Bernadette, who are you ?
Bernadette in Lourdes | Bernadette in Nevers
Bernadette in Lourdes : 1844 - 1866
- 1844 – 1858: her childhood, her family, the period of the Apparitions.
- 1858 – 1866: after the Apparitions, at the Hospice in Lourdes with the Sisters of
Charity of Nevers.

Bernadette in Nevers : 1866 - 1879
- arrival in St. Gildard 7th July 1866
- religious profession 30th October 1867
- her death 16th April 1879
Bernadette declared a Saint by the Church
- 8th December 1933

In Lourdes, you were a teenager of your time…
From Lourdes to Nevers, from the Boly Mill to Saint-Gildard, from your birth on the 7th January 1844, to your death on the 16th April 1879, what an amount of upheaval in your life Bernadette SOUBIROUS !
The eldest daughter of a bankrupt miller, imprisoned unjustly because of his extreme poverty, you lived in one tumbledown mill after another until you came to the Cachot. You experienced illness, hunger, exclusion, uncertainty about the future and the scorn of those who were well off. You could hardly read or write.
 

"The Blessed Virgin chose me because I was very poor and uneducated"

A gust of wind on the 11th February 1858 was the beginning of the story. The Virgin Mary appeared for the first time to Bernadette in the Grotto of Massabielle, in Lourdes.

"Would you oblige me by coming here for the next fifteen days?"

The beautiful young girl addressed Bernadette as "you" … and Bernadette in complete freedom, said 'yes'.
"Yes" without anxiety, when the very eminent doctors came purposely to see her, speaking about her in outrageous terms - "cataleptic, hysterical"….
"Yes" without fear when she was threatened with imprisonment.
"Yes" without flinching before those who called her a liar or "a holy Saint" as they tried to tear away a piece of her scarf, her dress, or a lock of her hair.



The "Cachot"
A teenager of her time who suffered
the consequences
of the emerging
industrialisation.
Her love for her family and her faith in God helped her to hold her head high in the streets of Lourdes.
In the midst of this reality, Bernadette had the unexpected encounter with "The Lady of Massabielle" God gave her an understanding of his Love which turns the established order of things upside down: at a time when the learned and the powerful were stating in a very positive way that reason alone could remake the world, he sought out a little girl who didn't understand French.


Bernardette Soubirous

 

"Yes" humbly but holding
her head high when she
asked if she could enter
a Congregation working in
hospitals, hospices and
schools, while she herself
was untutored and without
know-how…

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In Nevers, you became a privileged witness of God's Love for all people.

On the evening of the 7th July 1866, Bernadette crossed the threshold of St. Gildard, Mother House of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. Bernadette had come to know the Sisters while living at the Hospice in Lourdes.
This was how she set out to follow the Gospel path of the Congregation she had chosen.

"God is Love"
On her arrival, Bernadette saw these words engraven on the pediment stone of the Mother House.



These words had an immediate link with her own spiritual experience: the astonishing Love of God for all people.
For thirteen years Bernadette remained at St. Gildard, successively assistant infirmarian, in charge of the infirmary, sacristan, but most often ill herself…
In Nevers, through a humble and hidden life, she kept a profound solidarity with the poor. Bonded to Jesus, who gave his life up out of love, she tried through her gestures and her words to reveal her deepest desire
:

"I want my whole life to be inspired by love"

Often ill during the final stages of her life, Bernadette spent long periods of time in the infirmary - Holy Cross.

"After a visit to her, one comes away stronger and more confident than before"

 

Bernadette, like other sick people, came to understand the humiliation of dependence and the suffering caused by apparent uselessness. This suffering and humiliation became an opportunity to remain open to others and to live in profound solidarity with those going through the same experience :

" ...Certainly I would not have chosen this inactivity to which I have been reduced",
" Prayer is my only weapon…"

Bernadette was not passive, nor was she turned in on herself. In order not to become submerged in her suffering she remained in a state of continual vigilance.

Those close to her related how "the sufferings of her final illness were atrocious. Her weakened chest was burning; the decaying knee bone caused an intense gnawing pain". The weeks spent in the Holy Cross infirmary were certainly a time not only of physical but also spiritual testing for Bernadette, the "night" of faith. She begged Jesus for the strength and confidence she needed, drawing them from his sufferings on the Cross


Holy Cross Infirmary (photo of the period)

Wednesday in Easter Week, 16th Avril 1879, during the afternoon, the "hour" came when Bernadette's spiritual adventure reached its accomplishment. Like Jesus she surrendered her life into the hands of God who is "our Father and who has an infinite tenderness for us".

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