All that day little else was talked of at Lourdes but what had taken place in the morning at the Grotto. Already Bernadette was almost an object of veneration. Had she not been protected by an invisible panoply of innocence and simplicity, her crystalline purity of character might have become tarnished.
Perhaps it was to keep this little human being as near perfection as possible that a storm of persecution broke upon her that very day.
The storm broke upon her as it broke upon the new form of devotion of which she was to be the witness and apostle. In the course, of that Sunday morning she was summoned before the Imperial Procurator and questioned and cross-questioned. She was told that she was causing scandal at the rock of Massabiello, and requested to promise not to go there again. " I cannot promise you that, sir," was her reply. Later on in the day when she was about to be confronted with the Police Commissary, someone said to her: " Bernadette, I think you are going- to be put in prison. ”
" Oh, no," she replied, calm and smiling ; " I am not afraid of that. I know that I have nothing to fear."
As before the Procurator, so before the Police Commissary, her attitude was remarkable for dignity and self-possession. We must not forget that she was a little rustic girl and timid by nature. Suddenly brought before the law and subjected to a course of brow-beating by one of the astutest law myrmidons of those parts, she not only retained her composure throughout, but astonished all by the simplicity and directness of her replies.
At the beginning of the interrogatory process, someone, unconcerned with what was going on, entered and took his seat as a spectator. This was M. Jean-Baptiste Estrade, then holding an official position at Lourdes, and later on to be intimately connected with the question of the Lourdes Apparition. At the time he was far from believing in Bernadette's visions.
M. Jacomet, the Police Commissary, after questioning and contradicting the child, tried to make her fall into pitfalls by contradicting herself. Not succeeding in this, he changed his tactics. Feigning anger, he suddenly exclaimed :
" Your story is a pure invention ! I know who has put you up to this."
Bernadette raised her eyes in wonder and calmly replied: "I do not understand you, sir." At length, finding that neither by violence nor cunning could he bring pressure to bear upon her, he said :
"Will you promise me not to go to the Grotto again? "
" I cannot, sir," was the answer, "I have promised the ' Lady' to go."
The Commissary stood up, and pointing to the door, said :—
" If you do not promise me at once, I will have you put in prison."
Bernadette remained immovable as before. Here the door was partly opened and a man's head thrust in. It was that of Fran9ois Soubirous, who had come to look after his daughter. The Commissary took advantage of the occasion. "You have just come in time," he said, addressing Soubirous. After insisting upon the enormity of Bernadette's case, he concluded by saying: "This farce must not go on ; so I warn you that if you cannot keep your girl at home, I shall have to see that she is kept elsewhere." The man had been bold when it had simply been a question of looking after his child, but now that he saw Bernadette safe and sound before him, he was ready to promise all that was required.
Bernadette was again forbidden by her parents to go to the Grotto. What neither the Procurator nor the Commissary had been able to obtain, parental authority obtained. The child promised to obey, or to do her best to do so.
She went sadly to school the next morning, and came sadly back to her midday meal.
On returning in the afternoon, at a spot not far from the school, she stopped suddenly short, prevented, as she said, from going farther, as by an invisible barrier. Some gendarmes, watching at a little distance, noticed the movement of her feet, which to them was inexplicable. She lifted her feet up, they said, as if to go forward, but without being able to do so.
According to her own account, prevented as by something unseen from going on to school, she was in the act of turning back to go home, when an interior voice reproached her gently for not keeping her promise of going to the Grotto. She turned her steps at once in the direction of Massabiello. Some gendarmes, as well as other per sons followed her, so that on reaching the rock she was not alone. When there she knelt down, took out her rosary, and, with eyes fixed on the opening, began praying as usual. After a little time she arose, sad, as it seemed. Those around soon learnt, in reply to their enquiries, that no beauteous figure responsive to her gaze had appeared that day.
The parents, knowing their child to be truthful as well as obedient, accepted her statement as to the mysterious impulse that had made her turn her steps in the direction of Massabiello when she should have been going" to school. They accordingly withdrew their prohibition,. and she was allowed to continue her visits to the Grotto as before. We are on February 23rd, the day of the seventh Apparition. When Bernadette made her appearance at Massabiello at about six o'clock in the morning, a large crowd had already assembled there. She went straight to her usual place, and kneeling down and looking up, began to pray in silence. There w^as one near watching her very closely. This was no other than M. Estrade, who three days before had been a witness of her examination before the Police Commissary. He had then believed in her sincerity, but had remained as sceptical as before respecting her visions. We see him this morning in the quality of a curious looker-on. But a great change was about to come over him. His unbelief was to vanish, his belief was to become vital, he was to get a glimpse of Heaven in looking at Bernadette's face. W"e dwell the more readily on this sudden change in an intelligent man of the world, because M. Estrade was about to become a source of strength to the new devotion. He was to become later on an admirable historian of the Lourdes Apparitions. The bare remembrance of what took place that morning at the Grotto was able forty years later to wring from him the following heart-cry : " O Mother, as thou seest, my hair is white and I am near the grave. I dare not think of my shortcomings, and I feel more than ever the need of thy help. When the supreme moment comes, and I have to appear before my Judge, do thou be my protectress, and remember that at the time of thy glorious Apparitions at the Lourdes Grotto thou sawest me on my knees."
To have an idea of what took place on the morning in question, we cannot do better than quote from M. Estrade's book: " Les Apparitions de Lourdcs" The author says : "As the rosary beads began gliding through Bernadette's fingers, her eyes were fixed on the rock with an enquiring glance. Then, as if a lightning flash had passed by her, she gave a start of admiration and seemed to be suddenly born unto new life. Her eyes became brilliant, seraphic smiles played about her mouth, and a nameless grace pervaded her whole person. We, the men, spontaneously took off our hats and bowed low, as did the humblest of the women. Like the rest assisting at this heavenly scene, we kept looking from Bernadette to the rock and from the rock to Bernadette. Without being able to see or hear anything of what she saw and heard, we understood that a conversation was going on between her and her mysterious visitant. When the first transports at the sight of the Apparition were over, she resumed the attitude of a listener. The different phases of the conversation were then successively depicted in her countenance and in her gestures. When the Apparition spoke she thrilled with delight; when it was her turn to speak and to entreat, her attitude became one of the deepest humility, and at times she seemed moved to tears."
These colloquies usually ended with the most reverential salutations on Bernadette's part. On this subject M. Estrade says : " I have mixed much in the world—too much perhaps—and I have seen women who were models of grace and distinguished bearing, but I must confess that I have never seen one who in this respect could be even faintly compared with Bernadette when in ecstasy."
At the end of about half-an-hour Bernadette moved forward on her knees, until she reached the spot beneath the wild rosebush growing out of the rock. When there she seemed to concentrate her efforts into a supreme act of adoration. Then, still on her knees, she went back to her former place. As light fades from a landscape, the glow of ecstasy faded from her face. Spectators saw it depart. And then, instead of the child that had thrilled them by her superhuman beauty of expression and attitude, they saw only a little simple, pleasant-faced peasant girl.
It was on the following morning, in the course of the ninth Apparition, that the miraculous spring was opened up. Among the various accounts of this episode we prefer that of M. Estrade as being that of an eye-witness. This gentleman was near enough to notice what he calls Bernadette's angelic attitude as she knelt at her usual place communing with the Apparition. The rosary beads were gliding- through her ringers. After a little while she stood up, and seemed for a moment in doubt as to what to do. Now she turned as if to go down towards the Gave. Then, stopping short, she turned back as if hearing herself called. She looked straight in the direction of the oval opening in the rock, and seemed to be listening to words coming to her from thence. Then, with her eyes fixed in the same direction, she seemed, by a movement of her head, to indicate that she understood.
This time, instead of going down towards the Gave, she went up towards the Grotto, keeping to the left. When near the top of the ascent, she stopped and again seemed in doubt. Then looking as if for guidance in the direction of the spot in the rock whence came to her her oracles, she stooped down and began digging a hole in the ground with her fingers.
Until then all had been dry around. Water came. It was very little at first, and muddy as it mixed with the earth. Bernadette drank of it, washed her face with it, and swallowed a bit of grass or herb growing near.
The crowd, accustomed as they were to what was ecstatic and heavenly in Bcrnadette's action, were at a loss how to interpret her present movements. Some thought her mad. With a face besmirched with the muddy water, but, as M. Estrade says, looking happier than ever, and with an exquisite smile about her lips, she went back to her usual place. When her face had been wiped clean by some bystander, she resumed her former attitude of prayer, and again entered into celestial communication with the being who had just guided her childish hand in opening up a fresh source of mercy to mankind.
When all was over Bernadette was questioned as usual. Then came forth the simple explanation, giving to acts that had been taken for madness their true force and character.
"Why," asked one, "did you make a hole in the ground with your fingers?—and why did you drink dirty water?"
Replying simply and straightforwardly as always, she said: "While I was praying, the 'Lady' told me to go and drink and wash myself at the spring (fontaine). I did not know where the spring was, and as I thought it did not matter I began going towards the Gave. The 'Lady' called me back and made a sign to me with her finger to go in front of the Grotto to the left. I did as she told me, but I saw no water. Not knowing where to find any, I began making a hole in the ground with my fingers, and some came."
"And you ate some grass. Why did you do so?" asked her interlocutor.
"The 'Lady' made me understand that I was to do so," was the reply.
It will be seen how exactly what Bernadette said corresponded with what she had done.
A few persons who remained at the Grotto noticed that water continued to trickle from the little hole made by Bernadette, and that though the drops were drunk in by the earth as fast as they came, yet they were forming a line of moisture running towards the Gave. Later on in the day, other people were there who knew nothing of what had taken place in the morning. They, too, noticed a newly-born spring which, by this time, formed a miniature rill. By the following morning the rill had increased in volume. People saw it and believed. Even those who the day before had cried out that Bernadette was mad, were ready to exclaim, " The finger of God is here!" But no one was near supposing that Bernadette's little fingers had opened up a modern Bethsaida in which countless numbers were to wash and be healed.
This spring born but of yesterday, and already flowing as if it had been doing the same for centuries, was at once regarded as miraculous in its origin. It retained, for at least twenty years, this reputation among believers in the supernatural character of the Lourdes phenomena. But when men of science, including Abbe Richard, the well-known hydrologist, had well studied the subject, the conclusion come to was that the spring in question had existed in a latent state at the Grotto of Massabiello previous to the Apparition, and that heaven's visible action in the matter had been only in the manner of opening" it up.
So when the following morning the people found running water where the day before had been dry ground, their faith and religious enthusiasm became intensified.
Bernadette, on arriving on the scene at an early hour, but with already a vast crowd assembled there before her, went straight to the spot where, the previous day, she had dug with her fingers. When there she evinced no surprise at what she saw. Kneeling down, she drank of, and washed her face in, the water that twenty-four hours before had gently welled forth at her unconscious bidding.
She then went to her usual place, knelt down, took out her rosary and began looking up at the opening in the rock. Her face and attitude soon told that she was in presence of the Apparition. Presently she was seen to go up on her knees the ascent before her, kissing the ground as she went. The crowd learnt afterwards that in this she was obeying an order she had just received. The voice from the rock had said to her: "You must kiss the ground for sinners ? " (II faitt baiser la terre pour les pccheurs.) She not only obeyed, but shed tears the while.
When at the top of the slope and just beneath the wild rosebush, she prostrated herself again, giving to the act the most perfect expression of humility and self-abasement possible. Then she rose, and turning to the people made a sign to them with her hand to do as she had done. The multitude obeyed, every knee bending, and the lips of each being brought in contact with the sod.
At the Apparition of the following morning, Bernadette, on her knees, with a countenance illumined and with the crowd around her as usual, listened to the following words: " Go and tell the priests that a chapel must be built here."
When the radiant figure in the rock had departed, and the niche had become dark once more to Bernadette, the little girl arose, as it seemed, some what pensive. She was thinking of the task before her, which was no other than that of going to see M. Peyramale, the cure of Lourdes. The words, " Go and tell the priests that a chapel must be built here," rang in her ears.
It here becomes necessary to allude to the action of the Lourdes clergy with respect to the Apparitions. That action had hitherto been one of extreme caution. As yet not a priest had been seen at the Grotto of Massabiello.
Why this abstention? may be asked. It was dictated by the wisdom and caution of the head priest, Abbe Peyramale, who from the first had given the clergy under him orders to observe a strictly neutral attitude concerning the manifestations at the Grotto. While admitting the possibility of the truth of the Apparitions, personally he was more inclined to doubt than to believe. In all, his wise policy was to wait, and to prevent the clergy From being in any way mixed up with phenomena that Avere considerably agitating the people of Lourdes. In this attitude he was supported by his bishop, Mgr. Laurence, occupant of the See of Tarbes.
It is necessary that Abbe Peyramale's character should not bz misunderstood at the outset. A little over fifty years of age, he was a model parish priest, with a father's heart for his parishioners, but he was practical-minded and thoroughly on his guard against anything like false mysticism. We now come to Bernadette's first interview with him.
She left the Grotto on the morning of the last Apparition intent only on one thought, that of putting into execution the order she had just received.
Personally she was unknown to the head pastor, and trembled at the bare thought of seeing him.
When she made her appearance on his premises for the first time, Abbe Peyramale was in his garden reading his Breviary. He looked up and she advanced timidly towards him.
While she was frail and diminutive, he was tall and massive. As she drew nearer to him he stopped reading and looked at her. He then asked her who she was and what she wanted.
"I am Bernadette Soubirous," was the reply. "Oh, it is you, is it?" said the priest, feigning severity. "Strange stories are being told of you, my girl. Follow me." With this he led the way into the house.
" Now, tell me what it is you want," he said, when they were in the room in which he generally received his visitors.
Bernadette, a little confused, replied : " The 'Lady ' at the Grotto told me to tell the priests that she wished to have a chapel there. That is why I have come."
"Who is this 'Lady ' at the Grotto that you talk about?" asked the priest, pretending to be in ignorance.
" She is a beautiful lady," said Bernadette, "whom I see in the rock of Massabiello."
"But who is she?" persisted the priest. "Is she a person of Lourdes ? Do you know her?"
" No, she is not of Lourdes ; nor do I know her," was the reply.
" And you undertake to come on errands of this kind for a person whom you do not know ! " exclaimed the cure.
"Monsieur Ie cure" said the child timidly, "the person who sends me to you is not like other persons."
" What do you mean ? "
" I mean," said Bernadette, " that she is beautiful as I think people must be in Heaven."
The cure shrugged his shoulders. The movement was to hide something like emotion that he was beginning to feel.
"And you have never asked this person her name?" he continued.
"Oh, yes, I have." said Bernadette ; " and each time she bends her head towards me and smiles, but does not answer."
" Is she dumb?" asked the priest.
" No, or else she could not talk to me every day as she does ; she could not have told me to come to you."
"Tell me how you first came to make her acquaintance," said Abbe Peyramale.
Then, in a sweet, persuasive voice, Bernadette described the first Apparition.
When she had finished, the priest said : " Go on and tell me what took place the following days."
He was then put in possession of the facts which the reader knows, and probably of some others besides. By this time both were sitting down, the priest looking fixedly at the little figure before him, and weighing what she said. lie fathomed the pure, simple nature he had to deal with, and felt that Bernadette could not lie. Moreover, he understood that, considering her complete deficiency of all mental culture, it would have been impossible for her to speak as she had just done, and treat of the subjects she had just treated of, unless super-naturally helped.
It will be seen that he was already more than half won to the cause of the Apparitions. But he was not ready to admit this, so resuming his former brusque manner, and with perhaps some thing- of his former suspicion coming back, he said : "And you mean to say that this ' Lady ' whom you see has told you to go and tell the priests that she wishes to have a chapel at Massabiello ? "
" Yes, Monsieur le cure."
"Do you not see, "he continued, ''that this 'Lady' whom you say appears to you is making you a laughing-stock? What would you have said if any one of our Lourdes ladies had sent you on a similar errand? Would you have listened to her?"
"Monsieur le cure" replied Bernadette, "there is a great difference between the Lourdes ladies and the one I see."
"Indeed there is," said the priest. "What! a woman without a name, who comes from no one knows where, and takes up her quarters on a rock, appears to you worthy of attention ! My child, I fear but one thing, and that is that you are the victim of an illusion."
Bernadette looked down and said nothing. There was silence for a few moments, during which the cure walked briskly about. Then, coming and standing before Bernadette, he said : " Go and tell the 'Lady' that the cure of Lourdes is not in the habit of doing business with people whom he does not know, and that the first thing for her to do is to say who she is. If she has a right to the chapel she asks for she will understand what I mean. If she does not understand it, tell her that she need not trouble herself to send further messages to me"
Bernadette looked at Abbe Peyramale with purity and serenity in her glance. Then she dropped him a little peasant's curtsey and went away.
M. Estrade was at the Grotto the following morning, Sunday, February 28th, and so great was the affluence that he had to take his place on the ledge of a rock. When Bernadette arrived, upwards of two thousand persons were already there.
At this Apparition, which was the twelfth, there was no sign for the outside world, no message for the Christian people at large. Those eager for a sign of the supernatural had to content themselves with what they saw on Bernadette's face. Mean while, the child, kneeling and looking up, reflected in her person a beauty and serenity not of earth.
M. Estrade looking down from his position had a full view of the marvellous scene, and he describes it in his book. He saw rough men and cultured men a prey to strong emotion. He saw a man of letters who had long forgotten how to pray trying to pray. And it was the sight of the little peasant girl in their midst kneeling and seeming, for the moment, an angel in human form, that was thus drawing all near to God. Later on that same Sunday, a band of Lourdes quarrymen dug a miniature channel down the slope for the spring- which Bernadette had opened up on the previous Thursday. They also dug a hole at the bottom for the water to run into, and it was in this rudimentary piscina, three or four feet in length, that some of the earliest of the Lourdes cures were effected.
The following day a priest, the first that had been seen there, was among the throng at the Grotto during the Apparition. He was a stranger to Lourdes, and had to leave almost at once, but what he saw that morning was to him a vision of Heaven, as he said at the end of his life.
The following day, Tuesday, March 2nd, Bernadette, in the course of the fourteenth Apparition, was the recipient of a message which she felt obliged to transmit to the cure of Lourdes. It Avas to the following effect:—"! wish people to come here in procession " Accordingly, that same day, she went to Abbe Pcyramale accompanied by one of her aunts.
" Well, what have you fresh to tell me?" asked the priest, when the three were together in the reception room. " Has the ' Lady ' spoken ? "
" Yes, Monsieur le cure" said Bernadette, "she has told me to tell you again that she wishes to have a chapel at Massabiello. Besides that she said : ' I wish people to come here in procession."'
The man of God put on a sterner look. "Your story," he said, " but needed this to make it complete. Either you are telling me lies, or the ' Lady ' you talk of is but the parody of Her whom she pretends to be."
After continuing in a manner calculated to frighten all tendency to imposture out of Bernadette, had there been any in her, Abbe Peyramale continued :
" It is time for me to get out of the imbroglio in which you and this ' Lady ' of yours are trying to entangle me. Tell the 'Lady' from me that with the cure of Lourdes people must speak plainly. What are her credentials for the honours she asks? I am going to suggest a way by which she might gain credence for her message. You say that she appears at the Grotto with a wild rosebush beneath her feet. Ask her from me to make this rosebush put forth blossoms one of these days in presence of the assembled crowd. When you come and tell me that this has been done then I will believe. Moreover, I will go myself to Massabiello with you." The aunt and niece smiled at the idea of the thorn then leafless blossoming in March, and as the cure had nothing more to say to them, they curtsied respectfully and left.
We are on Thursday, March 4th, the day of the last of the fifteen visits requested of Bernadette by the Apparition. An immense crowd was expected, and measures had been taken to preserve order.
M. Jacomet, the Police Commissary, and others with him, were no nearer believing- in the reality of the Apparitions than they had been ; but they were in presence of an already wide-spread popular movement which could not be put down by a single arbitrary act. The Lourdes population in general were in favour of the manifestations at the Grotto, and the townspeople who flocked there were at least equalled in numbers by those who came from surrounding parts, and even from a distance. This being so, opposing authorities for the moment could not show their teeth : they could only show their insignia of office in the name of law and order. This they did.
As the fourth day of March dawned, the roads leading from Pan and Bagneres were dark with people pouring into Lourdes. In the town all was astir ; people were about and busy ; soldiers lined the way through which Bernadette had to pass. It had even been thought necessary to bring from a distance brigades of mounted policemen in order to strengthen the local police force.
When little Bernadette left her poor home in the early grey of the morning, two gendarmes, with flashing swords, walked before her, thus clearing a way for her through the crowd. Although all eyes were upon her, she walked simply and un concernedly, as if going to her parish church. On drawing near the Grotto she saw a little blind girl, about her own age, sitting down and weeping-.
She was seen to go up to her and kiss her. Probably she was the only one present that morning that did not notice the sight presented by the rock and vale of Massabiello.
The meadow-land facing the rock and on the other side of the Gave was dark with spectators. So was the rock itself. Clusters of human beings were on the trees by the river's brink to the extent of making the branches sway. Even hillocks at a little distance were for the moment peopled by human groups. This is saying nothing of the dense mass of people in front of the Grotto and surrounding the spot where Bernadette was in the habit of kneeling. A vast murmur of human voices, resembling the roar of the ocean at a distance, rose from the multitude. It ceased as the voyante came in sight.
When the child had knelt down at her usual place, heads were uncovered, religious silence prevailed, and all present went on their knees. From the change in her attitude and from the joy depicted on her countenance, it was easy for spectators to see when, for her, the niche in the rock had become illumined.
There was a vague hope in the crowd that the Apparition would at length give forth some elucidating message—would, in fact, tell who the celestial visitant at the Grotto for the previous fortnight had been. For though no one doubted that this visitant was the Virgin whom Christian generations have called blessed, yet no specific word to this effect had been uttered.
The people saw the expression of Bernadette's face change to one of sorrow, and they saw that she was shedding tears ; they feared that she was listening to farewell words. Afterwards, they saw this expression give place to one of joy ; but there was no message for them that day—no words for the Christian world at large.
At the end of an hour's ecstatic contemplation, Bernadette rose from her knees. When questioned, she said that the Apparition had smiled as usual on leaving her, but had not said that she would not come again.
There was something like a vague feeling of dis appointment in the crowd. Many had believed that on this, the last of the fifteen days specified by the Apparition, there would have been some explanatory words ; some had even dared to hope that the wild rosebush would blossom, according to the request of the cure of Lourdes. There was a prevailing impression, however, as the crowd dispersed, that this was not the last of the Apparitions, and that something more explicit remained to be said.
During the following days, people flocked to Massabiello as already a devotional site, and the Grotto began to wear the aspect of a chapel.
Meanwhile, enemies of the supernatural were not resting on their oars. Voice and pen were being-employed in decrying the Lourdes phenomena.
The spring that at Bernadette's touch had welled forth, at first drop by drop, and afterwards in a full stream, constituted the great stumbling block for opponents, these having to contend not only with the, humanly speaking, inexplicable discovery of the spring, but also with the fact that cures had already been effected by contact with its water. One of the earliest, if not the earliest, of these cures, was that of Louis Bourriette, whose right eye had been gravely injured by an accident some twenty years before. The little power of sight left in the deteriorated organ had diminished as years had gone by, and at the time of which we write, Louis Bourriette, looking with his right eye only, could not distinguish a man from a tree. Hearing of the newly-born spring at the Grotto, he said to his daughter : " Go and fetch me some of that water. The Holy Virgin can cure me if she will."
His wish being complied with, he at once began rubbing his injured eye with some of the water. In a moment he was heard to utter an exclamation. Words could not tell what he felt. He found that he could see with the eye that just before had been all but sightless. He saw at first as through a luminous haze. The haze cleared away, and then the sight became perfect. A day or two afterwards, meeting his medical man, Dr. Dozous, whom we have seen in the quality of a man of science at one of the Apparitions, he said to him : " My eye has recovered its power of sight," "That is impossible," replied the doctor ; "you are suffering from an organic lesion which renders your case incurable. What I prescribe for you is only with the object of relieving your suffering ; it cannot restore your sight."
"It is not you who have cured me," said the man, speaking with emotion ; "it is the Holy Virgin of the Grotto."
Dr. Dozous shrugged his shoulders. " That Bernadette has ecstatic visions that cannot be ex plained I do not deny," he said ; " I have verified as much myself. But that water suddenly springing from a rock, through what agency no one knows, should possess the power of curing incurable diseases is impossible." So saying, he drew a note book from his pocket and scribbled a few words in pencil on one of the leaves. Then putting what he had written before the patient's right eye, and covering with his hand the man's other eye he said : " If you can read that I will believe that your sight is restored."
A little crowd had by this time gathered round. In a strong voice and without hesitation, Bourriette read: "Bourriette is suffering from an amaurosis, which is incurable."
The doctor's astonishment knew no bounds. He honestly owned himself beaten.
At the Commission of Enquiry, afterwards appointed by the Bishop of Tarbes to enquire into the early Lourdes cures, reputed to be miraculous, the case of Louis Bourriette was declared to be unexplainable according to known laws.
Another case belonging to this quite early period is that of a dying child plunged in the piscina, held there for a quarter-of-an-hour, and then recovering. The child was two years old, had been sickly from birth, had never attempted to walk, and was wasting from slow consumption. On March 4th his parents, Jean and Croisine Ducouts, were bending over him expecting every breath to be his last. The mother had moved away not to see him die.
" He is dead ! " said the father.
" He is not dead ! " exclaimed the woman.
Then, as if possessed by a sudden idea, she ceased weeping. "He is not dead!" she said again; "and the holy Virgin of the Grotto will cure him for me ! "
So saying, she snatched the child from his cradle, wrapped him in her apron, and prepared to leave the house. Expostulations were useless, her only reply being : " Let me go and implore the Mother of God." Hurrying through the streets with her half-naked child in her apron and praying as she went, she appeared a mad woman. It was about five o'clock in the afternoon when she reached the Grotto. Some hundreds of persons were there at the time. She moved on her knees to the rude piscina, which had been dug by the quarrymen on the previous Sunday. When close to it she made the sign of the cross on herself and child, and then plunged the infant up to the neck in the intensely cold water and held him there.
She was expostulated with ; she was even called an unnatural mother. To no purpose. To some one who spoke to her and touched her she said : “ Let me alone. I will do what I can, and God and the Holy Virgin will do the rest."
At the end of a quarter-of-an-hour she withdrew the child from the water, wrapped him in her apron as before, and hurried from the spot.
When she reached home her husband, on seeing her unfold what he believed to be a little corpse, said : " You see he is dead."
" No, he is not dead ! " she replied.
She laid the child in his cradle, probably not daring to ascertain definitely whether he was dead or alive. After a few seconds, she exclaimed with joy : " He is breathing ! "
In truth, he was not only breathing but sleeping a sound, refreshing sleep, which was to last for some hours. When he awoke the next day he asked for food and had a bright face, and what, for a child who had never been able to use his legs, was more extraordinary, he wanted soon afterwards to walk. The mother, afraid, kept him in bed; but there was great joy in the humble home, for a child that had been as dead was restored to life.
The following morning both parents went out to work, leaving the child asleep in his cradle. When the mother returned, to her great surprise, she saw her little boy walking among the chairs. He ran towards her when he saw her. Both parents gave thanks on their knees, for their child had been more than brought back from the grave ; a strength that he had not possessed before had been suddenly given him.
M. Peyrus, the doctor who had attended the child, and Doctors Dozous and Verge, did not hesitate to declare the cure the result of Divine intervention. This case was brought before the Commission of Inquiry, appointed soon afterwards.
From - The Blessed Virgin in the nineteenth century (1904) by Bernard St John