It’s said that, during one of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, France, Bernadette sprinkled holy water on the virgin fearing that she was an evil spirit.
What did Mary do?
She did as all loving mothers do in such situations. She smiled and her face became even more beautiful than it had been.
I’ve read about the Lourdes apparitions, the memorial of which the Catholic Church celebrates annually on February 11. That’s the date of the first of the eighteen times Mary appeared to little Bernadette. She was a poor, simple, uneducated child who’d been sent to gather firewood for her family.
Many amazing and wonderful things happened between the Virgin and Bernadette during their visits, but the holy water moment is my favorite of all.
Mary smiled a the girl.
She didn’t flinch. She didn’t get angry. She didn’t scold her for being disrespectful. She smiled because Bernadette was her child. She knew her child’s heart and so she also knew that Bernadette’s holy water antic was the product of fear and not mischief.
Oh, to have been a little bird up in the tree witnessing this tenderness between Mother and child!
Better yet! Oh, to have been the child in this moment of tenderness!
I think I like this part of the Lourdes story best because it’s so normal. At least around the Fenelon Clan Abode, sprinkling hoy water is a normal thing, especially when we hear strange noises or sense that the Nasty guy is messing with us. It’s also normal for us to bless things – computers, Advent wreathes, new cars. You get the idea.
In any moment of fear the holy water comes out and is liberally used. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to me that Bernadette would use it to test the heavenliness or devilishness of the young woman who kept appearing to her.
Even more normal was the Blessed Virgin’s response. It’s almost playful, in my mind.
Kids will be kids. I’m happy that she’s testing to be certain I’m of heaven. I love this little girl dearly.
Those are all things I can “hear” Mary saying to herself.
And what did she say to Bernadette? She “spoke” a universal term. She smiled.
Then her smile made her appear even more beautiful than she had been before.
I don’t have a death wish, but I most certainly cannot wait to see the Blessed Virgin Mary’s face – my very own Mother who loves me as if I were her only, dear child. I love my life, my family, my friends, my Church, my work. But even more I love my Blessed Mother and want to see her face to face. I want to feel her arms encircle me and see her smile at my childlike antics.
Bernadette Soubirous was given that great, great gift while still here on earth. She shared that gift, and was ridiculed for it. Still, the gift was so real, so precious to her that no one no how could take it from her.
Because of Bernadette’s courage, we have testimony to the reality of the Immaculate Conception – the title used to describe Mary’s pure and sinless conception in the womb of St. Anne. She was immaculately conceived because she was favored by God among all women to become the Mother of his Son.
The Favored One appeared to the poor French girl named Bernadette. And when the child sprinkled her with holy water, she in her loving, motherly way. smiled.
For me, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes is a time to reflect on the beautiful, inviting smile of Mary. Even amidst my childish and sometimes fearful antics.
Image: Lourdes Shrine, Wikimedia Commons