Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Rosica Factor: When Priests Threaten to Sue Faithful Catholics

Looks like a new trend is arising amongst priests who threaten lawsuits against any Catholic lady or gent of the laity who call them on their error(s). If this keeps up, the trend may well be called "The Rosica Factor" (see a bit of the Fr. Rosica story-background here).

 The Rosica controversy reached such a height that
"American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who formerly served as the head of the Vatican’s high court until Pope Francis appointed him patron of the Order of Malta, joined the discussion to defend the blogger," according to the article linked above. This time, however, the one being threatened by a Catholic priest is a Catholic wife and mother of three children.


My initial thought was to wonder at the coincidence (or is it one?) that this story came out on the Feast of the Virgin-Martyr, St. Joan of Arc. Anyone familiar with the life of St. Joan should recognize the implicit reference to the abuse she suffered under the hand of Church prelates. It went so far that she was martyred---while in the custody of Catholic bishops who abused their authority. It was they who martyred the saint. History has proven who was on the side of God---the great Saint Joan---and who was on the side of politics and religious respect----the bishops of England. And lest we forget, the imprisonment, maltreatment, and martyrdom of St. Joan (at the hands of the Catholic clergy who proved themselves guilty of human respect) occurred before the Protestant Revolt.
 
To return to the incident with the Catholic blogger (who also happens to be a wife and mother), she includes screenshots as proof: Catholic Priest Threatens Mum of 3 with legal action, because she told him off for saying that the Holy Spirit is female, and then he lies on Twitter about her!

Your thoughts?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why Saturday is Our Lady's Day


“To you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God,”[1] revealed Our Lord to His Apostles, but how much more do His words apply to Our Lady, whose singular office surpasses that of the disciples. Theologians are accustomed to point out that when God calls a human being to any office, He gives that person all the graces needed to fulfill its obligations.[2] Naturally, that teaching applies to Our Lady and never was it truer than on the first Holy Saturday, when the grieving Blessed Mother alone remained constant in faith.[3] It is for this reason that Saturday, especially Holy Saturday, is considered by the Church as Our Lady’s Day.

When the Jewish Sabbath began at sunset on Good Friday and all through Saturday, Our Lady and Jesus’ disciples, including the Holy Women, were prostrate with sorrow. Amongst all of them, only the Virgin Mary fully understood Her Son’s promise of His Resurrection, keeping its unwavering hope in her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.

Think of all that must have transpired in the Heart and Soul of the Virgin Mother as She remembered those most dreadful hours of Her Son’s Passion. The mere thought of a beloved child, enduring such suffering and abuse, would bring to the heart of any other human mother deep pangs of grief. Imagine the sorrow of the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God! How much Our Lady endured – for us!

Throughout the Sabbath, the Blessed Mother recalled the betrayal, saw again the most grievous Passion, and once more heard the mocking words that insulted and blasphemed Our Lord. Tortured and mocked from all sides, Jesus was never given a moment’s peace from the moment His Passion began. God is not mocked,[4] but He allowed Himself to be mocked as a prophet who said that He could raise the destroyed temple in three days, mocked in His quality of Son of God, mocked as a miracle-worker who healed others but could not help Himself, mocked for His sanctity and confidence in God, mocked as the Messiah and mocked as the King of the Jews.[5]

Loving and grieving witnesses of the Passion, Our Lady and the few who had been with Her at the Foot of the Cross must have later told the other apostles Our Lord’s last words:

To God the Father: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [6]
To the Good Thief: “Amen, I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”[7]

To His Virgin Mother and St. John: “Woman, behold thy son… son, behold thy Mother.”
[8]
To Heaven: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? That is, My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” [9]
Through parched lips: “I thirst.” [10]
For all to hear: “It is consummated.” [11]
To His Father once more: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And saying this, he gave up the ghost.” [12]


As if Jesus’ cruel sufferings and Death were not enough to remember, they saw again Our Lord’s side not only pierced but opened wide by a lance, His Sacred Heart laid bare and gushing forth blood and water. For Our Lady, witnessing this last and vicious sacrilege of Her beloved Son’s Body, Simeon’s prophecy came to pass: And thy own soul a sword shall pierce that, out of many hearts, thoughts shall be revealed.[13]

Ancilla Domini (Behold the Handmaid)

In those after-hours, the Virgin Mary would repeatedly behold Jesus’ Sacred Body removed from the Cross and the withdrawing of the cruel nails and the Crown of Thorns, feeling again His Holy Form, torn to shreds, and lying limp in Her arms. Transfixed by the uttermost sorrow, Our Lady was silent in Her anguish, but how the others must have wept at the sight of His beautiful and Holy Face, now so pale and disfigured. Relived once more was the rushed, distressing burial in a freshly-hewn and donated tomb.

Above all the deep heartache of the faithful St. John and St. Mary Magdalene, the Apostles and the Holy Women, Our Lady’s immaculate soul was crucified when Her Son was crucified - transforming the Immaculate Heart into the Sorrowful Heart of the Virgin Mother.

It was during the Passion that the Lady, full of grace, rose to the supreme and most terrible Sacrifice. Her prayer then consisted of the same words She spoke to the Angel Gabriel thirty-four years before: Ecce Ancilla Domini – that is, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word.” [14] During the terrible Passion and Death of Her Divine Son, the overflowing graces and virtues of this humble Maiden never allowed Her to even once doubt what the Angel said to Her long ago:

The Lord will give Him the throne of David His father, and He shall be King over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
[15]


City of God: The Glories and Sorrows of Mary

“I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and virtue.”[16] In explaining these words from the Old Testament, St. Alphonsus taught, “As the Blessed Virgin is the mother of holy love and hope, so also is She the mother of faith.” [17]

“Hope takes its rise in faith,” the saint continued, “for God enlightens by faith to know His goodness and the promises He had made, that by this knowledge we may rise by hope to the desire of possessing Him. Mary, then, having had the virtue of faith in its highest degree, had also hope in the same degree of excellence, and this made her say with David, But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God.”
[18]


In all of the mysterious, glorious and sorrowful events of Her life, Our Lady “stood alone, in a position apart, in her relation to the Redeemer and to His work of Redemption.” [19]
As St. Alphonsus also taught, “the most holy Virgin had more faith than all men and angels. She saw her Son in the crib of Bethlehem, and believed Him the Creator of the world. She saw him fly from Herod, and yet believed Him the King of Kings. She saw him born and believed Him eternal. She saw Him poor and in need of food, and believed Him the Lord of the universe. She saw Him lying on straw, and believed Him omnipotent. She observed that He did not speak, and She believed Him infinite Wisdom. She heard Him weep, and believed Him the joy of Paradise. In fine, She saw Him in death, despised and crucified and, although faith wavered in others, Mary remained firm in the belief that He was God.”[20]

It may seem that such things were effortless for the Blessed Mother because She is the Immaculate One. It is true that She was full of grace from the very first moment of Her existence, but it was through Her continual efforts and merits that grace overflowed in Her soul – making Her the aqueduct of grace for all souls. In me is all grace…


“Among the many beautiful qualities attributed by the Holy Ghost to the Blessed Virgin Mary, one stands out preeminently,” wrote St. John Eudes. “It is contained in these words of the eighty-sixth psalm, which Holy Church and her Doctors apply to the Mother of God, ‘Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God.’[21]

Mary is indeed the great and glorious city of God, the holy city, the city of Jerusalem, the city of peace, the royal city, ‘the city of the Great King.’ [22] The King of Kings built this city with His own hands; He exempted Her entirely from the infamous tribute of sin; He honored Her with countless great and extraordinary privileges; He enriched her with inestimable gifts and treasures and He established His first and most glorious abode within Her heart…Thou are not only the city of the great King, O Incomparable Virgin, thou art also His royal and eternal palace…Now if Mary is the palace of the King of Kings, Her Heart must be the King’s imperial throne.” [23]

The Virgin always cooperated with Her Spouse for “in Mary is the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Ghost; plenitude of all the interior gifts; plenitude of the gifts of Wisdom and Understanding, plenitude of the gifts of Counsel and Knowledge, plenitude of the gifts of Piety and Fortitude, and of the Fear of the Lord; plenitude of all the exterior gifts, the gifts of miracles, healing, prophecy, and of tongues.” [24]

St. John Eudes also testified, “St. Bernadine of Siena expressly stated that Our Lady…knew all these things in God, as in their first and universal cause…She saw God in all things, and all things in God.”[25] This is the great gift of grace that, when cooperated with, creates great saints; and it was this great grace which mainly sustained the Virgin Mary in all the mystical and mysterious events of Her life, especially during the Lord’s Way of the Cross and His Crucifixion.

Five Mysteries in the City of God
In the Good Friday Passion and during the desolate hours in which Our Lord laid in the tomb, the faithful Virgin Mother – like Her Divine Son, throughout His Life and Death – did not abandon even one of the five means of salvation and sanctification, in order to be the holiest of models for us to follow. St. Louis Marie de Montfort reminds us that these five means are known to all and that “they are laid down in the Gospel, explained by the masters of the spiritual life, practiced by the saints, and necessary to all who wish to be saved and to attain perfection. They are: humility of heart, continual prayer, mortification in all things, abandonment to Divine Providence, and conformity to the Will of God.”
[26]


Conceived Immaculate and always full of grace, still Our Lady carefully guarded the gifts bestowed on Her by the Holy Trinity. St. John Eudes affirmed that “the Holy Virgin’s heart exercised perpetual vigilance over Her own thoughts, words, and actions, over Her passions and inclinations, over all Her interior and exterior senses, and over all the powers of Her soul, that She might drive far away from Herself anything that could possibly displease God and to use Her faculties as perfectly and as virtuously as possible.” [27]

It was in Her Immaculate Heart that She pondered many things, and it was Her Immaculate Heart that was pierced by a mystical sword of sorrow.

Since all the glories of Mary are for the sake of Her Divine Son, as John Cardinal Newman once said in a sermon,[28] the same can be said of Her sorrows. “She had lived of her Son’s life, and when He died on the Cross, She died with Him,” a holy abbot once said. [29] “Both Mother and Son were nailed to the Cross, the Son in the Body, the Mother in Her Heart,” exclaims St. Lawrence Justinian. [30] “Could not Mary die in Her Heart, as Jesus died in His Body?” St Bernard asked. [31]

Nevertheless, the Virgin did not perish with Her beloved Son, but it was “only by a miraculous interposition on the part of God that She did not die.”[32] Her mission on earth was not yet fully accomplished, for the Passion and Death of Our Lord was the means by which Christ offered us Redemption and by which, in the order of grace, Our Lady became our Mother.

Our Lady’s Day
When Our Lady retired on Good Friday night, the evening of the Jewish Sabbath, She did so to occupy herself solely with the thought of her Divine Son. “Having cooperated in the Incarnation of the Son of God by the ardor of Her love, the fervor of Her desires, and the power of Her prayers, Mary’s Heart also contributed to His Resurrection…”[33]

As the Queen of Martyrs, Our Lady followed Her Son and stood at the Cross, Her love and humility far overshadowing the public shame of being mother to the One crucified as the lowest of criminals. As Queen of Prophets, the Blessed Mother stood apart from all others for only She foresaw and kept hope in the Resurrection throughout the Sabbath. It was to the gracious Virgin Mary that the Apostles and the Holy Women turned on the Sabbath, flying to the Mother of Mercy, Mother of God and Mother of the Church.

Holy Tradition relates that Christ, having risen from dead about 3 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning, first appeared to His Virgin Mother. Scripture supports that tradition, for Our Lady was not with the Holy Women who went to Christ’s tomb on this same morning. Why was it that the faithful Mother - who stood at the Foot of the Cross, held Her deceased Son in Her arms, and hurriedly prepared Him for burial before the Sabbath began - did not return to Jesus’ sepulcher to properly anoint His Body, according to the Jewish custom? It was because not only had She anticipated His Resurrection, but She knew He had risen.

Just as the Virgin preceded Her Divine Son in historical time, so does “Lady’s Day” (Saturday) precede the Lord’s Day (Sunday). St. Thomas Aquinas explains: “Since the Resurrection took place on a Sunday, we keep holy this day instead of the Sabbath as did the Jews of old. However, we also sanctify Saturday in honor of the glorious Virgin Mary who remained unshaken in faith all day Saturday after the death of her Divine Son.” [34]

Not only on Holy Saturday but on each Saturday of the year, faithful Catholics might also recall these words of St. Bernard’s: “In Mary alone did the faith of the Church remain steadfast during the three days that Jesus lay in the tomb. And although everyone else wavered, She who conceived Christ in faith, kept the faith that She had once for all received from God and never lost. Thus could She wait with assured hope for the glory of the Risen Lord.”
[35]

Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart teaches us how to commemorate the death of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. At His Incarnation, Our Lady was the Lord’s first Tabernacle. During His Passion and Crucifixion, the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary became the living Altar on which the Lamb offered Himself for the sins of the world. But it was on Holy Saturday that the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart first reigned, because the Virgin Mother solitarily trusted in the Resurrection of Her most beloved Son - Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Teach souls to love the Heart of My Mother, pierced by the very sorrow which pierced Mine…The Heart of My Mother has the right to be called Sorrowful, and I wish this title to be placed before that of Immaculate, for She won it Herself. (Our Lord to Berthe Petit)

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"Why Saturday is Our Lady's Day" is a chapter in my book, "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle readers).
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Endnotes
[1] Mk 4:11.
[2]Canon George D. Smith, D.D., Ph.D., The Teaching of the Catholic Church: A Summary of Catholic Doctrine, Vol. 1. [New York: The MacMillan Company, 1959]: p. 538.
[3] St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary. Fourth Reprint Revised. (Brooklyn, NY: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931): p. 602.
[4] Gal 6:7.
[5] Rev. R. Walsh, O.P., Meditation on the Passion [Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1963]: p. 249.
[6] Lk 23: 34.
7] Lk 23: 43.
[8] Jn 19: 26 -.
9] Matt 27: 46.
[10] Jn 19: 28.
[11]Jn 19: 30.
[12] Lk 23: 46.
[13] Lk 2:35.
[14] Lk 1:38.
[15] Lk. 1:32.
[16] Eccles 24:24-25.
[17] St. Alphonsus de Liguori, op. cit., p. 564.
[18] Ibid., p. 568.
[19] Smith, op. cit., p. 528.
[20] Ibid., p. 565.
[21] Ps. 86: 3.
[22] Ps. 47.
[23] St. John Eudes, op. cit., p. 77.
[24] Rosary Crusade Clarion, June 2001 (Issue 6) [http://www.sspx.ca/Rosary_Crusade/issue_06.htm]
[25] Serm. 13 de Exalt. BV in Gloria; cited by St. John Eudes, p. 116. Emphasis added.
[26] St. Louis Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary. [Bay Shore, NY: Montfort Publications, Revised Edition 1993]: p. 11.
[27] St. John Eudes, op. cit., pp.164-165.
[28] Smith, op. cit., p. 513.
[29] St. John Eudes, op. cit., p. 97.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.
[32] St. Alphonsus de Liguori, op. cit., pp. 527-528.
[33] St. John Eudes, loc cit.
[34] Fr. John Hardon, S.J., “Fatima in the Light of History.” The Real Presence website. [http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Mariology/Mariology_030.htm][35] Ibid.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A New Holy League for Catholic Men



For the convenience of those who don’t have the Internet bandwith to watch videos, I’ve transcribed the text of the video (embedded at the bottom of this post). If you’d like to share my transcription on your own blog, website, FB page (etc.), kindly link back to this post.
My transcription now follows:

[OPENING]

“Hi, I'm Doug Barry, founder and director of Radix and Battle Ready.

“March 7, 2015 is the 440th anniversary of the formation of the Holy League, called for by Pope St. Pius V. This movement of prayer and solidarity united Catholics throughout Europe in defense of Christendom. On this anniversary, we announce to you the launching of a new Holy League.

“And now, a very important message from the spiritual head of the Holy League, His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.”

[CARDINAL BURKE NEXT SPEAKS]

I want to commend to you in a very particular way a spiritual activity of the Holy League. It draws its name from the historic Holy League which was an activity of intense activity and prayer during the time of the threat and the overtaking of Europe by Islam, and through prayer and especially through Eucharistic adoration and through the praying of the Holy Rosary, a great victory was won at the Battle of Lepanto, a victory that we recall every year on October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

“The Holy League is a very simple and tremendously powerful movement in the Church, founded in 2014—last year—and it is basically one thrust, and that is that WE AS MEN to be in the state of grace, being the state of friendship with God, through the confessions of our sins and the even greater welcoming of those graces which God gave to us by our Baptism and Confirmation, and the actual graces that He gives us every day to live faithfully as Christians, and, out of the Holy League, propose to help us to be in the state of grace and to remain in the state of grace so we can be a source of strength for the Church in these very troubled times. It is by way of the Holy Hour, a monthly Holy Hour, during which the Sacrament of Confession is available, a Holy Hour concentrating on our relationship with Our Lord, Jesus Christ, growing in our closeness to Him so that He can help us to be strong and holy men for our time.

“And so I want, in my message today, to say how important you are to the Church and to the world in our time. The Church and our world has always depended upon strong Catholic men.

I want to encourage you in all that you are doing to be strong Catholic men of our time, for the transformation of our culture, for the building up of the Body of Christ, to be that leaven in the world which transforms it and prepares the world for Our Lord’s final coming—for that Final Consummation of His saving work.

So please be of good courage. I ask you in a very particular way to consider becoming a part of the Holy League-giving your time once a month to the Holy Hour and time also for a very sincere and humble celebration of the Sacrament of Confession and a time to be reinforced in your daily prayers and devotions.

May God bless you all and, in blessing you, may He make you a blessing for the Church today and for our work." 

[MR. DOUGLAS BARRY speaks again, below]

“What more needs to be said? Every Catholic man can be a part of this work. There is a great need in our world today for unity and support of this movement.

“The goal of the Holy League is nothing short of establishing a network of monthly Holy Hours for men with Confession and fraternity in every parish throughout the world.

“This is building on the call of Pope St. John Paul II to establish Eucharistic Adoration in every parish, as well as the call of Pope Francis who called for 24 hours of Eucharistic Adoration with Confession for March 13-14.

“This is a call to all men, to all Catholic apostolates, to every man involved in Catholic ministry of any kind, to join this alliance, this Holy League.”

“For more information, visit Holy League.com

“You [will] need to join the Holy League Information Network by texting the word EPIC to 84576.

Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of darkness.

“We need to remember the words of St. Paul: ‘Put on the armor of God.’

Gentlemen, the Holy League needs you. God bless and strengthen you.”


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Secret of Lent



The young and old may not be bound by the fast, but they are bound by the spirit, each according to his capacity. If we feel that it is unnatural to ask penances of children while they are still very  young—penances within their reach—we forget that self-denial must be learned very young, that it is the forming of character, that the very grace of their Baptism flows from the Cross.

The end (that is, the ultimate reason) of the penitential seasons imposed by the Church is not mere performance. The Church is a wise mother, who knows that the cutting away of self-will frees our souls for a more radiant love affair with Christ. If we think of the penance without pondering the effect, we misunderstand it. It is not over and done with the doing, but will bear fruit, if it is done with the right spirit; not alone by the piling up of treasure in Heaven but by an increase in our taste for God; a change in the habits of our souls.

Our Lord tells us how to behave during Lent when He speaks to us in the Ash Wednesday Gospel (Matt: 6:16-21): 

“When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to thee, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth; where the rust and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven; where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” 

So let us remember, when we choose something to give up: no moaning and groaning! Hypocrites (Our Lord was talking about the Pharisees) make much of their performances because they want attention. That being their motives, He says, they already have their reward: attention. There will be opportunities, before Lent is over, for us to attract attention, but so long as this is not our motive, we can accept and use whatever God permits to come to us.

A father will be asked by business associates why he, too, doesn’t order steak for lunch. One mother will be asked by fellow club-members why she doesn’t eat sandwiches and cake after their evening business  meeting. Some children will be asked why they say “No, thank you,” to proffered candies at school, to decline and invitation to a Lenten movie, to not join with others to watch a television show. These are the opportunities, with many more, to give reasons “for the faith that is in you.” (1)

The Main Tips: We know that, if pressed or if asked why we refuse certain activities or foods, we need not say, “Because I’m fasting” or “Because I gave that up for Lent.” If, however, someone continues to urge us, we can say (with a smile!), “Thank you for offering, but at the moment I don’t care for any or something to that effect, so that we don't (1) shame the person who is urging us and (2) give the impression of being a bit of a braggart, a "holier-than-thou." Otherwise, we have found another way to draw attention to ourselves. 

“Anoint thy head; wash thy face…” Show your happiest face, because Lent is a time of making grateful reparation to God for our sins and that of others. Do not groan or moan or find a way to complain. Be careful not to inadvertently brag. Our Lord teaches us to hide our sacrifices, and to keep them secretwith God.





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(1) Mary Reed Newland, The Year and Our Children

Thursday, April 17, 2014

St. Bernadette: A Life of the Beatitudes, Part 2

Bernadette, the Little Maiden of Lourdes:
A Life of the Beatitudes (Part II)


“I must become a saint. My Jesus wants it.”
– St. Bernadette

by Marianna Bartold


 “At fourteen, not knowing how to read or write, a complete stranger to the French language and ignorant of the Catechism, Bernadette looked upon herself as the most worthless child of her years.” [1]  On Thursday, January 28, 1858, the 14 year-old Bernadette returned to her parents, joyfully exclaiming, “Now at least I shall be able to go to school and Catechism! That’s why I’ve come back.” [2]
 
Circumstances were no better for the Soubirous family, but her parents gave their promise. The next day, Bernadette was in school. Upon hearing the child’s motive and determination, the Sisters enrolled her as a future communicant.
Coincidentally, on Thursday, February 11, 1858 – exactly two weeks after her return because she greatly desired her First Holy Communion - the humble girl was graced to see a “most beautiful Lady.” Bernadette would see this Lady a total of 18 times, the last vision occurring on July 16, 1858.

 
That particular Thursday was a school holiday, so Bernadette was home with her family. Although a bitterly cold day, the air was still and there was no wind under the sunless sky. Shortly after 11 a.m., Bernadette set out on a necessary, tiresome task, accompanying her sister Toinette and a younger, impulsive classmate, Jeanne Abadie. The trio went in search of two things: fallen branches and twigs that they could rightfully take and use in the Soubirous’ fireplace and old bones to sell to the rag-and-bone man. [3] Their expedition led them into a forest and then over a foot-bridge to the Lafitte family’s property, which formed an island. One side was enclosed by a bend in the Gave River, the other by a canal which powered a saw-mill and flour-mill, called the Savy. The extreme point of the triangle was a tall, rocky formation known as “Massabielle” (Old Hump).


Massabielle was “naturally shaped into an arch from which a cave ran backwards, and to the right, about fourteen feet up, there was a small niche where a wild rosebush was growing.” [4]   In the spring season, the bush was “ablaze with white blooms.” This wild outgrowth of rock, with its little oval niche, was also called “the grotto.” In the small space before the grotto, Bernadette was forced to wait, as her healthier companions decided to remove their shoes and stockings, cross the freezing cold stream, and continue their search for dead branches and discarded bones.


They were already on the stream’s other side when, anxious to help, Bernadette resolved to join them. She removed her shoes in anticipation of walking through the water. “I had hardly begun to take off my stocking when I heard the sound of wind, as in a storm.” [5]  (Two days later, Fr. Pomian – an assistant priest to Fr. Peyramele, the parish priest at Lourdes – was particularly struck by Bernadette’s mention of the “sound of wind, as in a storm.” It reminded him of Acts 2:2, when the Holy Ghost descended upon the Virgin and the Apostles: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”)


Although the trees across the way were not moving at all, Bernadette said, “I had half-noticed, but without paying any particular heed, that the branches and brambles were waving beside the grotto.” She returned to removing her stockings and was already putting one foot into the water when she again heard the same sound of wind, this time in front of her. She looked up and saw the branches and brambles “underneath the topmost opening in the grotto tossing and swaying to and fro, though nothing else stirred around.”

The Lady at the Grotto
It was within the oval niche that Bernadette saw a “golden cloud” and then a beautiful light, instantly followed by “a girl in white, no bigger than myself, who greeted me with a slight bow of the head; at the same time, she stretched out her arms slightly away from her body, opening her hands, as in pictures of Our Lady; over her arms hung a Rosary.” Bernadette described that the Lady was “smiling at me most graciously and seemed to invite me to come nearer. But I was still afraid. It was not, however, a fear such as I have had at other times, for I would have stayed there forever looking at her; whereas, when you are afraid, you run away very quickly.”


The Lady wore “a white dress reaching down to her feet, of which only the toes appeared. The dress was gathered very high at the neck by a hem from which hung a white cord. A white veil covered her head and came down over her shoulders and arms almost to the bottom of her dress. On each foot, I saw a golden rose. The sash of the dress was blue and hung down below her knees. The chain of the Rosary was yellow; the beads white, big, and widely spaced. The girl was alive, very young, and surrounded with light.” [6]
 
When asked for additional details, Bernadette would also describe the girl’s face as oval in shape and of “an incomparable grace.” The Lady’s eyes were blue, and her voice, “Oh, so sweet!” The Rosary held by the Lady was not the usual length for the Psalter of all 15 decades but a five-decade Rosary. As Bernadette prayed the Rosary, the Lady let Her own Rosary slip through Her fingers, silently counting the beads with Bernadette. The Lady, however, did not pray the Our Father or the Hail Mary, but She did pray the Glory Be.

Abbé Trochu, her foremost biographer, noted: “This last detail, which the little one in her ignorance could not have invented, reveals an accurate and deep theological truth. The Gloria, which is a hymn of praise to the Adorable Trinity, and is Heaven’s Canticle, is indeed the only part of the Rosary suitable for Her, whose name Bernadette would not learn for another month. The Pater is the prayer of needy mortals, tempted and sinful, on their journey to the Fatherland; as for the Ave, the Angel’s greeting (to the Virgin Mary), this could be used only by the visionary, as the Apparition had no need to greet Her own self.” [7]

In the first two apparitions, the Lady did not speak to Bernadette, although She greeted the girl with a noble, yet inviting, bow of the head. During the third apparition, the Lady spoke for the first time, asking Bernadette, “Will you do me the favour of coming here for a fortnight?” [8] Bernadette said, “After asking permission from my parents, I will come,” to which the Lady replied, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other” (a literal French-to-English translation).

As Bernadette would soon understand, the Lady did not state that She herself would always appear. Rather, the request applied only to Bernadette.  A brief summary provided by the first inquiry of the ecclesiastical Commission which later investigated the Lourdes apparitions thus states: “Bernadette was faithful to her appointment: she went most punctually to the grotto for a fortnight.  She always obtained the same favours there, except on two days when the Apparitions did not appear.” It was from this time forward that the young Bernadette was “accompanied by an ever increasing crowd. When she had the happiness of seeing the Vision, she forgot everything: she no longer noticed what was taking place around her: she was entirely absorbed.” [9]
 
This World and the Other
As for the Lady saying, “I do not promise you happiness in this world, only in the other,” her words quickly became self-evident. From the first day of the Apparition and until the end of her brief life, Bernadette would suffer misunderstandings, humiliations, false accusations, open derision, and many other trying circumstances.

For example, when her mother, Louise, first heard the story from the younger sister, Toinette, she questioned Bernadette and then took a rod to discipline both girls. At school, a much younger student slapped Bernadette across the face, while some of the teaching sisters taunted her to learn her catechism from the Lady. For many hours, the secular authorities would discourteously treat her, not even offering her a chair while they interrogated her. Even Fr. Peyramele was, at the first, very gruff with Bernadette.

Throughout her life, Bernadette was many times cross-examined about the Apparitions. In fact, she “wrote and signed numerous accounts of her visions In addition, she underwent repeated interrogations by both ecclesial and civil authorities, during which her testimony was transcribed. In none of these accounts did she contradict herself; on the other hand, there is no one single version that includes every detail.” [10]

What is consistent is Bernadette’s fidelity to testifying to the Virgin’s message and in living it. In the total of 18 apparitions, the Blessed Mother only spoke a handful of times. Once, She delivered three secrets that were for Bernadette alone – “a commission which, on her deathbed, she [Bernadette] declared she had carried out.” [11] For the public, however, the main message was one of penance, prayer for the conversion of sinners, and a request that the priests build a chapel and that processions come to the grotto. There was also the Lady’s gift, through the hands of Bernadette, of a hidden spring of water where graces of spiritual and bodily healing are to this day bestowed.

When the fortnight ended, the Lady had still not identified herself. During that interim, Bernadette had, at Father Peyramale's insistence, requested two things of the heavenly visitor – Her name, as well as a sign to confirm that the Apparition’s request for a chapel was truly from God.  On Thursday, February 25, 1858, the Lady had already instructed Bernadette, “Go and drink at the spring and wash yourself in it.” From young girl’s hand, the miraculous spring of Lourdes would come forth.  To the request for Her name, however, the Lady only gave Bernadette a gentle smile.

After March 4, Bernadette felt no inner call to return to the grotto until March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. When she arrived, she found the Lady was already waiting for her. On this day, Bernadette thrice implored the Lady for Her name.  Then came the final confirmation of Lourdes, for the Lady raised Her eyes to Heaven as She joined Her hands, brought them close to Her heart, and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” After the briefest moment, She then smiled at Bernadette and disappeared.

Life after Lourdes
The Holy Communion so ardently desired by Bernadette was received on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Then, on July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the Lady appeared to Bernadette one last and unexpected time. To deter pilgrims, civil authorities placed boards around the grotto, including the spring. Bernadette was by the Gave River when suddenly the Lady appeared: “I saw neither the boards nor the Grave. It seemed to me that I was in the grotto, no more distance than the other times. I saw only the Holy Virgin. I had never seen her so beautiful.” [12]

Bernadette’s actions during the apparitions emphasized both the Rosary and humiliating penance for sinners, but the Vision’s requests also tested her humble piety, fortitude, spirit of penance, and perseverance. Thus her coming years were foreshadowed, for she would continue to practice and interiorly grow in these and many other virtues.


The future saint was well aware that the grace of seeing the Mother of God did not grant her automatic access to Heaven. She would later write in her spiritual diary: “Often remind yourself of this word that the Most Holy Virgin said to you: Penance! Penance! You should be the first to put it into practice. For this intention, suffer trials in silence so that Jesus and Mary may be glorified…” [13]
  
Bernadette learned to read, write, embroider and sew. She became a Sister of Charity and Christian Instruction at Nevers, France, and was given the name of Sister Marie-Bernard. She worked in the infirmary as a nurse’s aide, and was later given the lighter task of altar sacristan. In the convent, she lived a life of both interior and physical suffering. She was often ill and frequently misunderstood and humiliated by her superiors and, on occasion, her fellow sisters. Abbé Trochu noted that “for the space of eleven years – much as she was esteemed and loved by her companions – she had been subjected to an undeserved coldness by those in authority over her. She always refused to speak of her suffering, which was a mixture of bewilderment and pain. She put up submissively with being reprimanded in public and more frequently than was her share.” [14]

Due to Bernadette’s lack of higher education and her frequent illnesses, to cite just two examples, she was called a “good for nothing” and “a lazy lie-abed.” Deeply hurt by such uncharitable comments, Bernadette never retaliated, although on occasion she might respond with a brief, appropriate remark. Once, when a passing superior flung a quick jest that the ailing Bernadette needed to arise and get about her business, the saint calmly replied, “It is my business to be ill.”

St. Bernadette understood that hers was an apostolate of suffering. A brief glimpse into her diary reveals the hidden gem of her interior life: “My divine Spouse has made me desire a humble and hidden life. Jesus has often told me that I will not die until I have sacrificed all to Him. And to convince me, He has often told me that when it is over, He alone, Jesus crucified, will console me.” [15]

At the young age of 35 years, on April 16, 1879, St. Bernadette died an agonizing death from tuberculosis of the bone. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1933.  Enclosed in a glass casket in the convent chapel in Nevers, France, her incorrupt body sleeps, as it awaits its reunion with her holy soul at the final Resurrection.

What was the secret of Bernadette? She tells us in her own words: “To love what God wills always, to will it always, to desire it always, to do it always: this is the great secret of perfection, the key to paradise, the foretaste of the peace of the saints!” [16]

---In case you missed it, you can also read St. Bernadette: A Life of the Beatitudes, Part I

Notes
   [1] Trochu, Abbé Francois. St. Bernadette Soubirous: 1844-1879 [Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1985. Translated and adapted by John Joyce, S.J. First published in France under the same title by Librairier Catholique Emmanuel Vitte, Paris, 1954. English edition copyright 1957 by Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., London. Published by TAN in arrangement with Longman Group Limited, London. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, June 21, 1957): p. 36.
  [2] Ibid.
  [3] Bones were used “for knife handles, toys and ornaments, and when treated, for chemistry. The grease extracted from them was also useful for soap-making.” Rag-and-bone man, Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rag-and-bone_man]
  [4] Foley, Donal Anthony. Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World. [Herefordshire, England: Gracewing, 2002. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur]: p . 159.
  [5] Trochu, loc. cit., p. 42.
  [6] Loc. cit., pp. 42-43.
  [7] Loc. cit., p. 44.
  [8] A fortnight is 15 consecutive days.
  [9] Trochu, op. cit., p. 63.
  [10] McEachern, Ph.D., Patricia A. A Holy Life: The Writings of St. Bernadette of Lourdes [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005. Kindle Edition]:  Loc. 116.
  [11] Foley, op. cit., p. 160.
  [12] McEachern, op. cit., Loc. 2354.
  [13] Ibid., Loc. 573.
  [14] Op. cit., Loc. 284.
  [15] Op. cit., Loc. 330.
  [16] Op cit., Loc. 542.