“I’d never felt such spiritual intensity,” she writes. “In Lourdes, something had indeed happened very deep within me, something invisible but very real. It was as though I was inhabited by something.”
A lifelong Catholic, Sister Bernadette Moriau recounts, in this new memoir, an astonishing story of healing from Lourdes. She tells the tale of a miracle that happened only a few years ago.
Diagnosed with chronic back pain in 1966, when she was just 27 years old, Sister Bernadette has long felt the impact of illness on her life. She suffered from acute sciatic nerve pain and other medical impairments, which forced her to stop practicing nursing in 1975. After 40 years of battling her illness, her doctor encouraged her to join the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Pilgrimage to Lourdes
The visit was not Sister Bernadette’s first trip to Lourdes, but it was her first trip as a sick pilgrim. The travel was agonizing. She recounts, “Fortunately, the morphine eases the pain. I allowed myself to increase the dose a little to help on this journey.”
Lourdes, for Sister Bernadette, was a place of peace. “I’m always struck by the peace of this place, its silence,” she writes. “There in the grotto is the still power of God. An unmoving, spiritual, mystical presence. So accessible to all. So close to the little ones. To the poor. To the afflicted.”
She had been to Lourdes before. This time, she had resigned herself to her suffering. She went to Lourdes looking not for healing, but to pray, asking God for a conversion of heart and for strength to carry on.
The grace of prayer during a Eucharistic procession
Describing the famous processions of the sick at Lourdes, Sister Bernadette says, “This strange, almost baroque convoy with crutches poking out every which way, with its wonderful volunteers pushing or pulling and always with a smile–what is it? It’s the train of Hope.” Hope is perhaps the greatest gift pilgrims receive at Lourdes, knowing the healing and mercy of God, particularly through the sacrament of penance.
While at Lourdes, Sister Bernadette had what might only be described as a mystical experience during the evening Eucharistic procession. She writes, “At the moment the bishop blessed me, Christ asked me deep in my heart to offer him everything. Everything. To hold nothing back for myself. To expect nothing. No comfort. No healing. To give myself totally to him. To give, not to take.”
Never before had she had such an experience of God. She was content to return home, having received the special grace of his presence and peace.
Healed at home in her convent
By July 11, 2008, Sister Bernadette had returned home to her convent. While at prayer that evening, something strange happened. “I felt a great relaxing of my body, like a warmth from my heart suffusing everything,” she reports. “That warmth filled me. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I went on praying.”
Then, she went back to her room. She writes, “And there I heard an inner voice telling me: ‘Take off your braces.’ I immediately thought of the words of Christ in the Gospel: ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk.’ Without the slightest hesitation, without a moment’s thought about what was happening to me, I took off all my paraphernalia: my leg splint, my corset, all of it. I felt perfectly well.” In an instant, she had been healed.
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Declaring a healing officially miraculous
The genius of Sister Bernadette’s memoir is that she recounts the entire process. She tells not only the story of her miracle, but what it was like to begin to share her story. Her surprise, her enthusiasm, her love of Christ and the Church are infectious.
Readers will delight as Sister Bernadette recounts her first visits to doctors who had managed her condition for so many years, only to discover that she had been healed overnight. More moving still are her encounters with her local bishop and people she meets on the street.
Some 7,400 cases have been registered with the official medical bureau at Lourdes over 135 years. Only 70 of those cases have been recognized by the Church as authentic miraculous healings. To enter the process, Sister Bernadette says, “I had to lay myself bare. There’s no other word for it. I had to lay bare everything I was, had been, or would be. Never in my life have I been ‘scanned’ to such a point, physically, physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually.”
Reflections on hope and suffering
Neither theologian nor homilist, Sister Bernadette offers observations that ring true and orient the reader to the deepest, most meaningful aspects of life. “When you’ve suffered a serious illness, whether physical or psychological, you know very well that the truth of a being, of a person, is not their appearance, visual or social, but their inner house, that place where their deepest being resides,” writes Sister Bernadette. “This knowledge inoculates you against looking down on or making peremptory judgments of others. You look at them as they are, simply and unaffectedly.”
She offers too a constant proclamation of hope, that hope she first sought in Lourdes. “We become mired in extreme situations, stiffened, exhausted, almost dead, like the branch of a tree at the end of winter. We have no idea of the life hidden beneath that dead wood, or the capacity of a bud to become a new branch,” observes Sister Bernadette. And yet, she insists, “No situation is ever completely bleak. We need to know how to spot the green shoots, to see that a new start is possible.”
Sister Bernadette’s instantaneous healing was declared officially miraculous by the Catholic Church on February 11, 2018. Her testimony will inspire any weary heart, and the thoughtful scientific details will propose genuine marvels to any skeptic.
My Life is A Miracle (Magnificat, 2021) 144pp. $16.95. Available here.