Home > Archives > 02 - 2004 > And Bernadette said...
from issue no. 02 - 2004

And Bernadette said...

Bernadette left almost nothing written, but the archives of the convent of Saint-Gildard in Nevers holds the transcript of the canonical hearings and the testimonies collected on that occasion from her fellow nuns and those who came into contact with her, above all during the years spent to the convent, from 1866 and 1879. There are memories, anecdotes, episodes, answers imprinted in the memory of those involved. The convent of Saint-Gildard, thanks also to the research of the theologian René Laurentin, drew a book from this heterogeneous material, under the title Bernadette disait… published in France in 1978 and recently translated into Italian. We have made a small anthology from it, out of which emerges the personality of Bernadette and her simple and profound way of it living the Christian faith. We quote the testimonies in the chronological order given by the book, in some cases also giving indications to the context of the episode to help the reader’s understanding.

LOURDES 1858-1866
Bernadette is a shepherdess in Bartrès.
«Tell my parents that I’m getting miserable here. I want to go back to Lourdes, to go to school and prepare for my first communion».
The period of the apparitions

21 February
After the sixth apparition,
leaving the office of Commissioner Jacomet:
«What’s making you laugh?» they ask her.
«The Commissioner was trembling. He had a bow on his beret that went ting-ting».

23 February
«You’re making a crowd of people run here!»
«And why are they running? It’s certainly not me that goes out and gets them!»

24 February
«How did she speak to you? In French or in dialect?»
«Oh! That’s a good one, you want her to speak me in French? Do you think I know it?»

25 February
During the ninth apparition she was heard to repeat:
«Penance… Penance… Penance…».

At the end this dialogue was recorded:
«But what did she say to you?»
«Go drink at the fountain and wash yourself»
«And the grass you ate?»
«She told me that as well...»
«What did she tell you?»
«You will eat that grass there.»
«But it’s animals that eat grass!»
«Why is there all this commotion today? Yesterday Aquero told me to kiss the ground as penitence for sinners.»
«But do you know they think you’re mad to do these things?»
«For sinners.»

25 March
Bernadette wakes up very early and puts on her clothes:
«I must go to the grotto. Hurry if you want to come with me.»
«But think, it would do you harm…»
«I’m cured by now.»
«Wait at least for the sun to come up!»
«No, I must go there, and right now.»

In the grotto facing the apparition:
«Mademoisell, would you have the goodness to tell me who you are, please?»

Going away from the grotto, Bernadette laughs:
«Do you know something?»
«Don’t tell anybody, but she told me: “I am the Immaculate Conception”.»

27 March
Medical examination by three doctors:
«Do you sometimes have headaches?»
«Have you ever had fits of nerves?»
«Your health seems precarious however.»
«I eat, drink and sleep very well.»

During the medical examination, about the Virgin:
«But yes, I see her as I see you. She moves, she speaks to me, she holds out her arms.»
«Aren’t you afraid when you see so many people around you?»
«I don’t see anything around me.»

New risk of prison for Bernadette:
«I’m not afraid of anything, because I’ve always told the truth.»

4 June
The day after Bernadette’s first communion,
Emmanuélite Estrade asks her:
«What made you happier: first communion or the apparitions?»
«They’re two things that go together, but that can’t be compared. I was very happy for both.»

16 July
Last apparition. Towards dusk, Bernadette feels pushed toward the cave:
«What did she tell you?»


28 August
To Abbé Fonteneau:
«I’m not forcing you to believe me, but I can only answer you by telling what I’ve seen and heard.»
«So, Bernadette, since the Holy Virgin has promised you heaven, aren’t you to be concerned any longer with your soul?»
«Oh, Father, I’ll only go to heaven by behaving as one should.»

17 November
At the grotto, after the interrogation by the ecclesiastical commission:
«I’m very tired!»

Marie de Cornuijer-Lucinière asks her about the secrets:
«Would you tell them to the Pope?»
«He doesn’t need to know them.»


he Abbé Junqua visits Bernadette. After two hours of conversation he says:
«I’ll be back… Remember me! Promise to remember me!»
«Oh, I don’t promise you that! I see so many, and of all sorts.»

7 December
Interrogation before Monsignor Laurence, Bishop of Tarbes:
«It doesn’t seem an idea worthy of Our Lady to have made you eat grass»
«Yet we eat salad!»


The Abbé Bernadou decides to photograph Bernadette so as to fix on the plate the expression she possibly had during the apparitions:
«No, it won’t do. You didn’t look like that when Our Lady was there.»
«But now she’s not here!»


Bernadette has been photographed and the photos are on sale at a franc each…
«Do you reckon they’re selling you at a decent price, Bernadette?»
«More than I’m worth.»


On the eve of the departure for Nevers, Justine, the daughter of his nanny, Marie Lagües, comes to visit Bernadette:
«Aren’t you sorry to be going?»
«The little time we have in the world needs to be made good use of.»

NEVERS 1866-1879

Testimony of her fellow nuns and of people who met Bernadette during her stay in the mother-house of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers,
from 1866 up to her death on16 April 1879.


Sister Emilienne Duboé:
Bernadette was entrusted to me from her arrival as a novice, to get her used to things… What grieved her was not being able to visit the grotto in Lourdes any more. «If only you knew,» she told me, «what beauty I saw there.» I was tempted to ask, but she answered that she could say nothing, that the mother superior had forbidden it. She told me: «If you only knew how good Our Lady is!»

One day Bernadette pointed out that I made the sign of the cross badly. I replied that I certainly didn’t do it as well as she who had learned it from Our Lady. «One has to be careful,» she told me, «because it means a lot to make the sign of the cross well.»

Sister Charles Ramillon:
The way in which she made the sign of the cross struck me deeply; we tried many times to copy it, but without result. Then we said: «You can well see that Our Lady taught her».

Sister Emilie Marcillac:
Sister Marie-Bernard had a sweet, simple piety, with nothing unusual to it. She was very conscientious, she didn’t break silence, but at recreation she drew people by her sparkle. She didn’t like exaggerated piety. One day she said to me laughing, pointing to a novice who always closed her eyes: «Do you See X Sister? If she didn’t have a companion to lead her, there’d be an accident. Why close your eyes, when you need to keep them open?»
During her attacks of asthma, she had coughing fits that tore her chest; though she spat blood and couldn’t breathe, she never let out a groan, a murmur. I only heard her pronounce the name of Jesus. After saying: «My Jesus!» she would look at the crucifix, and in her eyes there was something inexpressible, but that said a great deal…

Sister Emilie Marcillac:
In October, on the 25th, she was very ill… We thought she wouldn’t get through the night… I was very surprised the next morning, when at half past four I approached her bed for news; I though she would be in her last agony. Instead she answered in a clear voice: «I’m better, the Lord didn’t want me, I went as far as the door and he told me: go back, it’s too soon».


Sister Bernard Dalias:
I had been in Nevers for three days, and I said I was amazed I hadn’t met Bernadette. The mother superior who was with me pointed out a novice, small, smiling, who was near, and added: «Bernadette? But here she is!» An impertinent expression escaped me and I exclaimed: «That’s all?» She replied me: «Quite true, Mademoiselle, that’s all!» I can say that from then on she showed me great liking.

Sister Brigitte Hostin:
I was a fellow novice of Sister Marie-Bernard; I had the privilege for seven-eight months. I admired a great piety in her, a temper always the same – something rare – the simplicity of child, and above all a great humility; this – when she was forced to answer the letters written her by important people about the favors Our Lady had granted her – made her say: «If it wasn’t for obedience, I wouldn’t answer».

Sister Joseph Caldairou remembers some expressions of Bernadette:
«God alone knows what it costs me to have to present myself in front of bishops, priests, the people of the world.»

«I can’t find any Our Lady beautiful, after having seen the original.»


Sister Charles Ramillon:
One day, in my presence, one of us said to her: «Have you told Our Lady’s secrets to the Mother General?» «No.» «Nor even to the Mother Teacher?» «Nor even.» Then I added: «But if the Holy Father were to ask you them?» She answered: «I’d think about it».

Count Lafond:
Monsignor Chigi [apostolic nuncio to France, ed.] had Sister Marie-Bernard called to the parlor. «Daughter,» he asked her, «Weren’t you afraid when you saw Our Lady?» «Oh, yes, Monsignor, very much; but only the first time; after, it was so beautiful!»


Sister Bernard Dalias:
Just a single word from her did good. To those in pain she would say: «I’ll pray for you».
Several times I chanced on her with face covered in tears. I looked at her questioningly: «Oh», she whispered, «to see the grotto again, just once, at night, when nobody would know…».
I had the task of intoning the offertory chant at recreation. One day Sister Marie-Bernard approached me, after the prayer. «Sometime», she said, «intone “I shall some day see this Mother I love”.» And at that point her eyes took on an expression of desire, of indefinable sadness, and I saw two tears fall…
It was enough to hear her say with full conviction: «Pray for me, a poor sinner, above all at the hour of my death», to understand that she was perfectly aware of having to invoke the affection promised her by the Virgin for her fidelity.

Sister Emilienne Robert:
She spoke about correcting ourselves of our defects, and I said that was difficult. She then widened her eyes and answered me in lively fashion: «What! To receive the bread of the strong so often and not be braver!»

Count Lafond:
The abbé of M. told her in my presence that he was come from Lourdes and that he had met Father Hermann and Monsieur Lasserre, both granted the gift of sight. Sister Marie-Bernard opened her eyes wide, until then kept low. «I’ve seen», the abbot added, «the statue that they have set in the grotto. It has its hands joined like this. Was that just how Our Lady appeared to you?» «Yes, Father, but when she told me: “I am the Immaculate Conception” she did this». And made a gesture of such beauty that we were moved to tears. It seemed we were looking at a living copy of the Queen of Heaven when she appeared on the rock of Massabielle.
A woman of Nevers asked her one day: «Did you never see the Virgin again after the eighteen apparitions?» Two large tears pearled her eyelids: it was the only reply.

Sister Cécile Pagès:
I told Sister Marie-Bernard that many people had been cured with the water of Lourdes, after a novena. «Oh,» she said, «the Virgin sometimes wants to be begged for a long time, and one person has been cured only after nine novenas.»


Sister Angèle (then a postulant):
Sister Marie-Bernard asked me: «Mademoiselle, what’s wrong?» I answered: «I’ve just received bad news: mama is dying; perhaps she’s dead already». Sister Marie-Bernard told me with a smile that I shall never forget and with her penetrating look: «Don’t cry, Our Lady will cure her; I will pray for her».

Sister Madeleine Bounaix:
On 15 August 1870 I was with her in the Saint Joseph infirmary; she had given me a piece of fruit for lunch; meanwhile we were talking about the feast of the day and I said: «Sister, will you pray for me today?» «Yes, but on one condition: that you also do it for me. We all have need of prayers». Then I added: «How beautiful the feast in Heaven must be, and how beautiful must Our Lady be». «Oh yes,» she said, «when one has seen her one can no longer be attached to earth!»
Some time after, Sister Marie-Bernard received a letter from Don Peyramale, parish priest of Lourdes, in which there was a photo of the Basilica. Looking at it, she asked me: «Do you know Lourdes?» To my negative response, she said: «Take it, it’s a photo of the Basilica», and she pointed out the grotto. I asked her: «Where were you when Our Lady appeared?» She simply pointed to the place. I added: «It’s a very sweet memory for you, sister». Growing serious, almost sad, she answered: «Oh, yes! But I had no right to such grace».

Count Lafond:
Sister Marie-Bernard… this nun is good for nothing, yet she is considered the treasure of Saint-Gildard; they look on her as the palladium of the episcopal city and she is attributed with salvation during the invasion of 1870; the Prussians were in all the neighboring departments and almost at the gates of Nevers. The Chevalier Gougenot des Mousseaux, who saw Bernadette at that time, asked her some questions: «In the grotto of Lourdes, or afterwards, have you had any revelation relating to the future and the fate of France? The Virgin didn’t by chance charge you with passing on warnings or threats for France?» «No.» «The Prussians are at the gates: don’t they frighten you?» «No.» «Then there is nothing to fear?» «I only fear bad Catholics.» «Don’t you fear anything else?» «No, nothing».


Mother Marie-Thérèse Bordenave:
Toward the end of 1870, or at the beginning of 1871, there were still ambulances at the mother-house; one day the pharmacy caught fire; the novice on duty was so horrified that for 24 hours she suffered terrible pains. Sister Marie-Bernard, feeling pity for her, told a nun, after having tried all the medicines: «I’ll try to give her Lourdes water; pray with me and do it with fervor». They did: some minutes later the pains had stopped.

Before August
Sister Madeleine Bounaix:
I was struck by her rectitude and sincerity. I don’t believe that she ever lied and I remember apropos an episode that confirmed my opinion. One day we were speaking about Lourdes and Bartrès, and she said: «You wouldn’t believe how ignorant I was. Imagine my father come to find me, sees me watching the flock, very sad. When he asked me why, I answered: “Look a bit at my sheep, a lot have green backs”. And he laughed and said: “It’s the grass they’ve eaten that goes up into their backs: perhaps they’ll die”. Then I cried scalding tears, and seeing me so distressed my father consoled me and explained that it was the mark of the dealer who’d sold them to him». Listening to the story, I began to laugh and said: «What? Were you as naïve as to believe something similar?» She replied: «My dear, because I didn’t know how to lie, I believed everything they told me».
One day we were speaking about the pious exercises toward Our Lady. I said there was one I was very fond of: reciting twelve Hail Marys in honor of the twelve privileges of the Mother of God. She replied with a happy and contented air: «Continue the practice, it’s very pleasing to Our Lady».

Sister Vincent Garros, born Julie Garros, a childhood friend of Bernadette’s:
There was in Lourdes a woman, named Mademoiselle Claire, very godly and a long time ill. On my arrival at the mother-house, Bernadette asked me for news of her, and I said: «Not only does she suffer with patience, but she says something that really surprises me: “I suffer a great deal, but if it isn’t enough, may the Lord add more yet!”» Sister Marie-Bernard made a remark: «She’s very willing; I wouldn’t do it. I’m satisfied with what he sends me».

She also liked to tell me about the flock entrusted to her, she liked a little white lamb particularly. When she’d managed to set up her little shelter in the fields, he’d come and knock it down with a butt; and when she was driving the flock, the little lamb would charge and butt her in the back of the knees and knock her over, vastly amusing her. To punish it, Bernadette would give it bread with salt, which it loved.

In the novitiate, I said to Bernadette who was sick in the infirmary: «You’re really ill, aren’t you?» She answered: «What do you expect? Our Lady told me that I wouldn’t be happy in this world, but in the next».

She often counseled forgiveness, not to forget the invocation in the Our Father: «Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive…».

She also told me: «When you pass the chapel, if you don’t have the time to stop, tell your guardian angel to take your message to the Lord in the tabernacle. He’ll take it and then join you again».

I believe Bernadette meditated on the mysteries because one day when I told her that I was unable to pray, to meditate, she suggested this method to me: «Transport yourself to the Mount of Olives or to the foot of the cross, and stay there: the Lord will speak to you and you’ll listen to him». Sometimes I said to her: «I was there, but the Lord said nothing to me». But, I continued to pray.

I said to her one day: «How do you manage to remain so long in an act of grace?» She replied: «I think that it’s Our Lady who gives me the Child Jesus. I take him. I speak to him and he speaks to me».

I know that, among the saints, Bernadette had a particular devotion to Saint Joseph. She repeated these invocations: «Grant me the grace of loving Jesus and Mary as they want to be loved. Saint Joseph, pray for me. Teach me to pray». And she told me: «When you’re unable to pray, then turn to Saint Joseph».

She also told me: «When you’re before the Holy Sacrament, you have on the one hand Our Lady near to inspire what you must say to the Lord, and on the other your guardian angel who takes note of your distractions».

She would say: «We must receive the Lord well, we have a great interest in giving him a good welcome, a loving reception, because then he must pay us the rent».

She told me that before performing any action, one needs to purify the intention. I remarked that it was difficult. She answered: «You have to do it, because you act better and it costs less».

She said: «If you work for creatures, you won’t have any reward and you’ll tire yourself much more».

Another time in the infirmary she said: «I’ll give you a good snack». There was some fruit in syrup. She offered it to me and said: «Today is Saturday, we won’t eat it; we’ll offer this small mortification to Our Lady».
Bernadette, I am certain, always checked her inner impulses. She said this to me about it: «The first impulse doesn’t belong to us, but the second does».

When she was having one of her - rather frequent – attacks of asthma she was pitiable. She never complained, and when the attack passed, she would say: «Thank you, Lord!»
The Virgin had asked her to pray for sinners; she must certainly have done so. On various occasions she said: «Let’s pray for such-and-such family, so the Virgin may convert it».

Often, after prayers, Bernadette added: «Lord, free the souls from purgatory». Now and again we recited the rosary for the dead together and we finished it: «Sweet Heart of Jesus, you are my love, sweet Heart of Mary, you are my salvation. My Jesus, mercy! Grant eternal rest to the souls of the faithful dead».

Sister Eléonore Bonnet:
On All Saints’ Day I learned that Bernadette was sick. Knowing her love of flowers, I picked some violets, in bloom, despite the season, along the wall of the kitchen, and I sent them to her through a novice who worked in the infirmary.

Mother Marie-Thérèse Bordenave:
A mother superior asked her one day whether she had ever felt a feeling of self-satisfaction for the favors that the Virgin had granted her. «What do you think of me? Do you think I don’t know that if Our Lady chose me, it’s because I was the most ignorant? If she had found somebody more ignorant, she’d have taken her».

Sister Joseph Ducout:
I have seen her suffer morally and physically. In her suffering, never a word to express her pain. She took hold of the crucifix, looked at it, and that was it.

Sister Madeleine Bounaix:
«What are you doing here?» she asked me. «I’m leaving, and I’m waiting for the mother teacher.» She went on: «Where are you going?» «To Beaumont.» «Well, sister, don’t forget what I tell you: wherever you are, remember always to work only for the Lord. You understand, don’t you? For the Lord.»

Sister Victoire Cassou:
Bernadette said to me: «At midnight mass, come near me. There’s room». I was happy. In that way I could make out how pious and concentrated she was. Hidden behind her veil, nothing could distract her. After communion, she went into such deep meditation that everybody went out without her even seeming to notice. I stayed at her side, because I had no desire to go to refectory with my companions. I contemplated her for a long time, without her noticing. Her face was radiant and heavenly, like during the ecstasy of the apparitions.
When the nun assigned to closing the doors of the church came to perform her duty, she rattles the bolts loudly. Only then did Bernadette come out of a state similar to ecstasy.
She left the chapel and I followed her. And in the cloister she bent over me and whispered: «You haven’t taken anything (in the refectory)?» I answered: «Nor have you». She retired in silence and we separated like that.


Sister Eudoxie Chatelain:
She had a special devotion to Saint Joseph, something that surprised me a little, given that she was the privileged daughter of Our Lady. One day I heard her say: «I’m going to pay a little visit to my father». She meant Saint Joseph: she often went to chapel to pray to him.

She would say: «Love the Lord very much, my daughters. It’s all in that».

During recreation a novice picks up a fallen bat. Loud exclamations. Bernadette is present. Sister Julienne Capmartin:
«Oh, how can you could handle such a horrible beast!» she said: «It’s the image of the devil!»
Sister Marie-Bernard became serious and turned toward me: «You should know, sister, that no animal is the image of the devil; there is nothing except offending God that could be it».

She said: «When we are too attached to something, it doesn’t please God».

Once she surprised me while I was reading my Child of Mary book, after she had urged me to stay wrapped up under the blankets… well, she snatched the book away saying: «Here’s a fervor stuffed with disobedience, let me tell you!» It was no use asking for my book back, I never saw it again…


Elisa (orphan from Varennes):
It was in 1873 (12 May). Bernadette was on a visit to Varennes (an orphanage run by the nuns), she had gone out as far as the little Our Lady of the Wood with a score of orphans.
She was convalescent and could hardly stand…
When she reached the end of the brief pilgrimage, Bernadette sat down and there, in front of the attractive shrine, made an exhortation to the children in the brief style that she was always wont to use: «Children, love Our Lady very much and pray to her a lot. She will protect you …». Then she invited her young audience to sing something. They sang: «I shall go to see her some day…».

Jeanne Jardet (cook):
I remember one year she had a long illness, during which we were deprived of her visits. When she came back, Sister Cécile (Fauron, bursar in charge of the house servants) congratulated her on her recovery. Bernadette answered: «They wanted to have nothing to do with me up there…». And she said it with such grace that tears came to my eyes.

Sister Eudoxie Chatelain:
One Sunday the mother teacher, Mother Thérèse Vauzou, permitted us to go and see her, in groups of twelve or fifteen. She received us with great friendliness, as younger sisters… We formed a circle round her bed, and each of us said something.
One of us, big and stout, asked her if she had been afraid because of receiving extreme unction. «Frightened of what?» said Bernadette. «I’d be afraid of dying if I felt the last moment coming on!» «Oh, we never know that moment. And when it comes, the Lord gives us the strength to face it.»

Sister Gonzague Cointe:
I was in the infirmary. A nun put a photo of a pilgrimage or of the Basilica of Lourdes on her bed: «You’d be very happy, wouldn’t you, to go to the grotto of Massabielle?» All smiling, she lifted her eyes to heaven and, despite the asthma attack she was suffering, answered: «No, I don’t feel the desire for it. I willingly make the sacrifice of never seeing Lourdes again. I only have one wish, that of seeing the glorified and beloved Holy Virgin».

Mother Henri Fabre:
When the bishop of Nevers, in departure for Lourdes, asked Sister Marie-Bernard if she desired to go, she answered: «I’ve made the sacrifice of Lourdes, I will see the Virgin in heaven, and it will be much more beautiful».


Sister Vincent Garros:
One day in the sacristy I wanted to touch a purificator. She stopped me and said: «You can’t do that yet». And I saw her take the purificator with immense respect and put it back in the burse. One would have said that, in touching it, she was praying, she did it with such respect.


Sister Julie Ramplou:
Sister Marie Mespoulhé sometimes said the rosary with her fellow nuns during work. Sister Marie-Bernard stressed the expression “poor sinners”. One day I mentioned it to her. She answered: «Oh yes! We must pray very much for sinners. Our Lady requested it».


Before June
Sister Marcelline Durand:
It was painful for her to remain inactive. So one day she said to a sick fellow nun: «You’ll get by with three leeches. But me… nothing will get me out of here». And she immediately lifted her eyes to heaven and said: «My God, may you be blessed in all things. We each have our means, our path to come to you».

Sister Ambroise Fenasse:
At the moment of the crowning of the statue of our Lady in Lourdes, Sister Ursule spoke to Bernadette about the grotto: «Would you be happy to see it again?» «My mission in Lourdes is finished. What would I go there to do?» «They’re organizing a solemn festivity in Lourdes, there will be quite a few bishops. Wouldn’t you like to be there?» «Oh no! I prefer my little corner of the infirmary a thousand times to being at the festivity, but it’s still a great joy to me». She seemed to reflect an instant, then added: «If I could travel to the grotto in a balloon and stay there a few minute to pray when there’s nobody there, I’d go gladly; but since I would have to travel like everybody else and find myself in the middle of the crowd, I prefer to stay here».

Abbé Perreau:
One day someone said to her: «You must very much regret the fact of never having seen all that splendor». «I’m not to be pitied, I’ve seen something very much more beautiful.»

Abbé Perreau:
Bernadette told me personally, speaking about the members of her family, who were arriving at a certain level of comfort: «Provided that they don’t become wealthy. Tell them not to get rich».

Sister Claire Salvy:
I went one day to the infirmary to bring the patients something to drink. I was sad, with tears in my eyes… Her look that penetrated – I believe – into the depths of the soul, immediately noticed the sadness in my face. She asked me the reason for it. I told her that because of a mistake I had committed in my work, a good elderly nun had warned me that I would never be capable of becoming a religious. She smiled and seemed to close her eyes, as if she didn’t want to answer me or as if she wanted to contemplate, then, looking at me: «Since you want to do the will of God, you will be a nun of Nevers, don’t fear. But you will need to be able to bear small crosses».

Sister Agathe de Filiquier:
Going back into the infirmary, we found the dear fellow nun sitting on the bed, preparing lint. With an affectionate greeting we asked her to embrace us: she did so amiably. Then my companion, seeing that she had an image of Saint Bernard beside her, asked: «So you pray to your patron saint?» «I pray to him a lot, but I don’t imitate him: Saint Bernard was fond of suffering while I avoid it as well as I can».

Mother Marie-Thérèse Bordenave:
During a visit from a group of novices, on a feast day, Sister Marie-Bernard expressed the joy that she felt for the long hours of insomnia that enabled her to unite herself with Our Lord. Then, pointing to a small gilded monstrance, attached to the curtain: «In seeing him,» she said, «I find the will and the strength to sacrifice myself, in the moments in which I feel the isolation and the pain most strongly».

Sister Joseph Biermann:
One day, seeing her sweeping the infirmary, I rushed to take her place. She remarked that I was out of order, and took the broom from me with some energy: «You’re not going to have it. Win or die».

Mother Joseph Cassagnes:
I see her still… She was thirty-two years old, but she seemed very young to me. I see her black and vivacious eyes, with a mischievous glint in their depths. No trace of illness or sadness on her face. I found her calm and even happy. I admired such calmness in her suffering. Not the least sign of awkwardness or uneasiness between her and her former mother teacher, but mutual trust and simplicity instead. When the mother teacher told her I had a sense of dissatisfaction, she set her sweet and deep gaze on me. Then she said: «But don’t you understand that it’s the little devil?» She stopped and then went on in a jesting tone: «When he comes near, you must spit on his nose».

Sister Casimir Callery:
Sister Marie-Bernard was very fond of Sister Claire Lecocq and when the latter was on the point of death, she told her that she envied her luck. They were heard to repeat in continuation: «My God, I believe in you, I hope in you. I love you». She entrusted the dying nun with her requests of heaven; they encouraged each other to suffer.

Sister Casimir Callery:
Toward the end of October 1876, the Abbé Febvre gave a sermon on sin. I was in the infirmary with Sister Marie-Bernard, who said to me: «Oh! Little Seraph (Sister Marie-Bernard called me “Little Seraph” because I was the Little Seraph in a playlet we’d acted for the feast of the mother teacher. She couldn’t manage the name Casimir, which she’d never heard before), how happy I am!» «What’s happened?» I asked. «Didn’t you hear the sermon?» «Certainly». «Well, Father said that when you don’t want to commit a sin, you don’t sin». «I heard him. And so?» «Well, I’ve never wanted to commit a sin, so I’ve never committed any». Her face was radiant with joy…

Sister Athanase Baleynaud:
The evening of the last day of the year I went with two other nuns to the room of Sister Marie-Bernard to wish her Happy New Year. When the visit was over, I let the others leave and I said to Bernadette: «Dear Sister, I’d like you to wish me something for this new year». Bernadette reflected, then she said: «I wish you pure love and pure suffering». «Oh no,» I she said, «not that!» But she kept to her words. Well, many times in my life I’ve remembered that phrase that frightened me, and it has always given me courage.


Sister Casimir Callery took care of Bernadette between September 1876 and March 1877:

Sister Hélène gave me Easter eggs to decorate with a penknife. I drew. Sister Marie-Bernard scratched, so making the designs. One day I complained because the work got on my nerves. «What importance can it have», she said, «whether one gains heaven by scratching eggs or doing something else!»

One day there was talk of the life of the saints. «I’d like them», she said, «to tell us of the defects of the saints and the efforts they made to correct them; it would be much more use to us than their miracles and their ecstasies.»

I have seen her suffer horribly. Then some groan might escape her, but immediately she would smile and say: «See how little willing I am».
I often recited the prayers of the rule and others with her. I believe she recited the rosary every day, and I noticed that she usually called Our Lady: «My good Mama».

Bernadette was full of compassion for her neighbor. One night when she was devoured by fever she called the novice assigned to bring her to drink and couldn’t wake her. She got up and went to drink a few drops from the jug. When I complained, she said: «Ssssh! Quiet. It’ll have the same effect. Don’t wake the poor thing up. She’s sleeping so well».

Sister Casimir Callery:
The evening of Corpus Christi, in June 1877, there was a violent storm. Lightning struck the shutter close to where Sister Marie-Bernard was praying with fervor. The shutter turned red, a meter of gas pipe melted and there was a flare as far as the Saint Luke sacristy where the hangings and carpets of the chapel are kept. «Fire!» shouted the infirmary nun. I got up and went to Sister Marie-Bernard: «Oh,» she said,«it’s the devil who’s unhappy at our fine feast». The gas meter was quickly turned off, and nothing bad happened; we attributed the fact to the prayers of Sister Marie-Bernard.

Sister Bernard Dalias:
One day, after the procession of the Sacred Heart, people arranged themselves as they might in chapel, and Madame de Falaiseau found herself between Bernadette and myself. Looking at Bernadette she said to me: «How happy I am!» Bernadette heard and whispered to me: «Now I’ll get her». She slipped between the wall and the pew and disappeared at the back of the chapel. The old lady noticed and said «Oh! Oh!» in regret. I replied: «You said too much».

Sister Valentine Borot:
She was sitting on the bed at the far end of the room, near to the window, with a smiling and relaxed expression. Her face has still not become thin at the time: it was July 1877, and I don’t remember her seeming oppressed. When she saw us come in, she said to Mother Nathalie: «Mother, I imagine you’ve brought me a postulant». And, because I was keeping back, out of timidity and respect, she added: «Come, Mademoisell, let me embrace you». I approached. She looked at me for a long time before embracing me… She asked me if I were sad. I answered naively that I was at the peak of my desires. «Oh,» she said, «I was very sad at first. When I received a letter from home, I waited to be alone before opening it, because I felt incapable of reading it without crying all my tears».

Sister Alphonse Barat:
One day a superior brought three postulants, among them Mademoiselle Barat. As they arrived, Bernadette came down from the first floor and through the glass door. She made as if to avoid them, but recognizing the superior, came over, kindly said hello, embraced the three young women, and she said: «Mademoiselles, you will never regret giving yourselves to the Lord».

Sister Jeanne Jardet:
She told me: «Yes, it’s true, I have had many graces».

She came to visit me, the dear little thing, just out of goodness… As she was tending me, she would offer a word of compassion, such as this for example, that I well remember: «One well needs to suffer something for the Lord, my child. He suffered so much for us». And she also told me: «In heaven we shall be happy, but here below…». She finished the phrase with a gesture that meant: «Don’t count on this life».
One day I showed my unhappiness at being ill far from my mama. Then, pointing to the Virgin on the wardrobe, she said: «There’s your mama. She’s everybody’s mama…».

Sister Victoire Cassou:
The bishop of Rodez visited the community. He passed between the lines of nuns and got his ring kissed. He wanted to see Sister Marie-Bernard, who had guessed and slipped away. I was next to her, and she whispered: «Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing». And immediately disappeared through a side door. I said: «And the forty days of indulgence?» She replied: «My Jesus, mercy! There, they’re three hundred now».

Sister Casimir Callery:
The last request she made of me when I was leaving the novitiate was to pray for her when I received word of her death: «They’ll say: this Sister Marie-Bernard was a little saint, and they’ll leave me to roast in purgatory».

Sister Marie-Joséphine Durin:
In front of the first statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that came to the mother-house: «Sister, does it look like Our Lady?» Bernadette didn’t answer, but two large tears slipped from her eyes. She joined her hands and looking at the statue she said: «Oh, my good Mama, how they’ve disfigured you!»

Sister Véronique Crillon:
She also showed us a crucifix that had been sent her by the Holy Father. She kissed it with great piety and said: «From this I derive all my strength».

Sister Claire Bordes:
I remember that one Christmas Eve, a little crib was being set up on the infirmary fireplace. When it was ready, Sister Marie-Bernard took the Child Jesus and as she set it in place she said: «You must have felt very cold, poor little Babe, in the stable of Bethlehem!» And, turning to us: «The inhabitants of Bethlehem must have been heartless if they refused hospitality to the Child Jesus».


Sister Claire Bordes:
I many times heard Bernadette in her suffering say: «My God, how much I love you…».

In the infirmary, when anything cost us or we weren’t well, she would say to us: «Offer it up for sinners».

Madre Ambroise Fenasse, who was in Nevers for a general chapter, went to visit Bernadette, bedridden because of a tumor on her knee:
«So you’re always in the infirmary?» «Yes,» and with an attractive smile, «always in the infirmary, always a good- for-nothing. The Lord did well not to let me choose my kind of life. I certainly wouldn’t have chosen the inactivity to which I’m reduced. I would so much have liked a job…».
«The long periods of illness that come on you impose many sacrifices», she said. «Yes, because, even if I’m so close to the chapel, I’ve been deprived of the mass for a long time; but in compensation, I’m present day and night at what is continually celebrated there.» And saying these words, she pointed at a depiction of the offering of the eucharistic sacrifice at the moment of the Elevation, which was pinned, to the curtain.
«At one point or another of the globe, masses are continually being celebrated: I join in those masses, above all during the night that I sometimes spend sleeplessly.»
This was said with great seriousness, but then, again in cheerful tone, she added: «And the altar boy annoying me, because he never rings the bell». And, pointing at the image: «Sometimes I’d have liked to shake him».

Sister Julie Durand:
I had passed the night at her sickbed, at the beginning of May 1878; the patient made me open the window onto the early morning. At half past five I saw Mother Marie-Thérèse Vauzou come in, and she said: «How unwise! It’s just like you! But why have you had it opened? To get an even worse cold?»
I was closing it when I heard a murmur: «Hey, hey, Mother didn’t say close it. She only reprimanded me for getting it opened».

Sister Victoire Cassou:
I said to her: «Pray for those who don’t pray». She answered: «I’ve nothing else to do. I’m good for nothing. My only weapon is prayer. All I can do is pray and suffer».

Sister Marthe du Rais:
Sister Marie-Bernard made her perpetual vows, if I well remember, in 1877 [in fact in 1878, ed.]. Her joy was immense; she was so happy that she would have liked to have died that day. «I thought I was in heaven,» she told me, «if I’d died, I was sure of myself, because the vows are a second baptism.»

Sister Marcelline Lannessans:
In 1878 I told her I was going to Lourdes, and to come with me if she wanted. «No,» she replied: «They’d look at me like a rare animal. And besides, they’d abandon Our Lady to follow me. Pray for me at the grotto. I’ll pray for you so you have a good journey».

Sister Stanislas Tourriol:
I recommended myself to her prayers: «Yes, I will pray,» she said; »but not in this world. I’ve very little time to live, ill as I am».

The Abbé Febvre, then a pupil in the fourth year at the junior seminary of Pignelin, near Nevers, saw Bernadette:
«Laddie,» she said to me, «are you in the seminary, do you want to become a priest?» «Yes, sister, if the Lord calls me». «Yes, you will be a priest. Oh how beautiful a priest is at the altar. But you know, a priest at the altar is always Jesus Christ on the cross», and she looked at the bell tower of the community. «You’ll have much to do and to suffer. Be brave!»

Sister Thérèse Lacoste:
She said to me: «If you want to be a religious, Mademoiselle, you must learn to love suffering. The Lord gives the crown of thorns to his friends on earth, don’t seek for better».


(A month before her death)

Henri Lasserre:
«Whatever the Lord wants,» she said between bouts of pain, «as he wants it and as much as he wants. I abandon myself to him and I place my joy in being able to be the victim of the Heart of Jesus…».
Her suffering in the last illness was atrocious. Her worn-out chest was on fire, the bones of her knee were rotted by a devouring cancer.

Sister Emilie Marcillac:
The asthma attacks became more frequent. An enormous tumor had taken over her right knee, finally the cancer was devouring her bones… The violence of the pain dragged some cries out of her that she transformed into prayers: «My God, I offer it up to you. My God, I love you».

Sister Saint-Cyr Jollet:
She said: «My God, I want, I desire to suffer, but give me the grace of patience, that I have such need of».

Abbé Perreau:
At the end of her life, saddened that she could no longer follow the practice of prayer, she confided her regret to the chaplain. He replied: «Console yourself, pray at the foot of the cross, immersing yourself in the wounds of the Lord». And Bernadette: «Oh, how those words do me good!»

Abbé Febvre:
I believe that the Lord gave her a certain presentiment of her coming death, because, during a visit I made on Saint Joseph’s day, having asked her what grace she had sought from the great feast, she answered emphatically: «The grace of a good death».

Sister Marie-Bernard received extreme unction on Friday 28 March 1879. After the ceremony she said: «Mother, I beg your forgiveness for all the trouble I have caused you with my unfaithfulness in the religious life and I beg the f

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