St. Bernadette of Lourdes (1844-1879)

Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
St. Bernadette was born into a peasant family in the French Pyrenees. The family was forced to move several times during her childhood because of their poverty. Although she longed for an education so that she could study catechism and receive the Eucharist, she remained illiterate until her late teenage years.

In 1858 she began receiving a series of visions of a beautiful woman in a wild grotto near her town. Because of her lack of schooling, both civil and religious authorities treated her reports with skepticism. She remained undaunted by their opposition, however, and trusted in what she had seen. The woman eventually identified herself as the Mother of God and asked for a chapel near the grotto. That chapel today has grown into the famous pilgrimage site of Lourdes.

When she was 22 years old, she became a Sister of Notre Dame at Nevers. She died of tuberculosis 13 years later, having lived her last years in as much obscurity as she could. When another religious sister once asked her about her experiences in Lourdes, she asked the sister what a person would do with a broom once they had swept the floor. The sister said that they would put the broom back in its corner. Bernadette then said that she was like the broom.

Bernadette loved wild flowers from the time she was a child. In the convent, when she was well enough to walk outside, she took special delight in the flower gardens. Once another sister remembered that she picked a humble daisy and held it as though caressing it. That daisy is a fitting symbol of the profound spirituality that animated her life.

Her feast day is April 16.


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