St Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844 in a small town, Lourdes, in France and died in 1879 in Nevers at a young age of 35. She was the first of eight children born into a very poor family.
St Bernadette spent her life in the convent at Nevers very ill. She would receive visitors when she felt well enough to do it. One day some visitors asked her if she had heard of what was happening at the Grotto to which Bernadette answered no. Somewhat astonished the visitors asked how this could be. Bernadette simply replied, “You see, my business is to be ill.” This caused some consternation among the visitors, and they could not understand what she meant.
Bernadette was not a literate person and would find things hard to explain. However, she knew that God had decided to save her soul through sickness. Bernadette did not become a saint because she saw and talked to Our Lady, rather because she accepted her mission of sickness and suffering which she endured tucked away in the convent.
God had given her this special mission: the business of being ill and she did suffer greatly dying a very painful death. This was her path to heaven and sainthood.
Bernadette was not surprised by this as at one point during their conversations Our Lady had said to her that she could not promise St Bernadette happiness here in this world but in the next. Bernadette did not preach about suffering she lived it.
She has been given to us as a sign that not everyone will be healed physically when they go to Lourdes and that everyone has their special mission from God which must be understood in the wider picture of humankind’s salvation story.
It must be said that Bernadette did not go looking for suffering, she was no masochist. There is a story that says towards the end of St Bernadette’s life a sister noticed an image of St Bernard on her wall. The sister asked her about it.
Bernadette reminded the sister that he was her patron and she prayed to him. But she stressed “I do not imitate him at all as he loved suffering. I avoid it as much as I can.”
Each one of us has their own path to holiness. Often, we do not know what load others have to carry or fully understand what form their suffering takes but we can be sure through St Bernadette’s example that God is at our side and Blessed Mother has her mantle wrapped around us.
Bernadette is often remembered for her special grace of seeing Our Lady and about how poor a family she came from. But there is much more to her life and a lot that we can learn from a life which in many ways was not any different from ours.
If you would like to know more about St Bernadette, resources are available at our online book centre www.paulineuk.org. Alternatively, you can pop into any of our physical book centres close to you https://www.paulineuk.org/bookcentres.
“I shall spend every moment loving.
One who loves
does not notice her trials;
or perhaps more accurately, she is able to love them.” - St Bernadette
“Let the crucifix be not only in my eyes and on my breast, but in my heart, O Jesus! Release all my affections and draw them upwards. Let my crucified heart sink forever into Thine and bury itself in the mysterious wound made by the entry of the lance.”
“O Jesus, give me I pray … the bread of humility, the bread of obedience, the bread of charity, the bread of strength to break my will, and make it one with yours, the bread of patience to bear the pain my heart endures, the bread to see you and you alone in all things and always!” “I put my hope in you, Lord. Be my house of refuge because you are my strength.” “He is sufficient for me … Jesus alone for riches.”
Be part of the St Bernadette Relic Tour this Autumn
In September and October this year, the relics of St Bernadette will journey on pilgrimage to England, Scotland, and Wales for the very first time. This very special once in a lifetime event will provide an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the special gifts and charisms of Lourdes, in a church or cathedral near them. St Bernadette Relic Tour 2022