The State of Virginity

The State of Virginity
I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided. The virgin - indeed, any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has the cares of this world to absorb her and concerned with pleasing her husband. I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Thursday, January 28, 2010


"The Wonders of Lourdes" is one of my favourite books. It is one of the most beautiful souvenirs that I brought home with me from Lourdes. It tells the true story of this marvelous shrine from the very first apparitions to the present day. Working in harmony with the bishop of France and with complete access to the Lourdes archives, twenty-two contributing writers relate in creatively dramatic style the development of the shrine, its traditions, and the personal journeys of many who have worked or visited there. Above all, they reveal Lourdes as a place of spiritual healing - a font of grace where faith is strengthened, hope is renewed, and the love of Christ is shared. These are the real miracles of Lourdes. Below is an excerpt from this wonderful book that I would like to share with my readers tonight.

Sister Julienne, Twelfth Miraculous Healing, September 1, 1889

"But Doctor, has the Virgin ever saved a native of the region?"

At dinner, all gazes converged upon Dr. Gustav Boissarie. The question was posed by Mrs. Dubrulle, the notary's young wife, who was known throughout Sarlat for her devotion to the Virgin and the charity she exhibited every day by helping the most indigent. On this day late in September 1889, a soft light still brightened the dining room of Sarlat's mayor, who was entertaining, as was his habit every Thursday, a few of the town's leading men and their wives. Tonight, he had invited Boissarie who, after brilliant studies in Paris, chose to practice medicine in this charming town of the Dordogne; Robert Dubrulle, who came from a family of notaries dating back to the reign of the Bourbons; and the schoolmaster, Jean Balou, a freethinker who never missed an opportunity for a dig at the clergy.

The mayor smiled. His wife fidgeted nervously, sensing the schoolmaster's reaction. Boissarie, who was familiar with Balou, hastened to answer with a wink all around.

"Yes, that's right, my dear Jean, we are going to speak about miracles," he began in playful condescension. "Oh, I beg your pardon - about these so-called miracles, fit only to comfort pious ladies in their antiquated faith, but unworthy of enlightened and scientific minds such as your own."

Everyone guffawed as Balou feigned taking offense.

"Never, Doctor, would I permit myself to speak thus, and Mrs. Dubrulle is well aware of it," Balou said in reply. "I simply think that your religion, as socially necessary as it is, sometimes tries to make us swallow some rather queer ideas."

"Dear friends, to answer the question posed to me, I shall relate a story that is not a month old," Boissarie continued. "Do you remember little Julienne, at the hospice orphanage?"

"The religious sister of Brive?" cried out Mrs. Dubrulle. "She came to spend a few days at the hospice two years ago, I believe. She suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, but her youth and our town's healthy air finally overcame the disease."

"That's the one," the doctor went on. "Coming from a very poor family, she had been placed in that orphanage at the age of eleven. When the doctor of Brive wished her to spend a few calm days with her family to rest, she naturally went back. Indeed, Julienne had a chest complaint, but her stay in Sarlat did not cure her. I met her doctor in Brive, Dr. Pomarel. He related her illness's progress to me. The poor girl must have suffered a lot."

For a few minutes, the conversation digressed to Sarlat's orphanage and the construction that the city intended for it. Mrs. Dubrulle continued to fidget in her seat, like a child eager to learn the rest of the story. No longer able to contain herself, she begged Boissarie to be so kind as to resume his tale.

"Back in her convent in Brive, Julienne had about ten months' respite, but in October 1887, the illness started up again and she began to spit up blood," the doctor said. "After a second remission, the illness reappeared in May 1888, but it did not keep her from making her profession in July of the same year. I think her doctor gave a favourite opinion so as to allow her to become a sister before she died. Ever since her First Communion, Julienne had dreamed of entering the convent."

'So young, yet so sure of wanting to become a religious sister?" Mrs. Dubrulle interjected.

"This reminds me of a certain religious sister of Rousseau," muttered the cynical schoolmaster, a remark that earned him a withering glare from Mrs. Dubrulle.

"Her vocation was somewhat impeded, dear friends," continued the doctor. "Indeed, as the community did not have an extern sister, the bishop asked her to give up the cloister and to devote herself to being the link between the community and the rest of the world. That is why Sister Julienne is so well known in Brive. Everybody has passed her on the street."

'Giving up the cloister, living in the world in contact with sinners and suffering in one's body," said Mrs. Dubrulle. "God wanted to make her share in his Son's suffering."

It was now the schoolmaster's turn to glare with annoyance at Mrs. Dubrulle, and, if it were not for his wife's swift knee to his right thigh, the dinner might have taken a far more ugly and combative turn. Fortunately, by the time Balou had rubbed his leg and silently rebelled against his wife's methods, the mayor's wife had had time once again to propose her steaming bean stew to her guests.

Boissarie resumed his story. "In January 1889, the illness worsened from day to day. There was talk of raging tuberculosis, and heat acupuncture points were applied by the hundreds. Starting in the month of July, the poor sister never stopped spitting blood from her purulent lungs."

"Doctor! We are eating," one of the women protested at the distasteful reference.

'Excuse me, Madam," the doctor apologized. "But really, her condition was in an absolute state of collapse, and no medical means were able to curb the illness's progress. Sister Julienne could only take broth and milk. She was visibly wasting away."

"And then she went to Lourdes," Balou piped in. "She took a dip in the pool and was healed. Now Doctor, you are a scientist. A pulmonary lesion does not disappear like that in a bath of ice water!"

"That's right, my dear schoolmaster," Boissarie responded. "But, you see, that is what happened! Against her doctor's recommendations, she made the trip to Lourdes at the end of August with two friends, including a religious from the convent of Brive. Throughout the trip, those who saw her, the bishop of Albi in particular, thought that she would not make it to the shrines. At the pools themselves, the two ladies who were supposed to bathe her refused at first; that is how close to death's door she appeared to be. It was up to the two ladies who had come along with her to assure them of Julienne's will and to stay by her side. And at that point, believe it or not, the miracle took place. She came out of the water and was able to walk all the way to the grotto, where she prayed on her knees before the pilgrims' captivated and happy eyes. If you don't believe me, go and meet her in Brive!"

"Mr. Boissarie, you're a doctor!" Balou repeated.

Boissarie stood his ground. "Yes, just like the doctor of Saint-Maclou who is the founding president of the Bureau of Medical Authentication. I have been his assistant for three years now in his scientific work of verifying that the Lourdes healings termed 'miracles' cannot otherwise be explained. We appeal to many physicians, sometimes unbelievers. There is a veritable investigation, and we never draw frivolous conclusions."

"Go see Dr. Pomarel," he challenged the schoolmaster. "Go to Lourdes... and see!"

The dinner having ended, the men retired to the town hall's drawing room to smoke cigars and continue the conversation about the scientific work of the Bureau of Medical Authentication. Gathered among themselves, the women promised each other to go to Brive soon to visit Sister Julienne.

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