St. Bernadette Soubirous
Saints

St. Bernadette lived for the happiness of heaven

As a mom, I seek to use Mama Mary’s words as I parent. I figure that they are a pretty good model for what should come out of my mouth.

Recently, I shared a beautiful parenting moment with a couple of my teenagers. As they sat on the couch, late at night, at the foot of my bed, I begged God to give me the grace to stay awake and speak truth during this conversation. My husband and I often joke that teenagers are like gremlins – they thrive in the nighttime hours.

As they began to share their hearts, a common theme was echoed: happiness, or lack thereof. What is it really? How do you stay happy? Is it OK to not be happy sometimes?

Silently, I thanked the Lord for relationships that have been watered over time to get us to this point of trust. Then I smiled and gave a heart nudge to Mother Mary who always has my back. We mamas always have each other’s backs.

“I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next.” – Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette Soubirous

Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. Bernadette was from a large and very poor family. Her father was a miller operating his wife’s family mill until it was foreclosed. He then picked up day work. Bernadette’s mother was a hardworking, faithful woman who also picked up odd jobs from those better off to supplement the family income.

From an early age, Bernadette was sent off to a family friend to be a mother’s helper. Sometimes a shepherdess, sometimes a house maid, she maintained her kind demeanor despite suffering with asthma, which would be a struggle her whole life.

While away, Bernadette missed her family. She wrote to her mother that she was worried because she had not received her first Holy Communion and that desire lay heavily on her heart. Bernadette was brought home and enrolled in the nearby school where she was taught her catechism.

One morning, Bernadette and her sister were sent to gather firewood. It was during this errand that a beautiful lady dressed in white and blue appeared in the grotto of Massabielle. She smiled at Bernadette, made the sign of the cross with a rosary made of ivory and gold, and began to pray. Bernadette went to her knees and joined her.

These visits became more frequent and drew more attention. The culmination of her visits with the beautiful lady happened on the ninth one when she was asked to drink water from the spring. Not seeing a spring, Bernadette began to dig in a patch of muddy grass and water. From this began to flow water until a spring indeed appeared from which many healings have occurred over the years.

Many doubted St. Bernadette’s visions. She was scrutinized multiple times by officials, but her accounts stayed consistent. She did not like the attention directed at her. She became a sister in Nevers, France, and led a quiet life, which was often interrupted by visitors and sceptics wanting to hear the story of Lourdes. She visited with them patiently, and her face always shone brightly as she recalled her time spent with Mother Mary.

I reminded my children of this story as I listened and prayed. On one of St. Bernadette’s visits to the grotto, Mother Mary told her that she could not promise her happiness in this world, but in the next.

I love this quote and speak it often as to the importance of not living for this world but for the next. We must allow ourselves to be formed in this time so that we may enter heaven worthy and ready.

Happiness is fleeting. Joy is constant. Joy comes from knowing who we are and whose we are. I am so grateful that as a mother, I can constantly point my children to truth, and Mama Mary always gives me the words.

St. Bernadette lived for heaven. She had experienced a glimpse of the joy and peace that are not of this world. She endured and persevered through her suffering in kindness and humility. So, too, can we make this offering to our heavenly Father.

The feast of St. Bernadette is celebrated on April 16. St. Bernadette’s body lies incorrupt in the shrine at Nevers.

This article first appeared in the Catholic Times.

Image of St. Bernadette Soubirous, public domain.

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