The State of Virginity

The State of Virginity
I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided. The virgin - indeed, any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has the cares of this world to absorb her and concerned with pleasing her husband. I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Friday, September 18, 2009

LOURDES AND ST' BERNADETTE


Who was Bernadette? She was the daughter of Francois Soubirous, a miller, and Louise Casterot. In November 1856 the Soubirous family was reduced to the direst poverty when Francois Soubirous was without stable occupation. Penniless and homeless, they had to seek refuge in a damp and unhealthy room in a former prison known as "The Cachot" which was abandoned for sanitary reasons as being unfit for human habitation. Bernadette received no education. She was sent to work at her nurse's farm in Bartres. Life in Bartres was difficult for her. On 2o January 1858 Bernadette returned to the Cachot to prepare for her First Holy Communion. She attended a convent-run school where she was put in a pauper's class.

From 11 February to 16 July 1858, fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous had 18 visions of the Mother of God at the Grotto of Massabielle. These visions were followed by numerous miraculous healings at the grotto. Even today miracles are still happening there and that is why Lourdes has become a major site for pilgrimage. The spring which emerged when Bernadette dug the earth following Our Lady's instructions now flows at the rate of 5000 litres per hour. Many pilgrims, especially the sick, flock to the grotto to drink the spring water. Many were healed after drinking spring water and immersing themselves in the grotto's pools. The spring water isn't a magical liquid but the Mother of God uses this water as an instrument for healing to demonstrate the reality of her presence in this holy place. However not every sick pilgrim who goes to Lourdes can be miraculously healed but those who have been there would learn the meaning of suffering and suffer with fortitude.

St' Bernadette could have made herself a millionaire with the apparitions. There were people who offered her money if she would go to Paris with them to talk about the apparitions. She could also start her own hotel and restaurant business in Lourdes and make big bucks. Money would not be a problem as there were many people who offered her money. However, instead of busy making money out of the apparitions, Bernadette Soubirous became a nun. She chose the Order of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers. "I've come to hide", she pointed out on her arrival at St' Gildard's Convent in Nevers. Why did she come to Nevers to hide when she could easily become rich and live a comfortable life in Lourdes? Only a saint can make such a choice. She remained in Nevers until she died 21 years later in 1879 at the age of 35 after a prolonged and painful illness. The asthma and tuberculosis of the bones of her legs have finally wasted her away. This was how she summarised her whole life, "To obey is to love. To suffer in silence for Christ is joy! To love sincerely is to give everything, even grief!"

She was buried in a damp grave for 30 years. When she was exhumed in September 1909, her body was found to be incorrupt even though the rosary which she held in her hands had rusted. When she was exhumed again for the third time on 18 April 1925, the autopsy revealed that her internal organs were in perfect condition. Her liver was astonishingly well-preserved even though it is the organ which is most subject to decay. Today, her miraculously preserved body can be seen in a bronze and crystal casket in the Chapel of St' Bernadette at the Church of St' Gildard in Nevers. She was canonized as a saint on 8 December 1933. In Lourdes she remains close to the pilgrims with the message of her suffering lived in hope and joy. The message from Our Lady of Lourdes to Bernadette - prayer, penance and poverty were the keys that would open the Kingdom of God.

Lourdes is not just about healing. Those who go there with great expectations for miracles are likely to be disappointed. Lourdes is a place for prayers and penance. Life is not a bed of roses. And St' Bernadette had truly testified to Our Lady's call by living a life of humble prayers and sufferings. What really makes me adore her so much is the fact that she had rather walk in the footsteps of Christ than to make big bucks out of the apparitions. In this world which is so full of greed, she is a rarity.

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