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In October 2012 I spent a week in Paris on business.
I took one personal day for a short 'discovery' trip.
At the recommendation of a good friend, who also accompanied me as guide and translator, that discovery trip took us two hours south by train from Paris, to Nevers, to see the remains of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes.
In October of 2013 I plan to go to Lourdes to complete the photo part of the Bernadette story.
What story? That is what this page is about.
I read two books about Bernadette: this is the first one: The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel.
(The Viking Press, 1942)
Franz Werfel was a Jew heading south to escape the Nazis during the period leading up to World War II. He found refuge in Lourdes, and then aid from there to make his escape from France.
While in Lourdes he couldn't help but soak up the Bernadette story. As the book's jacket tells it, Werfel wrote this:
I vowed that if I ever escaped and reached the saving shores of America, I would put off all other tasks and sing the song of Bernadette.
True to his word, not long after reaching America he published this book and it was shortly after made into a movie. When the book was released it was "hailed as a work of masterful artistry and great distinction." Deservedly so, in my opinion.
Werfel only lived three more years after the book was published, he died in 1945 at the very young age of 55.
The book is a pleasure to read, a wondrous story very well told. My very limited internet 'fact-checking' has assured me that the historical grounding of the novel is sound.
So this is a book that I read for pleasure as much as for information about Bernadette and her life and times. I watched the movie based on this for the selfsame reasons.
Did either the book or the movie convert me to seeing Bernadette as a figure deserving of the honor and reverence she now receives as a Saint? I came away from both the book and the movie feeling she acted wonderfully and positively in charge of herself during the time of her visitations.
But thereafter, no longer in touch with her apparition, the first book seemed to give me the impression that she became very passive and allowed herself to be follow whatever direction she was given by adults.
She became part of a religious charitable order that had her negate her importance in the name of piety. She bought into this organization's purpose, made it her own purpose, and as an adult lived a short but exemplary life engaged in providing nursing care.
In other words, I came away feeling that for various and sundry reasons the girl with a will fed by apparitional experiences was chained down and made to conform and obey, and much of her individuality and the uniqueness of her youthful spirituality was quashed in that process.
Pity. Who knows what could have come from Bernadette had she been encouraged to keep growing in her very different way of experiencing her spiritual connectedness to other dimensions of being?
Don't get me wrong, her experience and her life are well worth reading, especially in this very considerate, non-judgmental and respectful novel by a non-Christian.
We will discuss my second source book on the next page, and how it seems to be written expressly to contradict my impressions about her later life having been lived without the individuality of her younger life.
Gee, could I actually be wrong? There is precedent.
Go to Bernardette's Visions Page, Two
Go to Bernardette's Visions Page, Three
Go to Bernardette's Visions Page, Four
Go to Nevers Photo Pages
Go to Lourdes Photo Pages
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