Monday, January 09, 2006

St. Bernadette-- or an example of my odd interests...

I finally finished reading The Song of Bernadette, the fictionalized biography about Bernadette Soubirous which I started before Christmas. It made me teary at the end because the poor girl suffered so much. It's a fascinating book upon which the movie is very closely based. In general I don't like fictionalized histories or biographies because I am always left wondering what was true and what was added to spice up the story. With that in mind I wandered some websites looking for more factual information. This website on Catholic saints includes lots of interesting information and pictures of Bernadette, also known as Sister Marie Bernarde. I note has several books available, one St. Bernadette Soubirous , by Francois Trochu, by which I was very tempted but I'm trying to control my compulsive book buying.

I don't consider myself of morbid bent but I was curious about what actually killed Bernadette since she died quite young (age 36). My impression from the movie was something like tuberculosis of the bones of which I have never heard. I think perhaps it must have been bone cancer. The websites I've browsed refer to her asthma and ill-health but aren't really specific. The movie makes her illness and suffering quite mysterious because Bernadette lifts her habit to show another nun something which causes the mean nun to gasp in horror and dismay and results in a complete change of heart in the other nun. (Spoiler--apparently it was a tumor on Bernadette's knee which was quite large.)

In the last chapter of the book there are some fascinating tidbits about the fact that Bernadette's body didn't decay normally. Presumeably this was considered further evidence of her sainthood. . The Catholic Saints website I mentioned above, has several pages devoted to the examination of her body on the three separate occasions. The Incorruptibles: A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati by Joan Cruz got good reviews at Amazon as being a through examination of the phenomena. Not being Catholic I had never heard of such a thing and am having to resist mightly not to order the book. I also didn't know that the word "beati" was the plural for the beatified either, or so I'm guessing. Beatified adj : Roman Catholic; proclaimed one of the blessed and thus worthy of veneration [syn: blessed ]. So hey, this day was a success because I learned something new. (Useless, but new.)

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