Out of the Depths

The 33 miners who were trapped for nearly 70 days in a Chilean gold and copper mine are all alive and safe. They were freed today, on October 13, the day of Our Lady of Fatima. But there is more…

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome

“De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine” (“Out of the depths I have cried unto thee, O Lord”). —Psalm 129, known as the Psalm “De Profundis” (“Out of the Depths”), from its first two Latin words

The Mystery of Prayer and Redemption

Prose is not adequate to describe what has just happened in Chile. It requires poetry — like the poerty of the Psalms.

Thirty-three miners, caught in a mine cave-in hundreds of meters below the surface of the earth on August 5, 69 days ago, began to be brought up to the surface today, one by one.

The first man was rescued just after midnight, in the first moments of October 13, and as this is being written, a little after midnight in Rome, 28 miners are safe and the 29th miner is about to be brought to the surface, so it appears all will be brought out within one day.

[Just now, the 33rd miner has been brought up, so all the miners are safe. All were brought up in 22 hours. Here is a link to the BBC live news feed from Chile: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11489439]

All Lost, All Found

At the beginning, it was thought they were all lost, as there was no contact with them at all. Not a sound. Silence.

Then, after 17 days, they were all found to be alive, and safe in an underground cave. But it was still thought that the rescue operation would take many months, until Christmastime, perhaps, and that the men, confined in such a small space, might all go mad before they could be freed.

And now, today, in a feat of engineering worthy of all praise, they have all been brought up safe and in their right minds.

And the entire world has been able to watch as this drama has unfolded.

A Papal Gift

But there is a little known aspect to this amazing story, and that is an aspect related to Pope Benedict, and to the rosary.

The rosary the prayer par excellence of Our Lady, because in its traditional form, it contains 150 Hail Marys in 15 joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries — the same number as the Book of Psalms.

Benedict offered public prayers for the miners on several occasions, but he also decided to send each of the miners a special gift: a rosary he himself had blessed.

The rosaries were brought to the miners personally by Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago, Chile.

It is said that, to survive, the miners organized their life in a disciplined way, even creating a little chapel in the corner of their cave. Praying the rosary, according to a report, became a part of the trapped miners’ daily ritual.

(Here is a Rome Reports video which describes this gift of rosaries; it is located at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH5azcuEL_Y&feature=channel)

And now, on October 13 — the anniversary of the last appearance of the Virgin Mary to the three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal — the miners are safe.

The Prayer in Westminster

October 13 is also the feast day of Saint Edward the Confessor, in the United Kingdom.

The drilling to free the miners started on September 17.

The Pope was in London on that day, the second day of his trip to Scotland and England.

At the service on September 17 at Westminster Abbey, Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, prayed before the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor.

On October 13, Saint Edward’s feast day, the miners are free.

A Sign of Redemption

At a Mass in Chile that began just after near midnight on October 13, as the first miner was being brought to the surface, Santiago Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel, speaking in El Sagrario chapel next to Santiago’s Metropolitan Cathedral, said the lives of the 33 miners should be seen as a sign of the need all people have for redemption.

And the bishop echoed the words of Psalm 129, where it says, “If thou, O Lord, shalt observe our iniquities, Lord, who can stand?”

“There is no saint without a past, nor sinner without a future,” the bishop said.

“Out of the depths, O Lord, I cried unto Thee”

The most powerful single line in all the psalms — arguably the supreme poetic monument of the Jewish, and of the Christian, religious-cultural tradition — is this one: “Out of the depths, O Lord, I cried unto Thee.”

The words sum up all the sorrow of a frail humanity, mortals doomed to inevitable defeat by the power of sin and death.

The words could have been spoken by Jonah in the belly of the whale, by Job from the ash heap in his sufferings, by David surrounded by enemies seeking his life, by Jesus when he was raised, to all outward appearance totally powerless, onto the cross, then laid, limp and cold, in his tomb.

Psalm 129 is part of the Vespers liturgy for the dead, and expresses the hope that the one who has fallen into shadow and darkness, the one who has been overcome by death, will yet be saved, and come again into the light.

Here is moving text of Psalm 129, first in Latin, then in English, which seems to express the prayer of the miners, caught in the dark under half a mile of rock for 70 days:

De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine: Dómine, exáudi vocem meam:
2 Fiant aures tuæ intendéntes: in vocem deprecatiónis meæ.
3 Si iniquitátes observáveris, Dómine: Dómine, quis sustinébit?
4 Quia apud te propitiátio est: et propter legem tuam sustínui te, Dómine.
5 Sustínuit ánima mea in verbo ejus: sperávit ánima mea in Dómino.
6 A custódia matutína usque ad noctem: speret Israël in Dómino.
7 Quia apud Dóminum misericórdia: et copiósa apud eum redémptio.
8 Et ipse rédimet Israël: ex ómnibus iniquitátibus ejus.
9 Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine.
10 Et lux perpétua lúceat eis.

Out of the depths I have cried unto thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
2 O let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
3 If thou, O Lord, shalt observe our iniquities, Lord, who can stand?
4 For with thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of thy law, I have waited for thee, O Lord.
5 My soul hath relied on his word my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
6 From the morning watch even until night: let Israel hope in the Lord.
7 Because with the Lord there is mercy, and with him plentiful redemption.
8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
9 Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
10 And let perpetual light shine upon them.

The Stone Was Rolled Back

In front of the whole world, on this October 13, for these miners, and for all of us as well, who are witnesses of it, the stone has been rolled back.

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