Bernadette and her testament of Gratitude
One great teacher of gratitude is St. Bernadette, the visionary of Lourdes. Before she died, aged 35, she wrote her "Testament of Gratitude", in which she expressed what she was grateful for. One would think that Bernadette listed her obvious blessings, such as the gift of Our Lady’s choosing her to receive her visits. Instead, she chose to thank God for blessings that most in the world wouldn’t notice. As we read through her testament, let’s ask St. Bernadette for the grace to be able to convert into gratitude some of the harder experiences God has allowed us to endure, so that out of those difficulties, he may strengthen our salvation.
St. Bernadette wrote:
- “For the poverty in which my mother and father lived, for the fact that everything failed for us, for the collapse of the mill, for the fact that I had to look after the children whom I was feeding too much and for the dirty noses of the children, for the fact that I had to guard the sheep, for the constant tiredness, thank you, my God!”
- “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 slaps in the face, for the ridicule, the insults, for those who thought I was crazy, those who suspect me of lying, those who suspected me of 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. Thank you, because if there had been a more ignorant, stupid child on earth, you would have chosen her.”
- “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 that I was the Bernadette threatened with imprisonment because she had seen you, Holy Virgin.”
- “Thank you that I was that Bernadette who was so frail and worthless that when people saw her, they said to themselves, ‘That must be her,’ the Bernadette that people looked at as if she were an unusual animal.”
- “For this miserable body that you gave me, for this illness that burns like fire and smoke, for my decaying bones, for my perspiration and fever, for my dull and acute pain, thank you, my God.”
- “And for this soul which you have given me, for the desert of inner dryness, for your nights and your flashes of lightning, for your silence and your thunders, for everything. For you-when you were present and when you were not- thank you, Jesus.”
It might be tempting for us to think that these words were given sarcastically, that her Testimony was really one of bitterness and complaint, but St. Bernadette was one of the most sincere saints in history. She really meant every word. She was genuinely grateful because she saw that through all of these Crosses, big and small, God helped her to place her heart more and more in Him, to desire him more, to long for him forever. She grasped that even in all of these circumstances, it was right and just, her duty and her salvation, to thank God. And she’s interceding for us now to learn how to do the same.
St. Bernadette, pray for us!
Thank you/Bird - CC0 public domain.
Take a moment to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (cf Luke 2,19)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Col 4:6