The Catholic TV network, EWTN, telecasts the Rosary from Lourdes, France on the weekends. As I've watched it, I noticed a feature in the rock structure of the grotto, that is suggestive, in a symbolic way, of something that happened nearby in history. I see in the stone the suggestion of the shape of a sword blade, a particular one called a scimitar. A Webster's dictionary describes a scimitar as saber with a curved blade used chiefly by Moslems And added to the description, it may broaden toward the point.
The scimitar may then be associated with Islam. And near the grotto at Lourdes something of that sort happened.
To give this some background. In 732 Moslems called Saracens penetrated France as far north as Tours on the Loire River, where Charles Martel defeated them. Francis Trochu, an international historian of note (has books honored by the Academie Francaise), says that the Sararens retreated to Spain with some holding out in fortresses in Aquitaine, one being the castle of Mirambel in the foothills of the Pyrenees, mountains that rise between France and Spain.
Trochu said in 778 Charlemagne attacked the garrison there and laid siege to the castle. In the fortress was one Mirat who swore by Mohamet that "he would not surrender to any mortal man." The stronghold seemed impregnable, and the siege was prolonged.
According to Trochu, an eagle dropped a trout inside the walls of the enemy-held fortress, that it had seized from a Gave River. One account, says the trout was enormous and it was dropped at Mirat's feet. Trochu wrote that the “still floundering” fish was sent to the besieger to indicate that they had plenty of food. Trochu says Charlemagne was discouraged and thought of lifting the siege. But, Trochu wrote, Bishop of Le Puy and Chaplain of the Frankish army, smelled a ruse.
He arranged an audience with Mirat and saw that the Saracens had run out of resources. Mirat stood by his oath. The bishop asked him: “Brave prince, you have sworn never to yield to any mortal man. Could you not with honour make your surrender to an immortal lady? Mary, Queen of Heaven, has her throne at Le Puy, and I am her humble minister there.” Freed of his oath, Mirat accepted, and — surprising as it may seem — became a Christian, baptized under the name Lorus. Knighted by Charlemagne, he received command of the fortress. The learned assert, it's said, that it's from Lorus that the name Lourdes comes. The Moslem in a very real sense hung up his scimitar. And one might see a suggestion of this at Lourdes.
Centuries later, in 1858, Mary would manifest herself, near to where all this had happened, appearing to a poor girl named Bernadette Soubirous.
One may wonder whether what nature has etched in rock, might signify something that will happen some day in the future. It's devoutly to be wished, but I suspect hard to accomplish. Maybe only by a direct intervention by God through Mary.
― John Riedell
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