Monday, 1 November 2010



Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Hanging out with Keats

I have always had a soft spot for the poetry of John Keats and some of his letters. His life was a short one and certainly not one in which he came to a definite decision about a belief in God. However, some wisdom did certainly filter through his sensitive soul. I was just reading andI liked it and wanted to share:

"Do you not see how necessary a world of pain and troubles is to school the intelligence and make it a soul?"

In a way I think this is true. Any suffering is certainly an evil but, in our case, through the hope offered by the ultimate suffering we find ourselves coming closer to truth and the truth of love. Dearest St. Bernadette and so many countless others knew this better than anybody.

Getting excited about the Pope in Britain!

I found out today that I have got one of the allotted tickets to see the Pope (I was on the reserve list before). Even though I've been off the blogging circuit (largely for reasons beyond my control) for a while now I know that word will have got round about the hostility of some of my fellow countrymen towards Benedict. However, of course what is not reported in the press is the swathes of people and indeed young people (Catholic and non-Catholic) who are curious, interested, excited and enthused about his visit. This is an important historical event for the country, something that goes someway to forging some healing of rifts that have existed in this country since the Reformation. Obviously, there are always those few who do not want rifts to be healed and because they are often deemed more interesting to listen to, they are often the few that get heard.

Over these last few months I have attended various events for twentysomethings in which nothing but delight was expressed about Benedict's visit. Some people have been afraid that showing support for Benedict may be looked at in such a negative light that they were worried about how to approach the topic at work. Vincent Nichols has been very good at buoyingspirits at events I have been to recently. The truth is, with all the controversy and the desire to cause controversy, at the end of the day peace is stronger and Benedict is full of peace. Perhaps all that those who look to cause rifts will cause, is a sense of a renewed strength and solidarity in those who want to show that peace is stronger.

Heart to heart.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Happy Trinity Sunday!

Happy Holy Trinity Sunday! The great mysteries of our faith continue to astound me. I blundered into a confirmation mass last Sunday and it was one of great peace and beauty. It is easy to forget that the Holy Spirit is always moving, even if you can't see the fire quite as clearly as Peter- you can still feel it. I haven't had as much of a chance to blog as I would like in these couple of months and I have felt the loss of it. I have been trying to make some important decisions and listen very carefully to the Lord as I decide whether to take a year to teach in a community in need next year (September 2011) I have been teaching now for 5 years and I do love my job but I also want to give some more time to God and give a short time in service. I think this is probably the least that I can do for Him and I am well aware I will probably receive far more than I could ever give.

I have felt the need to be very still and reflect a little over the last few months. I feel providence is working through those I have met and although the press has been giving the Church a ritual battering for all sorts of things, it is important to remember that for all the ill there really are just some amazing people in our Church. I'm not talking about the lauded heroes or great saints - (though obviously we are proud and deeply in need of the communion of saints and our great martyrs) I'm just talking about the people we meet on the ground level who love God and see him in others. There is so much to be joyful about. Speaking of joys I haven't made to Lourdes this year, I will wait to see if the good Lady gives me the chance to go back. If not then I shall think back joyfully over the blessings I have had while there and be so very thankful for them.

On Trinity Sunday one realises that in every aspect of our God there is hope and a different way of communicating with us, his people. I am hopeful that we can listen.

Even when I go a little quiet always be assured of my prayers for all your intentions, especially today when we celebrate the greatness of our God and His sensitivity to all aspects of our being as well as all aspects of his.

Peace be with you!

Friday, 16 April 2010

The anniversary of St. Bernadette

Bernadette died at three o'clock in the afternoon on the first Wednesday after Easter. Sister Nathalie, a Sister of Charity of Nevers gives this account: "Toward three o'clock in the afternoon she seemed in the grip of inexpressible interior anguish. The sisters in the infirmary were alarmed and fetched holy water which they sprinkled over her while suggesting pious invocations to her. She took hold of her crucifix, contemplated it with love, then slowly kissed Christ's wounds, one by one."

In the hour of Christ's death Bernadette raised her arms in a cross and cried out "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, poor sinner, poor sinner ..."

Bernadette had been told at the grotto many years before that she would not be happy in this world but in the other. She had taken this to heart and she never took it for granted. Her life was one of suffering and giving. Bernadette did not always find life easy but she gave herself completely to her vocation and gave up her beloved Lourdes. Her body remains a visible witness to faith in


Prayer to St. Bernadette

Bernadette, you have long sought the Lord where he called you to.
You asked. You listened. You trusted.
You were sure the Lord would guide you.
You surrendered yourself completely in the hands of God.

Like Mary you are confidant
Inspire in me the same confidence, the same generosity and patience.

Lord, enlighten me on my path
And give me strength to say "yes"
when I hear your call.

Bernadette, you intensely desired the Eucharist,
You had done everything to receive communion
in the Body of Christ,
You loved to adore the Blessed Sacrament,
You united your life living in the offering,
that of Christ at the alter.

Like Mary, the Woman of the Eucharist
Inspire in me the same hunger for the Eucharist, the food,
presence and sacrifice.

Lord, you have given us your Son,
the living and eternal Bread.
That the Eucharist transforms my life to be a
perpetual act of thanksgiving.

Bernadette, you always enjoyed serving others,
On 11th of February, the Virgin appeared to you when you
were fetching wood.
Among sisters, you learned to treat the sick and
residents of the hospice
Later, in Nevers, you were an excellent nurse,
offering an attentive and intelligent in charity.

Like Mary, who saw the family's needs, in Cana.
Inspire in me the same generosity and the same faith
to see that Christ is present in each one

Lord, you have given us brothers and sisters to love.
That our eyes, our hands and our hearts are open
to all those that you put in our way.

Bernadette, your faith has grown in the Church.
The Church, it was your family, your church,
your religious community.
Bravely, you went to tell the priests to hold a procession
and to build a chapel.
Once your mission was accomplished,
you retreated in silence and humility.

Like Mary, in this day of Pentecost and then silence.
Inspire in me the same love of the Church:
I trust that it will support me in my prayer.

Lord, you give everyone a place in your Church.
Let me answer my vocation with the same simplicity
and the same generosity as Bernadette.


(Copyright Service Creation- Sanctuaries Notre-Dame de Lourdes)

This time last year I was fortunate enough to be in Lourdes on this day and little mention was made of Bernadette there. Her humility and recognition that she was simply a courier of messages at Lourdes mean that she is rarely the focus there. This, I think, would have pleased her. She is, of course, of great importance to the place but you often have to seek her out if you really want to understand her. So many people do. For me, for countless millions of others whether Catholic or not Bernadette is a powerhouse of strength, love and faith at its best.

Pray for us St. Bernadette!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Happy Easter!

So, what happened to the girl who used to write this blog? Excellent question! It has been weeks since I have sat down to write a proper post. Well, if you had noticed I was gone, - I'm back. It seems like an appropriate day to stage a return.

It is very easy to get caught up in a series of "busy nothings" in life or, worse still, allow your life to become that series of busy nothings- there have been times recently when I felt like either or both of these were the case. I have been fighting against this fear of "busy nothings" in these weeks of Lent, like so many others, trying to maintain a sense of peace and prayer in my life amidst endless deadlines. It is definitely not always as easy as it seems. However, here we are on Easter Sunday and I feel, looking back I can only now see clearly the graces I have been given in these last six weeks of preparation. Perhaps part of the experience of Lent is battling to find the meaning and truth of all we experience in the weeks leading up to Easter. Things which seemed like mere distraction can give those stolen moments of reflection greater meaning and strength when they do come. When they don't come, perhaps our longing for them has some value too. Lent is that period of "lengthening" of longing for hope and peace and relationship with Him - the Lord we might only catch glimpses of in this life.

Now Easter is here I am overwhelmed, as always, by its beauty and its light. My words are inadequate. But we all know that really trying to understand the mystery is the work of a lifetime. Its good to be back reading posts though, sharing that work with you all. As I watched the Urbi et Orbi today I was struck by that thought, how close we all are in our faith. May we journey onwards together in the midst of our great hope!

I wish you all a most happy and blessed Easter! May the peace of Christ be with you!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I MISSED ONE! 15TH Apparition

Thursday 4th of March

And so the main 14 days of apparitions come to an end. Again, Bernadette returned to the grotto with her Rosary and asked the Lady's name as she had been told to by the priest. In her own words:

"The third time I went to see M. le Curé, to tell him that a Lady had ordered me to go and say to the priests that they were to have a chapel built there, he looked at me for a moment, and then he said to me in a rather gruff tone, 'Who is this lady?' I answered that I did not know. Then he commissioned me to ask her name and to come and tell him. The next day when I arrived at the grotto I recited my rosary and then asked her, from M. le Curé what her name was, but all she did was to smile. When I got back I went to M. le Curé to tell him that I discharged his commission, and her only response was her smile; then he said she was laughing at me and that I would do well not to go to her again. But, I could not help going."

The Lady smiled once more but the vision was silent. The crowd was now far too large to put an exact number on but a conservative estimate is 8000 people. Bernadette's focus remained compete. The crowd was waiting for the miracle that would prove the Lady's divinity. It did not come and Peyramale, along with many others were unimpressed and took this as proof of their suspicions.

The grotto stood for the next twenty days with no visits from Bernadette or her Aquiro. The Lady would only appear another three times. However, the next apparition would cause the greatest commotion of all. On Thursday the 25th of March the Lady would reveal her name.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Anniversary of the 14th Apparition

Wednesday 3rd of March

Bernadette arrived early in the morning on this day as this was when the Lady most often appeared. As always Bernadette seemed focused only on seeing the Lady and was undisturbed by Peyramale's comments of the day before. Like Mary's, Bernadette's faith was unwavering and she did not falter in her belief that she must go to the grotto as she had been asked. She would later say in her usual direct and simple manner 'I have nothing to say because I have always told the truth'.

However, early as Bernadette was and surrounded by a crowd of THREE THOUSAND people the Lady did not appear and Bernadette left for school disheartened. However, in the evening she was compelled to go back to the grotto and there she met once more with the Lady she so loved to look on.

Bernadette had been told by Peyremale to ask the Lady for her name. He had also asked that the Lady make the rosebush flower as proof of her existence. Ever faithful Bernadette repeated this message from the priest but the Lady simply smiled back at the girl gazing upon her, bowed a little and smiled

Anniversary of the 13th Apparition

Tuesday 2nd of March

At this apparition the Lady would make two requests that are staples of the modern Lourdes - one a chapel and the other procession. Bernadette would later tell how the Lady asked quite simply:

"Go, tell the priests to come here in procession and to build a chapel here”

That is exactly what Bernadette did- taking the short walk up to the house of Peyramale who was a generous but firm priest - known for his clarity and his temper. Little Bernadette, a peasant girl who would be indistinguishable from any other village peasant was accompanied by her two Aunts. The Soubirous family were still rather sceptical about the visions themselves. They were practical people but they also knew Bernadette and that all her life she had been unequivocally honest. They knew that she would not deceive them and therefore they walked with her. Peyramale's reputation was not without foundation - Bernadette repeated the Lady's request and aggravated his famous temper. He asked her if she or the Lady had any money. Bernadette shook her head- she had to admit she had nothing - not even a penny.
'Neither do I!' shouted Peyramale.
Peyramale told Bernadette that if the Lady wanted a chapel the least she could do was mention her name. He said that before she got anything she should make the wild rose bushes flower - a miracle to prove that she was
deserving of her chapel or any time at all. Bernadette simply said she would ask the Lady all that Peyramale had told her to ask. He told her to go home and to stop her deception. He also told off her aunts for letting this silly little girl bother him in the first place. He shooed them away but Bernadette returned a few minuets later to ask that people should come in procession - she had forgotten this part because Peyramale had been so outraged by the chapel she hadn't even got to the second part of the request. Angered even more by this the priest told her once more to go home and stop her deception - he slammed his window shut. Bernadette went home but there was no deception to put an end to and her messages from the Lady would certainly not end there. Little did she know that the man who had turned her away on this day would soon become her ardent defender. The power of Aquiro.

The photo above is the chapel as seen from the grotto at night.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Anniversary of the 12th apparition

The crowds were now at about 1500 and on this day, for the first time, a priest was among them. During the night something strange had happened and there was an atmosphere of excitement - though Bernadette seemed only aware, as usual, of the Lady she ran to the grotto to meet. She conversed with the Lady and continued her acts of penance.

A pregnant housewife Catherine Latapie had gone to the spring Bernadette had dug days before with the idea that bathing her arm, which had a paralysis of the ulnar nerve and caused her a great deal of pain, might soothe the agony. Her arm was healed and from that time forward caused her no pain. She also went into labour immediately and had to leave the grotto after which her baby was safely delivered. Dr Dozous, the local and esteemed M.D. was interested in this event and began recording the events at the spring which had medical implications. This is often recorded as the first miracle.

Anniersar of the 11th apparition

11th Apparition

Sunday 28th. February

Bernadette continued to carry out her acts of penance with the graciousness and humility that so struck the crowd of now over one thousand people. This would involve Bernadette being absorbed in prayer, kissing the ground, drinking from the overflowing spring and moving on her knees as a sign of penance. Some still did not know what to make of her but the increasing popularity and notoriety of the grotto was giving the authorities a headache. Lourdes was anxious not be seen as a backwards mountain outpost and for this reason Bernadette was taken to the house of Judge Ribes following this vision. Bernadette was threatened with prison and interrogated (again). She remained firm saying she had made a promise to Aquiro and she could not break it. She would return to the grotto.

Anniversary of the 10th apparition

Saturday 27th. February:

Eight hundred people crowded round the grotto where, two days before, Bernadette had dug a muddy puddle. The puddle was now a flowing spring - almost reaching the banks of the Gav. People watched as Bernadette carried out her acts of penance; drinking the water and eating the weeds. People waited for another message from the Lady. She remained silent. Watching. Praying. Those who had laughed and jeered at the previous apparition were also silent. Perhaps no longer so sure what to think about the little girl from Lourdes who seemed to have such dignity and grace in all she did- even when these actions might invoke judgement and involve humiliation.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Anniversary of the 9th Apparition - THE SPRING

Thursday 25th of February

Following the impressive gestures of the day before a further fifty people joined the crowd that came to the grotto for many reasons - curiosity, prayer and cautious interest. The number at the grotto on this day was about three hundred. This vision would mark a turning point - though the crowds witnessing the events would not realise the significance of what they were seeing. In fact they would laugh and jeer at Bernadette who continued to follow the Lady's commands undaunted. In her own words:

"(The Lady) told me that I should go and drink at the fountain and wash myself. Seeing no fountain I went to drink at the Gave (the river just a few metres from the grotto). She said it was not there; she pointed with her finger that I was to go in under the rock. I went, and I found a puddle of water which was more like mud, and the quantity was so small that I could hardly gather a little in the hollow of my hand. Nevertheless I obeyed, and started scratching the ground; after doing that I was able to take some. The water was so dirty that three times I threw it away. The fourth time I was able to drink it. She also made me eat the bitter herbs that were found near the spring, and then the vision left and went away."

In front of the crowd that was laughing, gasping and jeering Bernadette retreated from the grotto with her usual dignity. When she overheard the crowd asking "Do you think that she is mad doing things like that?" she replied; "It is for sinners."

Though no one yet knew it, the spring Bernadette had dug was in fact the same one that would become known, in a matter of weeks, as the miraculous spring of Massabielle. It has an entirely separate source to the Gave river which flows just metres from it. When examined by scientists it was found to have no special factors compared with other waters and yet incredible things happen to those who come to bathe in it.

People laughed at the grotto that day but now 30000 gallons of water flow from the spring EACH DAY. It is taken all over the world and remains a symbol of faith and hope. Video of the spring can be seen/ heard at the post VIRTUAL LOURDES

(This is the half way point in the apparitions -18 in total. The next apparition occurs on the 27th of February)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Anniversary of the 8th apparition

The crowds had continued to swell and now there was about 250 people surrounding the little grotto and the little visionary. For the first time Bernadette would carry a message to the crowd -one of serious gravity. The message of the "lady" was "Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!". Bernadette was the first to obey this command - kissing the ground reverently and then raising herself back to a kneeling position. People were impressed with her immense humility and the dignity of the little peasant girl. People described how her whole physique changed when she encountered the Lady. It was almost as though her beauty was reflected in Bernadette's face. I think just looking at Bernadette's eyes a residue of that beauty could be seen for the rest of her life. They seemed to be looking beyond this world. While the events of this day may have moved and impressed the crowd as Bernadette cried out Penance! Penance! Penance! at the close of the vision - kneeling at these words; tomorrow's vision would bring Bernadette ridicule and least until something utterly extraordinary happened.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Anniversary of the 7th Apparition

The crowds had now reached 150 people and after a day away from the grotto with no apparition, following her first meeting with Jacomet, Bernadette found herself called to Massabielle again. She continued in the same reverent manner as before - speaking with Aquiro in such deep ecstasy that she could barely be heard- though her lips could be seen moving. She kept her eyes fixed on the niche in ardent prayer. On this day the Lady would reveal a secret for Bernadette alone and she would never share it. The next few messages would be very public and the Lady would address the crowds- even though they could not hear or see her- so perhaps this secret was something Bernadette needed to hear before the explosion of activity and miracles that would create the sanctuary of Lourdes.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Anniversary of the 6th Apparition

It is lovely that the days match up to the dates this year!

Sunday 21st of February
At the sixth apparition the crowds leapt in number and when the lady appeared early in the morning on this Sunday Bernadette was surrounded by one hundred people. She would later say that when the lady was present she was barely aware of those surrounding her - such was her focus. On this day the crowds were deeply impressed by Bernadette's reverence and ecstasy.

As Bernadette speaks and prays with Aquiro- the lady looks out over the crowd and tells Bernadette 'pray for all sinners.' Bernadette later said that the only time when the lady looked sad was when she talked of sinners- this would be with increasing frequency in the coming visions.

The fact that interest in these visions was growing meant the authorities in Lourdes could no longer avoid confronting what was happening down at the grotto. After this vision the Police Commissioner, Jacomet, had Bernadette summoned in order to question her. This would be the first of many such sessions in which Bernadette would be intimidated and interrogated. In spite of ill health and exhaustion Bernadette would always hold herself with dignity and respond with incredible precision. She never flinched or shied away when summoned but went willingly and politely wherever she was taken. Jacomet was concerned for the reputation of Lourdes and wanted Bernadette to tell what she saw. Bernadette would only speak of "AQUÉRO" ("that thing" in local dialect) and when he tried to muddle her about what she saw she calmly corrected him on the details that would remain unchanged, even on the smallest point, in the thousands of verbal and written accounts she would be forced to give until the time of her death.

Bernadette's father Francois came to collect her on this particular day and, afraid of the consequences of these visions and the trouble they were causing for his family, he was persuaded to assure the commissioner that he would not allow his little daughter to continue to go to the grotto of Massabielle. Francois and his family were at a low ebb and he was burdened by their fall in postion. He was a hard worker and a talented miller and he did not want to cause his children anymore pain. However, he loved his Bernadette more than he loved his reputation and when he saw how broken she was by his request that she should not return to the grotto he relented and let her go. Bernadette had never lied to him and much as it caused him hurt he found himself unable to deny her truth and sincerity.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Anniversary of the 5th Apparition

5th Apparition
Saturday 20th of February
At the fifth apparition Our Lady spoke with Bernadette and taught her a prayer that was just for her. She would say this prayer every day of her life, but never wrote it down or repeated it to anyone. For the rest of her life people would constantly attempt to make Bernadette divulge this prayer and the secrets Our Lady had told her. Bernadette never gave in but with her immense strength of character and her own brand of feisty Pyreneen wit she would rebuke them for trying in a firm but gentle manner. One frequent response was 'men are powerful on earth but the Holy Virgin is powerful in Heaven'. Whatever was said it was noted by the crowds at the end of this vision Bernadette was overcome with a great sadness.

Word had now begun to spread amongst surrounding villages and this day saw the biggest crowd yet - about thirty people.

Friday, 19 February 2010

4th apparition- the origin of the candles

Friday 19th. February was another short and silent Apparition (about thirty minutes) in which Bernadette and Our Lady continued to pray the Rosary together. The woman with the blue sash and the yellow rose between each foot would only join in with the Our Father and the Glory Be the rest of the time she would follow along on the beads with Bernadette's eyes fixed on her. Sometimes she would smile.
This time Bernadette went to the grotto with six women, one of whom was her Aunt. This was the beginning of the weeks of 1858 in which Bernadette would see Aquiro with the greatest frequency. She never claimed that the person she saw was the Virgin Mary and corrected those who did make any such statement. Bernadette was always very precise about the details of what happened at the grotto of Massabielle.

She came to the Grotto with a lighted blessed candle. This is origin of carrying candles and lighting them in front of the Grotto. I love the the fact that no matter the time of year or the time of day since the lighting of this first candle on the 19th of February the candles of faith have continued to burn at this little grotto. Whenever a doubt flickers across my mind I think of the candles burning beneath and close to the rock where Our Lady stood and I know that there is great faith in the world.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Third Apparition and Feastday of St Bernadette

It is now the 18th here and this means two things:

1. It is the 152nd anniversary of the third apparition of Our Lady to Bernadette at the grotto. It was also the first apparition at which Our Lady spoke

2. It is Bernadette's official feast day (although interestingly there is disagreement over this because many outside of France celebrate it on the 16th of April- the date of her death) At Lourdes both are recognised - good enough for me! So it will be on my little blog.

1. The third apparition would be the one which would set thecourse of Bernadette's life. Having prayed the Rosary together the two young women were now ready to converse. Mary would make a request of this simple teenage girl from a small village. Bernadette, with a humility and acceptance would accept the Lady's promises with love and trust and return to the grotto knowing that happiness would not be hers in this life if she did - that was the level of her faith in the next life. The account that follows is in Bernadette's own words:

"The third time was the following Thursday. The Lady only spoke to me the third time. I went to the grotto with a few matured people, who advised me to take paper and ink, and to ask her, if she had anything to say to me, to have the goodness to put it on paper. I said these words to the Lady. She smiled and said that it was not necessary for her to write what she had to say to me, but asked if I would do her the favour of coming for a fortnight. I told her that I would. She told me also that she did not promise to make me happy in this world, but in the next."

2. A brief celebration of Bernadette's beautiful but often difficult life - it was made beautiful simply by her choices and by her simplicity. Even now, many years after Bernadette's death I have found the places she touched to have a silent, mysterious serenity to them. Yet they are so unremarkable to look at that you could easily pass them by without even noticing. Simplicity.

The BolyMill - TheBoly Mill was where Bernadette had spent most of her childhood with the exception of a couple of brief periods when she stayed with her Aunt at Bartres. The Mill had come to her father through marriage but a combination of the Industrial Revolution and the fact that the Soubirousfamily were so generous that they often allowed customers to take what they produced on trust meant they lost the mill.
The Cachot
This former prison cell was where theSoubirous' were forced to retreat to after the loss of their Mill. The six Soubirous' lived and prayed in this one small room and it was this ceiling Bernadette slept beneath during the visits. It was also a place of love where, long before the visions the parents and children could be heard reciting the Rosary together.

The Grotto
The grotto - where it all happened and where you can feel it still.

Bernadette saw Our Lady eighteen times in 1858

The Hospice
After the visions Bernadette, suffering a great deal as always with severe asthma which left her unable to breathe, added to by the exhaustion caused by constant harassment from people now filling Lourdes, was taken to the Hospice of the Sisters of Nevers. She was admitted, by her own request, as a destitute- Bernadette wished to remain poor. Even though she remained in Lourdes at this point, being separated from her family saddened her. Bernadette was also subjected to constant visits and scrutiny from visitors to the hospice. She would often weep before being sent out to retell her visions to yet more curious inquisitors. Yet she was always gentle and polite towards them never revealing her pain and frustration.
However, there were some joys here for Bernadette and in the Hospice chapel (left) she finally made her first communion - a moment of true happiness for her. It had been something she longed for.

Bernadette left for Nevers aged 22, she would never see her parents again and it would be
thirteen years before any of her siblings saw her. She knew she could never return to Lourdes and the grotto where she had seen a little of Heaven. She brought with her very little (her bag and umbrella can be seen to the left). Here she would live and suffer as a nun. Her NoviceMistress would cause her much unhappiness and she would gradually find her body deteriorating around her lively, joyful soul.

Death but NOT the end
Bernadette died on April 16th 1879 and was buried in the small chapel of St Joseph- she would not stay in this place however (which can be seen to the left) Having been exhumed three times and found to be intact Bernadette waspermanently placed in the main convent chapel in 1925 where she can be seen today (see below) On this day when she was told she would not be happy in this life there seems to be much evidence that she is now exulting in the next with the same young woman she met at that Grotto in Lourdes.

St Bernadette, you promised you would forget no one; on this, one of your feastdays, please pray for us!
for video of Bernadette's body see:

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Second Apparition

WOOPS! Forgot to post on the second apparition 14th of February

Okay so I meant to post on each of the Lourdes apparitions and seem to have fallen at the second of eighteen hurdles - clearly am a bit rubbish. Anyway should have posted this on Saturday but didn't get time.

The second time Bernadette went back to the grotto was with two friends. Her confessor had advised her to take holy water and she did as she had been instructed by him. Ever obedient, Bernadette had done as her mother told her and steered clear of the grotto even though it caused her great sadness. However, on this Sunday her mother relented and, provided she stayed with her friends, the sickly Bernadette, over whom her mother fretted was allowed to return there.

This was the second silent apparition. Bernadette later wrote her own clear account of it. Bernadette was forced to recount her vision hundreds, even thousands of times and not even the smallest detail ever changed or altered - impressive considering that at the time of the visions she had been struggling to remember the catechism which would mean she could make her first holy communion. The veil to the left is the one that Bernadette wore during the apparitions These were worn by most peasant girls in the basque region in order to keep them warm in the cold Pyreneen winters. Little did anyone know the events of the winter of 1858 would change the quiet town of Lourdes (and the world) forever. Below is Bernadette's account of the apparition whichoccurred on 14th of February (next apparition is the 18th)

"The second time was the following Sunday. I went back because I felt myself interiorly impelled. My mother had forbidden me to go. After High Mass, the two other girls and myself went to ask my mother again. She did not want to let us go, she said that she was afraid that I should fall in the water; she was afraid that I would not be back for Vespers. I promised that I would. Then she gave me permission to go.

I went to the Parish Church to get a little bottle of holy water, to throw over the Vision, if I were to see her at the grotto. When we arrived, we all took our rosaries and we knelt down to say them. I had hardly finished the first decade when I saw the same Lady. Then I started to throw holy water in her direction, and at the same time I said that if she came from God she was to stay, but if not, she must go. She started to smile, and bowed; and the more I sprinkled her with holy water, the more she smiled and bowed her head and the more I saw her make signs. Then I was seized with fright and I hurried to sprinkle her with holy water until the bottle was empty. Then I went on saying my rosary. When I had finished it she disappeared and we came back to Vespers. This was the second time."

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Feastday of Our Lady of Lourdes

God our Father among all creatures You have formed Mary, the perfect creature, the "Immaculate Conception." In Lourdes she proclaimed this name and Bernadette repeated it. The Immaculate Conception; this is a cry of hope: evil, sin, and death are no longer victors.
Mary, precursory sign, dawn of salvation! Mary, you, the innocence and refuge of sinners, we pray to you.

Ave Maria, gratia plena!

Lord Jesus, You gave us Mary as our Mother. She shared Your Passion and Resurrection. In Lourdes she showed herself to Bernadette, saddened by our sins but radiant with Your light. Through her, we entrust to You our joys and our sorrows, our own, those of the sick, and those of all people.
Mary, our sister and our mother, our confidant, and our help, we pray to you ...

Ave Maria, gratia plena!

Holy Spirit, you are the Spirit of love and unity. In Lourdes, through Bernadette, Mary asked for a Chapel, and for people to come in procession. Inspire the Church which Christ is building on Peter's faith: that it may be one. Guide the pilgrimage of the Church: that it may be faithful and daring!
Mary, you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you are the spouse and the servant. You are the model for Christians, and the maternal face of the Church. We pray to you ...

Ave Maria, gratia plena!

For the many graces received, for all the conversions, all the forgiveness, all the healings, for the vocations and promises which you have witnessed or engendered, for the love of serving others, which you have let us experience, Our Lady of Lourdes we thank you!

Benedicta tu in mulieribus!

With all our brothers and sisters of the human race, with all people in need of peace and justice, with young people in search of a way, you who appeared so young to little Bernadette, with all those who are in mourning, who are ill, handicapped, or facing a setback, with those who may have a reason for despair: Our Lady of Lourdes We pray to you!

Ora pro nobis!

Because you are the smile of God, the reflection of the light of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, because you chose Bernadette in her misery, because you are the star of the morning, the gate of Heaven, and the first resurrected creature we praise you, we acclaim you and with you we sing the wonders of God,


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Looking to the 11th

We all know that tomorrow is the 11th of February and that means its the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I first went to Lourdes in 2004 and find that with each year my personal relationship with it changes and grows. Looking back, I honestly think that without Lourdes in my life I would have been rather different. I am not even sure how this is the case but I really believe that it is. I have experienced no physical healing at Lourdes, there are no physical manifestations of my experiences there. However, like millions and millions of others I have been touched by the great power of love that exists there.

On the 11th of February a girl went to collect firewood and in that simple action begins the story which is not always joyful, especially for Bernadette who made great sacrifices in her life. Yet it remains a story of triumph, a grotto, a symbol of hope that stood through two world wars and draws more pilgrims to it now, in this secularised Europe than it ever has before. One can only begin to consider the awe Bernadette must have felt when all of this begun. Two years ago I was able to be at the grotto on the 11th and I was able to look up at the space where 'Aquiro' first appeared. That was a privilege enough for me and at the time I might not have fully realised why, yet because of that privilege I have been able to open a dialogue about Lourdes on this blog and people have emailed me and messaged me from as far afield as Africa. Thank you to all of you who have read along and given me a chance to talk about a beauty which language does no justice to. Lourdes belongs to all of us and the grotto is open to our faith and to our hearts. It is a gift.

For pictures of the 11th of Feb 2008 (150th anniversary) click here
For a post on the first apparition click here
For a sermon from Lourdes on Our Lady (2008) click here

Post Script
Last year I was very privileged in taking some petitions to the grotto for people and I was just wondering- if people reflect back- whether they feel any of those prayers were answered. Not that I am asking people to share publicly or I think that Lourdes is some kind of gumball machine where you put in a prayer and get a prize. I was just thinking it might be a nice time to consider those petitions again.

There are so many ways in which prayers can be answered- our ways are not His ways -and Lourdes is as much about the miracles you can't see, those of the soul, as those you can.

I wish you all a blessed feastday tomorrow and remember your intentions in my own prayers.

Our Lady of Lourdes - pray for us!

Friday, 22 January 2010

"Catholic" fiction or just writing with truth? 'The Body of This' by Andrew McNabb

I was recently contacted to help publicise a book of short stories by Andrew McNabb (great grand nephew of Vincent McNabb). He has written a book of short stories called The Body of This which have been entitled "Catholic fiction". Of course it is no shame to receive this title for your work but it does mean that you might need a little help getting it out into the wider world - especially here in England.

I am not sure anything can ever really be described as "Catholic fiction" but more the story of humanity, based on the reality of truth. I would not object to the label either, but it is a shame that the secular publishers are so afraid of anything that goes against the trend of the secular society in which we live that they will not spend time promoting it. They would rather put a label on it and put it in the corner, claiming it can have no relevance for anybody but those of the same religion as the author. Yet look at the recent Sacred Made Real exhibition here in London- some told the National Gallery that a self respecting Brit would never put a foot through the door of anything so embarrassingly Christian- yet the opposite proved to be the case. England is thirsty for a centre but too frightened to say it out loud. Literature can be another way to quench this thirst

Our humanity, our link to one another is through Christ. John Paul II said that to deprive a society of Christ was an "inhuman act" because it was to deny them the solution to the reality of identity. In this case any fiction about the nature of humanity could be called "Catholic fiction"

It is important to promote good fiction of value and worth, fiction that touches upon that reality of who we are, that questions and explores the soul of the human person. For this reason I agreed to put a link out, for all my blog readers but, particularly those in the UK (since there is little budget here for promotion for "Catholic fiction") so that they have the opportunity to be aware that this writing is out there and for EVERYBODY - not just Catholic readers.

The Amazon link is here
More about Andre McNabb here


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