Song of Bernadette

Today, February 11th, is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and it was worth reflecting a bit on this Marian apparition. Briefly, in 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared to a fourteen year old girl in the small town in southwest France. A spring of water miraculously formed where the Blessed Mother spoke, and to this day pilgrims travel to Lourdes to drink and bathe in this healing water.

Many miracles have occurred at this site. We could provide the variety accounts of infirm pilgrims healed by the Lourdes water, or those who have had conversion experiences on this holy ground. But, arguably, the most interesting story is that of Franz Werfel. Werfel arrived in Lourdes at the outbreak of WWII under inauspicious circumstances. A German Jew whose books had been burned by the National Socialists, he escaped Nazi pursuit, fled across the border, and hid in Lourdes. It was during his asylum that he learned about the story one hundred years earlier of Mary and the peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous. Werfel prayed to God that if he survived the war he would "sing" to the world the beautiful "song of Bernadette."

His prayer was answered and he fulfilled his promise. In 1942 Werfel wrote The Song of Bernadette, which appeared on the New York Times best-seller list for 24 weeks. The book was translated into seven languages and made into a movie in 1943. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Jennifer Jones, who played Bernadette. Mary magnified the greatness of the Lord, as did St. Bernadette, as did thousands of pilgrims and converts, including Franz Werfel.

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