Saturday, February 12, 2011

St. Bernadette's heroic virtue.



'Do not receive gifts that blind even the prudent.' [Ex. 23:8]
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Last evening I was reading about St. Bernadette.  I have Rene Laurentin's book, Bernadette Speaks.  It is very good.  I began reading some of the interrogation the saint endured - she went through this all of her life - although near the time of the apparitions, the interviews were especially intrusive.  What strikes me about Bernadette was her absolute honesty and candor, and the integrity where with she so intelligently deflected imprudent questions, even those posed to her by priests and bishops, some of whom were more than annoying, and somewhat nonchalant about tarnishing the reputation of a young girl.
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One aspect of Bernadette's veracity and character I find most impressive was her adamant refusal to accept gifts or money.  She loved her poverty, to be sure, but more deeply, she had an innate sense of how gifts and money can corrupt and perhaps even discredit one's mission or purpose.  The saint had no love for money or honors, which perhaps explains why her intellect remained so sharp, and her judgement so keen.
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The harm.
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Bernadette's abhorrence of donations and gifts seems to me early evidence of her heroic virtue.  Once again I refer to John of the Cross speaking of the harm caused from joy in temporal goods - here he addresses himself to the subject of gifts:
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"If a man gives way to concupiscence or joy about temporal goods, his sanctity and keen interest will be insufficient to prevent this injury.  (Blunting of the mind in relation to God, darkening of God's goods, etc.)  God therefore warned us through Moses:  'Do not receive gifts that blind even the prudent.' [Ex. 23:8]  This admonition was directed toward those who were to be judges, since their judgement must be clear and alert, which would not be the case if they were to covet and rejoice in gifts.
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Similarly God commanded Moses to appoint as judges those who abhorred avarice, that their judgement would not be blunted by gratification of the passions.  He speaks not merely of a lack of desire but of the abhorrence of avarice. (...)
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'They all love gifts and allow themselves to be carried away by retributions, and they do not judge the orphan, and the widow's cause does not  come to them and their attention.'  [Is. 1:23]" - Ascent Bk III, Ch. 19: 4,6
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That last verse from Isaiah is fulfilled these days not only by a few religious leaders, but our representatives in government as well.  No wonder no one is able to judge rightly any longer.
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Photo: St. Bernadette, Biography Online

8 comments:

  1. +JMJ+

    It's possibly not a verifiable historical detail, but do you remember the scene in A Man for All Seasons in which St. Thomas More throws away an expensive cup which was given to him as a bribe?

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  2. Terry, I read that book, too. I love Bernadette, she never tried to be anyone other than who she was. She was immune to flattery; it simply didn't occur to her to believe it. I got the impression that the priests and bishops cared zero about her reputation or well-being; only about scandal for the Church (gee, that doesn't sound familiar or anything). She had a cross to bear in the form of her superior in the convent, too.

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  3. Embrethiliel, yes I remember that scene. Thomas threw the cup in the river, didn't he? I believe the character Richard Rich was historical, but that scene was probably for dramatic effect.

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  4. Anonymous1:59 PM

    For anyone interested, the best biography of St. Bernadette is the one written by Trochu and published by TAN.

    Veronica

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  5. Anonymous3:30 PM

    thanks very much for posting these pics of Our Lady of Lourdes and St.Bernadette. My sister and I read "The Song of Bernadette",by Franz Werfel when about 12, 13 years old and loved it, never forgot it. Did you know also, about Bernadette's true humility,not wanting publicity, when once a woman visiting her convent and needing or wanting to see her and not knowing how to enter, asked a little nun passing by (who actually was Bernadette),"excuse me, please how do I get to see Bernadette?", and Bernadette, without missing a beat answered, "Madam, do you see that door? the next sister you see going in, shall be her", and Bernadette promptly walked into the convent through those doors...LOL...well, thought you'd love that little anecdote!...best wishes and thanks again, RosaMaria...

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  6. Bernadette is one of the church's most overlooked saints, as far as I'm concerned. I took her name for confirmation and so did my youngest daughter.

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  7. Fr Patrick of Monterey10:35 AM

    We had two Masses with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick for World Day of Prayer for the Sick but I had to mention Bernadette in my homily. Later my pastor told me that I gotten rather heated in discussing the clergy who besieged poor B. In Laurentin's book a priest asks to see her; B is sick but comes out in the cold to his hotel. After innumerable questions, he asks her to accept his rosary in exchange for hers, the one she held during the apparitions. B declines but finally, in tears, hands it over. I called him a 'clerical creep.' If anyone has a more apt description, I'd like to hear it.

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  8. I read that passage that night - 'clerical creep' works for me!

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