On this day in 1858 Bernadette Soubirous, aged 14, saw the first of a series of visions at Lourdes. Bernadette, her sister and a friend were looking for firewood outside the town. She saw a small lady in a cave, dressed in blue and white. She never said she saw the Virgin Mary but constantly referred to ‘Aquero’, the patois word for ‘that’.
Bernadette’s visions were soon being witnessed by thousands and the Catholic Church, though at first sceptical, became convinced that something miraculous was happening at Lourdes. As indeed it was. Today five million people each year come to the little town which has more hotels than anywhere in France except Paris.
In 1933 Bernadette was declared a saint. Here are some things she said. They make a kind of poem:
Nothing very much.
I don’t think I’ve cured anyone whatsoever, and besides I haven’t done anything for that reason.
Oh, no, no. I want to stay poor.
I heard a sound like a gust of wind.
Then I turned my head towards the meadow.
I saw the trees quite still: I went on taking off my stockings.
I heard the same sound again.
As I raised my head to look at the grotto,
I saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress.
I threw some holy water at her.
They think I’m a saint . . . when I’m dead, they’ll come and touch holy pictures and rosaries to me, and all the while I’ll be getting broiled on a grill in purgatory.
At least promise me you’ll pray a lot for the repose of my soul.
Love overcomes, love delights.
Today I am grateful for Bernadette whose example of humility, honesty, piety and love has inspired so many people who can see how much can be achieved with just these simple things.