12 February 2008

Le Pèlerinage de Lourdes

Encyclical of Pope Pius XII Warning against Materialism on the Centenary of the Apparitions at Lourdes to the Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops of France in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See. Given at Rome, from Saint Peter's, on the feast of the Visitation of the Most Holy Virgin, July 2, 1957.

Upon reading through this encyclical letter today (After stumbling upon excerpts of it on the excellent blog Rorate Caeli), this paragraph in particular makes one eager to visit France.

...The Middle Ages, which, especially through Saint Bernard, sang Mary's glory and celebrated her mysteries, witnessed a marvelous flowering of French cathedrals dedicated to our Lady: Le Puy, Rheims, Amiens, Paris, and so many others... With their spires upthrust they announce from afar the glory of the Immaculate; they heighten its splendor in the pure light of their stained-glass windows and in the harmonious beauty of their statues. They bear witness above all to the faith of a people which outdid itself in a magnificent display of energy, erecting against the sky of France the permanent homage of its devotion to Mary...

The most beautiful words in praise of the Immaculate Virgin in this letter are those taken from St. Bernard with which Pius XII concludes: In periculis, in angustiis, in rebus dubiis, Mariam cogita, Mariam invoces… Ipsam sequens, non devias; ipsam rogans, non desperas; ipsam cogitans, non erras; ipsa tenente, non corruis; ipsa protegente, non metuis; ipsa duce, non fatigaris, ipsa propitia, pervenis.

[Amid dangers, amid difficulties, amid doubtful things, think of Mary, call upon Mary... following her, you will not stray; entreating her, you will not despair; reflecting upon her, you will not err; with her holding you, you will not fall; with her protecting you, you will not fear; with her leading you, you will not grow weary; with her propitious, you will come through.]

The Pope also reminds us of our Lady's call to repentance, ever the more appropriate in this holy season of Lent.

...In a society which is barely conscious of the ills which assail it, which conceals its miseries and injustices beneath a prosperous, glittering, and trouble-free exterior, the Immaculate Virgin, whom sin has never touched, manifests herself to an innocent child. With a mother's compassion she looks upon this world redeemed by her Son's blood, where sin accomplishes so much ruin daily, and three times makes her urgent appeal: "Penance, penance, penance!" She even appeals for outward expressions: "Go kiss the earth in penance for sinners." And to this gesture must be added a prayer: "Pray to God for sinners"...

Pius XII speaks out against the dangers of materialism, which have become ever more prevalent in the intervening 50 years.

...But the world, which today affords so many justifiable reasons for pride and hope, is also undergoing a terrible temptation to materialism which has been denounced by Our Predecessors and Ourselves on many occasions.

This materialism ... rages also in a love of money which creates ever greater havoc as modern enterprises expand, and which, unfortunately, determines many of the decisions which weigh heavy on the life of the people. It finds expression in the cult of the body, in excessive desire for comforts, and in flight from all the austerities of life. It encourages scorn for human life, even for life which is destroyed before seeing the light of day.

This materialism is present in the unrestrained search for pleasure, which flaunts itself shamelessly and tries, through reading matter and entertainments, to seduce souls which are still pure. It shows itself in lack of interest in one's brother, in selfishness which crushes him, in justice which deprives him of his rights - in a word, in that concept of life which regulates everything exclusively in terms of material prosperity and earthly satisfactions...

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