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Saturday, November 3, 2007

From City Dump to Saint

What’s up with Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, France making it to the front page of an American blog magazine about homelessness? Aren’t the saints super stars who never had bad days? Au contraire! Saints inspire us because of their unique poverty-driven relationship with God. In our admiration of them we usually focus on their holiness and their extraordinary charity towards other people. But digging deeper you'll discover that most saints share experiences that are common to our lives such as extreme loss, pain, suffering, ignorance and homelessness. St. Bernadette was one of these saints.

About 150 years ago St. Bernadette lived in a small French village by the name of Lourdes. Her family had just lost a milling business and their home. They had nowhere to go, so this family of eight occupied a small jail that had been abandoned due to pitiable sanitary conditions. Bernadette's family was very poor as the father tried to get a job as a day laborer. The family was on the brink of starvation to the point that one of her brothers was caught eating candle wax in church. One day in February of 1858 Bernadette went to the city dump looking for free firewood to heat the home. She saw a woman she called a “creature” who beckoned to her. Bernadette prayed the rosary with this woman, who asked her to come back and see her again. Bernadette was illiterate and only knew three prayers - the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Glory Be …

Bernadette continued visiting this woman but she did not understand that she was Our Blessed Mother. She was completely ignorant, she did not speak French, she only knew the prayers of the rosary and was deemed too illiterate to learn her catechism and receive communion. Yet Mary picked her in her ignorance and in her poverty!

Crowds began to gather around Bernadette during the 18 visitations of the Blessed Mother. Many tried to give her or her family money and in spite of her poverty she grew angry and refused. Once during her visit with Our Lady, Mary asked Bernadette to eat grass and clean her face. The locals thought she was crazy as they saw her digging through the mud and wiping it on her face; a village woman slapped her face. But Bernadette persevered and clear water appeared and she was able to clean her face.

From this site came a miraculous spring that has cured many people. Today over 6 million people come to Lourdes for healing. The real miracle is witnessing the conversion of people's hearts and souls.

And all this happened because a simple, little 14 year old girl heard the call of Mary and responded to it. As for Bernadette, the Sisters of Charity in Nevers took her in and taught her to read and write. Her writings remain to this day a source of inspiration for all of us. When you read about St. Bernadette, contrast her physical poverty against her spiritual richness. She found her home in Jesus' heart.
Written by L.S.

4 comments:

Raby Savage said...

It's comforting and scary to even contemplate such spirituality. It's comforting from the standpoint that even I, in my poverty, can get closer to Jesus Christ. It's scary in that--does this mean I'm accountable? It sure does.

Anonymous said...

R.S. I have found that God's call to me in my personal poverty is a gift of mercy that I did not deserve. As a result of lifting me up in my brokenness, I naturally want to be responsible and give all that I have to him - my 1,000 percent. David says in Psalm 119 - "What shall I give unto the Lord for all he's done for me?" What could our response possibly be but to give him our 2,000 percent!

mary pendergest said...

To think of poverty as a gift is a tough concept, but worth pondering.....

Anonymous said...

Mary, interesting how today's Mass Gospel reading points to your conclusion, but even more powerfully because it is in the very words of Jesus himself.
Luke 14:25-33.