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It would be natural to suppose that the superstitions which flourished luxuriantly in the Middle Ages would be unable to sustain themselves in the clearer atmosphere of the twentieth century. “We shall have no repetition of mediæval miracles,” says W. F. Cobb with some show of conviction,1 “for the simple reason that faith in God has ousted credulity in nature.” When we speak thus, however, we are reckoning without the church of Rome. For the church of Rome, while existing in the twentieth century, is not of it. As Yrjö Him crisply puts it:2 “The Catholic Church is a Middle Age which has survived into the twentieth century.” Precisely what happened to the church of Rome at that epoch in the history of Christianity which we call the Reformation, was that it bent its back sturdily to carry on with it all the lumber which had accumulated in the garrets and cellars of the church through a millennium and a half of difficult living. It is that part of the church which refused to be reformed; which refused, that is, to free itself from the accretions which had attached themselves to Christianity during its long struggle with invading superstition. Binding these closely to its heart, it has brought them down with it to the present hour.3 The church of Rome, accordingly, can point to a body of miracles, wrought in our own day and generation, as large and as striking as those of any earlier period of the church’s history. And when the annals of the marvels of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries come to be collected, there is no reason to suppose that they will compare unfavorably in point either of number or marvelousness with those of any of the “ages of faith” which have preceded them. This continuous manifestation of supernatural powers in its bosom constitutes one of the proudest boasts of the church of Rome; by it, it conceives itself differentiated, say, from the Protestants; and in it it finds one of its chief credentials as the sole organ of God Almighty for the saving of the wicked world.4
We had occasion in a previous lecture to point out that this great stream of miracle-working which has run thus through the history of the church was not original to the church, but entered it from without.5 The channel which we then indicated was not the only one through which it flowed into the church. It was not even the most direct one. The fundamental fact which should be borne in mind is that Christianity, in coming into the world, came into a heathen world. It found itself, as it made its way ever more deeply into the world, ever more deeply immersed in a heathen atmosphere which was heavy with miracle. This heathen atmosphere, of course, penetrated it at every pore and affected its interpretation of existence in all the happenings of daily life. It was not merely, however, that Christians could not be immune from the infection of the heathen modes of thought prevalent about them. It was that the church was itself recruited from the heathen community. Christians were themselves but baptized heathen, and brought their heathen conceptions into the church with them, little changed in all that was not obviously at variance with their Christian confession. He that was unrighteous, by the grace of God did not do unrighteousness still; nor did he that was filthy remain filthy still. But he that was superstitious remained superstitious still, and he who lived in a world of marvels looked for and found marvels happening all about him still. In this sense, the conquering church was conquered by the world which it conquered.
It is possible that we very commonly underestimate the marvelousness of the world with which the heathen imagination surrounded itself, crippled as it was by its ignorance of natural law, and inflamed by the most incredible superstition. Perhaps we equally underestimate the extent to which this heathen view of the world passed over into the church. Th. Trede bids us keep well in mind that Christianity did not bring belief in miracles into the world; it found it there. The whole religion of the heathen turned on it; what they kept their gods for was just miracles. As Theodore Mommsen puts it in a single sentence:6 “The Roman gods were in the first instance instruments which were employed for attaining very concrete earthly ends”—and then he adds, very significantly, “a point of view which appears not less sharply in the saint-worship of present-day Italy.” “The power,” says Trede,7 “which in the Roman Empire set the state religion going, as well as the numerous local, social, and family cults, was belief in miracles. The gods, conceived as protecting beings, as undoubted powers in the world, but as easily offended, were, by the honor brought to them in their worship, to be made and kept disposed to interpose in the course of nature for the benefit of their worshippers, in protecting, helping, succoring, rescuing them; that is to say, were to work miracles. Belief in miracles was involved in belief in the gods; only denial of the gods could produce denial of miracles.” Enlarging on the matter with special reference to the third century, Trede continues:8 “In the third-century religious belief was steeped in belief in miracles. In their thinking and in their believing men floated in a world of miracles like a fish in water. The more miraculous a story the more readily it found believing acceptance. There was no question of criticism, however timid; the credulity of even educated people reached an unheard-of measure, as well as the number of those who, as deceived or deceivers, no longer knew how to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Those of the old faith (the heathen) had no doubt of the miracles of those of the new faith (the Christians), and vice versa. The whole population of the Roman Empire was caught in a gigantic net of superstition, the product of the combined work of East and West. There never was a society so enlightened and so blasé that lived so entirely in the world of the supernatural.” And he too draws the parallel with our own times. He adduces the incredible things related by an Aristides and an Ælian, and then adds:9 “Things just like this are still related … Ælian and Aristides are still living, as the miracle-stories at the famous places of pilgrimage show. We mention here the miracles at Lourdes and Pompeii nuova, which afford a very close likeness of the doings of the third century. The miracles of the nineteenth century recall those of the third.”
Are we then to discredit out of hand the teeming multitudes of wonders which fill the annals of the church despite their attestation in detail by men of probity and renown? What credit can be accorded the testimony of men even of probity and renown in matters in which they show themselves quite color-blind? Take Augustine, for example. Adolf Harnack declares,10 and declares truly, that he was incomparably the greatest man whom the Christian church possessed “between Paul the Apostle and Luther the Reformer.” And, perhaps more to our present purpose, there was nothing in which he overtopped his contemporaries and successors more markedly than in his high sense of the sacredness of truth and his strict regard for veracity in speech. In contrast with “the priests and theologians” of his time, who, on occasion, “lied shamelessly,” Harnack, for example, calls him11 “Augustine the truthful,” and that with full right. There is no one to whom we could go with more confidence, whether on the score of his ability or his trustworthiness, than to Augustine, to assure us of what really happened in any ordinary matter. Yet, whenever it is a case of marvelous happenings, he shows himself quite unreliable. Here he is a child of his times and cannot rise above them. What value can be attached to the testimony to wonders by a man, however wise in other matters and however true-hearted we know him to be, who can, for example, tell us gravely that peacock’s flesh is incorruptible—he knows it because he has tried it? “When I first heard of it,” he tells us,12 “it seemed to me incredible; but it happened at Carthage that a bird of this kind was cooked and served up to me, and, taking a slice of flesh from its breast, I ordered it to be kept, and when it had been kept as many days as make any other flesh offensive, it was produced and set before me, and emitted no unpleasant odor. And after it had been laid by for thirty days more, it was still in the same state; and a year after, the same still, except that it was a little more shriveled and drier.”
Take another example which brings us closer to our present theme. Augustine tells us13 that in the neighboring town of Tullium there dwelt a countryman named Curma, who lay unconscious for some days, sick unto death, and in this state saw into the other world, as in a dream. When he came to himself, the first thing he did was to say: “Let some one go to the house of Curma the smith, and see how it is with him.” Curma the smith was found to have died at the very moment in which Curma the farmer “had returned to his senses and almost been resuscitated from death.” He then told that he had heard in that place whence he had just returned that it was not Curma the farmer but Curma the smith who had been ordered to be brought to the place of the dead. Augustine, now, tells us that he knew this man, and at the next Easter baptized him. It was not until two years later, however, that he learned of his vision; but then he sent for him and had him bring witnesses with him. He had his story from his own lips and verified all the circumstantial facts carefully by the testimony of others who had first-hand knowledge of them—Curma’s sickness, his recovery, his narrative of what had befallen him, and the timely death of the other Curma. He not only himself believes it all but clearly expects his readers to believe it on the ground of his testimony.
This, however, is only the beginning. Gregory the Great tells the same story14—not, however, on the authority of Augustine as having happened to Curma of Tullium, but as having happened within his own knowledge to an acquaintance of his own—“the illustrious Stephen,” he calls him, a man well known (and that means favorably known), he says, to Peter, the friend to whom he is writing. Stephen, he says, had related to him frequently his wonderful experience. He had gone to Constantinople on business, and, falling sick, had died there. The embalmers being a little difficult to get at, the body was fortunately left overnight unburied. Meanwhile, the soul was conducted to the lower regions and brought before the judge. The judge, however, repelled it, saying: “It was not this one, but Stephen the smith that I ordered to be brought.” The soul was immediately returned to the body, and Stephen the smith, who lived near by, died at that very hour. Thus it was proved that “the illustrious Stephen” had really heard the words of the judge; the death of Stephen the smith demonstrated it. Are we bound, on the credit of Augustine and Gregory, both of whom relate it as having happened within their own knowledge to acquaintances of their own, to believe that this thing really did happen, happened twice, and in both cases through one of the same name being mistaken for a smith?
We are not yet, however, at the end of the matter. The same story is related by the heathen satirist Lucian,15 writing as far back as the third quarter of the second century—two hundred and fifty years before Augustine, and three hundred and fifty years before Gregory. Only, Lucian has this advantage over his Christian successors in his way of telling it, that he does not tell it as having really happened, but in a rollicking mood, laughing at the superstitions of his time. He brings before us a chance gathering of men, who, in their conversation, fall to vying with one another in “romancing” of their supernatural experiences. One of them, a Peripatetic, named Cleodemus, makes this contribution to the conversation. “I had become ill, and Antigonus here was attending me. The fever had been on me for seven days, and was now aggravated by the excessive heat. All my attendants were outside, having closed the door and left me to myself; those were your orders, you know, Antigonus; I was to get some sleep if I could Well, I woke up to find a handsome young man standing by my side, in a white cloak. He raised me up from the bed, and conducted me through a sort of a chasm into Hades; I knew where I was at once because I saw Tantalus and Tityus and Sisyphus. Not to go into details, I came to the judgment-hall, and there were Æacus and Charon, and the Fates and the Furies. One person of a majestic appearance—Pluto, I suppose it was—sat: reading out the names of those who were due to die, their term of life having lapsed. The young man took me and set me before him, but Pluto flew into a rage: ‘Away with him,’ he said to my conductor; ‘his thread is not yet out; go and fetch Demylus the smith; he has had his spindleful and more!’ I ran off home, nothing loath. My fever had now disappeared, and I told everybody that Demylus was as good as dead. He lived close by, and was said to have some illness, and it was not long before we heard the voices of mourners in his house.”
The late James Payne, the novelist, used whimsically to contend that fiction did not imitate life as was commonly supposed, but, on the contrary, life imitated fiction; a romancer could not invent a motive, he said, however bizarre, but a lot of people would soon be found staging copies of it in real life. Perhaps on some such theory, we might defend the reality of the occurrences related by Augustine and Gregory as having happened within their own knowledge. Scarcely on any other. That the source of Augustine’s and Gregory’s stories lies in Lucian’s is too obvious to require arguing; even the doomed smith is common to all three, and the strong heathen coloring of the story is not obscured, in Gregory’s version at least, which clearly is independent of Augustine’s. Heinrich Günter has an ingenious theory designed to save the credit of the saints. He supposes16 that the story might have been so widely known that sick people would be likely to reproduce it in their fevered dreams. “To such an extent,” he remarks, “had certain imaginary conceptions become the common property of the people that they repeated themselves as autosuggestions and dreams.”17 One would presume, even so, that when the dreamers woke up, they would recognize their dreams as old acquaintances; and how shall we account for Augustine and Gregory not recognizing such well-known stories circulating so universally among the masses, when they were told them as fresh experiences of the other world?
Hippolyte Delehaye frankly gives up the effort to save the credit of all parties. “It is impossible to be mistaken,” he comments.18 “That friend of St. Gregory’s was an unscrupulous person, who bragged of having been the hero of a story which he had read in the books. To say nothing of St. Augustine, Plutarch could have taught it to him, and better still, Lucian.” Nothing is said here to save Augustine’s reputation for truthfulness; and if Gregory’s honor is saved it is at the expense not only of his friend Stephen’s, but also of his own intelligence. Could not Gregory, as well as Stephen, have read his Plutarch or his Lucian, to say nothing of his Augustine, whom of course he had read, though equally, of course, he had not remembered him? And how could he have listened to and repeated Stephen’s tale without noting the heathen coloring of it, which alone should have stamped it to him as a bit of romancing? R. Reitzenstein is not so tender of the honor of the saints as Delehaye, and has theories of his own to consider. The close agreement of the details of the story as Augustine tells it with Lucian’s version, as well as the use which Augustine makes of it, “leave no doubt,” he thinks,19 “that Augustine has simply transferred to his own time an early Christian miracle-tale, known to him in literary form, without taking offense at this ψευδός, which obviously belongs to the style; that early Christian story having been on its part taken almost verbally from a heathen motive.” Gregory is supposed to have derived indirectly from Augustine—which, we may say in passing, is impossible, since Gregory’s story is much closer to Lucian’s than Augustine’s is. And we may say, also in passing, that there is no proof of the circulation of the story in a written early Christian form, and no justification for representing Augustine as receiving it from any other source than that which he himself expressly indicates—namely the narrative of Curma. Augustine comes out of the affair with his feathers ruffled enough; we need not gratuitously ruffle them more.
With Reitzenstein we pass over from the theologians to the philologists, and the philologists’ interest in the matter is absorbed in the formal question of the origin and transmission of the story. It occurs not only in Lucian, but also, in a formless closely related to that in which Augustine and Gregory repeat it, in Plutarch. Like Augustine and Gregory, Plutarch relates it in all seriousness as having happened within his own knowledge to a friend of his own.20 Erwin Rohde21 thinks that Lucian is directly parodying Plutarch’s anecdote; L. Radermacher22 pronounces this; absurd, and Reitzenstein23 agrees with him in this. All three, on grounds which appear very insufficient, declare the story to have been in popular circulation before even Plutarch, and all would doubtless contend that the Christians picked it up in the first instance from its oral circulation rather than took it over directly from Lucian—which again does not seem clear.
With such matters, we have now little concern. Our interest is fixed for the moment on ascertaining the amount of credit which is due to Augustine and Gregory when they tell us marvelous stories. The outstanding fact is that they stake their credit in this instance on a marvelous story which very certainly did not happen. It is not necessary to go the lengths of Reitzenstein and charge Augustine with copying the story out of a book and attributing it to quite another source than that from which he really derived it, elaborately inventing sponsors for his new story. That is a thing which, we may be sure, could not happen with Augustine; and the explanation of Radermacher that it belongs to the accepted methods of utilizing such materials that the sponsors for the story should, on each new telling, be altered into personages known to the teller, does not remove the difficulty of supposing that this happened with an Augustine. But the trustworthiness of the saints as relaters of marvels is not saved by supposing they were deceived by their informants, even though we could imagine those informants, with Günter, in some absurd fashion to have been self-deceived, and themselves honest in their narratives. Nothing can change the central fact that both Augustine and Gregory report as having happened within their own knowledge an absurd story which a Lucian had already made ridiculous for all the world some centuries before. Clearly, their credit is broken, as witnesses of marvelous occurrences. The one fact which stands out in clear light, after all, that can be said has been said, is that they were, in the matter of marvelous stories, in the slang phrase, “easy.”23a
One of the reasons why we have chosen this particular incident for discussion lies in the illustration which it supplies of the taking over into Christianity of a heathen legend bodily. In this case, it is only a little isolated story that is in question. But the process went on on the largest scale. Every religious possession the heathen had, indeed, the Christians, it may be said broadly, transferred to themselves and made their own. As one of the results, the whole body of heathen legends, in one way or another, reproduced themselves on Christian ground. The remarkable studies of the Christian legends which Heinrich Günter has given us,24 enable us to assure ourselves of the fact of this transference and to observe its process in the large. On sketching the legendary material found in the pagan writers, he exclaims:25 “After this survey it will be seen that there is not much left for the Middle Ages to invent. They only present the same ideas in variations and Christianized forms, and perhaps also expanded on one side or another. There is no doubt as to the agreement of the conceptions.” “With the sixth century,” he says again,26 “we find the whole ancient system of legends Christianized, not only as anonymous and unlocalized vagrants, but more and more condensed, in a unitary picture, into a logical group of conceptions, and connected with real relations of historical personalities, whose historical figures they overlie.… The transference of the legend became now the chief thing, the saint of history gave way to that of the popular desire.” “Hellenism—Pythagoreanism—Neo-Platonism—Christian Middle Ages,”—thus he sums up27—“the parallelism of these has made it very clear that the legend in the grotesque forms of a Nicholas Peregrinus or Keivinos or of the Mary legend is not a specifically Christian thing.” In one word, what we find, when we cast our eye over the whole body of Christian legends, growing up from the third century down through the Middle Ages, is merely a reproduction, in Christian form, of the motives, and even the very incidents, which already meet us in the legends of heathendom. We do not speak now of the bodily taking over of heathen gods and goddesses and the transformation of them into Christian saints; or of the invention of saints to be the new bearers of locally persisting legends; or of the mere transference to Christianity of entire heathen legends, such as that of Barlaam and Joasaph, which nobody nowadays doubts is just the story of Buddha.28 What we have in mind at the moment is the complete reproduction in the conception-world of the Christian legends of what is already found in the heathen. In this respect the two are precise duplicates. We may still, no doubt, raise the question of the ultimate origin of this conception-world. That, remarks Günter, “is not determined by the fact that it is the common possession of all. In the last analysis,” he declares,29 “it has come out of the belief of mankind in the other world. It is scarcely possible now to determine how old it is, or where it originated. The manner in which it flowered, and especially in which it discharged itself into Christianity, however, gives an intimation also of the explanation of its first origin.” It is this mass of legends, the Christianized form of the universal product of the human soul, working into concrete shape its sense of the other world, that the church of Rome has taken upon its shoulders. It is not clear that it has added anything of importance to it.30
There is one type of miracle, it is true, which is new to Christianity, though not to the church of Rome; for it was invented by the mediæval church, and has been taken from it with the rest. We refer to stigmatization. The heathen world had no stigmatics; they are a specifically Christian creation,31 deriving their impulse from the contemplation of the wounds of Christ. The first stigmatic known to history is Francis of Assisi.32 After him, however, there have come a great multitude, extending in unbroken series down to our own day. The earliest of these is Catharine of Siena (1370), who, however, possessed the stigmata only inwardly, not in outward manifestation;33 the latest the fame of whom has reached the general public is a certain Gemma Galgani of Lucca, who received the five wounds in 1899, those of the crown of thorns being added in 1900, and of the scourging in 1901—the external signs, in her case too, being subsequently removed in answer to her prayers.34 A. Imbert-Gourbeyre35 has noted 321 instances in all, only 41 of which have been men, along with 280 women; the nineteenth-century supplies 29 of his instances. Only 62 of the 321 have received the official recognition of the church in the form of canonization or beatification; and, indeed, it is sometimes hinted that the church is not absolutely committed to the supernatural character of the stigmata in more than two or three instances—in that of Francis of Assisi, of course, and with him perhaps also only in those of Catharine of Siena and Lucie de Narnia.36 A disposition is manifested in some Romanist writers, in fact, to speak with great reserve of the supernaturalness of the stigmata. A. Poulain, who writes the article on the subject in The Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, will not distinctly assert that they are supernatural in origin, but contents himself with declaring that they have not been shown to be natural. Others remind us that37 “the learned pope, Benedict XIV, in his Treatise on the Canonization of the Saints, does not attach capital importance to stigmatization, and does not seek in it a demonstration of sanctity; but himself notes that nature may have some part in it as well as grace”; or that Ignatius Loyola, when “consulted one day about a young stigmatic, responded that the marks described to him might just as well have been the work of the devil as of God.”38
The writer of the article on this subject in Migne’s Dictionnaire des Prophéties et des Miracles39 seems to speak with Loyola’s warning ever in mind, and to be above all things anxious that it should not be forgotten that these stigmatic marks are no safe indicia of supernatural action. He appears almost to bewail the multitudinousness of the instances, lest by it we should be betrayed into confusing the good and the bad. Francis and Catharine, he says, “are in fact the two most ancient examples related by history … but since then,” he sighs, “how many stigmatics has the world not seen!” “It is a great pity,” he goes on to object, “that the ignorance of the people, always benevolent and pious in their judgments, should take for divine favors natural marks resulting from certain maladies which it is scarcely decent even to name, or from the artifices of fraud; and it is a very horrible thing that fraud should have a place in a matter so respectable and so holy.” “The Charpy of Troyes,” he exclaims, “was stigmatized; the Bucaille of Valogne was stigmatized; Marie Desrollée of Coutance was stigmatized; the Cadière was stigmatized; and how many others besides! We have known of those who have deserved nothing so little as the name of saint which was attached to them by a mocking or a credulous public; there were convulsionnaires of St. Médard who were stigmatized. But let us allow the curtain to fall on these ignoble actors of sacrilegious comedies; the list is neither short nor edifying.” If anyone wishes to know anything more about the ladies he has just mentioned, he says, let him go where the biographies of such ladies are wont to be found. Meanwhile, speaking of the stigmatics of our own day: “We know personally some of them,” he says,40 “and we leave them in the obscurity from which it has not pleased God to draw them. This phenomenon, natural or divine, is not as rare as might be supposed. But natural as it may be in many persons, it sanctifies itself, and divinitizes itself, so to speak, by the use which they” (the feminine “they”) “know how to make of it, and the increase of faith, of love divine, of patience, and of Christian resignation which it produces in them” (feminine “them”). “And permit me here a reflection which arises from our subject but is applicable to many others. On the Day of God, who knows all, and who judges all, there will be a great disillusionment for many people who have thought that they recognized the divine cachet where it was not, and for many others who have dared to attempt to efface it where it was.” “We have not greatly advanced the question of the stigmata,” he confesses in closing,41 “but if any of our readers, affected by an inclination to attribute all these phenomena to natural causes, has come in the end to doubt this conclusion or to understand that the question is always an individual one, and cannot be resolved in one sense or the other except after examination, and independently of all analogy, we shall not have entirely lost our time.” It seems not an unfair paraphrase of this to say that the stigmata are in themselves no signs of the divine action; anybody can have them; but when he who has them is a saint it should be understood that they have been sent him by God. This, however, is obviously to make the saint accredit the stigmata, and not the stigmata the saint. And it clearly removes them out of the category of miraculous manifestations.
Such a cautious method of dealing with the stigmata is certainly justified by the facts of the case. The single circumstance that only ecstatics receive them42 is suggestion enough of their origin in morbid neuroses.43 It is sufficient to read over an account of the phenomena, written by however sympathetic an observer—say, for example, that by Joseph von Görres in his great book on Christian Mysticism44—to feel sure that we are in the presence of pathological phenomena. It is a crime to drag these suffering women into the public eye; and it is a greater crime to implant in their unformed intelligences45 that spiritual pride which leads them to fancy themselves singled out by the Lord for special favors, and even permitted by Him to share His sufferings—nay, to join with Him in bearing the sins of the world. For we do not fully apprehend the place given to stigmatization in the Roman system of thought until we realize that the passion of the stigmatics is not expended in what we call the “imitation of Christ”—the desire to be like Him, and to enter into His sufferings with loving sympathy—but presses on into the daring ambition to take part in His atoning work, and, by receiving the same bodily wounds which He received, to share with Him the saving of the world. “The substance of this grace,” explains Aug. Poulain,46 “consists in pity for Christ, participation in His sufferings, sorrows, and for the same end—the expiation of the sins increasingly committed in the world.” The matter is expounded fully by G. Dumas, professor of religious psychology at the Sorbonne, in the course of an admirable general discussion of “Stigmatization in the Christian Mystics,” printed in the Revue des Deux Mondes for the 1st of May, 1907.47 We avail ourselves of his illuminating statement.
“First of all,” says he, “it is scarcely necessary to point out the symbolical and profound sense which all the mystics attach to the very fact of stigmatization.
“To bear the marks of the cross, of the crown of thorns, of the lance, or of the nails is to be thought worthy by Jesus to participate in His sufferings; it is according to the very words of a historian of mysticism, ‘to ascend with Him to the Calvary of the crucifixion before mounting with Him the Tabor of the Transfiguration.’48 All the mystics, accordingly, suffer violent pains in their stigmata, and they hold these pains to be the essential part of their stigmatization, without which their visible stigmata would be in their eyes only an empty decoration. They experience under the cross, under the crown, under the nails, under the lance the same sufferings as Jesus; they really languish and die with Him; they participate in His passion with all the force of their nerves. We have seen Francis and Veronica suffer in their ecstasies all the pains of the crucifixion; they all do this. Catherine de Ruconisio experienced violent pains under the crown of blood which she let John Francis de la Mirandola see; Archangelica Tardera seemed at the point of rendering up her soul during the scene of her flagellation; and Catherine de’ Ricci, on coming out of the swoon in which she was marked, ‘appeared to her associates so wasted and so livid that she looked to them like a living corpse.’
“In suffering thus the mystics persuade themselves not only that they draw near to Jesus, but that they are admitted by a kind of divine grace to perpetuate the sacrifice of their God, to expiate like Him sins of which they are personally innocent. These sharp pains of the thorns, these piercing sufferings of the nails and of the lance, are not, in their minds, pains lost for men; they redeem sins, they constitute pledges of salvation, they are for them the religious and metaphysical form of charity. ‘These reparative souls which recommence the terrors of Calvary,’ says a contemporary mystic,49 ‘these souls who nail themselves in the empty place of Jesus on the cross, are therefore in some sort express images of the Son; they reflect in a bloody mirror His poor face; they do more: they give to this Almighty God the only thing which He yet lacks, the possibility of still suffering for us; they satiate this desire which has survived His death, since it is infinite like the love which engenders it.’ The stigmata are for these new crucified ones the external notification of their transformation into Jesus Christ; they proclaim that Archangelica Tardera, that Veronica Giuliani, that Catherine de’ Ricci are so like to their God that they succeed Him in His sufferings; they are the visible seals of their sanctity.”
The connection of stigmatization with such doctrine is the sufficient proof that it is not from God.50
It is often urged in defense of the miraculousness of the stigmata that they have not yet been exactly reproduced in the laboratories.51 It is not clear why a phenomenon so obviously pathological, and in many instances confessedly pathological, should be pronounced miraculous in others of its instances merely because the imitation of it produced in the laboratories is not exact. If, however, the precise thing has not been produced in the laboratories, something so like it has been that it is made quite clear that external suggestion is capable of producing phenomena of the same general order. William James may be appealed to to tell us the general state of the case. “I may say,” writes he,52 “that there seems no reasonable ground for doubting that in certain chosen subjects the suggestion of a congestion, a burn, a blister, a raised papule, or a bleeding from the nose or skin may produce the effect.” “Messrs. Delbœuf and Liégeois have annulled by suggestion, one the effects of a burn, the other of a blister.” Delbœuf “applied the actual cautery (as well as vesicants) to symmetrical places on the skin, affirming that no pain should be felt on one of the sides. The result was a dry scorch on that side, with (as he assures me) no after-mark, but on the other side a regular blister, with suppuration and a subsequent scar. This explains the innocuity of certain assaults made on subjects during trance.… These irritations, when not felt by the subject, seem to have no after-consequences. One is reminded of the non-inflammatory character of the wounds made on themselves by dervishes in their pious orgies. On the other hand, the reddenings and bleedings of the skin along certain lines, suggested by tracing lines or pressing objects thereupon, put the accounts handed down to us of the stigmata of the cross appearing on the hands, feet, side, and forehead of certain Catholic mystics in a new light.”
Certainly, the effects produced by external suggestion in the laboratories are very remarkable, and cannot fail to lead the mind in the direction of a natural explanation of the stigmata. When we see Doctor Rybalkin of St. Petersburg, by a mere command, produce a bad burn, which blisters and breaks and scabs, and slowly heals like any other burn; or Doctor Biggs of Santa Barbara a red cross on the chest which appears every Friday and disappears for the other days of the week;53 we acquire a new sense of the extent of the possible action of the mind upon the body, and may perhaps begin to understand what can be meant when it is said:54 “That I should be able to hold my pen because I wish to do it, is ultimately just as great a mystery as that I should develop stigmata from meditating on the Crucifixion.” To do them justice, there were not wanting Catholic writers before the days of this new experimentation who had more than a glimpse of the producing cause of the stigmata. Francesco Petrarch felt no doubt that Francis’ stigmata were from God, but neither had he any doubt—he says so himself, when writing, be it observed, to a physician—that they were actually produced by the forces of his own mind working on his body. “Beyond all doubt, the stigmata of St. Francis,” he writes,55 “had the following origin: he attached himself to the death of Christ with such strong meditations that he reproduced it in his mind, saw himself crucified with his Master, and finished by actualizing in his body the pious representations of his soul.” Even Francis de Sales, though of course absolutely sure that the ultimate account of Francis’ stigmata is that they represented “that admirable communication which the sweet Jesus made him, of His loving and precious pains,” yet works out the actual mechanism of their production in elaborate but healthful naturalism. “This soul, then,” he says,56 “so mollified, softened, and almost melted away in this loving pain, was thereby extremely disposed to receive the impressions and marks of the love and pain of its sovereign Lover; for the memory was quite steeped in the remembrance of this divine love, the imagination strongly applied to represent to itself the wounds and bruises which the eyes there beheld so perfectly expressed in the image before them, the understanding received the intensely vivid images which the imagination furnished it with; and finally, love employed all the forces of the will to enter into and conform itself to the passion of the Well-Beloved; whence no doubt the soul found itself transformed into a second crucifixion. Now the soul, as form and mistress of the body, making use of its power over it, imprinted the pains of the wounds by which it was wounded in the parts corresponding to those in which its God had endured them.”57
With all its three hundred and more examples, however, it is, after all, a small place which stigmatization takes in the wonder-life of the church of Rome. The center about which this life revolves lies, rather, in the veneration of relics, which was in a very definite sense a derivation from heathenism. Hippolyte Delehaye, it is true, puts in a protest here. “The cult of the saints,” says he,58 “did not issue from the cult of the heroes, but from the cult of the martyrs; and the honors paid to them from the beginning and by the first Christian generations which had known the baptism of blood, are a direct consequence of the eminent dignity of the witnesses of Christ which Christ himself proclaimed. From the respect with which their mortal remains were surrounded, and from the confidence of Christians in their intercession, there proceeded the cult of relics with all its manifestations, with its exaggerations, alas! only too natural, and, why should we not say it? with its excesses, which have sometimes compromised the memory which it was wished to honor.” These remarks, however, do not quite reach the point. What is asserted is not that the Christians took the heathen heroes over into their worship, though there were heathen heroes whom the Christians did take over into their worship. Neither is it that they continued unbrokenly at the tombs of these heroes the heathen rites which they were accustomed to celebrate there, only substituting another name as the object venerated. It is that under the influence of these old habits of thought and action they created for themselves a new set of heroes, Christian heroes, called saints, and developed with respect to their relics a set of superstitious practices which reproduced in all their essential traits those to which they had been accustomed with respect to the relics of the heathen heroes. There is certainly a true sense in which the saints are the successors of the gods,59 and the whole body of superstitious practices which cluster around the cult of relics is a development in Christian circles of usages which parallel very closely those of the old heathenism.60 The very things which Delehaye enumerates as the sources of the later cult of the saints and the veneration of their relics—the cult of the martyrs, the honor rendered to their remains, the confidence of Christians in their intercession—are themselves already abuses due to the projection into the Christian church of heathen habitudes and the natural imitation of heathen example.
There are no doubt differences to be traced between the Christian and the heathen cult of relics. And these differences are not always to the advantage of the Christians. There is the matter of the partition of relics, for example, and the roaring trade which, partly in consequence of this, has from time to time been driven in them. The ancient world knew nothing of these horrors. In it the sentiment of reverence for the dead determined all its conduct toward relics. Christians seem to have been inspired rather with eagerness to reap the fullest possible benefit from their saints; and, reasoning that when a body is filled with supernatural power every part of the body partakes of this power, they broke the bodies up into fragments and distributed them far and wide.61 The insatiable lust to secure such valuable possessions begot in those who trafficked in them a callous rapacity which traded on the ignorance and superstition of the purchasers. The world was filled with false relics,62 of which, however, this is to be said—that they worked as well as the true.63 So highly was the mere possession of relics esteemed that the manner of their acquisition was condoned in the satisfaction of having them. Theft was freely resorted to—it was called furtum laudabile;64 and violent robbery was not unknown—and that with (so it was said) the manifest approval of God. St. Maximinus, bishop of Trèves, died at Poitiers (of which town he was a native) on a journey to Rome, and very naturally was buried there. But the inhabitants of Trèves wished their bishop for themselves and stole him out of the church at Poitiers. When the Aquitanians pursued the thieves, heaven intervened and drove them back home, not without disgrace, while the thieves were left scathless,65 and furthered on their journey.
All sorts of irreverent absurdities naturally found their way into the collections of relics, through an inflamed craving for the merely marvelous. The height of the absurd seems already to be reached when we read in Pausanias that in the shrine of “the daughters of Leucippus,” at Sparta, the egg which Leda laid was to be seen.66 The absurdity is equally great, however, when we hear of the Christians Preserving feathers dropped from the wings of Gabriel when he came to announce to Mary the birth of Jesus; and it is only covered from sight by the shock given by the irreverence of it, when we read of pilgrim monks boasting of having seen at Jerusalem the finger of the Holy Spirit.67 Any ordinary sense of the ridiculous, however, should be sufficiently satisfied by the solemn exhibition in the church of Saints Cosmas and Damien at Rome of a “vial of the milk of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” But Ossa is piled on Pelion when we learn that this is far from the only specimen of Mary’s milk which is to be seen in the churches. Several churches in Rome have specimens, and many in France—at Evron, and Soulac, and Mans, and Reims, and Poitiers, and St. Denis, and Bouillac, and the Sainte Chapelle at Paris; the Cathedral of Soissons has two samples of it; and the Cathedral at Chartres three. Then there is some more at Toledo and at the convent of St. Peter d’Arlanza in Spain, and of course in other countries as well. We are fairly astonished at the amount of it.68
This astonishment is only partly relieved when we are told that not all of this milk need be that with which the Virgin nourished her divine Son. The Virgin, it seems, has been accustomed all through the ages to give nourishment to her children in their times of deadly need, and even her statues and paintings may, on occasion, supply it.69 We are here in contact with a wide-spread legend of mystical nourishment that was current toward the end of the Middle Ages. “Mary was looked upon,” as Yrjö Hirn explains,70 “not as an individual human being, but as an incarnation of an eternal principle which had exercised its power long before it became embodied in the figure of a Jewish girl. The Madonna’s motherly care had previously been directed to all the faithful, who had been fed by her ‘milk’ in the same way as the Child of Bethlehem. In Mechthild’s revelations it is even expressly said that the Madonna suckled the prophets before Christ descended into the world. Later, she fed, during His childhood, ‘the Son of God and all of us,’ and when He was full-grown she offered her milk to the Christian Church. All friends of God could get strength at her bosom. ‘Eja, darnach sollen wir bekennen—Die Milch und auch die Brüste—Die Jesus so oft küsste.’ ”71 There is symbolism here, but not mere symbolism. Therefore Hirn continues:72 “There is no question of symbolism when, in the miracle-histories, it is related that the Madonna cured pious individuals with her healing milk.73 It is also told of some holy men that they were quite literally refreshed by Mary’s breast. The pious Suso relates without reserve, and in a description of great detail, how he tasted ‘den himmlischen Trunk’;74 and Bernard of Clairvaux, who merited the Virgin’s gratitude more than any other man, was rewarded for all his panegyrics and poems by Mary visiting him in his cell and letting his lips be moistened by the food of the heavenly Child.”75 “Thus,” explains Heinrich Günter,76 following out the same theme, “in the age of the Mary-legend, the Virgin also had to become a miraculous nourisher, and that—in accordance with the exaggerated imagination of the times—with her own milk. A monk gets sick; mouth and throat are so swollen that he can take no nourishment; the brethren expect the end. Then Mary appears—visible only to the sick man—and gives him her breast and announces to him his early recovery. Among the mystical women of the convent of Töf the same thing happened to Sister Adelheit of Frauenberg; she narrates it herself: Mary says to her …‘“I will fulfill your desire and will give you to drink of the milk with which I suckled my holy Child,” and she put her pure, soft breast into my mouth; and when this unspeakable sweetness was done to me I was on the point I of weeping.’”
As Mary, although the chief, is not the only sustainer of God’s people, so, in the incredible materialism of mediæval thought, it is not she alone whose milk has been given to succor them in their extremities. One and another of the saints, without careful regard to sex, have been recorded as performing the same service. Lacking another, Christina Mirabilis was fed from her own virgin breast.77 Even the veins of saints, in token of their functions as sustainers of God’s people, have flowed with milk as well as with blood.78 This was the case, for example, with Pantaleon, and there was preserved in Constantinople a vessel containing the combined blood and milk which had issued from his martyred body. “Every year,” we read,79 “they changed places; when ‘once in our time, under the Emperor Michael (that is, Paleologus, 1259–82), the blood remained on top, it was a year filled with troubles.’ ” Pantaleon was a great saint, and his preserved blood even acted as a palladium, giving oracles of weal or woe to the fortunate cities which possessed it. As soon as the famous liquefying blood of Januarius appeared at Naples, Günter tells us, “the blood of Pantaleon, too, all at once spread over all Italy, everywhere exhibiting the same quality—in Naples itself in three churches, in Ravello, Bari, Vallicella, Lucca, Venice—without San Gennaro, however, suffering in the least by the concurrence.” The celebrated miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of Januarius is not then unexampled. In the single Church of the Holy Apostles at Rome you may see the perpetually liquid blood of St. James the Less, and the miraculous blood of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, which exudes from his arms whenever they are separated from his body. And at the near-by nunnery of St. Cyriacus, where Cyriacus’s head is kept, that head has been said, since the time of Gregory IX (1241), to have become red with blood on the anniversary of the martyr’s death, and the reliquary to have become moist.80 Of all the miracles of this kind, however, the liquefaction of Januarius’s blood is the most famous. It is exhibited annually at Naples, on the day of the saint’s festival. Günter speaks of it with the prudence which becomes a historian who is also a Catholic. “A problem before which criticism is compelled to pause,” says he.81 “The fact is assured; the explanation is not yet discovered. The historian may content himself with registering that the blood-miracle first appears suddenly in the late Middle Ages, and that an older notice of a Neapolitan miraculous vial exists, which the popular belief brought into connection, however, with the magician Vergil.” This vial enclosed in it an image of the city, and it was believed that so long as the vial remained intact, so would the city. It was esteemed, in other words, as the palladium of the city, as the vial of Januarius now is.
Relics, however, have not been venerated for naught, and it is not merely such spectacular miracles which have, made them the object of the eager regard which is paid them. As Pfister puts it:81a “The basis of the Christian cult of relics, as in the case of the antique cult, lies in the belief that the men whose remains are honored after their death, were in their lifetime filled with special power by virtue of which they were in position to work extraordinary things: then, that this power still filled their remains, in the first instance, of course, their bodily remains, but, after that, all that had come into contact with the deceased.” It was because much was hoped from these relics that they were cherished and honored; and since mankind suffers most from bodily ills the relics have naturally been honored above everything else as instruments through which bodily relief and bodily benefit may be obtained. Günter can write,82 no doubt: “In the times of the inventions and translations of the relics there were naturally innumerable relic-miracles promulgated. It was not only that the ‘blind saw, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, and the dead were raised,’ when they were brought to the graves of the saints; the sanctuaries and healing shrines had something greater still in the incorruptibility of the bodies of the saints,83 or of their severed limbs, or in astonishing manifestations of power and life of other kinds. Gregory’s Gloria martyrum and Gloria confessorum, and the activity of the miraculous goldsmith of Limoges, and of the later bishop of Noyon, Eligius, served almost exclusively to glorify the graves of the saints. Eligius was endowed from heaven especially for the discovery of relics. He himself, when his grave was opened a year after his death (December 1, 660) was wholly uncorrupted, just as if he were yet alive; beard and hair, which according to custom had been shaved, had grown again.” But Günter requires to add: “It is in their power to help (Hilfsmacht) that, on the basis of old experiences, the significance of the graves of the saints for the people still lies, down to to-day.” In point of fact the great majority of the miracles of healing which have been wrought throughout the history of the church, have been wrought through the agency of relics.84 Not merely the actual graves of the saints, but equally any places where fragments of their bodies, however minute, have been preserved, have become healing shrines, to many of which pilgrims have flocked in immense numbers, often from great distances, and from which there have spread through the world innumerable stories of the most amazing cures, and even of the restoration of the dead to life. We are here at the very centre of the miracle-life of the church of Rome.85
We have pointed out the affiliation of this whole development of relic-veneration with heathenism. We are afraid that, as we survey its details, the even uglier word, fetichism, rises unbidden to our lips: and when we find J. A. MacCulloch, for example, writing of miracles at large, speaking incidentally of “the use of relics” as “at bottom a species of fetichism,”86 we cannot gainsay the characterization.87 Heinrich, naturally, repels such characterizations. There is no heathenism, fetichism, in the cult of relics, he insists,88 because that cult is relative, and that with a double relativity. “Our cult terminates really on God, whom we venerate in the saints,” he says, “and thus the cult becomes actually a religious one; it is a relative cult in a double relation: it does not stop with the relics but proceeds to the saints; it does not stop with the saints but proceeds to God Himself.” We are afraid, however, that this reasoning will not go on all fours with Heinrich’s fundamental argument for the propriety of venerating relics. “The veneration of the saint,” he argues,89 “terminates on the person as the total object, more particularly, of course, on the soul than on the body; for the formal object, that is, the ground of the veneration, is the spiritual excellences of the saint.… But during life the body also shares in the veneration of the person to which it belongs. It must, therefore, be esteemed holy also after death; the veneration always terminates on the person.” We may miss the logical nexus here; it may not seem to us to follow that, because the body shared in the veneration offered to the saint while it was part of the living person, it ought therefore—Heinrich actually says “therefore”—to share in this veneration when it is no longer a part of the living person—any more than, say, the exuviæ during life, which, however, the relic-worshippers, it must be confessed, do make share in it. But Heinrich not only professes to see this logical nexus, but hangs the whole case for the propriety of the veneration of relics upon it. In that case, however, the veneration of the relic is not purely relative; there is something in the relic as such which calls for reverence. It is not merely a symbol through which the saint, now separated from it, is approached, but a part of the saint, though an inferior part, in which the saint is immediately reached. “The Christian,” says Heinrich himself,90 “recognizes in the body of the martyr, of the saint, more than a mere instrument of the soul; it is, as our faith teaches us, the temple of the Holy Ghost; it was the sacred vessel of grace in life; it is to be glorified in unity again with the glorified soul.” Such scholastic distinctions as that between direct and relative worship—like that between doulia, hyperdoulia, and latria—are, in any event, matters purely for the schools. They have no real meaning for the actual transactions, and nothing can be more certain than that throughout the Catholic world the relics, as the saints, have been continuously looked upon by the actual worshippers, seeking benefits from them, as themselves the vehicles of a supernatural power of which they may hopefully avail themselves.91
We have said that relics stand at the centre of the miracle-life of the church of Rome. Many are prepared to go further. Yrjö Hirn, for example, wishes to say that they stand at the centre of the whole religious life of the church of Rome. He does not mean by this merely that all Catholic religious life and thought centre in and revolve around the miraculous. This is true. The world-view of the Catholic is one all his own, and is very expressly a miraculous one. He reckons with the miraculous in every act; miracle suggests itself to him as a natural explanation of every event, and nothing seems too strange to him to be true.92 It is a correct picture which a recent writer draws when he says:93 “The really pious Catholic has a peculiar passion for miracles. The extremely numerous accounts of miraculous healings, not alone at Lourdes; the multiplied promises, especially in the little Prayer and Pilgrim Books, of physical healing of the sick in reward for many offered prayers and petitions; the enormous credulity of the Catholic people, as it is revealed to us in the Leo Taxil swindle—all this manifests a disposition for miracle-seeking which is altogether unaffected by the modern scientific axiom of the conformity of the course of nature to law.” To say that relics lie at the center of the miracle-life of Catholicism is not far from saying that they lie at the center of the Catholic religious life; for the religious life of Catholicism and its miracle-life are very much one. Hirn is thinking here,94 however, particularly of the organization of Catholic worship; and what he sees, or thinks he sees, is that the entirety of Catholic worship is so organized as to gather really around the relic-chest. For the altar, as it has developed in the Roman ritual, has become, he says, in the process of the years, the coffin enclosing the bones of a saint; and that is the fundamental reason why the rule has long been in force that every altar shall contain a relic,95 and that a Gregory of Tours, for example, when speaking of the altar can call it, not “ara” or “altare,” but “arca,” that is to say, box or ark. Catholic piety, thus expressing itself in worship, has found its centre in a sealed case; for the table for the mass is not a piece of furniture which has been placed in a building, but a nucleus around which the building has been formed, and the table for the mass has become nothing more or less than “a chest which guards the precious relics of a saint.” Thus, “the ideas connected with the abode of the dead remain for all time bound up with the church’s principal place of worship.” “Saint-worship has little by little mingled with the mass-ritual, and the mass-table itself has been finally transformed into a saint’s shrine.”96
Enthroned though it thus be at the center of the miracle-life, and with it of the religious life, of the church of Rome,97 the cult of relics, nevertheless, does not absorb into itself the entirety of either the one or the other. It has one rival which shares with it even its central position, and in our own day threatens to relegate it, in some sections of the Catholic world at least, to the background. This is the cult of the Virgin Mary, whose legend has incorporated into itself all other legends,98 and whose power eclipses and seems sometimes almost on the point of superseding all other powers. There is a sense in which it may almost be said that the saints have had their day and the future belongs to Mary. It is to her, full of grace, Queen, Mother of Mercy, our Life, our Sweetness, our Hope,99 that men now call for relief in all their distresses, and it is to her shrines that the great pilgrim-bands of the afflicted now turn their steps.100 These shrines are not ordinarily relic-shrines. Mary had her “assumption” as her divine Son had His “ascension”; she has left behind her no grave, no body, no bodily parts to be distributed severally through the earth. Her relics consist exclusively of external things: of her hair, her milk, the clothes she wore, the house she dwelt in. They have had their part to play—a very great part—in the history of the relic-cult and of pilgrimages; as have also miraculous images of her. But the chief source of the newer shrines of Mary which have been founded one after another in these latter days, and have become one after another the goal of extensive pilgrimages and the seat of innumerable miracles of healing, has been a series of apparitions of Mary, which have followed one another with bewildering rapidity until they have almost seemed to become epidemic in France at least—in France, because France is the land of Mary as Italy is the land of the saints.
Let us put side by side these four apparitions: La Salette (1846), where the Virgin appeared as a “beautiful lady” to two shepherd children, a girl and boy, aged respectively fifteen and eleven; Lourdes (1858), where she appeared as “a girl in white, no bigger than me,” to a little country-bred girl of fourteen; Pellevoisin (1876), where she appeared as “the Mother All-Merciful” to an ill serving-maid; Le Pontinet (1889), where she appeared as the Queen of Heaven, first to a little country girl of eleven, and then to a considerable number of others infected by her example. The last of these was disallowed by the ecclesiastical authorities, and has had no wide-spread effects.101 The other three are woven together in the popular fancy into a single rich chaplet for Mary’s brow. “Each of the series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin in this century,” we read in a popular article published in the early nineties,102 “bears a distinct character. At La Salette Mary appeared in sorrow, and displaying the instruments of the Passion on her heart; at Lourdes, with a gold and white rosary in her hands, and with golden roses on her feet, she smiled at the child Bernadette; at Pellevoisin she appeared in a halo of light, surrounded by a garland of roses, and wearing on her breast the scapular of the Sacred Heart.” In each instance a new cult has been inaugurated, a new shrine set up, a new pilgrimage put on foot with the highest enthusiasm of devotion, and with immense results in miracles: of healing—all of which accrue to the glory of Mary, the All-Merciful Mother of God.103
Genesis 1:1 BDC: Is the earth only 6,000 to 10,000 years old? Are the creative days literally, only 24 hours long?
Among these apparitions, that at Lourdes easily takes the first place in point of historical importance. “Undoubtedly the greatest stimulus to Marian devotion in recent times,” writes Herbert Thurston,104 “has been afforded by the apparition of the Blessed Virgin in 1858 at Lourdes, and in the numberless supernatural favors granted to pilgrims both there and at other shrines that derive from it.” No doubt the way was prepared for this effect by previous apparitions of similar character, at La Salette, for example, and perhaps above all by those to Zoe Labouré (Sister Catherine in religion) in 1836, the external symbol of which was the famous “Miraculous Medal,” which has wrought wonders in the hands of the Sisters of Charity.105 And no doubt the impetus given by Lourdes has been reinforced by similar movements which have come after it, as, for example, by that growing out of the apparitions at Pellevoisin—whose panegyrists, however, praise it significantly only as “a second Lourdes.” Meanwhile, it is Lourdes which occupies the proud position of the greatest shrine of miraculous healing in the world. We may predict the fading of its glory in the future, as the glory of other healing shrines in the past has faded. But there is nothing apparent to sustain this prediction beyond this bare analogy. We fear it is only the wish which has fathered the thought, when we find it put into somewhat exaggerated language by a French medical writer, thus:106 “Let us see what has happened during a century only, in the most venerated sanctuaries of France. No more miracles at Chartres! Insignificant miracles at Notre Dame de Fourvières at Lyons. La Salette, incapable of the smallest cure, after having shone with an incomparable lustre. Paray-le-monial become useless in spite of the chemise of Marie Alacoque. To-day it is Lourdes which is the religious vogue; it is to Lourdes that the crowds demanding miracles go—waiting for Lourdes to disappear like the other shrines when the faith of believers gradually fades like the flame of a candle coming to an end.”
It must be admitted that the beginnings of Lourdes were not such as might have been expected of a great miraculous agency entering the world. It is possible to say, it is true, that they were better than has been the case in some similar instances. Bernadette Soubirous seems to have been a good child, and she seems to have grown into a good, if a somewhat colorless, not to say weak, and certainly very diseased, woman. The scandals of La Salette did not repeat themselves in her case.107 And perhaps she cannot be spoken of with the same energy as “the little seer” of Le Pontinet, as the child of degenerated parents, weighted with the burden of bad heredity.108 But it is a matter only of degree. Bernadette’s parentage was not of the best omen; in her person she was, if not a degenerate, yet certainly a defective. It is of such that the Virgin apparently avails herself in her visions.109 Nor does the vision itself reassure us. “The figure seen was one which, by the admission, we believe, of the Catholic clergy themselves, has been often reported as seen, mainly by young girls, under circumstances when no objective value whatever could be attributed to the apparition.”110 The communications made by the heavenly visitant, one would prefer to believe the dreams of the defective child. “As the times, so the saints,” remarks Heinrich Günter,111 with a very obvious meaning; and it may be added with an equally direct meaning: As the saints so the messages. Doctor Boissarie, it is true, seeks to forestall criticism by boldly affirming that the message given to Bernadette was lofty beyond the possibility of her invention:112 “The name of the Virgin, the words which she uttered—all is out of proportion to the percipient’s intelligence. Remembering the formal principle, admitted by all authorities, ‘A hallucination is never more than a reminiscence of a sensation already perceived,’ it is evident that the intelligence and the memory of Bernadette could never have received the image or heard the echo of what she received and heard at the grotto.” To which the Messrs. Myers very properly respond:113 “Doctor Boissarie does not tell us whether it is the divine command to kiss the earth for sinners, or the divine command to eat grass, which is beyond the intelligence of a simple child. He dwells only on the phrase, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’; and we may indeed admit that this particular mode of reproducing the probably often-heard statement that the Virgin was conceived without sin does indicate a mind which is either supra or infra grammaticam.” The plain fact is that the communications attributed to the Virgin are silly with the silliness of a backward child, repeating, without in the least comprehending their meaning, phrases with which the air was palpitant; it was in 1854 that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was proclaimed in circumstances which shook the whole Catholic world with emotional tremors, some waves of which could not have failed to reach even Bernadette. The immense success of Lourdes as a place of pilgrimage has been achieved in spite of the meanness of its origin, and is to be attributed to the skill with which it has been exploited. Under this exploitation, it has distanced all its rivals, superseded all its predecessors, and has ended by becoming the greatest healing shrine in the world, counting the pilgrims who annually resort to it by the hundreds of thousands, and now even, so we are told, by the million.114
We cannot doubt that it is a true picture of Lourdes in its total manifestation, which is given by Émile Zola in his great novel.115 He describes the colossal national pilgrimage which gathers there each August in an epic of human suffering. Looked at thus, it is a most moving spectacle. “It is difficult to remain strictly philosophical,” writes an English physician after witnessing the scene;116 “impossible to be coarsely sceptical in that strange assembly. Hard indeed would be the heart of any medical man which could remain unmoved by the sight which met my eyes that day. At no other spot in the wide world could the faculty behold at a glance so many of its failures.… Out of the thousands of pilgrims I could detect but few who were evidently of the poorest class; for the most part they were of the upper middle classes or, at least, well-to-do.… Surely so much misery has at no other spot been focussed in so small a space.” It is, indeed, an “army of incurables” which gathers every year to Lourdes, driven to their last recourse. But of course not all the enormous masses of pilgrims are seeking healing. Lourdes does not register her failures; the proportion of her pilgrims who are seeking healing, the proportion of those seeking healing who are healed, can only be guessed. The late Monsignor R. H. Benson, speaking of the great masses of the national pilgrimage, says, no doubt somewhat loosely:117 “Hardly one in a thousand of these come to be cured of any sickness.” During the twenty years from 1888 to 1907, inclusive, the whole number of cures recorded was 2,665,118 which yields a yearly average of about 133.119 It is generally understood that about 90 per cent of those seeking cure go away unbenefited,120 and this would lead us to suppose that between 1300 and 1400 seek healing at Lourdes annually. Georges Bertrin tells us121 that up to 1908—the fiftieth anniversary of the vision—some 10,000,000 of pilgrims had visited Lourdes, and that the whole number of cures, “whether partial or complete,” registered during that time was 3,962. He thinks that nearly as many more may have been wrought but not registered; let us say, then, that there may have been some 8,000 cures in all during this half-century—“whether partial or complete.” Absolutely this is a great number; but proportionately to the numbers of pilgrims, not very large: about one cure being registered to every 2,500 visitors, not more than one cure to every 1,250 visitors being even conjecturable. How many failures stand over against these 4,000 to 8,000 cures we have no means of estimating; but if the proportion of 90 percent seeking cure be right, they would mount to the great number of some 50,000. The heart sinks when it contemplates this enormous mass of disappointment and despair.122
There are certain other circumstances connected with the cures of Lourdes, which, on the supposition of their miraculousness, evoke some surprise. The Bureau of Constatation exhibits at times a certain shyness of expecting too much of a miracle—a shyness quite absent, it is true, on other occasions, when, as it appears, anything could be expected. We read,123 for example, of a case of apparent hip-disease, and it was said that one leg had been seven centimetres shorter than the other; while now, after the cure, “the legs were of an exactly equal length.” The cure was not admitted to registry, but was referred back for further investigation. “The doctors shook their heads considerably over the seven centimeters”; “seven centimeters was almost too large a measure to be believed.” Why—if it was a miracle? And, after all, would the prolongation of a leg by seven centimeters be any more miraculous than the prolongation of it by six—or by one? Stress is sometimes laid on the instantaneousness124 of the cures as proof of their miraculousness. But they are not all instantaneous. We read repeatedly in the records of slow and gradual cures: “At the second bath she began to improve”; “at the fourth bath the cure was complete.”125 Indeed the cures are not always ever completed. Gabriel Gargam, for example, one of Bertrin’s crucial cases, he tells us,126 “bears a slight trace of his old infirmity as the guarantee of its erstwhile existence. He feels a certain weakness in his back at the spot where Doctor Tessier supposed that a vertebra was pressing on the medulla.” Similarly in the case of Madame Rouchel, a case of facial lupus, and another of Bertrin’s crucial cases, “a slight ulceration of the inside of the upper lip,” he says,127 “remained after the cure.” These cases are not exceptional: Bertrin informs us128 that it is quite common for traces of the infirmity to remain. He even discovers the rationale of this. It keeps the cured person in grateful memory of the benefit received.129 And it is even a valuable proof that the cure is truly miraculous. For, do you not see?130 “had the disease been nervous and functional, and not organic, everything would have disappeared; all the functions being repaired, the disease would not have left any special trace.” This reasoning is matched by that into which Bertrin is betrayed when made by the physicians of Metz—Madame Rouchel’s home—really to face the question whether she had been cured at all. They pointed out that the lip was imperfectly healed. Bertrin cries out131 that the “question was not whether a slight inflammation of the lip remained, but whether the two perforations which had existed in the cheek and roof of the mouth before going to Lourdes had been suddenly closed on Saturday, September 6.” The physicians point out inexorably that this is to reverse the value of the symptoms and to mistake the nature of their producing causes, and record the two findings: (1) that the lupus was not healed; (2) that the closing of the two fistulas in twelve days was not extraordinary. This celebrated case thus passes into the category of a scandal.132
It must remain astonishing, in any event, that miracles should be frequently incomplete. We should a priori expect miraculous cures to be regularly radical. No doubt we are not judges beforehand how God should work. But it is not wrong, when we are asked to infer from the very nature of an effect that it is the immediate work of God, that we should be disturbed by circumstances in its nature which do not obviously point to God as the actor. The reasons which Bertrin presents for the imperfections in the effects do not remove this difficulty. They bear the appearance of “covering reasons”—inventions to remove offenses. After all is said and done, it is mere paradox to represent the imperfections in the cures as evidences of the divine action. We may expect imperfections to show themselves in the products of second causes; we naturally expect perfection in the immediate operations of the First Cause. Bertrin strikes back somewhat waspishly when Zola makes one of the physicians at the Bureau of Constatation ask “with extreme politeness,” why the Virgin contented herself with healing a sore on a child’s foot, leaving an ugly scar, and had not given it a brand-new foot while she was about it—since “this would assuredly have given her no more trouble.” Here, too, Bertrin says133 that the scar was left that it might be a standing proof of the reality and greatness of the miracle of healing that had been wrought, and adds, somewhat unexpectedly it must be confessed at this point, that whatever God does, He does well. Whatever God does, He certainly does well; and it assuredly is our part only to endeavor to understand His ways. But when the question is, Did God do it? we are not unnaturally puzzled if it does not seem obvious that what He is affirmed to have done, has been well done. The physician’s question was not foolish. It was the perhaps not quite bland expression of a natural wonder—wonder at the limitations which show themselves in these alleged miracles. Why, after all, should miracles show limitations?134
We are far from wishing to suggest that the cures at Lourdes are not in the main real cures. We should be glad to believe that the whole of the four to eight thousand which are alleged to have taken place there, have been real cures, and that this great host of sufferers have been freed from their miseries. Probably no one doubts that cures are made at Lourdes; any more than men doubt that similar cures have from the beginning of the world been made in similar conditions elsewhere—as of old in the temples of Asclepius, for example, and to-day at the hands of the Christian Scientists. So little is it customary to deny that cures are made at Lourdes that even free-thinking French physicians are accustomed to send patients there. Doctor Maurice de Fleury in his much-admired book, La Médecine de l’Esprit,135 writes: “The faith that heals is only suggestion; that makes no difference, since it heals. There is no one of us who has not sent some sick woman to Lourdes, expecting her to return well.” The same in effect is said by Charcot,136 Dubois,137 even the polemic Rouby. Rouby even goes to the length of pointing out a function which Lourdes, according to him, may serve in the advance of medical science. “Lourdes has not been without its value to contemporary physicians,” he writes;138 “they have had in it a great field for the study of hysterosis, which a large number of them have misunderstood or only partially understood. Lourdes has put neurosis before them in a striking way. Those of our colleagues who have written into their certificates a diagnosis of incurability, have been profoundly disturbed when they saw their patients return cured; and those of them who have not believed in a miraculous cure has asked themselves the true account of these cures. They have come into actual touch at Lourdes with what they had read in their treatises on various diseases. They have learned what hysterosis really is, and what a great rôle it has played and will play still in the production of miracles; and they will sign no more certificates on which the Bureau of Constatation can depend for establishing the miraculous character of cures. This ignorance of hysterosis on the part of physicians, which has more than anything else made the fortune of the pilgrimage, will, it is to be hoped, no longer exist.”139
Lourdes, naturally, repudiates this classification of her cures and claims a place apart. She points to the unexampled multitude of cures wrought by her; she points to their intrinsic marvelousness. The great number of cures wrought at Lourdes is not due, however, to any peculiarity in the curative power which she possesses, but to the excellence of its exploitation. It will hardly be contended that her patients are miraculously brought to Lourdes. That the power by which her cures are wrought differs intrinsically from that at work elsewhere is not obvious. To all appearance, all these cures are the same in kind and are the products of the same forces set in action after essentially the same fashion. These forces are commonly summed up, in large part at least, under the somewhat vague term “suggestion.” The term is, perhaps, not a very good one for the particular circumstances, and must be understood when used in this connection in a very wide sense. It means at bottom that the immediate curative agency is found in mental states induced in the patient, powerfully reacting, under the impulse of high exaltation, on his bodily functioning.140 With his eye precisely on Lourdes, J. M. Charcot sketches with a few bold strokes the working of this suggestion in the mind of the patient. “In a general way,” he says,141 “the faith-cure does not develop the whole of its healing force spontaneously. If an invalid hears a report that miraculous cures take place in such and such a shrine, it is very rarely that he yields to the temptation to go there at once. A thousand material difficulties stand, at least temporarily, in the way of his moving; it is no light matter for a paralytic or a blind man, however well off he be, to start on a long journey. He questions his friends; he demands circumstantial accounts of the wonderful cures of which rumor has spoken. He receives nothing but encouragement, not only from his immediate surroundings but often even from his doctor, who is unwilling to deprive his patient of his last hope, especially if he believes his malady to be amenable to the faith-cure—a remedy which he has not dared to prescribe himself. Besides, the only effect of contradiction would be to heighten the patient’s belief in a miraculous cure. The faith-cure is now born, and it continues to develop. The forming of the plan, the preparation, the pilgrimage, become an idée fixe. The poor humiliate themselves to ask alms to enable them to reach the holy spot; the rich become generous toward the poor in the hope of propitiating the godhead; each and all pray with fervor, and entreat for their cure. Under these conditions the mind is not slow to obtain mastery over the body. When the latter has been shaken by a fatiguing journey the patients arrive at the shrine in a state of mind eminently reoeptive of suggestion. ‘The mind of the invalid,’ says Barwell, ‘being dominated by the firm conviction that a cure will be effected, a cure is effected forthwith.’ One last effort—an immersion at the pool, a last most fervent prayer, aided by the ecstasy produced by the solemn rites—and the faith-cure produces the desired results; the miraculous healing becomes an accomplished fact.”
If anyone wishes to feel the intensity with which the last stages of this process of suggestion are brought to bear on the sick at Lourdes, the perfect art with which the whole dramatic machinery is managed,142 he need only read a few pages of the description of Monsignor Benson of what he saw at Lourdes. Like Bertrin,143 Benson scoffs at the notion that “suggestion” can be thought of as the impulsive cause of the cures; but like Bertrin he defines suggestion in too narrow a sense and no one pictures more vividly than he does suggestion at work. Here is his description of the great procession and blessing of the sick.144
“The crowd was past describing. Here about us was a vast concourse of men; and as far as the eye could reach down the huge oval, and far away beyond the crowned statue, and on either side back to the Bureau on the left, and on the slopes to the right, stretched an inconceivable pavement of heads. Above us, too, on every terrace and step, back to the doors of the great basilica, we knew very well, was one seething, singing mob. A great space was kept open on the level ground beneath us—I should say one hundred by two hundred yards in area—and the inside fringe of this was composed of the sick, in litters, in chairs, standing, sitting, lying, and kneeling. It was at the farther end that the procession would enter.
“After perhaps half an hour’s waiting, during which one incessant gust of singing rolled this way and that through the crowd, the leaders of the procession appeared far away—little white or black figures, small as dolls—and the singing became general. But as the endless files rolled out, the singing ceased, and a moment later a priest, standing solitary in the great space, began to pray aloud in a voice like a silver trumpet.
“I have never heard such passion in my life. I began to watch presently, almost mechanically, the little group beneath the ombrellino, in white and gold, and the movements of the monstrance blessing the sick; but again and again my eyes wandered back to the little figure in the midst, and I cried out with the crowd, sentence after sentence, following that passioned voice:
“‘Lord, we adore Thee!’
“‘Lord,’ came the huge response, ‘we adore Thee.’
“‘Lord, we love Thee,’ cried the priest.
“‘Lord, we love Thee,’ answered the people.
“‘Save us, Jesus, we perish.’
“‘Save us, Jesus, we perish.’
“‘Jesus, Son of Mary, have pity on us.’
“‘Jesus, Son of Mary, have pity on us.’
“Then, with a surge rose up the plain-song melody:
“‘Spare, O Lord,’ sang the people, ‘spare Thy people! Be not angry with us forever.’
“‘Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.’
“‘As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.’
“Then again the single voice and the multitudinous answer:
“‘Thou art the Resurrection and the Life!’
“And then an adjuration to her whom He gave to be our Mother:
“‘Mother of the Saviour, pray for us.’
“‘Salvation of the weak, pray for us.’
“Then once more the singing; then the cry, more touching than all:
“‘Lord, heal our sick!’
“‘Lord, heal our sick!’
“Then the kindling that brought the blood to ten thousand faces:
“‘Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!’ (I shook to hear it.)
“‘Hosanna!’ cried the priest, rising from his knees, with arms flung wide.
“‘Hosanna!’ roared the people, swift as an echo.
“‘Hosanna! Hosanna!’ crashed out again and again, like great artillery.
“Yet there was no movement among those piteous prostrate lines. The bishop, the ombrellino over him, passed on slowly round the circle; and the people cried to Him whom he bore, as they cried two thousand years ago on the road to the city of David. Surely He will be pitiful upon this day—the Jubilee Year of His Mother’s graciousness, the octave of her assumption to sit with Him on His throne!
“‘Mother of the Saviour, pray for us.’
“‘Jesus, Thou art my Lord and my God.’
“Yet there was no movement.…
“The end was now coming near. The monstrance had reached the image once again, and was advancing down the middle. The voice of the priest grew more persistent still, as he tossed his arms, and cried for mercy:
“‘Jesus, have pity on us, have pity on us!’
“And the people, frantic with ardor and desire, answered him with a voice of thunder:
“‘Have pity on us! Have pity on us!’
“And now up the steps came the grave group to where Jesus would at least bless His own, though He would not heal them; and the priest in the midst, with one last cry, gave glory to Him who must be served through whatever misery:
“‘Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!’
“Surely that must touch the Sacred Heart! Will not His Mother say one word?
“‘Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!’
“‘Hosanna!’ cried the priest.
“‘Hosanna!’ cried the people.
“‘Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!…’
“One articulate roar of disappointed praise, and then—Tantum ergo Sacramentum! rose in its solemnity.”
There was no miracle, and Benson thinks that that is sufficient proof that the miracles are not wrought by “suggestion.” “If ever ‘suggestion’ could work a miracle,” he says, “it must work one now.” But this was only the day of preparation, and the fever planted in the blood was working. And the next day the miracles came.145 “The crowd was still, very still, answering as before the passionate voice in the midst; but watching, watching, as I watched.… The white spot moved on and on, and all else was motionless. I knew that beyond it lay the sick. ‘Lord, if it be possible—if it be possible! Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.’ It had reached now the end of the first line.
“‘Lord, heal our sick,’ cried the priest.
“‘Lord, heal our sick,’ answered the people.
“‘Thou art my Lord and my God!’
“And then on a sudden it came.
“Overhead lay the quiet summer air, charged with the supernatural as a cloud with thunder—electric, vibrating with power. Here beneath, lay souls thirsting for its touch of fire—patient, desirous, infinitely pathetic; and in the midst that Power, incarnate for us men and our salvation. Then it descended swift and mightily.
“I saw a sudden swirl in the crowd of heads beneath the church steps, and then a great shaking ran through the crowd; but there for a few instants it boiled like a pot. A sudden cry had broken out, and it ran through the whole space; waxing in volume as it ran, till the heads beneath my window shook with it also; hands clapped, voices shouted, ‘A miracle! A miracle!’ ”
The tension thus broken, of course other miracles followed. And Benson says he does not see what “suggestion” had to do with them!
We feel no impulse to insist on the word, “suggestion” as if it were a magic formula, which accounts with completeness for all the cures wrought at Lourdes. We should be perfectly willing to admit, on good reason being given for the admission, that, after all the cures which can be fairly brought under this formula have been brought under it, a residuum may remain for the account of which we should look further. We do not ourselves think that we are much advanced in the explanation of these residuum cases, if they exist, by postulating “a transference of vitalizing force either from the energetic faith of the sufferers or from that of the bystanders”—as Benson intimates that Alexis Carrel was inclined to recommend.146 At bottom, this is only a theory, and it does not seem to us a very complete theory, of how “suggestion” acts. Let us leave that to further investigation. For our part, we prefer just to leave these residuum cases themselves, if they exist, to this further investigation. We feel no necessity laid on us to explain them meanwhile. Bertrin makes himself merry147 over the appeal, for their explanation, to the working of “unknown forces” as a mere shift to avoid acknowledging the presence of the supernatural. But surely we cannot pretend to a complete knowledge of all the forces which may work toward a cure in such conditions as are present at Lourdes. Unknown forces are assuredly existent, and it is not unnatural to think of them when effects occur, the causes of which are unknown. Meanwhile residuum cases suggesting reference to them, if they exist at all, are certainly very few. Doctor E. Mackey in a very sensible article published a few years ago in The Dublin Review,148 seems inclined to rest the case for recognizing their existence on three instances. These are the cures of Pierre de Rudder, of a broken bone; of Joachine Dehant, of a dislocation; and of François Macary, of a varicose vein. “Such cases,” he says,149 …“cannot cure themselves, and no amount of faith and hope that the mind of man can imagine will unite a broken bone, reduce a dislocation, or obliterate a varicose vein. Such cases cannot be paralleled by any medical experience, or imitated by any therapeutic resource, and are as far removed from its future as its present possibilities. To the sceptic we may give without argument the whole range of nerve disorders, but what explanation is there of the sudden and permanent cure of an organic lesion? What, but the working of the uncovered finger of God?”
The cases selected by Doctor Mackey are famous cases. That of Pierre de Rudder may be said, in fact, to be Lourdes’s star case, and is found duly set forth in detail at the head of well-nigh every argument for the miraculousness of the Lourdes cures. Perhaps Doctor Mackey might just as well have contented himself with appealing to it alone. Its salient features are that what was healed in it was a fracture of long standing of both bones of the lower leg, just below the knee, the two parts of the broken bone piercing the flesh and being separated by a suppurating wound an inch long. The healing was instantaneous. We have never seen a satisfactory natural explanation of how this cure was effected. If the facts, in all their details as published—say in Bertrin’s extended account,—are authentic, it seems fairly impossible to imagine how it was effected. Doctor Rouby, it is true, offers a very plausible explanation of the healing, but, to make it plausible, he is compelled to assume that some of the minor details are not quite accurately reported.150 We prefer simply to leave it, meanwhile, unexplained. Do you cry out that we are bound to supply a satisfactory natural explanation of it, or else acknowledge that a miracle has taken place in this case? We feel no difficulty in declining the dilemma. The healing of Pierre de Rudder’s leg is not the only thing that has occurred in the world of the mode of the occurrence of which we are ignorant. After all, inexplicable and miraculous are not exact synonyms, and nobody really thinks that they are. Is it wrong suddenly to turn the tables and ask those who would compel us to explain Pierre de Rudder’s case, how they explain Charlotte Laborde’s case, which is certainly far more wonderful than Pierre de Rudder’s? Charlotte Laborde was a Jansenist cripple who had no legs at all, as two surgeons duly testified; and yet she literally had two good legs pulled out for her—as anybody may read in Montgeron’s veracious narrative.151 No doubt it will be at once said that the thing never happened. Assuredly, it never did happen. But has everybody earned the right to take up that attitude toward it? We recognize, of course, that not all testimony to marvels can be trusted—at least not in all the details. It seems indeed rather difficult to report marvels precisely as they happened, and few there be who attain to it.152 We have seen that even an Augustine cannot be implicitly trusted when he reports marvels as occurring within his own knowledge. Perhaps Doctor Rouby is right in suggesting that some slight errors of detail have crept into the report of Pierre de Rudder’s case; and that this marvel too is one of the things that never happened—precisely as it is reported. Our personal interest in such adjustments, however, is at best languid. In the nature of the case they are only conjectural. We are only beginning to learn the marvellous behavior of which living tissue is capable, and it may well be that, after a while, it may seem very natural that Pierre de Rudder’s case happened just as it is said to have happened. We are afraid to alter the facts as witnessed even a little, in order to make them fit in better with the ignorance of to-day: and our guesses of to-day are sure to seem very foolish to-morrow. We do not busy ourselves, therefore, with conjecturing how Pierre de Rudder’s cure may have happened. We are willing to believe that it happened just as it is said to have happened. We are content to know that, in no case, was it a miracle.
We must endeavor to make clear the grounds on which this assertion is adventured. To do this we need to go back a little in the discussion. We take it up again at the point where we have said that bare inexplicableness cannot be accepted as the sufficient criterion of the miraculous. There are many things which we cannot explain, and yet which nobody supposes to be miraculous.153 No doubt the appeal to “unknown laws,” hidden forces of nature not yet discovered, may be made the mark of an easy ridicule. Yet we must not be stampeded into acknowledging as sheerly miraculous everything the laws of whose occurrence—the forces by which it is produced—are inscrutable to us. Even if absolute inscrutability be meant—inscrutability not to me (for my ignorance cannot be the measure of reality) but to any and every living man, or body of men, to any possible man—miracle cannot be inferred from this alone. Nature was made by God, not man, and there may be forces working in nature not only which have not yet been dreamed of in our philosophy, but which are beyond human comprehension altogether. Simple inexplicability, therefore, is not an adequate ground on which to infer miracle. There must be something else about an occurrence besides its inexplicableness to justify us in looking upon it as a direct act of God’s.
Clearly, when we are bidden to accept an event as miraculous merely on the ground of its inexplicableness, it is forgotten that no event is merely an inexplicable event. It is always something else besides; and if we are to pass upon its origin we must consider not merely its abstract inexplicableness but the whole concrete fact—not merely that it has happened inexplicably, but what it is that has happened inexplicably—that is to say, not its bare occurrence, but its occurrence in all its circumstantials, the total thing which has occurred. The healing of Pierre de Rudder, for example, is not merely an inexplicable happening (if it be inexplicable) of which we need know no more than just that. It is the healing of a particular individual, Pierre de Rudder, in a complex of particular circumstances, the whole complicated mass of which constitutes the thing that has occurred. The cause assigned to the occurrence must satisfy not only its inexplicableness, but also all these other circumstances entering into the event as an occurrence in time and space. No event, occurring in time and space—in a complex, that is, of other occurrences—no matter how marvellous it may seem to be, how sheerly inexplicable on natural grounds—can possibly be interpreted as a divine act, if there is anything about it at all in its concrete wholeness which cannot be made consistent with that reference.
If, for instance, to take an example so extreme that it could not occur, but one that may serve all the better as our illustration on that account, there were buried somewhere in the concrete wholeness of the occurrence the implication that twice two are five. It would be more inexplicable that God should not know His multiplication table than that any occurrence whatever, however inexplicable it may seem to us, should nevertheless be due to natural causation. God is not bare omnipotence; He is absolute omniscience as well. He cannot possibly be the immediate agent in an act in which a gross failure of “wisdom” is apparent, no matter how difficult it may be for us to explain that act without calling in omnipotence as its producing cause. Still less can He be supposed to be the immediate actor in occurrences in which immoralities are implicated; or, in which, in their wholeness, as concrete facts, there are embodied implications of, say, irreligion or of superstition. Whether we can see how such occurrences are wrought, or not, we know from the outset that God did not work them. It would be more inexplicable that God should be directly active in them than that they should be the product of natural causation, though to suppose this to be the fact would be to confound all our previous conceptions of natural causation. Charles Hodge speaks not a whit too strongly when he asserts154 that “we are not only authorized but required to pronounce anathema an apostle or angel from heaven who should call upon us to receive as a revelation from God anything absurd or wicked.”
God, indeed, has Himself forewarned us here. He has said:155 “If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he give thee a sign and a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other Gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or unto that dreamer of dreams.” Conformity in their implications to what God has already revealed of Himself, He Himself makes the test of all alleged miracles. It would be more inexplicable that God by His action should confuse the revelation which He has made of His Being, of men’s relation to Him, and of the duty of service which they owe to Him and to Him alone than that inexplicable things should yet be produced by natural causation. It is a primary principle, therefore, that no event can be really miraculous which has implications inconsistent with fundamental religious truth. Even though we should stand dumb before the wonders of Lourdes, and should be utterly incapable of suggesting a natural causation for them, we know right well they are not of God. The whole complex of circumstances of which they are a part; their origin in occurrences, the best that can be said of which is that they are silly; their intimate connection with a cult derogatory to the rights of God who alone is to be called upon in our distresses,—stamp them, prior to all examination of the mode of their occurrence, as not from God. We are far more sure that they are not from God than we ever can be sure, after whatever scrutiny, of precisely how they are wrought. It is doubtless something like this that is expressed—it ought to be at least this that is meant—by Émile Zola’s crisp remark:156 “That two and two make four may have become trite—but nevertheless they do make four. It is less foolish and less mad to say so than to believe, for example, in the miracles of Lourdes.” That God is one, and that He alone is to be served with religious veneration, is no doubt an old revelation. It is nevertheless a true revelation. And he who takes it as such can never believe that miracles are wrought at Lourdes.
Of course, as R. H. Benson puts it,157 “those who believe in God and His Son and the Mother of God on quite other grounds,” may declare that “Lourdes is enough.” But this is not to make the miracles carry the doctrine, but the doctrine the miracles, in accordance with J. H. Newman’s proposition that it is all a matter of point of view, of presuppositions.158 To those, on the other hand, who believe in God and His Son, as they have revealed themselves in the pages of Holy Scripture, but not in a Mother of God, standing between us and God and His Son, and usurping their place in our hearts and worship, Lourdes very distinctly is not enough. It would require something very different from what happens at Lourdes to make them see the express finger of God there. It is not He who rules there so much as that incoherent goddess who has announced herself to her worshippers with as fine a disregard of the ordinary laws of grammar and intelligible speech as of the fundamental principles of Christianity, in the remarkable words, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” as if one should say, “I am the procession of the equinoxes,” or “I am the middle of next week.” “The whole place,” says Benson,159 “is alive with Mary.” That is the very reason why we are sure that the marvels which occur there are not the direct acts of God, but are of the same order as the similar ones which have occurred at many similar shrines, of many names, in many lands, serving many gods. How close all these lie to one another is singularly illustrated by what we are told of a daughter shrine of Lourdes’s own, in that Near East which is the meeting place of peoples and religions. At least, we read:160 “The sanctuary of Feri Keuï at Constantinople, dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, is a place of pilgrimage and a source of miraculous cures for Christians, Jews, and Mussulmans. Its silver-wedding was celebrated recently with an assemblage of people of the religions which live in the Turkish Empire.” What Lourdes has to offer is the common property of the whole world, and maybe had by men of all religions, calling upon their several gods.
Benjamin B. Warfield
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1 Mysticism and the Creed, 1914, p. ix.
2 The Sacred Shrine, 1912, p. xi.
3 The sense of this continuity is very strong among Romanist writers; e. g., R. H. Benson, Lourdes, 1914, p. 59: “ ‘These signs shall follow them that believe,’ He said Himself; and the history of the Catholic Church is an exact fulfillment of the words. It was so, St. Augustine tells us, at the tombs of the martyrs; five hundred miracles were reported at Canterbury within a few years of St. Thomas’ martyrdom. And now here is Lourdes, as it has been for fifty years, in this little corner of France.”
4 The same general point of view finds expression sometimes in non-Romanist quarters. For example, J. Arthur Hill, The Hibbert Journal, October, 1906, vol. V, p. 118, writes as follows: “Christ’s miracles and resurrection were objective phenomena, and Christianity was based upon them.… But belief in Christianity has gradually crumbled away because there has been no continuance of well-attested cognate facts. The Catholic miracles and ecstasies make belief easier for one section of Christianity; but Protestantism—which cuts off miracles at the end of the Apostolic Times—has committed suicide; by making unique events of its basic phenomena it has made continued belief in them impossible.” On this view no man can believe in miracles who has not himself witnessed miracles. Testimony is discredited out of hand; man believes only what he has seen. Must we not go further on this ground? Can a man continue to believe in miracles unless he continues to see them? Is not memory itself a kind of testimony? Must not there be a continuous miracle in order to support continuous faith? We cannot thus chop up the continuity of life, whether of the individual or of the race, in the interests of continuous miracle. Granted that one or the other must be continuous, life or miracle; but both need not be.
5 Above, pp. 17 ff., 61 ff.
6 Römische Geschichte, I, p. 181.
7 Wunderglaube im Heidentum und in der alten Kirche, 1901, p. 101.
8 Op. cit., pp. 56–57.
9 Loc. cit.
10 Monasticism and the Confessions of Augustine, E. T., p. 123.
11 History of Dogma, E. T., vol. V, p. 172, note 1.
12 The City of God, book XXI, chap. iv (Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. II, p. 458).
13 De cura pro mortuis gerenda, c. 12:15 (Migne, vol. VI, pp. 602 f.).
14 Dialog., IV, 36 (Migne, vol. III, p. 384 A).
15 Philopseudes, 25 (The Works of Lucian of Samosata, translated by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, vol. III, 1905, p. 244).
16 Die christliche Legende des Abendlandes, 1910, p. 111.
17 The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. X, 1911, p. 130.
18 Les Légendes Hagiographiques, 1905, p. 210.
19 Hellenistische Wundererzählungen, 1906, p. 6.
20 Eusebius, The Preparation for the Gospel, 11:37 (E. T. by E. H. Gifford, vol. III, pp. 610 f.), quotes it from Plutarch’s treatise On the Soul. Plutarch is speaking of his friend Antyllus. He writes: “For he was ill not long ago, and the physician thought that he could not live; but having recovered a little from a slight collapse, though he neither did nor said anything else showing derangement, he declared that he had died and had been set free again, and was not going to die at all of that present illness, but that those who had carried him away were seriously reproved by their Lord; for, having been sent for Nicandas, they had brought him back instead of the other. Now, Nicandas was a shoe-maker, besides being one of those who frequent the palustræ, and familiar and well-known to many. Wherefore the young men used to come and mock him, as having run away from his fate, and as having bribed the officers sent from the other world. It was evident, however, that he was himself at first a little disturbed and disquieted; and at last he was attacked by a fever and died suddenly the third day. But this Antyllus came to life again, and is alive and well, and one of our most agreeable friends.”
21 Psyche2, 1898, vol. II, p. 364, note.
22 Festschrift Theodor Gomperz dargebracht, usw., 1902.
23 Loc. cit.
23a Erasmus has some very sensible remarks on the matter (Epistle 475) which J. A. Froude (Life and Letters of Erasmus, 1894, p. 301) reproduces in a condensed form thus: “This Dialogue [Lucian’s Philopseudes] teaches us the folly of superstition, which creeps in under the name of religion. When lies are told us Lucian bids us not disturb ourselves, however complete the authority which may be produced for them. Even Augustine, an honest old man and a lover of truth, can repeat a tale as authentic which Lucian had ridiculed under other names so many years before Augustine was born. What wonder, therefore, that fools can be found to listen to the legends of the saints or to stories about hell, such as frighten cowards or old women. There is not a martyr, there is not a virgin, whose biographies have not been disfigured by these monstrous absurdities. Augustine says that lies when exposed always injure the truth. One might fancy they were invented by knaves or unbelievers to destroy the credibility of Christianity itself.” Miracles, according to Erasmus, did not happen in his time—though they were said to happen. “I have spoken of miracles,” he writes (Froude, p. 351). “The Christian religion nowadays does not require miracles, and there are none; but you know that lying stories are set about by crafty knaves.” He describes with his biting satire what happened (and did not happen) when the Protestants took over Basle. “Smiths and carpenters were sent to remove the images from the churches. The roods and the unfortunate saints were cruelly handled. Strange that none of them worked a miracle to avenge their dignity, when before they had worked so many at the slightest provocation” (p. 359). “No blood was shed; but there was a cruel assault on altars, images, and pictures. We are told that St. Francis used to resent light remarks about his five wounds, and several other saints are said to have shown displeasure on similar occasions. It was strange that at Basle not a saint stirred a finger. I am not so much surprised at the patience of Christ and the Virgin Mary” (p. 360). As to relics and relic-worship: “What would Jerome say could he see the Virgin’s milk exhibited for money; with as much honor paid to it as to the consecrated body of Christ; the miraculous oil; the portions of the true cross, enough if they were collected to freight a large ship? Here we have the head of St. Francis, there our Lady’s petticoat or St. Anne’s cowl, or St. Thomas of Canterbury’s shoes; not presented as innocent aids to religion, but as the substance of religion itself—and all through the avarice of priests and the hypocrisy of monks playing on the credulity of the people. Even bishops play their parts in these fantastic shows, and approve and dwell on them in their rescripts” (pp. 121 f.).
24 Legenden-Studien, 1906; Die christliche Legende des Abendlandes, 1910.
25 Die christliche Legende, usw., p. 69.
26 Pp. 3, 4.
27 P. 117.
28 Op. cit., p. 8; cf. Legenden-Studien, p. 70.
29 Die christliche Legende, usw., p. 118.
30 On the miracles, especially of healing, of classical antiquity, see E. Thräner, art., “Health and Gods of Healing,” in Hastings’s ERE, vol. VI, pp. 540–566; Otto Weinreich, Antike Heilungswunder, 1909; R. Lembert, Die Wunderglaube der Römer und Griechen, 1905; and Antike Wunderkuren, 1911; G. von Rittersheim, Der medizin. Wunderglauben und die Incubation im Altertum, 1878; L. Deubner, De Incubatione, 1900; M. Hamilton, Incubation, 1906. On the transference of the heathen customs to Christianity, see Deubner and Hamilton, and especially E. Lucius, Die Anfänge des Heiligenkults in der christliche Kirche, 1904; Th. Trede, Wunderglaube im Heidentum und in der alten Kirche, 1901, and Das Heidentum in der Römishen Kirche, 4 vols., 1889–1891; P. Saintyves, Les Saints successeurs des Dieux, 1907. With respect to the mediæval miracles, see especially P. Toldo of Turin, who began in 1901 in the Studien der vergleichenden Literaturgeschichte a “scientific classification” of the mediæval miracles, in a series of articles entitled, “Lives and Miracles of the Saints in the Middle Ages”; see also Koch’s Zeitschrift für vergleichende Literaturgeschichte, vol. XIV (1901), pp. 267 ff., where Toldo prints the Introduction to these studies. The bizarre character of these miracles is fairly illustrated by a brief but brightly written review of them in R. A. Vaughan’s Hours with the Mystics,6 1903, vol. II, pp. 218–222.
31 Heinrich Günter, The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. X, 1911, p. 229, singles the stigmata out from other miraculous manifestations as “an especially Christian manifestation”; all the rest have heathen parallels.
32 Consult, however, A. M. Königer, in Schiele and Zscharnack’s Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, vol. V, 1913, col. 924: “In the absolute sense in which it has been until recently thought to be such, Francis of Assisi does not begin the long list. It is, on the contrary, possible to show that at the least the idea of imitating the stigmata, as a consequence of longing after the sufferings of the Lord, was active for the period of the opening thirteenth century when not only was reverence for the sufferings of Christ fostered by the crusades, but more still self-mortifications of all sorts were set on foot by the growing call to repentance and amendment. Consult the self-mutilations of the Belgian Beguine Marie of Oignies († 1213), of the religious fanatic condemned by the Oxford Synod of 1222, further of the Marquis Robert of Montferrand, about 1226, of the Dutch hermit Dodon von Hasha († 1231).”
Francis was not only the first of the stigmatics in both time and importance, but presented the stigmata in a form which has remained peculiar to himself. The contemporary accounts agree in describing the marks on his hands and feet as blackish, fleshy excrescences, recalling in form and color the nails with which the hands and feet of Jesus were pierced. Only the mark in the side was a wound, whence at times exuded a little blood. No bloody exudation took place except at the side. (Cf. Paul Sabatier, Life of Francis of Assist, E. T., 1894, p. 296, note, and p. 435). Francis’s stigmatization consisted, then, not of five bleeding wounds but of the imitation of the four nails and the spear thrust in the side. The description given of them by Brother Elias (Sabatier, p. 436) in his letters as Vicar of the Order to the brothers, sent out after Francis’s death, describes them as follows: “For (or Not) a long time before his death our Brother and Father appeared as crucified, having in his body five wounds, which are truly the stigmata of Christ, for his hands and his feet bore marks as of nails without and within, forming a sort of scars; while at the side he was as if pierced with a lance, and often a little blood oozed from it.” Joseph von Görres, Die christliche Mystik, ed. of 1836, vol. II, p. 422, puts together a very detailed description of the wounds on the hands and the feet: “The wounds of notable extent opened in the centre of the extremities. In the middle of them had grown out of the flesh and cellular tissue nails like iron; black, hard, fixed, with heads above, below pointed and as if clinched, so that a finger could be inserted between them and the skin. They were movable from side to side, and if drawn out to one side, were correspondingly drawn in on the other but could not be extracted; as St. Clara discovered when she tried to extract them after his death, and could not do it. The fingers remained, moreover, flexible as before, and the hands performed their service; neither did the feet fail, although walking had become more difficult to him, and he therefore rode thereafter in his journeying through the neighborhood.” A. Tholuck, Vermischte Schriften, 1839, I, pp. 105 f., points out the defects in the testimony: “In the case of all other saints the legend speaks only of wound scars, and the portraits of Francis present him only with the scars; the old reporters nevertheless describe them in a peculiar way as if there had grown nails of flesh, with the color of fresh iron and with clinched points. Nevertheless perfect clearness is lacking in the reports. The report of the tres socii says: nails of flesh were seen et ferri quoque nigredinem. Celano says: Non clavorum quidem puncturas, sed ipsos clavos in eis impositos, ex ferri recenti nigredine; the last words yield no sense, and the editors conjecture: ex ferri recentis nigredinem. The matter is spoken of still less clearly in a letter of Francis’s immediate successor in the generalship of the Minorites (in Wadding, ad annum 1226, no. 45). Here we read: Nam manus ejus et pedes, quasi puncturas clavorum habuerunt ex utraque parte confixas, reservantes cicatrices, et clavorum nigredinem ostendentes. According to this also nails were present.” For recent discussions see the works mentioned at the close of the article on the “Stigmatics” in Schiele and Zscharnack, as cited, pp. 433–443.
33 Görres, as cited, pp. 426–428: cf. Margaret Roberts, Saint Catherine of Sienna and Her Times2, 1907, p. 103: “Catherine spent long hours in the Church of St. Cristina, and it was there that to her inner consciousness she received the stigmata, invisible to human eyes, but to her awfully real.” On her bloody sweat and weeping with bloody tears, see Augusta T. Drane, The History of St. Catherine of Siena3, 1899, vol. I, p. 52.
34 Germano di Stanislao, Gemma Galgati, German version by P. Leo Schlegel, 1913; W. F. Ludwig, Gemma Galgati, eine Studie aus jüngste Zeit, 1912. The most well-known instance of stigmatization of the later years of the nineteenth century was probably Louise Lateau. Her case is discussed by William A. Hammond, Spiritualism and Allied Causes and Conditions of Nervous Derangement, 1876, pp. 350–362; on page 350 an extended bibliography is given which may be supplemented from that at the end of the article, “Stigmatization,” in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. XI, pp. 96–97. A. Rohling’s Louise Lateau, nach authentischen medizinischen und theologischen Documenten, 1874, was translated and printed in The Catholic Review, and afterward in a pamphlet entitled Louise Lateau, Her Stigmas and Ecstasy, New York, Hickey & Co., 1891. The following account is drawn from this pamphlet.
Louise Lateau was born a peasant girl, in a Belgian village, on the 30th of January, 1850. Her early life was passed in poverty and sickness. In the spring of 1867 she fell into a violent illness, and remained in a dying condition for a year, suffering from abscesses and hemorrhages, until she was miraculously cured, arising at once from her bed, on the 20th of April, 1868. “Three days later,” says Rohling, “Louise received the stigmas of our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (p. 8). Here is the account given by Doctor Rohling:
“We have seen that she was suddenly restored to health on the 20 April, 1868. During the two following days she continued perfectly well, the thought of receiving the stigmas of the Passion never of course entering her mind. Indeed at that time, she had never even heard of God’s having bestowed this wonderful favor either on St. Francis, or upon any other of his faithful servants. On the 24th of April, however, she experienced a return of those excruciating pains, from which she had been enduring a martyrdom of suffering since the beginning of the preceding year. And on the same day, which was Friday, the first trace of the stigmas appeared. On that occasion, however, blood flowed only from the left side. Next day the bleeding had entirely ceased, and all the pain had disappeared. Louise, thinking that it was some transient form of her late illness, remained silent about what had occurred. But on the following Friday, the 1st of May, the stigmas again appeared; and the blood now flowed not only from the side, as in the previous week, but also from the upper surface of both feet. Filled with anxiety and embarrassment, Louise still kept the matter a profound secret, speaking of it only to her confessor … (who) … made nothing of what had occurred.… On the next Friday, the 8th of May, blood came as in the previous weeks, and, in addition, about nine o’clock in the morning it began to flow copiously from the palms and backs of both hands.” …“Since then the bleeding is accustomed to return on Fridays.” “On the 25th September, 1868, blood flowed for the first time from the forehead and from a number of points around the head—a striking memorial of our Lord’s crown of thorns—and this has also occurred regularly ever since. On the 26th April, 1873, an additional wound of large dimensions appeared on Louise’s right shoulder, such as our Lord received in carrying the cross to Calvary. The blood usually begins to flow from the stigmas about midnight on Thursdays; occasionally the bleeding from the left side does not begin until somewhat later. Sometimes blood flows only from either the upper or lower surface of the feet, and from either the palms or backs of the hands; but frequently the bleeding takes place from both. Nor is the time uniform, during which the bleeding continues … but invariably the blood ceases to flow before midnight Friday. The first symptom of the commencement of the bleeding is the formation of blisters on the hands and feet.… When they are fully developed, the blisters burst, the watery liquid passes off, and blood immediately begins to flow from the true skin beneath.… During the rest of the week, the position of the stigmas can be discerned by a reddish tinge, and a glassy appearance of the skin, the epidermis is intact, exhibiting no trace of wound or scar, and beneath it with the aid of a good lens (with a magnifying power of 20) the skin may be observed in its normal condition.… During the ecstasy Louise has no consciousness of material occurrences around her.… The stigmas are the seat of acute pain.”
35 Les Stigmatisées, Louise Lateau, etc., Paris, 1873; La Stigmatization, l’ecstasie divine, et les miracles de Lourdes, Paris, 1894. We are drawing, however, directly from The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIV, p. 294. Two American cases are described incidentally in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. VII (1891–1892), pp. 341 and 345.
36 Migne, Dictionnaire des Prophéties et des Miracles, p. 1069.
37 Op. cit., pp. 1068 f.; cf. Revue des Deux Mondes, May 1, 1907, p. 207.
38 G. Dumas, Revue des Deux Mondes, May 1, 1907, p. 207, quoting Ribadeneira, Vie d’Ignace de Loyola, book V, chap. x.
39 Pp. 1066 ff.
40 P. 1070.
41 Pp. 1080 f.
42 A. Poulain, The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIV, p. 295: “It seems historically certain that ecstatics alone have the stigmata.”
43 It is the judgment of a sympathetic critic that “trances, losses of consciousness, automatisms, visions of lights, audition of voices, ‘stigmata,’ and such like experiences, are evidences of hysteria, and they are not in themselves evidences of divine influence or of divine presence.”—Rufus M. Jones, Studies in Mystical Religion, 1909, p. xxviii. Compare what he says more at large, when speaking of Francis of Assisi (p. 165): “The modern interpreter, unlike the mediæval disciple, finds this event, if it is admitted, a point of weakness rather than a point of strength. Instead of proving to be the marks of a saint, the stigmata are the marks of emotional and physical abnormality.” In a like spirit, Baron von Hügel, The Mystical Element of Religion, vol. II, p. 42, declares generally that “the downright ecstatics and hearers of voices and seers of visions have all, wherever we are able to trace their temperamental and normal constitution and history, possessed and developed a definitely peculiar psycho-physical organization.” On the Stigmata and Stigmatics, see especially F. W. H. Myers, Personality, Human and Divine, vol. I, pp. 492 ff.
44 Die christliche Mystik, new ed., 1836, vol. II, pp. 407–468: “Die Ecstase im unterem Leben, und die durch sie gewirkte Transformation der Leiblichkeit.” English translation of this section under the title of The Stigmata: A History of Various Cases, London, 1883.
45 A. M. Königer, in Schiele and Zscharnack, as cited, col. 924: “Their bearers are predominantly women and simple people. In the immaturity of their understanding they have not yet reached stability.…”
46 The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIV, p. 294. The italics are ours.
47 Pp. 205 ff.
48 Görres, op. cit., vol. II, p. 189.
49 J. K. Huysmans, Sainte Lydwine, p. 101.
50 We are reminded by Mrs. E. Herman, however (The Meaning and Value of Mysticism, 1915, p. 159), that in one element of the faith of those “moderns” whom she represents, there is a return to this desire to help Christ save the world. Commenting on some remarks of Angela de Foligno, she says: “To those unacquainted with mediæval religious literature this seems curiously modern in its implied insistence upon our obligation to ask a humble share in the atoning suffering, instead of acquiescing in a doctrine which would make a passive acceptance of Christ’s sufferings on our behalf sufficient for the remission of sins.” No sharing in Christ’s atoning sufferings can be described as humble. It is not the “acceptance of Christ’s sufferings” which is represented by the Scriptures and understood from them by evangelicals as “sufficient for the remission of sins.” It is Christ’s sufferings themselves which are all-sufficient, and the trail of the serpent is seen in any suggestions that they need or admit of supplementing.
51 For example, A. Poulain, as cited; cf. A. M. Königer, as cited: “The analogous cases of suggestion from without (local congestion of blood, slight blood-sweating, formation of blisters, and marks of burning) lie so far from the real stigmata, connected with lesion of the walls of the blood vessels (hemorrhages), that medical science knows as yet nothing else to do but to class this among the ‘obscure neuropathic bleedings.’ ”
52 The Principles of Psychology, ed. 1908, vol. II, p. 612. Compare the statement quoted by A. T. Schofield, The Force of Mind, 1908, pp. 61 f., from Professor Barrett, of Trinity College, Dublin, Humanitarian, 1905: “It is not so well known but it is nevertheless a fact, that utterly startling physiological changes can be produced in a hypnotized subject merely by conscious or unconscious mental suggestion. Thus a red scar or a painful burn, or even a figure of definite shape, such as a cross or an initial, can be caused to appear on the body of the entranced subject solely through suggesting the idea. By creating some local disturbance of the blood-vessels in the skin, the unconscious self has done what it would be impossible for the conscious self to perform. And so in the well-attested cases of stigmata, where a close resemblance to the wounds on the body of the crucified Saviour appears on the body of the ecstatic. This is a case of unconscious self-suggestion, arising from the intent and adoring gaze of the ecstatic upon the bleeding figure on the crucifix. With the abeyance of the conscious self the hidden powers emerge, whilst the trance and mimicry of the wounds are strictly parallel to the experimental cases previously referred to.”
53 These cases, with others of the same kind, are cited by F. W. A. Myers, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. VII (1891–1892), pp. 337 ff., who introduces them with the following remarks: “The subliminal consciousness, it will be seen, was able to turn out to order the most complicated novelty in the way of hysterical freaks of circulation. Let us turn to an equally marked disturbance of the inflammatory type, the production namely, of suppurating blisters by a word of command. This phenomenon has a peculiar interest, since, from the accident of a strong emotional association with the idea of the stigmata in the hands and feet, this special organic effect has been anticipated by the introverted broodings of a line of mystics from St. Francis of Assisi to Louise Lateau.” Cf. the similar cases cited by G. Dumas, as cited, pp. 215 ff.
54 Myers, as cited, p. 333.
55 Letter to Thomas de Gardo, a Florentine physician, printed in the Eighth Book of his Correspondence—as cited by Dumas, as cited, p. 213.
56 Traité de l’Amour de Dieu. Book IV, chap. xv (E. T. in Methuen’s “Library of Devotion,” On the Love of God, 1902, p. 196). Cf. Dumas, as cited, who, however, quotes more at large, including certain phrases (not found in the E. T.) which withdraw somewhat from the purity of the naturalistic explanation.
57 The literature of Stigmatization is very large and varied; a guide to it may be found in the bibliographies attached to the appropriate articles in Herzog-Hauck, the New Schaff-Herzog, Schiele and Zscharnack and The Catholic Encyclopedia. The essay by Dumas in the Revue des Deux Mondes for May 1, 1907, is exceptionally instructive. With it may be consulted the older discussions by A. Maury, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, 1854, vol. IV, and in the Annales Medico-Psychologiques (edited by Baillarger, Cerise, and Longet), 1855; and the more recent studies by R. Virchow, “Ueber Wunder und Medizin,” in the Deutsche Zeitschrift für practische Medizin, 1872, pp. 335–339; Paul Janet, “Une Ecstatique,” in the Bulletin de l’Institute psychologique for July, 1901, and The Mental State of Hystericals: A Study of Mental Stigmata, New York, 1901; and Maurice Apte, Les Stigmatisés, 1903; cf. also W. A. Hammond, Spiritualism and Allied Causes and Conditions of Nervous Derangement, 1876, pp. 329–362, and the short note in W. B. Carpenter, Principles of Mental Physiology, 1874, pp. 689–690. No general description is better than Görres’s, as cited; and no general discussion supersedes Tholuck’s, as cited. O. Stoll, Suggestion und Hypnotismus in der Völker-psychologie2, 1904, pp. 520 ff., is chiefly useful for the setting in which the subject is placed.
58 Les Légendes Hagiographiques, 1905, p. 187. Cf. what is said by G. H. Gerould, Saints’ Legends, 1916, p. 42.
59 L. Deubner, De Incubatione: “The religion of Christians had and has its own demi-gods and heroes; that is to say, its saints and martyrs”; G. Wobbermin, Religionsgeschichtliche Studien, 1896, p. 18: “The saints of the Christian Churches, and especially those of the Greek Church, present a straightforward development of the Greek hero-cult. The saints are the heroes of the Ancients.” Cf. P. Saintyves, Les Saints successeurs des Dieux, 1907, and especially Lucius, as cited; also M. Hamilton, as cited.
60 Cf. Friedrich Pfister, Der Reliquienkult im Altertum, 1902, pp. 429 ff.; E. Lucius, Die Anfänge des Heiligenkults in der christliche Kirche, 1904.
61 Cf. the account by Pfister, as cited, p. 323, and especially 430ff.
62 Cf. Saintyves, as cited, pp. 33 ff. We are told that many of the bones of the eleven thousand virgin martyrs displayed at the Church of St. Ursula at Cologne are bones of men (A. D. White, Warfare, etc., vol. II, p. 29).
63 A. D. White records that Frank Buckland noted that the relics of St. Rosalia at Palermo are really the bones of a goat (Gordon’s Life of Buckland, pp. 94–96); and yet they cure diseases and ward off epidemics.
64 Harbey, Supplément aux Acta Sanctorum, vol. I, 1899, p. 203 (cited by Günter). Cf. in general Saintyves, as cited, pp. 44 ff.
65 H. Günter, Legenden-Studien, 1906, p. 109, note 6, citing the Vita S. Maximini, c. 9 (Scriptores rerum Merov., III, 78).
66 Pausanias, III, 16, 1 (Pfister, p. 325); also Delehaye, p. 186, with references given there.
67 Henri Etienne, Apologie pour Hérodote, ou Traité de la Conformité des Merveilles anciennes avec les modernes, ed. le Duchat, 1735, chaps. xxix–xxviii, as cited by P. Saintyves, as cited, p. 46, who may be consulted (pp. 44–48) on the general subject.
68 Cf. Paul Parfait, La Foire aux Reliques, pp. 137–138.
69 On Mary’s milk, see the whole chapter on “Le Saint Lait d’Evron,” in Paul Parfait, as cited, pp. 135–144. On what may lie in the background of this whole series of legends, see article “Milk,” in Hastings’s ERE, vol. VIII, pp. 633–637.
70 The Sacred Shrine, 1912, p. 363.
71 These words are Mechthild’s; and Him adds: “The idea that the Madonna gives milk to all believers appears finely in a poem in the Swedish collection of Latin hymns, Piœ Cantiones, p. 161:
‘Super vinum et unguentum
the mamme dant fomentum,
fove, lacta parvulos.’ ”
72 P. 365.
73 He gives a series of references to instances.
74 Deutsche Schriften, I, p. 74.
75 Acta Sanctorum, 38, pp. 207–208.
76 Legenden-Studien, 1906, pp. 165 f. Compare Die christliche Legende des Abendlandes, 1910, p. 43: “That the legend [of Mary] praises the Mother of Pity also as the succorer of the sick is a matter of course. But the mysticism of the Mary-legend brought a new means of healing, in that it makes Mary give her breast to the sick.” Cf. the curious details on p. 85. In the notes accompanying the passage quoted from the Legenden-Studien, Günter shows how wide-spread and how full of variants such legends were. In one ms. the motive is varied in a threefold way: a cleric in his illness had bitten off his tongue and lips, and was suddenly healed by Mary’s milk; a monk thought already dead was healed; another monk had his experience only in a dream, but with the same effect. Noting that the milk with which Fulbert, bishop of Chartres, was sprinkled and healed, is said in one ms. to have been gathered up and saved as a relic, Günter infers that the milk-relics date from this epoch. This is how the story of Fulbert is told in Sablon, Histoire et Description de la Cathédrale de Chartres: “St. Fulbert, Bishop and Restorer of this Church, having been visited by God with an incurable fire which parched him and consumed his tongue, and seized with an insupportable pain which permitted him no rest through the night, saw as it were a noble lady who commanded him to open his mouth, and when he had obeyed her she at once ejected from her sacred breasts a flood of celestial and savory milk which quenched the fire at once and made his tongue more well than ever. Some drops had fallen on his cheeks, and these were afterwards put into a vial and kept in the treasury.”
77 Günter, Legenden-Studien, p. 178; Die christliche Legende, pp. 85, 162.
78 Günter, Legenden-Studien, p. 59.
79 Ibid., p. 208.
80 Ibid., p. 107; cf. the list of others of similar character in Th. Trede, Das Heidentum in der Römischen Kirche, I, 1889, pp. 158 ff.
81a Op. cit., p. 610.
82 Legenden-Studien, p. 106.
83 J. B. Heinrich, Dogmatische Theologie, vol. X, p. 797, makes much of this: “A miracle which belongs peculiarly to them, wrought not by but on the holy bodies, is their incorruptibility through the centuries. No doubt this incorruptibility can in many cases be explained by purely natural causes; but in many cases the miracle is obvious. It is especially evident when a portion only of the holy body remains uncorrupted, particularly that portion which was peculiarly placed at the service of God during life, as the tongue of St. John of Neponac, the arm of St. Stephen of Hungary, the heart of St. Teresa, etc. And especially when, with the preservation of the body there is connected a pleasant fragrance instead of the necessarily following penetrating corpse-odor, or when everything was done, as there was done with the body of St. Francis Xavier, to bring about a speedy corruption.” It is astonishing what stress is laid on this incorruptibility of the body of the saints. Thus Herbert Thurston (Hastings’s ERE, VIII, 149) thinks it worth while, in a very condensed article on Lourdes, to record, of Bernadette Soubirous: “It is noteworthy that, though her body at the time of death (1879) was covered with tumors and sores, it was found, when the remains were officially examined in 1909, thirty years afterwards, entire and free from corruption (see Carriére, Histoire de Notre-Dame de Lourdes, p. 243).” On this matter see A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology, 1896, II, pp. 10, 11, who sets it in its right light, and mentions similar instances—of those who were not saints.
84 Accordingly, Percy Dearmer, Body and Soul9, 1912, p. 262, says: “For the greater part of Christian history faith-healing was mainly centered in relics, so that probably more people have benefited in this way than in any other.” Speaking particularly no doubt of the ancient church, but in terms which would apply to every age, Heinrich (op. cit., X, p. 796) observes: “Now, however, these miracles are regularly wrought at the graves, in the churches, and often precisely by the relics of the saints,” and he is led to add two pages further on (p. 798): “There is scarcely another doctrine of the church which has been so approved, established by God Himself, as the veneration of the saints and relics”—that is to say by miraculous attestation.
85 For the literature of pilgrimages, see the bibliography attached to the article “Wallfahrt und Wallfahrtsorten,” in Schiele and Zscharnack’s Religion.
86 Hastings’s ERE, vol. VIII, pp. 684 f. It is a refreshing note that Meister Eckhard strikes, proving that common sense was not quite dead even in the opening years of the fourteenth century, when he asks, “What is the good of the dead bones of saints? The dead can neither give nor take.”
87 W. R. Inge, Christian Mysticism, 1889, p. 262 and note 2, is prepared to maintain that “a degraded form” of fetichism is exhibited in much else in modern Roman Catholicism than its relic-worship. He finds it exhibited, for example, “by the so-called neo-mystical school of modern France, and in the baser types of Roman Catholicism everywhere.” He adduces in illustration Huysmans two “mystical” novels, En Route and La Cathédrale, and comments as follows: “The naked fetichism of the latter book almost passes belief. We have a Madonna who is good-natured at Lourdes and cross-grained at La Salette; who likes ‘pretty speeches and little coaxing ways’ in ‘paying court’ to her, and who at the end is apostrophised as ‘our Lady of the Pillar,’ ‘our Lady of the Crypt.’ It may, perhaps, be excusable to resort to such expedients as these in the conversion of savages” (Query: Is it?); “but there is something singularly repulsive in the picture (drawn apparently from life) of a profligate man of letters seeking salvation in a Christianity which has lowered itself far beneath educated paganism.” “Our Lady of the Pillar,” “Our Lady of the Crypt,” are two images of Mary venerated at the cathedral at Chartres, information concerning which is given in the article entitled “The oldest of our Lady’s Shrines: St. Mary’s Under-Earth,” in The Dolphin, vol. VI (July–December, 1904), pp. 377–399. On Mary’s shrines in general, see below. Those who have read Huysmans’s La Cathédrale should read also Blasco Ibañes’s La Catedral, and perhaps Evelyn Underhill’s The Lost Word, that the lascinations of cathedral symbolism may be viewed from several angles.
88 Op. cit., vol. X, p. 799. Yet it is not merely God who is venerated in the saints, he says; there is an honor due to the saints in themselves, and accordingly Alexander VIII condemned the proposition: The honor that is offered to Mary as Mary is vain. On the other hand it is said that it is merely the saint and through him God that is venerated in the relic, according to the explanation of Thomas Aquinas: “We do not adore the sensible body on its own account, but on account of the soul which was united with it, which is now in the enjoyment of God, and on account of God, whose ministers they were.” Why then continue to adore the body when it is no longer united with the soul, on account of its union with which alone it is adored?
89 P. 794.
90 P. 794.
91 What Pfister says, p. 610, although not free from exaggerations, is in its main assertion true. In the Christian religion, he says, the presence in the relics of a supernatural, in a certain degree magical, power is accustomed to be emphasized even more than it is in the heathen. For, according to the Greek belief, the graves were thought of chiefly as the protection of the heroes, without the bones themselves being thought able to work miracles—for they rest in the grave; the miracle, the help, comes in general from the hero himself, not from an anonymous, impersonal, magical power which dwells in the relics. According to the Christian belief the relics themselves, on the other hand, can perform miracles, and the power residing in them can by contact be directly transferred and produce effects. Thus artificial relics can be produced by contact with genuine ones. The habit of relic-partition is connected with this: a part of the object filled with magical power may act like the whole. Compare Hirn, p. 490, note 2: “We deliberately leave out of consideration here the assertion of educated Catholics that in the relics was really worshipped the saint in the same way that God is worshipped in a picture or a symbol (cf. Esser, art., ‘Reliquien,’ in Wetzer-Welte, Kirchenlexicon). It cannot be doubted that relic worship—for the earlier Christians as for the mass of believers to-day—was based on utilitarian ideas of the help that might be had from the sacred remains.”
92 See the characterization of the Catholic world-view, by E. Schmidt in Schiele and Zscharnack’s Religion, etc., vol. V, col. 1736.
93 Baumgarten, in Schiele and Zscharnack’s Religion, etc., vol. V, col. 2162.
94 The Sacred Shrine, chaps. i–iv.
95 Compare Smith and Cheatham, Dictionary of Christian Archæology, I, pp. 62, 429; II, p. 1775, and especially I, p. 431: “As churches built over the tombs of martyrs came to be regarded with peculiar sanctity, the possession of the relics of some saint came to be looked upon as absolutely essential to the sacredness of the building, and the deposition of such relics in or below the altar henceforward formed the central portion of the consecration rite.” The succeeding account of the ritual of the consecration should be read.
96 The literature of relics and relic-veneration is sufficiently indicated in the bibliographies attached to the articles on the subject in the encyclopedias: Herzog-Hauck, New Schaff-Herzog, Schiele-Zscharnack. The exhibition of the Holy Coat at Trèves from August 20 to October 3, 1891, with the immense crowd of pilgrims which it brought to Trèves, created an equally immense literature, a catalogue of which may be derived from the Theologischer Jahresbericht of the time, and a survey of which will give an insight into the whole subject of the veneration of relics in the nineteenth century.
97 The recent history of relic-miracles in the United States is chiefly connected with the veneration of relics of St. Ann. Certain relics of St. Anthony venerated in the Troy Hill Church at Allegheny, Pa., have indeed won large fame for the miracles of healing wrought by their means, and doubtless the additional relic of the same saint deposited in the Italian Church of St. Peter, on Webster Avenue, Pittsburgh, has taken its share in these works. But St. Ann seems to promise to be the peculiar wonder-worker of the United States. The Church of St. Anne de Beaupré has, within recent years, become the most popular place of pilgrimage in Canada; until 1875 not over 12,000 annually visited this shrine, but now they are counted by the hundred thousand; in 1905 the number was 168,000. A large relic of St. Ann’s finger-bone has been in the possession of this shrine since 1670; three other fragments of her arm have been acquired since, and it was in connection with the acquisition of one of these, in 1892, that the cult and its accompanying miracles of healing were transferred to New York. St. Ann seems to be one of those numerous saints too much of whom has been preserved in the form of relics. Her body is said to have been brought from the Holy Land to Constantinople, in 710; and it is said to have been still in the Church of St. Sophia in 1333. It was also, it is said, brought by Lazarus to Gaul, during the persecution of the Jewish Christians in Palestine under Herod Agrippa, and finally found a resting-place at Apt. Lost to sight through many years, it was rediscovered there in the eighth century, and has been in continuous possession of the church at Apt ever since. Yet the head of St. Ann was at Mainz up to 1516, when it was stolen and carried to Düren in the Rhineland, and her head, “almost complete”—doubtless derived from Apt—is preserved also at Chiry, the heir of the Abbey of Ourscamp. Churches in Italy, Germany, Hungary, and in several towns in France “flatter themselves that they possess more or less considerable portions of the same head, or the entire head” (Paul Parfait, Le Foire aux Reliques, p. 94, in an essay on “The Head of St. Ann at Chiry”). Despite all this European history, a relic of St. Ann was again brought from Palestine in the thirteenth century, and it was this that was given to St. Anne d’Auray in Brittany in the early half of the seventeenth century by Ann of Austria and Louis XIII. The origin of the pilgrimages and healings at St. Anne d’Auray was not in this relic, however, but antedated its possession, taking their start from apparitions of St. Ann (1624–1626). The relics which have been recently brought to this country are said to derive ultimately from Apt. Thence the Pope obtained an arm of the saint which was intrusted to the keeping of the Benedictine monks of St. Paul-outside-the-Wall, Rome. From them, through the kind offices of Leo XIII, Cardinal Taschereau obtained the “great relic” which was presented to St. Anne de Beaupré in 1892; and from thence also came the relic, obtained by Prince Cardinal Odeschalchi, and presented to the Church of St. Jean Baptiste in East Seventy-sixth Street, New York, the same year (July 15, 1892). Another fragment was received by the Church of St. Jean Baptiste on August 6, 1893; and some years later still another fragment was deposited in the Church of St. Ann in Fall River, Mass., whence it was stolen on the night of December 1, 1901.
The “Great Relic”—a piece of the wrist-bone of St. Ann, four inches in length—was brought from Rome by Monsignor Marquis; and, on his way to Quebec, he stopped in New York with it. Monsignor O’Reilly has given us an enthusiastic account of the effect of its exposition at the Church of St. Jean Baptiste during the first twenty days of May of that year (see the Ave Maria of August 6, 1892; and The Catholic Review of the same date). Something like two or three hundred thousand people venerated the relic; cures were wrought, though apparently not very many. When Monsignor Marquis returned on July 15 with the fragment which was to remain at St. Jean Baptiste, the enthusiasm was redoubled, and St. Ann did not let her feast-day (July 26) pass “without giving some signal proof of her love to her children.” Since then a novena and an exposition of the relics are held during the latter part of each July, in conjunction with St. Ann’s feast-day, and many miracles have been wrought. In 1901 a new marble crypt was completed at the church, and used for the first time for this novena and exposition, and public attention was very particularly called to it. The public press was filled with letters pointing out abuses, or defending the quality of the cures, which were numerous and striking (see a short summary note in The Presbyterian Banner, August 8, 1901). On the whole Monsignor O’Reilly’s hope that the depositing of the relics of St. Ann in the Church of St. Jean Baptiste will result in “the founding here in New York of what will become a great national shrine of St. Anne”—to be signalized, the editor of the Ave Maria adds, “by such marvels as have rendered the sanctuaries of St. Anne de Beaupré and St. Anne d’Auray famous throughout Christendom”—seems in a fair way to be fulfilled. The following is a typical instance of what is happening there. It was reported in The Catholic Telegraph. It is the case of a young man aged nineteen, of New Haven, Conn.: “Two years ago young Maloney, who was working at the time in a New Haven factory, fell and injured his hip. Every doctor consulted said he would be a cripple for life. When he walked he was obliged to use crutches. Until recently he has been under the care of the ablest physicians in the city, yet all declared him incurable. Hearing of several cures wrought at St. Anne’s shrine, New York, he started thither, making a retreat on arriving. After several days spent in prayer, he visited the shrine of St. Anne. The morning of his visit he received holy communion, and then the relic of the saint was applied, and the sufferer anointed with consecrated oil. Almost instantly he felt better. Another visit and he was able to walk without crutches, leaving the latter before the shrine in which the relics are kept. He was well, quite well, and thus returned to New Haven, to the astonishment of all who knew him.” It is worth noting that the Cincinnati Enquirer of July 28 and the Lexington (Ky.) Leader of July 29, 1902, record the sudden cure of a deaf woman in St. Anne’s Church, West Covington, Ky., on St. Ann’s feast-day. “She said she had heard the key in the tabernacle, which contains a relic of St. Ann, click as the priest turned it”—and after that she heard everything.
The following extract from The New York Tribune for August 13, 1906, will be not uninteresting in this connection: “Two thousand quarts of water from the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, in France, arrived here in huge sealed casks on Saturday, consigned to the Fathers of Mercy, who have charge of the American shrine of that name, at Broadway and Aberdeen Street, Brooklyn. The water will be distributed to thousands of physically afflicted men, women and children from all parts of the country next Wednesday afternoon and the following Sunday. Next Wednesday in the Catholic calendar is known as the Feast of the Assumption. It is the titular day of the French shrine, and is kept with equal solemnity by the Fathers of Mercy at the American shrine. The water comes to this country under the seal of the clergy in charge of the French shrine, who guarantee it to be undiluted. Father Porcile, rector of the Brooklyn church, said yesterday that only two ounces would be given to each person applying. The celebration of the festival will begin at [blurred] o’clock on Wednesday morning with a solemn mass. In the afternoon at 3.30 o’clock the pilgrimage to the shrine, which has stood for years on the grounds of the church, will take place. Father Porcile, who has been at the French shrine several times, says the French Government will not attempt to carry out the threatened abandonment of Lourdes on the charge that it is a menace to public health. ‘I read about French pathologists holding that the piscina in which the afflicted bathe is unhealthy,’ he said. ‘Anybody who has seen the piscina knows better. It is not a pool, but a cavity, which is filled with running water. If the pool were stagnant, it might be argued, with some show of truth, that it was unhealthful.’ ” It is only right to suppose that the reporter misunderstood his collocutor with regard to the piscinas—whether their formation or their filth. Their filth is not glossed by, say, Robert Hugh Benson (Lourdes, 1914, pp. 51 ff.), who bathed in one of them: “That water,” says he, “had better not be described.”
98 Cf. Günter, Legenden-Studien, p. 177, and especially Die christliche Legende des Abendlandes, pp. 35 ff.
99 This string of epithets is taken from the Roman Breviary, Antiphon to the Magnificat. If we wish to know the extravagances to which the prevalent Mariolatry can carry people, we may go to Liguori’s Le Glorie di Maria, a book which a J. H. Newman could defend (Letter to Pusey on the Eirenicon, 1866, pp. 105 ff.). “The way of salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary.” “Whoever expects to obtain graces otherwise than through Mary, endeavors to fly without wings.” “Go to Mary, for God has decreed that He will grant no grace otherwise than by the hands of Mary.” “All power is granted to thee (Mary) in heaven and on earth, and nothing is impossible to thee.” “You, oh Holy Virgin, have over God the authority of a Mother, and hence can obtain pardon for the most obdurate of sinners.” Here is the way J. K. Huysmans represents her as thought of by her votaries, doubtless drawing from the life (La Cathédrale, ed. 1903, p. 9): “He meditated on the Virgin whose watchful attentions had so often preserved him from unforeseen danger, easy mistakes, great falls. Was she not”—but we must preserve the French here—“le Puits de la Bonté sans fond, la Collatrice des dons de la bonne Patience, la Tourière des cœurs secs et clos; was she not above all the active and beneficent Mother?”
100 Compare Lachenmann in Schiele and Zscharnack’s Religion, etc., vol. V, col. 1837: “Belief in miracles is the chief motive of the favorite places of pilgrimage and the climax is reached in the innumerable localities where the grace of Mary is sought. The origin of these lies not in the region of veneration of relics since the Catholic church knows neither the grave of Mary nor relics of her body, but goes back to stories of visible appearances or of inner revelations of the Mother of God at particular localities which she herself has thus indicated for her special worship, or as places of grace (La Salette, Lourdes); or else to vows made to Mary by individuals, or by whole communities, in times of need; or finally to the miraculous activities of an image of Mary.”
101 A full account of it is given by Léon Marillier in The Proceedings of the Society of Psychical Research, vol. VII (1891–1892), pp. 100–110.
102 “Our Lady of Pellevoisin,” reprinted in The Catholic Review (New York) for July 30, 1892, from the Liverpool Catholic Times.
103 In J. K. Huysmans’s La Cathédrale we are given a highly picturesque meditation on the several manners in which Mary has revealed herself. She owes something to sinners, it seems, for had it not been for their sin she could never have been the immaculate mother of God. She has tried hard, however, to pay her debt, and has appeared in the most diverse places and in the most diverse fashions—though of late it looks as if she had deserted all her old haunts for Lourdes. She appeared at La Salette as the Madonna of Tears. Twelve years later, when people had got tired of climbing to La Salette (the greatest miracle about which was that people could be got to go there), she appeared at Lourdes, no longer as Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, but as the Madonna of Smiles, the Tenant of the glorious Joys. How everything has been changed! The special aspect in which Mary is worshipped at Chartres, it is added, is under the traits of a child or a young mother, much more as the Virgin of the Nativity than as Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. The old artists of the Middle Ages, working here, have taken care not to sadden her by recalling too many painful memories, and have wished to show, by this discretion, their gratitude to her who has constantly shown herself in their sanctuary the Dispensatrice of benefits, the Chatelaine of graces.
104 The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XV, p. 464.
105 See The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. X, p. 115; vol. XV, p. 115; also B. M. Aladel, The Miraculous Medal: Its Origin, History, etc. Translated from the French by P. S. Baltimore, 1880.
106 Doctor Rouby, La Vérité sur Lourdes, 1910, pp. 318 f.
107 A sufficient outline of these scandals is given in the article on La Salette in The Catholic Encyclopedia, which also mentions the chief literature. It was said that “the beautiful lady” seen by the children was a young woman named Lamerlière; suits for slander were brought; and A. D. White is able to say (Warfare, etc., II, pp. 21–22, note) that the shrine “preserves its healing powers in spite of the fact that the miracle which gave rise to them has twice been pronounced fraudulent by the French courts.” The whole matter is involved in inextricable confusion. A sympathetic account of La Salette may be read in J. S. Northcote, Celebrated Sanctuaries of the Madonna, 1868, pp. 178 ff. Gustave Droz’s first novel, Autour d’une Source, 1869, seems to have drawn part of its inspiration from the story of La Salette; it is extravagantly praised by A. D. White (Warfare, II, p. 44) as “one of the most exquisitely wrought works of modern fiction”; and not quite accurately described as “showing perfectly the recent evolution of miraculous powers at a fashionable spring in France.” It does show how easily such things may be even innocently invented. On the question whether the visions of Bernadette may not have been the result of ecclesiastical arrangement, see J. de Bonnefon, Lourdes et ses Tenanciers, Paris, without date, and, on the other side, G. Bertrin, Lourdes, un document apocryphe, in the Revue practique d’Apologétique, April 15, 1908, pp. 125–133.
108 See Marillier, as cited, and cf. H. Thurston’s remarks in Hastings’s ERE, vol. VIII, p. 149.
109 J. K. Huysmans, in his La Cathédrale, suggests that two rules seem to govern the appearances of Mary. First, she manifests herself only to the poor and humble. Secondly, she accommodates herself to their intelligence and shows herself under the poor images which these lowly people love. “She accepts the white and blue robes, the crowns and garlands of roses, the jewels and chaplets, the appointments of the first communion, the ugliest of attire. The peasants who have seen her, in a word, have had no other examples by which to describe her (except under the appearance of a ‘fine lady’) but the traits of an altar Virgin of the village, of a Madonna of the Saint-Sulpice quarter, of a Queen of the street-corner.”
110 We are quoting A. T. Myers and F. W. H. Myers, Proceedings of the Society of Psychical Research, vol. IX, 1894, p. 177.
111 Legenden-Studien, p. 126.
112 Lourdes, 1891, p. 31, as cited by Myers, as cited, p. 178.
113 Myers, as cited, pp. 178, 179.
114 In the contrast which he draws between La Salette and Lourdes, in his La Cathédrale, J. K. Huysmans does not neglect this one. “And God who imposed La Salette, without having recourse to the methods of worldly publicity, has changed His tactics and, with Lourdes, puffing comes into play. This is very confounding—Jesus resigning Himself to employ the miserable artifices of human commerce, accepting the repulsive stratagems of which we make use in pushing a product or a business!”
115 Lourdes (the first of the triad on “the cities,” Lourdes, Rome, Paris) was published in 1894; E. T. same year, by Vizetelly, and often since. Cf. a critical article on it in The Edinburgh Review, 1903, No. 103. The secret of Lourdes, says Zola, is that it offers to suffering humanity “the delicious bread of hope, for which humanity ever hungers with a hunger that nothing will ever appease”; it proposes to meet “humanity’s insatiable yearning for happiness.” Since its publication Catholic writers on Lourdes have, as is natural, concerned themselves very much with Zola’s book; G. Bertrin’s work (Histoire critique des événements de Lourdes) which reached its 37th edition in 1913, and which Herbert Thurston pronounces “undoubtedly the best general work on Lourdes” (Hastings’s ERE, vol. VIII, p. 150), would not be unfairly described as a formal reply to Zola.
116 Edward Berdoe, “A Medical View of the Miracles at Lourdes,” in The Nineteenth Century, October, 1895, pp. 614 ff. Doctor Berdoe was a liberal-minded Catholic in faith; see Herbert Thurston’s remarks in The Month for November, 1895, and his citation of Doctor Berdoe’s own representations in The Spectator, July, 1895. (Cf. Public Opinion, November 28, 1895, p. 108.)
117 Lourdes, 1914, p. 29.
118 The details are given by Benson, p. 32.
119 A curious fact emerges from Bertrin’s tables in his appendix (E. T., p. 292); more physicians visit Lourdes every year to look on at the cures than there are cures made for them to observe. For the fourteen years from 1890 to 1903, inclusive, 2,530 physicians visited the Medical Office there, an average of 180 yearly. During these fourteen years 2,130 cures were registered at that office, an average of 152 yearly.
120 A. D. White, Warfare, etc.,2 vol. II, p. 24: E. Berdoe, as cited, p. 615. Other estimates of the proportion of the cured to patients may be found in Dearmer, Body and Soul,9 1912, p. 315, and in Rouby, La Vérité sur Lourdes, 1910, p. 272. Rouby thinks that about five out of every thousand patients are cured, that is, about one-half of one per cent; Dearmer can arrive at no more than one per cent from the figures given, and remarks that even if five per cent be allowed, as is asserted by some, the proportion is much smaller than under regular psychotherapeutical treatment.
121 The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. X, 1911, p. 390; cf. the earlier estimates in his Lourdes, A History of its Apparitions and Cures, E. T., 1908, p. 91.
122 A rather favorable opportunity for estimating the proportion of cures to patients seems to be afforded by the figures given concerning the patients from Villepinte, a private asylum for consumptive girls, near Paris. Bertrin (E. T., pp. 98 ff.) tells us that for the three years 1896–1898 inclusive, 58 of these girls were sent to Lourdes, of whom 20 were cured. Rouby (pp. 163 ff.) derives from Boissarie a report also for three years (apparently just preceding those given by Bertrin, but not explicitly identified) during which 58 girls were sent to Lourdes, of whom 24 were cured or ameliorated, the cure being maintained with two or three exceptions. Rouby says he investigated the facts for one of these years, 1894, in which out of 24 girls who were sent, 14 were reported cured or ameliorated; he found that 10 of those so reported afterwards relapsed, leaving only 4 benefited. He went to Villepinte, he says, and investigated personally the facts for 1902, finding that 30 girls had been sent, and all 30 had come back unbenefited; and he quotes Ludovic Naudeau as having investigated the facts for 1901 with the same result—none were benefited. We gather from Bertrin, p. 101, that the same thing was true for 1903. Here, apparently, then, are three consecutive years, 1901–1903, in which no cures at all were wrought in the Villepinte delegation.
123 Benson, as cited, pp. 25–26.
124 We find Doctor E. Mackey, Dublin Review, October, 1880, pp. 396 f., very properly dissenting when Père Bonniot (Le Miracle, etc., p. 89) lays stress thus on suddenness as a proof of miraculousness in a cure. “Mere suddenness of cure,” he says, “is not decisive … the power of imagination is very great.” Cures just as remarkable and just as sudden as those of Lourdes constantly occur in the ordinary experience of physicians. Doctor J. Burney Yeo quite incidentally records two such sudden cases, in an article on a subject remote from Lourdes, in The Nineteenth Century for August, 1888, vol. XXIV, pp. 196–197—one of blindness and the other of lameness. “A gentleman,” says he, “the subject of serious disease, who had shown a tendency to the development of somewhat startling subjective symptoms, suddenly declared that he was blind. He was carefully examined by the writer and by an eminent oculist, and although no particular optical defect could be found in his eyes, to all the tests it was possible to apply, he appeared to be blind. A few days afterwards, and without any apparent or sufficient cause or reason for the change, and almost without comment, he asked for the Times newspaper, which he proceeded to read in bed without any difficulty!” “The next instance,” he continues, “is perhaps still more remarkable. A young woman presented herself at a London Hospital, supporting herself on crutches, and declared she was losing the use of her legs. After one or two questions, and after noticing the awkward manner in which the crutches were used, the writer took from her both crutches, and ordered her, in a firm manner, to walk away without them, which she did! Some years afterwards he was sent for into a distant suburb to see this person’s father, having himself quite forgotten the preceding incident, when this same young woman came forward and reminded him that he ‘had cured her of lameness’ many years ago! Now, although no curative agency whatever, in the ordinary sense, was introduced or applied, in either of these instances, yet one of them might have said, ‘whereas I was blind, now I see,’ and the other, ‘whereas I was lame, now I walk.’ ” Professor Charles (or George?) Buchanan, “a distinguished Professor of Surgery in Glasgow” “visited Lourdes in the autumn of 1883, and was much interested in the undoubted benefit that some of the pilgrims received.” He published some notes in the Lancet of June 25, 1885, from which Doctor A. T. Myers and F. W. H. Myers extract the following account of an instantaneous cure in which he was an actor (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. IX, 1893–1894, pp. 191 ff.). “With regard,” he writes, “to persons who have been lame and decrepit and known as such to their friends, the fact of their leaving their crutches and walking away without help does seem astonishing and miraculous, and it is cases such as these which make the greatest impression.” “I believe that the simple visit to the grotto by persons who believe in it, and the whole surroundings of the place, might have such an effect on the mind that a sudden change in the nerve condition might result in immediate improvement in cases where there is no real change of structure, but where the malady is a functional imitation of organic disease. Such cases are frequent and familiar to all medical men, and are the most intractable they have to deal with, the disorder being in the imagination and not in the part.… It is rather a remarkable coincidence that on October 2, 1883, within three weeks of my visit to Lourdes, I received a letter from Mrs. F., reminding me that some years before I had performed in her case a cure, instantaneous, and to all appearances miraculous, and which she properly attributed to undoubting faith in my word. It is a very good illustration of the kind of case to which I have been alluding, and of the power of mind over mind, and of the effect of imagination in simulating real disease. Mr. F. called on me in October, 1875, and requested me to visit his wife, who had been confined to bed for many months with a painful affection of the spine. When I went into the house I found Mrs. F., a woman of about thirty-one years of age, lying in bed on her left side, and her knees crouched up, that being the position that afforded most relief. She was thin and weak-looking, with a countenance indicative of great suffering. I was informed that for many months she had been in the same condition. She was unable to move her limbs, any attempt being attended with pain, and practically she was paralytic. She was not able to alter her position in bed without help, and this always gave so much trouble that she would have remained constantly in the same position if the attendants had not insisted on moving her to allow of the bed-clothes being changed and arranged. She had altogether lost appetite, and had become dreadfully emaciated, and only took what was almost forced on her by her husband and friends. She had given up all hope of recovery, but had expressed a strong desire to be visited by me in consequence of something she had heard from her husband in connection with a health lecture he had been present at many years before. When I entered her bedroom something in the way she earnestly looked at me suggested the idea that I might have some influence over her supposing it to be a case of hysterical spine simulating real spine irritation and sympathetic paralysis. The story I got was not that of real disease of spine or cord or limbs, and I at once resolved to act on the supposition that it was subjective or functional, and not dependent on actual molecular change or disintegration. I went to her bedside and said suddenly: ‘I cannot do you any good unless you allow me to examine your back.’ In an instant she moved slightly round, and I examined her spine, running my finger over it at first lightly, then very firmly, without her wincing at all. I then said: ‘Get out of bed at once.’ She declared she could not move. I said: ‘You can move quite well; come out of bed,’ and gave her my hand, when, to the surprise of her husband and sister, who looked perfectly thunderstruck, she came out of bed almost with no help at all, and stood alone. I said: ‘Walk across the floor now,’ and without demur, she walked without assistance, saying: ‘I can walk quite well; I knew you would cure me; my pains are gone.’ She then went to bed with very little assistance, lay on her back, and declared she was perfectly comfortable. She was given a glass of milk which she took with relish, and I left the house having performed a cure which to the bystanders looked nothing short of a miracle. For many years I heard nothing of Mrs. F., when on October 2, 1883, I got her letter referred to, and shortly after the patient herself called at my house. In February, 1885, she again called on me. She is at present in fair health, not robust, but cheerful and contented. She says she never altogether regained her full strength; but as an evidence that she is not feeble or unable for a good deal of exertion, I may state that she now lives about five miles from my house, and she made her way alone, partly by omnibus, partly by tramway, and the rest on foot.” Compare the curiously parallel case, happening half a century earlier, described in note 26 to Lecture IV, on the “Irvingite Gifts.”
125 Benson, as cited, p. 24.
126 Bertrin, as cited, p. 280.
127 Pp. 256, 262.
128 P. 280.
129 P. 256.
130 P. 280.
131 P. 262.
132 On the case of Frau Ruchel, see the report in the Deutschevangelische Korrespondenz for August 11, 1908. The facts are brought out in the brochure of Doctor Aigner of Munich, Die Wahrheit über eine Wunderheilung in Lourdes.
133 Pp. 197–198.
134 Zola, wishing to express these limitations in a word, said he would not ask very much—only let some one take a knife and cut his finger and immerse it in the water, and if it came out cured he would say nothing more. Charcot puts it in a higher form: “Faith-cure has never availed to restore an amputated limb” (as cited, p. 19). Percy Dearmer, having theories of his own, makes merry over such statements. There is no such thing as the supernatural, he says; all that God does is natural. But that carries with it that it is not unnatural. The only limit to such cures as we see at Lourdes, then, is that nothing unnatural can happen there. Of course, then, faith cannot grow a new leg. But that is only because we are men and not crabs, and cannot be expected to act in a crustacean manner. Grace can turn a sick man into a well one, but it cannot turn a man into an apple-tree or a cactus. God must act on the lines of nature; the supernatural is not the unnatural (Body and Soul,9 pp. 90 ff.). All this is, of course, pure absurdity. It is to be noted, not obscured, that there are limitations to such cures; that a lost member cannot be restored by them, not even a lost tooth. It is only to dodge the question to say that such things are out of the question; they are not out of the question but very much in it—when it is a question of miracle. It is easy to say, “Better far to hop about on crutches than to have the soul of a crab,” but it is better simply to acknowledge that there are physical disabilities which Lourdes cannot repair, and that the reason is that they are above the power of nature to repair. It should be noted in passing that Lourdes does not admit that there are any physical disabilities which she cannot repair, and that the reason is that she, unlike Dearmer, believes in the supernatural, and believes that she wields it.
135 Ed. 7, 1905, p. 55. (E. T., Medicine and Mind.)
136 The New Review, January, 1893, p. 31: “I have seen patients return from the shrines now in vogue who had been sent thither with my consent, owing to my own inability to inspire the operation of the faith-cure. I have examined the limbs affected with paralysis or contraction some days before, and have seen the gradual disappearance of the local sensitive spots which always remain for some time after the cure of the actual disease—paralysis or contraction.”
137 The Psychic Treatment of Nervous Disorders, E. T., 1908, p. 72: A patient, “whose neck and jaw had been immobilized for years, and who had undergone unsuccessfully medical and surgical treatment from the most renowned clinicians, found sudden cure in the piscina at Lourdes.” Yet Dubois does not think well of Lourdes (p. 211); that is to say, after experience with it. His expectations had been good, and he was disillusioned only by experience. “The cures there,” he says, “are in fact rare.” Superstition goes all lengths, and—well, “Lourdes is not very far from Tarascon.”
138 As cited, p. 271.
139 Jean de Bonnefon has accumulated at the end of his trenchant pamphlet, Faut-il fermer Lourdes? 1906—in which he argues that Lourdes should be abolished by the state—a number of opinions from French physicians to whom a questionnaire was sent, asking whether they thought the enterprise of Lourdes useful or injurious to the sick, whether they thought the piscinas were dangerous, on account of the chill or the filth, whether the long pilgrimages of the sick across France were or were not a menace to the country, and whether they thought the laws of hygiene were observed at Lourdes. The opinions of the physicians vary greatly: many are thoroughly hostile, a few are wholly favorable. What is noticeable is that a considerable number believe it is useful and ought to be sustained, although they have no belief whatever in the supernaturalness of the cures wrought there. One physician, for example, writes: “For a great number of sick people, and particularly women, Lourdes is a benefit.… Free from all religious opinions, I never hesitate to send to Lourdes sick people who are in the particular mental condition to receive benefit from it, and I have often had occasion to congratulate myself on having done so” (p. 51). Another writes in a less genial spirit (p. 51): “The enterprise of Lourdes is useful for feeble-minded people, and there are legions of these in our fine land of France.… I know Lourdes, and it seems to me that they are as filthy there—in the medical sense of the word—as they are everywhere else in France.”
140 W. B. Carpenter, Principles of Mental Physiology, 1824, p. 684, is engaged in pointing out the physical effects which may be wrought by “expectant attention.” He says: “That the confident expectation of a cure is the most potent means of bringing it about, doing that which no medical treatment can accomplish, may be affirmed as the generalized result of experiences of the most varied kind, extending through a long series of ages. For it is this which is common to methods of the most diverse character; some of them—as the Metallic Tractors, Mesmerism, and Homœopathy—pretending to some physical power; whilst to others, as to the invocations of Prince Hohenlohe, and the commands of Doctor Vernon, or the Zouave Jacob, some miraculous influence was attributed. It has been customary, on the part of those who do not accept the ‘physical’ or the ‘miraculous’ hypothesis as to the interpretation of these facts, to refer the effects either to the ‘imagination’ or to ‘faith’—two mental states apparently incongruous, and neither of them rightly expressing the condition on which they depend. For although there can be no doubt that in a great number of cases the patients have believed themselves to be cured, when no real amelioration of their condition had taken place, yet there is a large body of testimony and evidence that permanent amendment of a kind perfectly obvious to others has shown itself in a great variety of local maladies, when the patients have been sufficiently possessed by the expectation of benefit, and by faith in the efficacy of the means employed.”
141 The New Review, January, 1893, p. 23
142 A writer in The Edinburgh Review for January, 1903, p. 154, has this to say of the use of “suggestion” at Lourdes: “What is so painful and so repulsive in Lourdes and similar centres of popular devotion, is not so much the fanaticism of the pilgrims, the commercial element inseparable from the necessity of providing transport and lodging for the multitude of strangers, or even the incongruous emergence of those lower passions never wholly absent when men are met together, and separated by so small an interval from overwrought emotion, whatever its source, as the deliberate organization of hysteria, the training of suggestion, the exploitation of disease. Everything in the pilgrimage is calculated to disturb the equilibrium of the faculties, to stimulate, to excite, to strain. The unsanitary condition under which the journey is made, the hurry, the crowding, the insufficient food and sleep, the incessant religious exercises, the acute tension of every sense and power, all work up to a calculated climax.”
143 Op. cit., E. T., pp. 118 ff.
144 Lourdes, pp. 42 ff.
145 Ibid., p. 56.
146 Ibid., p. v; cf. also Herbert Thurston, Hastings’s ERE, vol. VIII, p. 150. This is apparently also what J. A. MacCulloch means when he says (Hastings’s ERE, vol. VIII, p. 682): “Occasionally miracles at Lourdes are also wrought on more than neurotic diseases,” and “they suggest an influx of healing power from without.”
147 Op. cit., pp. 150 ff. Cf. John Rickaby, “Explanation of Miracles by Unknown Natural Forces,” in The Month for January, 1877.
148 October, 1880, pp. 386–398.
149 P. 398.
150 La Vérité sur Lourdes, pp. 123 ff.
151 We take the account as given by A. Tholuck, Vermischte Schriften, I, p. 139.
152 The shortcomings of the authorities at Lourdes in their reports of the cures may be read in The Dublin Review, October, 1908, pp. 416 ff., apropos of Doctor Boissarie’s L’Œuvre de Lourdes, new ed., 1908. Cf. Paul Dubois, The Psychic Treatment of Nervous Disorders, p. 211: “I have detected in the physicians of the bureau of statistics, in spite of their evident good faith, a mentality of such a nature that their observations lose all value in my eyes.”
153 Sir Francis Champneys, M.D., F.R.C.P., in The Church Quarterly Review, April, 1917, p. 44, says justly: “It is not safe to define a Miracle as something which cannot be understood; for, at that rate, what can be understood?”
154 Systematic Theology, vol. I, p. 52.
155 Deut. 13:2.
156 Paris, p. 195.
157 Lourdes, p. 39.
158 See above, p. 59.
159 Lourdes, p. 82.
160 P. Saintyves, Les Saints successeurs des Dieux, p. 11, note 1.