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

Saturday, August 28, 2010


The message of Lourdes is not limited to the words Bernadette heard at the Grotto. It has been handed down to us, within the fabric of a history woven around situations, characters, events and acts which have as much and at times even more impact than the actual words themselves.

The apparitions at Massabielle both encompass and surpass the exchanges which took place between Mary and Bernadette. They point to a wider horizon. They direct us to that fundamental and indispensable context in the light of which every message from God has to be read; that of the Gospels. As we follow in Bernadette's footsteps this is where we are led - to the Gospel.

Firstly we discover POVERTY

Poverty, for this is the sign of God's presence. He comes to us, not in a wondrous and mighty glory that would blind our eyes, but in a poverty that allows Him to draw close to our hearts. Before the apparitions, Bernadette accepted life with a certain kind of stoic resignation, albeit deeply motivated by faith: "You shouldn't complain," she would say. But after the apparitions, when she realized more deeply the ways of God she went this to say: "I want to remain poor." It was the answer she gave to anyone and everyone who wanted to take her out of this condition, like the journalist who wanted to take her to Paris where, in relating the story of the apparitions, she could have made herself a fortune.

In spite of her ignorance of the catechism, the light of the apparitions enabled Bernadette to read the sense and purpose of all the poverty which she and her family experienced. Did they not resemble the true God, who, through Jesus, came as a poor man among the poor? This is the first message of Lourdes.

Then we discover true PRAYER

The friendly meeting with the "Little Lady", as she so often called her, revealed to Bernadette, and today reveals to us, that a God of love and tenderness is the image of the true God, a God who searches to embrace and to converse with men within a heart-to-heart encounter. True prayer is our response to this God and expresses our desire for a dialogue of love in which we too can talk to God "heart-to-heart".

"Virgin of Light, you are the smile of a God who loves us." So begins an evening hymn to Mary frequently sung at Lourdes. True prayer is this - to go beyond the mere recitation of words and discover "the smile of a God who loves us", to find ourselves in loving company with a God of tenderness. This is the second message of Lourdes.

Then we realise the true meaning of PENANCE

The world in which we live is a hard, violent and at times hideous world. The disgusting mud of the "pig-sty" symbolizes it rather well. Bernadette, with her face disfigured by the mud of the pig-sty, becomes a symbol of the deep love that led Jesus to his Passion"for sinners". She invites us to become aware of the true nature of sin, to see clearly the ugliness of evil and to courageously seek a true conversion of heart that goes far beyond the practise of a few occasional penances. True penance avoids the hypocrisy of the righteous for it enables us to see ourselves as the sinners that we are, and helps us, as we recognize our mutual misery, to be more compasionate towards each other. This is the third message of Lourdes.

This beautiful and meaningful article is taken from the book entitled "LOURDES: In Bernadette's Footsteps" by Father Joseph Bordes (Rector Emeritus of the Lourdes Shrine).
Father Joseph Bordes was born in the upper valley of Bareges in 1924. It was during his childhood days that he first heard about the wonderful story of Lourdes. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Tarbes and Lourdes. As the parish priest of Lourdes, he really marvels at the rediscovery of the Gospel by those who walk in the footsteps of Bernadette. (The translator of the English version of this book is Father John Lochran.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010


By the morning of Bernadette's final apparition on March 4, the crowd at the grotto was estimated as between five thousand and twenty thousand. A reporter from Paris wrote that all the streets, paths, mounds, and fields surrounding the grotto were filled with people. The din was deafening, he observed, filled not only with prayers and invocations but also with insults and dares. Street urchins hung from the tree limbs like monkeys, and the wealthy snarled at peasants not to soil their clothes. Bernadette appeared, carrying a candle as usual, but stopped to embrace a partially blind child named Eugenie Troy. The girl's apparition that morning was a brief one; aquero had been angered by the disbelief of those present, and declined to speak, Bernadette explained. Though the girl herself seemed not to have noticed, a number of observers reported that a dove had hovered above Bernadette's head during her ecstasy. Whatever had taken place, one result was the healing of Eugenie Troy's eyes.

After her apparitions ended, Bernadette, who suffered from asthma for years, was removed from Lourdes to convalesce at the waters of Cauterets. From there, she moved to the hospice school operated by the Sisters of Charity at Nevers. She testified twice before the episcopal commission investigating her apparitions, once in 1858 and again in 1860, and in 1862, her local bishop declared that her apparitions were worthy of the assent, and issued a decree sanctioning a cult of devotion at the Lourdes shrine.

Bernadette joined the Sisters of Charity as a nun in 1866, and remained in residence at the order's motherhouse until her death in 1879. She was beatified by the church in 1925, and canonized in 1933, on the basis of four miraculous cures that had been proved to the Vatican's satisfaction. To this day, she remains the standard by which other Catholic mystics are judged.

(Excerpted from "The Miracle Detective" by Randall Sullivan (page 171, first edition 2004). This is an excellent book about miracles and also one of my favourite books.

Was the story of Lourdes to end on the 4th of March 1858? The apparitions did not stop there. On 25 March 1858, Bernadette firmly resolved to obtain the name of the "Young Lady" at the grotto. At her fourth request, the Lady said, "I am the Immaculate Conception." On 7 April 1858, whilst Bernadette was in ecstasy during the apparition, the candle that she was holding began to burn lower and lower until she was holding nothing more than the wick. When Dr. Dozous examined her hands, there were no traces of burning. On 16 July 1858, on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Bernadette felt that she was drawn once more to Massabielle. And that truly was her final apparition. According to Bernadette, "I only saw the Virgin and she was more beautiful than ever."

Monday, August 16, 2010


On the left bank of the Gave stands Saint Bernadette's Church, the fourth chapel, dedicated to the saint. It is a very modern and spacious building. The new 100-metre long and 80 metre-wide Church of Saint Bernadette can hold up to 5000 people and a further 350 wheelchairs. It took 17 months to build it. It is equipped with convention rooms that can accommodate from 40 to 500 people with the interior space easily divided by partitioning. To the right of the church is the Mount Carmel lecture-theatre, which can accommodate 500 people. Most of the conferences held during the pilgrimages meet here, and the Annual Conference of the Bishops of France is held here in the autumn. Perhaps its most striking feature is the ceiling area which is constructed of interlacing asymmetric iron bars beneath a roof which was designed to allow as much natural light as possible into the nave.

Designed by the French architects, Jean-Paul Felix, Cyril Despre, Jean-Paul Guinard and Dominique Yvon, the church was built on the spot where Bernadette stood during the 18th and final apparition. It was inaugurated on 25 March 1988, the 130th anniversary of the apparitions by Monsignor Donze. It was his last blessing given as Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes for, after this ceremony, Monsignor Donze handed over his duties to Monsignor Sahuquet who thus became the new Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes.

The church is built in the shape of a semicircular amphitheatre and was designed with the specific intention of creating a friendly atmosphere. The vast area around the church, known as the Meadow, is used for open air masses and special events. For the Assumption, the Mass, attended each year by eighty thousand pilgrims from all over the world, is traditionally celebrated here. Nearby is the Adoration Tent where the Holy Sacrament is presented during the summer. On 15 August 1983, Pope John Paul II himself celebrated mass here before a crowd of three hundred thousand believers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The church of Saint Peter where Bernadette was baptised on 9 January 1844 no longer exists. Already in a bad state of repair, it was destroyed by fire and then demolished in 1905. Where the church stood is now a large square - Peyramale Square, which is dominated by a huge war memorial. The Gothic style church used to stand about 200 metres from the cachot.

Opposite the square, at the end of a narrow street is the new parish church, the Sacred Heart. Construction of the church began in 1875. It was inaugurated on 8 September 1903 by the Bishop of Tarbes-Lourdes Mgr Francois-Xavier Schoepfer. The baptismal font (from the old parish church of Saint Peter) where Bernadette was baptised can be found to the left of the entrance. Bernadette's baptism is depicted on a large panel hanging on one of the walls.

The facade of the church is dominated by a majestic, 65 metre high Pyrenean stone bell tower. Square and with a conical steeple, it was completed in 1936. The interior of the church is Romanic. It is divided into three naves with the central one being the most important. In front of the church is a bronze statue of Father Peyramale. Father Peyramale was the parish priest of Lourdes from December 1854 until his death.

The new parish church was built in the city's cultural, economic and commercial centre. In fact, within a radius of 600-700 metres are the post office and Saint Bernadette hospital. On the other side is the Marcadal Square, the actual, original centre of Lourdes where the banks, market, tourism office, conference centre and municipality are all to be found.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


The Petit Lourdes Museum is found at the end of rue Peyramale. To get there, one has to take a short walk alongside the Gave. Known as the "Little Lourdes", it is practically an open-air museum, established in a verdant park. Making it particularly interesting are miniatures of the principal buildings that were to be found in Lourdes at the time of the apparitions. Here, visitors can get an idea of the little town in which Bernadette lived, at a time when she was still unknown to the world.

The castle can be seen on the top of a rock. The current rue de la Grotte didn't exist. In its place, there was a stream, called Lapacca, that flowed into the Gave which fast-flowing and abundant water powered the numerous mills. Amongst these were the Boly Mill where Francois worked and where Bernadette was born as well as the Lacade Mill, the actual "Family Home".

Overall, the Petit Lourdes Museum is a unique and beautiful museum that is really worth visiting. It looks very real to me - as though I have gone back in time and space to the era of St. Bernadette. Above are the photos which I took in the museum. I do not consider myself a good photographer. Anyone can take photos with a digital camera.