Before the close of the day, I want to recall that tomorrow, February 18th, is the feast of Saint Bernadette. I have long cherished the Collect for her feast:
O God, protector and friend of the humble, Who filled Thy servant, Mary Bernard, with joy by the apparition and conversation of the Immaculate Virgin Mary: grant, we pray, that by the simple way of faith we may be counted worthy to see Thee face to face in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who, with Thee, liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God forever and ever.
When Saints Are Lovers
My book on a flight to Ireland a little eight years ago was When Saints Are Lovers, The Spirituality of Maryknoll Co–Founder, Thomas F. Price by John T. Seddon III. Father Price was very taken with Saint Bernadette. The little Saint of Lourdes and Nevers became his confidante and intimate companion. His relationship to Jesus and Mary was inextricably bound up with his love for Bernadette.
Father Price “met” Saint Bernadette on the occasion of his first visit to Lourdes in July 1911. He passed through various stages in his relationship with Saint Bernadette; these might be compared to what a man and woman experience in friendship, courtship, betrothal, and marriage. Father Price went so far as to wear a wedding band inscribed with his name and that of Bernadette. The culmination of this mystical relationship was in the marriage of Father Price and Bernadette together to the Divine Bridegroom, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Death in China
In 1918, Father Thomas Price left the United States with the first three Maryknoll missionaries to China. A year later Father Price died there. His body was laid to rest in China but his heart was, as he requested, removed from his body to be placed close to his dear Bernadette in Nevers, France.
Father Price’s life was profoundly marked by devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He attributed his survival from a shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina in 1876 to a miraculous intervention of Our Lady. In 1908, Father Price adopted the practice of writing a daily “letter” to the Mother of God. It became a kind of written conversation with her, a complement to the daily Rosary and Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary to which he remained faithful all his life.
The Journey of a Heart
In 1923, Father Price’s heart was carried from China to Nevers by a French missionary and placed next to the body of Saint Bernadette. His body was exhumed in 1936 and returned to Maryknoll in Ossining, New York.