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The call of Lourdes

I will never forget my first visit to Lourdes: I am thinking about it because today is St Bernadette's feast day. Those nightly processions, singing the lengthy hymn with verses in different languages, the drama of the grotto by the River Gave, the myriad plaques of thanksgiving in the church attesting to healings. St Bernadette, an illiterate teenager who had such difficulty dealing with the local clergy. It was only recently that I discovered her interest in becoming a Carmelite, an aspiration that was not to be fulfilled. It reminds me of Lucia, the only one of the Fatima visionaries who lived into adulthood: she did eventually find her way into Carmel but it was only in her forties, she had to wait a long time. Bernadette never reached forty, she died at thirty-five. I can sympathise with the clergy who were reluctant to believe her story - God seems to speak through the most unexpected persons, and then it is hard for us to accept their words and believe their truthfulness.

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