The Thinking 


February 11, 2018

TODAY is the 160th anniversary of the day in 1858 that a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, had the first of numerous visions in a grotto in the mountain town of Lourdes, France. A beautiful lady appeared before her. The lady appeared and communicated with her 16 times in the ensuing months.

Bernadette was harshly persecuted by her family, her teachers, her neighbors, the clergy and the local police, who threatened her with arrest, before the authenticity of her Marian visions was widely accepted. Many were converted to the view that she was telling the truth when they saw her experience one of her apparitions, so transfixed and transformed was this small, humble child. Twenty thousand people came to watch as she experienced the 14th apparition. No one else saw what she saw.

On the morning after her 12th apparition, a Paris newspaper reported:

“That little actress, the miller’s daughter at Lourdes, collected round her again on the morning of the 1st of March, beneath the Massabieille rock, nearly two thousand five hundred boobies. It is impossible to describe the idiocy and moral degeneration of these persons. The visionary treats them like a troop of monkeys and makes them commit absurdities of every kind. This morning, the pythoness was not inclined to play the seer, and to make a little variety in the exercises, she thought the best thing was to play the priestess. Assuming a grand air of authority, she ordered the fools to present their Rosaries and then blessed them all.”

Bernadette later became a religious celebrity, which was equally hard for her to bear, and died after a painful illness at the age of 35. Millions have reportedly been healed by the famous spring which arose on the spot of the visions. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1933.

Today is the Feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. A Lourdes prayer:

O Most Holy Virgin, do not in the midst of your greatness forget our earthly sorrows. Cast down your tender look upon those who suffer, who struggle against difficulties, and who cease not wetting their lips in the bitter draughts of this life. Have pity I beseech you on those, who although united in love, have been cruelly parted, and take pity on the lonely-hearted. Grant us your help in our unbelief, and have compassion on those most dear to us. Be compassionate upon those who mourn, who pray, who tremble, and grant all Hope and Peace. – Abbe Perreyve

— Comments —

Gail L. Aggen writes:

I don’t know why I continue to be amazed at how holy people or those striving to do something good can be so misunderstood, opposed and vilified in their lifetimes. Reading what they wrote about Bernadette in the newspaper article illustrates that the haughty, mocking spirit so alive today has been around forever.

Often these folks die in obscurity, only to have their efforts and very essence finally realized and appreciated much later by the world. Even when they achieve notoriety in their lifetimes, garnering large followings (as it was for Bernadette and the Fatima children, for example), the lives of these special ones are typically not made easier, but in fact become more painful for all the attention.

May we all be granted the grace of heroic virtue, counting it all joy when we endure our little moments of persecution for righteousness sake, and like our little Bernadette, just keep our eyes on the prize.

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