Wednesday, June 22
The Ghost Of St Bernadette And Her Incorrupt Body
While going through photos for last Sunday's post, Producing Energy Between Your Hands, I came across this picture above, purported to be Saint Bernadette - after she had died. There are five images shown as her spirit gradually fades into a wall.
It's not known who the photographer was but is generally referred to as The Ghost of Bernadette Soubirous and was taken in 1890, eleven years following her death.
Bernadette Soubirous is the French farm girl from rural Lourdes who was canonised as a saint on December 13th 1933. Lourdes has since become a center of healing for believers, mostly of the Catholic faith. Her full story can be found on Wikipedia, where it is says:
"In the 150 years since Bernadette dug up the spring (at Lourdes), 67 cures have been verified by the Lourdes Medical Bureau as 'inexplicable', but only after what the Church claims are 'extremely rigorous scientific and medical examinations' that failed to find any other explanation."
I think most people have probably heard of the Lourdes story but I didn't realise that Bernadette's body had been exhumed three times with bizarre results:
On the first occasion, in September 1909, witnesses claimed that, though a crucifix in her hand had oxidised, her body was declared 'incorrupt.' In other words there was no sign of decomposition.
On the second exhumation in April 1919 the doctor, who examined the body stated: "The body is practically mummified, covered with patches of mildew and quite a notable layer of salts, which appear to be calcium salts. The skin has disappeared in some places, but it is still present on most parts of the body."
Following a third exhumation in 1925 Doctor Comte published a report in the Bulletin de I'Association medicale de Notre-Dame de Lourdes:
"What struck me during this examination, of course, was the state of perfect preservation of the skeleton, the fibrous tissues of the muscles (still supple and firm), of the ligaments, and of the skin, and above all the totally unexpected state of the liver after 46 years. One would have thought that this organ, which is basically soft and inclined to crumble, would have decomposed very rapidly or would have hardened to a chalky consistency. Yet, when it was cut it was soft and almost normal in consistency. I pointed this out to those present, remarking that this did not seem to be a natural phenomenon."
As to whether Lourdes has supernatural powers of healing is a matter of opinion. What can be said is that belief can do many wondrous things - including returning people to health. Belief is at the center of most miracles.