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lit crevice under the Basilica. The one may have played its part perhaps in the making of a little earthly history; but this other has become one of the gates of God. Within it—it is scarcely larger than an ordinary dining-room—there stands now an altar before which one or more masses are daily said. To one side, beyond walls worn smooth with the elbows and rosaries of half a century of pilgrims, is placed a picture of the Virgin, a shrine illuminated with a stack of continually burning candles. Across its entrance is now a palisade of railings, against which, except at certain times, the faithful must be content to wait and watch, and through which, as they kneel before the Grotto, the Communion is administered to them. In front of the Grotto, stretching back to the roadway that has been built, with a parapet, alongside the river, are arranged rows of seats, seldom empty of worshippers, while beside it are the Piscines, or baths, where the sick may be dipped in water led from the Grotto spring. Perched upon the rock, out of which the Grotto has been carved, is the Basilica, the great church that commemorates the visions, and whose slender spire has become the most prominent landmark for a good many miles around. Below it is the crypt, lined with memorial tablets, set there by such as have been desirous of visibly recording the blessings that have been granted to them; and below and in front of this is the Chapel of the Rosary, whose porticoes stand open to the great open space, flanked by descending terraces, around which, in the afternoon, will be gathered the strangest multitude of sufferers, perhaps, to be seen in all the world, the sorrowful clinic of our Lady of Lourdes. Just now they are crowded about the entrance to the baths, far more of them than can be admitted, one fears, in this single day, even though the official hours were never so elastic, or the brancardiers—a body of self-elected attendants—never so eager or efficient. Here there are waiting in rows upon the seats, in chairs and stretchers, on strong arms and crutches, the tangible illustrations of a whole library of text-books—poor malades, with patient faces, some frankly hopeless, brought here by the efforts and hard savings of a pleading family, others still holding with both hands to the unconquerable hope in a Divine interposition. Are there not a thousand crutches hanging there from the rocky front of the Grotto, evidences of past favours from the Blessed Virgin—visible signs of mistaken diagnoses, says our unbeliever—and behind these the reports, true and legendary, of a thousand other benefits and cures?
! So they wait, an always changing audience, knocking at the portals of Heaven's mercy, sprinkling themselves with the holy water brought to them in little cans and bottles, and biding their time, with what patience they can command, for their turn to be dipped bodily in the healing stream. Sights that would ordinarily revolt, perhaps, become here merely the occasion for murmurs of pity, for the reiterated invocations of passers-by. Scarred faces, that would be timidly veiled in any other corner of the world, are here laid bare to the sunshine with a frank pathos, if haply even looking upon so sacred a scene may gain some little boon of miracle. As we linger upon the hot pavement we study them for awhile, sick and well, men and women, who might, any one of them almost, have sat for Millet or Le Breton, dogged, devoted, childlike, if you would have it so, but with the childhood that believes and is made happy in a literal Heaven and a very personal Godhead. Is it not wonderful ? A young priest, speaking English, pauses for a moment at our side. Is it not wonderful ? And he reminds us that, alas ! France must be no longer regarded as a Catholic country. He shakes a sorrowful head. The State has pronounced against religion— against clericalism, if you like to put it in that way—but in reality against religion, and with a fervour of bitterness, of which only a Latin race could be capable. They have robbed us of the children, he says, and the times are evil; and yet, behold, is there another country in all the world that could offer such a spectacle of faith as this 2 The smile that is never far away, for all the solemnity of Lourdes, breaks out again, if a trifle wistfully. Ah, labelle France, but it will all come right in the end. The pendulum will swing back. The heart of the people must have its God again, and its God is still the dear Son of our Lady of Lourdes. And it is here, after all, we reflect, that we see Lourdes at its best, here at the Grotto and the Piscines, in the Basilica and the crypt, and the Rosary Chapel, in the great space below the terrace, and around the gaudy statue of the Virgin at its opposite end. Up there, towards the Château, whether we will or not, the more commercial side of it all must intrude itself upon us—the great hotels, with their lifts and telephones and large profits, the electric trams, the shops full of statuary and medals, the waxwork presentations of scenes in little Bernadette's short life—she died some twenty years ago in a convent—all these ; and we cannot help feeling that Bernadette, by her visions, has conferred a very substantial material prosperity upon her relatives and fellow-citizens. And yet again, all the time, so simple is the history, so artless the investigations that followed it, so entirely sincere the devotion of the many to the few, that one cannot but spurn as unworthy any idea of a deliberate charlatanism. The prosperity has been the gift of Heaven, the inevitable adjunct to a holy celebrity. And why not ? On our way back from our morning stroll we meet an English pilgrimage, the largest that has ever come here, on its way to be received by the Bishop of Tarbes, whose palace overlooks the valley of the Grotto. We exchange greetings and pass on, up through some narrow by-ways of the town, and presently, crossing the river higher up, drop down into a path by its side, winding up towards the beautiful valley of Angeles, towards Pierrefitte and Cauteret and the inner heart of the French Pyrenees. And here, for a brief breathing space, we touch fingers again, upon the outskirts of the town, with a more usual existence. Here the grass is being cut in great fragrant swathes, and upon the banks of the river the old women are washing their clothes. The air is heavy and languorous, unpurged by yesterday's thunderstorm, and we turn regretful eyes towards the snow tops of twenty miles away. Lazily we complete our circle, returning again through a busy market-place into the crowded streets. Black eyes flash at us appraisingly, brown fingers hold up rosaries for our regard, and we are called upon to observe the attractions of a hundred inexpensive trinkets. We pass the hospital, filled to its last corner with the sick from all corners of Europe, tended by devoted Sisters, and the scene, we are assured, of numerous unexplainable miracles. We pass sheds where the poor and hardy may spend the night for nothing, and lodging-houses to suit any sort of purse. And so the hot hours pass away for us quickly enough until, as three o'clock draws near, there comes for each sick person, for every faithful pilgrim indeed, the supreme moment of the day, when the officiating priest, bearing the golden monstrance, shall hold out in benediction to each worshipping sufferer the broken body of his Lord and Saviour. This is the ceremony towards which converges the whole of the day’s preparations. It is the crisis, as it were, of the universal worship, the breaking-point of spiritual tension, a breaking-point, often enough, of tears and sobs, and the commonest moment, we are assured, of healing manifestations. Here there must be gathered, in an almost tropical sunshine, at least ten thousand persons, ranged round in a great circle, below the steps of the Rosary Chapel, the sickinnermost, with the brancardiers watching over them, and outside, four or five deep, their women-folk and odd outsiders. This is a place for the mute revealing of secrets, and faces, that have hidden from the world all outward traces of illness, are present inside the ring, the declared sufferers from who shall say what manner of divers diseases. We notice that the sick of each pilgrimage are ranged together, decked with little badges of distinction, while before each separate body of them moves a priest, a rosary in his hand, leading them in prayer. The men of the various pilgrimages, such as are able-bodied, have not yet come upon the scene, but will presently march here in procession, bearing their particular banners, and each carrying a lighted candle in his hand. To the last moment of waiting the brancardiers are busy making room for sick late-comers, easing and arranging with the deft hands of pity and experience. And so at last to the chanting of a hymn come the first figures of the long procession from the Grotto. Marching in two parallel rows of single file, sufficiently wide apart or the banner-bearers in the middle to have plenty of elbow-room, they come in an apparently interminable series, entering the wide open space at its distant end, and dividing to take each side of the waiting circle on their way to the platform in front of the Chapel. Here they begin to gather themselves en masse, an army of black smocks, for a background to the white-robed priests. Presently, at the far end of the procession, there comes into sight the canopy, borne by four bearers, beneath which walks the officiating priest— an English bishop to-day, as it chances—bearing the golden, sunshaped monstrance with its sacred burden. Behind him walk one or two attendants and his chaplain ; and so in a moment or two the great hour of the Blessing of the Sick has begun. The fervour becomes intense; and as the bishop, in his heavy robes, moves slowly from patient to patient, the crowd in his immediate neighbourhood fall upon their knees, the others in one voice, if with many tongues, calling out across the wide spaces their age-old cries for mercy: ‘Seigneur, Seigneur, ayez pitié de moi!” “Lord, save us, or we perish l’ “Mein Herr und mein Gott!’ The hot sun pours down upon us. There is no shade. The great arena is a white glare of reflected light. And to the bishop, swathed in vestments, stooping continually to each succeeding sufferer, the centre, if only vicariously, of this great tide of adoration, our sympathy goes out. For fully an hour, perhaps for longer, his slow journey must proceed. None can be left out. He must neither slacken nor be weary. As he draws near at length, and we too bend at his approach, we can see the perspiration standing out in beads upon his forehead. The crowd about us thrills to the approaching wave of ecstasy. But for him it has been the wave's crest all the way along. And yet it is just this, as he tells us afterwards, that robs him of any thought of bodily fatigue. He is borne upwards upon it as upon a sea of visible and passionate belief. And he himself is supported by the very exaltation of all these ten thousand worshippers, that it has been his high privilege to arouse. Afterwards, in the quiet of the hotel, he may encounter the inevitable weariness of reaction, but out here his mission holds him tireless. So, finally, and to an ever-deepening note of almost agonised entreaty, he completes the long round, moves up towards the platform at the top, takes his stand before the assembled body of men and priests, and pronounces above the whole kneeling concourse the words of his last benediction. An immediate stillness falls over us, prolongs itself for a moment, and then, from a far corner there comes a sudden odd cry. The multitude of faces swings round like a leaf to the wind. A meek-faced little woman, who has been bed-ridden for fourteen years, rises up from her invalid chair, totters a few steps into the open space. Behold, she is a miraculée. A few minutes later we are enabled to make our way through the surging crowd about the Bureau des Contestations, the little room near the Grotto, where the doctors, always in attendance, receive and set down the testimonies of the patients, examine the evidences, laugh away gently the too-ready protestations of a cure that are so frequently made, and admit to the records such as seem worthy of their place. The crowd beats against the door, but inside there is a comparative calm, and we are allowed to examine the miraculées at our leisure, all women to-day, four of them, emerged from the thousands. The little meek-faced woman, with the rapture of her devotion still shining in her eyes, rises and shakes hands with us. The evidence of her bedridden years seems satisfactory, although we note that there appears to be no obviously insuperable physical reason why she should not have walked before. But no matter. The controversial side of Lourdes and its cures have been fought out on many arenas; and if we construe the miracle after another fashion we can still congratulate her very heartily upon the happy consummation. We stay a little while with the doctors, chatting about their work, impressed with the unfailing tenderness and sense of humanity with which they strike the practical note,