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Brookline Carmel Bulletin                        

February 12, 1961


Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)


Our Lady of Lourdes



“But they went forth and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the teaching by the signs that followed.” (Mark 16, 20)


The science of Mariology is a massive structure, comprising a very important part in the whole of Catholic Theology.  Marvelous to tell, it sprang from a few meager facts in much the same way a huge tree springs from a tiny seed.  It stands as a monument to what reason illumined by Faith can accomplish.  Only a few isolated incidents from the life and doings of Our Lady are recorded in the Gospel narratives (and then only secondarily; the main objective being to outline the high points in the life of Jesus).  Nevertheless, they have been enough to enable the great Saints and Teachers of the Church to discover and make known her outstanding Holiness, her glorious Prerogatives, and her role in the History of salvation, her place in the Mystical Body.  All the while God continued to work with them and has confirmed their explanations by the signs that have followed.  He has allowed her to give visible proof of the Church’s teaching concerning herself, not only privately, i.e., in the lives of individual Christians, but publicly and openly.  By His own divine ordinances she has come down to earth in order to make known to the whole world that she is in fact what Theologians, from theoretical considerations, have shown her to be.  The most famous of all these proofs is Lourdes.  Just four years after the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been solemnly defined by Pius IX, Our Blessed Mother appeared on our planet and identified herself in terms of that very same Dogma.  Since then, Our Lady has shown herself at Lourdes to be all that the Litany of Loreto, that curious admixture of naked fact and mystic symbolism (which we may look upon as a compendium of Mariology), has predicated of her:  Mother of Mercy, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, help of Christians, …etc.  The miracle worked there and at other Marian shrines are the irrefutable proofs that God Himself approves, ratifies and fosters Catholic Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Of the greatest importance and highly instructive is Our Lady’s method of procedures in her apparitions to Bernadette.  It is so thoroughly orthodox.  As a rebuke to those who maintain that devotion to Mary derogates from the honor and glory we owe to God, we can point to the fact that she did not identify herself until six weeks after her first appearance, at a time when her mission was completed.  With characteristic humility, she put first things first.  At the very outset she taught Bernadette how to make the sign of the Cross properly and showed her how to say the Rosary.  The sign of the Cross because it is the instrument of Redemption and the key to the treasury of God’s graces, the Rosary because it calls to mind in a systematic way the basic truths of our Holy Religion.  She then instructed Bernadette to do penance, and finally, showed her a secret spring, bidding her to drink of it and to wash herself in its waters.  In all this we are reminded of the work of St. John the Baptist, precursor to the Messiah, herald of the Kingdom of Heaven.  He taught his disciples how to pray; he preached a gospel of repentance; he made use of ritual cleansing (baptism) as a visible sign of an interior conversion.  Our Lady’s primary concern at Lourdes was, therefore, to teach (or rather, to remind us again) how to dispose ourselves to receive the great gift of Sanctifying Grace.  Unless we pray and do penance we cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.

Having seen to the essential internal dispositions, Our Lady turned her attention to the external means of obtaining the divine favor.  She asked that a church be built.  Certainly she was not looking for a monument to herself.  (It became that only because her clients willed it so).  Instead, she was interested in the Holy Sacrifice that would be offered there, our unique Savior, which would be responsible for the miracles of grace and nature that would be performed; it would be out of the treasury of graces He earned that she would dispense favors.  Again, she knew the value and efficacy of public prayer:  I say to you further, if two of you shall agree on earth about anything at all for which they ask, it shall be done for them by my Father in Heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18, 19-20).  Mary’s concern for our orthodox approach to God shows that that story is not quite true which would have her smuggle in the back door those found wanting to the judgment seat.  Her one great work is to obtain for her devotees the grace to fulfill the entrance requirements.

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