Song of Bernadette by Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen

by Sister Julie Ann on February 1, 2008

Jennifer WarnesDuring this 150th anniversary year of the Lourdes Apparition, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are pleased to feature the collaborative energies of Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen in this beautiful song with an exquisite melody and meaningful lyrics. Jennifer, singer, songwriter and recording artist reflects:

I was given the name Bernadette at birth. But my siblings preferred the name “Jennifer” so my name was changed one week later. In 1979, on tour in the south of France with Leonard Cohen, I began writing a series of letters between the “Bernadette” I almost was, and “Jennifer”–two energies within me. One innocent, and the other who had fallen for the world.

The letters were just an experiment: “Dear Bernadette, I’m so lost right now.” “Hello dear Jennifer, don’t worry, I’m here, and it’s gonna be okay.”

dvd17.jpgI showed Leonard my letters to which he replied, “There’s a song in here…just start at the beginning…”There was a child named Bernadette, I heard the story long ago…and then keep going….”

So the song arose in a bus nearby Lourdes. I was admiring Bernadette’s countryside from the bus window, thinking about the great Saint who held her ground so well, and was not swayed from what she knew to be true.

But the song is also about me longing to return to a place that was more pure, honest and true. I still long for this, and I think others do too.

jennylennybig.jpgYou may listen to the conversation regarding Famous Blue Raincoat’s  Song of Bernadette between Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes*MPImage%3D%23*MPImageX%3D0*MPImageY%3D0*MPTitle%3DFamous%20Blue%20Raincoat%20conversations* Track 7 1:52

15 thoughts on “Song of Bernadette by Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen”

  1. February is a winter month with the celebrations of Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day, to name a few.

    This month is also the feast of St. Bernadette who saw the “Queen of Heaven” in the humble place of Lourdes, a pilgrimage site today. In a rural setting, this young peasant girl saw Jesus’ mother who had a message for the world.

    All of us have up and down moments; selfish and selfless actions. God’s mercy and love are all around us to heal our brokenness and to fill the dark places with His joy and love.

    The familiar message is given to us in a sensitive, flowing song with a simple accompaniment and sung from the heart by Jennifer Warnes. As Lent begins the first week of February, we are aware of this season of penance and the call to conversion. Are we listening for Mary’s encouragement to go to her Son?

  2. This song captures the young shepherdess’ simplicity and her unshaking confidence in the Queen of heaven. And yet it also swells with St. Bernadette’s heartfelt empathy for all those who experience chronic physical, emotional or mental pain…Bernadette, you, me, us. Our Lady (Jesus) calls us to be instruments of healing for each other.

  3. Gloria says:

    I ‘ve never heard her before. She has a lovely warm clear voice. The diction was done so well. The song is so peaceful. You can feel Jennifer’s love for her names’ sake. I’m sure Mother Mary as well as Bernadette are so pleased with her efforts. Peace and good to all during this year dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.

  4. The Lord bless you, Gloria. Your comments are ever welcome.

  5. George the Magi says:


  6. Beautiful…one word does say it all. Thanks, George…

  7. Sister Natalie says:

    During this time of Lent we are given the grace to look within one’s heart and soul and the eyes to recognize deep desires. The Song of Bernadette is hopefilled. It is insightful and a beautiful reflection to assist the inward journey. It provides another model for the Lenten journey that we embark on today. I am invited to write a letter to Jesus to tell him my deepest desires and ask him to be a part of my Lenten journey. I eagerly await the letter that Jesus will return to me.

  8. Jenna Halverson says:

    What a lovely song!I want to hold that joy and faith that Bernadette had for this lent season, and for the rest of my life.There is truly a greater place waiting for us.How amazing that would be to see our Mother and feel the extra presence of God in our hearts? Wow.

  9. Jenna, you are one beautiful soul as well! The energy you extend in exercise science at UW Superior is balanced with your riguous, spiritual training! The Lord bless your studies and thank you for taking the time to affirm Jennifer! Your comments were so right!

    Sister Natalie, as always you manage to say it from the heart! Please feel free to comment as the Spirit leads you.

  10. Ann says:

    The song reminds me how even children\young people are called to work in God’s name. Also, it reminds me how we are to be like children. Truly a powerful song!

  11. Ann, your own desire to help others in the field of social work shows your compassion for those in need. May the Lord continue to bless your desire to help others. Thanks for your comments on Jennifer’s song.

  12. Sister Bernadette Selinsky says:

    How humbled I was to hear this song about the saint after whom I am named! I have always loved this name, Bernadette, and have been forever grateful that my parents gave it to me. Most of my childhood “things” are long gone, but one that I kept, and have in my room to this day, is a small 4 or 5 inch grotto of St. Bernadette and our Lady. It is a reminder to me of the profound humility my namesake had and of her singleness of purpose throughout her life, no matter what she faced. It is also a reminder to me that it is the state of our HEART that God looks at and can use so powerfully to draw others to His unbounded love. That’s how God used St. Bernadette. Feb. 11 is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and, when I was growing up, Feb. 18 was the feast of St. Bernadette so I kept Feb. 18 as my feastday. That’s tomorrow – and I will celebrate by having a vacation day from work. I love my work as a chaplain, but a break is good periodically. St. Bernadette is giving me that break tomorrow.

  13. SisterMary Hugh says:

    It was a lovely song and sung so beautifully.

  14. Sister Sean Marie says:

    The song’s simple message and melody make it truly beautiful. A great role model in Bernadette and the potential in each of us. How often do we go to our heart’s secret place and just ponder the great gift we’ve been given? The next step is to be the role model for others.

  15. bc says:

    After about 10-years, I've just rediscovered this song. I fell in love with the album when it came out. I was working in San Rafael, California at the time at a little radio station called KTIM.
    The song just reduces me to tears every time I hear it. I'm such an awful person. Maybe there's hope for me yet. “C'mon, let me hold you…like Bernadette would do…”

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