From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: incorruptible bodies
26 May 2012
I'd like to comment on your article regarding St. Bernadette Soubrious; it's fine if you are skeptical and perhaps a non-believer, however your statement regarding her incorrupt body is not correct. Her face and hands are NOT covered in wax, they have a thin coating of wax on them. Bernadette was interred for 30 years underground, her body was subjected to dampness, salt, dirt, etc, she was first exhumed in 1909 and buried again two more times. After the second exhumation the nuns tried to clean off her hands and face, however, the cleaning created red spots or blotches, so it was decided to place a thin coat of wax over her face and hands, During one of the exhumations her nose was broken and that was patched up. Her body has been examined by countless doctors and autopsied, reports of their findings can be found on-line with a little research. There was some decomposition of the face and fingers, however, they were all astounded at the preservation of the body, especially her body organs. Her body was declared incorrupt which means any or all parts of a corpse that is not decomposed is regarded as incorrupt. Look at her, she was never preserved al la Lenin, does she appear to have died 133 years ago?
The second point is in regards to your remark about the spring water at Lourdes; not everyone has been cured, however, there has been 67 established cures and many more under investigation, Bernadette herself gave the water to the sick and many were cured, she always said that it is prayer and faith that cures. If there is nothing to all this why do millions of people visit the Grotto of Apparitions every year?
My thought has always been; you either believe or you don't. There are many aspects of Bernadette's story that you cannot just brush off, everything she said, everything she did was investigated and researched, over and over again. A great book for you to read is called, "Bernadette Speaks", 500+ pages of her life from birth to death, even if you don't believe you will find what an extraordinary person she was, personally I find her story inspiring.
reply: Why do millions of people visit Lourdes and similar places? They believe stories like the one you believe about Bernadette. Why does anyone believe such stories? I believed them when I was a kid because I was taught that they were true by people I trusted, and I didn't know any better. The more I learned about the universe, the history of our solar system and planet, and the evolution of the human species, the less such stories made sense. The magical thinking that drives people to revere relics and ignore basic facts about biology, decomposition, preservation, etc. is something I gave up on a long time ago. If Bernadette's remains were put outside in the courtyard, there would be nothing left of her in a few weeks. I'll tell you what. If you can convince the keepers of the corpse to put it out in the open air for a few weeks and nothing decomposes or is eaten by insects or animals, I'll get rebaptized and proclaim the truth of Catholicism once again.
10 Feb 2000
First, a very minor correction: "According to Jesus Preciado, who has been in the mortuary business for thirty years, 'in general, the less pronounced the pathology [at the time of death], the less notable are the symptoms of necrosis.' " The quotes around the necrosis clause effectively attribute that language to Preciado. However, it is my own paraphrasing of Preciado's remarks, if my memory serves me.
Second, a quite interesting bit of trivia: SRF reported (as you quote): "On March 7, 1952, Paramahansa Yogananda entered mahasamadhi...." Of course, entering mahasamadhi elicits images of a peaceful event, the soul blissfully (even purposely) leaving the master's body, the God-illumined master having readied himself for this supreme moment....
Well, it didn't go quite like that. As it happens, Yogananda died of a HEART ATTACK [Question: why would a heart-diseased body become incorruptible after a fatal heart attack?). What's more, the heart attack occurred while he was giving a speech--in front of a large audience. The attack happened as he was about to introduce a colleague. He was 65--pretty young for a heart attack victim, even in 1952.
Also in the news: SRF is moving Yogananda's remains to a sarcophagus at the group's headquarters as part of a $40 million expansion. Yep--that's seven zeros. [I wonder if they'll be publicly opening the old casket to look at the "incorruptible" remains?]
I guess the moral is this: Money corrupts, but incorruptibility