New light on the events of Lourdes
ORDEAL AT LOURDES: the new discoveries, by Odile De Montfort and John O'Meara (Champion Press Ltd., London and Dublin, 6s. 6d.).
HISTORY, like people, is perpetually giving us surprises. History is in fact the recorded stuff of human action; which makes it so intensely interesting. The present slender book of 126 pages is of intense interest for three reasons: it concems notable people, remarkably notable events, and the inexhaustible subject of Lourdes.
The "new discoveries" are various documents which have recently been unearthed or made available for the first time concerning the events and characters of Lourdes in 1858; the "ordeal" is the challenge and the strain of confronting the supernatural.
"Such an event," write the authors of this book in the introduction, "puts a heavy strain upon the faith, reason, and emotions of everyode, but particularly upon those5 whether ecclesiastical or lay, who have to take the responsibility of making decisions."
200 witnesses THESE documents were pubfished last year in Paris in two works: Lourdes: Dossier et Documents A lithentiques, edited by Rev. Dr. R. Laurentin; and Lourdes 1858: Tentoins de l'Evenement-the latter being the investigations of Fr. Leonard Cros, S.J., who was specially commissioned by the then Bishop of Tarbes, and encouraged by Rope Leo XIII, to interrogate 200 witnesses including Bernadette herself.
Fr. Cros was prevented by circumstances and specially interested persons from publishing the important parts of his work; but it has now been edited by Fr. M. Olphe-Galliard, S.J., with the blessing of the Bishop of Tarbes. "Ordeal at Lourdes" makes this highly valuable material available_ for the first time in England.
would be a radical mistake, of 1 course, to think that we needed this fresh material in order to make Lourdes certain as a supernatural event. Not at all. The Church had already guaranteed that by the universal feast of the Apparitions and by the canonisation of Bernadette; and on the side of purely human evidence by the acceptance of a number of first-class miracles.
But the new discoveries-which in their history possess even a detective flavour-shed a new andrevealing light (in most cases edifying, in some cases disedifying) on the characters which surrounded Bernadette herself : the Prefect Baron Massey; Bishop Laurence of Tarbes; Dominique Peyramale, the cure; Jacomet, Superintendent of Police; Dutour. the District Attorney; Dr. PierreRomain Dozous; and Bernadette's own family.
Portrait sketches of these various characters give an increased interest to the records; while the chapter on "False Visionaries" has an intriguing and enlightening interest of its own. This valuable summary, admirably produced and at a low price, is of intrinsic importance and absorbing interest, to both the student and the general reader.
Most vital question
WHAT THINK YOU OF CHRIST? by William R. Bonniwell, 0.P. (B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis, and 33 Queen Square, London, 30s.).
THERE can be no doubt about the importance of the subjectmatter of this book. The question which forms the title of it is the most important question which can be asked, and the answer to it classifies men more importantly than any other can.
It is a pity, however, that the price of the book is so high (the book has only sonic 200 pages) seeing that there are many books and pamphlets concerning Our Lord which are excellent and far less expensive. This will, I am afraid, militate against private purchase.
Nevertheless this book is by a learned Dominican, who has 50 years experience as a religious and as a previous army chaplain, is excellent in its contents and original in its treatment. It embodies details supplementary to the Gospel records, gleaned from Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources.
The one Mediator THE 17 chapters deal with both doctrine and its practical application, focusing on Christ as the centre, source, and summit of religious life, and as the one Mediator of Redemption in God's plan. At the head of each chapter is given a Scriptural quotation, in most cases from the Gospels, in two from St. Paul, in one from the Apocalypse, in two from Ecclesiastical.% and in one from Isaias. In this way the subject-matter is associated with Sacred Scripture with an enlightening effect.
Fr. Bonniwell's style is clear, foreeful, vivid, and he embodies much information. While all the essays have a practical application, those entitled "The Renegade Catholic " and "The Politician" are specially pointed. There is ample material for sermons and instructions.
A heartening work
LIVE AT PEACE WITH YOUR NERVES, by Dr. Walter. C Alvarez (The World's Work 1913 Ltd., Kingswood, Surrey, 21s.).
A LMOST everyone reads somerk thing about medicine nowadays, if only in the newspapers. Most people, I think, will find this book an interesting one, and would almost certainly read it if it came into their hands.
In general it is quite a heartening book, though %,ritten from the merely " natural " standpoint which, when pressed too far, become sheer Pelagianism-the heresy rampant today. Although the author bears a Latin and hence a Catholic-sounding name, he says nothing to indicate Catholicism.
Dr. Alvarez is evidently a distinguished physician-he is called " America's Family Doctor "-and has had more than 50 years of medical practice; an Emeritus Consultant in Medicine of the Mayo Clinic and Emeritus Professor in Medicine at the Mayo Foundation, U.S.A. Ile is a prolific writer of a column that appears in 80 newspapers with a I2-million circulation; he is editor of two medical journals.
He writes very clearly, straightforwardly, quite humbly, and in a vividly interesting style. What he says in regard to religion is good as far as it goes; but from the Catholic criterion it does not go far, and several distinctions would certainly need to he made. Thus (on page 136):
"MANY a very religious or overly scrupulous person feels that, in some way, often not clear to him, he has sinned, and sinned grievously. Some of these people worry terribly. even when, as they admit, if they sinned they did it inadvertently, or through ignorance, or only through thought.
"My friend, Dr. T. A. Ross, the great English psychiatrist, used to say to these peopie that, since good intentions are said never to be rewarded in Heaven, he felt sure that, similarly, evil intentions, when not acted upon, are not likely to be chalked up against a man. Certainly, this sounds reasonable."
There are several little knots which need to be unravelled here; such as that one cannot sin seriously by mere inadvertence, but that serious sin can be committed by thought in the sense of a
deliberate wish-e.g., to wish positively to murder or to steal.
Good intentions always merit reward; positive evil intentions, even though not actualised, always deserve punishment. The essence of sin, in fact, resides in the deliberate will. Nevertheless (as Dr. Alvarez says) there arc cases of " unwarranted depression "; and in such cases a good psychiatrist may be invaluable.
Where to get help
THERE is much truth in statements like the following (though a well-informed Catholic will know how to amplify them): "Some worriers may wonder why 1 haven't yet spoken of the great comfort that many a worrier can find in religion. Actually 1 cannot hope to do this as well as any number of inspired men and women arc doing, and so I won't try.
"1 can sum up much of the faith of many a physician by quoting that wonderful old prayer: 'Oh, Lord, if you will only reveal to me where I can get help. I will go and get it.' In other words, let a worried person go to a priest. minister, or rabbi for spritual help or consolation, and to a physician for reassurance in regard to the state of the body " (page 89).
"When a person comes to a physician much upset with religious doubts and with fears of damnation, the doctor will probably send him to his priest or minister or rabbi, because he is the one best trained to straighten the person out. But, often times, when the man of God finds the patient is not behaving rationally, he may have to suggest that he go to a psychiatrist " (page 137).
Allowing for the distinctions and amplifications which Catholic teaching will make, there is much valuable advice, sound commonsense, and good philosophy in this volume; aided by many illustrations from a veteran medico's experience; such as "How To Handle The Worry Habit "; " Your Life's Work-Powerful Medicine". An appendix to each of the chapters except the first gives the salient points to review or remember. There is a useful general index.