A SEAT AT THE SUPPER
by Frank Colyer
Lumen Verum Apologetics, 2002, 100pp, $14.95.
Available from Lumen Verum Apologetics, PO Box L50, Mt Lewis, NSW 2200
For those of us who have not had the privilege of visiting famous Catholic sacred sites like Lourdes and Fatima, we must rely on the books and stories of those who are more fortunate.
Much has been written and film makers have produced their versions of what took place at Lourdes when a young girl of 14, Bernadette Soubirous, illiterate, from a desperately poor family and suffering from poor health, claimed she had a vision of Our Lady.
The author of this new study, A Seat at the Supper, Frank Colyer, is concerned that though much has been written of the Lourdes miracle, most of it has been left on the bookshelves around the world, despite the fact that three million people each year visit the shrine which exists at the Rock of Massabielle.
It is interesting to note that those chosen to witness such apparitions are, in the main, outside the intellectual community, which, it seems to me, lends weight to the message they bring to the ordinary Catholic world.
Theological argument and debate have their place in the world of faith, but I have always believed in the words of great figures in the history of the Church, who maintain that "we do not try to understand in order to have faith; rather we have faith in order to understand."
If the story of Bernadette's vision at Lourdes does nothing else, it shows that statement to be true.
When we read Frank Colyer's history of the apparitions viewed by St Bernadette and the trials to which she was subject, particularly the efforts to prove her stories to be false, it reveals a person of great faith who, in the long run, had to be believed.
Some would question whether the Church is fair in the way it examines such events as took place at Lourdes before it gives its verdict. I believe it is right to do so to ensure that any imposters do not embarrass the Church.
Frank Colyer is quite critical of the exploitation of pilgrims by sections of the community who have turned Lourdes into a money-making affair. However, he explains this is not a Church problem and it in no way takes away the nature of the events which go to make visits to the area a genuine prayer-filled experience for pilgrims.
For those who cannot make the journey to Lourdes, this book is a great help in presenting a picture of genuine love and faith. It is to be hoped it will not collect dust on bookshelves around this country like some of its predecessors.
Mark Posa is National Executive Officer of the National Civic Council.