Every year around the first of January, my friends on social media post about choosing a patron saint for the year. Without fail, each year I always forget, or simply never choose one. But I always know that God is going to send me some special patron throughout the year. This year, He sent me St. Bernadette.
I have always been fond of St. Bernadette. When I was a young boy I watched The Song of Bernadette over and over again. I was mesmerized by her story and the events that transpired during her childhood, namely that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her several times and the miraculous spring. If I ever had moments of doubt regarding faith, I would watch The Song of Bernadette and all would be well. My faith always was renewed.
This past January, I had the blessed opportunity to go to France as part of research I’m doing for a paper I’ll deliver later this year. While I needed to visit only two sites pertinent to my research, I was able to make my way around France and visit the Holy Sites. By divine providence, I was able to visit the monastery where St. Bernadette lays in repose, incorrupt, in Nevers, France.
My travel companions and I were driving up to Ars where I was scheduled to say Mass at 2:30. While en route, I noticed the mileage sign for Nevers, and remarked to my friends that was the city where St. Bernadette’s body was, and if I had traveled with my other friend, we would have went there. One of the people accompanying me, was suffering from a tumor in her leg, and by the trips end, we would fly to Lourdes. A most excellent way to seek St. Bernadette’s intercession before going to the place so near and dear to her heart.
Bernadette herself suffered from tumors at the end of her life, causing my fellow pilgrim to identify greatly with St. Bernadette. Unfortunately, Nevers was 150 km out of our way, and it did not seem possible to visit. But divine providence worked it out. We called Ars, asking to reschedule the Mass for later in the day. They told us they could not accommodate us at the earlier time and later would be best. As a result, we made a quick detour to Nevers. It was there, where I fell in love with St. Bernadette, and knew she was chosen as my patron for the year. My love for Bernadette grew even more as I walked in her footsteps in the city of Lourdes. And at a conference I recently attended, an artist had a beautiful print of St. Bernadette which I proudly hang in my office.
Since my pilgrimage I have read some of the words of Bernadette that I acquired while abroad. I have been touched by her deep humility and her holiness. This humble, unschooled, young girl who saw the Immaculata, can teach us so much about so many things, including suffering. If you want to get to know St. Bernadette, I encourage you to consider reading one of the many books which will help you get to know her, and then to fall in love with the little girl from Lourdes.
The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel
Not only is there a movie by the same title, but before the movie was the novel written by Franz Werfel, a Jewish believer, who wrote the book after hiding in the city of Lourdes. He fell in love with St. Bernadette while in Lourdes and beautifully captures the essence of Bernadette’s story, or in this case, her song.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous by Francis Trochu
For some the name Monsignor Trochu might be familiar. He is the noted biographer of the Cure de Ars. Deeply committed to transmitting the facts of Bernadette’s life, his book no doubt is one of the definitive works on Saint Bernadette. Trochu traces the life of St. Bernadette from her infancy and familial struggles, to the apparitions and her departure from Nevers. The reader will walk away knowing the story of St. Bernadette.
Bernadette Speaks: A Life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous in Her Own Words by Rene Laurentin
Fr. Rene Laurentin is one of the noted Mariologists of the 20th century. The book, described as being novel-like, relays the story of St. Bernadette compiled from her own writings, hence the book’s title. In this book, you the life of Bernadette will unfold before your very eyes.
A Holy Life: St. Bernadette of Lourdes by Patricia A. McEachern
Patricia McEachern takes the reader on a journey through the notes, journals, and private writings of St. Bernadette, known as the most secret of all the saints. The writings one will be exposed to within the text will open one’s eyes to Bernadette’s humility and the grandeur of her holiness.
This work of Laurentin preceded the work mentioned earlier and like the others takes the reader through the events of Bernadette’s life.
Bernadette: Her Story by Francoise Bouchard
This simple 76 page book recounts the story of Bernadette and provides insight into her life and what the reader can learn from her.
Therese, Faustina and Bernadette: Three Saints Who Challenged My Faith, Gave Me Hope, and Taught Me How to Love by Elizabeth Ficocelli
In recent years many authors (James Martin, Colleen Carroll Campbell) have shared the impact certain saints have had on their life in a memoir like fashion. Ficocelli, in her moving book, writes about three great women saints who enlivened her belief and practice of the faith. No surprise, she includes St. Bernadette, who she describes as being grounded in her faith.