You may think you know all there is to know about Our Lady’s famous appearances to a peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France in 1858. But unless you’re a scholar who has gone back to the earliest sources concerning the 18 apparitions, as Writer/Director/Producer Stefano Mazzeo did to craft this EWTN original docudrama, you are going to be surprised, inspired, and completely riveted by this compelling account of one of the greatest Marian apparitions in the history of the world.
This two-hour EWTN original docudrama, filmed on location in France and England, airs 3:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Dec. 8.
Before he began his research into the story that would become “The Message of Lourdes,” Mazzeo said he felt he knew a fair amount about the apparitions. After all, he had visited Lourdes, read various accounts of the apparitions, been surprised by some of the strange online theories about what “really” happened at Lourdes, and watched many excellent films on the apparitions. Those films included the big budget Hollywood film of the 1940s, known to audiences worldwide as “The Song of Bernadette.” While the latter was a very well-done and interesting film, Mazzeo said the filmmakers “took a few liberties with the truth,” implying a romantic relationship between Bernadette and another character, “which never happened.” Mazzeo’s challenge was to take all the information he uncovered and still make it entertaining.
The result is nothing short of stupendous! In addition to all of the superb acting in this film, Mazzeo was able to tuck in a lot of information by having the actor who portrays Father Dominque Peyramale – the Catholic priest who was in Lourdes at the time Bernadette Soubirous received her apparitions and who was extremely skeptical in the beginning of the apparitions – make short comments on the story as it unfolds.
“He tells the story in the past tense, but you can see his character development,” Mazzeo said. “He was cruel to Bernadette when the message first came out. He was angry with her for involving him. The Church had just gone through the French Revolution 50 years before. The persecution was finished, and he didn’t want something that couldn’t be verified making the skeptics turn on the Church again. He thought she was making it up. The public prosecutor, the police commissioner, the mayor, her priest, and even her parents were against her. Modern France was industrializing. They didn’t want Lourdes to be seen as a parochial medieval place. But because Bernadette was so pure, so innocent, so truthful, she won everyone over.”
As viewers will see, Mazzeo was also able to include short but important comments from the most important people in Lourdes at the time this was filmed. The lineup includes the Bishop of Lourdes, the Rector of the Shrine at Lourdes, the doctor who verified the miracles, and the promoter general of the rosary for the Dominican order since the rosary is such an integral part of the apparitions. The result, coupled with superb acting, especially by the lead actress, and stunning cinematography, is a cinematic tour de force that should not be missed.
What most surprised Mazzeo?
“What I didn’t know was that there were demonic attacks during the apparitions,” Mazzeo said. “No one has mentioned this. Our Lady silenced the demons with just one look. She hardly moved her head and it all stopped. She frightened them all away.”
Mazzeo also discovered that the 18 apparitions line up with the Rosary’s Joyful Mysteries (Apparitions 1-7), Sorrowful Mysteries (Apparitions 8-11), and Glorious Mysteries (Apparitions 12-18). While Bernadette had mystical conversations with Our Lady that no one could hear most of the time, occasionally they could.
“Only 10 sentences are recorded,” Mazzeo said. “Our Lady doesn’t actually say all that much, but what she says is so fundamentally important that it’s really stunning.”
Mazzeo hopes all who view the film will be inspired.
“I think it’s important to listen to poor and lowly people like Bernadette,” he said. “She was very faith-filled, very devout, and very orthodox. That’s why Our Lady appeared to Bernadette. Although she was un-catechized, she had an instinctive orthodoxy. She knew what the faith was all about. She often said if Our Lady could have found a more ignorant person than she, she would have appeared to her. Yet Bernadette was not ignorant. She was intelligent, yet she had a poor mind for memorization, for study. Our Lady knew Bernadette’s innocence, natural orthodoxy, inner beauty, and purity made her the right one to convey the message.”
If you want to know what really happened at Lourdes, if you want to immerse yourself in the messages Our Lady conveyed during her 18 apparitions, you will definitely want to tune in or record the world premiere of “The Message of Lourdes” at 3:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Dec. 8.
Fun Side Note: While all of the music in this film is original, don’t miss the song that plays during the ending credits. Mazzeo wrote the lyrics, in which he tried to sum up the whole message of Lourdes. He says viewers will hear only two of the four verses. However, he has partnered with a composer, who did a stunning job on all of the music in the film, and he is hoping to put out a music video of this final song complete with all four verses.