Lourdes: Yesterday, To-day and To-morrow


WHAT is Lourdes to be in the day yet to come? What is the lot in store for this remote nook of the Pyrenees? Many have asked the question without concealing their anxiety as to the answer. To these it seems that Lourdes, like other earthly things, will have had its day, that grass shall yet grow on the roads that are trodden now by multitudes of feet, and that the Grotto itself may become the eyrie of a bird of prey. But Lourdes rose not from the will of man. Nor did a fairy, more or less human, change the desolate place by a stroke of her wand into the scene of life we know to-day. To the believer there remain the promise of the Blessed Virgin, and her express wish that her people should come in numbers to the place of her choice. For the mere onlooker there is a charm, undeniable and not inexplicable, in the mere sight of that riverside rock that has withstood the battery of scorn and incredulity. Whatever may happen to Lourdes and to the Gave, the world can never forget the story of the shepherdess; it can never forget that millions of its children believed it. France can never forget that on the morrow of the deepest disaster of her history thousands of her children came hither to pray for her.

At that hour France was alone. Overcome and cast down, she seemed hardly to live as a nation, and the glory she loves seemed to have left her sky. But it was at that hour that the nations sought her. They came, not to her capital, not in search of her pleasures, not in quest of her art, but to pray for healing at her shrine.

Lourdes was the solitary shining light of France in 1871. Our vanquished regiments, gathered there, opened their ranks to allow the stranger to draw near and to offer his prayers to her who loves the people and the soil of France. There were solemn hours at Lourdes that year. One who witnessed them -- who had passed through the battlefield to the sanctuary -- cannot without perpetually fresh emotion, at this day tell of what befell there after the war.

Lourdes is the vindication of France, It is as though the Blessed Virgin, foreseeing the miseries that were to come, had prepared the favour, the justification, the gift of this sanctuary for the children of the Crusaders.

Lourdes is the home of miracle. We are able today to speak with those who have seen the miracle with their own eyes. On that testimony we believe it. No student of history but shows a greater credulity, in believing facts whereof no witnesses are living.

Finally, Lourdes is not of the busy world. Crowds are there, but they are not the crowds of pleasure, of strife, or of money-seeking. The pilgrim, in the midst of them, finds recollection and peace. A space of freedom from turmoil, an interval of separation from the world, are lurking in this corner of the mountains for him who needs them. And while mankind has so much to suffer, men will go in search of the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Martyrs, comforter of the afflicted.

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