MOSES WAS SENT TO deliver his people from bondage, and from a bondage to which they had grown accustomed, so that they loved their fetters, and were constantly turning on him and asking why he could not leave them alone. That was his chief difficulty - they did not want to be set free. And even when they had been set free, and led out into the wilderness, they were always hankering after the luxuries they had enjoyed in Egypt, always murmuring against the rough fare of the desert. While Moses was up in the mountain, the people he had left behind him in the valley made a golden calf and fell to worshipping it, as they had worshipped it in Egypt. All his life he preached to an incredulous race, condemned, for their hardness of heart, to forty years' wandering in the wilderness before they achieved their promised resting-place.
Bernadette was sent to a world in bondage, and to a world which rejoiced in its bondage. Those apparitions of hers took place in the middle of the Victorian age, when mankind, or at any rate, the richer part of mankind, was enjoying material plenty to a degree, I suppose, unexampled before or since. And the presence of material plenty had given rise to a general spirit of materialism; a spirit which loves the good things of this life and is content with the good things of this life, does not know how to enlarge its horizons and think about eternity. She was sent to deliver us from that captivity of thought; to make us forget the idols of our prosperity, and learn afresh the meaning of suffering and the thirst for God. That is what Lourdes is for; that is what Lourdes is about - the miracles are only a by-product. You might have thought that in our day, when prosperity has waned and all of us, or nearly all of us, have to be content with less, we should have needed no longer these divine warnings from the rock of Massabieille. We know that it is not so; we know that in this wilderness of drifting uncertainties, our modern world, we still cling to the old standard of values, still celebrate, with what conviction we may, the worship of the Golden Calf.
- Ronald A. Knox