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Many so-called “liberal” Catholics would have one more reason to be embarrassed by their Church if I told them about St Etienne Le Laus.  So I will.

Lourdes is in the Pyrenees; Le Laus is in the Alps.  They are in the same business, competitors I suppose, but Lourdes need not hold its breath.  After all, who has ever heard of Le Laus ?  Lots of people in fact.  Every year thousands of pilgrims go to Le Laus  – to Lourdes however they FLOCK in their millions –  for pretty much the same reasons, notably to be miraculously cured or to obtain some other Divine/Marian favor.  Yes, Mary appeared here too.  Long before 1858 when Bernadette started seeing things, in the form of a dazzling lady dressed in blue and white, a lass named Benoîte (the dictionary meaning is “gentle”, “good”, but also “bland” and, ironically, “sickly sweet” !), dirt-poor like her more famous, more recent rival, began seeing the same Blessed Virgin, in fact as the Blessed Mother carrying the baby Jesus in her arms.  Whatever about the time-warp (was Jesus born again, as He said we all must be, John 3:3-7 ?), this apparition took place in 1664 and would be repeated, not just eighteen times over a period of six months, as in Lourdes, but regularly for fifty-four, yes, 54, years !  She kept coming back throughout the life of Benoîte, with a message like the one she would give to Bernadette : shape up or ship out, get your act together, repent for the end is near, or words to that effect.  But if Lourdes favors miraculous spring water for healing, in Le Laus it’s the oil in the sanctuary lamp (indicating the “Real Presence” of the Divine, Eucharistic Prisoner locked in the tabernacle) that is supposed to do the trick.

One might wonder whether in her remote Pyrenees village in the 19th century Bernadette had ever heard of Benoîte’s visions in her equally remote village in the Alps, three centuries earlier.  A copycat ?  I am more than inclined to doubt it.  Poor Bernadette was pretty clueless.  She may never have even heard of the Alps, let alone her visionary predecessor.  But their stories are remarkably – suspiciously – similar.  So is the marketing which keeps their myths alive.  And this is where it becomes increasingly embarrassing.

Bernadette has been canonized since 1933.  Benoîte, thanks to the charismatic, enterprising local bishop and Benedict XV1 himself, is now up for being ranked also as a saint.  His Lordship (no, I won’t inflict the pun on you) somehow managed, in … 2008, to authenticate the apparitions which are supposed to have been seen by someone who died 400 years ago ! Pope Frank will be canonizing his predecessors John 23 and John Paul 2 on April 27, 2014.  It won’t be long before Le Laus’ primary, pilgrim industry gets a pontifical shot in the arm, with the inevitable result that even more people will go, perhaps even FLOCK, to Le Laus.

Surely you liberal Catholics and Believers on the Brink are not only embarrassed by all this, but skeptical about the rest of the nonsense the Church would have you believe.  The ball is in your court.  Take the … bull by its horns.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO  (surely you agree !)