The Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Year: B(II). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: White.
Other saints: St Bernadette Soubirous (1844 - 1879)
Hexham & Newcastle, France
She was born in 1844 to a destitute family in Lourdes, in France. On 11 February 1858 she went down to the river Gave with her sister and a friend, to look for firewood and bones. There she received the first of a series of visions of the Mother of God which led to Lourdes becoming a place of pilgrimage and healing. In 1866 she became a nun at Nevers, where she died on 16 April 1879.
It is a rule of the Church that saints are to be celebrated for what they are and what they do – to serve as examples of heroic virtue for us all – and not merely for what happens to them. There is no way that we can all go off and have visions of Our Lady, and the world would be a madhouse if we tried. So what of Bernadette? What heroic virtue has she that we should imitate? There are two: suffering, and humility.
Bernadette was seriously ill with asthma all her life and she died young; but she never let illness be an excuse for anything – how many times do we, feeling a little unwell, use that as an excuse for being bad-tempered or simply not doing what we ought?
To move away from Bernadette for a moment: imagine that you are a poor working-class boy with little education who happens to be good at kicking a ball about. Within a few years you find yourself earning more, annually, than your father earned in his entire lifetime. You receive attention, adulation, status – all that you could possibly desire. People emulate you. They hang on your every word. How would you feel? How would you act?
Next, imagine that you are a poor girl – not even working-class, because your father hardly ever has any work – poor in a way that we can hardly conceive of – unintelligent and uneducated, and suddenly something happens to you. Overnight you are famous. People come in crowds to see you (sometimes the police have to control them). Everyone treats you with respect and admiration. They hang on your every word and ask you, over and over, questions about even the tiniest detail of your experience. They press coins into your family’s hands. You shut yourself up in a convent far from home, but even there you are constantly visited by bishops and other eminent persons who just want a quick look at you.
Wouldn’t that turn your head? Just a little? Wouldn’t you think that there must be something about you that made you worth seeing? However tiny that something was?
Here is Bernadette’s response, in conversation with one of the nuns:
“What do you do with a broom?”
“Why, sweep with it, of course.”
“Put it back in its place.”
“Yes. And so for me. Our Lady used me. They have put me in my corner. I am happy there, and stay there.”
Saint Bernadette Soubirous is patron saint of the sick, and rightly so. But if there is to be a patron saint of celebrities and footballers, Bernadette would be a wise choice for that task too.
(Note: St Bernadette’s feast is celebrated on 16 April by most of the world but on 18 February in France. Some people called “Bernadette” celebrate their name-day on 11 February, which is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the date of the first vision).
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Bede the Venerable (673 - 735)
Bede was born in the north of England, near the monastery of Wearmouth. He joined that monastery, and spent all his life there or at Jarrow, teaching and writing. He was the outstanding ecclesiastical author of his time. He wrote commentaries on Scripture; an ecclesiastical history of the English people, which is a unique and irreplaceable resource for much of early English history; and the first martyrology (collection of saints’ lives) to be compiled on historical principles. He was also the first known writer of English prose, though this has not survived. He died at Jarrow on 25 May 735, teaching and working until the last moments of his life. He is venerated as the “light of the Church” in the Dark Ages, and as a forerunner of the 8th and 9th century renaissance of the Western Church.
Liturgical colour: white
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||(Apocalypse 1:17-18) ©|
I saw the Son of Man, and he said to me, ‘Have no fear! I am the First and the Last. I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld.’
|Noon reading (Sext)||Colossians 2:9,12 ©|
In Christ lives the fullness of divinity, and in him you too find your own fulfilment. You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.
|Afternoon reading (None)||2 Timothy 2:8,11 ©|
Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’. Here is a saying that you can rely on: ‘If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.’