11 February 2011

A Royal Sign Which Makes Devils Flee

On this day 11 February in 1858 Saint Bernadette Soubirous received her first visit from the Mother of God. It was a Thursday which young Bernadette said was “the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.” This is how she described our Blessed Lady:

“She has the appearance of a young girl of sixteen or seventeen. She is dressed in a white robe, girdled at the waist with a blue ribbon which flows down all along her robe. She wears upon her head a veil which is also white; this veil gives just a glimpse of her hair and then falls down at the back below her waist. Her feet are bare but covered by the last folds of her robe except at the point where a yellow rose shines upon each of them. She holds on her right arm a Rosary of white beads with a chain of gold shining like the two roses on her feet.”

The Blessed Virgin comes to Bernadette with a Rosary, and the two would pray the Rosary together. Before Bernadette could lift her right hand to her forehead to begin with the Sign of the Cross, our Lady stopped Bernadette by paralyzing her arm. And then our Blessed Lady made the Sign of the Cross; afterward, Bernadette was permitted to do the same.

Something happened there that is very mysterious. Our Blessed Mother apparently taught Bernadette the proper way to make the Sign of the Cross. As Catholics, we make the Sign of the Cross often, but how many times do we make it with great devotion and reverence?

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem taught that the Sign of the Cross was a royal Sign which makes devils flee trembling with fear.

It is said that many were converted to the faith simply because they witnessed Bernadette make the Sign of the Cross; and she was taught how to do it properly by our Lady. It’s interesting that when Bernadette became a nun, one of the other sisters asked her what must be done to be assured of going to heaven. Bernadette’s response was: “Make the Sign of the Cross well. That in itself is already a great deal.”

As the first apparition of Our Lady continued, Bernadette alone prayed the Rosary vocally; our Lady passed the beads through her fingers in silence. Our Blessed Mother, however, did speak at the end of each decade by praying the Gloria with Bernadette.

It is a great grace to be able to fully interiorize the Rosary; that is, to mentally pray the Pater Noster, Ave Maria and Gloria, while still being able to enter deeply into the mysteries of the Gospel. A great grace indeed, but our Blessed Lady, of course, was gratia plena – full of grace. Our Lady can assist us in receiving this grace if we ask her to reveal to us the treasures in her Immaculate Heart. Sacred Scripture tell us that: “Maria… conservabat omnia verba hæc, conferens in corde suo – Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

It was on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March 1858 that the Lady of Bernadette’s visions revealed in Bernadette’s Bigourdan dialect: “Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou – I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette had no idea what that meant but was later told that it was a title for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was nearly four years earlier on 8 December 1854 that Pope Pius IX in the Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, pronounced that the Blessed Virgin Mary “was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.”