Lourdes Interpreted by the Salve Regina Part 25.

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

O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary!

YOU will remember, my dear brethren, that St. John tells us in his gospel that on one occasion among the many questions that were put Him by the crowd that doubted, there was one question that they asked Him: "How is it that Thou, being man, should make Thyself God?” We, knowing better than they knew, would rather reverse the question, "Why dost Thou, being God make Thyself man?” and His answer, as we know, would have been immediate and instant. He made Himself man that He might hold man’s love. He came to make man love God, to solve that difficulty of man’s imagination. How is man, who is so moved only by the things he sees and hears, or at least, is most stirred by them, how is man with this imagination of his, ever to love the infinite God, a Spirit invisible, not to be seen in this life by him alive? How can man ever love God? Our Lord came to show us God Incarnate, that through Him we might have some better imagination of God and so love Him with true love.

One of the apostles, even at the last supper, made to Him what is a very natural request, "Show us the Father.” Just give us one glimpse of God, and after that the whole spiritual life will be easy. "He that seeth Me,” was the answer, "seeth the Father.” The nearest we shall ever get to God on earth is Christ. It is God, but shut in by human nature. Still if we know Christ, we at least have some idea of what God is like — though He is infinitely more wonderful, infinitely more kind and tender, infinitely more just and awful than He could show Himself. Christ multiplied by infinity, that is God.

He came wanting men’s love, and endeavoring to hold men’s love; and He came, not because He needed love, but because He desired it. To love because you need the love of those you love is one way; to love because you desire their love is higher and better. To love because you need their love in answer to yours is to love only as long as your need is; to love because you desire their love, is to love as long as you live. God loves us, not needing our love, but desiring it. God came to bring us captive, to conquer mankind, for you conquer in life not your foes only, you  conquer not by force only, you conquer friends and you conquer by love. That is Christ’s conquest.

Those are the captives He led after Him into the Kingdom of His Father; captives made conquest of by love. But the first conquest that He made by love was the conquest of His Mother — the very first.

Before Joseph knew, she knew that He was coming. Before even John the Baptist had leapt in his mother’s womb; before John’s mother, Elizabeth, had saluted in her cousin the Lord of Glory, already she knew. Before the shepherds came heralding; before the kings had come out of the east, she knew; knew who He was and what He came for. This had been wrought in her by the miracle of His birth. She knew, and by her knowledge she was led captive to Him; like all His captives she was led by faith and hope and love.

Do not imagine that in her life she had more than faith to go by. She had but faith. She had no higher gift. She believed on the Word that was spoken to her; she believed because of that. You may think yourself, that it was easy for her to believe. Well, in a sense, yes, it was easy, because of that miracle that had been done her; because without human instrument, in her heart she felt the quickening of another life. Easy, because when He came forth at Christmas time He came forth as through the tomb, without opening of doors. He passed through this first tomb that held Him, and that was a miracle she could not but know. And yet, for her, faith in a sense must have been much harder — to believe that this One was God who depended on her for His breath. She had to say, "Fiat,” let it be, before He came, before in her eyes there shone the light of motherhood. She had to give leave to Omnipotence before it came on earth, dwarfed in childhood. God waited on her Word. This was God, whom she herself had to care for and protect. This was God that had to be safeguarded by flight into Egypt. Were not all our difficulties of faith, or almost all, hers ten times over? God, that she fed at her breast? God, that she carried? God, that slept while she went about her duty, cleaning the home? This God, that was subject to her in Nazareth? This God, whom she saw in agony, bereft of the Divine Presence, seemingly, in the darkness of Calvary ? This was God by whose death she watched? She believed in Him in spite of all that, and she had perfect confidence in Him. Confidence, when He perplexed her by His sayings, by His actions, by what she could not understand.

She had perfect hope in Him even when she saw the failure of all His dreams; when she saw that great audience that had gathered once about Him dwindle, all the people leave Him, and His own disciples go from Him. She hoped even when she saw that little band gradually growing smaller. She had still to have perfect hope when she saw Him lying dead in her arms. She had hope beyond that of the apostles. They had lost hope. Some of them had gone out of Jerusalem. They had lost hope in Him. He that had seemed so wonderful was dead. They had hoped that this was the Messiah. Now they all lost hope. But she hoped on.

She had to love Him, and again you might say, "But that was easy! She saw how perfectly lovable He was.” True and yet He treated her in a way that hurt her, and she knew that He knew she was going to be hurt. The losing of the Child — there was no losing. He went deliberately, and He went without saying a word. He could have softened the blow of his going by just telling her beforehand, "I must be about My Father’s business.” He might have said it before He left her, but He did not. He just left her in darkness. Yet she loved him even when He treated her with apparent harshness. She loved God even when God seemed harsh to her Child. She still loved God when God seemed to have abandoned Him, left Him to be the sport and the mockery of men. She loved God when she saw her Child hanging on the Cross, heard Him crying, crying because He was thirsty, crying because God’s presence seemed withdrawn; loved God when she heard the crowd jeering and no answer coming from Heaven — Heaven dumb and silent, yet she loved.

Ah, in our day people treated with harshness question, "Is there a God? Can there be a God who saw all this terrific slaughter and never interfered?” Do not you think men now are questioning out in the cold there when they have no home, no heat, no comfort, "Can there be a God that lets us suffer so?” But their suffering, she challenges it. "Look and see, is there suffering like my suffering,” and yet she went on, not only believing and hoping, but loving to the end.

Because of that, she has been given power over us. She is our Queen and our Mother: our Queen because our Mother; our Queen because we were given to her by her Son. We put up then our prayer to her, "Oh, clement, oh, loving, oh, sweet Virgin, be thou a Mother to us.” Clement, because it is the prerogative of royalty to show clemency to rebels that submit. It is her very grace as Queen of mankind that gives her that blessed prerogative of mercy. She is clement, has clemency, forgives. She is loving, or as the prayer says in Latin, pia, dutiful. She loves God because of His command. She is also His Mother, and so she loves God with a mother’s love, a sheltering love. It is the love He compared to His own. "Even if the mother forget, I will not forget,” as though that were the very extreme comparison. Even if the mother forget, not God. She had that mother’s love for God, and for love of Him she loves us, and so her love is unchanging. She loves us, not for ourselves. How could she ? She loves us for His sake. She must love us to the end. She loves God. She is God’s Mother, and she is our Mother, too. That is her sweetness. She has the prerogative of pity. Does not all love begin in pity? The old romantic love of the knight for the maiden, the love of woman for man — is not pity always the dawn of love’s sunshine? Does not love grow out of that, the love of the mother for the child? At the back of all love is pity. Oh, clement, Oh, loving, Oh, sweet Virgin Mary! Oh, her royal, her loving, her pitiful heart!

And at Lourdes, is she not all these, clement, loving, sweet? Clement. Do you remember that when she appeared in the grotto, she moved Bernadette to cry out, "'Penitence, penitence The sight of the Blessed Mother, her blinding purity, the white garment, the blue sash about her waist, the very purity of her gesture, her look — Bernadette cried out, "Penitence, penitence.” And our Lady said to her: "I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the next.” And when Bernadette came to die, in her mind were the sins of all people, and it was that that she prayed for, that all men might be forgiven. This was the Immaculate Conception; this was our fallen nature’s solitary boast. She was sinless: Man was sinful. What are the cures at Lourdes but the clemency, the gifts of a Queen ? She is there not only as a Queen, but as God’s Mother. She is there loving God. She is there helping people to love Him. It was her very demand almost from the beginning, "I will have processions in this place.” Of what? Processions of the Blessed Sacrament. She is there not to exalt herself, but to exalt her Son. They tell us that the miracles are most often wrought when the priest carries the Blessed Sacrament down among the people. For us, devotion to God’s Mother does not lead us away from God’s honor, but to it. However we exalt her, He that made her is greater still.

When Bernadette lay dying, the memory of Lourdes came back to her. "I desire Thy Cross, Oh, God!” Almost the last words that she spoke were these. The Mother had passed, it was the Son she remembered, and He came, as always, carrying His Cross.

Clement, loving, sweet. Ah, the tenderness of her at Lourdes! Ask those that have been there. They will tell you of the tenderness of grace, of the delicacy of the miracles that are wrought there, of the dreadfulness of human disease and pain and suffering, but also of the gentle way she gives her mercy to each.

And so when Bernadette lay dying — you know when you lie dying, it is those things that have bitten deepest into your memory that will come back to you. In the war when a man was wounded into semiconsciousness he remembered his mother, not his wife; it was childhood’s days that came back. In the shock of death, if you listen, stoop over and listen to the dying, they talk of their childhood; not of yesterday, but many days before. Bernadette dying had forgotten where she was and what she was doing; she remembered only the grotto that she had not seen since the last Vision of all on the Feast of Mount Carmel when Our Lady came back and never said a word and she herself left to become a nun at Nevers. She remembered the grotto so when the nun stooped over her and said to her, "I will ask the Immaculate Mother to console you.” "Not console,” she answered, "not console. Ask her to give me strength and patience.” That is what she wanted, not comfort; — courage, strength, patience. She was going the way of human pain.

Sweetness. What sort of sweetness, do you think, was hers? When they use that word, sweet, of her, are they thinking of some sweet fragrance, or the echoing of sweet music ? Or is it honey, that is sweet to the taste ? Is it the sweetness of the clean air when you leave the city and go to the heights above it? Is it the sweetness of fresh water tumbling down from the hills? Is it the sweetness of a happy tempered child that fascinates you? Is it the sweetness of someone going at his or her own sweet will ? Well, all of it, I suppose; we would say of her that she is sweetness in every way. Fragrant, for we call her the Rose of Sharon; we name her the Lily of the Valley, the lily of our valley, this poor valley of tears. Sweet, as though it were the echo of music! What is she but the echo of God’s Word, the Word that was begotten of her, that was fashioned of her. She is but an echo of the Word of God. Sweetness as of honey! It is said of her in Scripture that she has the sweetness of the wind passing over beds of aromatic spices. Every poetical device is used to help out the feebleness of our imagination about her; to help us to understand what she is meant for in our life. Sweet in her temper, surely; going God’s way after her own sweet will.

Oh, clement, oh, loving, oh, sweet Virgin Mary! Surely you, her faithful people, have every right to call her so. You have made this place a shrine for her and for yourselves indeed. But the echoing of this place has gone forth in many other places. They worship her now with reverence in other churches but here first her shrine was set up. Five and seventy years is it since that first apparition. You are celebrating now the anniversary of that day. Ask her, you that have been faithful to her, ask her to be clement to you and yours. Remember, she is your Queen, the Virgin most powerful. "Hail, Holy Queen.”

Because she is God’s Mother, she is loving, she is the Mother of Mercy! the Mother of the All Merciful One. Ask her then for mercy; submit to her. Ask her to win you mercy, all of you, and yours, from her Son. Mother of Mercy, Hail!

Ask her, too, to be to you a Mother: "Show thyself a mother.” She knows your needs. She will mother you now and at the hour of your death.

"Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this, our exile —” Now in these days you know verily this is an exile, you who live in these hard days. Before, you might have forgotten, in your happiness and prosperity, might have thought that this was a place worth living in, thought that the world was a world in which your every dream might any day come true. For every comfort seemed yours, every desire within the range of fulfillment, nothing seemed likely to be denied to you. You gathered the wealth of the world. But now you find the world an exile. You realize this is banishment. You know that everything must one day fail you. You know that this is never your home. Remember when you leave it your exile is over. Remember, death means you go home. You are children, working or playing in your school hours; at last come the holidays, and the cry of home: "At the hour of death, call me.” That is our prayer. Call me. "Leaving all things, they followed Him.” That is all death is. It is another call from God.

Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy womb. Oh, clement, oh, loving, oh, sweet Virgin Mary!