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The Christophers: The Song of Bernadette

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.,


On April 16, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. The 1943 film The Song of Bernadette dramatizes the amazing events in her life relating to the Marian apparitions that occurred in Lourdes, France, in 1858. Many Catholics have enjoyed this beautiful film, and it’s a great one to share with those who haven’t seen it, especially younger generations.

The Song of Bernadette features Jennifer Jones in the title role, and she delivered a breakout performance that came early in her career, garnering her both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. The accolades Jones received were well deserved because she vividly brings to life Bernadette’s profound encounters with our Blessed Mother.

One of the great measures of Bernadette’s faithfulness was her respect for her parents, the Church, and those in authority, even while they doubted her claim to experiencing apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In one scene early in the film, Bernadette’s mother instructs her not to return to the grotto where her visions are taking place, and she obeys until her mother finally relents due to the influence of a trusted relative.

This is the model the saints provide us down through the centuries as they strive to balance their fervent faith with the demands of those God has placed in their lives and calls them to respect. It requires much self-sacrifice out of love for God and others, and it is the path of humble obedience we are all called to follow.

The Song of Bernadette masterfully presents the series of events that led to widespread acceptance of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes. It is Bernadette’s innocence and faith that first wins over the common people, who recognize her humility and have hope in the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Eventually, healings are attributed to the spring that bursts forth from the grotto; but later the grotto is closed, and the Bishop of Tarbes declares he will not investigate the matter further unless the Emperor himself orders the grotto open. When the Emperor’s infant son is healed of an illness from water brought from Lourdes, the Empress demands the grotto be reopened, prompting the Bishop to finally investigate the validity of Bernadette’s claims.

We see in this sequence of events how God acted to bring about faith in the Marian apparitions at Lourdes and to protect and aid Bernadette in the difficult task she was given to share our Blessed Mother’s message of healing for the entire world. Over the years, many have made pilgrimages to Lourdes, seeking both physical and spiritual healing. Stories abound about the profound encounters that have taken place there. The Song of Bernadette was produced at a time in Hollywood when many great films championed the faith of the U.S.’s growing Catholic population. Father James Keller, M.M., founded The Christophers during this period and advocated for more films like this to be made. He was able to exert an important impact on the industry.

The Song of Bernadette helps us to recall that vision of faith in film during a time when it was more prevalent. Though much has changed since that time, films that celebrate Christ and bring hope to people’s lives still exist. Whether these great films are made today or were produced decades ago, let’s be sure to share them with those we love; and may Saint Bernadette of Lourdes intercede for that next generation of filmmakers to bring stories of faith to the screen.


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