Saint Bernadette, a peasant, is ennobled by her contact with Our Lady

by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

 Saint of the Day, Thursday, February 10th, 1966


“A Roman and Apostolic Catholic, the author of this text submits himself with filial devotion to the traditional teaching of Holy Church. However, if by an oversight anything is found in it at variance with that teaching, he immediately and categorically rejects it.”

 The words “Revolution” and “Counter-Revolution” are employed here in the sense given to them by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution, the first edition of which was published in the monthly Catolicismo, Nº 100, April 1959.


Below is a very beautiful passage on the conversion of a small civil servant from the then-small town of Lourdes. He was a tiny authority imbued with all the pride and skepticism fashionable in high government circles.

[She behaved] with the same naturalness a child would have in her parish church doing common devotions. Suddenly, as if lightning had touched her, she had a start of wonder and seemed to be born into a second life. It involved her entire person.

Spontaneously and mechanically, without thinking about it, those of us present there took off our hats and bowed like a most humble woman. The time for reasoning had passed; like all those watching this heavenly scene, our eyes moved from the girl to the rock and back.

Bernadette, at times smiling, at times serious, nodded or even seemed to question. She shook with happiness when the Lady spoke. Instead, when presenting her pleas, she humbled herself and was moved to tears.

The seer usually ended her prayers with greetings to the hidden Lady. I have known the world, and maybe too much. I had already seen models of grace and distinction but never witnessed anyone greet with Bernadette’s grace and distinction. Yet, at the end of the vision, we only had before us the amiable but rustic figure of the Soubirous’ daughter.

After the scene above, I found myself like a man coming out of a dream and walked away from the cave. I was unable to come back to my senses, and a world of thoughts stirred in my soul.

The Lady of the Rock was well hidden, but I had felt her presence and was convinced she had turned her motherly gaze to me. O solemn hour of my life! I was disturbed to the point of delirium thinking that I, a man of cynicism and pride, had been allowed to occupy a place close to the Queen of Heaven.


People who follow a fashion always exaggerate the style more than those who launch it. Naturally, the skepticism of a small Pyrenean official wanting to imitate his Minister would be much more definite, radical, and exuberant than the skepticism of the Minister himself. So, you can imagine what a pot of skepticism that tiny government official was.

Well then, he goes to the grotto, as he says, to have fun. But when he saw St. Bernadette talking to Our Lady, we note he had a direct psychological intuition from his observation and analysis of St. Bernadette. He got the notion that the person Saint Bernadette was talking to really existed, that this could not be some fantasy, but that she was indeed talking to someone. Her behavior objectively had all the characteristics of someone talking to someone else, and the scene’s authenticity was undeniable.

He converted because he considered things directly in this way. It was a fact of observation. He did not see Our Lady but, watching Saint Bernadette’s behavior, realized that Our Lady existed and was there.

That is easy to understand because there are scenes with such authenticity that an average observer understands perfectly well that it cannot be an imitation; that some things are strictly inimitable, and you cannot make them. Saint Bernadette’s attitude was unique. He does not express it with this precision, but that is what is there.

Saint Bernadette, a peasant, is ennobled by her contact with Our Lady

He gives a clue of great interest to us. Saint Bernadette was a rustic person. When you read about her or look at her photographs, you note that she was basically a peasant. Yet, when speaking to Our Lady, she treated Her with extraordinary distinction. He says he had frequented the world and seen models of distinction. He obviously meant his own models of distinction—suburban villagers, the people of Lourdes, persons of his little social extraction. That was the benchmark he had.

Then he says that none of the ladies he had seen as models of distinction were as distinguished as St. Bernadette, but that when the vision ended, she went back to being a peasant.

That Our Lady communicated that distinction to her during the vision, after which she changed back. It is like taking a rather rough person who suddenly deals with the Queen of England and treats with finer manners than when the queen is absent. It is like instilling the Queen of England’s predicates on the person the queen deigns to establish an interlocution.

Our Lady’s merciful action on a sinner, or the first drop of a flood of graces

Let us look at the situation of his soul. He says that at the same time, he was humiliated but amazed that Our Lady could have treated a person so well, as She undoubtedly did.

We see here is a kind of gratuitous miracle of Our Lady. It turns out that he is a man who did not deserve at all to have this kind of indirect vision of the vision. In no way did he deserve the grace that Our Lady freely gave him. She touched his heart and put an end to all his pride with that mere reflection of Her appearance to Saint Bernadette.

Curiously, when you look at his expression, he is thinking: “How amazing! I was such a pig, so proud, so unlikely to receive this grace, and, against all expectations, I now feel touched by grace. How merciful is a grace that knocks on such defiled doors and on terms that the door can hardly refuse to open! Then it opens, and grace comes in waves.

Therefore, grace operated in this man’s soul a marvelous work prefiguring the work it would do with so many thousands and thousands of souls who would pass through Lourdes and be touched by that miracle. And of so many others far from Lourdes who would convert just hearing about it. In other words, that was the first drop of a flood of graces that would come to the world and began on February 11th, which is why the Holy Church has set this date as the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

If Our Lady was so merciful to a skeptic, what will She be to those who persevere?

I want to apply this comment as follows. If we take into account that if Our Lady gave such a great grace to a skeptical man, we can be sure she will give much greater grace to those who persevere. Therefore, we can trust that Our Lady will also give us distinguished graces on this eve of Her feast with great hope and devotion. That is why I suggest and recommend that you go to the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus tomorrow to pray in front of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes there.