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A Remnant Film Review...

The Next Children’s Crusade

A new film about St. Bernadette of Lourdes


Brian M. McCall,

Remnant Columnist, Oklahoma


Available from The Remnant Bookstore


(Posted 06/02/10 Catholic culture has been under incessant attack for decades.  The enemies of the Church once attempted to invade Christendom with armies and navies.  After centuries of defeat (Lepanto, Vienna, etc.) a new front was opened – If you cannot beat them, undermine them.   

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries are littered with the cultural corpses of this campaign. Wholesome, edifying Catholic culture and entertainment has been attacked in all media, art, drama, music, literature and, most notably, film.  As any Catholic parent knows, finding edifying cultural entertainment for the family is very difficult if not nearly impossible here in the ruins of Christendom. 

There is real danger in this devastated cultural vineyard.  In faithfully avoiding the harmful rot passed off as culture, we also run the danger of adopting a Puritanical or Jansenist mentality.  In order to reassert the Kingdom of Christ the King in this world it is not enough to merely avoid the cultural sewers.  We must create, preserve, promote and make use of good Catholic art. Catholicism is an entire worldview, encompassing all aspects of human nature, including the artistic.

That is why a project like Navis Pictures’ St. Bernadette of Lourdes must be given enthusiastic support by the Traditionalist movement. This project is a masterstroke on the cultural battlefield. The picture, directed and produced by Traditional Catholic, Jim Morlina, is an accurate, edifying and beautiful representation of the life of St. Bernadette and the apparitions at Lourdes.  Jim and his family attend the Traditional Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Sleepy Hollow, New York (as do several of the actors appearing in the film).  It is clear that this film was produced by someone who has an accurate understanding of the history of the Church.  Unlike several recent films produced about the lives of a saint, Bernadette of Lourdes is completely faithful to the pre-Vatican II praxis and culture that St. Bernadette would recognize. 

I recall watching an Italian film about the life of St. Francis of Assisi a few years ago in which St. Francis is seen attending a Novus Ordo, versus populum Mass approximately 800 years before such novelties had arrived. There is none of this post-conciliar amnesia in Bernadette of Lourdes. The girls are veiled in church; they make abundant use of holy water, and always genuflect upon entering or leaving church. No Novus Ordo head bobbing here!

Beyond its historical and liturgical accuracy, the most striking achievement of the film is that the actors are all children. Morlino organized and directed over 160 children over four months of filming-- an impressive accomplishment if we consider the trials involved with directing a homeschool of half a dozen children. 

Although there is a wide variety of acting talent, many of the performances are outstanding. Genevieve Morlino (Jim’s daughter) gives a performance as St. Bernadette that would rival the professional children actors in the Chronicles of Narnia.  Her acting is filled with deep emotion. The scene where St. Bernadette’s reveals the name of Our Lady, The Immaculate Conception, is particularly moving.  Genevieve makes you believe she really is the humble, devout and innocent St. Bernadette.

The script and plot are truly excellent, with a story presented from the perspective of Jean-Baptiste Estrade.  He was a civil servant in Lourdes who lived with his sister in the same building as the Police Commissioner, Jacomet.  He was present at the interrogation of St. Bernadette, and, at the urging of his sister, attended the 6th apparition. He interviewed St. Bernadette scores of times over the next few years.  After many requests from priests and even his bishop, he finally collected his writings and published a first-hand account of the events in his book The Appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Grotto of Lourdes

Estrade serves as narrator for the film and the audience watches his conversion from a post-revolutionary skeptic to a man of faith. After witnessing the supernatural events of the sixth apparition, he becomes a devoted supporter of St. Bernadette.  Fourteen-year-old Paul Reilly gives an impressive portrayal of the deep struggle of faith in a man likely two or three times his age. 

Estrade’s character sets an important theme for this film right in the opening monologue.  He orients the apparitions within the centuries-old struggle between the One True Church and the forces of Islam.  Estrade reminds us that the site of this apparition has a long history. 

After the defeat of the Muslims by Charles Martel, they continued to attempt an invasion of Europe through Southwest France. Martel’s grandson, Charlemagne, met the Muslim leader, Mirat, at the site of the later apparitions of Our Lady at the grotto of Masabielle.  The siege was ended only by the conversion of Mirat through the intercession of Our Lady of Victories.  The surrounding area is known by a derivation of his baptismal name, Lorus. 

Thus, Our Lady’s apparition in Lourdes to Bernadette about eight hundred years later is not out of time.  She had already worked a great miracle at this spot which played a role, perhaps less known than Tours, in establishing Christendom. Yet, by the time of post-revolutionary France, the faith of Christendom had grown cold.  She returned, then, to call the children of the eldest daughter of the Church and all of Christendom back to the fervor of the early centuries.  Her weapons are penance and the rosary. 

The film’s use of earlier historical accounts adds new poignancy to the conflict between faith and the Enlightenment’s rationality, personified by Jacomet. 

From the costumes, to the beautiful sets and locations, to the quality acting and cinematography, the viewer will really feel he’s in nineteenth century Lourdes.  Although the film was shot in New York, the rugged, beautiful landscape captures the flavor of the little village in the shadows of the Pyrenees.

Beyond the acting, sets, costumes and cinematography I could not conclude this review without mentioning the score, which was composed and produced by someone I think is a musical genius of our time, David Hughes.  Those Remnant readers who attend St. Mary’s in Connecticut or who have been to the Roman Forum, know that I do not here exaggerate.  David is a master on the organ, something akin to a modern day Bach.  If you have the opportunity to hear David on the organ you will know the power, emotion, enthusiasm and love for true Catholic liturgy that is conveyed through his playing.

The film’s original score is what one would expect from a virtuoso like David.  It strikes the right chord for each scene with solemn and powerful melodies. The excellent musicality of the production is a true cultural bonus for this cinematic masterpiece.

If you would like to purchase a copy of St. Bernadette of Lourdes you can do so through the Navis Pictures website, If you want to host a public viewing of the film, please contact Navis Pictures through the website.   Let’s do something to rebuild Christian culture for our children. Buy copies of the film and give them out as birthday and feast day gifts. Join this cultural crusade.  “It is the will of God!”

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