The Song of Bernadette is one of my favorite films. The bleak poverty, the depth of winter, the chilling remoteness of the Pyrenean village are captured magnificently, so that Lourdes appears as the most unlikely spot for miracles that would shake the world. There are few more majestic moments in cinema than when the dying baby is plunged into the newly dug spring at the grotto of Massabielle, to come forth with a hearty, healthy cry. (Such a miracle did happen at Lourdes. I always cry at that scene.) Jennifer Jones becomes St. Bernadette; she resembles her a great deal, other than the divergence in height. The tall Jennifer communicates quite masterfully the littleness of the petite Bernadette, as well as her purity and simplicity. Charles Bickford's portrayal of the crusty, skeptical Abbé Peyramale, who becomes Bernadette's indefatigable champion, inspired me to visit the Abbé's tomb in the crypt of the parish church of Lourdes. The Abbé died two years before Bernadette, and so was not at her deathbed as shown in the movie.
Remarkably, both the book and film emphasize that it was not the apparitions that made Bernadette into a saint. Rather, it was how she accepted the trials sent by God, from the humiliations in the convent to the debilitating and agonizing health problems that killed her. In the final scene, the faith of a dying nun illuminates a darkening world. I rejoice that her moment of light is artistically captured on film for posterity.
"...Bud forth as the rose planted by the brooks of waters. Give ye a sweet odor as frankincense. Send forth flowers, as the lily...and bring forth leaves in grace, and praise with canticles, and bless the Lord in his works."
Albert, by the grace of God, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to his beloved sons, Brocard and the other religious hermits who live under his obedience, near the fountain of Elias, on Mt. Carmel, health in the Lord, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit.