof if a glimpse of her could help or inspire any other human soul, she met this test too-and sometimes with a native cleverness. Once a visitor stopped her as she was passing down a corridor and asked where she could get a glimpse of Sister Bernadette. The little nun said, "Just watch that doorway and presently you will see her go through." And she slipped away through the door. Such was the prestige her presence gave to the order that many young women now joined it.

On her death-bed, in a spasm of pain, Bernadette pressed the crucifix closer to her, and cried, "All this is good for Heaven!" That afternoon, as the nuns of the convent knelt round her bed to repeat the prayers for the dying, they heard her say in a low voice, "Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me! A poor sinner, a poor sinner-" She could not finish. The date was April 16, 1879. As soon as the news spread, people came streaming towards the convent, chanting, "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!" Bernadette's body was placed in a casket which was sealed, then buried near the chapel of St. Joseph in the convent grounds. When it was exhumed in 1908 by the commission formed to forward the examination of Bernadette's life and character, it was found to be intact and uncorrupted. In August, 1913, Pope Pius X conferred the title of Venerable upon her, and in June, 1925, the ceremony of beatification took place. Since then, her body, reposing in a handsome glass reliquary, lies in the convent chapel, guarded above by a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and by the nuns who keep vigil. In Rome, on December 8, 1933, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, amidst a brilliant setting and the fanfare of silver trumpets, Bernadette Soubirous was admitted to the company of saints. This little nun, humble, unlettered, honest, and obedient, is venerated by the great host of Catholic worshipers throughout the world. Tens of thousands of them journey annually to the glorious shrine at Lourdes.

The story of Lourdes as a pilgrimage place forms a strange contrast to Bernadette's retired life of prayer and service. Its growth from a sleepy country town to its present status as the most popular pilgrimage place in Christendom has been phenomenal. A railroad line from Pau was built, facilitating the influx of visitors who, from the very first year, were drawn to Lourdes. Dean Peyramale and his superior, the bishop of Pau, who at first had scoffed, came to believe most ardently; it was the aged dean who found the money for raising the great basilica to Our Lady, which was completed in 1876. Participating in the ceremony were thirty-five prelates, a cardinal, and three thousand priests. Sister Bernadette had no share in these rites. Another church at the base of the basilica was erected and consecrated in 1901. The entire district has been enhanced by architecture and landscaping to make it an impressive sanctuary, with a background of great natural beauty.

Of the cures at Lourdes it can be said that even non-believers have observed something here that medical science cannot explain. The commission of physicians, known as the Bureau of Constatations, who examine evidence and report on their findings, operate with great caution and circumspection. The alleged cure must be immediate and permanent to be regarded as a miracle. Medical records prior to the trip are studied, as well as the patient's subsequent medical history. The patient may himself be a witness, and it is most moving to hear the words, "I was sick and now I am well," which give such comfort and hope to others who are ailing. Only a few cures each year stand up against these rigid tests, but those few are enough. The thousands-the lame, the halt, the blind -continue to come, to be washed in the waters of the spring, to share in the processions, the singing, the prayers, the impressive rites, and breathe the pure air of faith. The Canticle of Bernadette hovers in that air, and even those well persons who go to Lourdes simply searching for a renewal of faith find themselves amply rewarded, for the spirit of the child Bernadette is still a potent inspiration.

Saint Bernadette Soubirous, Virgin, Patroness of Lourdes. Celebration of Feast Day is February 11. Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

Provided Courtesy of: Eternal Word Television Network, 5817 Old Leeds Road, Irondale, AL 35210, www.ewtn.com

SOURCE : http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/bernadet.htm


St. Bernadette Soubirous

St. Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age.

 There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16.
Although Bernadette’s initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of “the Lady” brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig.
According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was.
Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862.
During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35.
She was canonized in 1933.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/bernadette-soubirous/

Bernadette Soubirous V (RM)
(also known as Mary Bernarda Soubirous)


Born in Lourdes, France, January 7, 1844; died in Nevers, France, on April 16, 1879; canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1933; also honored on February 18 in France.


Marie Bernarde (called Bernadette by family and friends) Soubirous, was the oldest of six children born to the impoverished miller François Soubirous, and his much-younger wife, Louise Casterot. The family lived in the basement of a damp building in the rue des Petits Fossés after her father rented a mill of his own. Bernadette was not a strong child; the dampness of their home and the vestiges of the cholera she contracted in 1854 aggravated the asthma and other ailments from which the young girl suffered.

At age 14, she was considered to be ailing, undersized, of pleasant disposition, sensitive, and a slow student--even stupid--but was a kind, helpful and obedient child.

On February 11, 1858, the teenaged Bernadette was collecting scraps of wood on the bank of the River Gave when she was initially granted a vision of the Blessed Virgin, who did not identify herself at first. For the next six months Bernadette saw a light-enhaloed female form of indescribable beauty, near a cave in the Massabielle cliff. In total, Bernadette had 18 visions of the Virgin Mary at the grotto, which principally concerned prayer and penance.

Bernadette showed people the grotto in which the BVM appeared. Most of them mocked her but from February 18 until March 4, Bernadette continued to see and talk with Our Lady every day. The clerical and civic officials who subjected Bernadette to numerous interrogations found her to be veracious and completely disinterested in self-advancement.

People followed Bernadette. The saw the girl fall into ecstasy; they heard her speak, but they saw nothing. The unknown 'lady' said to Bernadette: "I wish to see people here"; "Pray for sinners"; "Tell the priests I wish to have a chapel here"; "Processions are to come here"; "Go, drink from the spring and wash in its water."

In obedience to this last injunction, the saint dug with her hands into the earth of the grotto, and there gushed forth a spring, unknown until that day--February 25, that for years has yielded 27,000 gallons weekly. Cures effected by drinking of the water mobilized pilgrimages of thousands which streamed to the grotto.

By March 4, about 200,000 people were accompanying Bernadette to the site. When Bernadette begged the lady for a name on March 25, she replied three times using the local dialect: "I am the Immaculate Conception--" a name that the girl did not understand because word of the definition had not yet reached the people of Lourdes. The last vision occurred on July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Church met these beginnings of the Lourdes pilgrimages with great reserve, almost with hostility. In part this was because after the appearances ceased, there was an epidemic of copycat visionaries and morbid religiosity in the district, which increased the reserved attitude of the church authorities towards Bernadette's experiences.

But Lourdes became a symbol. In an age in which the existence of or at all events the possibility of knowing a supra-mundane God was denied, a permanent medical bureau had to be opened in Lourdes, which has collected, with the help of thousands of physicians of all creeds, an immense documentation of professionally attested, inexplicable cures.

Bernadette's simplicity and integrity were never questioned. Although the publicity that accompanied her visions had helped her father to find work, Bernadette gained little more than the spiritual consolation of a few months. For some years she suffered greatly from the suspicious disbelief of some and the tactless enthusiasm and insensitive attentions of others; these trials she bore with impressive patience and dignity. She resided with the nuns at the hospice for five years (1861-1866) in order to escape the publicity, but people sought her out even there. In 1866 Bernadette joined the Sister of Notre-Dame at Saint Gildard in Nevers, France; she had wished for entrance two years earlier but had been prevented by bad health. She was happy with the nuns. Her health remained fragile, and she was given the last sacraments within four months of her arrival; she was allowed to take her first vows through a special dispensation. She recovered, however, and worked first as an infirmarian and later as a sacristan.

Here she was more sheltered from trying publicity, but not from the 'stuffiness' of the convent superiors nor from the tightening grip of asthma. "I am getting on with my joy," she would say. "What is that?" someone asked. "Being ill," was the reply.

The nuns, disappointed by the simplicity of this child of nature, in whom they had expected to find a second Teresa of Ávila or another Catherine of Siena, made the peasant girl feel bitterly the scant esteem in which they held her; and even her superiors, with the aim of protecting the visionary of Lourdes from the sin of pride, were not sparing in humiliations.

With the excuse that she was a "stupid, good-for-nothing little thing," her profession was continually delayed. God gave to the despised creature, who was punished for 13 years because of her visions, the strength to say: "You see, my story is quite simple. The Virgin made use of me, then I was put into a corner. That is now my place. There I am happy and there I remain."

Thus, she lived out her self-effacing life, dying at the age of 35 as did Saint Benedict Labre. The events of 1858 resulted in Lourdes becoming one of the most important pilgrim shrines in the history of Christendom, ending with the consecration of the basilica in 1876. But Saint Bernadette took no part in these developments; nor was it for her visions that she was canonized, but for the humble simplicity and religious trust that characterized her whole life (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Sandhurst, Schamoni, Trochu, Walsh, White).

Saint Bernadette is the patron saint of shepherds (White).