Bernadette of Lourdes
Her life, death and visions
ISBN 0 86012 338 3
Burns & Oates, London, 2003
(price at publication of review)
Reviewed May 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2005
This book is essential reading for any lover of Bernadette. It is history, not hagiography and offers no opinion on the validity of the young saint's visions. What it does offer is a complete history of Lourdes with fascinating details of local beliefs and revealing accounts of contemporary visionaries, officials, admirers, detractors and historians. Thérèse Taylor gives a lucid and detailed analysis of the 'processing' of Bernadette, how the Church and her religious order poured her into a mould of their own making: the innocent peasant girl, the nun of Nevers. The real Bernadette is vividly portrayed as she struggles to escape the stereotyping and the endless importunities of clerical and lay visitors. We see her humility and patience but also her flashes of bad temper, her pert answers, her despair of ever becoming a perfect nun. Two minor moans: the translations from the French are mostly stilted and sometimes incorrect and the author's knowledge of convent life is obviously meagre, which leads to various inaccuracies. However, the overall achievement is impressive and the pace of narration brisk and compelling: altogether a notable addition to the Lourdes canon.
Susan Elisabeth, OSC.
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