These are the words of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, the humble seer of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. Indeed, she reminded us of how important love is and embrace life including its trials. Love in order to reach heaven where Jesus and Mary awaits in our true home.
In February 11, 1858, a woman appeared in a grotto in Massabielle in Lourdes, France to a 14-year old peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous. The apparition now known as Our Lady of Lourdes is one of the recognizable image of the Virgin Mary. In this apparition she introduced herself as the Immaculate Conception. Lourdes had become a popular pilgrim site of spirituality and faith as many miracles are attributed to the devotion and to the water of Lourdes, from the spring that flows from the Grotto of Massabielle.
Bernadette was born in January 7, 1844 in Lourdes from a poverty-stricken family. She was the eldest of the nine children of Francois and Louise Soubirous, a miller and laundress respectively. She had a weak health having asthma and other ailments.
The vision in Massabielle started when Bernadette with her sister and a friend gathered wood near the grotto. It was the start of series of visions that happened 18 times from February 11 to July 16, 1858. During these occasions she was asked to drink water from a spring near the grotto, the need of prayer and penance, and to have a chapel built and a procession be done. On the seventeenth apparition the lady revealed herself as the Immaculate Concepcion.
Bernadette describes the lady “dressed in a flowing white robe, with a blue sash around her waist with a yellow rose on each foot.”
The phenomenal event was trying times for young Bernadette since her family were initially embarrassed with the attention and forbade her to go. The incident was too much for a young girl telling her vision was indeed true. However, Bernadette with her innocence and simplicity was resolute and showed courage. The townspeople where divided as usual in any community. Some believed she saw the Blessed Virgin although she never said it was her. Some thinks she was suffering from some mental illness and imagining things.
She boarded a local school and eventually admitted as a novitiate at Nevers. Her superior gave her the name Marie-Bernard, which suits her having devotion to Saint Bernard.
She was questioned multiple times and many inquiries were made. Bernadette was firm as to the truth and genuiness of her visions. She was investigated thoroughly by both the Catholic church and government officials. These ordeal continued even until her last days of suffering from illness. Her suffering of tuberculosis of the lungs and bones lead to her death in April 16, 1879 at Nevers. Her last words were,
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner, a poor sinner”.
There were several challenges, penances and sacrifices were endured by the humble saint. Heaven and Mary had divine plans for her:
“I do not promise you happiness in this world but in the next.”, the words of Our Lady of Lourdes to Bernadette. For someone who knows her and the beauty of her faith, her courage and simplicity, the virtues of Bernadette is worthy of emulation.
December 8, 1933, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the humble saint of Lourdes, St. Bernadette Soubirous, was canonized by Pope Pius XI. Her body was also found to be incorrupt, and was placed on a glass casket in St Gildard Convent in Never for veneration.
The faith of Bernadette was pure and holy. She completely offered her will, life and soul to God. She trusted the beautiful lady in Massabielle. It was no surprise that her simple virtues had chosen her to bring Our Lady’s message to the world and people of Lourdes. Her words sum it up, to inspire us how we should offer or faith and trust to Mary and Jesus;
“Oh my Mother, to you I sacrifice all other attachments so that my heart may belong entirely to you and to my Jesus.”