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reader comments: Lourdes

14 September 2012
I think that the Skeptic Dictionary article on the miracles of Lourdes is extremely unfair.

It states, " To its eternal discredit, the Roman Catholic Church investigated Soubirous's claims for four years before approving devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes." I would expect somebody like Richard Dawkins to make such a statement, but not you.

First of all, the real miracle of Lourdes is the fact that Bernadette identified the beautiful lady she was seeing as the Immaculate Conception. Bernadette, being an uneducated peasant girl, had no idea what these words meant. Her pastor, when she told him that the lady had just said that she was the Immaculate Conception, got irritated and said, "No woman can have that name! Do you know what those words mean?" Bernadette replied that she did not. Then the pastor said, "How can you say words that you do not understand?" Bernadette replied that she "had repeated these words over and over all the way back from the grotto so that she wouldn't forget them."

It was found after further investigation that neither of Bernadette's parents or even her very intelligent Aunt Bernarde, the real head of her family, knew anything about the words, Immaculate Conception, and this dogma, which had just been proclaimed by Pope Leo XIII in 1854, was not taught in her school.

Since Bernadette could not possibly have made these words up herself (one theologian said that it would have been beyond her abilities), she could have only gotten them from one place, the Virgin Mary herself.

reply: Seems like you are making a hasty conclusion. I accept your premise: it is not likely Bernadette made up the words 'immaculate conception.' But it doesn't follow from that (or from claims of ignorance of the expression by her aunt or parents) that the only other possibility is that a spirt of a person who has been dead for over 2,000 years appeared to her and gave her the words. She could have overheard the expression from any number of sources. She was, after all, a member of a family of practicing Catholics who, no doubt, occasionally were instructed by priests and nuns. By the way, people say words they don't understand all the time. I was raised Catholic and as a child I said all kinds of things I didn't understand, including "Virgin Mary" and "mother of God."

We Catholics believe that Mary is the Mother of God, not the "mother of a god" that you had in the beginning of your article about Lourdes. If you don't believe in God, Jesus, or the Virgin Mary, then for you to write a negative article about Lourdes is a complete waste of your time.

But you can at least be respectful of other people's beliefs. I visited Lourdes last summer for a week, and it was a very inspiring experience that I will never forget.

Sincerely yours, William H. Burke, Jr.

reply: the ultimate disprespect is to ignore another's beliefs. Am I supposed to respect the beliefs of Muslims who think it is some god's will that they kill strangers to avenge slights and insults they imagine hurled at the one they consider their prophet?


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