The Other World

There is nothing that confounds the wisdom of this world so completely as the report of a supernatural apparition. Scientific progress has intoxicated humanity with a sense of its own importance until it has come to believe that nothing lies outside the range of human intelligence.

To the modern mind, anything that evades the chemist's retort, the physicist’s microscope or the astronomer's telescope is purest unreality. It doesn't exist except as a figment of the mind, and the entire field of actuality is an open book to humanity's intelligence.

Out of This World

But with beautifully timed irony Divine Providence intervenes from time to time to effect a work that defies the created intellect to assign its cause. So today Lourdes with its series of miracles annoys the scientist, and the visionary of Konnersreuth, Germany, Therese Neumann (1898-1962), proves quite exasperating. The learned scientists and philosophers of modern thought have not the humility to admit the reality of anything that cannot be touched or weighed and labelled with technical formulae.

A quote from scripture readily comes to mind:

“God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:2729).

Untitled 1Therese Neumann, an individual bearing the wounds of Stigmata; that is, wounds in hands, wrists, and feet; photo: Ferdinand Neumann, Wikipedia.
And so, aside from its beautiful message recalling so vividly in modern times the Gospel teaching of Christ, the apparition of Mary at La Salette has this added apologetic value that it brings home to our minds the reality of a spiritual world, more actual than this material earth about which we make so much noise and clamor.

La Salette serves a great purpose – in the Church of God and in God’s Divine Plan inasmuch as it tends to make us more acutely conscious of the supernatural and the existence of the spiritual values of human nature. Like the divinity of Christ himself, it was first greeted with scoffing and contempt, but mere abuse and vilification never yet has had argumentative value. The loud laugh of the unbeliever serves no other purpose then to show his own shallowness and pitiable pride.

Evidence of the Divine

The unbelievers never succeeded in laughing to scorn the claims of the Divine Master, nor has their ridicule been able to weaken the foundations of truth upon which the fact of La Salette is based. They can all fume helplessly when they are asked to explain by human causality what they stubbornly refuse to admit of Divine origin.

The Apparition of La Salette serves them as a rebuke to the pride of conceited intellectuals and as a source of faith and consolations for the mind willing to admit limitations. La Salette, Lourdes, and similar apparitions, when once authenticated by the lawfully constituted ecclesiastical authority, have a very definite purpose in the life of the Church.

They bring home to our minds refreshingly the great truth we are so liable to forget of the existence of a higher life and another world to which we ourselves are destined. There is always the danger that even well-meaning people by the dint of habit will come eventually to look on the things they see and touch and hear as the sum of all reality.

Untitled 2Sunset on the Holy Mountain of La Salette in France
We have need now and again of these visits from the other world to remind us of its existence and to teach us that this material world of ours is only a temporary arrangement of unstable stuff, a mere transitory stage in a larger plan, a passing show that is only a shadow of the greater reality lying behind the veil. As St. Paul reminds us: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13:12).

Is Ours Truly an “Enlightened” Age?

It is sadly true that the spirit of our "enlightened age" has left its impress on the Catholicity of our own people today; and it is not uncommon to meet with an incredulous, skeptical attitude of mind regarding supernatural manifestations, even in quarters where religion has a right to expect to be championed. Even in high places apparitions are looked at with askance as though the aberrations of a religious fanatic or pious frauds that do more harm than good. Prudence in such affairs is most praiseworthy, and thank God the Church has always proved a prudent Mother.

But even prudence of judgment must yield to the evidence of fact, and to persist in an incredulous attitude of mind even after reasonable ground for doubt has been dispelled is to expose oneself to the charge of resisting God's handiwork.

There is an insidious error not far removed from rank heresy underlying that exaggerated spirit of caution. It is as those these "staunchly" Catholic skeptics were to say that "the arm of God had shortened," and God was less able today to do the astounding miracles we read of in the Gospel narrative. It is as though these over-zealous defenders of religion were to say that God's Providence was less all-embracing, that his love was less intense, and his interest less keen in the affairs of humankind whom he created once in his own image.

Untitled 3They forget the words of Christ in which he describes that vigilant care of God for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field that yield nothing to Solomon in the glory of their raiment. "If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?" (Luke 12:28).

Why think you of it, you learned divines; even the hairs of your head are all numbered! Is it then such an awful strain on your sense of judgment in view of this detailed description of Divine Providence to admit that, even in this day and hour of these enlightened times, God’s wondrous mercy might visibly take a hand in the guidance and direction of people for whose salvation he sacrificed his only Begotten Son?

Once more, I say, God keeps the Church he founded, blessed with the gift of Prudence; and yet what a pity if our theologians in their anxiety lean so far backward toward human principles of a finite intelligence as to be found guilty on the great day of reckoning of having resisted the work of God.

La Salette – A Warning, A Nearness, A True Visit from Heaven

Untitled 4La Salette Assumption, a painting by Bro. Donald Wininski, M.S.
La Salette comes as a refreshing warning to us, even while it reminds us of the nearness of God and His Blessed Mother, watching with a loving Providence over the ways of God’s people. The conversations of those who drive the carts, the Sunday program of the poor mountaineers, the merits of the various crops growing in the fields; the incident of the father discussing the ruined wheat with his anxious neighbor; all this has been noted down and duly commented upon by God’s Heavenly Visitor.

After reading the discourse of Our Blessed Mother at La Salette, it is easier to understand the words of St. Paul: "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Francis Thompson was not so far wrong when he wrote in his poem, “The Kingdom of God”:

“O World invisible, we view thee, / O world intangible, we touch thee, / O world unknowable, we know thee, / Inapprehensible, we clutch thee! …

“The angels keep their ancient places;— / Turn but a stone, and start a wing! / ‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estrangèd faces, / That miss the many-splendoured thing.”

Mary at La Salette teaches yet one more lesson – God is not away off on some distant throne, impervious to the changing fortunes of God’s people. There is an impassable abyss between heaven and hell, so the Scriptures say; but not so between earth and heaven. They are very close indeed, for theirs is a common purpose – the greater glory of God.

Let skeptics hug their empty little conceits and explore their tiny world of perishable matter. Some day they will learn a greater wisdom, as Hamlet reminded Horatio:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet by William Shakespeare).

Untitled 5

(Reprinted from the La Salette publication, Our Lady’s Missionary, “The Teachings of La Salette: The Other World”, April, 1934, pages 61-62)

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