|Devotion to Our Lady||
Catherine, who was born in 1820 and was in her 39th year, lived in Loubajac, near to Lourdes. She was cured on Saturday, March 1st, 1858, when she was in her 39th year. The miracle was investigated and finally recognized and accepted by Church and medical authorities on 18th. January 1862, by Mgr Laurence, Bishop of Tarbes.
This was the first cure. The date is unquestionable. At the time of the Apparitions, Catherine Latapie lived at Loubajac, a few kilometres from Lourdes. She had injured her right hand after a fall from a tree, in October 1856; in addition, she was at the end of her third pregnancy. This accident caused a subluxation of the humerus, which was easily reducible, but owing to the traumatic stretching of the brachial plexus, she was left with an ulnar type of paralysis. She could not use the last two fingers of her right hand, which were held in typical palmar flexion.
During the night between the Friday, February 28th and Saturday, March 1st, 1858, Catherine Latapie moved by a sudden impulse. She arose at three in the morning, woke her young children and set off for Lourdes. Arriving there at dawn, she met Bernadette, went to the Grotto and knelt down to pray. Then with all simplicity, she bathed her hand in the little hollow which had already collected water from the Spring.
Straightaway her fingers returned to normal. They had regained their movements and suppleness. She could flex and extend them with the same facility as she could before the accident. With haste she returned home, and the same evening--(it is this detail which enables us to be sure of the date of the cure)--she gave birth to her third child. He was ordained a priest in 1882.
In his report for Mgr Laurence, Professor Vergez classed this case amongst the cures "presenting a supernatural character".
On Friday, February 26th, the Immaculate Virgin did not appear to her dear child. Every one regarded Bernadette with a respect and reverence which amounted to veneration; when she passed, people said, in her hearing: “There is the Saint!”
Mary, the mother of humility and meekness, undoubtedly wished to fortify her child against the danger of vain-glory: she left her to pine in wishes, in tears, in prayers; she would not appear. Humbled and grieved, Bernadette was obliged to go home; she cried all the way.
In place of the usual Apparition, the crowd could see the spring, a living testimony of the omnipotence of the mysterious Lady. The good pastor of Lourdes had asked for a sign; instead of the trifling one which he had felt bound to ask, the Blessed Virgin had given him a much greater one, and not only to him, but to all, to the wicked as well as the good.
The rose-bush blooming would have been only a simple miracle, a miracle of compliance, frail and transient; the supernatural spring was not only a miracle, and a great miracle, but a permanent miracle, an inexhaustible source of miracles. Oh, how much better the good Virgin knows than we do!
On that Friday, the 26th, the miraculous water performed its first miracle: a miracle of the first order, proved, proclaimed in the first place by science, then by ecclesiastical authority.
There was at Lourdes a poor quarry-man, named Louis Bourriette, who, twenty years before this, had had his eye terribly injured by the explosion of a mine. He came near dying, and in spite of the enlightened and assiduous care of Doctor Dozous, the same who examined Bernadette in her ecstasy, the poor miner's sight had grown worse from year to year, so much so that, at the period of which we speak, his right eye could not distinguish a man from a tree. Known and beloved in the whole town, Bourriette was a man of faith, a true Christian. He was married and the father of a family. He had heard of the marvelous things which were occurring at the grotto, and in particular of the spring which had gushed forth.
“Go and get me some of that water,” he said to his daughter. “The Blessed Virgin, if it be her, has only to wish it, and I shall be cured.”
Half an hour after, the child brought a little of the still muddy water.
“Father,” she said, “this is only muddy water.”
“Never mind,” said the good Bourriette, beginning to pray. He rubbed his lost eye with the water. He gives a loud cry, a cry of joy and gladness. He begins to tremble with emotion. The darkness which, for twenty years, had deprived him of sight, was dispelled; there only remained a sort of slight dimness, like the mists of the morning. He continued praying, and bathing his eye; the mist gradually disappeared, and he could clearly distinguish objects. He was cured!
“I am cured!” he cried, running up to Doctor Dozous, next day, on the street.
“Impossible!” said the doctor. “You have an organic affection which makes your disease absolutely incurable. The treatment which I made you follow was only to ease your pain; it could not restore your sight.”.
“It is not you who has cured me,” answered the quarry-man, still much agitated; “it is the Blessed Virgin of the grotto!”
“That Bernadette has ecstasies which cannot be explained, is certain,” said the doctor, shrugging his shoulders; “I have verified that myself. But that the water which gushed forth from the grotto from some unknown cause, suddenly cures incurable diseases, is not possible.”
So saying, he took out his memorandum book, and wrote some words in it with a lead pencil.
“Stay!” he said to Bourriette, putting his hand over his left eye. “If you can read this, I will believe you.”
The passers-by had gathered round them. Bourriette immediately read, without the slightest hesitation:
“Bourriette has an incurable amaurosis, and he will never be cured.”
The doctor stood astonished, bewildered. “I cannot deny it,” he cried, “It is a miracle, a real miracle, without disparagement to myself and to my brothers of the Faculty. I am amazed; but the fact is evident; it is beyond all that poor human science can do!”
Louis Bourriette's cure was all the more remark able that the miracle had left all the scars of the wound. The quarry-man, almost crazed with joy, related the details to all who would listen.
From that time, enthusiasm, lively faith, thanksgiving, took more and more possession of the multitude. More and more evidence of the miracle appeared. Towards evening, the quarry-men of the guild to which the fortunate Bourriette belonged, went in great numbers to the Rocks of Massabielle, and cut through the rocks a more convenient path for pilgrims.
Before the opening of the miraculous fountain, they placed a wooden trench, and hollowed out, below this trench, a sort of little basin, having very nearly the form and dimensions of a child’s cradle.
The Blessed Virgin s name was on every lip. No one knew, and yet all were certain that it was she and no other. After sunset, without any previous arrangement, or the interference of any priest, hundreds of tapers suddenly lit up the improvised Sanctuary; and thousands of voices began to chant with indescribable power and emotion, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin.
The grotto remained thus illuminated all during the night.
It was Thursday, March 4th, the last day of the fifteen days that Our Lady had asked to come to Grotto at Lourdes. That morning, Our Lady had completed her fifteen appointments, but nothing spectacular had happened. It seems that she was saving the spectacular for later in day! That same evening, towards four o’clock, there were still five or six hundred persons, examining, praying, drinking at the fountain and carrying away some little memento of the sacred place. But the Immaculate Virgin did not wish that that memorable day should terminate without a brilliant manifestation of her goodness. A great miracle, a maternal miracle worthily marked the close of that fortnight of miracles.
A little child of two years old was dying in a poor cottage at Lourdes. His name was Justin. His father, Jean Bouhohorts, was a day-laborer. Subject from his birth to a slow fever, the poor child had never been able to walk; he was dying of consumption, notwithstanding all the efforts of the doctor. He was in his agony; his despairing father and mother were beside his cradle to see him die. A charitable neighbor had already prepared the little shroud, and was trying to sustain the courage of the unhappy mother.
The child’s eyes had become glassy; his limbs stiff and motionless; his breathing was no longer perceptible.
“He is dead!” said the father.
“If he is not dead,” said the neighbor, “he is going to die, my poor friend. Go and cry somewhere else; I will wrap him up presently in this shroud.”
But the mother wept no more. A wild hope had taken possession of her.
“He is not dead,” she cries, “and the Holy Virgin of the grotto will cure him for me.”
“She is mad with grief,” said the father, sorrowfully.
As for her, she seizes the already stiffening body of her child; she wraps it in her apron, and in spite of the efforts of her husband and her friend, she rushes out, running like a mad woman, praying aloud. “I am going to the Virgin,” she cried, as she went out.
It was near five o’clock, and, as we have said, some hundreds of persons were still around the grotto and the fountain. The poor mother throws herself on her knees before the grotto, and prays with all her heart, then, dragging herself on her knees to the little basin, she takes the naked body of her dead or dying two-year-old child, and plunges it entirely into the miraculous water. It was very cold, and the water was frozen.
A cry of fright, and murmurs of indignation burst from those around her.
“The woman is mad!” was said on all sides, “she will kill her child!”
They try to stop her. She remains motionless, holding her child under the water.
“Leave me alone! Leave me alone!” she answered in an eager and supplicating voice, “I want to do what I can, and the good God and the Holy Virgin will do the rest!”
Little two-year-old Justin was black-and-blue; he neither stirred nor gave any sign of life.
“The child is already dead,” said the people. “Let her do it; it is a poor mother whom sorrow has crazed!”
For a quarter of an hour, the supposed mad woman held the body of her son in the icy water which would have killed him in less than five minutes, even had he been in perfect health. Nothing could move her, neither cries, nor supplications, nor even threats.
The body of the child was frozen, motionless. Full of faith, however, the mother drew him out of the water, wrapped him in her apron, and brought him home, praying all the time to the Blessed Virgin.
“You see he is dead,” said the father.
“No,” she answered, “he is not dead. The Blessed Virgin will restore him to us!” and she puts the child back into his cradle.
A moment after, she bends over him: “He breathes!” she cries.
The father rushes forward; his child was indeed breathing, His eyes were closed; but it was no longer death, it was no longer the agony; it was a deep, peaceful sleep. The Blessed Virgin then said from the height of heaven to that Christian mother, what Jesus said of old to the humble and faithful woman of Canaan: “Go in peace; thy faith hath saved thee.”
During the night, the breathing continued, strong and regular, under the tender gaze of the mother, who did not sleep. The next day little Justin awoke; his color was fresh and healthful, although he was still emaciated. His little eyes were full of life as he smiled on his happy mother. He asked for the breast, and drank freely. He who had never walked wanted to get out of his cradle; but the frightened mother, who could not believe in a resurrection so complete, so sudden, dared not put him on the ground. The day passed thus: the child drank from the breast eagerly and often; he was making up for lost time. He passed an excellent night.
Next morning, the 6th of March, the father and mother went out early to their work. The child was sleeping quietly in his cradle. When, after some hours the mother came in, she almost fainted.
At seeing her little boy, until then paralytic, dying, not to say dead, the evening before, had got up all alone, and was walking, trotting here and there, around the room, going from one piece of furniture to another, delighted, and full of vigor. She was obliged to lean against the door to keep from falling. Oh, what a cry of love and gratitude must then have gone up from her maternal heart to the Heart of the Virgin Mother!
Little Justin ran joyously to throw himself into the arms of his mother, who embraced him, sobbing.
“He was cured yesterday,” thought she, “since he wanted to get up and walk, and I, unbeliever that I was, wanted faith and prevented him.” And when her husband came in, she said to him: “You see he was not dead; the Blessed Virgin saved him.”
The good neighbor, who, the evening before, had made little Justin s shroud, could not believe her eyes. She looked, looked again, and thought she was dreaming. “It is he,” she cried. “It is really himself! Poor little Justin!”
They all fell on their knees. The mother joined her child s little hands, that he might also return thanks to the Mother of God.
Justin is now a large, strong boy of thirteen (at the time this account was written); since his cure, he has never had a relapse.
“He is good child,” said the venerable pastor of Lourdes to me in the month of April, 1870, “he is a good child, a little giddy, but he has a good heart, and he loves the Blessed Virgin very much.”
This miracle produced, in the town of Lourdes, and in all the surrounding country, a prodigious effect. Three skillful physicians confirmed the truth of it, In their eyes, three circumstances made the cure an actual miracle, a miracle of the first order: in the first place, the duration of the immersion of a dying child in ice-cold water; then, its immediate effect, which had no connection with the reaction caused by the ordinary application of cold water; finally, the faculty of walking, manifested as soon as the child had got out of the cradle.
“The mother,” said the report of one of the doctors, “held her child, for more than a quarter-of-an-hour, in the water of the fountain. She thus sought the cure of her child by proceedings absolutely condemned by experience and by medical reason, and she yet obtained it immediately ... The cure of the child took place without convalescence, in an entirely supernatural manner.”
It was thus that the Blessed Virgin wished to crown her fortnight. Henceforth the pilgrimage was founded, and the fountain of grace, coming from the Heart of Mary, much more than from the side of the rock, flowed fruitful and consoling, never to be exhausted.