Lourdes – St Bernadette – Relics – England, Scotland, Wales – is there a link?
Well, yes, there is: the Relics of St Bernadette are coming from Lourdes and will tour various places in our countries in September and October. That being the fact, what could possibly be the attraction? The attraction is simply using the presence of her Relics as a visible, tangible and powerful focal point to arouse in ourselves the spirit of all that Bernadette and Lourdes stand for – Healing and Hope. And we can do this in the same way that we evoke memories of a loved one when gazing on a picture or memento, which magnifies those precious memories, and on this occasion through prayerful reflection, take us into those spiritual realms that Bernadette encountered.
And whilst we may not anticipate encountering Our Lady in the same highly personal way of Bernadette, we can reflect on and prayerfully explore the messages given by Our Lady directly to her:
- God is accessible to all, as exemplified by Our Lady appearing to this obscure peasant girl in an obscure town in France, but whose experience is widely known and accessed worldwide. Bernadette’s persistence and courage in transmitting Our Lady’s messages in the face of disbelief and incredulity was the rich reward for the whole world. “How blessed are you who are poor: the kingdom of God is yours.” (Lk 6:20)
- Our Lady’s eloquent statement on Faith in her very first words to Bernadette, who was seeking some form of reassurance as to what she was hearing and seeing, was, “What I have to say to you does not have to be written down”. Her clear message, in an age of increasing rationalism and cynicism over the supernatural, was that tangible and visible proof is not always going to be on hand – or indeed necessary. “Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.” (Heb 11:1)
- By Our Lady’s words in the third Apparition, “Would you be kind enough to come here every day for fifteen days?”, expresses God’s gracious invitation to all of us to engage with Him, with the same commitment and determination, against opposition, no matter how subtle, that Bernadette had to face and successfully overcome. “The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God is calling to himself.” (Ac 2:39)
- The last remark made to Bernadette in that same Apparition that would resound with her for the rest of her life, and should with us too, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other”, is God’s certain promise, despite the temporal suffering we may experience, of salvation for us all. “In my estimation, all that we suffer in the present time is nothing in comparison with the glory which is destined to be disclosed for us.” (Rm 8:18)
- There was a strong theme of repentance displayed by the deep and humble penitential acts undertaken by Bernadette at Our Lady’s behest during the eighth to twelfth Apparitions. This is a theme constantly and ever-urgently given by Our Lady, coupled with a strong call for conversion. “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.” (Mk 1:15)
- But…. in amongst these acts, was the flowing of hope, symbolised by Bernadette uncovering the spring indicated by Our Lady – ‘the living water’ – “The water that I shall give will well up in them and will become a source of eternal life.” (Jn 4:14) – that water which has since flowed constantly and abundantly, and in which the sick bathe with faith and hope in seeking and obtaining healing.
- The calls by Our Lady “to bring people in procession and build a chapel” is not only rich in symbolism but redolent with practicality in (those and these) times when churches are being closed and congregations dwindling. “So, since God has chosen you to build a house for his sanctuary, go resolutely to work!” (1 Ch 28:10). With those wishes of Our Lady more than richly fulfilled, Lourdes is still that bright, vibrant beacon of Hope to which millions flock every year.
- That clear confirmation by Our Lady to an uncomprehending Bernadette, “I AM the Immaculate Conception” – the Divine affirmation of the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception four years earlier by Pope Pius IX.
Since the Apparitions, the stringent, lengthy process by medical professionals and the Church has officially handled over 7,000 cases of unexplained cures, of which 70 have been fully validated as truly miraculous. But underlying these high-profile cases, are countless other miracles, large and small, that have happened to those who have sought the intercession of St Bernadette or Our Lady of Lourdes – from afar or at Lourdes. These will not only be physical healings, but also healings of mind and spirit. The huge majority will not have been reported to Lourdes or Church officials – but the recognition of those healings will have been witnessed by family and friends, and by the healed in giving their own private and heartfelt thanks to God.
From one who helped take the Relics of St Therese of Lisieux round England and Wales in 2009, I experienced the abundant graces flowing amongst those quarter of a million people who came to venerate and pray. So, this visit of St Bernadette’s Relics to this country is our direct invitation and convenient opportunity to go and make that first – or to renew – that acquaintance with Our Lady of Lourdes, and with Bernadette, in the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and to pray for that long desired-for healing for yourself or for others, and praying in that spirit of hope and repentance.
This blog was written by David Baldwin, author of many CTS books including Lourdes: A Place of Healing and Hope, which contains the story of Bernadette Soubirous, a spiritual and practical guide for pilgrims to the best known Marian shrine and its message of hope, healing, intercession and conversion.
For more on St Bernadette and the Lourdes apparitions, order your copy of Lourdes: A Place of Healing and Hope today.