|Devotion to Our Lady||
BAPTISM OF ST. LOUIS DE MONTFORT
Eve of the Purification of Our Lady
Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort was born January 31, 1673. He was a Catholic priest, but it was his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his ‘Total Consecration’ for which he is most famous.
Baptism is recalled as part of the vow of consecration: “I…renew in all sincerity the promises I solemnly made at the time of my holy Baptism.”
The saints see things very differently than most men. In his Consecration to Mary, St. Louis states, “You are truly blessed if the world persecutes you, opposing your plans though they are good, thinking evil of your intentions, calumniating your conduct, and taking away unjustly your reputation or your possessions.”
“My son, beware of complaining to others, rather than to Me, of the bad treatment you receive, and do not seek ways of justifying yourself, particularly when you are the only one to suffer from it.
On the contrary, pray for those who procure for you the blessings of persecution.
Thank Me for treating you as I Myself was treated on earth, a sign of contradiction.
Never be discouraged in your plans because you meet with opposition; it is a pledge of future victory. A good work which is not opposed, which is not marked by the sign of the cross, has no great value before Me and will soon be destroyed.
Regard as your best friends those who persecute you, because they procure for you great merit on earth, and great glory in Heaven.
Regard as unfortunate those who live in luxury, who feast sumptuously, who frequent the world of fashion, who make their way in the world, who succeed in business, and who spend their lives in pleasures and amusements.
Never do anything, either good or evil, out of human respect to avoid any blame, insult, mockery, or praise.
When through your own fault some loss or disgrace befalls you, do not be disturbed by it, but rather humble yourself before God and accept it from His hands as punishment for your fault.”
PURIFICATION OF OUR LADY
Besides commemorating the presentation of Christ in the Temple, this day has another meaning, for it is called Candlemass Day. The candle is one of the most widely used sacramentals in the Church; one blessed in a special Mass.
We use candles at Baptism, at Mass and other church services, at the ordination of a priest, the consecration of a bishop, at Easter, at Christmas to signify the coming of Christ. Two blessed candles should be in every home, to use in times of sickness, death, storms and calamities.
In the blessing of candles the Church reminds us that the candles signify light; they are blessed for the service of men, for health of body and soul, for those who desire to carry them in their hands with honor. Christ, the true Light and Fire of Charity, is asked to bless these candles; to dispel the darkness of night, to free us from the blindness of vice and to discern what is pleasing to Him and profitable for our salvation.
On the Feast of Mary’s Purification, we greet her with lighted candles – shining with faith and understanding, burning with love and zeal, as Sion welcomed Christ the King; today we go to Christ through Mary, to Christ, the new Light that gives Faith, Hope and Charity to us all.
The two-fold Jewish rites to which the Holy Family submitted on this occasion were the legal purifying of the mother after childbirth and the offering of the first-born male child to the Lord. They showed reverence for the Father’s Law by fulfilling its obligations, and so the Mother submitted to the Purification in all humility.
Angels beheld in wondering awe what was the greatest event the Temple had ever witnessed. It was nothing less than the second coming of the Lord to His Temple, which the prophets had foretold. At the Presentation, God the Son made Man took possession of the Temple built for His Father’s glory, and so ratified the worship which is offered to God in sacred courts, churches.
This simple ceremony is the link between the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption; here the Savior renews the oblation of Himself; “Sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not; but a body Thou hast fitted to me. Then, I said: “Behold, I come: in the head of the book it is written of me that I should do Thy will, O God.”
Jesus really begins His Passion in this mystery of the Presentation; and so, too, Mary begins her dolors. It is by Mary’s hands that Jesus makes the oblation which is the prelude to His Sacrifice. We reckon the Presentation among the joyful mysteries, but it is also first in place among Mary’s Sorrows.
Simeon enlightened by the Holy Spirit, understood the mystery and so, too, did Mary. After his first transports of joy at seeing the Messiah, he blessed them and said to His Mother, “Behold this Child is set for the fall and the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted, and they own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”
This prophecy reminds us that Mary is always to be associated with the destiny of Jesus, the one solitary partner of His lot, singled out to suffer with Him. Heresies that pierced the Son have transpierced the Mother. The early Church guarded the doctrines of Jesus by defining Mary’s titles; today those who repudiate the honor of Mary, turn from the Son also; in the mind of satan as in the mind of the Church, the honor of Son and Mother go together.
This feast reminds us how intimately Mary is associated with her Son in the work of Redemption. We welcome Her Child to our hearts with love and faith, we bless the Mother, too; for she had “not spared her life by reason of the distress and tribulation of her people, but has prevented our ruin in the presence of our God.”
OUR LADY OF SAIDENEIDA
Outside of Palestine one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Mother of God in the Levant was at a convent of Orthodox nuns, - Dair as-Sagura, located within the walls of an ancient fortress on a hill near Damascus. The Middle Ages were certainly a time of faith, and there were many images of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and various saints that were produced for the edification of the people. Inflamed with a true zeal for the faith, and anxious to give glory to God, there were many shrines all over Europe, many of which are now long forgotten in our age when the world struggles mightily to extinguish the light of Christ.
The origins of the shrine of Our Lady of Saideneida are no longer known, but it goes back to a time long before the separation of the Orthodox Church from Old Rome. In fact, there is a tradition that associates the shrine to at least the time of the Roman Emperor Justinian I (d565). The icon, called Our Lady of Saideneida, was said to have been brought to its home outside Damascus in the year 870, from either Constantinople or Jerusalem. The shrine was formerly well known in the West, where from about 1200 it was popularized by the stories of miracles that were related of the veneration of the image. In our own time the shrine has become all but forgotten, as there is almost no reference to it to be found anywhere.
OUR LADY OF FIRE (FORLI, ITALY)
The best-known print in early times was certainly the miraculous woodcut of Forli in northeastern Italy that became famous as Our Lady of Fire, or Our Lady of the Fire. It is the subject of the earliest monograph on a printed picture, which also fixes the earliest date that can be attached to a surviving Italian print. This book is Giuliano Bezzi’s "Il Fuoco Trionfante," printed in 1637 at Forli, between Florence and Ravenna, and he speaks of the incident remembered as Our Lady of Fire.
“Around the year of our Lord 1420, in a pleasant house by the cathedral at Forli, the devout and learned Lombardino Brussi of Ripetrosa imitated Christ among the disciples at Emmaus by breaking the bread of the fear of the Lord and of humane letters with school boys. Their household devotion turned to the Virgin. They ever began and ended their literary exercises by praising and praying to this great sovereign of the universe. They said their prayers before an image of Our Lady rudely printed from a woodblock on a paper about a foot square. Printing was then new, and who knows if this may not have been the first print by the first printmaker? The simplicity of the image certainly matched the well-mannered scholar’s simplicity of heart. It showed, and still shows, the most Blessed Virgin holding her Holy Infant and surrounded by saints like King Solomon by his guard. Above to the right and left shine the sun and the moon, luminously forecasting that the Virgin was to consecrate this paper with a power like the moon’s over water and the sun’s over fair weather.”
“The worship of the Virgin had advanced these happy boys from easy letters to graver studies when, on February 4, 1428, fire broke out in the downstairs classroom. Whether it started by accident or by design is not known, but certain it is that the outcome so glorified God and His Blessed Mother that fires nowadays cause joy where they burn! When this fire had feasted on the benches and cupboards of the school, it followed its nature to ascend and sprang at the sacred paper. In awe at the sight of the most holy image, the flames stopped and – wonder of wonders – like the blameless fingers of a loving hand, they detached it from the wall to which it was tacked. The fire thought the wall too base a support for so sublime a portrait and longed to uphold the heaven of that likeness, like the other heaven, on a blazing sphere. Above the flames raging in the closed room the unscorched image floated as on a throne. When the fire had consumed the ceiling beams it wafted out the revered leaf, not to burn but to exalt it. With this leaf on its back it flew to the second floor, to the third, to the roof, then through the roof, and behold, the Virgin’s image burst above the wondrous pyre like a phoenix, triumphant and unconsumed! The miracle drew the eyes of all the populace and came to the ears of Monsignor Domenico Capranica, the papal legate, who carried the paper in a procession, accompanied by all the people, to the cathedral of Santa Croce, where it was placed in a holy but simple chapel.”
The building burned to the ground, but the image of Our Lady of Fire was not forgotten. Copies were made of the image, and they could be found in every Christian home in the region. The original print itself was the focus and center of religious life in the town of Forli, which had been blessed to witness such a great miracle.
DEDICATION OF THE FIRST CHURCH OF OUR LADY BY ST. PETER,
The first church dedicated to Our Lady by Saint Peter the Apostle was not actually in Italy, as the good abbot stated, but in the city of Tartus, Syria. The city of Tartus was known as Tortosa to the Crusaders who lived in the region during the time of the Crusades. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Tortosa, built in the year 1123 by these Crusaders, still stands on the site of the original sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin that was dedicated by Saint Peter. It is remembered that the Emperor Constantine looked favorably upon the city because of his love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the devotion to her by the faithful at Tortosa.
By all appearances the church of Our Lady was as much of a fortress as it was a church, and indeed there were once towers surrounding the structure, two of which have survived the centuries. The façade of the church, which appears almost Romanesque in style, has five arched window openings that are well above ground level, and there is a centrally located doorway. Once inside, however, the structure looks more like a church, as there are graceful arches, columns and a vaulted ceiling.
Since the church doubled as a fortification, the Crusaders were able to hold it even after Tortosa was taken by Saladin in the year 1188. Saladin, who was able to unify the warring Muslim factions, made them into a robust army and won an important battle at Hattin over the Crusaders, capturing nearly all of their holdings, save for those near the coasts. The Knights Templar continued to use the church as a kind of headquarters until the year 1291, when it was also taken.
Once captured by the Mameluke’s, the church was turned into a mosque. Later, under the Ottoman Empire, the church was used as a place of storage. The church was recently renovated, although now it is used only as a museum.
OUR LADY OF LOUVAIN, BELGIUM (1444)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This Virgin, in high veneration in that country, began to work miracles in the year 1444.”
Saint Peter’s Church, or Sint-Pieterskerk, is the oldest church in Leuven, Belgium, having been founded in about 986. The first church burned to the ground, but the present Gothic style church was begun in 1425. The church suffered severe damage during both world wars, as in 1914 the roof and nave were burned down, and in 1944 the north aisle suffered bomb damage.
The church of Saint Peter is the home of Our Lady of Louvain, or the Virgin of Louvain, a statue of the Blessed Virgin and her Divine Son also called the Sedes Sapientiae, or Seat of Wisdom. The Virgin of Louvain was a wood statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary carved by Nicolaas De Bruyne in 1442. It is a larger facsimile of an earlier statue dating from the 13th century. That statue was completely destroyed during the Second World War, and not by the Fascists or Nazis, but instead by allied bombs. It is a replica of Bruyne’s famous statue that is currently on display in the church.
Sedes Sapientiae is a specific title for the statue of Our Lady of Louvain, but it is also a type of Christian iconography of the Blessed Mother which depicts the Blessed Virgin seated upon a throne with the Christ Child in her lap. This type of representation of the Blessed Mother became especially popular early in the 13th century, and the throne she sits upon usually has some depiction of lions and the Blessed Virgin’s feet are usually shown resting upon a stool, and for good reason.
The “Seat of Wisdom” is a title of Mary that many Catholics will recognize from the Litany of Loreto. It was no less a luminary than Saint Peter Damian, who in the 11th century said of the Blessed Virgin Mary that she “is herself that wondrous throne referred to in the Book of Kings.” In this he was alluding to Solomon’s throne, the throne of the king renowned throughout history for his wisdom. His throne was of ivory overlaid with the finest gold. “It had six steps; and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were two hands on either side holding the seat: and two lions stood, one at each hand. And twelve little lions stood upon the six steps on the one side and on the other: there was no such work made in any kingdom.” (Third Book of Kings, Chapter 10: 18-20)
She is descended from the noble lineage of David. As the Mother of God, the “Seat of Wisdom,” the vessel of the Incarnation, who carried and gave birth to the second person of the Blessed Trinity, she herself is in a certain sense the throne upon which the Son of God reigns.
This symbol, the Sedes Sapientiae, has become the seal for the Catholic University of Leuven. It bears the motto: “Universitas Catholica Lovaniensis. Sedes Sapientiae,” which is Latin for Catholic University of Leuven. Seat of Wisdom.”
OUR LADY OF GRACE OR OUR LADY OF THE BOWED HEAD (ROME)
Among the many miraculous images of the Mother of God through which she deigns to grant her favors, there is one in the monastery church of the Carmelites in Vienna, entitled the Mother of Grace, or Our Lady of Grace, also known also as Our Lady of the Bowed Head.
In 1610 a Carmelite, Dominic of Jesus-Mary, found among the votaries of an old altar in the monastery church of Maria della Scala in Rome, and oil painting of the Mother of God, dust-covered and somewhat torn, which grieved him. Taking it into his hands, he shook the dust off it, and kneeling down venerated it with great devotion.
He had the picture renovated and placed it on the shelf in his cell, where he made it the object of his love and supplications in favor of those who came to him in their necessities and afflictions.
One night while he was praying fervently before the picture, he noticed that some dust had settled on it. Having nothing but his course woolen handkerchief he dusted it with that and apologized,
“O pure and holiest Virgin, nothing in the whole world is worthy of touching your holy face, but since I have nothing but this coarse handkerchief, deign to accept my good will.”
To his great surprise, the face of the Mother of God appeared to take on life, and smiling sweetly at him, she bowed her head, which thereafter remained inclined.
Fearing he was under an illusion, Dominic became troubled, but Mary assured him that his requests would be heard: he could ask of her with full confidence any favor he might desire. He fell upon his knees and offered himself entirely to the service of Jesus and Mary, and asked for the deliverance of one of is benefactor’s souls in purgatory. Mary told him to offer several Masses and other good works; a short time after when he was again praying before the image, Mary appeared to him bearing the soul of his benefactor to Heaven. Dominic begged that all who venerated Mary in this image of Our Lady of Grace might obtain all they requested. In reply the Virgin gave him this assurance:
“All those who devoutly venerate me in this picture and take refuge to me will have their request granted and I will obtain for them many graces; but especially will I hear their prayers for the relief and deliverance of the souls in purgatory.”
Dominic soon after placed the image into the church of Maria Della Scala so that more devotees of Mary could venerate it. Many wonderful favors were obtained by those who honored and invoked Mary here. Reproductions were made of Our Lady of Grace and sent to different parts of the world. After the death of Dominic the original painting was lent to Prince Maximilian of Bavaria. He gave it to the discalced Carmelites in Munich in 1631; they gave it to Emperor Ferdinand II of Austria and his wife Eleanore. After Ferdinand’s death, Eleanore entered the Carmelite convent in Vienna and took the picture with her. During the succeeding years the image was transferred to various places. Today it is in the monastery church of Vienna Doabling. September 27, 1931, it was solemnly crowned by Pope Pius XI – its 300th anniversary of arrival in Vienna.
THE ABBEY OF OUR LADY OF THE LILY (MELUN, FRANCE, 13th Century)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This abbey of Cistercian nuns was founded by Queen Blanche, mother of King Saint Louis.”
The former Royal Abbey Notre-Dame du Lys, or Our Lady of the Lily, now in ruins, was once a Cistercian abbey for nuns founded by Queen Blanche of Castile and her son, King Saint Louis IX, in 1244. The ruins are located along the center of the town of Dammarie-les-Lys, four kilometers downstream from Melun, in the south of the Seine-et-Marne. The town takes its name from the chapel, meaning ‘the oratory of the Virgin next to the Abbey of Lys.’ Looted and converted into cattle pens during the French Revolution, the abbey was then sold in 1797. The remains of the abbey were made an historic monument on 30 December 1930.
From 1226 to 1248, during the minority and the early years of the reign of St. Louis IX, that is to say the period immediately preceding the foundation of the Abbey of the Lys, many Cistercian monasteries were founded and several churches dedicated. The foundation of an abbey like Our Lady of Lys is very burdensome financially, requiring a significant capital contribution. Land must be purchased for the monastery, buildings constructed sufficient for life and maintenance of a number of religious, and of course a church.
In 1236, Queen Blanche of Castile had laid the foundations of Notre-Dame-La-Royale, Maubuisson, near Pontoise, so Saint Louis therefore assumed all expenses involved in the foundation of the new abbey, but left his mother in charge of the work. ‘Our Lady of the Lily’ would be the new house for Cistercian nuns outside Melun, a town which Blanche loved. The name was one they had agreed upon for the new convent, a convent where there would be prayers perpetually offered to God for the sake of the Crusade that King Louis would soon embark upon.
The Queen of France, Blanche of Castile, wife of King Louis VIII ‘the Lion’ and mother of King Saint Louis IX, died there on 27 November, 1252.
There is a list of abbesses of Our Lady of Lys beginning with Vienna Alix, Countess of Macon, and the last Countess of Vienna, died there on August 23, 1258. She had been widowed when her husband died fighting in the Holy Land in 1234. The last abbess was Jeanne Foissy, who was forced to leave by the revolutionaries on March 3, 1791.
OUR LADY OF THE BELLS, CATHEDRAL OF SAINTES, FRANCE
“Saintes” is the English translation for the French word meaning female saints. There is a great deal of history to the Poitou-Charentes region of western France where the town of Saintes is located.
The town of Saintes was originally a thriving settlement in ancient Gaul located along the Charente River. The town became known as Mediolanum Santonum once conquered by the Romans under Julius Caesar, and the remains of the triumphal arch of Germanicus and a large amphitheatre can still be seen there today.
The town takes its name, Saintes, due to a fascinating legend that many still piously believe. According to this tradition, Mary Salome and Mary Jacob, accompanied by other disciples of Jesus Christ, were forced to flee the Holy Land about the year 45 AD. They left taking a boat with no sail, and were miraculously transported across the Mediterranean Sea, making land near the place which became known as Saintes Maries de la Mer.
Long before the arrival of the saints, indeed, since prehistoric times, Saintes Maries de la Mer (Saint Marys of the Sea) had been considered a holy place. This tradition was carried on by the Celts and then the Romans. It is recorded that St Eutropius was a bishop there in the 3rd century, and that the first cathedral was reconstructed by no less a personage than Charlemagne. Norman invaders twice burned the town during the 9th century. Richard the Lionheart took refuge there against his father, and King Saint Louis IX defeated the English on the plains before the town. The Cathedral of Saint Peter, built in the 12th century, was severely damaged by the Huguenots in the year 1568. Its bishopric was ended in 1790 due to the oppression of the French Revolution. The church is now reducing to being only an historical monument.
It is recorded, though, that one year long ago, on the octave day of the Purification, the bells in the Cathedral of Saintes, France, rang out most sweetly of themselves. The sacristans, having run to the church, saw what appeared to be several unknown men holding lighted tapers and melodiously chanting hymns in honor of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of the Bells, who was venerated in a chapel of this church. Approaching softly, they – the men who had run to the church – begged the last of these men carrying lighted candles, to give them one in proof of the miracle they had witnessed. The light-bearers graciously complied.
This taper, or candle, in remembrance of Our Lady of the Bells, is said to be preserved in that church up to this day.
OUR LADY OF THE DOVES
While the Pilgrim Virgin statue was touring Europe, three snow-white doves came unexpectedly as the procession passed through a tiny village. No one could be identified as their owner and they did not seem to be lost. They settled at the feet of the Madonna – soft, white doves, at home with Mary.
Day by day as the pilgrimage drew near its destination of Bologna, Italy, the doves stayed on. They left the statue only for short flights, and never all at once. No minute passed that at least one of them was not at Our Lady’s feet.
When the procession neared the cathedral where the statue was to be enthroned, conjecture was made about the possible action of the doves. Eager eyes watched them as strong arms carried the Madonna to her pedestal in the sanctuary. Softly, the doves hovered over, undisturbed by the noisy devotion of the crowd of Latin enthusiasts for Our Lady – in Italy.
When the statue was finally set firmly and left free to them once more, the doves returned to their resting place, as before, at the feet of Mary.
High Mass began at once. Through all the singing and incensing and preaching, the birds remained, watchful but not alarmed. Only as the Mass reached its climax at the Consecration did they stir. Then, as if by instinct, they left the statue and flew to the altar. Upon the high crucifix they perched for the rest of the Mass.
Then, at the “Ite Missa est,” with one accord they flew from the Church and vanished. The doves of Mary had escorted her, Our Lady of the Doves, to the palace of the King.
Earthly royalty selects eagles for insignia. Mary, Queen of Peace and Mother of the Prince of Peace, selects doves. This type of incident has occurred several times, at a variety of different locations, in recent history.
OUR LADY OF LOURDES
In 1858, there lived in the village of Lourdes, a little peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, 14 years old, uneducated, simple, poor, good. On February 11, she was sent with two more girls to collect wood. They walked to the Rock of Massabielle, where the two companions crossed a mountain stream; while Bernadette was removing her shoes to follow them she became conscious of a ravishing beautiful Lady, standing in the hollow of the rock, looking at her. Bernadette fell involuntarily upon her knees, gazing enraptured at the lovely Lady, who smiled lovingly at Bernadette and then disappeared.
The mysterious Lady from heaven appeared in all, eighteen times to the little girl and among other things told her to drink the water from a mysterious fountain which was not yet observed. Bernadette scratched in the sand at a spot indicated, and water began to trickle through the earth; after a few days there gushed forth every day 27,000 gallons of pure, clear spring water, and this water flows still.
Bernadette was asked by Our Lady of Lourdes, who always showed her a sweet heavenly courtesy, to request the priest to have a church built on the spot, that processions should be made to the grotto, that people should drink of the water. The main emphasis of her message was that the faithful should visit the grotto in order to do penance for their sins and for those of the whole world.
In answer to Bernadette’s inquiry, “Who are you?” the Lady answered, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Four years after, the Bishop declared upon an exhaustive and scrupulous investigation, to the faithful, that they are “justified in believing the reality of the apparitions.”
In 1873, a basilica was built on top of the rock and in 1883 another church was built below and in front of the rock. From 1867 when records began to be kept till 1908, about 5,000,000 pilgrims had visited the grotto; now about 1,000,000 people visit Lourdes every year. Although Our Lady never at any time promised that pilgrims who visited the grotto would be healed of their physical ills, remarkable cures began at once and have continued ever since. Many of them are of such a character that they can be ascribed only to supernatural power.
Bernadette died in 1879 at the age of 35, and was later canonized. The body of the blessed Saint can still be seen in its glass coffin, intact and incorrupt, looking as its photographs show, like a young woman asleep. The chair at which she prayed, the altar where she received her First Holy Communion, the bed in which she slept, the room in which she lived – all can be seen at Lourdes.
Lourdes is one of the greatest Marian shrines in the world. Here, praying to Our Lady of Lourdes, one may obtain refreshment, courage, energy and inspiration to continue the age-old struggle of the great Catholic Faith against the forces of darkness and disintegration. This great shrine, all its miracles, and the streams of grace that are poured into the world through Our Lady of Lourdes, were made possible through the faithfulness and the sanctity of a little peasant girl.
OUR LADY OF ARGENTEUIL (PARIS, FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This priory preserves a portion of the seamless garment of Our Lord.”
In about the year 500, Clovis was the King of the Franks, but he was not yet a Catholic. Years passed as his wife Clotilda prayed for her husband to convert, yet always King Clovis demurred. Then one fateful day Clovis was engaged in a desperate battle, finding himself sorely bested. At the point of ruin he cried aloud to the Christian God to assist him, promising to forsake his pagan gods if he were granted a miraculous victory.
Looking up to heaven, Clovis cried:
“Jesus Christ, whom Clotilda declares to be the Son of the Living God, who it is said givest aid to the oppressed and victory to those who put their hope in Thee, I beseech the glory of Thy aid! If Thou shalt grant me victory over these enemies and I test that power which people consecrated to Thy name say they have proved concerning Thee, I will believe in Thee and be baptized in Thy name. For I have called upon my gods, but, as I have proved, they are far removed from my aid. So I believe that they have no power, for they do not succor those who serve them. Now I call upon Thee, and I long to believe in Thee – all the more that I may escape my enemies!”
God was pleased to answer Clovis’ petition immediately, for no sooner had he prayed than his enemies fled the field. Clovis won the battle, and he was a man of his word. Hating his former error, Clovis converted to the True Faith.
It is related in the Gospels that Christ’s executioners played dice over this tunic. According to legend, that tunic was found in the fourth century by Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. It was then kept at Constantinople until the eighth century.
In the year 800, the Empress Irene of Byzantium offered Charlemagne the Holy Tunic at his coronation as Emperor of the West. The emperor then gave the relic to the priory of Argenteuil when his daughter, Theodrade, became abbess.
In the year 850 the Normans plundered the village of Argenteuil, including the Basilica of Saint Dennis, but the tunic was hidden in a wall before their arrival. When the abbey was rebuilt in 1003, the relic was restored. It is venerated until the 16th century when it was partially burned by Huguenots in 1567.
During the French Revolution the Benedictine priory was destroyed, and the relic then given to a parish church for safekeeping. In 1793, a priest found it necessary to cut it into pieces and bury them in his garden to protect them from profanation. In 1795, after the priests imprisonment had ended, the Holy Tunic appeared again and the different fragments were sewn back together.
The Holy Tunic was displayed again in the nineteenth century, and pilgrimages resumed. On the 13 of December in 1983, the parish priest of Saint Dennis discovered the tunic had been stolen. On 2 February 1984, Father Guyard received a phone call from a stranger promising to return the treasure to the condition that their names would be kept secret. That same evening the tunic, with its case, was found in the Basilica of Saint Dennis.
The last solemn exposition of the tunic took place during the Easter holiday in 1984. In six days, approximately 80,000 people came to see the tunic.
The Holy Tunic measures nearly 5’ by 3’ in size. The fibers are wool and of a very regular size. It is a soft, lightweight fabric, and the weaving is uniform and regular with a twisted “Z,” made on a primitive loom. The tunic is remarkable for a tunic woven manually, as it is made without any seam, including the sleeves. The dark brown fabric is typical of the clothing in the early centuries of the Christian era. The fabric was dyed brown, using a method widely in practice at the time by people of modest means. The construction and dyeing show the tunic to date from the time of Christ. It is the garment worn by Christ after the Flagellation and along the road to Calvary as He carried His cross. Christ’s blood and sweat thus impregnate the fabric. In 1985 a test was done showing the blood was type AB. Pollen common to Palestine have also been found in the fabric.
OUR LADY OF PELLEVOISIN
Pellevoisin is a little village not far from Tours in France. In 1876, a young woman, Estelle Faguette, lay dying from tuberculosis – only five hours to live in the opinion of the doctors. But on the 13th of February, when all were expecting her death, Our Lady appeared near the sickbed. This occurred on three successive nights, and then, as Our Lady had promised, the sick woman was instantly cured on a Saturday.
During the visits, Our Lady of Pellevoisin frequently spoke to Estell, her theme being that which she so often has expressed during the past hundred years:
“I am all-merciful and have great influence over my Son. What distresses me most is the lack of respect for my Son. Publish my glory.”
For some months after her miraculous cure, Estelle continued to live quietly at Pellevoisin. She was at a loss to find the means of fulfilling the mission entrusted to her by Our Lady. Her heavenly visitor, however, was watching over her, and Estelle was to see her again and receive more minute instructions as to what was required of her. On the feast of Our Lady’s visitation in the same year, 1876, as Estell was praying in her room, she was granted another vision. Our Lady, robed in white and wearing on her breast a white scapular with the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, appeared to her favored friend. This was the first of a series of wonderful visions enjoyed by Estelle, ten in all. Again and again Mary pointed to the great need for penance and expiation – a return to God.
During one of these apparitions, Our Lady of Pellevoisin, taking her white scapular in her hand, held it before Estelle saying,
“I love this devotion.”
Immediately Estelle knew that her life’s work was to propagate devotion to the Sacred Heart by means of a scapular modeled on Mary’s. On her last appearance, December 8th, Our Lady commanded Estelle to approach her Bishop and give him a copy of the new scapular.
“Tell him to help you with all his power, and that nothing would be more agreeable to me than to see this badge on each one of my children, in reparation for the outrages that my Son suffers in the Sacrament of His Love. See, the graces I pour upon those who wear it with confidence, and who help to make it known.”
The Prelate in question, the Archbishop of Bourges, gave Estelle a favorable hearing and immediately set up a commission to investigate the whole matter. The result of all this was the establishment at Pellevoisin in 1894 by Pope Leo XIII of an Archconfraternity under the title of Mother of Mercy, Our Lady of Pellevoisin. The membership of this Confraternity had gone on increasing year after year, while Pellevoisin itself has become a center of pilgrimages for thousands of Mary’s friends.
Estelle lived her quiet and peaceful life at Pellevoisin, neither desiring nor receiving any personal credit. She died in 1929. Her miraculous cure was recognized in 1983 by Monsignor Paul Vignancour. Although no formal approval has been granted acknowledging the authenticity of the events at Pellevoisin either by the local bishop at Bourges or by the Holy See, numerous acts of secondary level of approval, including recognition of Mary's scapular request, have been granted. Pope Leo XIII, by a Motu Proprio, granted indulgences to encourage the pilgrimage to Pellevoisin on December 20, 1892, and on April 4, 1900, The Congregation of Rites issued a decree granting approval to the Scapular of the Sacred Heart.
OUR LADY OF BOURBOURG, FLANDERS (1383)
Jean Froissart, born in the 1330s, was a man devoted to literature. His famous Chronicles was aimed at a knightly and aristocratic audience, and was devoted to "the honorable enterprises, noble adventures, and deeds of arms, performed in the wars between England and France...to the end that brave men taking example from them may be encouraged in their well-doing." His history is one of the most important sources for the first half of the Hundred Years' War, and certain events of the era, such as the battles of Crecy and Poitiers and the English Peasant Revolt of 1381. He was also an eyewitness to the miracles of Our Lady of Bourbourg that occurred in the year 1383.
“When the king of France came before Bourbourg there were never seen such fine men at arms nor such numbers as he had with him. The lords and their men were all drawn up, and eager for the attack. Those who had reconnoitered the place said it could not hold out long. The Bretons, Burgundians, Normans, Germans, and others, who knew there was much wealth in the place, which, if taken by storm, would probably fall to their share, began to skirmish with the infantry at the barriers, without waiting for orders from the constable or marshals of the army.
This skirmish increased so much that the French set fire to the town by means of fire-arrows and cannons, so that such a flame and smoke came from the houses of Bourbourg as might have been seen forty leagues off. Many gallant deeds were done, and the assailants leaped cheerfully into the mud of the ditches above the knees when they engaged with the English at the palisade and barriers.
The garrison defended themselves handsomely: indeed they had need of their exertions, for they knew not on which side to turn themselves. They were attacked on all parts: and the houses of the town were blazing with fire, which more confounded the English than anything else. This, however, did not throw them off their guard, nor cause them to quit their posts. Sir Matthew Redman and Sir Nicholas Drayton, with their men, in the centre of the town, endeavored to check the progress of the fire; but it was such a dry season, that the smallest spark set the houses in flames. It is certain, that if the attack had begun earlier, or had not the night come on soon, the town must have been taken by storm, but the approach of night put an end to it.
On the attack ceasing, the French retired to their quarters, to attend the sick and bury the dead. They said that on the morrow they would renew the attack, and it should be irresistible. The English were employed in repairing the palisades which had been broken, in putting all things in a good state, and in extinguishing the fires in the town. They were in a most perilous situation, being surrounded on all sides, without means of escaping by flight.
The duke of Brittany, who was on the opposite side of the town to the king, entered into negotiations with the English, aware of the peril they were in. He advised them to surrender the town, on their lives and fortunes being spared. This they were very willing to do, and they entreated the duke, through love of God, and in honor of his gentility, to undertake the business. The king of France replied, that, in God's name, he would willingly agree to a treaty. The English had been much renowned for gallantry and deeds of arms, and it was settled that the English should depart from Bourbourg and Gravelines, and carry away with them as much of their wealth as they could. Several of the Bretons, French, Normans, and Burgundians were much vexed at this treaty, for they thought of partaking of the spoils; but the king and his council had ordered it otherwise.
The whole of Tuesday they employed in shoeing their horses, and in packing up all their wealth, of which they had much, and in making preparations for their departure. On the Wednesday morning they loaded their baggage-horses and began their march, passing through the army with passports from the king. The Bretons were much exasperated when they saw them so loaded, waiting at Calais for a favorable wind to return to England.
The king of France, and all the lords of his army, with their attendants, entered Bourbourg on Thursday morning. The Bretons began to plunder it, without excepting even the church of St. John. In that church a pillager stood upon an altar with the intent of forcing out a precious stone that was in the crown of an image of Our Lady. As he reached to steal the stone, the image suddenly turned about, and the pillager in his fright fell from the altar and was instantly struck dead. This is a certain truth, for many persons were witnesses of it. Shortly afterwards, another pillager came with a similar intent of robbing the image; but all the bells began a peal without any one touching them, for no one could have rung them, the bell-ropes being drawn up and fastened.
On account of these miracles, the church was visited by large crowds. The king made a handsome present to the church, as did all the lords, so that the amount of their gifts was upwards of three thousand francs.”
OUR LADY OF PARIS, FRANCE (522).
There does not seem to be a great deal of information about Our Lady of Paris; it is an ancient title, and can be traced well back before the 12th Century, when the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) was begun. Some authorities say that veneration of the Blessed Virgin in Paris can be traced to the first apostles of the city. Since Saint Paul was in Gaul (France) during his travels, it may be assumed that this veneration dates to the first century of the Christian era. And if Mary was venerated in Paris at that early date, it is possible that she was, even then, known as Our Lady of Paris. Briefly, as long as Christian minds can be remembered, Paris was consecrated to the Virgin Mary, whom the inhabitants always venerated.
It is known that Our Lady of Paris was a church first built by King Childebert in the year 522. About the year 1257, the King Saint Louis IX assisted in the construction of a larger church carried on in the same place, on the foundations which King Philip Augustus had laid in the year 1191. The older church built by King Childebert, which had been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, had became too ruinous to be repaired, so Maurice, Bishop of Paris, decided to rebuild it and at the same time adorn Paris with a Cathedral that would outshine all those which had hitherto been built anywhere.
Plans were drawn up during the reign of King Louis VII, and work had actually begun on Notre Dame de Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, in 1162. The cornerstone was laid in the presence of Pope Alexander III. Notre Dame is a huge Gothic cathedral on the Ile de la Cite, with beautiful flying buttresses to support the tremendous height of the walls, and are adorned with stylish gargoyles. It is home to a reliquary which contains Christ’s Crown of Thorn. By the beginning of the fourteenth century, perhaps 1345, the cathedral was finished, virtually as it stands today. Some time during the building of the Cathedral, a statue of Our Lady was fashioned and installed in place.
As was typical, the cathedral was desecrated during the French Revolution, and many of the religious artifacts were lost to future generations, although the incredible stain glass windows were not destroyed, including the spectacular “rose window” that can still be seen today.
OUR LADY OF THE THORN, CHALONS–SUR–MARNE, FRANCE.
On the night of the Feast of the Annunciation, March 24 in the year 1400, some shepherds tending their flocks were attracted by a bright light coming from the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist near Chalons, France. As they approached the light they saw that it was actually a thorn bush fully engulfed in flames, and they discovered a statue of the Blessed Virgin standing unharmed in the midst of the flames. In fact, though the fire burned brightly, the branches and leaves of the thorn bush were unaffected by the flames.
The miracle continued all that night and into the next day, and news of the miracle spread quickly. Mobs of people crowded around the burning bush that was so reminiscent of the one witnessed by Moses on Mount Horeb. The Bishop of Chalons, Charles of Poiters, also witnessed the burning bush and the miraculous statue – both still unaffected by the fire.
When the flames finally did die down, the bishop reverently took the statue and carried it in his own hands to the nearby Chapel of Saint John. On the very site of the miracle, construction of a church was begun for the enshrinement of the miraculous statue. Since the church was built so rapidly – in a little over 24 years – a charming local legend claims that angels continued the work at night after the laborers had left for home.
Our Lady of the Thorn (Notre Dame de l’ Epine) became a place of pilgrimage very rapidly. Today, a minor basilica, the shrine proved to be so beautiful that the people considered it a worthy place to venerate the Blessed Virgin. The flamboyant Gothic church boasts majestic great doors, a splendid rosette decorating the principle entrance and two chiseled stone spires, rises high and imposing on the plain in Champagne.
During the terrible French Revolution, the statue of Our Lady of Thorns was removed from the main altar and hidden for safekeeping. After it had ended, the statue was brought back out for veneration.
Many healings have also been reported at the shrine, many verified by physicians. The beautiful church of Our Lady of the Thorn has been recognized by several popes, including Pope Calixtis III, Pius II, and Gregory XV. Pope Leo XIII ordered the solemn coronation of the miraculous statue, saying, “Yes, Our Lady of the Thorn will be crowned in my name. Prepare for her a diadem worthy of the Mother of God and the people whom she protects.”
It is a place of grandeur where Christian souls can expand in adoration of the Son of God, and many are the pilgrims of all descriptions who have visited the shrine over the years, including Saint Joan of Arc in 1429.
Blessed Virgin Mary. There is an ancient offshoot of this shrine at Boulogne-sur-Seine.
OUR LADY OF CONSTANTINOPLE, BARI, TURKEY (566).
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Constantinople, formerly the synagogue of the Jews, which was converted into a church of the Blessed Virgin by the Emperor Justin the Younger, in the year 566.”
The remains of the great Byzantine church of Sainte-Marie-du-Rosaire, called Notre-Dame de Constantinople, which is encumbered by later wild constructions and debris of all kinds, are scarcely representative of what this important sanctuary had once been.
In the 1930’s, Paul Schatzmann, a Swiss archaeologist, had made important discoveries here, supplemented by another archaeologist, Stephan Westphalen, a German, in the 1990’s. We do not know much about the Byzantine past of the building, we only know for certain that the church was transferred to the Dominicans in 1475, and it took the name of Our Lady of Constantinople, and later, that of Saint Mary of the Rosary.
In 1640 Our Lady of Constantinople was converted into a mosque in the name of Kemankes, then Odalar camii. Much of the substructure had been rebuilt before the fire of 1919, which led to its eventual abandonment.
Despite the painstaking searches conducted by the two archaeologists, it is not easy to have a very clear idea of the scale of the building and its dependencies. However, the proximity of the mosque Kasim Aga, which also has Byzantine structures, and the Aetius (Ipek Bodrumu) suggest that the church belonged to a large monastery, whose name remains unknown.
From the point of view of the two archaeologists, the foundations of the church date from the seventh century, but the final form of the church was given after the fire of 1203. After the reconstruction and expansion of the church in the thirteenth century, the foundations of the old church were used as a mausoleum, while two slightly asymmetrical chapels were added in the apse. Part of the old church was filled to construct the new church with the Greek cross plan. Nothing suggests that the substructure of the second building was originally a funerary chapel, as its primary function was to provide a basis for a monumental church. It appears the sub-structure was gradually used for tombs of the faithful.
In the upper part, there are paintings of the life of the Blessed Virgin dating from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Fragments of frescoes have been discovered on several walls. In the small central chamber of the crypt, a crowned Virgin surrounded by angels suggests that a Marian relic may have once been enshrined here.
OUR LADY OF LAON, RHEIMS, FRANCE (500) founded by Saint Remigius.
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “The shrine or chapel of Our Lady of Laon was erected into a cathedral and founded by Saint Remigius, Archbishop of Rheims, about the year 500, where he consecrated as his first bishop Saint Geneband, his nephew. Miracles were wrought there, and, among others we read that in the year 1395, there was seen on the steeple the picture of a crucifix, the wounds of which bled.”
The present cathedral located in Laon, Picardy, France, the Laon Cathedral, or Notre-Dame de Laon, was begun in about 1155 and completed in 1235. It was built on the foundation of an earlier cathedral that was consecrated in the year 800, but burned to the ground in the year 1111 during an uprising, and was therefore not the same cathedral founded by Saint Remigius.
The people of Laon took pride in their cathedral and tried to make it rival the great shrine of Chartres. They did not succeed, but the result is the sum of an emotion, clear and strong as love and much stronger than logic and clearer; the charm of the Laon cathedral lies in its unstable balance; which without doubt Our Lady accepted in love as it was meant by her devoted children. It was one of the first cathedrals constructed in the new Gothic style.
One other unusual aspect of the cathedral is that there are sixteen carved bullocks carved in stone like gargoyles. There is a tradition that once when some of the stone was being hauled up the slope for use in the construction of the church, at one point the animals hauling the wagon could go no further under the strain of the load. A huge ox appeared at that moment and assisted them in moving the load up into position, but then disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
Much of the stained-glass is original, and as at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, there is a beautiful rose window dating from the 13th century. It depicts the Blessed Virgin seated on a throne with her Divine Child between Saint John the Baptist and the prophet Isaiah. The interior of the cathedral was finished with white stone, it is considerably brighter than Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
OUR LADY OF GOOD TIDINGS, LEMPDES, FRANCE (1500's).
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Good Tidings, near Rouen, where a great number of people are seen, particularly on Saturdays.”
It was on December 23rd, 1563, when the bishop of Lucon, Jean-Baptiste Tiercelin, consecrated the church under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle. This first chapel came into the world in the midst of religious convulsions that were then taking place in Switzerland, Germany, and England by the leaders of the ‘Reformation,’ and must necessarily be seen as an action bravely going against the tide. The religious wars that began raging in France ten years after its erection began to be another reason for some concern for faithful Catholics, but the pilgrimages to the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle continued undisturbed. From time immemorial there had been venerated at Notre Dame a statue of the Blessed Virgin, holding in her arm the Infant Jesus. Many went to her in procession, especially children, who came each year to ask Mary for perseverance after their first communion.
The revolutionary turmoil in France, which was to take the throne and the altar, could not leave behind the parish of Our Lady of Good Tidings. In 1790 the National Assembly decreed a new law in which the church of Our Lady of Good Tidings was dissolved. As the pastor, M. Fabre, had the courage to refuse the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, he was thrown into the street.
A short time later, on May 22, 1791, the abbot Fourquet de Damalis, convened in the church an assembly of the faithful, and there were very many who responded. This occurred under the noses of twelve national guardsmen, and so the Police Commissioner, a man named Cafin, responded there quickly. He asked the abbot why there was such a meeting, and the abbot answered him that he was explaining to the faithful the decrees of the National Assembly for the public good. The Police Commissioner accepted the explanation, and the meeting having been perfectly peaceful, the police commissioner was obliged to agree to the monthly meetings and record it in his minutes.
One might think that the worship would be suspended at Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle during the Terror, but we have evidence to the contrary. As at Chartres, a great number of the faithful remained active and opposed the removal of the sacred ornaments of the church and defended their priests, and eager to fulfill their religious duties, they were not to be intimidated by the fear of imprisonment and even death. From the registry of marriages and baptisms, including a few that date back to 1793, we know that there were religious ceremonies such as baptisms and weddings held there secretly, sometimes in an oratory, sometimes in the church.
In the year 1818 a severe epidemic was ravaging the country. The faithful vowed, with the agreement of their bishop, to go in procession to Our Lady of Good Tidings and celebrate in perpetuity the feast of the Visitation, which was the feast of the chapel. The procession took place, and God quickly put an end to the scourge of the plague.
At about that time, a young boy began making regular visits to the church of Our Lady of Good Tidings, who was the patroness of the village. He was a poor boy materially, for Lempdes was one of the poorer villages in France, and he had been born into a peasant family that was struggling to eke out a living in the wreck of post-revolutionary France. He kept the faith, and when he grew up Jean Baptiste Lamy was ordained a priest, eventually becoming the first Archbishop of Sana Fe, New Mexico.
OUR LADY OF BOLOUGNE SUR MER (FRANCE).
In the year 636, a small group of people standing on the seashore witnessed a ship without oars or sails came into the harbor of Bolougne. It finally came to rest in the estuary, seemingly of its own accord. One of the witnesses boarded the boat and confirmed that there was no one aboard, and that the vessel had no rudder, oars or sails.
The ship, however, bore a statue of Our Lady. Taking hold of it to bring it to land, a voice was heard saying, "I choose your city as a place of grace." The citizens welcomed Mary to their city by erecting to her a shrine which reached its height of glory in the 12th Century.
King Henry VIII is reported to have stolen the statue of Our Lady of Bolougne and taken it to England. After many negotiations, the French managed to get it back. The image had been stolen and hidden many other times, but always saved and returned.
World War II almost completely destroyed the statue. In modern times, four exact replicas of Our Lady of Bolougne toured France for more than seven years as a symbol of French devotion to Mary. One of these was taken to Walsingham, England in 1948 and carried in procession by the “Cross-bearing pilgrimage” when many other statues and images of the Virgin visited England.
Bologne was one of the most important Lady shrines of medieval France; among its noted pilgrims have been: Henry III, Edward II, the Black Prince, John of Gaunt.
Marian Feast Day, July 10th: The dedication of a new church built in honor of Our Lady of Boulogne was consecrated in the year 1469 by Bishop Chartier of Paris. The confraternity of Our Lady of Boulogne was so celebrated, that six French kings have chosen to belong to it.
At the French Revolution, the statue was burnt to ashes and the church pulled down. A new statue was made in 1803 and pilgrimages began again. The image represents the Mother with the Child in her arms, standing in a boat, with an angel on either side. At the Marian Congress in Bolougne in 1938, a custom began to take replicas of this statue “on turn” in France and abroad. A branch of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Compassion at Bolougne has been established for the reconciliation of the Church of England.
The sanctuary church at Bolougne was badly damaged during World War II, and Mary’s image smashed; but the return, the “Great Return” of one of the copies of the statue which had been sheltered at Lourdes, took place in 1943, and the occasion will long be remembered by lovers of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is an ancient offshoot of this shrine at Boulogne-sur-Seine.
OUR LADY OF BON PORT (GOOD HAVEN), PAMPOL, FRANCE.
In 1838, the crew of a vessel which had just arrived at Paimpol, in France, forty-eight in number, accomplished a vow they had made in a most perilous voyage from Newfoundland.
A terrific tempest had arisen, their sails were torn, and for three days they were in continual danger of finding a watery grave. The ship began to fill with water, and all hope of safety seemed lost, when the crew, by common consent, turned their eyes to Mary, Star of the Sea, and asked for good haven. They promised if she saved them, they would visit in the most supplicant manner the church at Paimpol, where there is an image of Our Lady much venerated by the people. They had scarcely ended their prayer, when the weather became more calm and the waves began to subside.
Profiting by this providential change, they repaired their sails, and had a favorable wind till they reached the coasts of Brittany. They landed in safety at Knod, toward the decline of day, and their first act was to prostrate themselves on the ground, and give God thanks for their return.
They then intoned the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, and advanced barefooted and bare-headed along the banks and through the streets of Paimpol, to the church of the Good Haven. The people attracted in crowds by the novelty of the sight, followed them. There were parents who went to give thanks to Our Lady of Good Haven for the return of their sons, and wives to thank Mary for restoring their husbands to them. Tears streamed down every eye, and the immense multitude knelt down before the altar of that powerful Virgin, who had received from her Son power to command wind and wave.
The torches shed a dim light on the recessed of the sanctuary, where stood the image of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Good Haven, whose inclined head and exteneded arms seemed to say to all, “Come to me, I am your Mother.”
These pious mariners with the most touching expression of sentiment, chanted the hymn, “Ave Maria Stella” in which they were joined in gratitude by the people.
“Bright Mother of our Maker, hail!
Thou Virgin ever blest,
The ocean’s star, by which we sail,
And gain the port of rest.”
OUR LADY OF SUCCOUR (RENNES, BRITTANY, FRANCE).
Our Lady of Rennes, in Britanny. The English, having made a mine to blow up the town, it is said that the candles in the chapel were found miraculously lighted; the bells rung of themselves, and the image of the Blessed Virgin was seen to stretch out its arms towards the middle of the church, where the mine was, which by that means was discovered. The people rushed to the spot, and so the plot was discovered, and the entire town saved through the intervention of Our Lady of Rennes. Great was the rejoicing and deep the gratitude of the people.
Known today as the Basilica of Saint Sauveur in Rennes, it is located in the heart of historic Rennes, which was once the capital of Brittany. It is situated at the termination of Saint-Sauveur Street on which its façade faces.
As the original Gothic church partially collapsed in the year 1682, the Classical style church that can currently be seen was constructed beginning in 1703 and consecrated in August of 1719.
In the year 1793, during the French Revolution, the church was made into a Temple of Reason, and the miraculous statue of Our Lady was destroyed. It was not until 1802, after the end of the Terror, that the church was opened again to worship. The church was made into a minor basilica in 1916 by Pope Benedict XV.
According to popular tradition there was a famous miracle attributed to Our Lady at Rennes during the War of Succession at Brittany. As Rennes was being besieged by the invading English army under the Duke of Lancaster, the people of the city expected the English forces to mine their way under the walls into the city.
On the night of February 8, 1357, the church bells began to ring of their own accord, and the candles were spontaneously lit. The statue of Our Lady, known as Our Lady of Miracles and Virtues, pointed out a particular slab in the church. The inhabitants of the city thus were alerted to the mine and the point of the English attack, and were able to repulse the invasion. The miracle was a popular subject for ballads, especially the troubadour Cuvelier. In 1634 the miracle was officially recognized by the Bishop of Rennes, Pierre Cornulier.
There are many miracles attributed to Our Lady, including the miraculous healing of Magdalene Morice in the year 1761. She had gangrene in her right foot which was instantly healed on Easter Sunday.
The statue of Our Lady of Miracles and Virtues currently displayed at the basilica was placed there in February of 1876.
In 1684 a boy of eleven left home for the city of Rennes in hopes of enrolling at the Jesuit College of Thomas a Becket. The young Louis-Marie was an intelligent boy who was taken under the guidance of the Jesuit priests, and it was at Rennes that he began to consider a possible vocation to the priesthood. It was here at the shrine of Our Lady at Rennes that Saint Louis de Montfort made the final decision to become a priest.
OUR LADY OF ROCKS, NEAR SALAMANCA, SPAIN (1434).
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Roches, near Salamanca, in Spain; an image is there venerated, which was found miraculously, in the year 434, by Simon Vela, who caused a church to be built there.”
The Simon mentioned above by the abbot Orsini was actually born in the year 1401 in Paris, France. The incident that he states had occurred in the year 434 actually occurred in 1434, but that is getting ahead of our story.
Simon was born on September 4, 1401, in the city of Paris, France, to pious and wealthy parents. Growing up a good Catholic, Simon despised money and luxury, so that when he grew up and inherited his parents’ money and property, he recognized it for the threat to his eternal welfare that it was, and gave all that he owned to the church and to relieve the poor. Once the money was gone, he went to a Franciscan monastery and took a position as a chamber boy.
Simon naturally spent a great deal of time in prayer, and was especially devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sometimes when he prayed he asked the Mother of God if there was anything he might do that would be especially pleasing to her. On one of these occasions he fell asleep while praying. He was suddenly awakened when he heard a voice speak to him from the empty church:
“Simon, wake up; be on the watch…From now on your name will be Simon Vela. Go to Pena de Francia, for there you will find the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Simon traveled for five years over fields and mountains, searching through lonely valleys and gloomy caves in his quest for this place called Pena de Francia, but he could not even find anyone who had ever heard of the place. On the verge of giving up in frustration, he had already begun working his way back home from Spain when the voice spoke to him from the darkness once again:
“Simon, do not give up the search; do not give up what you have begun. Persevere and your labors will be recompensed.”
Feeling that it was still the will of God, Simon was determined to continue the search.
Simon was passing through the market square in Salamanca on his way to the Church of Santiago when he observed two men who began shouting in a serious disagreement. Weapons flashed, and one of the pair fell wounded at Simon’s feet. The other was restrained from finishing the man by the crowd, who held him back. Unable to reach his adversary, he shouted:
“Had I killed my enemy, I would have escaped to Pena de Francia where no one, not even the king, could find me!”
Simon’s heart leapt for joy when he heard this, for it was the first time he had heard the place spoken of, and now he was certain that his search would not be in vain.
It was a short time later when Simon received a second bit of good news. He was on his way to the church of Saint Martin when he happened upon a travelling merchant. Simon asked the man where he had come from, and he answered Pena de Francia. Thrilled to hear the name, he felt his search was nearly over, but when he asked the man to take him there, he refused. He did not want to go back the way he had come, no matter how much Simon begged him. All he would do was point out the general direction.
Simon went down the road from which he had seen the merchant approach, hoping he was not too far from his destination. The road led him to a villa named San Martin de Castanar, which he reached on May 14, 1434. He found a church there, and after Mass he asked if anyone knew of a place called Pena de Francis. One man knew of it, and when Simon kindly asked him to show him where it was, the man walked with him a good distance from the church and then pointed out a hill in the far distance. That, he said, was Pena de Francia. Simon was elated, thanking God and the man for revealing to him the place that meant the end of his quest.
The place was far off, but Simon went off at once, thinking the years he had spent in seeking were nearly at an end. He gave no thought to his provisions, and as the journey was long and arduous, he was far from any help when he realized how weakened his fast had made him. Suffering intense pangs of hunger, Simon did not despair, for he felt certain that God would not forsake him. He continued on his way, and soon came across an abandoned pack that contained a loaf of bread and a piece of meat. Refreshed, he turned his attention to finding shelter as the night approached. Finding a suitable cave, he went inside and prayed for guidance until he dropped off into welcome slumber.
Waking early in the morning, Simon began to search the area for the shrine, and quickly found that there were caves all over the hill where he had slept. He naturally became discouraged when it became apparent that it could take him weeks or even months to find what he sought, and so, feeling that it was almost as if his quest had started all over again, he fell to his knees and prayed for the grace of perseverance. His prayer was quickly answered, as the now familiar voice said:
“Simon, be awake: do not sleep.”
Simon got up at once and continued his search, awakening with renewed enthusiasm the following morning. As he prepared to leave his cave a brilliant light struck his eyes, the source of which was a spot some distance away on a rocky hill. Trembling with joy, Simon approached the source of that light and found the Blessed Virgin Mary sitting on a golden throne with the Child Jesus in her arms. His heart overflowing with inexpressible joy, he knelt and said:
“Oh, Lady, dream of my soul, and inspiration of men and women! My labors are now ended. Many years have I traveled far and wide to seek you and to drink in the beauty of your eyes! Do not forsake me, but be my protection.”
Our Lady answered sympathetically:
“Simon, rejoice! Your constancy will be rewarded. Your dream will be realized. Your labors are now ended. Take heed and keep in your heart what I wish you to do. Dig in this spot and take what you can see and place it on the summit of this rocky hill. Build on this hill a beautiful shrine. You are to begin it and others will come to finish it. This must come to pass as it has been the wish of my child.”
When the vision ended, Simon remained alone for some time, filled with wonder and awe.
On the spot where the apparition of the Holy Virgin had appeared, Simon began the work of excavating. He had barely begun digging when he heard the same voice once again saying:
“Simon, do not attempt to undertake this large of a task alone. Undertake it in the presence and with the help of two, three, or more persons.”
Evidently this demand was made to ward off any suspicion about the veracity of the coming miracle as well as Simon’s credibility. So Simon went back to San Martin de Castanar and asked five men to help him, and all of them agreed.
Even though Simon told them the truth, these men believed that they were digging for hidden treasure. Simon repeated that they were after an objective worthier than merely worldly goods, and that it was something their hearts would forever cherish. They dug for some time, until finally, on May 19, 1434, they removing a huge stone that was barring their way. They found beneath it, sheltered among several smaller rocks, the most coveted image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Divine Child in her arms, now known as Our Lady of Rocks.
COMMEMORATION OF THE PAINTING BY ST LUKE OF OUR LADY (ROME).
Plague in Rome ends after Pope St. Gregory the Great leads a procession with a painting of Our Lady by Saint Luke (591)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “On this day, in the year 591, St. Gergory the Great, having had the picture of Our Lady, which was painted by St. Luke, carried in procession, the plague ceased at Rome.”
The miseries that afflicted Rome in the year 591 were substantial. The Gothic War between the Byzantine Empire and the Goths had substantially depopulated Italy, so much so that a Germanic tribe of Lombards had entered the peninsula and established their own kingdom. They were pagans and Arians who did not respect Catholics, burning the famous Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino and pillaging the land at will.
The instability and warfare caused famine in large regions, though Rome was still able to obtain grain by sea. Then came earthquakes and flooding to further the suffering, and from this plague Rome was not immune. The banks of the Tiber overflowed, and when the waters did not recede, all of the low-lying lands became swamps that brought death and plague. The disease struck with such rapidity that the victim would often die shortly after realizing he had contracted the disease, although there were some who sickened but recovered. Our custom of saying, “God Bless you,” to someone who sneezes came about at this time, for sneezing was one of the signs that someone had contracted the disease.
Even the Roman Pontiff died of the plague on February 7th, 590. His successor was Pope Saint Gregory the Great, who was both a humble and pious man. It would be an understatement to say he did not want the honor of being the next pope, but he did do everything in his power to try to save his people. He understood that the plague was a chastisement from God, and encouraged the faithful to repent of their sins and pray for deliverance while he and the religious cared for the people of Rome.
Finally, Saint Gregory called for a procession to take place at dawn on April 25th. On that day the faithful first assembled in their groups throughout Rome and then walked through the streets of the city praying and singing as they approached the church of Saint Mary Major. The plague was so potent at that time that eighty people collapsed and died as they walked toward the meeting place.
Pope Saint Gregory met them upon their arrival, joining them in prayer as he took his place with them holding aloft the miraculous image of Our Lady painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. As the procession neared the Vatican the participants all saw Saint Michael the archangel standing upon the cupola of Hadrian’s mausoleum as he sheathed his flaming sword. It was a sign that the chastisement had come to an end, and at once the heaviness in the air abated and the air itself seemed to freshen and clear. Indeed, at that moment the plague ended as the faithful rejoiced and lifted up their voices to thank the Mother of God.
"Regina Coeli laetare, Alleluia! (Queen of heaven, rejoice, Alleluia!)
Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia! (Son whom you merited to bear, Alleluia!)
Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia! (He has risen as He said, Alleluia!)
OUR LADY OF VICTORY (CONSTANTINOPLE).
OUR LADY OF GREAT POWER (QUEBEC, CANADA).
Our Lady of Great Power is little known in America, unless among the pupils of the Ursulines in Quebec. Generations of these, however, have dwelt within the walls of the Old Monastery during two centuries and more, since the arrival of the statue in the last years of the 17th century.
In the annals of the Ursulines of the Sacred Heart at Perigueux, France, where the statue was solemnly crowned, we find the origin of the devotion. The devotion to Our Lady of Great Power began in the monastery of Issoudun. There a holy Ursuline nun, Mother Saint Peter, was inspired during her prayer to invoke Our Lady under this title. She spoke of her inspiration to her Sisters and her Superiors. The devotion was adopted with enthusiasm, and very soon it was decided that a statue be sculptured and a chapel built, dedicated to Our Lady of Great Power; she would henceforth be chosen as first and principal Superior of the Monastery.
The feast of the dedication took place February 25, 1673, and was celebrated with great pomp, as the chronicle testifies:
“After High Mass two ecclesiastics carried the statue to the entry of the monastery where the nuns, in solemn procession, received it. It was placed on a richly decorated litter and, to the chanting of hymns, psalms and canticles, it was brought to the prepared chapel."
“When the same statue was raised on its pedestal, the superior laid the keys of the monastery, the seals and constitutions at Our Lady’s feet, begging her, in the name of the community, to accept the gift of all hearts, and of the entire monastery and to allow them to look on her as their Superior forever. Each rendered homage while hymns and canticles of thanksgiving were sung in Mary’s honor.”
Ever after, when a superior was elected, the ceremony was renewed and is still renewed in each Ursuline community every year on a principal feast of the Blessed Virgin; though homage is rendered only every three years, after the election or nomination of superiors.
The statue of Our Lady of Great Power was carried off and profaned during the dark days of the French Revolution. It was found and returned to the monastery at Perigueux; and the devotion continued fervently until 1892, when the bishop of Perigueux, in the name of the Soverign Pontiff, placed a richly jeweled crown on the head of the Mother and the Child, and ratified the numberless and signal favors obtained through Our Lady of Great Power.
Through the Ursulines in Quebec, the devotion soon spread through the New World. Before the altar in Quebec hangs the famous votive light promised to be kept burning as a token of thanks for favors granted to Mother Saint Agatha (Madeleine de Repentigny). Relatives and descendants of this holy nun have kept the lamp burning. One relative, Miss Anthon, had a new lamp made, an artistic gem, the work of the celebrated ecclesiastical goldsmith Calliat of Lyon, France.
OUR LADY OF THE FIELDS, PARIS, FRANCE.
consecrated by Saint Denis in 250
The title of Our Lady of the Fields, or Notre-Dame des Champs, and the devotion to Mary as such, takes us back to the earliest days of Catholic life in France.
Our Lady des Champs, at Paris, was dedicated in ancient times to Ceres. Saint Denis, to whom we owe a great deal of our traditional devotion to Mary, was the first Bishop of Paris. According to tradition he drove the demons from the Temple of Ceres, the pagan goddess of agriculture, and placed therein an image of the Madonna modeled after Saint Luke’s famous painting. The Temple was henceforth dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, whom Parisians have honored for centuries under the title of Our Lady of the Fields. It is said that a picture of the Blessed Virgin is still to be seen there, on a small stone, a foot square, which was made after that which Saint Denis brought to France.
This house, which is a Benedictine priory, was afterwards occupied by the Carmelites, who were received there in the year 604, and founded by Catherine, Princess of Longueville. It was the first occupied by those nuns in France; the mother Ann of Jesus, the companion of Saint Teresa, was its first superior.
If the Blessed Virgin were a goddess she would be a very human goddess – simple and approachable, forgetful of her privileges and of her beauty. Her constant humility adds to her charm. Saint Denis knew this well. He found her so gloriously beautiful that he gave to her the place in the temple – and in the hearts of the people – formerly held by the pagan goddess.
“I am the Flower of the Fields,” the Holy Ghost has the Blessed Virgin say. A flower of the fields has a simple beauty that charms us even more because it blossoms by itself without care or cultivation. Our Savior Himself marveled at such a flower and of it He spoke these words of praise that have been repeated through the centuries: “See how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.”
But lilies soon fade and roses are hardly open before they begin to shed their petals before the wind. The beauty of Mary is less perishable; it remains ever fresh and unchanged in the valley of our exile.
OUR LADY OF LIGHT (LISBON, PORTUGAL AND PALERMO, ITALY).
Early in the 18th century, a Jesuit, Father John Genovesi, lived in Palermo, Italy. At the beginning of his missionary career, he placed the souls over which he would have charge under the protection of the Blessed Mother, deciding to take with him to each of his missions an image of Mary.
Not knowing which image of Our Lady to use, he consulted a pious visionary telling her to ask Our Lady what she desired. One day as this lady knelt in prayer, she beheld approaching her, the Queen of Heaven, surrounded by pomp, majesty and glory, surpassing anything else she had ever beheld in any of her visions. A torrent of light was shed from the body of the Virgin which was so clear, that in comparison with it, the sun seemed obscure. Yet, these rays were not painful to the sight; but seemed rather directed to the heart, which they instantly penetrated and filled with sweetness.
A group of Seraphs hovering in the air were suspended over their Empress and held a triple crown. The virginal body was clothed in a flowing robe, whiter than the snow and more brilliant than the sun. A belt inlaid with precious stones encircled Mary’s beautiful form, and from her graceful shoulders hung a mantle of azure hue. Countless angels surrounded their Queen, but what most enchanted the contemplative soul, was the untold sweetness and grace and benignity shown in the motherly face of Mary. She radiated clemency and love. Our Lady told the pious woman that she wished to be represented as she was now under the title of Most Holy Mother of Light, repeating the words three times.
The Jesuit hired laborers to begin the work on the picture of Our Lady of Light, however neither the pious lady nor the priest were able to direct it, and the result was that after completion, it did not answer Our Lady’s orders. Our Lady directed the woman to look at the image, and seeing the mistake, she again betook herself to prayer and asked Mary to help her. Mary appeared again, commanding the woman to supervise the work, giving directions, while Mary would aid in an invisible manner. Pleased by the finished work, Mary appeared over it, and blessed it with the sign of the cross.
This wonderful treasure is now in the city of Mexico in the cathedral of Leon, formerly known as the Jesuit Church. The back of the picture bears the authenticity and four signatures, including that of Father Genovesi, SJ. The painting was transferred from Palermo, Sicily, in 1702, and placed on the altar in Leon in 1732. The people of Leon have an innate devotion and great tenderness toward the Mother of God. In 1849 they solemnly promised before the picture to make Our Lady of Light the patroness of Leon. This promise was confirmed by Pope Pius IX; Leo XIII authenticated the crowning of the image of Our Lady of Light in 1902.
INSTITUTION OF THE MONASTERY OF THE ANNUNCIATION,
BETHUNE, FRANCE (1519)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Institution of the monastery of the Annunciation, at Bethune, in Artois, by Francis de Melun and Louisa de Foix, his wife, in the year 1519.”
Béthune is an appealing city located in Artois, the famous name of the former province that was renowned in the Middle Ages for its production of cloth. It is situated between Arras and Saint Omer, about 45 miles south-east of the city of Calais, and about 116 miles north of Paris.
There appears to be only one church in Bethune, and that is the church of Saint Vaast, which dates only from the 1920’s. According to tradition, the first church was built by the bishop of Arras, Saint Vaast, near the confluence of the two rivers nearby, at a place once called Catorive, in about the year 502. This church was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first church dedicated to Saint Vaast was built by the Emperor, and dates from 1533. That church was destroyed, along with nearly all the town, during German bombing in 1918. The land around Bethune and the surrounding villages was the scene of intense battles during World War I, so that the entire region had to be rebuilt after the war. The church was quickly rebuilt in the Roman-Byzantine style, but the bombing and warfare probably account for the fact that there does not seem to be any current record of a monastery of Bethune.
The city’s main architectural attraction is its belfry, which is a kind of symbol or emblem of the city. The first belfry was made only of wood in 1346, and was used as a watch tower with one alarm ball, but then was rebuilt using sandstone in 1388. It was made taller in 1437, and was once above the entrance to the ‘Cloth Hall.’ When the building behind it burned down in 1664, only the isolated belfry remained standing. The belfry now has 35 bells.
There is also a famous Monastic Breviary and Missal known as the Bethune Breviary. It is an early 14th century parchment prayer book once used by the monks for prayer. It is unusual in that it includes the canon of the Mass. It is also highly illustrated, and was probably once used at the monastery of the Annunciation that no longer exists in Bethune, France.