This being the 150th anniversary of the apparition in Lourdes of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette, Paulist Press commissioned Elizabeth Ficocelli to do a book covering Lourdes - Lourdes: Font of Faith, Hope, and Charity. The author found that while there was a wealth of books on the saint and Lourdes in other languages, that there were not that many in English.
This book is not just another biography on Saint Bernadette, but goes much farther. The first three chapters do an excellent job of going over Bernadette Soubirous early life and the history and circumstances of the time along with a nicely detailed description of the apparition and the reaction by Bernadette and the towns people. You get easily drawn into the times and the reactions both positive and negative that occurred. Also covered is her life in the convent and just how accurate was the Virgin Mary telling her "I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next."
A subsequent chapter covers the growing coverage on Lourdes and some of the battled between various authors documenting the events and the errors that cropped up. I found this chapter highly ironic for those covering the life of the saint were quite willing to expose the errors of other authors while never correcting there own.
The next two major sections of the book cover the start of the pilgrimages to Lourdes, Bernadette's canonization, miracles both physical and spiritual, and the reality of Lourdes today. One thing I really liked about the book was that it was pitch perfect in its theological descriptions. It contained one of the best descriptions of canonization and sainthood that I have read and even got the detail right that papal canonization are in fact infallible. Throughout the book this same attention to detail is quite evident.
Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was the descriptions of Lourdes today and the large number of volunteers that help make possible the throngs of pilgrims who visit possible in the first place. Since a large number of people who visit Lourdes have physical disabilities a lot of care and attention is needed and these volunteers certainly see there work as a sacred responsibility and as a service to Christ himself. These chapters also cover some of the authenticated miracles in the history of Lourdes along with an explanation of the extremely thorough process for recognition and why only a relatively few number of miracles are recognized. Also covered are spiritual conversions at Lourdes and while these would not be considered officially by the Church as miracles, they are obvious examples of God's grace. While the large majority who go to Lourdes will not experience a physical healing, there are quite a number of spiritual healings that occur there and of course sometimes there are both physical and spiritual healings. One interview of a person who was healed and his healing recognized as one of the authenticated cures is quite interesting in that he had pretty much given up hope and that his brother was the one who brought him to Lourdes. He now brings pilgrims to Lourdes everywhere himself.
The is really quite an excellent book even for those who are quite familiar with St. Bernadette's biography and even includes an excellent introduction by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR where he say he owes much to his recovery after the accident to Our Lady of Lourdes. Normally I am quite skeptical to books put out by Paulist Press, but I have zero qualms over this one and highly recommend it.