Saturday, 3 May 2008

Lourdes Magazine - April/May 2008

The current issue of Lourdes Magazine arrived a few days ago. As usual it contains a mix of articles related to the life of the shrine. The main feature covers the 50th anniversary of the International Military Pilgrimage. I think it was participation in this pilgrimage, possibly in the late 1950's or early 1960's, that saw my father make his first visit to Lourdes. We saw from time to time some black and white film of this .... The ethos of this pilgrimage is that of military engagement as being at the service of peace. The pilgrimage can be an occasion of reconciliation between those who have fought on the opposite sides of conflicts. The Magazine also contains the homily preached by the Bishop of Lourdes and Tarbes on the 11th February this year, for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

What caught my attention, though, was coverage of a "book fair" held in Lourdes 9th-11th February. This featured a number of books about Lourdes or St Bernadette, some published for the 150th anniversary year. One is a book La jeune fille et la Vierge by Alina Reyes. The surprising thing about this is that Alina Reyes previous writings are "controversial" (the word used by her interviewer in the Magazine - they are actually better described by the word "erotic"). I have not been able to find out much about Alina Reyes apart from the Lourdes Magazine interview. The fascinating possibility that I want to explore when I am able to obtain her book about St Bernadette and her novel Foret profonde (in which she writes about the healing influence of Lourdes in her life) is that her life expresses the purification of eros to become agape of which Pope Benedict XVI writes in Deus Caritas Est.

Meanwhile, some extracts from the interview:

I did not recieve a religious education; I was a natural mystic who was not aware of it. Above all, as far as I can remember, I knew with an unsustainable certainty (to the point that I often tried to rid myself of this feeling), that a superior, cosmic order, invisible and spiritual, which I could not name, carried me personally in His heart. I could never have talked about it, it was too overwhelming, and I still cannot say any more. At twenty four, whilst expecting my second son, I read and re-read the Gospels and spent months embraced by a marvellous grace. I continued to experience this state, but still declared myself an unbeliever. This is how I know of this process of emptying oneself to receive the invisible. Little by little, increasingly specific things occurred to me, more and more evident, notably a direct contact with God. I knew then I should no longer conceal the name of the One who inhabited me ...

My novels are only "controversial" for those who see evil where it is not. I have always denounced the culture of morbid sex, and sought to give my vision of the flesh; flesh which is happy is one of the means for human beings to access a fulfilled fusion with the world, in other words, the Creation. ... Then yes, I reconcile Eros and Agape, and I am a Christian because this religion is that of the flesh. When we enter a church we see the flesh of Christ, the flesh of the saints, we see the child Jesus at Mary's bosom ... God was incarnate, how can one believe He hates the flesh?...

I tried to show the literary dimension of this event [ie the apparitions at Lourdes], and what strikes me is its resemblance to the beginning of Genesis: "God said ... And there was light". The word of God is a light; this is what is happening in Lourdes. The word which Bernadette transmitted to the world testifies to this "light", as she says at the beginning, which appeared to her in the "darkness" of the grotto ...

Yes I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing Pascal and I do it again by saying: "It is necessary to find the virgin in oneself to discover the hidden Virgin". The Virgin Mary is a door to enter God, and this door is innocence, the spiritual possibility of regarding the world as immaculate in its conception. I think I have said that the Virgin in us is our true face, our face denuded of social masks ... Lourdes invites us to present ourselves before the Virgin Mary, as we are surrounded by the mountains which evoke naturally the purity of nature, a purity we lose so dramatically.

The introduction to the interview describes Alina Reyes book as "at the same time splendid and surprising"; according to the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, it is "a book which will stand the test of time".

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