TITLE: Bernadette: The Little Girl From Lourdes
AUTHOR: Sophie Maraval-Hutin (Trans. Janet Chevrier)
ILLUSTRATOR: Adeline Avril
PUBLISHED BY: Ignatius Press and Magnificat
PURCHASE: Ignatius Press
As I mentioned yesterday, these new releases from Ignatius Press and Magnificat were originally French books. So it will not surprise you that the first two saints to be featured in picture books are two of the most beloved saints in all of France: Bernadette and John Vianney. And the stories of these two beautiful Saints really capture the imaginations of children everywhere--I remember so clearly discovering both of them and being amazed by their witness.
First: John Mary Vianney: John Vianney was a man of great piety, lived to be seventy-three years old, and was a great witness with his life. And his childhood was right after the Revolution, when he and his family had to practice their faith in secret. But rather than telling his story in a dramatic fashion, this books tends towards the pious trivia: it talks about how he always carried a statue of our Lady, and how he only spent his money on vestments for the Church. All of which is true and beautiful, but I think it would fail to capture the imagination of any but the most pious little boys.
You've all read Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, right? Do you remember the family in town that gets books about saints subversively, and the mother who reads them to her children. The boy, who is a bit older, is sick of all the sappy piety, which has nothing to do with the life he sees (or his Father lives). He is the skeptic in the house--fascinated by the violence of our whiskey priest's death, not because of the grace of martyrdom.
I kept thinking about that boy as I read this picture book. Clearly, John Vianney was one of the most remarkable men, and rightfully proclaimed as the patron of all parish priests. Thoug there is nothing objectionable in it, unfortunately, nothing in this tale communicates the wondrous glory of his humble life.
|The Village of the Ars|
Bernadette fares rather better than the man from Ars. The narrative jumps into her vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary right away: "It all began one Thursday in February. It was freezing cold that day, and Bernadette's mother was finding it hard to keep the house warm, even though it had only one room!" Bernadette takes her sisters out to collect firewood, and, while preparing to cross a brook, she "stood open-mouthed in wonder... Just above a wile rosebush, a young girl had appeared, standing in a hole in the rock."
What a difference a story line makes: Bernadette is awed by this beautiful stranger (and terrified too, taking comfort in her rosary), but no one believes her--and when she starts eating mud "for sinners" they think she's even more crazy. It takes time to tell about different miracles at the grotto, and the declaration "I am the Immaculate Conception". It finishes with a brief sketch of the rest of Bernadette's life.
This book is engaging and at parts thrilling. It's lively style tells the story of her remarkable faith, and courageous actions.
|Scenes from the life of Bernadette|