Saint Bernadette 18th February Sainte Bernadette le 18 février

“I came not to call the upright, but sinners.”
Tuesday 1 December 2015

Jq. 3,1-10 Ps.11 Mk.9,2-13

Saint Bernadette 18th February

“And suddenly some people brought him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ’Take comfort, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ And now some scribes said to themselves, ’this man is being blasphemous’. Knowing what was in their minds, Jesus said ’Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier : to say, ’Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ’Get up and walk’? But to prove to you that the son of man ahs authority on earth to forgive sins’- then he said to the paralytic-’get up, pick up your bed and go off home.”

Today’s Gospel illustrates very well Mary’s encounter with Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes. Bernadette would go and fetch wood. She was asthmatic and it was very cold for her. Her family would sell the wood, to make some money too, for her father had falsely been accused of stealing flour and had been put into prison. As many poor people do, they accept what happens to them. Later on, however he would be cleared. A big-hearted man, he was a good miller. Bernadette’s mother was hardy, from the mountainous region of the Pyrenees and wasn’t always that tender towards little Bernadette. Yet in the Soubirous family home there was a lot of love. Bernadette was a young girl of fourteen when on the eleventh of February 1858 she saw Mary at the grotto of Massabielle. She recounts :-

“I came back towards the grotto and started taking off my stockings. I had hardly taken off the first stocking when I heard a sound like a gust of wind. Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still : I went on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head to look at the grotto, I saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same colour as the chain of her rosary : the beads of her rosary were white.”

The sight of Mary’s face, full of gentleness, lightened the pain of daily life and the humiliations lived by her family. ’You are mad!’, ’ You won’t go to the grotto!’ said people and her own mother. For Bernadette felt compelled to return there, which she did on many occasions.

“A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for having given such authority to human beings. As Jesus was walking on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, ’Follow me’. And he got up and followed him.”

Bernadette would call the apparition ’the Beautiful Lady’. The apparitions brought Bernadette much happiness and at the same time many ordeals. “She looked at me like a person”, Bernadette would say. We too would want the poor and little ones to be seen as “persons”.

On the eighteenth of February 1858, on the third visit, Mary spoke to her for the first time and says to Bernadette :

’I don’t promise to make you happy in this world, only in the next.’

Thanks to Bernadette’s co-operation with ’the Beautiful Lady’, millions of pilgrims will come each year to Lourdes. Mary appears to Bernadette when her family is ’in a rut’. The former prison is offered to them as a refuge. Just a room on the street, that lacks air. How hard for Bernadette to cope with, being asthmatic! Their whole family of six live there- the parents and four children. Bernadette tried to live what their parents were going through, coming to their aid in this stark poverty.

“Now while Jesus was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and hi disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, hey said to his disciples, ’Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this, he replied, ’It s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of these words : Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice.’ And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.”

Bernadette, at the age of 22, went to Nevers in the centre of France after the apparitions had ended, to enter a religious congregation of the Sisters of Charity at St Gildard convent. She lived there for thirteen years before her death at the age of thirty-five.. Taking her mother Mary for an example, she followed Jesus in his humiliation. She was often sick, with fragile health. A sister will say to her,’ Poor you who suffer so much!’ Bernadette will reply ’Yes, but to lack spiritual air is far more serious ’ On the cards she will sign ’Pray for me, Bernadette’, asking people to pray as much for her as she for them. She will leave this earth in praying her Mother Mary : ’Pray for me, a poor sinner..’

In their immense distress, the poor can believe that God Himself may abandon them, that He is rejecting them. ’I am crushed like a grain of wheat’ Bernadette will say in her illness. Bernadette went through all hardships with a very great realism and a very great faith.

We ask for the grace to dwell in poverty of Christ in order to dwell in our own poverty and to shine with the Love of Jesus.