|Devotion to Our Lady||
OUR LADY OF RATISBON, BAVARIA (1842)
One of the most famous examples of Our Lady’s bounty in granting favors to the wearers of the Miraculous Medal occurred less than ten years after the medal had been struck.
Alphonse Rathisbonne was a French Jew who had no religion. When his brother Theodore became a Catholic and then a priest, Alphonse was filled with aversion. He was a typical intellectual of the nineteenth century, a worshipper of humanity, who sneered at anything spiritual in his pride and ignorance.
In November 1841, Alphonse found himself in Rome, although his itinerary had not called fro a stop in the Eternal City. There he met Baron de Bussiere. The Baron urgently requested him to wear the Miraculous Medal and to recite daily the prayer of Saint Bernard, “The Memorare.” Alphonse did so in the spirit of
On January 20, 1842, Monsieur de Bussiere saw Alphonse walking along the street and invited him into his carriage. They stopped at Saint Andrea delle Fratee because the Baron wished to see a priest there. In order to kill time, Rathisbonne entered the church.
He was not very much impressed and was walking around rather listlessly. Suddenly the church seemed to be plunged into darkness and all the light concentrated on one chapel. Very much startled he saw there our Blessed Mother bathed in glorious light, Her face radiant. He went toward her. She motioned with her right hand for him to kneel. As he knelt, he realized at last the sad state of his soul. He perceived that mankind had been redeemed through the Blood of Christ, and he was seized with a great longing to be taken into the Church of Christ. The blessed Virgin spoke not a word, but these things came to him as he knelt before her.
The next day Alphonse was baptized by Cardinal Patrizi, vicar of Pope Gregory XVI. The Holy Father as bishop of Rome, ordered an official inquiry and after four months the authenticity of the miracle was recognized.
Alphonse Maria Rathisbonne, as he was named after his baptism, devoted the remainder of his life to winning over his fellow Jews to Christ.
OUR LADY OF DIDINIA, CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY
The Abbot Orsini wrote: "Our Lady of Didinia is in Cappadocia. It was before this shrine that Saint Basil had begged the Blessed Virgin to remedy the disorders caused by Julian the Apostate. The Saint was granted a vision from Mary, which foretold the death of the emperor."
The godless Emperor Julian threatened the city of Caesarea with destruction because of a grudge he bore. Saint Basil gathered the frightened inhabitants on Mount Didinia, where there was an ancient Marian church. After three days of prayer and fasting, Basil had a vision in which he saw Mary surrounded by celestial soldiery and heard her say: “Go call Mercury to me. He shall kill the blasphemer of my Son.”
Saint Mercurius (Mercury) was a saint/martyr who died in the year 250. He was a powerful man physically, but also courageous. According to tradition, he was once facing a much superior army of Berbers when St. Michael the Archangel appeared to him. St. Michael gave Mercurius a sword shortly before the battle, telling him:
“Mercurius, servant of Jesus Christ, don’t be afraid. Take this sword from my hand and fight the Berbers with it. Don’t forget your God when you come back victoriously. I am Michael the Archangel, whom God sent to inform you that you should suffer for the Lord’s name. I shall be with you and support you until you complete your testimony. The name of Our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you.”
Mercurius felt a strength and confidence granted to him from the sword of Saint Michael, and was invincible in the combat. Not soon afterward, however, he refused to burn incense before the false idols in thanksgiving for the victory, and was subsequently tortured and killed for his faith in the true God.)
After the vision of the Mother of God, both Saint Basil and Libanius went to the Church of Saint Mercury. Upon their arrival they found that the arms of Saint Mercurius, which were usually hung there on display, were now missing. Remembering the words of the Blessed Virgin, they then went back to Mount Didinia rejoicing, and spread the news of the death of the tyrant to the inhabitants.
When the faithful went back to the city and the Church of Saint Mercurius, they found the lance of Mercury back in its accustomed place, although now it was wet with blood.
The Emperor Julian had gone on campaign in Persia, but was forced to retreat from the region. It was later learned that he had died in that foreign land on that same night that Saint Mercurius' weapons had gone missing. History records that he received a wound from a spear that had pierced his liver and intestines, suffering a major hemorrhage from the wound which killed him.
OUR LADY OF VICTORY, PARIS (1629)
The church of Our Lady of Victory in Paris was built in 1629 by King Louis XIII in thanksgiving for favors granted him by the Blessed Mother. The parishioners for a century and a half were known for their devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
With the French Revolution the church fell upon evil ways and days. All sorts of outrages were performed in it by the revolutionists. Afterwards it was used by a schismatic sect and later became a stock exchange. In 1809 it was restored to its original purpose but there were few parishioners left.
Father Charles Fritche des Gennettes was transferred to the church of Our Lady of Victories in 1832. He had been the pastor of Catherine Labouré. Father noticed that scarcely anyone came to Mass or received the sacraments. He tried all in his power, but to no avail, to bring the people back to the faith. Discouraged, he decided it was his duty as a failure to resign.
On Sunday, December 3, while saying Mass in an almost empty church, he, at the cannon of the Mass, cried out in distress. At that moment he heard a calm distinct voice say very solemnly:
“Consecrate your parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
After Mass he wondered whether he had imagined it; then again during his thanksgiving, he heard the same words. No longer doubting, he took a pen and composed the rules for the confraternity of Our Lady and received the Bishop’s approval the same week.
The following Sunday, he told the ten people at Mass about his project and said there would be verspers of Our Lady that evening, and afterwards all details of the Confraternity of Our Lady would be given.
When Father Gennettes entered the church that evening, he found it filled for the first time in years; more than 400 people were there. The parish continued to flourish from then on. People came to the church from all other parts of Paris and France and finally, all parts of the world knew of the famous shrine, which now holds about 90,000 thank offerings for cures and favors.
In March 1855, a thanksgiving octave, for the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was held. At the end of the octave, the statue was seen to move. This happened again and Pope Pius IX took this as a sign of thanks for his act, and ordered the statue to be crowned June 1850. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was cured through the intercession of Our Lady of Victories.
The Miraculous Medal which Our Lady gave us in 1830 shows the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The devotion to Our Lady of Victories, which was originated six years later, is primarily devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The green scapular (1840) is really a medal of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in cloth form.
OUR LADY OF LA CHAPELLE, ABBEVILLE (1400)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This church was built about the year 1400, on a small hill, where formerly they worshipped idols.”
The town of Abbeville is a commune located in the Somme department in Picardy in the northern region of France. It is located on the Somme River. There appear to be four Catholic churches in Abbeville at the present time – Saint Wulfran, St Sepulcre, Saint James, and Brunel.
The church of Saint Wulfram has already been written about, and November 2nd is the date for it on the Marian Calendar. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a Gothic style church from the 11th century. The church of Saint James is another Gothic church, but a storm in 2005 brought down part of the steeple that pierced the roof of the nave, and the state of the church is deteriorating quickly. It is in such poor condition that it is threatened with demolition. Of the last church, Brunel, I can find only a photograph of a Gothic style church and an address in Abbeville. None of these churches seem to be what Abbot Orsini was referring to. It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that the church no longer exists, thanks to the French Revolution. If anyone has any information about it, please feel free to add your information to this page.
“My dear Son, as the Lord of virtues and graces, exalted and adorned me with them from the first moment of my Immaculate Conception. And as, more-over, the hindrance of sin touched me not, I was free from the impediments which prevented other mortals from entering into the eternal gates of heaven; on the contrary the powerful arm of my Son acted with me as being the Mistress of all virtues and as the Queen of heaven. Because He was to vest Himself and assume unto Himself human nature from my flesh and blood, He was beforehand in preparing me and making me like Himself in purity and exemption from fault and in other divine gifts and privileges. As I was not a slave of sin, I exercised the virtues not as a subject, but as a Mistress, without contradiction, but with sovereignty, not like the children of Adam, but like the Son of God, who was also my Son.”
OUR LADY OF THE JESUITS COLLEGE, ROME (1584)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “In the year 1584 was instituted the first congregation of Our Lady at the Jesuits’ college, at Rome, whence is derived their custom of establishing it in all their houses.”
The Sodality of Our Lady, or the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was actually founded in 1563 by a Belgian Jesuit, Father John Leunis, at the Collegio Romano in Rome. It was established for young males, and the Papal Bull Superna Dispositione opened it up to adults under the authority of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.
A Jesuit historian recorded that it was originally “made up especially of younger boys from the college, who agreed to go to daily Mass, weekly confession, and monthly Communion, as well as to engage in a half-hour of meditation each day and do some other pious exercises.” The youth were among those who felt drawn to the spirit of the Jesuits, and were often called the “Congregation Mariana.” Once formed into a Sodality of Our Lady, they were to do apostolic work in the city of Rome, while also serving the poor. Their patron was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since the time of its humble beginnings in 1563, twenty-two Sodalists have become Popes
After Fr. Leunis’ death in 1584, Pope Gregory XIII canonically established the Sodality Group of the Roman College in his bull “Omnipotentis Dei.” The sodality of Fr. Leunis was declared to be the mother of all such subsequent sodalities. Having attained the status of Prima Primaria, it had gained the right to partner with other similar groups, and through that affiliation all could share in the indulgences and privileges of the Prima Primaria, with the General of the Society of Jesus having the authority to grant such an affiliation. These sodalities were established all over Europe, India and Asia, as well as in the Americas, and included both sexes. They reached their greatest number in the 17th century, when it was estimated that there were as many as 2500 such groups.
Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus, and separated the sodalities from their jurisdiction. From that time on it was Catholic bishops who established Marian Sodalities throughout the world.
OUR LADY OF SEEZ, BUILT BY ST. LATUIN (5TH CENTURY)
Saint Latuin built the first cathedral to Our Lady in the diocese of Seez. If this can be accepted as true, then the original cathedral would date back to the middle of the 5th century. A later church replaced it; one dedicated under the title of Notre Dame du Vivier. The Normans at the beginning of the 5th century destroyed this structure. A third church was built, a hundred meters away on the site of a pagan temple. This one had added to it the names of the martyrs Saints Fervais and Protase, whose relics were enshrined in it. A special chapel in the cathedral recalled the memory of the first cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Seez, for Mary remained the principal patroness of the diocese.
Many famous people made pilgrimages to Our Lady of Seez; among them were Saint Germain, Bishop of Paris; Saint Evroult, founder of the Abbey of Ouche; Saint Osmond, Count of Seez, who became Bishop of Salisbury; Saint Thierry, Abbot of Saint Evroult; Saint Louis IX was there in 1259; and about the same time Blessed Giles, one of the early companions of Saint Francis came to recommend to Mary’s protection the first French convent of Franciscans, which he was going to found at Seez. The Augustinian served the sanctuary from 1127.
In the latter half of the 18th century, the Bishop of Seez, in response to the wishes of the entire diocese, repaired and embellished the chapel of Our Lady at considerable expense. Later the work of redoing the entire cathedral was undertaken. In June of 1784, the cathedral chapter asked the Bishop to consecrate the new altar and the entire cathedral under the patronage of Our Lady. This was done in 1786.
Mary rewarded the prelates for their zeal in promoting her honor by granting all of them the grace of martyrdom in the violent persecution that broke out in 1792.
The beautiful façade of the cathedral was destroyed in 1795. A revolutionary bought the debris with the intent of building a house from it. Two attempts proved failures and he finally gave up the attempt.
NOTRE DAME OF PARIS, (1550)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “On this day, a Sunday, in the year 1550, the canonesses of Our Lady of Paris being in procession before the image of the Bless Virgin, which is near the door of the choir, a heretic from Lorraine, breaking through the crowd, sword in hand, sought to strike that image, but he was prevented by the assistants, and on the Thursday following, he was executed before the porch of Our Lady.”
Our Lady of Paris, or Notre-Dame de Paris, is a cathedral oftentimes simply known as Notre Dame. It is among the largest churches in the world, completed in French Gothic style. There is a separate room in the church which houses many important relics, including the crown of thorns and one of the nails from Christ’s Passion, a fragment of the True Cross, among other relics. Veneration of the Crown of Thorns takes place on the first Friday of the month, and also on Good Friday.
The city of Paris was evangelized in the 3rd century, and in the year 250 the pope sent them their first bishop, Saint Denis. At that time the Christians were being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire, so Catholics practiced their faith in secret. Saint Denis was martyred within a few years, but his successors continued until Constantine became emperor and ended the persecution.
The first church was built at about that time as an expression of the faith of the people, but the Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris presently occupying the spot was begun in 1163 by Bishop Maurice de Sully. There is a legend that he had a vision of a glorious new cathedral in Paris, and that he himself had drawn the outline for it on the ground where the cathedral now stands. The cornerstone was laid in the presence of Pope Alexander III, but it was not until 1345 that the cathedral was basically completed. The style was a new one, and Notre Dame was one of the first cathedrals to make use of flying buttresses to allow for the large stained-glass windows, including the world famous rose window.
In the year 1548 the cathedral was damaged by Protestants, and various tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed. It was probably at about this time that the incident the Abbot Orsini refers to occurred. In 1793 the cathedral suffered desecration during the French Revolution, and much of the art and many of the relics were damaged or stolen. The cathedral was for a time used as a warehouse to store food.
In 1801 the cathedral was given back to the Catholic church, and in 1804 the coronation ceremony of Napoleon I took place there. The Cathedral of Notre Dame has been repaired and restored several times since then, and is now again in use for its intended purpose.
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
also OUR LADY OF GOOD HEALTH BASILICA (1554) & STATUE, PATZCUARO, MICH. MEXICO
This festival, of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, began in the East, more than nine hundred years ago, since mention is made of it by Saint John Damascene, who lived n 721. It was instituted in England in the year 1100 by Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury; afterwards in the diocese of Lyons in the year 1145; and final, Pope Sixtus IV commanded, in the year 1576, the celebration of it throughout Christendom.
At the very first moment of conception in the womb of Saint Ann, Mary’s soul was flooded with the fullness of grace: “all fair, all beautiful.” The laws of man and of nature did not apply to Mary. Her soul was flooded with light so that she could make her acceptance of the Mystical Marriage with her God.
“You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse, you have wounded my heart…My sister, my Birde is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up…Thou art beautiful, O my Love, sweet and comely; terrible as an army set in array…One is my Dove; My perfect one is but one; she is the holy one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her. How beautiful art thou, by dearest delights!...Put me as a seal upon they heart, as a seal upon thy arm, for love is strong as death…” – thus God speaks to her in the “Canticle of Canticles,” and Mary replies: “I found Him Whom my soul loved...”
Mary’s Suscipe – the most perfect act of surrender a creature ever made, an oblation which would have a permanent re-echo every moment of her life, her bridal consecration, her mystical union with God was spoken at the very first moment of her being. Fiat – Be it done unto me…
There was never a questioning of God’s will in the life of Mary; but it was always perfect acceptance of whatever He planned and wanted of her. Therein lies Sanctity – doing God’s will, not ours, regardless. Yes, even the Motherhood of Mary as the “Mater Dei” depended on this, for Christ in the Gospels says: “Who are My Mother and My Brethren? If anyone does the will of My Father, he is My Mother and My Brethren.”
You, who love the Blessed Mother so intimately should certainly desire with all your heart to imitate Mary’s fiat in every instance of life. Strive for this initial complete consecration to the Will of God in everything, regardless. At the root, foundation of every life lived for God, there must be a “Suscipe” “Take O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my will…” and a Fiat in deepest love and conformity to God’s Holy Will. In return God will favor you with peace, joy of service, but, also, as He did His own dear Mother, with Suffering; but, always, He will give you the grace to say with Mary, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy Will.”
Mary is “our tainted nature’s solitary boast", and we are her children. Should not a daughter try to resemble her Mother in everything? Mary is the Treasure-house of God’s graces; she will give whatever we ask of her.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, Immaculate One, make me holy.”
OUR LADY OF THE CONCEPTION, NAPLES, ITALY (1618)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Conception, at Naples, so called because, in the year 1618, the viceroy, with all his court, and the soldiery of Naples, made a vow, in the Church of Our Lady the Great, to believe and defend the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin.”
Pedro Tellez-Giron, 3rd Duke of Osuna, was the viceroy of Naples under King Philip III of Spain. He was a Spanish nobleman born in 1574 and married in 1594. He joined the army of the Archduke of Austria as a mere private, but his ability and courage must have been considerable, as he was soon placed in command of two cavalry companies. He fought in several battles, and was seriously wounded on two occasions before being made the Viceroy of Sicily in 1610.
When he took this new position as viceroy, the Spanish had not a single galley on the island that was seaworthy. It was necessary to remedy that problem at once, as Sicily was vulnerable to Barbary pirates as well as potential attacks of the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. Within two years he was no longer in a weak position, and as he had 8 galleys and several other ships in the new navy, he used them to attack Ottoman territory.
In the summer of 1613 his fleet encountered a larger Ottoman fleet under the command of Sinari Pasha. The encounter lasted three hours, and became known as the Battle of Cape Corvo. Sinari Pasha was captured, and Mahamet, Bey of Alexandria and son of Muezzinzade Ali Pasho, commander of the Ottoman fleet at the battle of Lepano, was also captured.
In 1616 Pedro Tellez-Giron was promoted to Viceroy of Naples, and it was during this time that the Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece made his vow to defend what would later become a dogma of the Catholic Faith, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This doctrine was not actually formally proclaimed by the Church until Pope Pius IX formally proclaimed it on December 8, 1854, in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus.
Pedro Tellez-Giron, “the great duke of Osuna,” fell out of favor in Spain for political reasons and was imprisoned shortly before he died in the year 1624. It seemed not a fitting end to his life, at least in worldly terms, but if the Spanish nobleman had earned the favor of the great Queen of Heaven, he had nothing to fear.
TRANSITION OF THE HOLY HOUSE OF LORETTO, ITALY (1291)
Next to the Holy Sepulcher and Saint Peter’s at Rome, there is not in all Christendom a more famous pilgrimage than that of La Santissima Casa de Loreto. The holy house of Nazareth was venerated by the Christians even in the lifetime of the apostles, and Saint Helen enclosed it in a temple which received the name of Saint Mary.
Under the rule of the Arabian caliphs, a crowd of French pilgrims came to adore God and honor his Mother in this simple and poor dwelling, where Jesus and Mary had for a long space of time led a laborious and hidden life. When the Seldjoucid Turks had subjected their old masters, the pilgrims of Europe, who ventured into Syria to visit Jerusalem and Nazareth, suffered barbarous treatment, the recital of which, inflamed the whole of the West, causing an eruption into Asia.
When Godfrey of Bouillon had been proclaimed King of Jerusalem, Tancred, whose lofty deeds have been sung by Tasso, was named governor of Galilee; this prince, who was very devout to Mary, proved his devotion by the sumptuous offerings with which he enriched the church of Nazareth.
After the disastrous expedition of King Saint Louis, that corner of the earth, which was regarded as the cradle of Christianity, was defended foot by foot by the brave Knights Templars, who shed tears of rage and blood at the sight of the holy places profaned by the Saracens.
The last Christian stronghold was at Acre. Eight days before Acre was destroyed, and tens of thousands of Christians were put to the sword, the Holy House of Loreto was lifted up into the air and taken away. This occurred on May 10 in the year 1291.
Galilee, whitened with the bones of the Latin warriors, had become Mohametan. “God was not pleased,” says Father Torsellini, “that the holy house of Mary should remain exposed to the profanations of barbarians; he caused it to be transported by angels into Sclavonia, and thence to the March of Ancona, in the midst of a wood of laurels belonging to a pious and noble widow named Lauretta.”
“The report goes,” he adds, “that on the arrival of the holy house, the great trees of the Italian forest bent down in token of respect, and kept in that position till the axe, or old age, had leveled them to the ground.”
OUR LADY OF ANGELS, PARIS (1212)
Our Lady of the Angels, in the forest Livry, four leagues from Paris. Three merchants of Anjou having been ill-treated in 1212 in this forest, by robbers who tied them to trees, intending to leave them there to die, had recourse to the Blessed Virgin, who immediately sent to them three angels to restore them to liberty. After this miracle, several more were wrought, which made this chapel very celebrated.
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, PATRONESS OF THE AMERICAS, MEXICO (1531)
Mexico. The year of Our Lord 1531. Ten years and four months before, Hernan Cortes had accomplished the subjugation of the proud Aztec nation. And now, scarcely a decade later, a million and a half of the indigenous population had already embraced baptism and the Faith of Christ. On the ninth day of December in the year we speak of, one of these Indians, Juan Diego by name, left his humble dwelling in Cuautitlan. Juan was on his way to hear Mass at the Church of Santiago, in the barrio of Tlaltecloco. His way led past a hill called by the Indians Tepeyacac, and as dawn was breaking he arrived at the foot of the hill.
Suddenly there came to his ears the sound of sweet singing, like the voices of birds myriad and various, singing together with such ineffable harmony that the Indian was overcome with wonder and delight. Raising his eyes to the summit of Tepeyacac, Juan saw as it were a white and shining cloud, and within it a rainbow of color, with rays of dazzling light. The Indian stood spellbound, yet unafraid, filled with a sweet amazement, and asked himself whether it were all a dream.
“What is this I hear and see? Where am I? By chance have I been transported to that Paradise of Delights where our race came into being? Or is it some heavenly country, hidden from the eyes of men?
The singing was stilled, but the Indian remained in a kind of enchantment, gazing at the shining cloud above him on the hill. And then he heard a voice, a woman’s voice, soft and clear, calling to him from the midst of the cloud: “Juan! Juan!” Could he be hearing aright? Was the voice calling him? There it came again, this time more sweetly insistent: “Juan! Come closer!”
Gone was all hesitation. Almost in a bound Juan Diego reached the little eminence and stood just below the shining cloud. And then Juan saw her! Within the shining cloud there stood a beautiful Lady. The radiance of her garments transformed into the likeness of precious jewels the stones beneath her feet, and the leaves of the hawthorn and nopal appeared clusters of rare emeralds on surfaces polished and glowing. The very soil had become a carpet of jasper, tinted in many colors.
“My son, Juan Diego, whom I love tenderly, like a small and delicate child! Where are you going?” The Lady’s words were spoken in Nahuatl, the language of Juan’s people. Who can reproduce their delicacy of feeling in any other tongue?
“O noble Mistress and my Lady,” Juan answered, “I am going to Mexico, to the barrio of Tlalteolco, to hear the Mass, which the ministers of God present for us in His place.”
“Know, my beloved son,” replied the Lady, “that I am the Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, who is the Author of Life, the Creator of all things and the Lord of heaven and earth; who is everywhere. It is my wish that you build me a temple on this site. Here, as the loving Mother of you and of your fellow men, I will show forth my living kindness and compassion for your people and for those who love me and seek me, and call upon me in their labors and afflictions. Here I will hear their cries and their petitions, I will comfort and assuage. In order that my will may be accomplished, you must go to Mexico, to the palace of the Bishop who resides there. You are to tell him that I sent you, and that it is my pleasure that he build me a temple in this place. You will relate to him what you have seen and heard. And be certain of this: I will be grateful for what you do for me in this matter with which I charge you, and I will raise you up and make you renowned because of it. My son, you have heard my wish. Go in peace. And bear in mind that I will repay the labor and care that you employ; so in this matter exert all your strength.”
On his knees and with head to the ground, Juan Diego answered: “I go, most noble Lady and my Mistress, as your humble slave, to carry out your order.”
And so the Indian took leave of the Lady.
He descended the western slope of the hill and took the road into the City of Mexico, a league distant. As he had promised the Lady, Juan went directly to the palace of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga. He asked the servants to tell the Bishop he wanted to see him; but, because of the early hour, and because they saw only an Indian of the poorest class, the servants simply let him wait. Finally, however, struck by his patience, they let him in, to audience with the prelate. On his knees before the Bishop, Juan poured out his story. Bishop Zumarraga listened to the extraordinary tale and questioned Juan closely. In the end he sent the Indian away, telling him to return in some days.
Sorrowfully Juan left the palace. The Bishop, he felt, had not believed the story. What was more important to Juan Diego, he had failed to carry out the will of the Blessed Lady. With heavy heart he began the journey to his pueblo, Tolpetlac.
It was after sunset when he reached the summit of Tepeyacac. The Lady was waiting for him. As soon as Juan saw her, he prostrated himself in obeisance and began to speak. But what other tongue can adequately convey the beauty and gentleness, the courtesy, the delicate nuances, of Juan Diego’s native Nahuatl? Listen: “My well-beloved Daughter, my Queen and Lady most high! I did what you commanded me, although I did not talk to the Bishop until after a long wait. I gave him your message in the form you commanded me; he heard me calmly and with attention. But, from what I observed in his manner, and from the questions which he put to me, I gathered that he did not believe me; for he told me to come back at a later date, so that he might investigate the matter at length. He thinks that the temple you wish to be built for you is a tale of my own making, or my own fancy rather than your will. So I pray you, for this work send some noble and important personage, worthy of respect, whom he will believe. For as you see, my Mistress, I am only a poor rustic, a lowly man of the people, and unsuited for this business on which you send me. Pardon my boldness, my Queen, if I have failed in the reverence due to your high station. Let not your wrath fall upon me, nor may my answer displease you.”
The Most Holy Mary listened to his tale with a benign countenance, and then answered:
“Listen, my well-beloved son. Know you that I do not lack servants nor domestics under my command. For I have many whom I can send, if I wish, who will do what they are commanded. But it is fitting that you undertake this affair. It is through your intervention that my will and my desire must be done. So I ask you, my son, and I order you, to return tomorrow, to see and talk to the Bishop. Tell him to build me the temple that I ask, and tell him that she who sends you is the Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God.”
“Do not be displeased, O Queen and my Lady,” Juan Diego replied, “at what I have said. For I shall go willingly and with all my heart to obey your command and to carry your message. I was not making excuses, nor do I fear the journey nor the task. But perhaps I shall not be received nor listened to; or perhaps the Bishop, once he has heard me, will not believe.
Nevertheless, I shall do what yo command me. And I shall be waiting, Lady, tomorrow at sunset in this place, to give you the answer. And so remain in peace, and may God watch over you!”
Even through the dim medium of a translation twice removed from the original tongue, the delicacy of expression of this humble, unlettered man comes to us clearly, to our wonder and delight. With reverence Juan Diego took his leave and continued on the way to his home in Tolpetlac. As far as we know, he said not a word to anyone about the matter. Perhaps, overcome by the events of the day and disturbed that the Bishop had not believed the events, he had decided to keep his own counsel for the time being.
The next day, December the tenth, was Sunday, and Juan went to the Church of Santiago in Tlaltelolco for Mass and the class in Christian doctrine which the Indian converts had to attend. Then he went again to the palace of the Bishop. Once more the servants made him wait a long time, but finally he was admitted.
Once more, prostrate and with tears and urgent words, Juan related to Bishop Zumarraga “…how for the second time he had seen the Mother of God in the same place that he had seen her the first time. That she was waiting for the reply to the message which she had given him earlier. That once again she had commanded him to go and tell the Bishop to build her a temple on the very site where he had seen and talked to her. That he should tell the Bishop that she who sent him was the Mother of Jesus Christ and the Ever-Virgin Mary.”
The Bishop listened with greater attention this time, and began to think that there might be something to the tale. He questioned and re-questioned Juan Diego very closely, warning him to weigh his words carefully. He asked Juan to describe the appearance of the Virgin, and satisfied himself that it could be neither dream nor imagination. Yet, as Bishop, he could not appear to accept lightly such a tale from the lips of a simple Indian. So he replied:
“What you have told me is not enough to make me undertake the task that you request. Therefore, tell the Lady who sent you to give you other signs, by which I may know that it is the Mother of God who sent you, and that it is he will that we build her a temple.”
“What sign would you like me to ask for?” said Juan.
The calmness and confidence of Juan Diego strangely disturbed the Bishop. The Indian spoke as though the sign were as good as granted. And so the Bishop answered:
“Let the Lady choose whatever sign seems good to her.”
Then he summoned several of the most trusted servants in his household. Speaking to them in Spanish, which Juan did not understand, the Bishop told them to follow Juan without his knowledge, to report upon what he did and with whom he spoke. The servants followed Juan, easily keeping him in sight until he arrived at a little bridge crossing a stream, almost at the foot of Tepeyacac. Here the Indian disappeared from their sight, and although the servants looked everywhere, searching the hill on every side, Juan could not be found. They took him for either an impostor or a wizard, and returned to tell the Bishop what had occurred, asking him to punish the Indian if he should again come to the palace.
When Juan reached the summit of the hill, the Virgin was waiting for him. On his knees he told her what had happened: “…how,” as the most ancient recital has it, “carrying out her command, he had returned to the palace of the Bishop and had given him her message. And that, after questions and cross-questions, the Bishop had said that this simple tale was not sufficient to make him take action in so serious a matter.”
Juan continued his relation:
“I am to ask you, O Lady, for a particular sign, by which he may know that you sent me, and that it is your will that temple for you be built on this site.”
With loving words Mary commended the care and diligence of Juan. She told him to return on the morrow, when she would give him a sign that the Bishop would believe. Juan promised to return, and took his leave of the Sovereign Lady.
But on the next day, Monday, December the eleventh, Juan was unable to keep his promise. Upon reaching his pueblo, he found that his uncle, Juan Bernardino, was seriously ill. The greater part of the day Juan spent in looking for a curandero (native medicine man) and when finally he found one, the latter’s ministrations only made the sick man worse. Juan Bernardino requested his nephew to go early on Tuesday to the Convent of Santiago at Tlaltelolco, for a priest who would administer the last rites of the Church. Before daybreak on Tuesday, December the twelfth, therefore, Juan Diego set out for Tlaltelolco. But when he arrived at the foot of Tepeyacac, and was about to take the trail over the hill, he recalled his neglected promise to the Lady. Thinking that she would reproach him, he determined to avoid a meeting by skirting the hill. But as Juan approached the spot where today there is a spring of sparking water, Mary came forth to meet him.
Encompassed by a shining cloud, she came down the hill, directly across his path, and spoke: “Where are you going, my son, and what road are you taking?”
Struck with shame and fear, the Indian fell to the ground and answered:
“My beloved Daughter and my Lady, may God watch over you! Do not be displeased at what I am going to tell you. Know, my Mistress, that one of your servants, my uncle, is gravely ill and about to die, and as he seems very weak I am going to the temple of Tlaltelolco for a priest to confess and anoint him. After having discharged this duty I will return here to obey your command. Forgive me, I pray you, my Lady, and bear with me a little. I am not asking to be excused from doing what you have commanded, nor is it a false excuse I give you. Tomorrow I will return without fail.”
Mary heard the Indian’s story with understanding in her face, and then spoke to him in this manner:
“Listen, my son, to what I tell you now. Do not let anything worry or afflict you; do not fear illness nor any troublesome happening nor pain. Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your life and health? Are you not in my embrace and in my prayers? What else do you need? Have no care nor worry about the illness of your uncle, for he will not die from it. Rest assured that he is already well.”
Consoled by the words of Our Lady, Juan replied: “Then send me, by Lady, to see the Bishop, and give me the sign of which you spoke so that he will believe me.”
And Mary answered: “My dearly beloved son, go up to the summit of the hill where you have seen me and talked with me, and cut the roses which you find there. Gather them into your cloak and bring them to me. I will tell you what you are to do and say.” Without another word Juan obeyed, although he knew that the rocky summit had never produced flowers, nor vegetation of any kind. But, arriving at the top, he found a beautiful garden of Castilian roses, fresh and fragrant and covered with dew. Laying out his tilma (mantle), he gathered into it as many roses as it would hold, and carried them to Mary. And Mary gathered up the roses and rearranged them in the mantle of Juan Diego, saying: “You see here the sign which you are to take to the Bishop. Tell him, by the sign of these roses, to do what I order him. And pay attention, my son, to what I am telling you, and know that I have confidence in you. Show no one on the way what you are carrying, nor open your cloak except in the presence of the Bishop, and tell him what I sent you for. This will convince him that he is to start work on my temple.”
And so saying, the Virgin sent him away.
At the Episcopal palace, Juan Diego asked to see Bishop Zumarraga; but as before, the retainers saw only a humble Indian, and paid him little attention. Finally someone became curious about what he was carrying so carefully in his tilma, but Juan refused to show them. With some force they pulled at the cloak, and obtained a glimpse of the roses. At this discovery the retainers informed the Bishop, and Juan was brought into his presence. The Indian gave him Our Lady’s message, and added that he had brought from her the sign which the Bishop had demanded. When he let fall the ends of his mantle, a shower of roses covered the floor, and upon his garment was seen the image of Our Lady, just as Juan had seen her on the hill of Tepeyacac. The astonished Bishop venerated the miraculous image before his entire household and then bore it reverently to his private chapel.
Later, Juan was conducted, with signs of great respect, to the home of Juan Bernardino, by Spaniards who were commissioned to investigate the cure of the old man. Juan Bernardino related how the Most Holy Virgin had visited him at the very moment his nephew affirmed the cure had taken place, and had perfectly restored his health. The Virgin also told him "...that it was her pleasure for a temple to be erected for him in the place where his nephew had seen her; and also that her sacred image was to be called Santa Maria de Guadalupe."
Such is the story as it happened, told without embellishment. Why Our Lady called her image Guadalupe she did not say, nor shall we know, until she herself reveals it to us. At any rate, the title is not to be confused with that of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremadura, Spain, said to have been sculptured by Saint Luke, and representing the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin. Juan Bernardino, speaking the Nahuatl language, most probably called the Virgin Xanta Malia Tecuauhtlanopeuh, which signifies, "Saint Mary, she who appeared on the rocky summit."
What we do know is that the Virgin of guadalupe united the tribes and races of Mexico into a nation, for all recognize her as their Mother. Of the million and a half Indians baptized by 1531, almost all had been among the poor and the children. The noble Aztec families, mindful of their former glory, had nourished resentment of the Spanish conquerors and their religion. But with the miracle of Guadalupe, class distinctions were put aside, and noble and comoner, landholder and peasant, cacique and tribesman, embraced the Faith. Six years after Tepeyacac there were nine million converts among the Indiands, embracing he nucleus of all the nations among the tribes in the valley of Anahuac. Mexico thus became the first Christian nation of the American continent. The first little temple was finished, and the miraculous image placed therein on the twenty-sixth of December, 1531. This temporary structure was replaced by one of adobe, built at the expense of Bishop Zumarraga, and finished in 1533. The sacred image remained there until November, 1622, when Archbishop Juan de la Serna solemnly blessed a new collegiate church on the site. In 1895 the reconstruction of that edifice was completed for the Pontifical Coronation of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1931 a further reconstruction was carried out, to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the apparitions.
*from Mexico land of Mary's Wonders, Joseph L. Cassidy
The beautiful image of the Blessed Virgin is obviously of miraculous origin, and science is at a loss to explain it. Those who honestly seek God will find proof of his existence here.
The fabric which the tilma was made of should have deteriorated after 20 years, yet it is hundreds of years old and in good condition. This is impossible for science to explain. An analysis of the image shows that there was no sketch made prior to the image being produced, and that it was made without brush strokes. Modern science is unfamiliar with the substance used to produce the image. Even though the fabric is course, the images of several people can be seen reflected in the eyes of the Virgin, just as they would be in a living person's eyes. The placement of those images, and the distortion that is the effect of the curve of a normal eye, is impossible to reproduce on a flat surface. The stars about Our Lady on the mantle coincide with the constellations that were in the sky on December 12, 1531.
In 1921 a bomb was placed before the image by those who hate God and His Holy Catholic Church. It exploded with such force that a heavy cast iron crucifix was bent backwards, a marble communion rail destroyed, and yet the tilma remained completely undamaged!
The result of this act of hatred and violence against the Church and Our Lady obviously did not have the effect that the perpetrators intended, for their act further confirms that the miraculous preservation of the image is supernatural in origin and enjoys the protection of Christ and his holy Mother!
OUR LADY OF THE HOLY CHAPEL, PARIS
This image, which is under the portal of the lower Holy Chapel, has wrought many miracles.
Saint King Louis IX, on his return from the Holy Land, built at Paris the so-called Holy Chapel (Sainte-Chapelle) in honor of Mary. In it he placed the relics of Our Lord’s Passion which he brought with him from the Sacred Places in Palestine. Completed in the year 1248, it is a marvel of Flamboyant Gothic architecture. The structure itself seems but a delicate framework for the incredible stained glass windows. Even though the chapel was seriously damaged during the ravages of the French Revolution, most of the stained glass is original and the rest restored to its original condition.
At the door of the chapel stands a graceful statue of Mary. At the feet of this statue the doctors and literati of the day loved to prostrate themselves and their works.
Although the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary had not yet been declared, many believed in it, and prelates preached it from the pulpits. John Dons Scotus, one of the most prominent theologians of the Middle Ages, was among those who believed in the Immaculate Conception, and he very ardently argued in her favor. He was beatified in the year 1993 by Pope John Paul II.
One day as Dons Scotus knelt before Mary’s image preparing to champion her sinlessness against the antagonists, he asked her to bend her head forward if she were pleased with his efforts. The image of Mary inclined her head, and from that very moment the head of the image remained inclined.
Upon witnessing this miracle, the faithful championed the cause of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, praying to her under the title and receiving answers to petitions, special graces and miracles.
The statue survived the French Revolution, and is currently on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris, which describes it as “unquestionably the most beautiful piece of ronde-bosse (in the round) ivory carving ever made,” just as She is the most beautiful creature ever to have been created by God.
OUR LADY OF ALBA ROYALE, HUNGARY (1005)
Our Lady of Alba Regis is a shrine in Hungary, built by Saint Stephen, King of Hungary, who gave his kingdom to the Blessed Virgin; and so erected this shrine to commemorate the event and remind himself and his whole kingdom that she was royalty there, not he.
The shrine is likewise known as Our Lady of Alba Royale, as indicated in the title above. As the saintly King Stephen came to his coronation, he begged that the crown be placed on the head of the statue of Mary, and not on his own head. The stately church built in honor of the Mother of God is at Stuhlweissenburg, Hungary, and was the place where the Kings of Hungary were both crowned and, in 1038, was also the place where Saint Stephen was buried.
Szekesfehervar, which was known as Alba Regia from the time of the ancient Romans until sometime in the Middle Ages, is one of the most ancient of Hungarian settlements. It was established at the convergence of several important trade routes, as traders and craftsmen began to settle there. It was Saint Stephen who replaced the tribal districts with regular counties. Later, the town was also one of the most important stations on the Crusader route to the Holy Land.
The vast majority of the Hungarian kings were crowned at Szekesfehervar, and fifteen kings of Hungary were buried there. Work on the basilica continued for centuries, including towers reaching 70 meters in height, so that it could be said that the cathedral of Saint Stephen was a marvel of its time. The Hungarian throne was kept inside, and there were many royal weddings and funerals that took place within its walls.
Little now remains of the basilica but ruins, as it was captured by the Turks in 1543, who ransacked the church, and in 1601 finally destroyed the basilica with gunpowder and fire. At one time the basilica had held the crown jewels and the Holy Crown of Hungary.
The Turks were finally driven from the town in 1688, and Szekesfehervar is currently said to be the eighth largest city in Hungary.
OUR LADY OF THE ARMED FORCES
“The news reports tell of the bitter cold of the “uplands” of the East and elsewhere where the “boys” in the service of country are fighting for love of country and fatherland. There are days and nights spent longing for warmth and peace; and so many a mother who prays to Mary for her son.”
“My boy, whom I zealously guarded from the little hurts and pains of life, lies down tonight in the dirt, or perhaps in the dirty straw of some deserted barn, or even under the icy stars without even that much shelter. Perhaps he crouches somewhere on the rough floor of a moving truck, or plods wearily through the endless snow. Mary! My soul longs for peace for him…he is so young!”
And comfortingly Mary whispers into the mother’s heart: “The night was cold at Bethlehem…the stable rough and dirty…the town filled with strangers and hostility. There, in lowliness and suffering my Son was born. There on the straw, in the cold He lay that night long ago. I had good things planned for my Son – a tiny bed prepared at Nazareth…a warm safe home…little garments made during the long days of waiting. But it was at Bethlehem…the night was cold…the straw rough. And, He was just a Babe.”
Prayerfully the soldier’s mother continues: “He’s so young to be away from me – from home and family – just a boy, really, with the dreams and hopes of a boy. A tow-headed, bright-eyed football captain last year – a serious, somber soldier now. My arms are empty, my heart is so heavy, and he is so young!”
“My Son was young once, too, playing on the streets of Nazareth at twelve, the dusty hills – helping Joseph in the carpenter shop…brightening the small home with His boyish ways. My heart was so heavy during the long search through the unfamiliar streets of Jerusalem; and how my empty arms ached when I found Him among the doctors in the Temple – a boy no longer but a Man about His Father’s business.”
“My son fights among an alien land far from all he knows and loves. He is whipped into near submission – my son who was so tall and straight and proud. He lies in the dust trampled by an enemy’s boot – my son who never hated anyone, who loved life and living. His wounds are deep and painful and he is so young!”
“My Son walked among a hostile people in Jerusalem and along the Jordan. He was scourged at the pillar – He Who was also tall and straight and noble. He fell in the dust on the road to Calvary – He Who ministered to all and rejected none. His Hands and His Feet were pierced through with nails and His side was opened by the spear of the soldier. And – He was God!”
“My heart is heavy for my son who walks alone and suffers this night – for he is so young!”
“My Son Who knew a soldier’s life, and fears, and pains, shall walk with your son tonight and heal his wounds of body and heart – for he is God. Your dear, good son carries with him all the time my sign of victory – the Rosary – and he prays my favorite prayer daily and even oftener, when he can; the scent of his prayers delights me; I shall never forsake your son as long as he asks me to help him. Do you not know, I AM OUR LADY OF THE ARMED FORCES all over the world?”
OUR LADY OF GOOD OR HAPPY DELIVERANCE, BROUGHT FROM
MADRID, SPAIN TO ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA (1565)
Institution of the celebrated confraternity of Our Lady of Good Deliverance, in the Church of Saint Stephen des Gres, at Paris, about the year 1533, to which Gregory XIII granted ample indulgences in the year 1581.
In our nation’s oldest city stand the Shrine of Christian Motherhood, patroness for the glorious ideas of a truly Christian home – Our Lady of Milk and Happy Deliverance, brought from Madrid, Spain, and now famous in the United States of America.
This history of the shrine begins in 1565 when the Spaniards went ashore at what is now Saint Augustine, Florida. On the hallowed spot where the first Holy Mass was celebrated, the shrine of Our Lady was built. A bright, smiling statue of the Virgin, nursing the Infant, named La Leche (the milk) statue.
England wanted Spanish Florida and in 1765 it became her colony – a political pawn. Twenty years later England returned Florida to Spain. During these years the Spanish had sought refuge in Cuba, taking with them all religious articles and treasures. The Statue was taken aboard a refugee ship, which disappeared on the sea. Returning to Florida in 1783, the Spaniards prayed for their statue to be returned. In 1822 Spain sold Florida to the United States, and in 1875 the Church bought the site of the shrine. Raids, massacres and land disputes did not lessen the devotion paid the Mother of God. Their shrine was gone; their beautiful statue lost at sea. Still, Catholic mothers paid tribute to Mary. For two centuries the search for the statue continued. In 1938 Artist John Duer was commissioned to do a second copy from the original statue in Madrid, Spain. The La Leche chapel also contains the remains of Admiral Menendez, founder of Saint Augustine.
Every year on Low Sunday there is a solemn pilgrimage to the shrine and the statue is carried in procession. More and more mothers and fathers from every state in the union are joining the pilgrimage each year. They know the need of more fervent devotion to the Blessed Mother. La Leche spans time – from the era of faith in God and the love of motherhood to our modern era of indifference to God and the collapse of families. Those who take part in this devotion express their belief in God as the Giver of Life and openly rebuke the organizations advocating birth control. They are fearlessly protesting against self-styled leaders who trample the ideals of family life.
Today’s mothers must beg intercession from Our Mother Mary for the preservation of the Christian family. They mush model their home life after that of the Holy Family.
Not only will the Virgin of La Leche help those who turn to her in pregnancy; she is anxious to aid all families, who desire to preserve the glorious ideas of a truly Christian home. Mary is the Mother of us all, and she will not refuse any favor, of whatever nature it might be; she will give us the milk of her loving kindness in every need, just for the asking.
OUR LADY OF AMIENS, FRANCE
The shrine to Our Lady of Amiens is a cathedral. The church was erected in the third century by Saint Firmin, the bishop of Amiens, who received the crown of martyrdom during the persecution of Diocletian. A part of the head of Saint John the Baptist was preserved here; it was brought hither by a traveler named Galo, or Wallon de Sarton, depending upon the legend, on his return to Constantinople in the year 1205.
The old cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1218 when lightning struck the roof during a storm. The scale for the new church was so large that a nearby church dedicated to Saint Firmin the Confessor was demolished, as well as a large hotel. In an unusual move, it was decided to construct the nave of the new church first, instead of the choir.
The church was rebuilt in Gothic style, and although it was completed in later centuries, being called the "Gothic Parthenon," the majority of the work was completed in 1288. The cathedral is more spacious than Notre Dame in Paris, with an interior volume at about 260,000 cubic yards, which is considerably larger than the cathedral at Reims. It can hold approximately 10,000 people, which is probably a greater number than the entire population of Amiens during the Middle Ages.
The nave, made of stone, is over 42 meters in height, taller than any other cathedral in France. The choir is flanked by seven chapels, that in the center being the “Lady Chapel.” This shrine to Mary is so beautiful that one poet aptly wrote, “It is not possible to add anything to or to take anything from it.”
Still, it should be noted that the cathedral might have completely collapsed in the 16th century were it not for Pierre Tarisel, who observed that the entire structure was unstable, as the flying buttresses were insufficient for the task of upholding the nave. He designed a system for supporting the walls which is still in place today. The cathedral was intentionally targeted for destruction by bombing during World War II, although the bombs missed the cathedral through a seeming miracle.
DEDICATION OF OUR LADY OF MARSEILLES BY ST. LAZARUS
also THE EXPECTATION OF OUR LADY
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of Our Lady of Marseilles, by Saint Lazarus, in presence of his two sisters, Mary Magdalen and Martha, and of three holy prelates – Maximus, Trophimus, and Eutropius.”
Saint Lazarus, or Lazarus of Bethany, had the great joy of being a friend of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He was also the man later raised from the dead by Our Lord as described in the New Testament.
According to tradition, and a work by Bishop Hrabanus, Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha were set adrift from Judea “in a ship without sail, oars, or rudder.” This occurred in about the year 48 AD. Their boat was conducted on its way by Our Lord from heaven, and after a long voyage they landed at a place now known as Saintes-Maries de la Mer in the region of Provence, France.
Once making land the voyagers separated and began to convert the inhabitants of Gaul that they encountered to the True Faith. Lazarus went to Marseilles where he preached and successfully converted a number of its inhabitants to the True Faith, eventually becoming their first bishop.
During the persecution the Christians suffered under Roman Emperor Nero, Saint Lazarus hid himself in a crypt. Later, the celebrated Abbey of Saint Victor was constructed over that crypt early in the fifth century. In this same crypt Lazarus was eventually interred, when he shed his blood for the faith as a martyr. During a subsequent persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian he was cast into prison and beheaded in a spot which is believed to the identical with a cave beneath the prison Saint-Lazare. The inhabitants of Marseilles claim to be in possession of the head of Saint Lazarus and part of his forearm, which had been translated to the Abbey of Saint Victor, and which they still venerate. The rest of his relics were buried in the Cathedral of Saint Nazarius in the town of Autun before being translated to the church of Saint Lazarus in Avallon near Autun.
This is the traditionally held belief about Saint Lazarus in France. I can find no mention of the church dedicated to Our Lady of Marseilles by Saint Lazarus.
OUR LADY OF TOLEDO, SPAIN (657)
Saint Ildephonsus was a Visigoth born into a noble family, but the date of his birth in about 607 is not known for certain. He was tutored by Saint Isidore of Seville, and then became a Benedictine monk against the wishes of his father while at a young age. He was ordained a deacon in about 630, and in 657 was called to the archiepiscopal throne in Toledo, the Visigothic capital of Spain.
One day in that same year of 657, while Saint Ildephonsus, now the Archbishop of Toledo, was saying matins, Our Lady appeared to him accompanied by a great number of the blessed. She was holding in her hand the book on the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary which Ildephonsus had composed in her honor. She thanked him for it, and out of gratitude gave him a golden chasuble that had specifically been woven from him in heaven. (The chasuble is the outer garment worn by a priest when celebrating Mass).
Tradition claims that Ildephonsus’s successor, Siagrius, tried to use the alb, but died in the act of putting it on. The garment is said to have been seen and touched by Herbert Losinga, Bishop of Norwich, as late as the eleventh century.
There are those who say the present location of this chasuble of Saint Ildephonsus is not known, or that the story is only legend, but neither of these assertions is correct. This celestial gift is still preserved and is now kept at Oviedo. Alphonsus, the chaste King of Castile, transferred it to the church of Saint Savior which he had built. It, along with the Sudarium of Jesus Christ, and many other relics, is contained in the Holy Chest of Oviedo. The Spanish hero Rodrigo Diaz, better known the Cid, was a living witness when the chest was opened in his presence.
OUR LADY OF MOLENE, FRANCE (1075)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “The shrine of Our Lady of Molene is in the abbey of the Order of Saint Benedict in Langres. It was founded on the 20th of December, 1075, by Saint Robert who was the abbot.”
The Benedictine monastery in the diocese of Langres founded by Saint Robert was actually the famous Molesme Abbey. As the Abbot Orsini mentioned, it was indeed founded by Saint Robert, henceforth known as Saint Robert of Molesme, in the year 1075. He had been the abbot of Saint Michael Abbey, but left and founded a new abbey when they refused to accept his necessary reforms.
Saint Robert was born in the year 1029, and had a deep, childlike devotion to the Mother of God – by reason of a vision his mother saw before Robert was born – and he instilled the same into the hearts of his monks. Saint Robert’s holiness attracted many sincere men to join him, and as many of them were also noblemen, they provided Saint Robert with the financial means necessary to build a magnificent church. Among those who flocked to Saint Robert was Bruno of Cologne, who was the future founder of the Carthusian Order.
When Saint Robert died in the year 1111, he was buried in the church at the abbey he founded. Alberic, Robert’s successor, decided that the order should be dedicated to Mary. According to legend, Mary bestowed on Alberic a white mantle; for that reason the monks changed their black habit and wore white. All their churches were dedicated to the Virgin and each had its Mary altar before which the office of Mary was chanted every Saturday.
The church and monastery were destroyed and any remaining property stolen in 1472 during the war between Burgundy and France. The Huguenots burned what had been rebuilt the following century during the French Wars of Religion. The end came during the French Revolution when the abbey was suppressed and the buildings and church destroyed.
OUR LADY OF ST. ACHEUL, AMIENS, FRANCE, FOUNDED BY ST. FIRMIN, BISHOP (4th cent.)
The church containing the shrine of Our Lady of Acheul, was located near Amiens. In fact Saint Acheul was once considered the mother-church of the cathedral of Amiens, and was sometimes called the “old cathedral of Amiens,” although this is no longer believed.
The church stands on the very place where once a Roman temple stood, and legend tells that Saint Firminus was the Apostle of Amiens, arriving there before the close of the third century after Christ. It is said that by the eloquence of his preaching and the number of his miracles, Saint Firmin converted many idolaters to the True Faith and baptized three thousand men in forty day.
The early church, built around the year 300, contained the remains of the martyred saint. This church was devastated repeatedly by the invasion of the Normans, and was finally totally destroyed in 1218. The relics of Saint Firmin were transferred to the Cathedral of Amiens during the Middle Ages.
The shrine of the Virgin of Saint Acheul is noteworthy for a singular miracle of an apparition which occurred during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The celebrant, after the consecration, saw a hand appear from within a luminous cloud, and the hand of Christ take the Sacred Host and drop it into the chalice. Some of the faithful present likewise witnessed the same thing; a certain skeptic was brought to his knees in humble acceptance of the fact that the Holy Sacrifice is truly the same as that of Calvary. The armorial bearings of the abbey of Saint-Acheul displays a hand in remembrance of this miracle.
The present cathedral of Saint Acheul was not finished until the fifteenth century. After the erection of the new cathedral at Amiens, Saint Acheul was known as the church of Our Lady of Acheul. Miracles took place frequently and pilgrimages continued for many years.
The church of Saint Acheul was destroyed by a natural phenomenon, probably a strong storm, in about the year 1750. It was rebuilt, and completed in 1760.
OUR LADY OF CHARTRES, MOTHER OF YOUTH, FRANCE (1935)
Our Lady of Chartres, or Notre-Dame de Chartres, is a beautiful Gothic style cathedral located in Beauce, France, which is about 50 miles southwest of Paris. This cathedral, which was first built in the time of the apostles, was demolished several times over the centuries. It was re-erected in its present state by Saint Fulbert, the fifty-fifth bishop of Chartres at the end of the 12th century into the beginning of the 13th century.
Our Lady of Chartres is the site of possibly the oldest existing devotion to Mary – tradition states that an ancient order of Celts paid homage, centuries before her birth to the mother of the prophesier Savior, the Virgin who was to bear a Son.
The story of the student’s pilgrimage to Chartres started in 1935 with a group of fifteen young men and girls of the Sorbonne, who sacrificed their Pentecostal holidays in prayer to the Holy Spirit and to Mary. They marched to the shrine in the Chartres pilgrimage and prayed in common as did their predecessors. The next year there were 36 who went, and in the following year 150. Then the war came; but during the eight hard years that followed, the pilgrimages were not given up. The numbers increased, until in 1948 about 6,500 students formed their line of march to Mary.
Most of the pilgrims were in their early twenties or late teens, from the universities, colleges and schools of Paris and the provinces, although some were from foreign countries. The number of unbelievers, atheists and Communists has always been high even among the students; while Protestants and Jews also make up a goodly part of the pilgrims. Some come out of curiosity, some following the persistent urgings of a friend; some for the sport of hiking, or to answer an invitation to test their grit and endurance; but whatever their reasons for starting, few end without a definite spiritual “lift.” Many make the pilgrimage in bare feet over gravel roads, which is not easy; the sick and crippled go, too.
In making the Chartres pilgrimage, these young people help to give France a new birth of devotion to Mary; something new and spotless has been born as in the warmth of Bernadette, the Cure of Ars, Vincent de Paul – re-lighted in the hearts of young moderns. France must now place her hope in youth, the youth of France and the youth of the Church, through Our Blessed Mother, the Lady of Chartres.
OUR LADY OF ARDILLIERS, ANJOU, FRANCE,
Our Lady of Ardilliers, located at Saumur, in Anjou, France. Its name is illustrious throughout France, as well on account of the concourse of people who were attracted thither, as from a fountain which cured several maladies. This image represents Our Lady of Pity, who holds in her arms her Son dead, whose head is supported by an angel.
Notre Dame Ardilliers has a statue, a fountain and a church dedicated to Our Lady at Saumur in Anjou, France. The fountain was said to have been used in ancient times for pagan sacrifices. Crowds of people are attracted to the shrine, and its name is illustrious throughout that country, for there Our Lady cures many maladies for her devotees. The image represents Mary in pity holding in her arms her Divine Son, lifeless, His head supported by an angel. It is sometimes called Our Lady of Pity.
The monastery founded by Charlemagne at Saumur, was destroyed by the Normans and the one surviving monks retired to a cave near the spring of Ardilliers, a statue of Our Lady being his sole remaining treasure. A small statue near the spring, found in 1454, is believed to be the identical one just mentioned. The miracle wrought in connection with this image caused the erection of a small arch above the spring. The waters were found to have healing powers.
In 1553 a chapel was built and dedicated. It attained magnificent proportions as successive additions were made, notably by Cardinal Richelieu. Devotion to Our Lady became widespread as many miracles occurred.
Mary’s clients at Ardilliers number such illustrious persons as Louis XII, Anne of Austria, Marie de Medici, Henrietta of England, Cardinal Richelieu and others. The Founders of the Sulpician Company went there for inspiration; Saint Gignon de Montfort begged blessings and Mary’s help on the Institute of the Fathers of the Holy Ghost and the Daughters of Wisdom he was about to found.
Cities placed themselves under the protection of Notre Dame des Ardilliers, or Our Lady of Ardilliers, and promised annual pilgrimages. During the Revolution the church and shrine were despoiled of their treasures by not destroyed, and the image was left unharmed. In 1849 the ravages of time necessitated the renovation of the chapel, which had been built by Richelieu, and pilgrimages became more frequent than ever.
CHASTE NUPTIALS OF OUR LADY AND ST. JOSEPH
The celebration of the virginal marriage of Our Lady to Saint Joseph has been kept for a long time as a festival in Sens and in other counties of France in particular.
Their marriage took place on Mount Sion. Mary wore a beautiful blue wedding dress which had been prepared for her by her relatives. Saint Joseph in utter simplicity wore a long cloak and a robe of grey material. Many friends were at the wedding feast; also some of Mary’s Temple teachers and school companions.
When the celebration was over, Mary and Joseph left for their home in Nazareth; this home had been given to Mary by her parents as a part of her inheritance. Those who had not been able to attend the feast welcomed the new couple home.
When these had departed, Mary was for the first time alone with Joseph. In deep humility Joseph spoke to Mary, somewhat like this:
“My dear spouse, although I am unworthy of you, I thank God that he has chosen me for your betrothed husband. Consider me your servant; tell me what you want and I will do it.”
To this Mary may have said,
“My master I am fortunate that God has given me you as a husband, but I must tell you what is in my heart.”
Joseph urged Mary to speak freely so she did.
“Our Creator has manifested His mercy in planning that we serve Him together. I beg you, Joseph, help me fulfill the vow of chastity which I made to God. In all other things I will be your servant. Make a similar resolution, so God will give us the eternal rewards for which we yearn.”
With a look of joy, Joseph listened to Mary’s words; for unknown to her, he, too, had promised God to live chastely; then he also spoke freely:
“Mary, my heart is glad to hear your feelings on this subject. When I was twelve years old, I made a like promise to God to serve Him in perpetual virginity. With His grace, I will be your faithful companion; I beg you to consider me a brother, chaste and pure.”
Then, filled with joy, Mary and Joseph dedicated their lives to God, their supreme Master, and discussed earthly important matters. Ann and Joachim had left Mary an inheritance, which had been in the custody of the Temple until then, but after the wedding it belonged to her. She and Joseph planned – they assigned 1/3 to their needs, 1/3 to the Temple, and the last third to the poor. Then turning to Mary, Joseph asked:
“Is it your wish, my lady, that I continue my work as a carpenter?”
Mary answered: “Yes, Joseph; this is God’s desire, too, that we be humble people. I will obey you, Joseph, for God in His infinite wisdom decreed that men be the natural head of the family, the house and the home. Let us ever live in accordance with the wishes of God.”
Joseph replied: “May God’s will be done by us, Mary, my beloved, in whatever we do or say.”
Each year Mary and Joseph renewed these promises and spent the anniversary day in prayer and recollection as much as they could. What a commemoration it must have been on the twenty-fourth of December, the eve of Christ’s birth! Only Mary and Joseph could personally tell us of this, and they will certainly do so when we see them in Heaven.
BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOR
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “On this day, at the hour of midnight, the Blessed Virgin brought forth the Savior of the world, in the stable of Bethlehem, where a fountain sprung up miraculously on the same day.”
“The infant God therefore was brought forth from the virginal chamber unencumbered by any corporeal or material substance foreign to Himself. But He came forth glorious and transfigured for the divine and infinite wisdom decreed and ordained that the glory of his most holy soul should in His Birth overflow and communicate itself to his body, participating in the gifts of glory in the same way as happened afterwards in His Transfiguration on mount Tabor in the presence of the Apostles.
“It was the will of God that the most blessed Virgin should look upon the body of her Son, the God-man, for this first time in a glorified state for two reasons. The one was in order that by this divine vision the most prudent Mother should conceived the highest reverence for the Majesty of Him whom She was to treat as her Son, the true God-man. Although She was already informed of His two-fold nature, the Lord nevertheless ordained that by ocular demonstrations She be filled with new graces, corresponding to the greatness of her most holy Son, which was thus manifested to Her in a visible manner.
“The second reason was to reward by this wonder the fidelity and holiness of the divine Mother; for her most pure and chaste eyes, that had turned away from all earthly tings for love of her most holy Son, were to see Him at his very Birth in this glory and thus be rejoiced and rewarded for her loyalty and beautiful love.
“The sacred evangelist Luke tells us that the Mother Virgin, having brought forth her first-begotten Son, wrapped Him in swathing clothes and placed Him in a manger. The two sovereign princes, Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel, were the assistants of the Virgin on this occasion. They stood by at proper distance in human corporeal forms at the moment when the incarnate Word, penetrating the virginal chamber by divine power, issued forth to the light, and they received Him in their hands with ineffable reverence. In the same manner as a priest exhibits the sacred host to the people for adoration, so these two celestial ministers presented to the divine Mother her glorious and refulgent Son.
“In the same moment in which the holy angels thus presented the divine Child to His Mother, both Son and Mother looked upon each other, and in this look, She wounded with love the sweet Infant and was at the same time exalted and transformed in Him.” (taken from the Mystical City of God, by the Venerable Mary of Agreda).
OUR LADY OF ACHEROPITA, ROSSANO, ITALY (1140)
The Abbot Orsini relates: “Tradition has it that one night a woman in great brightness appeared to a watchman on duty where a new church was being built in Rossano, Italy. She asked him to withdraw from the place. The next morning there was seen in the building a picture of the Blessed Virgin, painted, but not by the hand of man. For that reason it came to be called “Acheropita,” not made by human hands.
The latest historical research has established that the image of Acheropita – a fresco on a pillar – was found in a small chapel near the cave of one of the many hermits who formed the aura of Saint Nicholas of Vallone in the 6th century.
It seems a holy hermit named Ephrem was very devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the year 580, a certain Captain Mauricio, was deflected from his course by the winds and landed near present day Rossano. The hermit Ephrem went to meet him with the strange sounding greeting of:
“It was not the winds that brought you here, but Our Lady, for once you are appointed emperor, you will build a church here.”
A mere two year later, in the year 582, Mauritius was crowned emperor, and remembering the prophesy, had artists brought to the cave to paint a fitting image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although the artists toiled all day, during the night their work always mysteriously disappeared. The governor, unsure of what was happening, ordered that the cave be guarded at night.
That night as the guards went about their duty in front of the cave, a young woman of rare beauty came out of nowhere amidst a bright light wearing a white silk cape. She asked the guard to depart from the site, which they did. Informed the next morning of what had happened, the governor went to the church. To everyone’s surprise he observed an image that perplexed him, for painted on the bottom of the inner wall was a beautiful picture of Our Lady, similar to the Byzantine icons he had seen before. It was exactly where his artists had been trying in vain to draw the image.
The news of the miracle soon spread throughout the city. The faithful began arriving to the place, shouting in wonder and cheering in tears with songs of praise, “Acheropita! Acheropita!”
The image became an object of veneration for the people of Rossano, and a new church had to be built to satisfy popular piety in a more worthy manner. That church is now known as the Rossano Cathedral, and it was built next to the grotto where the image is still preserved. It is also said that later the Saracens attacked, trying to surprise the city of Rossano, but they were repulsed by Our Lady, who appeared dressed in purple, and holding in her hand a lighted torch. The sight of her majesty terrified the Saracens, who turned and fled.
On May 26, 1949, the diocesan cathedral was erected at the shrine. From August 16 to October 16, 1949, a silver statue of Our Lady was carried on a triumphal pilgrimage through the archdiocese. August 15th is the annual date for the celebration of the Madonna Acheropita, and it is said that during the celebration a wonderful atmosphere envelops the whole of the city for the occasion, with the festival offering an opportunity for the faithful to demonstrate their love for the Blessed Virgin.
On June 18, 1950, Cardinal Micara crowned the image of the Blessed Virgin.
Prayer of Our Lady Acheropita:
Blessed Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother — Acheropita, Turn your gaze upon ourselves and our families. Throughout the centuries, your miracles and apparitions, Have shown you are always the Mediatrix. Have compassion upon us and relieve the difficulties in which we currently find ourselves
and mitigate the sadness and bitterness of our lives. Thou, crowned Queen, at the right hand of your Son, Full of immortal glory, you can assist us in our need. May all that is in us and around us, Receive your maternal blessing. Queen Acheropita! Oh! Let us dedicate our whole lives to you and give honor to you for your service to our brothers. We request your maternal goodness and the grace that we may live under your constant protection, comforted in our trials and freed from these present troubles. With confidence we can repeat, That none turn to thee in vain that have called upon you with the title “Acheropita.” Amen.
INSTITUTION OF THE KNIGHTS OF OUR LADY (1370)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Institution of the order of Knights of Our Lady, in the year 1370, by Louis II, Duke of Bourbon.”
Duke Louis of Bourbon, called the Good, lived from 1337 until 1410. He was the son of Peter of Bourbon, who died in the famous Battle of Poitiers in 1356, leaving the duchy to Louis upon his death. In the year 1370, Louis II, Duke of Bourbon, instituted the Order of Knights of the Thistle of Our Lady. This order was composed of only twenty-six knights, and we have a good deal of description as to their uniform.
The knights wore a blue velvet girdle embroidered with gold, with the word 'Hope' in similar embroidery. Their buckle was of fine gold, and it bore, in green enamel, the head of a thistle. Their motto was 'Allons,' and on the collar of the order was the word 'Esperance.' The collar also was of gold, weighing ten marks, fastening behind with a gold buckle; it was bordered with whole diamonds, enameled green, and filled with fleurs-de-lis of gold, the whole bearing the word 'Esperance' in single letters, enameled red, thrice repeated. Pendent to the collar was an oval badge, enameled green and red, and thereon the image of the Virgin, encompassed by the sun, and crowned with twelve stars of silver, with a crescent of the same under her feet. Her garments were enameled purple and sky-blue; and at the bottom of the badge a green thistle.
Each knight, upon his election into the order, received a golden shield with the device, Esperance, traversed with a band set with pearls, on which were embroidered the words Allon, which implied, “Allons tous ensemble au service de Dieu, et unisons nous pour la defense de Notre pays,” or in English, “Let us go together to the service of God, and unite ourselves for the service of our country.” The habit of the order was of blue silk, lined with red satin, and embroidered with gold.
On the day of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, which was the grand festival of the order, the knights of the Thistle wore a sumptuous robe of pink damask, and a mantle of sky blue, embroidered with gold, over which they wore the grand collar of the order, composed of diamonds and fleurs-de-lis of gold, with the word Hope. From the end of the collar hung an oval medallion with the figure of Mary, below which was seen the head of a thistle, in green enamel, relieved with white.”
In 1371, a year after he instituted the Knights of Our Lady, Duke Louis married Anne of Auvergne, and by her they had four children. In the year 1390, Duke Louis initiated a crusade against the declining Hafsid dynasty who ruled a large portion of North Africa at the time. His intention was to end the Barbary pirates who operated from the port city of Mahdia, but he was not successful in his attempt.
The Order of the Knights of Our Lady became extinct soon after the death of Duke Louis of Bourbon, who was the driving force behind the order.
OUR LADY OF PONTOISE, FRANCE (12th century)
Pontoise is an old town built around a bridge across the Oise; and its shrine dates from before the 13th century, as is evidenced by a charter of donation from the year 1231. Our Lady of Pontoise is about seven leagues from Paris. This image, which is set up on the front of the church of the suburb of this town, on the side of Rouen, is celebrated for the many miracles which are wrought there.
The statue of Our Lady of Pontoise is of marble, and stands over 6 feet in height. The Madonna wears a short veil and a dress with long tight sleeves. Our Lady’s face is framed by her hair. The Divine Child lays His hands on an orb that His mother holds in her hand.
The statue was, according to tradition, carved by a pious youth in the quarry at Blangis, near Abbeville and brought to Pontoise. In 1226 the Archbishop of Rouen dedicated a chapel there, and in 1249 it was made a parish church, and the statue was placed outside, over the main entrance. The church was visited by the saint-king, Louis IX; though it did not figure greatly in history until after 1431 when it was destroyed by the English.
From this time on, the shrine had a violent history. The English, who were at that time still militantly Catholic, determined to rebuild the shrine they had destroyed. It was partly finished when the French reconquered the territory. They finished the rebuilding in 1484.
During the years of 1580 and 1650, when the plague was destroying the country, people flocked to Our Lady of Pontoise and the danger was averted. Again in 1849 a cholera epidemic was averted through her intercession, so that the shrine had the name of being powerful against plagues.
In Reformation times a Protestant tried to steal the statue and failing that, knocked off the head of the Infant and threw it into the river. A fisherman had spread his nets just below the bridge and the severed head was saved and returned to the statue.
In 1585 the church was destroyed again by the English; in 1790 by the revolutionaries. Each time the statue was saved and returned; the last time by a man who bid on it at an auction and kept it in his garden until the troubled days were over. The church was rebuilt in 1800 and a century later was still extant; the yearly thanksgiving procession for Our Lady’s protection from the plague was held annually. Replicas of the statue were placed over many doorways of the city after the plague of 1640, and some are still there.
OUR LADY OF SPIRE, GERMANY (1146)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Spire, in Germany. Saint Bernard, entering this church on the 29th of December, 1146, was honorably received there by the canons, who conducted him to the choir, singing the Salve Regina. The antiphon being finished, Saint Bernard saluted the image of the Blessed Virgin in these terms: “O clems, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria!” and she answered: “Salve Bernarde!” The words of this saint to the image are seen engraved in a circle on the pavement of the church, on the same spot where he pronounced them, and they have since been added to the salve Regina, which was composed in the year 1040, by Herman, surnamed Contractus, a Benedictine monk.”
This date on the Marian calendar, Our Lady of Spire, actually refers to the Cathedral of Speyer, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and known as Kaiserdom zu Speyer in Germany. Construction began on the Romanesque style cathedral in the year 1030 and was completed in 1106. It is 146 yards long and 47 yards wide, which made it one of the largest buildings constructed at that time in the Middle Ages.
During the Nine Years’ War the entire town of Speyer was burned to the ground, and the heat from the inferno caused part of the nave to collapse. In 1792 the town was occupied by the French revolutionary troops, and the church pillaged. It was in that century that the ruins of the chapel of Saint Bernard were removed. The cathedral was subsequently used as a warehouse and hospital.
In 1957 the cathedral was restored, and although much of the plaster and 19th century paintings were removed, the scenes of the life of the Blessed Virgin were left undisturbed. At this time the cathedral is still undergoing restorations that are scheduled to be completed in 2015.
OUR LADY OF BOLOGNA, ITALY (1193)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This picture was in the Church of Santa Sophia, at Constantinople, with this inscription: “This picture, painted by Saint Luke, must be taken to the mountain of La Garde, and placed over the altar of the church.” A Greek monk set out for Italy about the year 433, with the picture entrusted to him, and deposited it on the mountain of La Garde.”
The account mentioned by the abbot above is also told in the chronicle of Graziolo Accarisi, who wrote of a Greek hermit who went on pilgrimage to Constantinople where he received from the priests of the church of Santa Sofia the icon of Our Lady of La Guarde. This image was attributed to Saint Luke the Evangelist, and there was an inscription on the painting itself that it should one day be taken to the “mountain of the guard.”
The hermit took the icon, and walked throughout Italy in search of the place where the icon was meant to be, but it was not until he reached the city of Emilia near Bologna that the authorities of the city came out to greet him and processed with the icon back to the mountain. The icon had finally found its home, and it is now more commonly known as the Madonna of San Luca.
Among the many miracles attributed to the image is especially noted the “miracle of the rain,” which occurred on July 5th, 1433. An extremely heavy spring rain came late in the season, threatening to destroy the crops. Facing the prospect of famine, the people turned to the Blessed Virgin for assistance. The storm and rain stopped suddenly with the arrival into the city of a procession carrying the miraculous icon. Since that time these processions have been repeated annually. There is even an incredible arched walkway that is only a little short of four kilometers on length that is meant to protect the icon from the elements, as well as those on procession.
The icon shows the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus in blessing. She wears a blue-green robe, with a red tunic. The nose, eyes and fingers appear somewhat elongated. The Divine Child wears a tunic of the same color as His mothers’, with his right hand in a gesture of giving a blessing, and his left hand being closed. In 1625 the image was covered with a silver panel which leaves only the faces of the figures uncovered.
The icon was crowned in 1603 by the Archbishop Alfonso Paleotti. The sanctuary of Saint Luke, where the icon is kept, was declared a national monument in the year 1874. In 1907 the church was raised to the dignity of a minor basilica by the holy Pope Saint Pius X.
IMAGE OF OUR LADY OF CHARTRES BRINGS BACK TO LIFE THE
SON OF KING GEOFFREY (100 B.C.)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “About a hundred years before the birth of our Savior, the image of Our Lady of Chartres, which the Druids had consecrated to the Blessed Virgin, parturient, raised to life the son of Geoffry, king or prince of Montlhery, who, having fallen into a well, had been found dead; out of gratitude for this favor, he made several presents to this image, as the history of this miracle attests, which is represented in the stained glass of the great church.”
To Chartres belongs the distinction of being not only the oldest shrine in France, but also – in all probability – the oldest shrine of Our Lady in the world. It is actually pre-Christian, and in a case similar to the Athenians’ ‘altar to the unknown god,’ was dedicated to the Virgin who would bring forth a son, at least a century before the birth of Christ.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame at Chartres is probably the most beautiful Gothic church in the world; but far predating the Christian cathedral, the location was famous for its crypt – and the shrine of Our Lady of the Underground. It is known that Chartres was long the site of the Druid’s most important sanctuary, and where they worshiped an image that came to be known as Our Lady of Chartres. Indeed, Chartres was a kind of pilgrimage destination long before the construction of the beautiful Gothic cathedral we see standing there today.
Before Julius Caesar came to Gaul, the Druid’s had already fashioned a statue in the image of a woman seated with a child upon her lap, for they somehow understood that there would be a woman who would give birth to a child like none other ever seen upon the face of the earth. Perhaps they knew of Isaiah’s prophesy, “…the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.”
This image was kept on an altar in the crypt that bore the motto ‘Virgini Pariturae’ – ‘to the virgin who will bear a child.’ Even though they were pre-Christian, these Druids awaited the One who would prove the old gods to be nothing but mere idols of clay and stone. Later, with the coming of Christianity, they learned that the virgin and child foretold to them were the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lord Jesus Christ, and they converted and demonstrated joyful devotion to them in their image of Our Lady of Chartres.
The well the Abbot Orsini refers to also dates back to Gallic times and the Druids, and it was also located in the crypt. ‘The Well of Strong Saints,’ or ‘Puits des Saints-Forts,’ the Christians came to call it, for the bodies of many early Christian martyrs were cast into that well. The well can still be seen there, although it is now dry.
The ancient statue of Our Lady of the Underground was destroyed during the French Revolution, and a copy is now in its place. It is interesting to note that this depiction of the Divine Child seated upon His Mother enthroned is quite similar to later statues of the Middle Ages known as Sedes Sapientiae, or ‘Seat of Wisdom,’ such as can be seen in Our Lady of Louvain, that become very popular in the 13th century.
Thus, for many reasons, Chartres and Our Lady of the Underground have long been one of the main pilgrimage sites in France.