Lourdes Interpreted by the Salve Regina Part 11.

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

To Thee Do We Cry, Poor Banished Children of Eve

WHATEVER has happened to us, my dear brethren, through the blessings brought on us by the Incarnation, nothing ever will undo, nothing ever can undo, that heritage that comes to us from our mother, Eve. When she, with Adam, had been driven from the Garden, he called her Eve, by which he meant that she was, so Scripture says, to be the mother of all living. From her we descend and inherit. What we inherit from her is our banishment from out of that garden of delight. We inherit from her a life of banishment, a life in a land which lies under a curse. When God drove them forth from the garden and set at the garden entrance an angel with a flaming sword, turning, says Scripture, every way; when God drove our parents out into that world beyond the garden, He drove them into a world which He had made harsh and terrible to them. It was a new life for them, not that first life of ease and happiness, but a life of labor and toil. The very land itself would be unkind to them. Out of the land would come brambles and weeds, and man himself would have to till the soil, and he could only till it with difficulty, with the sweat of his brow. And on womanhood God laid the travail of birth, and on womanhood too he laid the yoke of obedience. That is God’s curse on a race that had disobeyed, and so for all time, until time ends, from all time, the world, the earth will be like that for man, a place of hardship, of labor and toil, man winning for a while a living here and there, but having always to wage war against the earth he lives on, out of which once be came. If man were to relax his efforts the world in which he lives would very soon demolish all he has done. Here is your great city, and you know perfectly well that unless the men in it were up and doing, your very city would tumble about your ears. What so frail as the grass? and yet if you did but relax your labor, the grass would soon come back in your streets. What so simple as the clinging growth of nature, but if she were allowed, with her tendrils she would force a way in between not only the bricks, but the plaster that links and divides the blocks of concrete. She would find a way to topple down your towers. Man lives on an earth which is hostile and is always full of discontent. And because man has memories of a garden where once everything was at ease and nature answered in plenty to the least effort of man, because of those dim racial memories and because of his nobler hopes, because man was not made for this life but another, man is always not only discontented, but striving to establish himself more comfortably on earth. Cursed is the earth he treads on; cursed, hostile to him. But, though he has been told that he must labor always with the sweat of his brow, man refuses to accept this as final and strives by ingenuity to labor, if one can say it, without toil. He will invent; he will discover a tool, a machine, something on the back of which he can load the weight of his own labor. Thus has he been able to sit with folded arms and watch the machine move and save him from toil.

This is a cursed world, but man is always striving to protect himself against the curse. Sickness? Is sickness our burden? Well, man will set himself to defeat sickness. He will discover remedies, he will prescribe treatment, he will wage, in his own turn, an unending war against disease. Pain? Oh, well, he will protect you against pain. He will still that throbbing pain that hurts you. He has discovered a way of dealing with pain. The pain is there, but he can make you unconscious of it. Man at war with those things that themselves war against man. Death ? Well he will defer it, he will push it away, hold it off from him. In his heart, he thinks one day he will conquer even death.

This is a world accursed for the plaguing man. But man refuses to admit defeat. He considers that he is here to hold at bay all the dreadful forces against him. He will live in comfort; he will live in pleasure; he will live, as far as he can, without toil. This is right! Would you not say, man is right to have such aims, such purposes? Is not he driven irresistibly by the very intelligence that was given him, to protect himself against this hostile world? Right? Yes, no doubt, only he will never wholly succeed in this crusade of his. He is right to struggle, only he cannot win. That is all. He will struggle, yet the hostile earth will catch him up. He has conquered disease. Oh, has he? Wait! A new disease will come, a new disease that is more terrible than the others he has defeated. He conquers, but only for a while. Something else comes back on him. His very ingenuity, his intelligence, his cleverness, in the end seem themselves to defeat him. Man will live at peace. Will he? And what about the dreadful engines of war? Man has conquered the world, but only to use his mastership that one branch of humanity may be able to defeat some other branch of humanity. He will make himself comfortable. He will gather the world’s wealth of produce. Ah, yes, but only by starving his neighbor. This no doubt does make for happiness but only if you think of yourselves and not of the world at large. But even then you will find that you have over-reached yourself, for you need to sell and you cannot trade with an impoverished world. We are a brotherhood. Within this brotherhood no man can shed his responsibilities to the whole, to the others. You can gather the wealth of the world, and only to starve. That has always been true since the world began. It is no new symptom of humanity, this suicide of selfishness. It is just the result of the accursed world man lives in. When God curses, He curses well. This is a spoiled world; this is a place of banishment. Here there is no Garden of Paradise.

Here man is in difficulty always, difficulty with his bodily life, difficulty with his soul.
You could, perhaps, endure a hostile world unmoved if you felt in your soul, secure and certain. Will it not suffice to be devout? Will this not save me, protect me? There will come a time in your very devotion when the charm and beauty of your prayers will fail. You are devout. You would serve God earnestly. You will be at your Mass and Sacraments daily, and make your daily visits to Our Lord in His Eucharist. Tell me, they give you pleasure? Oh! you will tell me, I think they should. Yes, but do they? You come and you say your prayers. Did your mind wander ? Do you always find comfort when you come? Well, you will answer other people do. But do they? If they could listen to the tale of almost everyone that comes to the confessional, you would find that even the spiritual life carries with it drudgery, so that in one sense there are times when little comfort or consolation reaches the soul in distress. Then there is sin, and all of us are sinners. Further is the physical discomfort of life. Thus there is the emptiness of our spiritual life, in so far as we go to it looking for comfort, and secondly there is the mortification and humiliation of repeated and repeated sin.