In 1858 France, Bernadette, an adolescent peasant girl, has a vision of “a beautiful lady” in the city dump. She never claims it to be anything other than this, but the townspeople all assume it to be the virgin Mary. The pompous government officials think she is nuts, and do their best to suppress the girl and her followers, and the church wants nothing to do with the whole matter. But as Bernadette attracts wider and wider attention, the phenomenon overtakes everyone in the town, and transforms their lives.
– Written by John Oswalt <[email protected]>
Based on the novel by Franz Werfel, “The Song of Bernadette” is a venerative and sympathetic account of the life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, a once pale and sickly (asthmatic) French peasant girl who claimed to have seen 18 miraculous visions of a “beautiful lady” (whom others, not Bernadette, per se, insist must have been the Virgin Mary) near her home village of Lourdes in 1858. Bernadette had become so happily excited by her initial vision, which she claimed included her having been instructed by this “beautiful lady” to return each day for 15 days*, she became sufficiently rejuvenated to seldom suffer with asthmatic symptoms; she had, indeed, run home ahead of her hitherto more healthy younger sisters, despite her having burdened herself with the largest of three bundles of firewood her sisters had gathered.
While her entire family neither supports nor encourages her claims, Bernadette’s excitement and her sincere insistence that her visions were real eventually attract nationwide interest, luring a never ending stream of the lame to investigate in person. Her family and neighbors, however, are a mixture of mostly skeptics, with just a few believers, and so evoke provocative questions about the Virgin’s alleged messages and even of Bernadette’s own spiritual worthiness.
* the actual account of the saint’s life states that she remained asthmatic all her life, having become so following a lengthy bout with the cholera, and that at the time of her 2nd ‘apparition’ she had promised to return for a fortnight, which is 14 nights or two weeks (plus the initial two, makes a total of 16).