The grace of St. Bernadette
Our Lady said to St. Bernadette, “Would you have the graciousness to come here for fifteen days?”
Consider the phrasing here. When we say someone is gracious to us, it means that they have bestowed some special kindness (a grace) on us. Now consider the speaker: A queen. And not just any queen but the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She who is kecharitomene, full of grace. Yes, she asks a poor peasant girl for a grace. What other queen would phrase a request in this way? Surely the queen graces her subjects by her presence, and not the other way around. Indeed, there has never been a queen who graces more than this queen. And yet she proposes this request as a grace to her.
St. Bernadette says, “‘Aoue era gracia’ were her exact words, and I was astonished she should speak to me in patois and in a manner so gracious.” We should be equally astonished and at the same time full of joy that Our Lady is nothing like a distant unapproachable queen. Remember: in that grotto one peasant girl asked another peasant girl for a grace. Remember too in that grotto, a Queen graced a princess. It is a mysterious truth that we are all simultaneously poor peasants, and also sons and daughters of the King and Queen of Heaven and Earth. Our King and Queen offer us grace for grace: fifteen days, or all the days we have in this life, in exchange for days everlasting in the next. It’s a profoundly simple choice. St. Bernadette tells us though that such things are simple. “Through all her visits, she had spoken, not the flawless French of the town officials, but the homely words of my Lourdes patois. Holiness and prayer are simple. God’s Mother taught me so.”