It is now a year since my beautiful visit to Nevers, Bernadette's final resting place, and now a place where earthly souls can rest for a little time bathed in peace before returning to the world. I can't really describe the beauty of being able to stay at the convent at Espace Bernadette and being able to be beside her body in the chapel late at night when nobody else was there. During the day I liked to watch children peep in at her with fascination and kneeling pilgrims tilt their head beside her while in a deep kind of conversation of prayer. Yet I also loved it late at night before they closed the chapel, I could simply kneel before her tiny structure and marvel, I could enter into that deep, deep peace that she emanates.
When I started this blog the first thing I wrote about was that trip to Nevers in the dying days of August - a trip that sustained me for the long winter ahead and sustains me still (You can read that post here). I met many of you through that early post because in this world there is a surge of warmth from many when you talk about Bernadette. She is a true spiritual giant. My journey to her was a privilege and in my darkest moments I cling to her words:
"I shall forget no one"
I have complete faith that this is true whether one is beside that little body or millions of miles away, across oceans and seas. For, of course, Bernadette is now on the other side of that veil which separates us from those that have gone before us - amidst the communion of saints.
St Bernadette - pray for us!
I thought I might share some of the happy snapshots from that trip:
The room in which Bernadette died is one where she lived and prayed through the last months of her life, suffering deeply. Her bed, like all the others in the infirmary was covered with a white drape. As she suffered, finally unable to walk she called it her white chapel. The place where her bed stood is now marked by the tabernacle, covered in a symbolic white drape. Words fail the powerful presence of peace in that room. Oh so beautiful! I go there often in prayer.
The spot where Bernadette actually died, sitting up as she struggled to breathe. The floorboards, the fire place, the statue are as they were. I knelt before them deeply touched by Bernadette's own hidden life of love and prayer.
This is Our Lady of the Waters, a statue which has its place at the back of the convent, hidden behind hedgerow. Bernadette would often steal herself some peace here, away from what was often an extremely difficult life in the convent. She was not a big fan of statues of Our Lady, she found them beautiful and showed them reverence but was always very aware that they could not reflect the real beauty of what she had seen. Yet she felt that this statue had "something" of the beauty she had seen in the Lady at the grotto. This is a similar stance to the one the Lady took when she revealed her name to Bernadette: 'The Immaculate Conception"
St Joseph's chapel where Bernadette rested till 1925 is the perfect place to hide away and say your Rosary. It was here that many early visitors to her burial site were said to have experienced miraculous cures through the intercession of Bernadette.
The front of the convent where Bernadette lived out her vocation, directly through those doors is the main chapel where Bernadette's body now rests.
The few possessions Bernadette brought with her from the hospice where she had been living in Lourdes until the age of 22