“O my Mother, to You I sacrifice all other attachments so that my heart may belong entirely to You and to my Jesus.”
– St Bernadette Soubirous
The Church places the Saints before our eyes that we might copy these good and holy people, living lives similar to theirs by learning from them – and in this way, becoming holy as they did. They have fought the battle, run the course, endured everything and reached Heaven. In giving the Saints to us as our models, the hope of the Church is that we will do as they did.
If we read the lives of the Saints, it quickly becomes clear that their lives were very much at odds with the spirit of their age; they did not want what the world wants, nor what the world offers – instead, they chose something infinitely greater. The Second Vatican Council reminded us clearly that this desire for the eternal over the temporal – the Council called it ‘the universal call to holiness’ – is not only for the Saints, but for every single one of us. Like the Saints, we are also called to seek out something greater than what the world offers us. Our goals are not in the present moment, but in eternity. And life is not our destination, but our journey.
For Bernadette Soubirous, the world offered her fame and the possibility of riches, the adoration of the faithful and a life lived in the public eye. For many today in our own age, this is seen as the ultimate goal – to be rich and famous, even if there is no reason for either. But for Bernadette, this was not what she was called to seek and it was not what she wanted. She had touched Heaven – how could the mere world ever fulfil her? And after all, the Lady had promised her happiness not in this life, but in the next.
Bernadette is a Saint not because she saw the Mother of God at Lourdes, but because she lived a truly holy life in the convent at Nevers, gradually detaching from absolutely everything except God; she answered that ‘universal call to holiness’ in a profound and heroic way, and she did this day after day after day. That is the mark of a saint.
Bernadette is a question mark in our own journey, our own response to that call to holiness. Is God truly what we seek? Do we desire Him above all else? What things get in the way and prevent us from reaching Him fully? Are we swayed by the world and it’s trinkets? What attachments do we have?
Perhaps Bernadette, this frail little child chosen by the Immaculate One, has a very powerful lesson to teach us.