Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pope points to Saint Bernadette!

There are many things to be found on the internet that are worth far less than the time you will spend on them.  One of the best and most worthwhile I have found, though, is the blog of our own (that is, Archdiocese of Washington priest) Msgr. Charles Pope.  Consistently for years, his work has displayed insight and clarity, alongside fidelity and charity.   Even (especially?) in the face of incendiary commenters (both for and against his work), Msgr. Pope maintains an exemplary standard and tone. 
Why do I bring this to your attention?  Because I just found that his recent post about our patroness, Saint Bernadette Soubirous.  Just this past week, I had been lamenting how little attention we give to this remarkable person, even here where we are supposed to be dependent upon her aid.  I was trying to think how to remedy that, and here is a start.
I share with you an excerpt from his post on our patroness, but also this link to the whole post.  I hope you use it to get to know him and his work, for it will inform and elevate your faith.
Monsignor Smith

The life of St. Bernadette Soubirous was steeped in paradox and irony. She was the chosen visionary of our Lady at Lourdes and was to bring forth, by heavenly guidance, a spring that would bring miraculous healing to thousands. Yet Bernadette herself was beset with health problems that would cause her dreadful suffering. Her quiet and heroic suffering, something she accepted with obedience and as a kind of mission for souls, is not common knowledge today. Hers was a beautiful, difficult testimony; she suffered mightily. I base my reflections here on a biography of her by Fr. Rene Laurentin: Bernadette Speaks: A Life of St. Bernadette Soubirous in Her Own Words.
Bernadette Soubirous was born in January of 1844. Her father and mother were among the working poor of the town of Lourdes, France. Her father was a resident miller of a mill he did not own. For a time, the family found lodging in the Boly Mill, where Bernadette was born. Surely the persistent, gentle sounds of the mill grinding the wheat were some of her earliest memories. But famine brought financial ruin to the Soubirous family; the mill was sold and they lost everything. So poor did they become that they were forced to live in a cell of the former town jail.
Such poverty and poor nutrition surely contributed to her later health troubles and to her diminutive stature. Bernadette stood only 4 feet 7 inches tall and had an asthmatic condition that would be her cross throughout her life. […]
Many visitors would ask her if she wanted to be a nun. She said, “Yes, but I haven’t the health.” By 1864 her poor health had not improved much, but her attraction to the religious life had grown. Bernadette despaired that she would ever have the health to enter into the religious life. And yet the sisters who saw her growth in holiness were willing to make exceptions.
In 1866 Bernadette entered The Sisters of Charity of Nevers, the same order that had schooled her in Lourdes. Entering the novitiate, she looked forward to the relative seclusion and solitude. The steady stream of visitors and the burden of her fame continued to weary her.
Within a month of entering, as the cool of late September approached, Bernadette’s asthma grew worse. […]
Two days before she died, St. Bernadette offered a metaphor for the mystery of her suffering. Something in her hearkened back to the Boly Mill where she grew up in Lourdes. The grinding of the millstone had lulled her to sleep as an infant and accompanied her first years as a child. Perhaps it was that now-distant memory that caused her to say, shortly before she died, “I am ground like a grain of wheat.” She had never willfully complained about her suffering. Somehow she seemed to know this was her mission: to suffer for others. […]
Most know St. Bernadette simply as the little girl kneeling in prayer before the Virgin Mary in countless grottos throughout the world. Less well known is the private, personal, and profound passion of a great woman who discovered that her mission was to suffer for others.
Where does the water of Lourdes get its power to heal? Surely from the Lord. But something of Bernadette’s passion runs through those waters as well. They are indeed precious waters, bought at great price.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.