Printer Friendly

Artful dogma: the Immaculate Conception and Franz Werfel's Song of Bernadette.

Man can only live in the name of the miracle. --Franz Werfel

You know, Felice, Werfel is really miraculous. --Franz Kafka

A Jew confirmed in his Jewish identity through Nazi persecution, (1) Expressionist poet, dramatist, and novelist Franz Werfel (1890-1945) nonetheless regarded his art as fundamentally Christian, expressing in symbols the truths of the faith. (2) In his so-called "Theologoumena," composed in his exile in the United States between 1942 and 1944 and first published during the year before his sudden death in 1945 at age 55, Werfel asserts, "In every great work of literature, a lofty, theological symbolism can be shown to exist" (BHE 220). He goes on to explain more clearly what he means by "theological symbolism": "The highest possible form of modern narrative writing consists of the mystic basic facts of the spiritual realm (creation of the world, fall of man, incarnation, resurrection, etc.) depicted by the most artful and economical means of realism in the least spectacular events and figures of the everyday present" (250-51). Of necessity, Werfel admits, "Only a very few of the higher intellects among the readers will recognize this symbolism, but they must never lose the blissful feeling that the author hasn't the slightest inkling of the secrets hidden in his simple tale" (251).

Werfel's characterization of reader response would seem to apply in particular to the critical reception of his own historical novel The Song of Bernadette (Das Lied yon Bernadette), an international bestseller from its first appearance in 1941 and the inspiration in 1943 for an Academy Award-winning film by the same title. Writing fifty years later, in 1994, bibliographer Jennifer E. Michaels observes, "Despite the novel's enormous popular and commercial success and the almost uniformly superlative tone of the reviews, it has received surprisingly little critical attention until recently, except for brief mentions and summaries of the plot" (101). Lionel Steiman's 1985 book, Franz Werfel: The Faith of an Exile: From Prague to Beverly Hills, remains the most serious, sustained study of Werfel's religious thought, but Steiman finds "any attempt to trace the specific origins of [Werfel's] thought or its relation to the work of contemporary philosophers and theologians highly problematic" and, therefore, he pointedly makes "no attempt ... to do so" (7). Indeed, Steiman explicitly denies that Werfel's theological commitment had any depth, describing the Czech, Austrian, and finally "American" novelist's religious devotion (Frommigkeit) as "an aestheticism and a humanism dressed up in philosophical and theological garb" (192). With reference to The Song of Bernadette, Steiman writes: "As for the question of the novel's 'Catholicity' in general, its message was not one of dogma but of faith, a faith that was more Expressionist than Catholic: the simple inarticulate piety Werfel saw rooted in the sources of our being, the elementary and elemental forces of our immediate reactions and instinctive loves, prior to all reflection and culture" (151).

Contra Steiman, I find no evidence to support this putative separation of "religious faith" from dogmatics in Werfel's novel. In this essay I follow Werfel's own lead, (3) spelled out in the quotation from the "Theologoumena" with which I began, in reassessing The Song of Bernadette precisely as a work of realistic fiction that depicts a dogma, one of the "mystic basic facts of the spiritual realm"--namely, the Immaculate Conception--albeit in a manner, proper to art, that carefully conceals that dogmatic depiction. (4) Disclosing this artfully hidden dimension requires me to take seriously Werfel's own invocation of allegoresis as necessary to the right reading of his Expressionist hagiography. "'None of my books, not even The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, is so full of meaning as The Song of Bernadette,' he wrote in the spring of 1942,'" adding, "'I am finally convinced that I have written a book appropriate to these times, although its action concludes in the year 1933'" (qtd. in Steiman 150). That year marked both the canonization in Rome of Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879) and the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in Germany--a coincidence to which Werfel calls attention in the closing pages of the novel. I will argue that, for Werfel, Bernadette's martyrdom of witness to the truth of the lady who had appeared to her, and thus to the Immaculate Conception, elaborates at the terrible dawn of a post-human age both the universal significance of the dogma for humankind and its particular doctrinal meaning for the Jewish people, whose destiny of a suffering witness to Christ bars them (in Werfel's understanding) from the waters of baptism. As the healing spring at the grotto is not for Bernadette in her mortal illness, so, too, the baptismal font, Werfel argues, is not for himself, not for the Jews.

I proceed to make this case for Werfel's novel as theologically symbolist in a four-part argument that considers, first, the double-structure of the novel as a rosary, its roseate images, and themes; second, its specific references to the Immaculate Conception as the revealed name of Bernadette's beautiful lady and the relation of the Immaculata to the identity-formation of the visionary child, who mirrors the lady in her apparitions; third, the mystery of suffering, physical and psychical, in Bernadette's life as symbolic of a sinful world's ills and especially of Jewish persecution; and, fourth, the book itself as a "miracle" bearing witness to the "miracle" of humankind, conceived as created in God's image.

The Rosary as the Novel's Structure of Mystery

Readers of The Song of Bernadette cannot fail to observe that Werfel has structured the novel as a rosary--its fifty chapters subdivided into five sets of ten each, its final chapter entitled "The Fiftieth Ave." (5) This structure economically serves several functions. Just as a rosary combines oral prayer (the repetitive recitation of the biblical prayer, the "Hail Mary," punctuated at the beginning of every decade with the "Our Father" and at the very end with the "Glory Be") with mental prayer (the silent meditation on successive mysteries, or grace-filled events, in the lives of Jesus and Mary), so too, Werfel's story of Bernadette, the youthful visionary of Lourdes, plays out as a series of meditative stations, many of them ending with a question, each inviting personal reflection and the discovery of a hidden theological significance in the symbolism of the events, which are described in starkly realistic, palpably sensuous detail.

In an age of exuberant hagiographic literary experimentation (one thinks, for example, of Gustave Flaubert's La legend de Saint-Julien l'hospitalier [1877]; Emile Zola's 1894 novel Lourdes, to which Werfel's Song of Bernadette responds; Paul Claudel's L'Annonce faite a Marie [1910]; Charles Peguy's Le Mystere de la charite de Jeanne d'Arc [1910]; George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan [1924]; Jean Genet's pornographic Notre Dame des Fleurs [1942]; Jean-Paul Sartre's Saint Genet, comedien et martyr [1952]; and Bertolt Brecht's successive reworkings of the story of Joan of Arc), Werfel revives in an Expressionist mode the patristic and medieval tradition that prayerfully contemplates the life of the saint as a participation in the life of Christ, who appears to view, albeit mysteriously altered, in the person of the saint. Like Saint Bonaventure's Legenda major of Saint Francis of Assisi, the structural division of which is based in part on the seven petitions of the Our Father and the eight Beatitudes, (6) Werfel's hagiography of Bernadette assumes the form of the prayer most characteristic of the saint--a prayer that exerted a formative influence upon her and that mediated her relationship to the lady, a prayer to which his readership has access.

Werfel's rosary--the novel itself--is given to the lady of Lourdes as an offering of thanksgiving and in fulfillment of a vow. As the novelist explains in his "Personal Preface," he and his wife, Alma Mahler Werfel, took shelter in Lourdes, France, hiding there from the pursuing Nazis for several weeks during the summer of 1940. "In my great distress" Werfel writes, "I vowed that if I reached the saving shores of America, I would put off all other tasks and sing, as best I could, the song of Bernadette" (Song of Bernadette xiv). Biographer Peter Stephan Jungk reports that the Werfels stayed in Lourdes in a tiny room in the Hotel Vatican. There they read about the Marian apparitions of 1858; they witnessed the famous city as a site of pilgrimage, and "Werfel often drank from the spring, hoping for a miracle" of escape (187). When the emigre author did finally arrive safely in his new home, Los Angeles, he set to work immediately on Das Lied yon Bernadette, as he had vowed, completing the entire manuscript "in the short space of five months" (Steiman 145). The fulfillment of the vow taken at Lourdes, he relates, was in keeping with a much earlier one that he had made at the start of his career: namely, to "magnify the divine mystery and the holiness of man" in "all that [he] wrote" (Song of Bernadette xv). Werfel's votive expression echoes Mary's words in Lk. 1:46: "My soul magnifies the Lord" (Lk. 1:46).

The correlatives for Werfel's rosary, the novel as a whole, are the physical rosaries, handled and prayed, throughout the book. When the beautiful lady, who has appeared before Bernadette, raises her hand to make "a great, almost gleaming sign of the cross" over herself, Bernadette's hand is guided by "a mild power" to repeat the sign in response (59). Thus the praying of the rosary begins. Bernadette pulls her rosary out of her pocket--"her poor, simple little string of black beads"--and a rosary--"a long chain of large gleaming pearls reaching almost to the ground"--becomes visible in the lady's own "slightly raised right hand" (60). Bernadette voices the Aves, telling her beads, and the lady, in response, lets the pearls slide silently, one by one, between her index finger and her thumb, moving her lips only at the doxology, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit" (61). Bernadette prays the rosary with the lady, whose name is still unknown to her, even as she prays to her, repeating the angelic greeting, the rosary mediating their developing, mysterious relationship. In time, the rosary becomes for Bernadette "the most enchanting part of her communion" with the lady (263). As Francoise Soubirous, resisting the temptation of a fraudulent devotee, bears witness, Bernadette's rosary is something she would "'never sell'" (271). "More than prayer in common" it comes to mean, for Bernadette, "a heart-intoxicating form of contact" with the lady (263). Bernadette's rosary is confirmed as a symbol of her individual identity in relation to the lady, when, in a test of exchanged rosaries, the lady notices and asks Bernadette, '"Where is your own [rosary] ?'"--a question that communicates to the girl a "sacred reality": "She loves me" (265).

The particularity of this relational sign between Bernadette and the lady, which admits of no substitution, nevertheless signifies to those gathered at the grotto the possibility of each one's knowing a unique love: "The lady blesses our rosaries" (265). The rosary thus mediates the relationship between Bernadette and those around her, especially the circle of women in Lourdes, who "constantly carry a rosary upon their person" as "the authentic tool of their piety" (59). As Werfel relates, a group of women are "telling [their] beads" alone at the grotto "around three o'clock" (the hour that daily recalls Christ's salvific death on the cross) when suddenly they see "the water [begin] to run" in a rill from the moist hollow Bernadette had dug with her hands at the lady's command (247). At every witnessed apparition of the lady to Bernadette, the onlookers, beholding Bernadette rapt at prayer, recite the rosary, the chorus making an attempt to establish "a kind of equilibrium with the invisible through the thunderous rising of many voices" (147). At the close of the novel, many years after the apparitions have ceased and Bernadette has left Lourdes, another chorus of prayer--the evening recitation of the Litany of Loretto, which concludes the choral praying of the rosary--supports first the meditation of the poet, Hyacinthe de Lafite, and then his own return to community with others, to faith, and prayer: "Without any sensation than that of the fading of his shame, the writer Lafite now also sank upon his knees and murmured into the grotto of the lady the familiar words of the angel's greeting and of his mother's lips and his own childhood" (356).

The mystery of the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary is the first joyful mystery of the rosary. The first ten chapters of Werfel's novel form a decade devoted to the "evocation" of a single day, February 11, 1858, which marks the first appearance of the lady to the fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette, (7) when she, in the company of her sister Marie and their friend from school, Jeanne Abadie, go to gather firewood near the cavern called Massabielle. Werfel's skillful employ of an "intertextual typology" (to echo Volker Hartmann) suggests the analogy between the angel's coming to the Virgin of Nazareth and the lady's own coming to the girl of Lourdes. (8) She whom Gabriel had been greeted with the unusual title "full of grace" (Lk.l:28)--a Biblical word understood by some theologians to reveal Mary's Immaculate Conception--now comes to Bernadette, (9) who will be the bearer of her message to the world. A strange wind disturbs "the completely windless calm" (52) to catch Bernadette's attention and to remind the reader both of the wind of Pentecost (Acts 2:2) and of the Spirit's overshadowing of Mary at the Annunciation (Lk. 1:35). When Bernadette beholds the lady, she comes into contact with the "undreamed-of beauty of this lady's image" (56)--a phrase carefully chosen by Werfel to convey his Immaculist theology, wherein the lady of Lourdes, through her "spiritual radiance" (58), shows forth an inviolate humanity, as it was first created in God's own "image and likeness" (Gen. 1:26). "The beauty of the lady" Werfel writes, "is the first and last thing that has unlimited power upon this child and will not let her go" (56).

In Werfel's narrative, the only questions that occur to Bernadette, as she ponders, in breathless amazement, the beautiful lady before here are: "Whence has the lady come?" and "Why did she choose Massabielle, of all places, the filthy rock cavern, the place where the high water washes up the bones of beasts, the place of rubble, swine, and snakes, the spot detested by all the world?" (57). Werfel's realistic account has already described in the preceding chapters the finding of such bones at Massabielle (48), the burning there of stinking refuse (15-16), the herding there of swine (14-15). The lady's bare feet, standing on the stone of the grotto, evoke the Biblical image often used to represent the Immaculate Conception: that of the woman of the Proto-Gospel, crushing the serpent's head with her heel (Cf. Gen. 3:15). (10) A paragraph in Werfel's "Theologoumena" confirms the symbolic association: "The virgin crushes the serpent's head with her foot. What a symbol! Even the purest and the most refined must come into direct contact with the filthiest and most depraved in order to destroy it" (BHE 190).

In Werfel's rendition, Bernadette's own childlike soul is sometimes drawn into the underworld represented by Massabielle and by the flowing river near the cave, the Gave. Living in poverty in the close, damp quarters of the former city jail, the Cachot, with her parents, brothers, and sister, Bernadette, lying awake at night, sometimes sees terrifying shapes in the shadows. At times she hears a frightening tumult and a demonic "confusion of voices" coming from the river as it flows, as if "the Gave were no longer a river but a public road" filled with afflicted wayfarers (51), not unlike the fugitives the Werfels had encountered on the highway in "a very camp of chaos" (Song of Bernadette xiii) at the closed border of Spain in June, 1940. Even as the Fathers of the Church played with the Ave as addressed to a new Eva, Werfel notes the wordplay Gave/Ave to point to the fallenness of a world that is the prey of the devil, disease, and death (51, 226). Like the lady herself, celebrated by the Church as the great anti-diabolicum, Bernadette, the messenger of the Virgin Mother, must endure the devil's special persecution, especially during the final months of her life (523-27).

To Bernadette, the protagonist of this fallen world, and to Massabielle, comes the lady who, at her own Immaculate Conception, had received a completely unmerited grace of preredemption by Christ. Werfel shows Bernadette to be a fitting choice for the grace of an election that is, nonetheless, totally undeserved. The nun Therese-Marie Vazous, who in the novel is both Bernadette's childhood teacher and later her novice mistress in the convent at Nevers, is tormented spiritually precisely by this problem of the unmerited grace given to a poverty-stricken child, ignorant of the catechism, who has never, it seems to Vazous, voluntarily denied herself, who has never striven heroically for virtue, who has never practiced asceticism. In the nun's view--a view that has conditioned her own life of strict mortification--great graces are given only to those who have somehow earned them first by purifying themselves, overcoming "the devil's wiles and temptations" through "infinite travail and torture" (190). Humiliating Bernadette in front of her classmates, she instructs the girl that only such ascetics as the desert fathers have been "enabled to see with the eyes of the body things that we lowly and ordinary people can never see" (190).

Werfel's theological sophistication in developing the Immaculist theme of a freely given grace--a theme to which I will return--is evident from a close reading of the novel itself. His letter to Joachim Maas explicitly confirms, however, the centrality of this theme to his conscious authorial intention in The Song of Bernadette:

In Bernadette the whole emphasis lies on the mystery itself and on the "innocence" ["Unschuld"] of the heroine in every sense. Perhaps that is the most difficult thing to grasp. At the sight of such a creature, we lose faith in the saving power of "the good work," we feel the cursedness of our nature more clearly, the powerlessness pre-established through Original Sin [durch die Erbsunde]; we wrongly imagine ourselves to be cut off from the possibility of grace, of pardon. (qtd. in Foltin 101) (11)

For Werfel, the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the unmerited election and subsequent spiritual transformation of the girl Bernadette prove precisely the opposite: namely, the possibility of grace, for which all humans, unworthy sinners all, can dare to hope.

Nathan Mitchell has argued that meditation on the mysteries of the rosary (a practice widespread and enduring in Western piety from the fifteenth century on) "almost certainly ... contributed" to the "doctrinal definition" of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and of the Assumption in 1954 (239). Mitchell points, in particular, to the Annunciation and the Assumption as among the joyful and glorious mysteries of the rosary--mysteries that made Mary's "privileged role in the history of salvation" and "her unique destiny after death" the "object[s] of frequent, vivid meditation" (239).

In keeping with Mitchell's argument and evincing a kindred recognition of "the often reciprocal relation between Catholic doctrine and devotion" (239), (12) Werfel uses the rosary to join the theological theme of the Immaculate Conception to the narrated events of the apparitions at Lourdes. On the evening of February 11, 1858, the life-changing day of the lady's first appearance, Bernadette's mother Louise, without knowing why, asks the girl to lead the customary recitation of the rosary. She does so obediently, Werfel writes, using "the little rosary that she had held up with outstretched hand ... to the marvelous lady" (87). To close the praying of the rosary, Louise follows the popular practice associated with the so-called "Miraculous Medal," (13) which is known to have been current in Lourdes at that time, (14) by adding the invocation, "Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us whose refuge thou art" (87). At the words "Mary, conceived without sin," Bernadette's face turns "as dead-white as it was when Jeanne and Marie found her by the brookside" (87). Bernadette's spontaneous reaction, which her anxious mother attributes to her earlier sight of "a wondrously beautiful young lady, dressed all in white" (87), thus associates the still unnamed lady of her vision with Mary as immaculately conceived, and it does so already in the first part of Werfel's novel. The girl's whiteness answers to the lady's spotless incandescence.

"I am the Immaculate Conception": Dogma, the Mirrored Image, and Identity

The series of Marian apparitions at Lourdes in 1858, which culminated in the lady's self-identification in the words: "Que soy l'immaculada councepciou" [I am the Immaculate Conception] (297), have been taken as a divine confirmation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, promulgated four years previously, on December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX in the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus. Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of that promulgation, Pius X's encyclical Ad diem ilium laetissimum, issued on February 2, 1904, mentions Lourdes in its third paragraph: "No sooner had Pius IX proclaimed, as a dogma of Catholic faith, the exemption of Mary from original sin, than the Virgin herself began in Lourdes those wondrous manifestations, followed by the vast and magnificent movements which have produced those two temples dedicated to the Immaculate Mother, where the prodigies which still continue to take place through her intercession furnish splendid arguments against the incredulity of our days." Fulgens corona, the 1953 encyclical of Pope Pius XII, issued to commemorate the centenary of the definition of the dogma, declared 1954 a Marian Year. Its third paragraph also cites the apparitions at Lourdes as a "special sign" to "confirm ... the definition." Plus XII, however, unlike Pius IX, briefly narrates the story of the apparitions in an imaginative, hagiographic manner, perhaps inspired by Werfel's internationally celebrated Song of Bernadette: "In a French town at the foot of the Pyrenees, the Virgin Mother, youthful and benign in appearance, clothed in a shining, white garment, covered with a white mantle and girded with a hanging blue cord, showed herself to a simple and innocent girl at the grotto of Massabielle. And to this same girl, earnestly inquiring the name of her with whose vision she was favored ... ,she replied: 'I am the Immaculate Conception.'"

What Werfel emphasizes in his historical novel, however, is that the lady of Lourdes did not simply confirm the previously promulgated dogma, which declares that "the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin" (Ineffabilis Deus). Indeed, the language reportedly used by the lady is slightly at odds with the definition given in Ineffabilis Deus--so much so, in fact, that the Dean of Lourdes, Dominique-Marie Peyramale, calls the expression "Que soy l'immaculada councepciou" the "one detail" that is the single cause of his lingering doubts (446). It is not iust the oddness of the diction, which seems to him to be "so fit for propaganda," so suitable for "a dryasdust theologian," and so inapt for a young, "ever-loveliest" maiden, and therefore so likely to have been suggested to Bernadette by someone else (446); no, for Peyramale, the expression is theologically ungrammatical. As he tries to explain to Bernadette (after quoting to her from lneffabilis Deus), "If the Most Blessed Virgin were to speak, all she could say of herself would be: I am the fruit of the immaculate conception. She could not say: I am the Immaculate Conception. Birth and conception are events. But a person is not an event" (300).

Peyramale acknowledges to Bernadette, who has never studied the dogma in her catechism classes, that the Church's teaching is hard to understand: "Great scholars have racked their brains about it" (300). In this short sentence (which never fails to draw knowing laughter from my students), Werfel signals Peyramale's awareness of the long doctrinal development leading up to the definition in 1854--a controversial development to which such saints and theologians as Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury, Eadmer of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, Ramon Lull, and John Duns Scotus had contributed, often by their objections. (15) Peyramale's narrow definition of "conception" as "event," ties his understanding of the Marian dogma closely to the Augustinian and especially the Anselmian questions concerning the natural transmission of original sin from generation to generation. The lady's definition of "conception," by contrast, suggests an original idea or spotless model, a divine logos of intention that names her as a New Eve, the starting point for a new humanity and a new creation.(16) Her self-designation thus highlights the Church's liturgical celebration and sapiential understanding of Mary (to borrow a phrase from Urban Mullany, O.P.) as "the first of all pure creatures, the model having true influence upon the formation of all others" (Mullany 351).

Perhaps at least in part because of Lourdes, theological work on the Immaculate Conception since its dogmatic definition in 1854, and especially since Vatican Council II, has been strongly oriented towards a fuller articulation of its anthropological and ecclesial implications. (17) Whereas the pre-modern history of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception reflects the struggle to understand and to affirm Mary's exceptional singularity, its modern history is moved by the challenge properly to grasp and to express the significance of that singularity for humankind and, indeed, for every single human being. In Mitchell's words, "To claim this singular privilege for her, 'the fairest boast of our race,' is to assert something radical about humanity's capacity for grace and intimacy with God. It is to claim an extraordinary potential for human identity as such" (130).

To this anthropological effort Werfel contributes through his deep reflection on the meaning of Bernadette's vision of the beautiful lady, which assimilated the girl in the sight of others to the object of her gaze. Bernadette alone saw the lady, but others perceived her, as it were, mirrored in Bernadette through a relation of image and likeness that was fraught, for Werfel, with theological significance. "The felt and highly characteristic presence in the grotto expressed itself," Werfel writes, "through the bearing of the rapt girl that did not remain rigid, but like the image in a mirror repeated and gave back what it beheld: the nodding, the smiling, the beckoning, the folding or outspreading of the lady's hands" (146). "The perfect photographic negative of the invisible," Bernadette brought the invisible "for the onlookers to the boundary of the visible" (146). The physician Dozous, a careful and clinical observer of Bernadette's trances, is moved by what he sees. Reporting to the skeptics awaiting his word at the Cafe Francais (nicknamed the Cafe Progres), Dozous reads from his handwritten notes: "The observer almost had the impression that he saw what the child saw. There was an interchange of salutations, an eager smiling and rapt listening, a nod of deeply understanding assent--all this so vital in its verisimilitude that the greatest actor could not equal it" (152). On those rare days, by contrast, when the lady did not appear, Bernadette's aspect plainly showed what she also indicated, with disarming veracity, to the onlookers: "The lady did not come today" (246). Gradually, Bernadette's mediation of the lady's palpable presence to "the common people of Bigorre" was such that they, too, regarded the lady as their "intimate friend, ... the true image of whose personality all could describe and pass on" (292). (18)

Drawing on the work of Heinz Kohut (1913-1981), a formulator of Self-Psychology, (19) critic Janet Hada has studied Bernadette's relationship to the lady from the perspective of "the reciprocal gaze that is the essence of mirroring" (91). (20) Arguing that Bernadette has never received sufficiently from her own mother this "reciprocal gaze," which satisfies from infancy each person's need for to be valued in the eyes of a significant other (parents being, in Kohut's terms, the infant's original "selfobjects"), Hada declares, "The essential issue concerns the meaning of the visions for Bernadette" (85). Observing how sensitively Werfel portrays the full development of Bernadette's personality as it is transformed through the experience of, and continued longing for, maternal love, Hada (by her own admission, an initially resistant reader) bears witness to the novel's moving power to express "the very basic needs of a child ... in a most immediate and profound way," transmuting them "into a work of complex and elaborated literature" (97).

Werfel's own interest in psychoanalysis is well-attested. An avid reader of Sigmund Freud's writings in the early twenties, Werfel visited Freud in 1926, presented him with a copy of his just published play Paulus unter den Juden (a play not to Freud's liking), (21) and exchanged two letters with him. As Michel Reffet underscores, however, Werfel strongly maintained, contra Freud, "the compatibility of psychoanalysis and religion" (120). Fully granting human psychological needs and tendencies toward projection, Werfel held them as more likely to prove than to disprove, God's existence. Indeed, in his polemical essay, "Can Mankind Survive without Religion?" ["Kann die Menschheit ohne Religion leben?"] (later retitled "Konnen wir ohne Gottesglauben Leben?" ["Can We Live without Faith in God?"])--a paper he first read in Vienna and then on a lecture tour in Germany in the summer of 1932--Werfel sharply critiques as "an unpardonable error of logic" the psychoanalytical inference that "the existence of a Divine Being is a compulsion-neurosis illusion" stemming from an "infantile father-complex" (BHE 107). Against this "trick of logic," Werfel insists both that God cannot be reduced to "man's conception of God", and that "human life," as such, is impossible "without transcendental affinity" (106).

"The final decision," he writes in his "Theologoumena", "as to the faith or skepticism of a man lies locked within two questions: 'Can I consider myself the image of God, or must I consider God the image of me?'" (BHE 148-49). In The Song of Bernadette, Werfel vividly portrays the collusion of the psychiatrist from Pau with the State in its effort to remove Bernadette from the scene by placing her under medical observation (371-81). Werfel paints, too, the horrified reaction among free-thinkers in Paris, who are scandalized by the popular response to the purported apparitions at Lourdes. To the skeptics, the stirring of religious devotion among the people, who travel by the thousands to the grotto, signals a precipitous backsliding from human progress and threatens, in particular, to undermine the modern, liberated, self-awareness of man as constituting a "physicochemico-biological mechanism," rather than as being an "image of beings who rule ... the universe"--"rule itself" being "an anthropomorphic fallacy" (255).

For Werfel, the question raised by the happenings at Lourdes is fundamentally anthropological and theological. Following the Fathers of the Church, whose writings he first began to read with intense interest during World War I, (22) Werfel understands the Biblical word "In the image of God made He man" (Gen. 9:6) to disclose the inner Trinitarian life and to prophesy the future Incarnation of the Word of God, which is (Werfel writes in his "Theologoumena") "not only an act of loving grace but [also] an act of logical necessity ... to give evidence and reality to the phenomenon of man's Godlike image" (BHE 160). Using imagery that bears the trace of his earlier, theological reflections on the miracles at Lourdes, Werfel defines sin as a "hurt[ing]" of ourselves that also offends "God in His image" (179). (23) "We afflict the love in Him, which is the spring of our existence, whenever we muddy the waters of this spring," Werfel writes, adding this diagnosis: "The basic formula of all sin is: frustrated or neglected love" (179, 189).

In Werfel's characterization of Bernadette, love is the defining characteristic. Already after her first vision of the lady, Bernadette arouses her weary mother's indignation, when Louise looks at the girl and sees her "rosily glowing face ... the radiant face of one who loves, and who is ready to make every sacrifice, stubbornly and militantly, for the object of that love" (79). For Bernadette, running back to Massabielle at the first opportunity, the "realness of her lady" is so "absolute" that it requires no proof for, no persuasion of, anyone else, leaving the girl, who quickly outruns her companions, "as unconditionally solitary as are only those whom an utterly compelling love fills to the brim" (103). Later, interrogated by the imperial prosecutor Vital Dutour, Bernadette impresses him with the look in her "large, dark, hooded eyes;' "clear, alert eyes, eyes sharply on guard to defend a possession of the heart;' "the eyes of a woman harboring a great love" (171). When her followers mock her and abandon her temporarily, confused by Bernadette's seemingly crazy behavior at the lady's command (her eating of the herbs, her digging into the earth, her proleptic washing of her face with "spring water" that was yet only mud, her attempt to drink what could not yet be drunk), Bernadette remains untroubled, because, for her, "love was the important thing, that and the loveliest of beings, and nothing else at all" (234). When Bernadette dies years later in the convent of Nevers, her dying words gesture toward the completion of the "Hail Mary": "now and in the hour [of our death]" (568), but the final "cry of her confession" is "J'aime... I love ... '--a last, earthly greeting "to her returning lady" (567).

The "I" of Bernadette that loves and that has grown in love through long suffering marks in her what Werfel calls "individuation, the development of the ego;' which is "the goal of all of God's creative activity" (BHE 163). In Werfel's understanding, "Christianity concedes a certain right to egocentricity" because one's ego, one's 'T', "may some day be the contemplating partner of the Infinite and Eternal, outside of time" (172). Paradoxically, of course, the ego best preserves this right "by spending it[self] extravagantly" in time (172). In The Song of Bernadette, the young visionary, who is the "contemplating partner" (BHE 172) of the lady who names herself the Immaculate Conception, models this extravagant self-giving, this loss of one's own life, that results from first finding oneself to be divinely loved. Through her contact with this love and with the ideal beloved, she is transformed, quite simply, albeit painfully, into her true self, the one God has always intended her to be and to become, the "I" who loves.

The "Sign" of Bernadette and the Witness of Israel

Theologically considered, the graces given to every Christian at Baptism are similar to those granted to Mary, but she alone, the Immaculate Conception, possessed freedom from original sin and from its stain already at the first moment of her existence--a freedom, purchased in advance for her by her Son, that allowed her to love God as humankind's representative in an unequaled way, welcoming him (as she uniquely did) into the world in the person of his Son, who took flesh within her womb. Humanity's spokesperson in her "fiat" (the "let it be" of Lk. 1:38), the pre-redeemed Mary stands surety as Eva nova for the healing of the human race in its restored relationship of trusting obedience to God and of partnership with him in the entire work of redemption and re-creation. What Werfel adds to this picture is the remembrance that Mary, the descendant of Abraham and of David, also spoke her "fiat" on behalf of the lewish people, to whom the Messiah had been promised, and that she repeated it at the cross. Mary's Immaculate Conception, Werfel suggests, thus has not only a universal human significance of hope and healing, but also a particular meaning--a mysterious meaning of suffering witness--for Israel, which is destined to play a chosen part in the second coming of Christ, as in the first. As Werfel puts it, "Israel, disregarding its own consciousness, is to the Messiah, in fact, as mother-of-pearl is to pearl" (BHE 197).

In Werfel's historical fiction, Bernadette (named in her religious life Sister Marie Bernarde) firmly refuses, to the surprise of the sisters, the offer of her superior to be taken to Lourdes in hope of a miraculous cure, saying, "The spring is not for me" (522). Without needing any further special communication from the lady, Bernadette "simply know[s]" that this is the case (522). In the nun Vazous' illumined understanding, Bernadette's suffering and death, which corresponds to Christ's "passion" as an "imitation" (517), is mystically necessary for the universal effectiveness of the spring as a sacramental of the world's healing, its re-creation. Purified through pain, Bernadette fulfills her Christ-like destiny as "the protagonist of all the ailing in the world" (517).24

For Werfel, however, Bernadette's seven years of excruciating suffering--indeed, her lifetime of earthly unhappiness--and her destined exclusion from the healing offered through the spring make her also, in a special way, a timely type orfigura of the lews. Without naming Bernadette directly in his Pascalian pensees, collected in Between Heaven and Earth (1944), Werfel spells out three points of comparison between the saint and Israel: the grace of a great, unmerited election; the witness of suffering that accompanies such a grace; and, third, the exclusion--until just before the second coming--from access to the blessings that the chosen one has been instrumental in obtaining for all the others.

"Jesus was not born of Greeks and Indians" Werfel reminds his readers, "but of Jews" (197). This "supernatural grace" was not granted to Israel "on account of natural merit," he argues (202), any more than Mary's appearance to Bernadette Soubirous could be said to have been merited by her. "We know from hagiography that the bestowal of grace is generally balanced by some excessive burden of suffering" he continues. "Is there any greater history of suffering than Israel's?" (204). Affirming that "the promise made to Abraham is still valid," Werfel accepts Saint Augustine's idea that Israel's divinely foreseen rejection of Jesus as the Christ has required it, in penitence, to bear a "negative witness to Christ on earth through its suffering of persecution and dispersal" so that, in the end, Israel will be "the positive state's witness in that last trial beyond history" (202-03).25 For Werfel, this is the "tremendous paradox": "that the predestined recipient of salvation is the only one who will be excluded from salvation until the last day but one of world history" (195). Like Bernadette, who alone is excluded from healing at the spring, the "Jew must ... live as the great exceptional case" (194).

As Werfel spells out, among the "coherences" finally revealed to the nun Vazous "in swiftest illumination" upon her sight of the large tumor on Bernadette's knee, is that between the Virgin's call for penitence and her opening of the healing spring (515). "As penitence is brightly related to sin,' Vazous realizes, "even so sin is darkly related to disease" and death, the universal consequence of original sin (515). In the light of this "illumination" the historical healing of the dying Bouhouhorts child, immersed by his desperately praying mother in the cold water of the spring, becomes retrospectively a baptismal image, a sign of a sacramental sign, even as all the miraculous physical healings at the grotto become the prophetic indications of spiritual renewal, the healing of a "sick world" (515).

Werfel did not hesitate to drink in 1940 from the waters at Lourdes-the sign of a sign--but he steadfastly refused throughout his life to request Baptism, despite his personal belief in Christ and his great attraction to Catholicism. "A Jew who steps up to the baptismal font is a deserter in a threefold climax," according to Werfel: a deserter "in the profane sense" from the side of his suffering and persecuted fellow Jews; in a "religious" sense, of his ancestral people as a People of God descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and, in a mystical sense, of Christ himself, born a Jew, who requires a Jew's faithful witness precisely as a Jew, a penitential witness "according to the flesh" (BHE 199-200). Werfel finds it "incomprehensible that theologians should persist in oversimplifying the problem of Israel" which seems to him to admit only an eschatological solution (196). Since the Messiah is the very "subjectivity" of Israel, "is He who comes to interpret Israel aright to itself, it is impossible," according to Werfel, "for Israel to acknowledge the Messiah ... 'until the time has been fulfilled,' that is, actually not until the end of time" (193-94). "Antisemitism" is, for Werfel, a sinful "form of resistance to Christ, directed against the point of least resistance" and a "metaphysical phenomenon" that works to delay Christ's second coming (196).

Werfel symbolizes the end times in The Song of Bernadette through a threefold second coming: that of Hyacinthe de Lafite, of the lady, and (posthumously) of Bernadette. In Lourdes itself, the return of the poet Lafite (an ironic alter ego for Werfel himself) to the now famous city after years of absence allows Lafite to see the place much as the Werfels did in 1940, teeming with "suffering streams" of pilgrims representing all walks of life, all social classes, "not only Catholics even, but also Protestants and Jews," "despairing" people, who arrive from the four corners of the world by the "trainloads" (541). In "The Hell of the Flesh" (the chapter's title), Dr. Dozous guides Lafite, much as Virgil's shade guides Dante the Pilgrim through the Inferno. At Dozous' side, the cancer-stricken poet moves, hall by hall, through the ranks of the diseased, from the outer circle of the "crippled or blind" (536) to the "lower circles of this house" (537), inhabited by the deformed, the dying, and, finally, by the "lupous women" (539), who were so disfigured that they begged not to be seen.

In three smoothly crafted, Dantesque scenes, (26) Werfel renders Lafite present in the hell of the hospital; in the purgatory of the Eucharistic procession, punctuated by the singing of hymns and by chants; and finally, at the very entrance to a new paradise, kneeling by candlelight by the grotto of the lady, invoking Bernadette's name as that of a longed-for Beatrice. Moving through these stations, the ailing Lafite, who had always previously absented himself from any personal, direct contact with the experience of the apparitions, is transformed. In the end, even Lafite, "proud and without love" whose pride Werfel describes throughout the novel as Luciferian, is spiritually reborn at Lourdes through suffering and childlike prayer to Mary, the ever humble "Morning Star" (556).

Lafites return to faith, a return to his own soul ... in its last nakedness" (556), occurs at the very moment when Bernadette lies dying in Nevers. The apocalyptic theme of a Satanic conversion, figured in Lafite's humbling, resonates with Werfel's depiction of Bernadette's dying moments, when she appears to experience a second coming of the lady, who has not appeared to her in the long years of suffering and purification that have intervened since the beautiful one's first apparitions in 1858. Just as Bernadette's stigma--her terrible bone cancer, evident in the tumor on her leg--serves to overcome the doubt of the nun Vazous, who has been looking for a sign of the chosen one's suffering as proof of her election, so now this second coming of the lady unites the two religious sisters as never before. No visionary herself, Vazous--Bernadette's envious tormentor from her youth--has finally come to "see" the lady through Bernadette, first, in Bernadette's extraordinarily prolonged and awful suffering of seven years (a number redolent with Biblical meaning), and, second, through the dying saint's final, ecstatic greeting of the lady: "I love ..." (567). Reconciled to Bernadette and granted the undeserved "grace of presence at a vision" (567), Vazous, weeping, begins the Ave that becomes Bernadette's last spoken prayer.

The fiftieth and last chapter of Werfel's Song celebrates the second coming of Bernadette, whose incorrupt body has been exhumed as part of the process of her canonization, completed in Rome on December 8, 1933, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. An eschatological event, the recognized sainthood of the girl of Lourdes represents the lady's victory over the age-old serpent (Gen. 3:15), whose warfare against humanity continues in time (Rev. 12: 13-17). Werfel reports the pope's words at that occasion, which point at the demonic rise of fascism and invoke the aid of the childlike saint who, in her lifetime, had withstood the devil's particular attack: "The fever of maniacal false doctrines [is] threatening to plunge the human spirit into bloody madness. In the battle against this, which man must win, not only [does] Lourdes stand like a very rock, but the life of Bernadette Soubirous retain[s] its prophetic activity within time" (577). The sight of a military plane flying overhead presents an omen of the suffering to come, for all humanity and especially for the Jewish people.

The Miracle of the Book

On May 10, 1933, the year of the canonization of Saint Bernadette, Franz Werfel's books (among those of some 130 authors), which had first been systematically removed from libraries and bookstores throughout Germany, were publicly burnt, ]ungk relates, "in the centers of all German university towns" (141). His membership in the Prussian Academy of Arts and Letters revoked, Werfel was still able in 1934 to publish The Forty Days of Musa Dagh [Die vierzig Tage des Musa Dagh], his epic novel about the Armenian genocide (1915-1917) in Turkey, but that book was soon "confiscated and prohibited nationwide ... for the protection of the German people" (145). To his mother-in-law, Werfel wrote, "In Germany I have been deleted from the book, and the books, of the living, and since I am, after all, a German author, I am now suspended in empty space" (qtd. in Jungk 146).

In this historical context, Werfel's survival and his writing of his Song verge on the miraculous. Indeed, writing to his sister Hanna in 1942, when The Song of Bernadette had already sold over 400,000 copies, Werfel called the work "another miracle of Lourdes" (ein anderes Wunder von Lourdes"; qtd. in Abels 128).

In the novel itself, however, Werfel himself never directly characterizes the happenings there as miraculous) (27) His omniscient narrator loses himself instead in the consciousness of character after character, as they respond from within, day by day, to what they see, hear, experience, testing it to find what is real and true, what and whom to believe. For Bernadette alone, who sees the lady, there is no need for faith, no room for doubt, only the prolonged trial of a faithful witness to the one she loves, whose beauty she alone has seen. In "Realism and Inwardness" ("Realismus und Innerlichkeit") (1931), a polemical lecture against the "will to power" and the materialistic spirit of the times, Werfel pleads, together with Blaise Pascal, for "the unfolding and the intensification of the inner life" as the sine qua non for human reverence before God, the world, and its beauty; for art; indeed, for life itself lived in accord with a truly human nature (BHE 65, 74). (28) "Man" he concludes, "can only live in the name of the miracle" (75).

For this miracle of humanity, there is, in Catholic thought, no better exemplar than the Immaculate Conception. Writing about Bernadette Soubirous, Franz Werfel raised his pen and his voice in an inhuman age, to try to call people back to introspection; to the courage of fidelity to the individual, examined conscience; to remind them of the possibility of divine grace and of the central value to human beings of a transcendent love. Writing as a Jew to an audience that he anticipated would be, in the main, composed of Christians, he may have hoped, too, to quicken the coming of that eschatological situation, already anticipated to some degree in Lourdes itself, of a Messianic kingdom, within which "Israel as a whole ... will not lose its identity;' but be preserved and treasured within a Church whose members have been purified of all anti-semitism (BHE 211). Werfel was convinced that Christians needed the "living witness" of the Jews, without which "Christ would sink down into a mere myth, like Apollo or Dionysos" (193). He was equally convinced of the need of the Jews for Christians to be, in truth, Christians and to rise as Christians to the defense of the Jewish people. In an age so terrible that there seemed to be "no escape for Israel," telling the story of the girl of Lourdes--the place of his own shelter and a means of his escape--became a way for Werfel to cry out: "Take comfort, Israel!" (205, 211). Opposed in battle to the "radical nihilism which no longer regards the human being as the image of God" stands "the metaphysical, the religious concept of life," shared by Catholics, Protestants, and Jews alike--a "concept of life" to which Werfel's Bernadette bears eloquent witness in the person of the Immaculate Conception (qtd. in Wagener 156).

University of Notre Dame


Abels, Norbert. Franz Werfel. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1990.

Astell, Ann W. Eating Beauty: The Eucharist and the Spiritual Arts of the Middle Ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2006.

Bernard, Andre-Frangois. "Franz Werfel Le Chant de Bernadette. Id4e supratemporelle et questionnement religieux" Le monde de Franz Werfel et la morale des nations: Actes du Colloque Franz Werfel a l'Universite de Dijon, 18-20 mai 1995. Bern: Peter Lang, 1995.421-42.

Buffer, Thomas and Bruce Horner. "The Art of the Immaculate Conception." Marian Studies 55 (2004): 184-211.

Foltin, Lore B. Franz Werfel. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzlersche, 1972.

Fredriksen, Paula. Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism. New York: Doubleday, 2008.

Fulton, Rachel. "The Virgin in the Garden, or Why Flowers Make Better Prayers." Spiritus 4 (2004): 1-23.

Hada, Janet. "Maternal Deprivation and Mirroring Needs in Franz Werfel's Das Lied yon Bernadette." Franz Werfel im Exil. Ed. Wolfgang Nehring and Hans Wagener. Berlin: Bouvier, 1992.85-98.

Hartmann, Volker. Religiostiit als Intertextualitiit: Studien zum Problem der literarischen Typologie im Werk Franz Werfels. Tubingen: Gunter Narr, 1998.

Journet, Charles Journet. "Scripture and the Immaculate Conception: A Problem in the Evolution of Dogma:' The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception: History and Significance. Ed. Edward Dennis O'Connor. Notre Dame, IN: The U of Notre Dame P, 1958.3-48.

Jungk, Peter Stephan. Franz Werfeh A Life in Prague, Vienna, and Hollywood Trans. Anselm Hollo. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1989.

Kane, Paula M. "Jews and Catholics Converge: The Song of Bernadette'.' Catholics in the Movies. Ed. Colleen McDaniel. New York: Catholic UP, 2008.83- 105.

Kimball, Virginia M. "The Immaculate Conception in the Ecumenical Dialogue with Orthodoxy: How the Term Theosis Can Inform Convergence:' Marian Studies 55 (2004): 212-44.

Langton, Daniel R. The Apostle Paul in the Jewish Imagination: A Study in Modern Jewish-Christian Relations. New York: Cambridge UP, 2010.

Manelli, Stefano M. All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology. Trans. Peter Damian Fehlner. New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 1995. Studies and Texts 3.

Michaels, Jennifer E. Franz Werfel and the Critics. Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1994.

Mitchell, Nathan D. The Mystery of the Rosary: Marian Devotion and the Reinvention of Catholicism. New York: New York UP, 2009.

Mullany, Urban. "The Immaculate Conception in God's Plan of Creation and Salvation;' The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception: History and Significance. Ed. Edward Dennis O'Connor. Notre Dame, IN: The U of Notre Dame P, 1958. 347- 61.

O'Connor, Edward Dennis, ed. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception: History and Significance, Notre Dame, IN: The U of Notre Dame P, 1958.

Pope Pius IX. Ineffabilis Deus.

Pope Pius X. Ad diem illum laetissimum,

Pope Plus XII. Fulgens corona,

Prokes, M. Timothy. "How Does the Immaculate Conception Relate to Every Human Conception?" The Immaculate Conception in the Life of the Church. Ed. Donald H. Calloway. Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 2004. 45-66.

Rahner, Hugo. Our Lady and the Church. Trans. Sebastian Bullough. London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1961.

Reffet, Michel. "Franz Werfel and Psychoanalysis." Franz Werfel: An Austrian Writer Reassessed. Ed. Lothar Huber. Oxford: Oswald Wolff, 1989. 107-24.

Rossier, Frangois. "Kecharitomene (Luke 1:28) in the Light of Genesis 18:16-33: A Matter of Quantity:' Marian Studies 55 (2004): 159-83.

Shivanandan, Mary. "The Immaculate Conception and Theological Anthropology." The Immaculate Conception in the Life of the Church. Ed. Donald H. Calloway. Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 2004. 101-120.

Siegel, Allen M. Heinz Kohut and the Psychology of the Self. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Steiman, Lionel B. Franz Werfel: The Faith of an Exile: From Prague to Beverly Hills. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 1985.

Thompson, Thomas A. "The Immaculate Conception in the Catholic-Protestant Dialogue:' Marian Studies 55 (2004): 245-68.

Ullathorne, William Bernard. The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1988.

Wagener, Understanding Franz Werfel. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina P, 1993.

Weissenberger, Klaus. Franz Werfel's Lied yon Bernadette und die dichterische Darstellung des Wunders:' Colloquia Germanica: Internationale Zeitschrift fur Germanistik 25.2 (1992): 122-44.

Werfel, Franz. Between Heaven and Earth. Trans. Maxim Newmark. New York: Philosophical Library, 194a4.

--. Song of Bernadette. Trans. Ludwig Lewisohn. 1941. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006.

Winston-Allen, Anne. The Stories of the Rose: The Making of the Rosary in the Middle Ages. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State UP, 1997.


(1) Franz Werfel was born on September 10, 1890, in Prague to assimilated Jewish parents, Rudolf and Albine Werfel. He was bar mitzvahed in 1903 at the Maisel synagogue. Never active as a Zionist, he nevertheless made two trips to Jerusalem, in 1925 and 1930, respectively. His intellectual circle included prominent Jewish writers and religious thinkers, among them Franz Kafka, Stephan Zweig, Thomas Mann, Max Brod, Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem, whom he met in Jerusalem. According to biographer Peter Stephan Jungk, Werfel's 1925 trip to the Near East moved him to devote himself to the study of Hebrew, Jewish history, ritual, and law. His book about the Armenian genocide, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1934) was banned in Germany as an obvious protest against the anti-semitism of the Third Reich. To rally public support for the Jewish people, he wrote The Eternal Road: A Drama in Four Parts [Der Weg der Verheissung] (1936) and his Jeremiad, Hearken Unto the Voice [H6ret die Stimme] (1938). See Jungk, esp. 4, 10, 107-08, 126, 141-45, 153-55.

(2) Werfel's beloved nanny, Barbara Simunkova, was a devout Catholic, who took the young Franz with her to Mass. The earliest of Werfel's published works to declare his Christian self-identification was his essay "Die christliche Sendung" ["The Mission of Christianity"] (1917), which provoked the concern of his Jewish friends, Martin Buber and Max Brod, as did Werfel's play, Paulus unter den Juden (1926). Many of his novels show his Catholic sympathies and his deep interest in Catholic theology. See Jungk 34-36, 43, 47-50, 94, 109-10, 120, 122, 129.

(3) A shorter version of this essay was given as an invited lecture at the conference organized by the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, November 18-20, 2010. The conference theme, '"Younger Than Sin:' Retrieving Simplicity through the Virtues of Humility, Wonder, and joy,,, prompted me to write about Franz Werfel's Song of Bernadette in relation to the Immaculate Conception.

(4) For a complementary study, see Bernard 421-42.

(5) For studies of the rosary as a form of prayer, see Winston-Allen, Fulton, and Mitchell.

(6) See Astell (Ch. 4).

(7) There were eighteen apparitions in all. Werfel's novel does not describe each of them.

(8) See Hartmann. Apart from passing references, Hartmann does not discuss Das Lied yon Bernadette.

(9) See, for example, Manelli, Rossier, and Journet.

(10) See Buffer and Horner, esp. 187-88.

(11) My translation. The quotations marks surrounding Unschuld are in the original text.

(12) See also Mitchell 71 and 129-30.

(13) During an apparition in Paris on Nov. 27, 1830, the Virgin Mary is believed to have instructed the young Vincentian nun Catherine Labour4 (1806-1876) to see to it that the medal, honoring Mary's Immaculate Heart and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, be made and widely distributed, as an encouragement to people to trust in Mary's intercession. The medal bears the inscription: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee:' Through the help of her confessor, to whom alone she confided, Catherine did so, with extraordinary results (hence the expression "Miraculous Medal"). The story of the Marian apparition at the origin of the medal became known, however, only after Catherine's death. Beatified in 1933, the year of the canonization of Bernadette Soubirous, Catherine Labour4 was canonized in 1947. Her body, exhumed in 1933, was found, like Bernadette's, to be incorrupt.

(14) See the text accompanying Plate XX in O'Connor (between pages 492 and 493).

(15) For an engaging historical exposition of the doctrine, see Ullathorne.

(16) On the theme of the meaning of"conception;' see Prokes 45-66 and Mullany 347-61.

(17) See, for example, Shivanandan 101-20. On the ecclesial relevance of the Immaculate Conception, see Rahner, esp. vii-21; Thompson; and Kimball.

(18) Inspired by Werfel's book, the 1943 film The Song of Bernadette, which won Jennifer Jones an Oscar as best actress, allows the audience (albeit briefly) to see and to hear the lady, who is played (uncredited) by Linda Darnell. Jean Delannoy's 1988 film Bernadette, starring Sydney Penny, tries, by contrast, to recreate the experience of the onlookers, who could only experience the unseen lady through Bernadette. The latter has been playing for over twenty years daily at Lourdes. On the 1943 film, see Kane 83-105.

(19) See Siegel.

(20) Hada identifies herself in this essay as a professor of Yiddish Literature at the University of California-Los Angeles and a practicing psychoanalyist.

(21) See Langton 203-08.

(22) See Jungk 43.

(23) In The Song of Bernadette, the physician Dozous tests Bernadette's "mental abilities" by asking her what a "sinner" is. She replies, "A sinner is one who loves evil"--a response Dozous commends as a "good answer" (154).

(24) Werfel's personal experience with illness--his own and that of his children--intensified his reflections on Lourdes as a place of physical healing. His only son, Martin Carl Johannes, had died an infant, and his step-daughter, Manon Gropius, died at age nineteen of polio in 1935. Werfel dedicated The Song of Bernadette to the memory of Manon. See Jungk 73-76, 150, 152-53, 198.

(25) On Augustine's view, see Fredriksen. I thank Brian Daley, S.J., for calling my attention to this book and for our many conversations about Franz Werfel.

(26) From his youth, Werfel was a devotee of Dante. See Jungk 13, 42, 212, 213.

(27) See Weissenberger.

(28) Werfel calls Pascal "a great man who stood at the very cradle of the bourgeois era" (BHE 65) and quotes a passage from his writings on the need for (and difficulty of) introspection.
COPYRIGHT 2012 Conference on Christianity and Literature
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Astell, Ann W.
Publication:Christianity and Literature
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Sep 22, 2012
Previous Article:Illuminator.
Next Article:The Lady with the torn hair who looks on gladiators in grapple: G. K. Chesterton's Marian poems.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters