A wondrous story of a peasant girl chosen to be the messenger of heaven
An original adaptation by

Family Playhouse

Based on "The Song of Bernadette" by

Franz Werfel

Original music by

Dean Anderson

For those who believe in God,

no explanation is necessary.

For those who do not believe in God,

no explanation is possible.


"In the last days of June 1940, in flight from our mortal enemies after the collapse of France, my wife and I reached the village of Lourdes. We hid for several weeks. The British radio announced that I had been murdered by the Nazis. Nor did I doubt that such would be my fate were I to fall into their hands. It was a time of great dread but also a time of great significance for me, for I became acquainted with the wondrous history of the girl Bernadette Soubirous. I made a vow. I vowed that if I escaped from this desperate situation and reached the saving shores of America, I would put off all other tasks and sing the song of Bernadette. All the happenings which constitute my book took place in the world of reality – their truth confirmed by faithful testimonies of friend and foe. I have dared to sing the song of Bernadette, although I am not a Catholic but a Jew; and I drew courage for this undertaking from a far older vow of mine: that I would evermore and everywhere in all I wrote magnify the divine mystery and the holiness of man – careless of a period which has turned away with scorn and rage and indifference from these ultimate values of our mortal lot."

- Franz Werfel, May 1941

Photo of Bernadette Soubirous taken in 1861, three years after her visions.
It was the simplicity and gentle dignity of Bernadette Soubirous' life and love of God that motivated me to adapt a play from the many sources of her history. When I visited the Grotto at Lourdes with my family in 1995, I was overwhelmed by the deep quiet, and the utter submission to hope in the hearts of the thousands - the crippled, the blind, the dying, the sorrowful - who prayed at the grotto each day and into the late hours of candlelight processions. They prayed for themselves, for sinners, or to simply do penance as we are urgently required in our time. Lourdes is a place where your own problems just fade into nothingness when you see the immensity of suffering in so many around you. It is a place where you notice how open and childlike are the hearts of everyone you meet and where all come away with a deeper sense of God's healing love and sweet grace.

Lourdes is also the story of a selfless soul who loved God more than her own life and was therefore chosen to be a messenger of His Love. After years of being hunted, exhibited, interrogated, as well as fawned upon, Bernadette remained utterly humble and self-effacing. Upon arriving at the novitiate of the Sisters of Nevers in 1866, eight years after the apparitions, the first question she asked was if the novices were allowed to skip rope for she "did so love to hold the rope for others..."

Bernadette's hope was complete obscurity and smallness even before her convent walls mercifully hid her from both persecution and adulation. Not long after she had made her first profession of vows, a new postulant arrived at Nevers and cried yearningly, "How I would like to see Bernadette!" Bernadette was standing close by. "This is she," said the older nun. "That?" said the postulant, before she could stop herself. "Mais oui, mademoiselle," said Bernadette, "rien que ca!" - merely that." So she perceived herself. When a visitor told her that vendors were selling her portrait at Lourdes for a penny, she was said to laugh gaily and say: "It's all I'm worth."

When the Mother Superior inquired, "Do you not feel tempted to vain glory, having been thus favored by Our Lady?" Bernadette answered in all sincerity that had Mary found anyone still more ignorant than she was, to such a one would she have appeared. "I was like the oxen of Betharram, who found the sacred statue. I was just used. What do you do with a broom? Why, sweep with it...And then put it back in its place. Yes. And so for me. Our Lady used me. They have put me in my corner. I am happy there."

Our Lady's urgent message to Bernadette was to pray for sinners and do penance for them. She also told her: "I do not promise to make you happy in this world, only in the next." Accordingly, pain and suffering wrought their toll on the small body for the rest of her life. Utterly innocent, Bernadette considered her suffering a privilege. Constantly bedridden and all the time wishing to be up and at work, she learned to say, "I am at my job...being ill." And to it she set herself with that courage that years before the church and civil authorities had witnessed with chagrin. "When one is affianced to Jesus Christ, " she noted in her diary, "in any physical or mental pain one must only say, Yes, my God, without any ifs, without any buts. O Jesus, when I see Thy Cross, I forget my own...Give me the bread of seeing only Thee, in everything and always. Let Thy Cross be not only before my eyes, and on my breast but living in me."

With courage she gave herself over to share the vocation of Our Lord. "What folly to fold one's self up upon one's self, when Our Lord asks for our hand to nail it..." she wrote. Bernadette used the beauty of the vision of His Mother to learn what was His loveliness to whom she had vowed herself, and she asked Mary again and again to "keep Jesus in my heart."

Lourdes was not given to the world that it might be used as some miracle machine, nor to "prove" the supernatural to those who do not believe it, nor to make a little peasant girl an ecclesiastical phenomenon, an idol of worship. Lourdes exists, as it did primarily for Bernadette herself, for the sanctification of our souls. Just as the little Bernadette was intended to become holier because of the beauty she saw beyond all her dreams, so her example becomes a model of sanctification for ourselves, whereby we may also learn to love God better and joyfully offer up our lives to Him. Bernadette was a little twinkle light who allowed herself to be effaced by the radiant sun of God's Love. If Bernadette is a proclaimed Saint it is because God simply had to do "great things" for her because she was such a transparency of His Love and His Beauty. Lourdes is a genuine revelation of the goodness of God to a world desperately in need of it. And for the child then in whose soul these great things were done, we offer God homage that her words have indeed gone forth to the ends of the world, and that so many have been moved to their depths because of her.

As Pius X expressed it, "She (Bernadette) brought the world into the closest possible touch with the mystery of Christ the Savior. That is the great thing she did, the greatest thing that anyone can do."


The story begins on February 11th, 1858, in the town of Lourdes in southern France. Bernadette Soubirous, a simple peasant girl, sees a vision of a "beautiful lady" in the grotto near the village dump. Such wonderment spreads quickly throughout France, creating adoration and enlivened faith in the Blessed Mother, fear and disbelief from her family and neighbors, skepticism from the municipal doctor, hostility from the Church, accusations of insanity from the town prosecutor, and threats of physical punishment from the Chief of Police. During her visions, Bernadette discovers a spring whose waters bring about miraculous healings. Only then is Bernadette asked to prove her truest love and fidelity to her "Lady’s" wishes. Her courage and faith, and the miraculous healings that take place, finally convince her antagonists of the holiness of her visions and the authenticity of her "Heavenly Messenger". The great drama of her soul continues after her apparitions with endless interrogation and investigation by Church and Civil authorities. In the Convent of Nevers where Bernadette takes her vows in 1867, she is persecuted by the Mother Superior of the Order. In her years as a Sister, "in love with Jesus" and "for the conversion of sinners", Bernadette endures continuous pain complicated by tuberculosis of the bone until her death at the age of thirty six. Her last words spoken describe the simplicity of her life: "My Jesus, O, how I love Him!...Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me...poor sinner...poor sinner..."

The Cachot (former jail) where the Soubirous family lived.."A dark, sordid, insalubrious hovel" to use the Imperial Prosecutor Dutour's words.
Francois Soubirous, Bernadette's father
Father Peyramale of Lourdes to whom Bernadette repeated the identity of her "Lady" in the words "I AM the Immaculate Conception". Her gruffest opponent at first, he later became her most ardent believer and protector.
"Congratulations for providing such a positive and uplifting experience through your production of Saint Bernadette. In a society when teenagers are faced with difficult challenges, it is refreshing to find an organization with the courage to stage a play wherein theatrical roles commend the holiness of life, and the virtue of simple obedience to God. It is very satisfying to know that one of our most popular saints of the church can come alive as a role model to our children through your very special performance."

- Most Rev. Anthony S. Apuron, OFMCap.,D.D., Archbishop of Guam

"Inspirational! The play celebrates holiness and the triumph of a humble spirit amidst poverty, superstition and fear. The story, the acting, the beautiful music, all came together like a symphony. A superb event that brings out our natural reverence for life and the brilliance of the pure of heart."

- Pacific Voice - Sunday Edition

"I think there's a maturity, a kind of reverence and unselfishness in the relationship between Bernadette and Antoine that teenagers my age could really learn a lot from. The story of Bernadette is so heartfelt...The play captures a certain feeling of glory and hope and love...Being part of it all was the most wonderful experience of my life."

- Michael Hartendorp, Cast Member (Antoine)

"To the Cast of Saint Bernadette:

I am delighted to hear you’re doing SAINT BERNADETTE this time. I salute you for your willingness to challenge yourselves with a variety of productions. I hope you find your characters and enjoy your time with the play. Good luck with it as with all else."

- Charlton Heston

"I cannot express how much you have taught me, especially in this role. I cannot wait to learn more. Thank you for your love and support. These moments I will cherish forever."

- Mari Peterson, Cast Member (Marie Soubirous)

"How can I describe my experience of being part of this production? Only one word comes to mind: It has been a 'blessing'."

- Simone Voss, Cast Member (Jeanne Abadie)

The Grotto (cave) of Massabielle at the time of Bernadette's visions.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is With Thee...
Bernadette, at the time of her visions, in 1858.

"In her simplicity she is at ease with the infinite."

"I played the role of the father whose child is the first healed in the miraculous spring. The role, like the play itself, is indeed inspirational especially since the youth of today need guidance towards positive areas in life."

-Clarence Dalipe, Cast Member (Jean Bouhorts)


Thanks for a wonderful experience and the opportunity to make a fool of myself in public (again). Love you!

- Jacomet For Ever!

Police Commissioner Jacomet
"Thanks for the great time, the experience, the JOY!"

- Tom Ahillen, Cast Member (Imperial Prosecutor Dutour)

"Playing the role of Bernadette's mother and just being part of this play has been the Greatest Experience!!! It's been really frustrating and fantastic these past few months."

- Nancy Kelly, Cast Member (Louise Soubirous)

"I feel honored to be a part of this play, and have learned so much!"

- Dan Silverman, Cast Member (Father Peyramale)

Bernadette with Mother Roques, Superior of the Hospice at Lourdes where Bernadette lived and served between 1861-1866
Bernadette just before she entered the novitiate of the Convent of Nevers
Bernadette as Sister Marie-Bernarde after her first vows at the Convent of Nevers
Sister Marie-Bernarde in the Cloister Garden of the Convent of Nevers
"KGTF-TV Channel 2 is proud to air a local play this weekend, Saint Bernadette. Produced by Guam Children’s Theater and under the direction of Deslie McClellan, this production is powerful and moving. One of our cameraman got so involved during the live film shoot that he started crying during the death scene and forgot to shift camera takes. What better tribute to a great show you can’t afford to miss!"

- Ginger Underwood, General Manager KGTF-TV Public Television.

"I related to Bernadette because, like her, I sometimes have trouble understanding my parents and their intentions and vice-versa. By playing the role, I've learned many things that will stay with me as I grow older like humility and following your heart especially when you strongly believe in something. Bernadette went through so much adversity to stand for what she believed in, to stay true and loyal to the beautiful lady she loved with all her heart. This role has enriched my life and given me a deeper understanding of God. The whole experience has been so beautiful...great...perfect. Thank you, Mrs. McClellan, for guiding me. I'll listen to you always. I love you!"

-Elisa Pangilinan, Cast Member (Bernadette Soubirous)

Thirty years after her death on April 16th, 1880, Bernadette's body was taken up from the grave and found to be incorrupt. Her body, clothed in the habit of her Congregation, reposes in a crystal casket near the high altar of the chapel of St. Gildard in the Mother House at Nevers, France, where it can be seen daily. She was beatified by Pope Pius X1 on June 14th, 1925, and canonized by the same Pope on December 8th, 1933.
The Grotto at Lourdes in 1868. The stream of pilgrims and sick people to the Grotto and its miraculous source began soon after the appearances ten years earlier.
A Lourdes pilgrim in August, 1983: Pope John Paul II
"And how beautiful was the Lady, then?" she was asked. "So beautiful", Bernadette replied, "that once one has seen her it is impossible to love anything else on earth... From this moment I must belong entirely to God and to God alone. I no longer belong to myself."
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