11 February 2013

11 February - Our Lady of Lourdes

Weather – If the wind blows on Shrove Tuesday night, it betokens a death amongst them that are learned and much fish shall die in the following summer. [Well, that’s not good]

If the three days of the 11th, 12th, and 13th are stormy, there will be good weather for the rest of the month; but if they are fair, there will be no more good weather that spring.

If the last eighteen days of February and the first ten days of March be for the most part rainy, then the spring and summer quarters will probably be so also.

Today is the optional memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, who first appeared on this date in 1858 to Marie-Bernarde Soubirous (aka Saint Bernadette) at a grotto near the Soubirous home in southern France.  You can read more about the Apparitions, the Grotto, and the History here at the Lourdes website.

“There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.” Blaise Pascal*

While researching the history of my parish, I found this in the local weekly paper from the September 19, 1873 edition.  The editors were generally atheists or agnostics or non-religious, which allowed them to sneer at those who, in their words, fell under the “contemptible spirit of superstition”.  Were it not for the big words (more than one syllable), one could almost believe that this formed the editorial in yesterday’s paper:

     “The Virgin Mary has lately made her appearance in France, and the whole Protestant world cries “Shame” upon such a Catholic miracle.  Why is this?  What right have we to pick and choose among miracles?  For of course did we believe that any miracle ever happened, we would not condemn other people for supposing that other miracles might happen also – why is our miracle better than anybody’s else?
     The Catholics are the most consistent people we know – for they seem to hold that if an impossibility could occur once it can occur again.  Upon a subject with which we are told that reason has nothing to do, we cannot see how judgment is to be rendered, or one thing proved more credible than another.  We respect Nature for the fact that whether she be old or new, she never tries to impose on us an absurdity.  Putting a truth before us, she seems to say, “There it is – make what you can of it”.  She is no worker of miracles or dealer in slight of hand, for she despises puerility.  How entirely the reverse of the contemptible spirit of superstition.
     The upshot of the French miracle appears to be that a statue of the Virgin, in a church at Lourdes, has given hearing and speech to a deaf and dumb girl.  It is a very good miracle; all it wants is age.”

[I don’t know who was healed in 1873 – none of the “Lourdes Miracles” mention it, so perhaps it was one not considered a true miracle.]

A month later they were bandying jokes about Our Lady of Lourdes, saying that a Methodist woman was reported healed by the direct intervention of Jesus Christ (the usual “you don’t need the saints” tripe), and suggesting that perhaps ‘Our Lady of Bristol’ (Rhode Island) could work a few miracles there, to make the Bristolians get over the recent annexation of a part of their town into the neighboring town of Warren: “We wonder that she has never seen fit to visit Bristol. There would be work enough for her in that town.  As Notre Dame de Bristol, her influence might be felt where ours would be unheeded.”   Warren Gazette, October 24, 1873.

And yet, a month after that, they were saying almost nice things about the Catholic Church, in an editorial about the difference between Catholics and Protestants:

     “…The plain fact seems to be that while Protestantism is every day becoming weakened by those processes of thought which its greater freedom permits, the Catholic Church loses nothing of its influence… Never did anything better exemplify the power of union.  The Protestants, wide adrift from that old and central institution which after all seems to represent the essence of their belief, are divided into a thousand conflicting sects, jealous of each other, and holding nothing in common except enmity to the mighty organization from which in one way and another, directly or indirectly, they have sprung.  The Catholics, on the other hand, present the very soul of order, and of discipline – a solid and veteran column.  Every Catholic is a Catholic and can be counted as such.”
     There seems to be something in the Catholic faith which appeals to the senses and awakens the sympathies, and it is certain that one cannot help recognizing the wiser zeal and the greater consistency of the Catholics, as compared with the Sectarians.
     We do not believe with our more radical friends, that the religion of Europe will or ought to become without political influence, at least for the present.  It has been and will long continue to be a friend to those who have no other friends.
     It has been remarked that the working classes of England were much happier within the Catholic order of things than they have ever been under the Protestants, for it afforded greater protection to the poor.
     Catholicism… may justly be regarded as a something which as yet cannot be spared from the world.
     The benefits conferred upon society by the Catholic Church are of immense magnitude… Its charities are enormous, and the offices of protection to the feeble are equal to its great opportunities.
     Much trouble is predicted for the successor to the papal chair, whoever he may be, of Pope Pius IX, yet somehow the papacy will continue and perhaps with an accession of spiritual strength, for in its destruction mankind would turn to the wall the most wonderful picture that the world has ever known…” Warren Gazette, November 21, 1873.

Of course, the operative words are “as yet cannot be spared” – for as soon as man decides that he and his government are powerful enough to take over and maintain the “benefits conferred upon society” [which benefits he will choose, along with which society will receive said benefits] and be “a friend to those who have no other friends” [again, choosing whom he deems worthy of befriending], the Church will be hounded into oblivion.

Oh, wait…


*Originally, the quote I wanted to use was
“in a miracle there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough darkness for those who do not want”
but that seems to be a bad translation.  Another mistranslation changes ‘miracle’ to ‘faith’, and is quoted all over the internet, usually starting with “As Blaise Pascal said…”.  Here is the section from Pascal’s Pensées (which you can read here at Project Gutenberg) with the original quote:

"God has willed to redeem men, and to open salvation to those who seek it. But men render themselves so unworthy of it, that it is right that God should refuse to some, because of their obduracy, what He grants to others from a compassion which is not due to them. If He had willed to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He could have done so by revealing Himself so manifestly to them that they could not have doubted of the truth of His essence; as it will appear at the last day, with such thunders and such a convulsion of nature, that the dead will rise again, and the blindest will see Him.
"It is not in this manner that He has willed to appear in His advent of mercy, because, as so many make themselves unworthy of His mercy, He has willed to leave them in the loss of the good which they do not want. It was not then right that He should appear in a manner manifestly divine, and completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who should sincerely seek Him. He has willed to make Himself quite recognisable by those; and thus, willing to appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart, He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not. There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition."  Blaise Pascal, Pensées, Section VII: Morality and Doctrine, 430.

[Remember, children, always go back to the source.]