Sister Bernadette Moriau was cured at Lourdes: hers is the 70th officially recognized cure. Before and after her healing, she always worked with the sick. Here is the account of her experience, as a Franciscan Oblate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Nantes, of her meeting of Saint Francis, Pope Francis and Our Lady of Lourdes.
This interview was given to Radio Esperance for the “Roman Studio” program on February 6, 2019. Hugues de Warren transcribed it for Zenit. We publish it with the kind permission of Radio Esperance.
Sister Bernadette Moriau talks about her healing in her book “My Life Is a Miracle: Never Despair,” JC Lattes Editions, with Jean-Marie Guenois and Monsignor Jacques Benoit-Gonnin.
Here is Zenit’s translation of the interview.
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Radio Esperance: Sister Bernadette, the Diocese of Beauvais carried out the investigation on the miracle, but this miracle happened in a mould. You are a Franciscan. How did Saint Francis call you?
Sister Bernadette: First of all, I am from a worker’s family and I entered the Congregation of the Franciscan Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 60 years ago. <I chose> a Franciscan Congregation because my parents were already of the Franciscan Third Order so, at a very young age, I was bathed in this spirituality, which suited me very well, and I arrived at Bresles in this small fraternity with three Sisters in 2006. A fraternity where, in the manner of Francis, one tries to live as brothers, to have our door open to receive all people, to receive the joys, to receive the sufferings, to receive the distresses. In a life of prayer, of course, in fraternity in the Church, the office of the present time, the time of prayer, the time of personal reading, the time of praise and our insertion in the life of the Church, of the parish be it through Secours Catholique for some, be it for me in the company of the gravely ill, in the accompaniment of families in mourning and the friendship that can be born with families.
As Francis, we tend to be like him, little, walking in poverty and simplicity of life, living a fraternal life recognizing all men as brothers, children of the same Father. Our Founder, Mother Marie-Therese de la Croix, whose Order was founded in 1875 at La Gaubretiere, in Vendee, went to install herself in the Diocese of Nantes, at the request of Monsignor Le Coq, where the Motherhouse was established, where each and all of us have gone through. There, our Founder, walking in the steps of Saint Francis, invited us to receive life with open arms, not to be set <in our ways> but to be available and close to the miseries of the least helped of our land. It’s true that for a time we looked after elderly people in clinics and that has now evolved so well that it’s salaried work, but the little Sisters in Honduras — because we have a foundation in Honduras — take care of the poorest, the sick, little children in a nutrition center and then <engage in> pastoral care. We try to live this Franciscan charism in praise and in respect of Creation preserving our home, the earth.
Radio Esperance: The greater part of your life in this Community was to carry the Lord’s Cross in sickness . . .
Sister Bernadette: Yes, but it’s true that I did my nursing studies in the Congregation after my novitiate, to be at the service of the sick, which is my greatest joy and which I exercised for two years. I began to have problems with my vertebral column. After four surgical interventions, I became an invalid and was obliged to stop my profession very quickly. I receive my diploma in 1966. In 1965 and 1968 I was operated on and went on the other side of the barrier, on the side of he sick rather than on the side of the caregivers. It’s an experience that I don’t regret, because I lived in the midst of the sick either in hospital or in a re-education center. I lived with other handicapped <persons> this whole dimension of prayer and of fraternity. It’s true that when we are handicapped we help one another and the handicap doesn’t prevent us from having a fruitful life.
Radio Esperance: You met Pope Francis at Rome. Can you give us some of your impressions of this recent pilgrimage?
Sister Bernadette: It happened that, after the recognition of the miracle, I was led to write a book. It’s not my own choice but a request of the Church. I wrote that my life is a miracle because on rereading my history, I discovered all these sings of God in my life. In fact, I’m still there; it’s truly a miracle that ended with that of Lourdes, of course. This book was translated into Polish first and into Italian. I found myself going to Rome with my Bishop and Jean-Marie Guenois, who wrote the book with me. He is a journalist with Le Figaro, and is in charge of religious issues. With him I did a whole long review to have him share my experience. At the Bishop’s request I then continued to write this book after having submitted the first two chapters to him. To my great surprise, it so happens that this book has made a great impact; it has also been translated into Italian.
So I went to Rome for the book launch and a press conference. And I had the joy to meet Pope Francis and to present this book to him, written in French and in Italian. I was very impressed by this man of God whom I appreciate very much, marked by his simplicity, his humility. I feel very close to him because, although a Jesuit he is very Franciscan. My Superior General, who was just appointed, came with me and she presented to him the life of our Mother Founder. She gave him a cloth made by the Lencas women of Honduras, the poorest, and Our Lady of Suyapa. It’s true that the Holy Father received us truly as his children, and I was able to entrust to him all the sick, the caregivers and the whole world of the poor, and I thanked him for reminding us of Saint Francis of Assisi’ whole way of living because, although he is a Jesuit, for me he has a very great Franciscan spirituality.
I was struck that he is going to Morocco to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Francis’ meeting with the Sultan, where Francis was a brother and received the Sultan as a brother. He didn’t want to convert him, but they experienced a meeting of peace and mutual acceptance, which is a great lesson for today’s world.
Radio Esperance: You took part in Pope Francis’ morning Mass, who received you afterwards?
Sister Bernadette: I had Mass with the Pope at Saint Martha’s and we saw him after the Mass. It didn’t last long because there were several of us and <the time> is very measured, but I think what I lived was so intense that it’s very difficult to express. However, I was very, very marked, because in fact, although I went in my name, in fact, at the same time I brought with me the whole Diocese, the whole parish, <and> all those that I work with in the Church.
He is very attentive to the refugees and the poor. It’s true that we Franciscans try to be very attentive to the poor , to those that suffer, not to feel superior to them but to be brothers.
Radio Esperance: After your meeting with Saint Francis and the meeting with Pope Francis at Rome, what can you tell us about your meeting with Mary of Lourdes?
Sister Bernadette: Well, then, I had been suffering for 42 years with my vertebral column and I was headed for paralysis. It happened that I was at the infirmary in Nantes and the Superior General at the time suggested I come here to Bresles , in the Department of Oise, for four months to ensure <my> reception in the Fraternity. I could still do that although I no longer walked long distances but I could always do the reception. So I accepted to go there and it was there that the Lord was waiting for me. So my case was followed by the pain center at Nantes and here it was followed by a family Doctor, Dr Fumery who is responsible for Hospitality, who accompanies the sick of Oise every year to Lourdes and he himself has been doing the pilgrimage for 40 years. He had already taken part with his parents. He was a young stretcher-bearer and then he continued also as Doctor. One day he said to me: “won’t you come with us to Lourdes?”
At the time I had <been treated> with morphine for 14 years so I saw him very regularly. I know that I said to him that I no longer believed in a miracle for myself but, at the same time, I accepted this invitation as a call from the Lord, a call from the Virgin Mary to go to meet her on the feast of the 150 years of <Her> apparitions to Bernadette. Suddenly, that call resounded in me from the month of February to the month of July 2008, when I set out with the sick and I always say that what marked me most already, on arriving at the station’s platform, was this universal fraternity, where there is no longer any difference between the care-givers, the sick and the pilgrims; one no longer sees a handicapped person, we walk together as brothers and sisters, in the same direction to go to pray to Mary and encounter Christ as Mary leads us always to Jesus.
At Lourdes, I took part in the pilgrimage through the Sacraments, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of the Sick, which I received. I asked the Lord for the strength to continue my handicapped and suffering journey. Then I went to the pools, where I asked for my conversion of heart. What impressed me most was the procession of the Holy Sacrament where, at the Saint Pius X Basilica, after the procession and the time of silence and adoration, the Bishop, Monsignor James, came to bless the sick with the monstrance and when he came towards us I had these words in my heart, Jesus saying to me: “I walk in your midst, I see your suffering, that of your sick brothers and sisters, give Me all.” At that moment, I truly felt this living presence of Christ and I asked for healing for my sick brothers and sisters who were next to me, particularly for the youngest.
Then the pilgrimage ended and I returned as I had left, if not more tired and more pained. I rested for three days with the equipment because I had a corset and I had a splint on my leg and foot. I had the neuro-stimulator that walked continually with me and I lived with self-probes for 10 years.
On the third day after my return from Lourdes, I remained inhabited by the experience I had at Lourdes. I went to adoration in our Chapel with Sister Marie-Albertine. It was the small Saint Claude Chapel, which will now be called Our Lady of Lourdes, because it’s the Chapel of the miracle — and then there, during the adoration, it was at the same hour of the procession of the Holy Sacrament at Lourdes, at 5:45 pm I felt in my body a great relaxation and a warmth that invaded me but I didn’t know what it meant; then I finished my prayer and returned to my room. There I perceived a voice that said to me: “Pick up your equipment.” I didn’t reason and in an act of faith I thought of the Gospel where Jesus says to the paralytic: “Get up, take your pallet and walk.” I picked up the equipment of my foot and leg and my foot was straightened. I could put my foot on the floor. Then I took off the corset, I no longer had pain to move. I went to meet our sister in the living room in front of the statue of the Virgin, and I said to her: “I don’t know what’s happening to me.” There, we took some time to pray and to cry. Suddenly, I continued walking, I stopped the neuro-stimulator, I stopped the morphine abruptly without any syndrome of severance, and I went to the toilette and no longer needed the probe; and, the next day, I walked five kilometers in the forest. It was there I understood that I was healed.
I had confirmation of it when, on July 15, I went to see the family Doctor in tears and I said to him: “Look, I don’t know what’s happened to me.” He was astounded and at the same time very happy: he understood what had happened.
Radio Esperance: Is it the same Doctor who invited you to come to Lourdes, Dr. Fumery?
Sister Bernadette: Yes, it’s he. He gave me a clinical examination and confirmed to me that, in fact, I no longer had anything.