When Pop Culture Got It Right (A Song For Bernadette) – February 11th, 2015 1:41 am

My father recently admitted something I’ll not soon forget.

There’s a scene in the 1943, four-time Academy Award-winning film (nah, our culture hasn’t dropped off the edge of a table) “The Song of Bernadette” when the father of the Marian seer Bernadette Soubirous greets his eldest daughter one morning.

“Good morning, Bernadette”, says father Francois.  But not before he starts, hesitates, and then stops in making the sign of the cross.  Good thing, too, as Bernadette would not be canonized for another 75 years.  A couple of years back, I spoke with my dad about the film he so eagerly promoted to me in my youth.  Recalling the scene when the elder Soubirous lifts his hand to his forehead (in the name of the Father…) I saw tears well up in my father’s eyes.

What a powerful thing to witness.  What a thing, to realize just how fortunate I am to have been raised in the Catholic faith.  And all of this, from a man (my father) who was raised faith-less.  What an incredible gift I’ve been given.  I wish I appreciated it more.

February 11th, 1858.  The day the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young, poor, French girl.  In the cove near a garbage dump. (And why not?  After all, Our Lord was born in a shelter for animals, laid to rest in a feeding trough.)

Today marks the anniversary of one of the greatest gifts bestowed on humanity.  And it is a crying shame that it is not worldly recognized.  (And why not?  After all, is this not the story of the infant church, laid to struggle amongst a pagan people.)

Yeah.  I could lay down a YouTube video, providing a poignant segment from that blockbuster film from year’s gone by.

But that’s not how I roll.  The 2015 Grammys went down not a couple of nights ago, with all of its pomp and paganism.  I figured “hey, let’s reclaim a bit of the culture with this blast from 1986”.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a performance from Jennifer Warnes (she attended Immaculate Heart College in California, dontcha know!) off  her album “Famous Blue Raincoat”; The Song of Bernadette.

Said Warnes of the tune, inspired while on a trip through Lourdes:
“I was given the name Bernadette at birth. But my siblings preferred the name “Jennifer” so my name was changed one week later. In 1979, on tour in the south of France with Leonard Cohen, I began writing a series of letters between the “Bernadette” I almost was, and “Jennifer”–two energies within me. One innocent, and the other who had fallen for the world…. So the song arose in a bus nearby Lourdes. I was…thinking about the great Saint who held her ground so well, and was not swayed from what she knew to be true. But the song is also about me longing to return to a place that was more pure, honest and true. I still long for this, and I think others do too.”

St. Bernadette, ora pro nobis.



One Response to “When Pop Culture Got It Right (A Song For Bernadette) – February 11th, 2015 1:41 am”

  1. Lou Iacobelli February 11, 2015 at 10:48 #

    Great post Damian! It’s a good idea today, that as we move forward in our morally confusing world, we do look back at what has sustained, given meaning and hope to people’s lives: their faith and love of God. Thank you for that touching reminder in song.

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