We have said but little of the cures that had been drawing the attention of the Catholic world upon Lourdes from the time of the Apparitions. These, uninterrupted in their course, were already a topic of vital interest in the scientific world. The ten years following the Franco-German war formed a period rich in cases regarded as supernatural, for with the increased affluence of people to the Grotto, the number of cures increased in proportion. We will single out three typical instances belonging to this period.
The case of Abbe Victor de Musy is one. We will first glance at M. de Musy in his ancestral home as son of the Comte de Musy of Digoine, near Autun. He was a young man of fine presence and with apparently a splendid future lying before him, but when he was about seventeen years of age, he suddenly began to show signs of failing health. Soon afterwards he said to his parents : " God calls me : I wish to be a priest."
In 1851 he entered the College of Annecy. There the disease that was afterwards to lay him low showed its first symptoms in an affection of the spinal marrow. Paralysis of the larynx followed, and he was obliged to leave the seminary.
Later on, having recovered his voice, he entered the Paris seminary of Saint-Sulpice. There, hardly had his first-rate abilities time to assert them selves, before he almost completely lost the use of his sight.
In consideration of his eminent fitness for the priesthood, this state of more than semi-blindness was not allowed to be an obstacle to his vocation. He was ordained priest, with permission to say the same Mass daily—one that he knew by heart—and to recite the Rosary daily in the place of the canonical office incumbent on priests.
Thus, humanly speaking, feebly equipped for his glorious ministry, he returned to his father's chateau of Digoine, and began exercising his priestly functions at once. At the end of two years, paralysis resumed its work and reduced the newly-made priest to a state of complete bodily incapacity. He was then but thirty-four years of age. Doctors looking upon his case as hopeless, he became perfectly resigned to his state. He was in the habit of saying : " I wished to be a priest; God wished me to be a sufferer. Blessed be His holy will."
We find him at Lourdes in August, 1873, not with the ostensible object of recovering his health, but urged thither by friends. He was accompanied by a young priest, M. Antoine, who was his constant companion.
When there, hope in his possible recovery began to assert itself within him, strengthened as he was in this new-born feeling by Abbe Peyramale and others. A novena of prayer, in which many joined, was begun for him. The Feast of the Assumption drew near. It was hoped that on that day Heaven would speak and that the paralysed man would rise and walk.
The feast day dawned. At an early hour Abbe de Musy was in the crypt of the basilica, reclining in his invalid's chair. The Holy Sacrifice was being offered for him by his faithful friend, the young Abbe Antoine. A few persons only were present, the throng being assembled in the upper church. At the moment of the communion the Sacred Host was brought to the sufferer, who remained in thanksgiving while a second and a third Mass followed.
The celebrant of the third was a priest from Paris, Abbe Dominique Sire, who had formerly known Abbe de Musy at Saint-Sulpice, but who was totally ignorant that the latter was then at Lourdes. He was offering up his Mass for the per son the Blessed Virgin might most wish to succour at the moment, and it was being served by Abbe Antoine, secretly disappointed that the looked-for cure in the person of his friend had not taken place.
Meanwhile, he who was the object of so much solicitude was far removed from the preoccupations of self and of this lower world. Peace and joy were inundating his soul : he was more than con tent with his infirmity. He was aroused to the sacred reality going on by the words Sursum corda.
What then took place, words are weak to describe. It was the raising of the paralysed man to soundness of health in an instant ; it was the sudden restoring of sight to the blind. Abbe de Musy knew and felt that he could both walk and see. He did not use his newly-gained power at once. Did he for a moment doubt or fear? Probably so, from his own account. Then, as sometimes happens in cures of this kind, it seemed to him as if an invisible force outside himself were gently urging him to rise. He obeyed, and rose. He then fell on his knees. At the altar it was the moment of the elevation, and it was as if Heaven had willed that the first act of the renovated man should be one of adoration.
It was not until the Mass was over that Abbe Antoine caught sight of Abbe de Musy on his knees with his face in his hands. Not knowing what to hope or to believe, he drew near ready to offer help. When he saw the kneeling priest about to rise, he pushed the invalid's chair forward.
The other, by a movement of the hand, indicated that he did not require the chair, and said in a calm voice : " The Blessed Virgin has just cured me."
Then, walking with a firm step, he proceeded to leave the crypt. Abbe Antoine, dumb from astonishment and suppressed emotion, followed with the invalid's chair.
A carriage was awaiting them outside. When the coachman saw the young priest with the chair, but without the chair's ordinary occupant, he too was astonished. At that moment Abbe de Musy, handsome, erect, and of commanding stature, came up.
''The Blessed Virgin has cured me," he said. " I do not need the carriage ; we will go on foot to the Grotto."
Shortly afterwards Abbe de Musy was to be seen in the Grotto addressing the crowd without.
" Yes, dear brethren," he said, " I am he whom you have seen here of late paralysed and almost blind ! For the last twenty years I have been unable to read ! For eleven years I have been unable to walk ! "
The strains of the Magnificat burst from the throng.
" Walk ! walk! "cried voices in unison, and Abbe de Musy walked. " Read ! read ! " cried others ; and books of the smallest type were handed him. He read as if his power of sight had never been in the least disturbed.
There was no transition period in this cure. The muscles needed no time wherein to regain their wasted strength. Abbe de Musy at once recovered the full powers of vigorous manhood. The following year he was appointed to the cure of Chagny, in the diocese of Autun, a post to which he long did honour.
This cure is recorded on a large marble slab at the entrance to the Grotto.
A cure took place in 1875 which was to have a marked effect in spreading devotion to Notre-Dame de Lourdes throughout the whole of Belgium. It was that of Pierre Rudder, a working man of Jabbeke, near Bruges. In 1867 this man had had his leg broken by the falling of a tree. The fracture took place beneath the knee. M. Affenaer, a doctor of Oudenbourg, and two medical men of Bruges, Doctors Jacques and Verriert, tried successively to set the broken limb, but without success.
Recourse was had to three surgeons from other parts, but with like result. The fractured portions could not be brought together by a distance of three centimetres. A wound intervened, within which the extremities of the broken bone could be distinctly seen.
Rudder had to keep his bed for a year, enduring the while great suffering. At the end of that time he managed to get about on crutches, but his state continued radically the same, the great suppurating wound remaining, as well as the distance of three centimetres between the fractured parts.
At the end of eight years, that is, in 1875, he expressed a wish to go to the shrine of Notre-Dame de Lourdes at Oostacker. It is well to mention here that he was a man of strong religious convictions and that he had an especial devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
At Oostacker there was a Grotto in imitation of the one at Lourdes and much frequented by people of the country round. With great difficulty Rudder made his way to the spot, accompanied by his wife.
One of the first things he did on arriving there was to sit on a bench in front of the Grotto, and consequently in front of the statue of Notre-Dame de Lourdes. Then, looking up, and invoking her whom the statue represented, he prayed with an intensity of earnestness of which the strongest faith only is capable. He asked for his cure.
After a little while a strange commotion took place within him. Then, forgetting his crutches, he moved forward among the benches until immediately in front of the statue. Then, kneeling down, he remained a few seconds absorbed in prayer. "Thanks! thanks!" (" Merci! Merci!") broke from him at last. It was a heart utterance. He then went back to fetch his crutches, which he placed in the Grotto.
Fellow-pilgrims marvelled to see the man thus walk unaided ; some wept; his wife was well-nigh fainting.
Rudder was taken at once to the neighbouring Chateau of Courtebourne, and there medically examined. The broken leg was found to be perfectly set, and the suppurating wound had dis appeared, there remaining but a faint blue line to tell where the fracture had been.
This case is one of the most remarkable recorded in the Lourdes annals. Dr. Affenaer, who had attended Rudder from the first, on examining the limb as it then was, said, while almost overcome by emotion :
" You are radically cured. Your leg is as perfect as that of a child just born. No human remedy was of any avail ; but what doctors could not do, the Blessed Virgin has done."
Twenty-two doctors from different parts went to examine Pierre Rudder's leg. This was not all. The man's body, after death, was to bear witness to the act of Divine intervention of which he had been the object. He died in 1898, at the age of seventy-three. The year following the body was exhumed, the legs were cut off at the knees, and the bones extracted from the amputated parts. These bones were then subjected to a strict scientific investigation, the fractured one revealing- to the naked eye the perfect and instantaneous joining of its broken parts, which had taken place twenty-three years before. The Revue des Questions Scientifiques took the matter up and gave excellent photographic reproductions of the amputated leg-bone, the line of the fracture being distinctly visible in each. The following year, 1900, the Committee of the National Belgian Pilgrimage to Lourdes sent thither a fac-simile of this same leg-bone cast in copper. The curious and most convincing ex voto has its place in the Bureau des Constatations.
The other of the three typical cases we have chosen as illustrations of the period between 1870 and 1880 is that of Francois Macary, a cabinet maker of Latour, in the department of the Tarn. It belongs to an earlier date than the two others, that is, 1871.
This man, Fran9ois Macary, was a freethinker, but blessed with a Christian wife, who had been silently praying for him for thirty years. During this time Macary had been a sufferer from varicose veins. The disease had become worse with time : the legs were bleeding and ulcerated, with great knotty protuberances here and there, and with veins showing like ropes. A good part of his time the man had to lie by, and the maimed limb had always to be kept bandaged as well as encased in leather stockings. In short, it was one of the worst cases of varicose veins possible.
He who was thus afflicted, being more accustomed to swear than to pray, did not always bear his sufferings with patience. In the July of 1871 he had been on his back for six weeks suffering intensely, when a book, causing much sensation at the time, made its way into his hands. This book was the Histoire de Notre-Dame de Lourdes, by Henri Lasserre. As he read, new horizons opened before him, and dried-up springs of faith welled up within him. The result was that he insisted upon having some of the water from the Lourdes Grotto. A bottle of this water was brought him shortly afterwards by a priest of the town, returning from Lourdes. He went with it at once to his room. There, and perhaps for the first time in his life, he fell on his knees before a crucifix. He began saying the only prayer he could remember, which was no other than the "Hail Mary." He then stripped his swollen and bleeding legs of their stockings and bindings, and began applying to them, as best he could, the Lourdes water, praying the while with an intensity with which words could not keep pace. Tempestuous in his belief as he had been in his unbelief, he each moment expressed more loudly the conviction that he was about to see the end of his sufferings.
In this frame of mind he went to bed. Contrary to his habit, he fell asleep at once, and awoke about midnight free from pain. Putting his hands to his legs he found that the rope-like veins had dis appeared. He called out to his wife in an adjoining room, " Wife, I am cured ! "
For answer he was told to go to sleep again.
He obeyed by falling into a sound, refreshing slumber such as he had not known for many years.
His first act on awaking was to look at his legs. Alone, and with daylight pouring on the scene, he was able to examine what night, or rather, as he believed, what the beneficent water of Massabiello had effected in his behalf. The fact was before him in unmistakable clearness. To use his own words, varicose veins and ulcers had disappeared, and the skin was as smooth as that of his two hands. His first act was one of gratitude. " O, God ! " he ex claimed, raising his hands to heaven, " O, Holy Virgin!" He then called his wife. "Virginie! Virginie ! " he cried out. The old woman, who had so long hoped and prayed, came, and when she saw what had taken place could only express her emotion by tears. Kneeling by the bed, she buried her face in her hands and sobbed aloud.
Three medical men of the town, Doctors Segur, Rossignol and Bernet, who through a course of years had attended Macary at intervals, testified to the completeness and suddenness of the cure which he had just undergone.
Dr. Segur in his report said : " This spontaneous cure strikes me as all the more remarkable since medical science records none of a like nature."
Dr. Bernet, of the medical faculty of Paris, says : " Science is unable to explain this fact, all medical authorities agreeing that varicose veins left to them selves are incurable ; that they cannot be cured by palliative measures ; that still less can they be the object of spontaneous cures ; and that it is in their nature to increase in gravity as time goes on." For these reasons he concludes that the cure of Francois Marcary is a supernatural one.
From - The Blessed Virgin in the nineteenth century (1904) by Bernard St John