During our summer message series, Wonder Women: Female Heroes of the Bible, we highlight saints who exemplify the qualities of our biblical heroine for the week. This week’s heroine is Mary, the Mother of God. Listen to her complete story on our website. Mary’s companion saint is Bernadette Soubirous.
How does one find a saint to compare to the saint of all saints, the mother of all, the mother of Jesus? It’s simply not possible. Saints are the intercessors of our prayers to the Lord, and Mary is the greatest intercessor of them all. But there are certain saints to whom Mary has appeared, and under her guidance, they have been able to be agents of corporal and spiritual healing. One of these saints is Bernadette Soubirous, whose name may not be as recognized as the town she came from: Lourdes, France.
Bernadette was born in January 1844 to extremely poor parents, the first of nine children. She was a sickly child her whole life, having contracted cholera as a toddler and suffered from uncommonly severe asthma. This, coupled with her family’s dire financial situation (all eleven members of her family lived in a one-room cellar, a former dungeon, in a wealthy relative’s home) and her reputation as a “simple child” and a poor learner, did not endear her to the local people. She could barely read or write.
Yet one day, when she was sent out to collect firewood with her younger sister and a friend, a “very beautiful lady” appeared to her above a rose bush in the grotto of Massabielle. Clad in blue and white, with a yellow rose on each foot, the “lady” made the Sign of the Cross over Bernadette, and together they prayed the rosary. The visions kept coming, but most of the villagers, including her own mother, thought Bernadette was crazy.
On February 25, the ninth apparition, the “lady” asked her to drink the water from the grotto. The next day, the murky, brown waters ran crystal clear. A few days later, Bernadette reported that the “lady” asked that a chapel be built on the spot and “a procession formed.” At the thirteenth apparition, the “lady” finally revealed herself to be “the Immaculate Conception.” At this, the town was bitterly divided. However, Bernadette continued to report her visions: she had eighteen in total.
After rigorous examinations by both the Church and the French government, it was established that Bernadette’s visions were truthful and accurate. A chapel was built on the site, and Lourdes now receives approximately six million pilgrims annually. The Church has recognized seventy official miracles from intercessions at Lourdes, the most recent just in February of this year.
While the Virgin Mary intercedes for all of us, and guides us all as the perfect spiritual mother, it seems that there is no place plainer in the world that shows her loving hands than at Lourdes, the place where she appeared to Saint Soubirous. In the hopes of the pilgrims, the trials that bring them to the holy place, and all the people working there today, “the Lady” is clearly evident.
--Claire Kosewic, Parishioner
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