|St. Bernadette Soubirous|
At La Salette our Lady appeared to two children, at Lourdes to one—the child Bernadette Soubirous, afterwards a Professed Sister of Charity of Nevers, whose body was lately on exhumation discovered to be incorrupt, and the cause of whose Beatification is now before the Church.
With regard to the visions of our Lady at Lourdes, I feel that I would rather make no attempt to describe them, unless I were able to do so at some length. Unhappily for me, this is not possible—it would be outside the scope and plan of this work; happily, however, for my readers, it is not necessary, as popular books on Lourdes are within the reach of all.
The very name of Lourdes sounds like a note of heavenly music in the ear. To me, after the Incarnation and the Life of our Lord in Palestine, there has never been anything which has happened in this world that is so fascinating, so touching as the apparitions of Mary to Bernadette and the perpetua wonder that surrounds with a divine charm the Holy Grotto amidst the Pyrenees. I can read the story of Lourdes again and again without ever being wearied for a moment. The simplicity and obedience of the child, so dear to God, the wooden opposition of the civil authorities, the scepticism of medical men, convinced one after another against their will, the wise holding back of the clergy—on the advice of the Bishop, whilst thousands of people were gathered together each day by the Rock, not a priest was to be seen on the spot—the ecstasy during which for a quarter of an hour the flame of the lighted candle sped upwards visibly through the open fingers of Bernadette's hand, leaving (when examined by a doctor who was present and timed her ecstasy watch in hand) no sign of the action of the fire, the sudden advent of the unsuspected stream, at the command of Mary Immaculate, for the healing of the nations, the miracles without number or compare, combine to form a picture that has no parallel in the history of the world. Small wonder that Bernadette, when she visited Lourdes, to bid her farewell for the last time before entering Religion, said simply, "This Grotto was my Heaven." I would entreat any who may be reaching after God if haply they may find Him—shivering on the brink of the plunge into Catholicism,, which is in truth a plunge into the encircling arms of God—above all, I would implore those whose hold upon unseen truths may be relaxing, to read the story of Lourdes and examine the facts for themselves. If this is done honestly and dispassionately I believe that there can be but one result.
There are learned books written by medical men dealing with many of the great miracles on the scientific side. Such with confidence may be recommended to the notice of physicians and surgeons. And if a pilgrimage to the Holy Grotto be possible, the records of all the miracles worked at Lourdes are preserved at the Bureau de Const stations, and may at any moment be examined. For those of us who have no technical knowledge of the nature of disease and the art of healing, or who are unable to visit Lourdes except in spirit, it is enough to be sure that again and again consumptives have been cured at the very last stage of their malady, that those apparently about to die have been suddenly healed after being plunged into the cold water of the piscina, that those pronounced by skilled doctors to be hopelessly blind have at Lourdes recovered their sight in a moment, that the fractured parts of a broken bone have been found by medical examination made after death (as in the case of De Ridder) to have been, after prayer to our Lady, instantaneously joined together, that varicose veins and lupus (left to themselves declared by medical authority to be incurable) have been spontaneously and immediately healed by the application of water from Lourdes, and the like. In 1897 the twenty-fifth French National Pilgrimage came to Lourdes. On August 23 of that year more than three hundred persons walked together in the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, many clothed in white and blue, all of whom had been miraculously cured by our Lady of Lourdes. In the long line of the procession walked more than a thousand priests, followed by the Bishop of Tarenbaise, carrying the Blessed Sacrament. As the Sacred Host was borne in front of the Church of the Rosary, it passed along a long line of sick, waiting and longing each one for a cure. Contrary, however, to the hopes of so many, when Benediction had been given with the Blessed Sacrament, not a single cure had been granted. After Benediction Father Picard, Superior of the Augustinians of the Assumption, came forward to close the ceremony, as is usual, with the Papal Blessing. He then urged the sick below him not to be discouraged, but to renew their faith and con fidence in God. In a moment the poor people who until then were lying helpless on their couches rose cured, until in two hours forty-one had risen, leaving pallets and stretchers behind them. As of old, so once again, in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth they rose up and walked. Amongst these cures there were many impossible to be accounted for by any theory of " suggestion "—unless by suggestion is meant the power of faith to do that which it is im possible for any earthly power or science to achieve. At Lourdes the wall that divides the natural and the supernatural seems almost to disappear, and more nearly perhaps than anywhere else in the world, heaven is seen to touch the earth. For myself—so far as it is lawful I say it—I believe in Lourdes as I believe in the Creed. Both come from God and from God alone.