We are in the midst of Holy Week or Passion Week as we approach the celebration of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We hear how he was betrayed by one of his own disciples. But Jesus set his face like flint toward accepting accepting his Father’s will and embracing his suffering and Cross knowing that he would not be put to shame. It might seem out of place at first thought that we honor St. Bernadette in the middle of Holy Week. But her life was lived in imitation of the Cross of Jesus, in union with his suffering. She once described that the only thing she could do well was fo suffer for souls. St. Bernadette was born in 1844 and grew up in Lourdes, France. Her family was middle class but fell into deep poverty and so most her childhood was lived in very poor conditions as her father tried to sustain the family working at different flour mills. She was a sickly girl and suffered from asthma. She was simple and humble. She wasn’t very smart and struggled with studies but had a sharp wit and a great sense of humor and would often laugh out loud, even as a cloistered nun during community time.

She related a story where she forced a ring on her finger and had to have it cut off with a file. Another time she shared snuff which the doctor had prescribed to her with her fellow classmates and they all began to sneeze. We know that she was visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary 18 times in 1858 who told her to pray for sinners and revealed her name as the Immaculate Conception. She suffered for this by those who called her crazy Thousands would visit her and weary her with endless attention. But it wasn’t solely for this apparition that Bernadette became a saint. It was because of her piety that she grew in from imitating Christ. She never accepted money and eventually escaped to the convent to avoid public exposure. Many priests visited her for spiritual strength. Tomorrow we will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper when Christ instituted the new priesthood, so it is a special day for all priests. We just renewed our priestly promises yesterday in the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral with Archbishop Gregory. Bernadette loved priests. She told a young seminarian: “Oh, how beautiful, a priest at the altar! But you know when the priest is at the altar, he is always Jesus Christ on the Cross. You’ll have to work and suffer. Don’t lose heart!”

Bernadette entered her own passion during Holy Week of 1879. They were filled with great suffering both physical and spiritual. She had tuberculosis that suffocated her, a large painful tumor in her right knee that caused her bone to decay, and had bed sores so severe that she had no relief from pain. She was tempted to despair but prayed for courage. It was mid-afternoon April 16th 1879, the third day of Easter, that she looked at the Crucifix on her wall and held her hands up to it saying: “My Jesus, Oh how I love him.” One of sisters told her that she would see the Virgin Mary soon and she said “Oh, yes, I hope so.” Then, about three o’clock in the afternoon, Bernadette gestured for a something to drink. She made a large sign of the Cross, swallowed a few drops, then bowed her head and died at the age of 35. 135 years later her body miraculously remains incorrupt. May St. Bernadette intercede for us during this Holy Week that we, too, like her may better imitate Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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