As we read in Luke 17:12-19, “As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
In the above parable the Lord connects faith, healing and gratitude together. St. Bernadette Soubirous, the famed visionary of Lourdes, France helped me to understand the intertwining of faith that heals and produces the fruit of gratitude. She greatly influenced my spiritual life in 1992 during a pilgrimage to the miraculous shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.
When I beheld the miraculous shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes for the first time it took my breath away. I marveled at the sublime beauty of the shrine architecture and surrounding landscape. The tangible presence of Mary envelops the area. I was overwhelmed by thousands of international pilgrims during nighttime candlelit processions punctuated with Marian hymns. I was moved to tears observing the faith of the sick people from the nearby hospital wheeled out on gurneys to attend holy Mass and healing services led by priests. Their attendees seemed somewhat angelic. I stared at the countless number of crutches, wheelchairs, canes and other mementos of gratitude hanging on the side of the mountainous shrine as testaments to numerous miraculous healings. My faith, hope and love grew in leaps and bounds there. I never made it into the miraculous bathes with healing waters due to the crowds of people but I realized the urgency of so many sick people. I still received interior healing and strengthening of my vocation as wife, mother and servant daughter of the Church as I prayed in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or sat on the banks of the River Gave praying the rosary for many intentions carried in my heart.
We were given a tour of the residence of the Soubirous family—a place of abject poverty. By the time of the events at the grotto, her family’s financial and social status had declined to the point where they lived in a one-room basement, formerly used as a jail, called “the dungeon,” where they were housed for free by her mother’s cousin.
In Nevers I was able to view the body of St. Bernadette and was shocked to find the saint encased in a stately glass coffin on display looking as if she was sleeping. For the first time I learned about the grace of incorrupt bodies of saints. It is reported that Bishop Gauthey of Nevers and the Church exhumed the body of Bernadette Soubirous on 22 September 1909, in the presence of representatives appointed by the postulators of the cause, two doctors and a sister of the community. They claimed that although the crucifix in her hand and her rosary had both oxidized, her body appeared incorrupt — preserved from decomposition. This was cited as one of the miracles to support her canonization, which took place on 8 December 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
One would think that a young girl favored by God to receive apparitions of The Immaculate Conception would have a blessed life. Her blessings included severe physical suffering, widespread persecutions from her many detractors including some family members, priests and religious sisters in the convent that she entered. She eventually died of her long-term illness at the age of 35 on 16 April 1879.
Only a person who has faith is able to be grateful for everything. This gratitude will be visible on our face as joy for everything may be changed into good. “For the ones who love God, all things work for good, even sin” (cf. Rom 8, 28). Therefore, even a fall into sin which is a great misfortune, and at the same time hurts Jesus, can be an opportunity within which is hidden some kind of talent given to you in that situation from which you can profit. You only need your faith or conversion towards such faith that will enable you to look through the eyes of Jesus. He, looking at your life that may be filled with failures, problems, conflicts, unfulfilled plans, everyday difficulties, is never sad. He is joyful because He expects all those things to bear fruit and that you will take advantage of them.
St. Bernadette looked at her life in simple thanksgiving for everything. Her testament is an exceptional statement of gratitude. In her words:
- For the poverty in which my mother and father lived, for the failure of the mill, all the hard times, for the awful sheep, for constant tiredness, thank you, my God!
- For lips, which I was feeding too much, for the dirty noses of the children, for the guarded sheep, I thank you!
- Thank you, my God, for the prosecutor and the police commissioner, for the policemen, and for the harsh words of Father Peyramale!
- For the days in which you came, Mary, for the ones in which you did not come, I will never be able to thank you…only in Paradise.
- For the slap in the face, for the ridicule, the insults, and for those who suspected me for wanting to gain something from it, thank you, my Lady.
- For my spelling, which I never learned, for the memory that I never had, for my ignorance and for my stupidity, thank you.
- For the fact that my mother died so far away, for the pain I felt when my father instead of hugging his little Bernadette called me, “Sister Marie-Bernard”, I thank you, Jesus.
- I thank you for the heart you gave me, so delicate and sensitive, which you filled with bitterness.
- For the fact that Mother Josephine proclaimed that I was good for nothing, thank you. For the sarcasm of the Mother Superior: her harsh voice, her injustices, her irony and for the bread of humiliation, thank you.
- Thank you that I was the privileged one when it came to be reprimanded, so that my sisters said, “How lucky it is not to be Bernadette.”
- Thank you for the fact that it is me, who was the Bernadette threatened with imprisonment because she had seen you, Holy Virgin; regarded by people as a rare animal; that Bernadette so wretched, that upon seeing her, it was said, “Is that it?”
- For this miserable body which you gave me, for this burning and suffocating illness, for my decaying tissues, for my de-calcified bones, for my sweats, for my fever, for my dullness and for my acute pains, thank you, my God.
- And for this soul which you have given me, for the desert of inner dryness, for your night and the lightening, for your silences and your thunders, for everything.
- For you-when you were present and when you were not—thank you, Jesus. (Saint Bernadette, Saint Bernadette Soubirous, Abbe Francois Trochu)
No matter how wonderful or difficult your present situation may be it will pass as all things do. In all circumstances you owe God a debt of gratitude for He is always faithful to complete the good work begun in you (Phil. 1:6).
This Thanksgiving let us thank the Lord with our personal testament of gratitude. In turn He will whisper to us, “your faith has made you well.”
St. Bernadette, pray for us.