The Miracle Business …

Picture: Saint Bernadette of Lourdes Today I will speak of miracles. Before I start, I will say that I wish that whatever miracle you wish for yourself for 2009 will happen. The miracle I wish for myself is that I will find a publisher for my book on the World War Two French murderer, Dr. […]

Picture: Saint Bernadette of Lourdes

Today I will speak of miracles. Before I start, I will say that I wish that whatever miracle you wish for yourself for 2009 will happen. The miracle I wish for myself is that I will find a publisher for my book on the World War Two French murderer, Dr. Marcel Petiot …

Each year six million pilgrims visit the holy Christian site of Lourdes. Another two million (or perhaps they are two million of Lourdes’ pilgrim who make it a double) visit Paris’ “Chapel of Miracles”. Lourdes this year (2008) celebrated its 150th Jubilee; the Pope came in September to lead the celebrations and as I write these words the final celebratory masses are being said. (Are masses said, sung or what? I was christened Protestant, so I don’t know.) As for Paris’ “Chapel of Miracles”: it is at Number 140 Rue du Bac. I wrote about it for the travel website (url below) and as I gave them an “exclusive” I am not going to write about it here now other than to say that there in that chapel the Holy Virgin appeared to a young nun named Catherine Labouré (today Saint Catherine Labouré).

I am sure that I do not have to tell you what Lourdes is all about – and no, I am not talking about Madonna’s daughter …

All the same: in 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared on numerous occasions to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous. That happened in front of a grotto near to the village of Lourdes in the Upper Pyrenees in south-west France.

At first when the child spoke about the “Lady in White” who was talking to her no-one believed her – she was in frail physical and emotional health and children do have little invisible friends don’t they? – but when pilgrims began flocking to the grotto and a nearby stream to bathe in it or drink its water and started to claim miraculous healing of their ailments, the church took notice.

Therefore, in 1925 Bernadette was beatified and in 1933, canonised, and today Lourdes is perhaps the world’s holiest of holy places, or second holiest of holy places after Santiago de Compostela in Spain. (I can highly recommend to you Paulo Coelho’s “The Pilgrimage” about his pilgrimage to Compestela.)

But to get back to miracles.

One can’t just go to Lourdes and on leaving claim that you have been cured of whatever you had suffered from on getting there. One must pass the seven criteria devised by the Catholic Church in 1734 that decides whether a miracle cure has happened. For example one’s illness/ailment and the treatment one has received for it, or was still receiving, must be verified by the 20-member international panel of doctors (The International Medical Committee of Lourdes) that the Diocese of Tarbes and Lourdes has created. Also, the “cure” must be “sudden and durable” – “durable” like in years and not days, weeks or months.

Accordingly, once a year the medical panel meets to discuss cure claims. These past 150 years some 7000 cure cases had to be verified, but to the start of this year’s Jubilee celebrations in September only 67 had been declared miraculous healings. The last of these was that of an Italian woman named Anna Santaniello who, unable to walk because of severe heart disease, had been brought to Lourdes on a stretcher by relatives so that she could bathe in the spring, and who had then walked off on her own two feet. The heart disease had also made it difficult for her to speak, and that is also now no longer a problem.

This week however the Diocese of Tarbes and Lourdes announced another five miraculous cures. (How convenient some will say.) The names of the five have not been revealed (to protect their privacy) but they are aged between 40 and 69 and four of them are women. Three of the five had visited Lourdes in 2004, the other two in 2002.

One of the women (now 53) had made six pilgrimages there in all having started at the age of 34. She suffered from a muscular dystrophy which had deteriorated to such an extent that she was eventually confined to a wheelchair. She’s been quoted in the French media as saying: “Each time I prayed for the others and I asked for spiritual strength but never did I pray for my physical healing …” Of her healing in June 2004 she said: “I finished my prayer and nothing in particular happened. I just got up and I started with my day. I walked, I worked … I was no longer tired. I had no pain. I had regained all my strength. I folded up my wheelchair and I’ve not used it since.”


Not quite though.

This week too the Diocese of Tarbes and Lourdes announced that it was no longer to call a cure a “miracle”.

Said Bishop Jacques Perrier: “It seems ‘miracle’ may not be the right word to use any more. It’s no longer a black-and-white question.”

At the same time the head of the medical panel, Prof. François-Bernard Michel, announced that when there is a “cure” it will from now on be described as “remarkable” only.

So folks – no more miracles which I think is so sad. Modern thinking’s fine, sure, but there are times when all one has left is the hope for a miracle …

With this I will leave you until 2009. And I can tell you this … I will keep on hoping for miracles …

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

7 Responses

12-7-2008 at 13:05:00

Yes Marilyn I do agree we need to hope. To hope is a dream we have and without the ability to hope or to dream we die.

12-7-2008 at 13:27:00

Hmm. There must be a patron saint of writers we can pray to!

12-7-2008 at 14:19:00

Hi Marilyn

I was going to say that 5 new miracles will make sure 6 million keep coming every year. Now I wonder. If they are saying that there is no such thing as a miracle cure, then why bother to do to Lourdes.

Catherine Modin

12-7-2008 at 14:48:00

They didn’t say no more cures, Catherine, just no more miracles.

I remember being taken to see the film Song of Bernadette when I was very young. That must be around 60 years ago and it impressed me so much I have never forgotten it. I too was brought up Protestant, but went to a couple of Convents during my school years. Went to 10 schools in all due to the war years etc.

12-9-2008 at 05:05:00

Marilyn, I hope all of us get our books published in 2009.
Satima if there is no patron saint of writers perhaps we can create one.

12-9-2008 at 12:11:00

I stopped believing in miracles when I was four and my electric train broke and my father couldn’t repair it because I believed that there was nothing that he could not do.


12-10-2008 at 13:43:00

I believe in MIRACLES!

Sarah Couts

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