THE eye of the Catholic world was by this time on La Salette. Wishes began to be expressed on all sides that a church or chapel might be erected on the site of the Apparition.
Although the Bishop of Grenoble had not yet spoken doctrinally on the great question of the Apparition, he had almost at once founded on the mountain which had, as it were, become famous in a day, an association of prayer, under the title of Notre-Dame Auxiliatrice de la Salette, and this association had, in a remarkably short time, numbered as many as 80,000 adherents.
The question of the phenomenal cures, attributed to the intercession of Notre-Dame de la Salette, was by this time occupying the attention of men of science. The number of these cures was such that, according to a document of the time, the most summary account of those that took place in a single year would fill a volume.
We will here cite two cases that seem to us to be singularly interesting and conclusive.
One is that of Sister St. Charles Pierron, of the Congregation Hospitaliere of St. Joseph of Avignon. This religious had been ill for eight years, keeping her bed, and at the time of which we write was in the last stage of pulmonary decline. This was at the beginning of the year 1847. The patient's mouth and tongue were covered with ulcers. All the nourishment she could take was a few spoonfuls of liquid in the course of each twenty-four hours. Early in the February of the year with which we have to do she received the last Sacraments. The following day her superioress, the Rev. Mother Penaud, suggested that she should begin a novena to Notre-Dame de la Salette. The good nun admitted afterwards that in making this suggestion her principal motive had been the hope of seeing the Apparition of La Salette confirmed by another supernatural cure. She to whom was made the suggestion replied that she had not the slightest wish to recover, and thus postpone her entrance into Heaven.
The Rev. Mother came again and again to the charge, but with no better result. She then put the sick nun under obedience, and gently ordered her to make the novena in question.
Sister St. Charles obeyed, and from the moment she began drinking the water of La Salette and joining in the nine days' prayer with the rest of the community she firmly believed that she was about to be restored to health. Her bodily state, however, became worse. On Thursday, the seventh day of the novena, she threw up blood in such quantity that the Superioress, believing the end to be near, gently said : "I think the Blessed Virgin's way of curing you will be to effect your entrance into Heaven."
Sister St. Charles in the meantime retained her conviction that her recovery was nigh. She said as much, and moreover that she hoped to assist at Mass and communicate on the last day of the novena ; and, with this hope in view, she did not forget to ask that her religious habit and veil, which she had not needed for so long a time, might be put within her reach.
The next dawn found her still worse and throwing up blood in an alarming manner. It happened that that day Mgr. de Prilly, Bishop of Chalons, was to celebrate Mass in the convent chapel. For this reason the Rev. Mother decided that the general communion of the nuns for Sister St. Charles, which was to have closed the novena the following day, should take place that morning instead.
The sick nun was grieved at this arrangement, thwarting as it did her cherished hope of assisting at the Holy Sacrifice on the last day of the novena. As she lay combining a plan in order to be able to effect her object on the morrow, and having heard her fellow religious go downstairs on their way to the chapel, she realised at a certain moment that her sufferings had suddenly ceased. She tried to move, and found that she could do so easily. She then exclaimed with accents of joy, " I am cured," half killing with fright a sick nun in the same room, who believed her to he near death. She arose and quickly dressed herself.
In her written account of these moments she says: " I cannot describe the movement that suddenly shook my whole being ; but I can affirm that instantaneously I felt my head, throat, and chest regain their natural action, my limbs their strength, and my voice its power."
She at once went down to the chapel, took her place with the other religious, and remained half an hour on her knees. When the others had left the choir she rose and threw her arms round the Rev. Mother's neck.
" You must begin by giving thanks," said that lady. I have already done so," was the reply. " I have assisted at part of a Mass and said the Te Deum."
The nun thus suddenly restored to life and vigour asked for food, and afterwards made a hearty meal. Her medical man, Dr. Gerard, found her that morning at work with other members of the community and showing every sign of perfect health. She then underwent at his hands a strict medical examination, the result of which was to show that she was free from any symptom of disease. When asked if the cure could have been brought about by natural means, the doctor distinctly answered in the negative.
Another medical man, Dr. Roche, honorary head doctor of the Avignon hospital, who had carefully followed the case, was called in to see Sister St. Charles. He reported as follows :—" The unexpected change in the person of Sister St. Charles from a state judged by medical science to be hope less to one of perfect health, functional and organic, was effected suddenly and without human intervention. Consequently it must be considered as belonging to the order of miraculous cures."
A case perhaps even more remarkable than this one is that of Sister Francois de Sales, of the first Visitation Convent in Paris. This nun had for several years been suffering from enlargement of the heart with lesions of the valves. In the early part of 1849 her condition became worse. She was then at the Visitation Convent of Rennes and under the treatment of two doctors, Brute by name, father and son, in whose report, drawn up after wards, the following statements occur: " The displacement of the ribs became very marked ; it was as if the heart were trying to force its way through ; the whole arterial system on the left side became hypertrophiated ; the legs were swollen to above the knees." The report also stated that, through being unable to lie down, the patient had passed a hundred days and nights in an armchair. We find the sufferer in this state in the early part of March, 1849. Suddenly her condition became more alarming-. At this juncture she heard from a sister to the effect that Mass was about to be offered for her recovery on nine consecutive days on the mountain of La Salette, and that the members of her family were about to make a novena for the same intention. The writer of the letter asked the sufferer to join in this nine days' prayer. She at the same time sent her some of the already far-famed water of La Salette.
Sister Marie St. Fran9ois de Sales felt at first but little inclined to comply with her sister's request, her wish being, as she afterwards said, to die. She consented, however, to join in the novena, which was to be made simultaneously by three Visitation communities as well as by the members of her own family. The nine days' prayer commenced March 21st.
On the evening of the 26th, at about seven in the evening, the nun showed every sign of approaching dissolution. The following details are taken from the written account of the religious in attendance as nurse: " Her eyes became fixed, her mind began to wander, and she showed every sign of approaching death. She received Extreme Unction and absolution in articulo mortis, after which the members of the community present left her for the night, not expecting to find her alive the next morning. After a few hours' agitation she had an attack of syncope, and her face became covered with what seemed to be a death-sweat. The Rev. Mother put a lighted candle close to her face, and her eyes, which were open, were in no way affected by the flame. " We then lighted a taper," continues the authority from which we have just quoted, "and began to recite the prayers for the dying."
Dr. Brute, the medical man constantly in attendance, called the next morning, and said the patient's life could not be depended on from one five minutes to another. Meanwhile, the apparently dying woman's lips were continually being moistened with water of La Salette.
Later on in the day, there was a slight rallying. Advantage was taken of it to ask the sufferer if she would like to receive the Blessed Eucharist, and on her reply being in the affirmative, the Holy Viaticum was administered to her. This was after she had been supposed to be in her death-agony for twenty-four hours.
No other than this religious could tell us what went on within her at that supreme moment. In her account written after her recovery, she says :— "I could neither see the priest nor the Sisters round about me ; but I knew that I was about to communicate." No sooner had she received the Sacred Host than her eyes became opened to her real condition. She says in the after record alluded to : "I understood that I had been close unto death. After making me see my extremely perilous condition, Our Lord said to me : ' It is I who can and will cure thee' ('C'est Moi qui peux et qui veux te guerir.') I answered: ' Fiat.' I could have made no other answer. Immediately a great change took place in the whole of my left side. It seemed as if my heart turned round and resumed its right place ; but with so violent a movement as to terrify me. Nevertheless, by a sudden sense of general well-being in me, I understood that I was cured. In truth I was." Shortly afterwards, she told her superioress that she was free from suffering of any kind.
It was found at once that the swelling of the legs had disappeared, together with the deformity of the ribs, that a cauterized part had become suddenly healed, and that the heart seemed to have resumed its normal functions.
That day the nun, literally snatched from death by a force in which no human element had sway, ate well, and the following night she slept well. The next day her ordinary medical attendant, Dr. Brute, calling, and seeing her standing up and apparently in perfect health, said : " Madam, you are to me as one come back from the grave !"
In the medical report drawn up, and signed by Doctors Brute, father and son, July 3rd, 1849, we read in reference to this case:— "On calling the next day we could detect in Madame Marie de St. Fran9ois de Sales no sign of disease. She could walk up two flights of stairs without experiencing any increase in the heart's action, and although three months have passed since then, she is now not only in perfect health, but perhaps physically the strongest member of her community."
The Archbishop of Rennes ordered a canonical examination of the case to be made, the result of which was, to conclude in the words of M. Frain, Vicar-General of Rennes, that the manner in which this remarkable cure had been effected, could receive no explanation from pathological and physical laws.
From - The Blessed Virgin in the nineteenth century (1904) by Bernard St John