ROMAN CATHOLIC MIRACLES
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 mediaeval 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 Yrjo Hirn 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 tie 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 marvellousness 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 marvellousness 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:8 "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 especial 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 blasi 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 /Elian, and then adds:9 "Things just like this are still related . . . /Elian 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 marvellous 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 shrivelled 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 hps 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,16 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 ^Eacus 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 Giinter 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 yjrev&k, 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 Ludan, but also, in a form less 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 marvellous stories. The outstanding fact is that they stake their credit in this instance on a marvellous 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 Giinter, 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 marvellous 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 marvellous 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 which 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 Giinter 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 Gtinter, "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 mediaeval 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.86 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 Propheties 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 Desrollee of Coutance was stigmatized; the CadiSre 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. Medard 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 any one 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 Gorres in his great book on Christian Mysticism^—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 Die 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 ist 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' Ricd 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. Delbceuf and Liegeois have annulled by suggestion, one the effects of a burn, the other of a blister." Delbceuf "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 centre 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;M and violent robbery was not unknown—and that with (so it was said) the manifest approval of God. St. Maximums, bishop of Treves, 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 Treves 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 marvellous. 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 which was current toward the end of the Middle Ages. "Mary was looked upon," as Yrjo 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 Mitch und auch die Briiste—Die Jesus so oft kusste.'" 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 Gilnter,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 Tof the same thing happened to Sister Adelheit of Frauenberg; she narrates it herself: Mary says to her . . . '"I will fulfil 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 of weeping.'"
As Mary, although the chief, is not the only sustainer of God's people, so, in the incredible materialism of mediaeval 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, Giinter 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 LX (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. Giinter 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. Giinter can write,82 no doubt: "In the times of the inventions and translations of the relics there were naturally innumerable relicmiracles 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 i, 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 Giinter 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 exuvice during life, which, how
ever, 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 miraclelife of the church of Rome. Many are prepared to go further. Yrjo 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 centre of the miracle-life of Catholicism is not far from saying that they lie at the centre 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 "area," 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 centre of the miraclelife, 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 countrybred 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
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 Laboure (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.106 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 Fourvieres 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 Giinter,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 oftenheard statement that the Virgin was conceived without sin does indicate a mind which is either supra or infra gramtnaticam." 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 Emile 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 00 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 halfcentury—"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 per cent 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 despair122 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 centimetres"; "seven centimetres 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 centimetres 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: (i) 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 says138 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 Medecine de VEsprit,136 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 have 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 rdle 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 marvellousness. 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 es- • sentially 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 idie 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 receptive 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 any one 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.' "Again:
"' 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 Sacramentuml 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,1** 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 Frangois 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?"