Lourdes Interpreted by the Salve Regina Part 1

Meditations given by the Rev, Bede Jarrett, O.P., during the Novena preached in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in preparation for the celebration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Apparitions at Lourdes, February 2nd - February 10th, 1933

Hail, Holy Queen!

WE BEGIN this Novena, my dear brethren, in honour of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes today, Candlemas Day, and shall finish it on the feast day of Lourdes itself, and we are making it in commemoration of the seventy-five years during which that shrine has manifested newly to the world the power of Our Blessed Lady with God and her love of human kind. We include in this Novena an act of thanksgiving in memory of that great work of hers begun at Lourdes. We are celebrating, indeed, something new and recent in the Church’s history — a new manifestation, but a new manifestation of something which is venerable and old.

Since the days when our Lady walked the earth until our own day, there have always been shrines in Christendom where her power and her love were made manifest. Devotion to her is something which is tangled with the very roots of Christianity itself. Indeed, we may say that it goes even further back and that we find mention of it in the very dawn of the world. When our first parents were driven out by God from the Garden of Paradise, before the gates were shut on them, God promised that He would send a Redeemer, someone to set right that mischief which had just been done, and He promised not only a Redeemer, someone who would set right the mischief, but that the Redeemer should come through a woman; that she should be someone of power and should crush the serpent’s head. And so, in the fullness of time, when the mystery of the redemption was due for its fulfilment, God sent, as He had promised, a Redeemer and a woman. At the beginning in the mystery of the world’s fall were found a woman, an angel of darkness, a tree, a man through whose action all the world was cursed; once more in the mystery of redemption, were found again a woman, an angel — this time an angel of light — a tree, a Man who should set right that older mischief. Not the world cursed, but the world purified!

Again in the Redemption as at the beginning, the whole race was involved. By God’s decree, its will was implicated in the will of our first parents. In Adam’s deliberate sin all human wills were involved — the will of every soul from the beginning to the end. Here too again, in this mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption, the will of Him who was to redeem mankind was to include not His will only, but as well, the will of all mankind. Our Lord redeemed us by His will to obey His Father. Adam had cursed us by his will to disobey. Will, human will, was needed to set right what human will had undone. "I come to do the will of Him that sent Me.” "I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do.” Our Lord’s will, the action of His will in relationship to His heavenly Father, did actually, and was needed to redeem us. Sin is disobedience and malice. Redemption could only come through obedience and love.

But God demanded for the world’s redemption not only the will of His Son, but the will of the woman through whom redemption was to come. He demanded her consent to the redemption; her assent to His request. When the angel came — that other angel of light — when the angel came, he asked of her whether she would accept the motherhood. That she would accept it God foreknew. God dwells in eternity. Right from the beginning, before the gates had shut on our parents, closing paradise to them, long before, God had foretold what He would do. He knew what was to be accomplished; yet He knew that it would rest upon the acceptation, the consent of her who was to be the Mother of His Son. Hence He prepared her for that moment. God does not see, as you and I see, things happening one after another, a life unfolding. We only read it by turning over page after page. To God it is all visible, present — the end and the beginning. God sees you, and not now, only; God sees you as you will be in that mysterious eternity. Where in it God only knows. God saw His mother from the beginning, saw her whom He was to make His mother. God in eternity, above all time, from the first instant of her conception, knew her as His mother. This that was to be conceived would become His mother, in His eternal judgment, this was His mother, and so from the first instant of her conception, He preserved her immaculate. This as He looked He knew as His mother, someone, indeed, whose motherhood would ultimately be fulfilled only after the Annunciation; but already conceived in the womb, He knew her to be His mother. So from the beginning He prepared her will, prepared her for the moment when the offer would be made her. Would she accept the motherhood of God? You say, "But surely, anyone would accept so great a prerogative, a privilege? Surely any woman the world over would accept a message like that ?” Yet if she could realise the awfulness of redemption, realize what was to happen to the Son, realise the greatness of it, then the better the woman, the more would she shrink from it. For that reason He was preparing her will to say yes to His request. ”Fiat mihi,” "Let it be done unto me according to Thy word.”

Thus was she immaculate from the first instant, and thenceforward endowed with grace after grace. We know, indeed (for this is our blessed comfort), that God gives none of us a work that we cannot do. A mother, a father may say, "But I cannot manage my children.” That cannot be true. If God calls you to be father or mother, God gives you the grace to fulfill your vocation. He must. He is just. God is also merciful. Both as just and as merciful, He would not ask -of you what you could not do. If God calls some boy from the hills of Italy to wear the triple crown, the boy might answer, "But I am not great enough for this awful office. I have not wisdom enough to direct the Church of God.” That cannot be true. What God chooses is well chosen. Whoever is set to do a work can do it. It is God who will set him there. He has only to rely upon God and all will be well with him. God gives everyone the power to fulfil his vocation, however full of peril, however dreadful with power.

This is His mother. What an awful dignity! Yet He must have given her every grace to fit her for it. Is anyone fit to be God’s mother? Not of herself indeed; but He made her fit. So when the Angel came he saluted her: "Full of grace!” Grace is God’s heavenly benediction, God’s holiness shared. "Full of grace!” is the salutation of the angel. She has been filled with grace for her work, her vocation, God’s purpose to be fulfilled in her. Thus was she fitted to become God’s mother. After the annunciation and for the rest of her life as her responsibilities grew always greater, so more and more grace was poured into her heart. Grace, why? What is grace for? What is it to do? It is to make man submit to God, to make man surrender to the divine Will. Would you know whether you are good? Have you grace? Do you share holiness? Well answer me this: Are you doing God’s will and doing it easily? Do you surrender without a murmur, joyously, out of love? That is what God’s mother did. That was her fullness of grace. That was why in her grace kept on increasing always. She grew more full of grace as the horizon of her responsibilities grew larger, received a fuller, fuller measure of grace. But God filled her with grace that she might be responsive to His will, do what He wanted, do it gladly — "Thy will done on earth as it is done in heaven” — gladly, joyously, with a chant of thanksgiving and praise. Holiness was hers. Grace was given her. Hail, Holy Queen! We cry therefore, Hail, Holy Queen.

Do you see what was and is her royal prerogative ? Do you see why she is a Queen? She is a queen because of her holiness, because God has flooded her with grace, because God has endowed her with goodness, His goodness. God has done this. For that is whence goodness only comes — not from man but from God. Our Lady’s goodness is not the achievement of her own will. Ah, no! We have been taught long ago that w r e cannot even mention the holy Name unless God’s grace be given us. Whatever is good in man is a blessed gift of God. She is holy — God’s gift to her. But why did God make her holy? For His own purposes, for His own sake. He made her holy because she was to be the Mother of His Son. That is why He made her holy. For her sake? Ah, no. For His own sake, for the sake of His Son. Here was someone from whom was to be born, in His human nature, the eternal Son of God. He was God’s wisdom, God’s holiness. He was equal in holiness, wisdom, and power, with the Father. Out of the womb of this mother was God-made-man to be born. And so He made her holy. He gave her the grace of goodness for His own sake. Yes, but for another sake as well — hers, and mine! "Behold thy mother!” He was thinking of her, not merely as someone who was to receive grace, but who was to shower grace. He was filling her with grace because she was to be a Queen. When a king summons someone to share with him his royal dignity, lifts her — a king always lifts — lifts the partner td be on a throne by him, he gives her her royal dignity, her majesty, her power. This one whom God summoned as a Queen, she is a queen for the sake of the King that calls her, but she is also a queen for the sake of the subjects over whom she is to rule. As well as the King does, they delight in their queen. "All generations shall call me blessed,” on the hillside. She knew this not only of the generation to whom she spoke but of all generations — ours; you and me. She is Queen, she rules, she gives.
She is a Queen because of her holiness. You reverence holiness. You cannot help reverencing it; you cannot help holding it in honour. Why, else, do you reverence the innocence of a child? Why do you feel that it is something greater than you are — unspoiled, pure? Some old man or old woman, battered by life, poor, lonely — but you see them haunt the church; you see their lips in prayer; you see them riveted to the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament. You say, at least to yourself, "That is a saint.” You are in trouble. You say to
them, "Well, would you mind saying a prayer for me?” You reverence them. What have they got? Nothing, but holiness; the rest, whatever they had, is gone; battered; their beauty, if they had any, is fled from them; poverty-stricken, sad, lonely, but holy. That is enough. That lifts them. That makes you reverence them.

She, full of grace, growing in grace, she is our Queen. Holiness puts her there. Holiness? Holiness, that is her sceptre, her crown, her dower. Hail, Holy Queen! That is what we say to her. We salute her as a queen because of her holiness. We come to her, we her subjects, we come because it was promised that she should crush the serpent’s head. Queen! What is the Lourdes statue but a queen standing erect crushing the serpent’s head? "Queen?” you say, "But she has put her hands together. That is not the way of a queen.” We put our hands together because we are humble. We put our hands together because we pray. Queens hold out their hands. That is the way of power, the way of majesty. At Lourdes, our Lady’s hands are together. The statute symbolises holiness, goodness, prayer; her relationship to God. Ah, here in your Church of Lourdes, your devotion, your love has set a crown on her head, but not so did Saint Bernadette see her. Uncrowned, she saw her to be, but her holiness, her goodness were manifest. Even to look at her lifted Bernadette up. The mother of Bernadette when she came and saw her child in ecstasy cried: "That is not my child.” She could not recognise her. There was something shining and splendid. Ah, not her child? It was true. That which she saw in the child’s face was none of her mothering. That was a gift, a blessed gift of God. In that she was God’s child only. Thus too is our Lady also our Queen; that is how we are her subjects.

Hail, Holy Queen! Have you heard it? That haunting chant in the grotto, away off where the river runs cold? Have you heard that echoing chant? "Ave!” The salutation of the angel, caught up by lips that tremble with hope, with pain? Have you heard it echoing through the great church built to her honour; heard it out in the open when Jesus of Nazareth comes passing by; heard it from children and from those grown to manhood or womanhood, crying for themselves, for others, "Ave, hail Mary,” saluting her surely as a Queen; heard it in the darkness as they wander carrying their lights in and out of the trees; heard it on those hot nights under the stars ? It is the cry not only of those that are gathered there, sick and well, grown and children, but from the pilgrims from all our world. Age after age you could have heard it shouted and sobbed and lisped by men, women, children, fulfilling her prophecy, proclaiming her a Queen. "Ave! Hail, Holy Queen.”

May that blessed Mother, His Queen as well as Mother, guard our goodness, cry to her Son to fill us with greater goodness — we in our misery, poverty, sorrow, pain, broken hearted. Who in our distress will protect us? The great men of the world, what can they do to right our troubles ? Scheme after scheme has been tried, and the experts have failed. Who shall look after us? Hail, Holy Queen! Will she lift from us our troubles? It does not matter. Who cares? She will do something finer. She will make us carry our troubles. She will give us a princely spirit. We can defy whatever may come. Dare you ask her that sorrow should be lifted from you — ask her? Dare you ask her, Mother of Sorrows who stands in memory watching her Son die? Dare you ask that she would stoop to your weakness? Shall you not ask rather that she lift you to her strength? Dare you? Surely you dare. She is your Queen. He gave her to you. She will understand you. She is good. Do not believe them when they say that only a sinner can understand sin. No one who sins can understand it. God only knows it, because God never sins.

His Mother, our Queen, we hail her. (Chimes*). You hear it, the appeal to the Mother? Let it be your appeal too. Ask her, in the name of the Son she begot, that she would give us greater goodness, increase our holiness, such as God has already given us, that she would increase that. All the grace she had was from Him. Through Him was she full of grace. He did that for her. He did it. "He that is mighty hath done great things for me, and holy is His name.”

*In the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes where these sermons were preached, chimes play every quarter of an hour the Ave of Lourdes. They were playing as Fr. Jarrett was uttering these concluding sentences.—J. H. M.