Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints, St. Bernadette Soubirous. At age 14, from the first day of the appearances to her by Our Blessed Mother at Lourdes, Bernadette did everything Mary asked of her. She followed every instruction and repeated every message despite the skepticism of the people in her village and the officials who came to investigate the authenticity of the apparitions. Four years later, the church approved the apparitions.
In 1999, I visited Lourdes for the second time. Seven months pregnant with my fifth child, I journeyed with my mom, my sisters, my sister-in-law and my niece. My niece was only six but had suffered from frequent headaches and stiff joints and pains so much so as to keep her from school. My sister and her went to get in the long line for the baths while the rest of us went to Mass and confession. Here's my sister's words: "If you had a child or were old, you did not have to stand in line. They took us to the front to sit on a bench where the line was only about 10 people long. Everyone was singing traditional Mary songs in French. Someone came and asked your language then got a person to explain the procedure. You could choose to be completely submersed or just your body and not your head. It was cool out so we chose body only. When it was her turn, she went to a small dressing area where she put on a gown like a hospital gown. There were tubs but the water was coming out of a spout that was actually from the mountain so it was like a spring, not the typical plumbing spout. There were at least three nuns in her bath. They were praying the whole time and two of them lowered her into the water while the other used her hands to pour water over her. I was allowed to watch. Then they pulled her out and dried her off..... When we got home (from France), she was about the same with bouts of soreness and not feeling well. When school started I happened to be talking to a parent who told me she was an allergist and asked why my daughter had dark circles under her eyes. One thing led to another. I took her to the allergist who found all her food allergies, changed her diet and as time passed her joint pain decreased. Eventually, the infections, fevers and joint pain disappeared all together. So, was there an immediate healing, maybe not. Were we led to an eventual healing, definitely."
We are merely asked to believe that Mary will intercede for us in our need. We are often given opportunities to proceed without hesitation or fear of what others may say or think. Mary leads us to her Son, to Faith, to Hope, to Love. Immediate response to all our requests, maybe not. But eventually what we truly need, definitely. Bernadette exemplifies the instant response to all the good Mary longs to give her children from her Son. I am blessed to have witnessed her goodness, to have washed in the water and to have prayed at her grotto.
"There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig."