|Devotion to Our Lady||
MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD
The human mind can never fully comprehend all that is contained in the title “Mother of God”. It is the title by which the faithful love to address Mary. The Church has sanctioned it by her infallible authority. All the beauties of nature, all the riches of grace, all the splendors of glory pale before the majestic grandeur of such a title as this. For, by the very fact of having conceived the “Word made Flesh”, Mary has been united to God by the same ties which unite a mother to her true son.
The dignity of Mary belongs to a superior order, on account of her position as Mother of God. This title is precisely the source and the measure of all those gifts of nature, grace and glory wherewith the Lord was pleased to enrich her. This title is not only the source of incomparable greatness in her, it is also a potent means to ground us firmly in the true faith, and to bring us to a more perfect knowledge of the divine attributes. What glory accrues to the Goodness of God from the Divine Maternity of Mary! For, in predestining Mary to be the Mother of the Word, God also decreed to give her to us as our Mother. He willed that she should accomplish in union with her Son the work of our Redemption, and that by regenerating us to the life of grace, she should become our Mother in the spiritual order.
The Divine Maternity is the starting point of the work of our salvation. In believing Mary to be the Mother of God, we also believe that the Word was made Flesh.
Mary is worthy to be saluted with the words we address to Judith:
“Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the Most High God, above all women upon the earth.”
By engendering the Word, Mary conceived and brought forth from her chaste womb that same Son, whom God the Father has generated from all eternity of His own substance. It is due to Mary that the Son of God, being Himself God, could say that He received from the Father the command to die for us; to Mary the Father owes His authority over the Son.
The Body of Jesus was formed of the pure substance of Mary’s body. What intimacy in their intercourse: Mother and Son.
The relation of Mary toward the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, is that of His fruitful Spouse. By her consent to become the Mother of God, she consecrated the gift of her own self to the Holy Spirit, her Heavenly Bridegroom. Mary never ceased to direct all her actions, thoughts and aspirations to the Holy Spirit; and He on His part let no moment go by in which He did not exhibit the signs of His peculiar love toward the Bride of His Heart, Mary.
OUR LADY OF THE PILLAR
In Zaragossa, Spain, the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar is a day of special rejoicing. Our Lady of the Pillar is the patroness of policemen and postmen; and the day is commemorated with processions, conventions, and other festivities.
The image of Our Lady of the Pillar is a wooden statue decorated with gold; it is about fifteen inches high. The crown adorning the head of the statue is very intricate. It was made in forty-four days by thirty-three workmen; in it there are 2,836 diamonds cut triangularly, 2725 roses, 145 pearls, 74 emeralds, 62 rubies and 46 sapphires. The crown of the Infant is identical with that of the Virgin, except in size.
The history of this particular statue of Our Lady is unique and interesting. It is said that in the year 40 A.D. the Virgin visited the Apostle Saint James while he was at prayer one night on the shore of the Ebro River in Zaragossa. Mary was standing on a column of marble, and she gave St. James her effigy, requesting that he build a chapel in her honor. Saint James complied. To the small chapel has been added a large temple which has been called Our Lady of the Pillar. Throughout the years the kisses of the pilgrims have made a hole in the pedestal, so large that a man’s head can rest therein.
Many miracles have been performed at the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar: one in 1640 when the limb of a man, Juan, native of Colanda, was cured. In remembrance of the apparition of Our Lady, the people of Zaragossa made a vow in 1642 to honor always Mary, as the patroness of Zaragossa.
More than a hundred years ago, Zaragossa was besieged by a large French army. A few men and women with sixteen cannon and some shotguns, defended the town for two months. The French sacked the famous town, and took everything; but they did not dare touch the treasures of Our Lady of the Pillar. One of the generals boldly took one of the jewels to carry home to his wife, offering the Virgin in exchange a valuable gift. In the first battle, a cannon ball took off his leg. It was during this terrible siege that the people began to recite the verse so well known to the Spanish, “The Virgin of the Pillar says she does not want to be French. She desires to be the leader of the Aragon troops.”
OUR LADY OF SICHEM
The shrine in Brabant in the duchy of Louvain, is a replacement of the one below Mount Garizim, Israel. Hadrian restored the temple on Mount Garizim and dedicated it to Jupiter. A small Christian community settled there; and on several occasions they suffered greatly at the hands of the Samaritians. In 474 the emperor, to avenge an unjust attack on the sect, gave Mount Garizim to the Christians, who built on it a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
After the Mohammedan conquest, Christianity practically disappeared from the district. The French made amends by erecting a shrine to Mary in the duchy of Louvain. The ancient statue of Our Lady of Sichem, or as Our Lady of 'Montaigu', which is the title more commonly used today, has been venerated in Belgium from very early times. The Mother of God rewarded the faithful magnanimously for their pious attention.
According to legend, a shepherd boy originally found the statue of Our Lady after it had apparently fallen from a niche cut in an old oak tree. The statue was mysteriously too heavy for him to lift alone, so he ran to find his master, and have him return to help him replace the statue in its place in the old oak.
It is said that in 1306 the Blessed Virgin Mary moved the hearts of the people by causing four drops of blood to flow from the eyes of the statue dedicated to her. This revived the faith of the people and increased their fervor.
A small chapel was built beneath the tree, which was rebuilt in 1602, and the dedication of Our Lady of Sichem took place in the year 1604 by the Archbishop of Mechlin, Mathias Hovius.
From that time forward there were many miracles as Our Lady seemed to demonstrate her appreciation by granting many favors. The statue was soon venerated as miraculous, and there have been many pilgrimages to the site during the centuries, continuing even until this day.
OUR LADY OF TREVES
St. Jerome Emiliani, founder of the Congregation of Semasca, when still a layman, experienced in a marvelous way the mercy of Our Blessed Lady. A capable soldier, he was once entrusted with the defense of Castelnuevo, in Fruili, Italy, when this was stormed by the Venetians, who were commanded by Maximilian I. Jerome was captured and confined in a dark prison, where he was loaded with chains.
Being a man of many vices, he began to feel remorse for his past life, almost to the point of despair. Then, he thought of Mary, the Mother of God, as the Mother of Divine Mercy. To her he turned, promising to lead a better life in the future, if this loving Mother would deliver him from his miserable condition. In an instant, Jerome beheld his prison filled with light, and the Virgin Mary descending from Heaven to loose with her own hands, the chains with which he was bound. Moreover, she handed him a key with which to open the door of the prison and escape. Eluding his captors, he directed his steps toward Treves, to the shrine of the Mother of God.
When he arrived in Treves, he prostrated himself before the image of Our Lady and laid on her altar the instruments of his torture. He then retired to a life of penance until God sent him companions to start his order, also known as the Company of the Servants of the Poor. He was especially concerned with the souls of homeless orphans, and so he established orphanages to care for them. He always exhorted not only these, but all with whom he came in contact, to reverence the powerful Queen of Heaven by often reciting the “Haill Holy Queen” and other Marian hymns. St. Jerome Emilani died a holy death in 1537 while caring for the victims of plague. Pope Benedict XIV proclaimed him a saint in the year 1767.
The cathedral of Treves is also famous as the location where the “Holy Coat” is exposed for veneration. This is the same that is piously believed to have been worn by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and is the seamless garment for which the soldiers cast lots on Calvary during His passion and death.
OUR LADY OF ABUNDANCE OR PROSPERITY
The Blessed Virgin under the above title is venerated at Cursi, Italy. The story begins in the first half of the seventeenth century. At that time the Puglie region of Italy was suffering from a severe drought. For almost three years not a drop of rain had fallen. By the spring of 1641, matters were desperate. April had arrived and the heat was as in mid-summer. Thus prospects for relief and a good harvest that year appeared dim.
Then the people of Cursi and vicinity prayed fervently to the Blessed Mother, begging her to come to their aid and save them from the famine that drew ever nearer.
The Blessed Virgin heard their plea. She appeared to a shepherd, Baglio Orlando Natali. Thoroughly frightened by the appearance of the lovely lady, he ran away.
The Mother of God called him back, reassured him gently, and told him who she was. The Queen of Heaven said that she felt compassion toward Baglio and the people of that region for the misfortune that had befallen them.
The Blessed Virgin told Baglio to go to the pastor of the parish, and tell him in her name to assemble all the people of Cursi and come back with them to that very place where she wished a Church to be erected. When it was completed she would take Cursi and the surrounding section under her protection. As a token of her deep regard, she promised Baglio that at the end of that same year there would be a harvest of such abundance as none had ever seen before. Finally, she told Baglio that he was to change his way of life, for she had selected him to be her true follower, and that he was to serve in the new Church when it would be completed. So saying she vanished as suddenly as she had appeared.
Baglio lost no time in telling the pastor of this strange happening. The good Father gathered together the people, and led by Baglio, they all marched to the spot where the Virgin had appeared. There they fell to their knees and with one voice raised their hearts in prayers of praise and love to the Most Holy Virgin.
After some little time they reassembled and started on the return march to town. They had gone but a short distance, when a little cloud drifted into sight – then another, until the entire sky was overcast. Rain fell and drenched the whole crowd; but not one minded – in fact, all were so happy, that they laughed and shouted and played around in the downpour. It rained for three days.
The news of this happening quickly spread and great crowds hurried to the place of the apparition to offer their thanks to the Madonna. When the time of the harvest arrived, the crops in that area were so abundant that every barn was filled to overflowing.
Soon the grateful people erected a Church in honor of Holy Mary of Abundance or of Prosperity. Baglio, his old life behind him, donned the garb of a hermit and vowed to spend the rest of his life in prayer and in looking after the new shrine.
Some years later this Church was destroyed by fire resulting from a lightning stroke; but the people, recalling the goodness of the Virgin, immediately set to work and built the Present beautiful sanctuary. On the high altar there is a Greco-Byzantine fresco of the Madonna of Abundance or Prosperity – it depicts the Virgin with the Divine Infant. In their hands both hold sprigs of olives and ears of corn.
OUR LADY OF CANA
(John 2:1-11) At that time there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is it to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. Now there were set there six water-pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, and saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine; and when men have well drank, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee: and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
Fr. Leonard Goffine explains: In order to honor this humble and God-fearing couple who, with faithful hearts, had invited Him and His mother to their wedding; to give us an example of humility; to assist them in their poverty, and save their good name by changing water into wine; to reveal His dignity as the Messiah to His disciples by this miracle; and to sanctify by His presence the marriages that are contracted in the spirit of the Church.
Alas! How few marriages of our time could Jesus honor with His presence, because He is invited neither by fervent prayer, nor by the chaste life of the couple: He is excluded rather, by the frequent immorality of the married couple of their guests.
Mary was interested in this couple because she is merciful, and the Mother of Mercy, and willingly assists all the poor and afflicted who fear God. From this incident, St. Bonaventure judges of the many graces which we can hope for through Mary, now that she reigns in heaven; “For,” says he, “if Mary while yet on earth was so compassionate, how much more so is she now, reigning in heaven!” He gives the reason by adding: “Mary now that she sees the face of God, knows our necessities far better than when she was on earth, and in proportion to the increase of her compassion, her power to aid us has been augmented.” Ah! Why do we not take refuge in all our necessities to this merciful mother, who although unasked assists the needly?
OUR LADY OF EGYPT
Only one child escaped the cruel sword of Herod, Mary’s Son, safe in the arms of his Mother fleeing with Him into Egypt. How much Our Lady suffered during that long journey across the desert: anxiety, fatigue, hunger, thirst, want of shelter!
While in Egypt, Mary’s interest in the Gentiles must have greatly increased. It was not in vain that Mary and her Son were sent into Egypt; God had his reasons.
Egypt is a true picture of the Blessed Sacrament, hidden away in so many Tabernacles, surrounded by so many people who do not suspect His presence; it is noting to so many that pass by. But what is it to those who know? What was Jesus to Mary and Joseph in the land of Egypt?
He was their All – with Him exile did not exist; with Him, God’s will was easy, God’s arrangements, the best; with HIM, it was impossible to complain, impossible to have any regrets about the past or impatient wonderings about the future. Mary was absorbed in the present, because she had Jesus with Her: He had to be cared for, fed, taught, thought about, worked for, lived for – Egypt!
It was in Egypt that the Child grew, and it was there that Mary heard His first words, watched His first tottering steps, and taught Him His first (vocal) prayers. And as the Child grew, Mary grew, too, in grace and virtue; imbibing more and more of the spirit of her Son from the services she rendered Him; Making great progress in her new school, the school of the Cross; getting daily more food for meditation and prayer, enlarging her heart and preparing herself to become a second Eve – the Mother of ALL the living.
What a blessing and joy to the people of Egypt to have the Holy Family living amongst them! How this must have stirred up their zeal and courage!
Joseph knew least about it all, and yet had apparently to take the chief part and bear all the anxiety. He received the warning message from the Angel; he had to break the news to Mary that the Child’s life was in danger and that they must flee immediately – even in the middle of the night. Joseph had to take the Child and His Mother into Egypt; to anyone else but Joseph this would have seemed an unreasonable command.
Those who live close to Jesus and Mary do not criticize God’s dealings; they have only one thing to do – obey. Peace and joy will result.
OUR LADY OF PROMPT SUCCOR
For almost two hundred years the Ursuline nuns of New Orleans, Louisiana, have owned and venerated a golden, miraculous statue of Our Lady under the title, Our Lady of Prompt Succor. This lovely statue, which today stands above the high altar of the Votive Shrine or chapel, was brought from France by a humble and holy Ursuline Sister in fulfillment of a vow.
Today, Our Lady of Prompt Succor is the only statue in the United States that has been crowned by a Pope’s delegate, and it is one of the few miraculous statues in North America. The favors granted by Our Lady of Prompt Succor are so numerous and wonderful, that whole books could be written about them.
At the outbreak of the French Revolution, and Ursuline nun, Madame St. Michel Gensoul (Frances Agatha Gensoul), was obliged to leave her convent in France, return to the world and wait the time when convents would be reopened. Meanwhile she received a letter from a relative in the Ursulline Convent in New Orleans (Mother St. Andre Madier), saying that sixteen other Ursulines, to excape the government of France, had come to Havana, Cuba, to open a community there. Mother St Michel decided to devote herself to spiritual labors in Louisiana, but her Bishop refused consent, since he hoped the convents of France would soon resume activity, and he told the religious that only the Pope could give her permission, and since he, the Pope was a prisoner of Napoleon, the entire project was out of the question.
Following an impulse, Mother St. Michel wrote to the Pope and then turning for aid to Our Blessed Mother, she prayed: “O most Holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain for me a prompt and favorable answer to this letter, I promise to have you honored at New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.”
The letter was sent from Montpellier to Rome on March 19, 1809, and despite all things to the contrary, Pope Pius replied on April 29, 1809. The request had been obtained thru the prompt aid of Our Lady. In thanksgiving, Mother St. Michel ordered sculptured a beautiful statue of Our Lady holding the Infant Jesus in her arms, Our Lady of Prompt Succor. In this statue, Jesus holds in His Hands a globe, representing the world. Bishop Fournier, recognizing in all this the acts of Divine Providence, asked permission to bless the statue.
Mother St. Michel and several postulants with the precious statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, arrived in New Orleans December 31, 1810. The statue was set up in the chapel of the Sisters on Ursuline St. and Mother St. Michel who taught there, lost no time in spreading devotion to Our Lady, which soon became popular.
Two signal favors showed Our Lady’s pleasure at the devotion: in 1812 a great fire broke out near the convent, which was doomed for destruction. An old lay sister placed a small statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on a window ledge facing the approaching flames; at the same time Mother St. Michel fell on her knees and prayed: “Our Lady of Prompt Succor, we are lost if you do not come to our aid.” The wind veered, the fire died down and the convent was saved.
OUR LADY OF CLEMENCY
The shrine is probably the only one in the world where Our Lady’s shrine is enclosed in glass. It dates from the late 18th century.
On a dark snowy day in 1797, Rosina Bucher, a young girl of the village of Absam near Innsbruck, was sitting by the window sewing. It was between three and four in the afternoon and the light was just beginning to fade. Rosina looked up and saw a face in the window pane. She looked closely, not sure that she saw right, and finally called her mother.
Others, including the parish priest, were called in to observe the strange happening. All agreed that it was a face, the face of the Mother of Sorrows. It was turned slightly and there was a strange expression on it.
The window was made up of several small panes of glass quite dark in color. They removed the pane of glass with the picture on it, which was on the inside of the double window. After they had examined the glass, it was sent to experts in painting and glasswork. Here it was discovered that the face disappeared when water was put on the glass, but came back as soon as the glass was dry. They analyzed it chemically, and could not discover by what process the picture had been placed there.
Rosina’s mother thought it was an omen of trouble. The parish priest, on the contrary, felt that Our Lady’s blessing must rest on the house. He asked her to let him have the picture for the Church. Here it soon became a popular shrine.
Our Lady of Clemency of Absam has since become a place of pilgrimage. Many miracles have been recorded from the pilgrims who prayed there.
The picture is quite small, the size of a small pane of glass. It is not at all pretty, and popularly known as Our Lady of Mercy and Clemency of Absam – clemency, because Mary’s heart is filled with love and kindness to those who pray at this shrine and implore her help.
OUR LADY OF GUIDES
Our Lady of Guides is also known as Our Lady of Guidance, or in Spainish, Nuestra Senora De Guia. She is currently displayed in the Ermita Church, and is the patroness of Manila.
One of the sailors to land on the island of Luzon in 1570, while walking in the woods near the native settlement of Manila, came upon a religious ceremony held by the Natives. They were honoring an image of the Mother of God, a statue on a rough pedestal. The natives told the Spanish that the statue had the power to make their petitions come true, and indeed, miracles were performed.
Since nothing of the origin could be learned, the sailors determined to name the statue by some “Lady Title”; the lot fell upon “Our Lady of Guidance”; everyone agreed she had guided them on their dangerous journey.
When the cathedral at Manila was built the statue was enshrined there. A hundred years later, this cathedral having been destroyed, a new church was built, and it is visible from the sea. In its high tower a light was set as a beacon to incoming ships, a fit place for Our Lady of Guides. Later the statue was placed within the walls of the restored cathedral.
As to the mysterious nature of the statue's unknown origin, some think the statue floated in from a wrecked ship, and was so seized by the natives.
The statue of Our Lady of Guidance was canonically crowned in the year 1955 by the Papal Nuncio to the Philippine Islands. The shrine is visited by laborers seeking employment in many countries, and when they return they leave gifts of thanks for the Queen of Heaven before her statue.
Today the devotion to Our Lady of Guides still flourishes. For all of us who travel this wide lonely world, she is the patroness, the Queenly Lighthouse, the Star of the Sea.
OUR LADY OF BESSIERE (IN LIMOUSIN, FRANCE)
The region of Limousin is nestled near the heart of France, and the essentially rural area has suffered much from heresies such as that of the French Huguenots over the centuries. Devotion to Our Lady is always a sure remedy, so much so that one of her titles is Destroyer of Heresies.
Among the many miracles said to have taken place at the shrine of Our Lady of Bessiere, in Limousin, France, is one told of a certain heretic who had derided the devotion paid to Our Lady. He would hide in the woods and waylay pilgrims on their way to the shrine.
Fearing neither God nor his Holy Mother, he would block their way, mock them for undertaking such a journey, sneer at their Christian beliefs, and taunt them with sarcastic reproaches and foul ridicule.
The unhappy man was soon to regret his folly. He was severely punished one day, as upon returning home, he saw his house go up in flames before his very eyes. Even with the assistance of his neighbors, all attempts to put out the flames were fruitless. In a matter of minutes his house was fully engulfed in flames.
As the fire was at its height, Our Lady appeared in the flames in all her majesty and was seen to frown upon the heretic. This vision was witnessed by all present, who immediately fell upon their knees, urging the heretic to do the same.
A broken man, frightened and frustrated, he prostrated himself, calling upon the Mother of God to be merciful to him.
His pleas were not in vain, but it was not his house that she saved, but his soul. In that moment he experienced a true and lasting conversion. He went on to live a very penitential life, and died true believer.
OUR LADY OF CONQUEST
In the North Chapel of the beautiful cathedral of Santa Fe stands a little statue (scarcely three feet tall) of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus. It was skillfully carved by loving hands in Spain. Mary is clad in a richly embroidered dress, topped by a jeweled crown. Her regal countenance wears a serene, detached expression that is strangely impressive. This is Our Lady of Conquest, or La Conquistadora.
The statue of Our Lady of Conquest came to the new world in the care of the Franciscan missionary Fray Alonso da Venevides. She was installed with great ceremony in a church in Santa Fe. Over the ensuing decades, as often happens, the men living in the region did not practice their religion as they should. Mary appeared in a vision to a young girl, warning her that the colony would be overrun due to the loss of reverence for priests and the Faith.
In the year 1680 the local Indians rose up and attacked the Spanish. Twenty-one priests were killed, and the colonists completely driven out of the region. The statue was rescued from the burning church and taken back to Mexico with the colonists who escaped the wrath of the Indians.
It was not until the year 1691 that Don Diego de Vargas was sent by the King of Spain to attempt the resettlement of the city of Santa Fe. Like so many Spanish heroes who had accomplished seemingly impossible deeds during their lifetimes, he was as fervent a Catholic as he was a capable knight. Don Diego de Vargas carried with him the statue of Our Lady as he reentered New Mexico. Although he had only a small force, he was able to peacefully negotiate a peace with the various Indian nations. He attributed his success to “the Sovereign Queen, Most Blessed Mary.” He is said to have vowed to build a chapel for her and hold a yearly procession if she would grant him a speedy and blood-less victory over the Indian, which she did.
Upon reaching his goal, however, the Indians refused to allow the Spanish colonists to return to Santa Fe. The Spanish under Don Diego were few in number, and they were forced to fight a numerically superior force.
The colonists prayed the rosary before the statue of the Blessed Virgin as the men engaged the Indians in battle. The fighting lasted all day, and it was not until evening when they reclaimed the city. Once again, Mary was credited for the victory, and to show her sovereignty, Don Diego placed an officer’s baton in her hand.
The shrine symbolizes a spirit of deep-rooted Faith and devotion which characterized the “Conquistadores” of this land. There is still a great deal of devotion shown to Mary at the Cathedral of St. Francis that includes processions, fiestas and other celebrations.
The statue was formally crowned by Cardinal Francis Spellman and in 1960 received a Papal Coronation.
OUR LADY OF VICTORY
Among shrines dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, that at Prague has become world-famous because it is also the home of the statue of the Infant of Prague.
The story of the shrine is an unusual one. In 1620 the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand II and Prince Maxmilian of Bavaria gained a major victory over a coalition of Protestant armies in the battle of the White Mountains near Prague. The previous day, Rev Fr Dominic of Jesus-Maria, a discalced Carmelite, had found in the castle of Strakowicz a picture representing the nativity of Christ. It showed the Blessed Virgin kneeling before her Divine Son, while St Joseph stood behind her holding a lantern. In the background were two shepherds. The Calvanists had shown their fanaticism by piercing the eyes of Mary and her spouse, St Joseph.
Carrying the picture to the camp, the monk held it up and urged the soldiers to restore Mary’s honor. His words decided the hesitation of the generals and gave courage to the men. They adopted Mary’s name as their battle cry and Mary blessed their efforts. In the moment of success, they hailed the painting as Our Lady of Victory and carried it in triumph into Prague, where their leaders adorned it with rich jewels.
In gratitude to God for his great success, and in recognition of the help given by Father Dominic, Ferdinand II founded several Carmelite monasteries, including one at Prage which was solemnly blessed under invocation of Our Lady of Victory.
Before this time, however, Father Dominic had taken the picture of Our Lady of Victory to Rome where it was first venerated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, then carried – in the presence of Pope Gregory XV – to the church of St Paul near the Carmelite convent, on May 8, 1622. Pope Paul V subsequently changed the name of the church to Our Lady of Victory, and the feast was officially inaugurated.
The original painting was destroyed in a fire in 1833 and has been replaced by a copy. Another copy hangs in the church of Our Lady of Victory in Prague, in a building erected in 1706 replacing the earlier church.
From the Shrine of Our Lady of Victory in Prague, came to the entire wold the devotion to the Infant of Prague.
Our need for Mary’s help continues as long as we live, and so long, too, we need her guidance. The struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good will continue until the end of time. The devil whose intelligence and power exceed those we can command in our own right, has an acute appreciation of the value of our souls bought with a great price. Our sure way to defeat him is to range ourselves under Mary’s banner, to call on her to bring us victory, and to acknowledge her as Our Lady of Victory when she protects us from dangers and brings us triumphant through temptation.
OUR LADY OF THE WORD (OR SPEECH)
In the year 1514, Our Lady was venerated at a shrine near Montserrat, Spain. Her aid was invoked on behalf of a dumb man who went on pilgrimage there, and the Blessed Virgin miraculously restored his speech. From that time on she was given the title Our Lady of Speech. Here again the words of the “Memorare” were verified:
“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession,was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to you do I come, before you I kneel, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me."
When God was made man, it was she who gave voice to the Word. In the Magnificat, God the Holy Ghost, her mystical spouse, spoke though her. When Christ was a child, she was His voice. When Our Lord was a man, He spoke for himself, while his mother remained silent. After the Ascension, she again became His voice as she guided the infant Church through those perilous times. Over and over again the words of God came through her, for she is His Mediatrix of grace, the link between us and Him.
Vested with the almighty power of her Divine Son, Mary, imitating Him, visits the earth, going about doing good, granting petitions, supplying the needs of those who invoke her, and giving solace, comfort and aid to her children. She is indeed Our Lady of the Word; Mother of the Word Incarnate; “And the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us,” through her “Fiat.”
As a consequence, even while on earth, His Mother’s word had great influence upon Christ. “They have no wine,” uttered in behalf of the embarrassed newlyweds at Cana, was all that was necessary to bring forth her Sons’ first miracle.
And so, down the ages, Mary hearkens to the words of her Calvary-born children and speaks in their behalf to Jesus. Her intercession, her word, her speech, is never in vain. Let us never cease to invoke this powerful protectress, who wants nothing more than to intercede for us, her children, before the throne of God.
OUR LADY OF BANNEUX
Little Mariette Beco, waiting for her brother to come home, pressed her face against the window while darkness fell; it was seven o’clock in Banneux. Mrs. Beco was working in a back room; the rest of the family had retired – none of them had attended Mass that Sunday morning – the father was a lapsed Catholic.
Suddenly Mariette called out, “Mother, there is a lady in the garden. It is the Holy Virgin.”
Mrs. Beco scoffed at this. Taking a rosary Marietta had found on the road, she began to pray it.
When Julien came home and heard what had happened, he said there was nothing in the garden; perhaps the icicles reflected weirdly and confused Marietta.
The pastor was informed, but he did not put much stock in the story, thinking the vision of Beauraing and Lourdes was resulting in an epidemic of visions. He sent word to Mariette to forget about it and not spread stories.
The next morning, Wednesday, the priest was surprised to see Mariette at Holy Mass – she had quit school because she failed in her First Holy Communion examination three times, and after that had not gone to church anymore. That day Marietta went to school and for the first time in her life knew her lessons well.
The next evening she went into the garden, knelt and said the rosary; her father followed her with a coat which he threw around her shoulders. He tried to get the pastor who was out, then called a neighbor, a practicing Catholic, and together they followed. The child was being beckoned on to the highway by the lady, now known as Our Lady of Banneux, till they reached a spring, into which Marietta plunged her hands at the command of the lady, who said, “This spring is set aside for me. Good night!” Then she vanished.
When they reached home, the priest was waiting for them. Marietta described the lady: “Her robe was long and white; she wore a blue belt and rays of light shone from her head. She was a little more than five feet tall; her right foot was bare and under it a golden rose. Her hands were raised to her breast on which was a golden heart. A rosary hung from her right arm: all similar to the Lourdes apparition.
There were six or seven more apparitions of Our Lady of Banneux; at one of these Marietta, at the advice of the pastor asked the lady her name, to which Our Lady of Banneux replied, “I am the Virgin of the poor,” and leading the girl to a spring, said, “This spring is for all nations…for the sick…I would like a chapel built. I come to relieve suffering. Have faith in me and pray much. My dear child, pray hard…” At the end of each visit Mary would say “Au revoir,” which means, “until we meet,” but at the last visit she said, “Adieu,” which means, “good-bye.” She blessed Marietta then, at which the girl fainted. Marietta did not see the lady depart.
The Beco family and many others became model Catholics. The chapel was built, and the spring became the site of numberless cures. During the German occupation of Belgium in 1942, the bishop encouraged the cult of Our Lady of Banneux, Our Lady of the Poor.
In 1947, the bishop approved the devotion. In 1948 the cornerstone of a new basilica was laid; this was to supplant the small chapel. During the war, Marietta married a Dutch salesman. During the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, an American chaplain found them and their fifteen month old baby living in a cellar of a small home occupied by American troops.
Belgium is one more reminder in these days when communism seems to be sweeping everything before it, that our great hope – our only hope – lies in our carrying out the requests Our Lady made at Fatima and other places. Mary prays for us without ceasing, but we, too, must pray, must sacrifice. We must do our part, if we expect Mary to help us.
OUR LADY REFUGE OF SINNERS
The worst evil that can befall us is unquestionably SIN, which makes us an object of abhorrence in the sight of God.
God’s infinite mercy has not only prepared for us a potent remedy against sin in the merits of Jesus Christ, our Savior, but it has also given us poor sinners a secure refuge in the assistance of Mary, Our Lady refuge of sinners. In the Old Law there were cities of refuge to which the guilty could flee for safety; in the New Law, Mary’s mantle is for us that citadel of refuge for sinful souls. How can the Divine Wrath strike us, if we are covered by the mantle of Mary, the chosen daughter and the honored Mother of God?
Our Lady refuge of sinners is thus not merely a pledge of our safety, but by her unrivaled sanctity, she is as earnest of pardon for all sinners who have recourse to her intercession. She not only disarms the just anger of God roused by our sins, but also obtains for her true clients sincere and heartfelt conversion. All we need do is turn toward her with Faith, to obtain Divine Clemency and the means to rise from the mire of sin.
To be cleansed from sin and to be admitted again into the friendship of God is a grace beyond compare; but to be kept free from fresh falls is even more important, as our salvation depends entirely upon final perseverance. Mary, by her intercession, helps us detest past sins and faults; and keeps us from renewed relapses.
Through God’s permission we are tempted in all sorts of ways; but Mary’s watchful assistance helps us put Satan to flight while she suggests to us, through our Angel Guardian, all manner of good thoughts and holy aspirations.
More than ever at the hour of death, Mary shelters her devoted children, driving the Tempter far from us, and encouraging us to fight valiantly to the last gasp.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us SINNERS, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
OUR LADY OF PONTMAIN
It was in the winter of 1871 in the village of Pontmain, France, Eugene Barbedette was busy in his father’s barn helping prepare the animal feed. He stood briefly in the open doorway, admiring the beautiful evening. Suddenly the gaze of the 12 year old was held there, for opposite the barn and in a framework of stars, stood a beautiful lady – motionless – smiling at him.
“Do you see anything?” he shouted to the others, “Look, over there!”
“Yes,” cried his brother Joseph, “a beautiful lady dressed in a blue robe with golden stars, yes, and blue shoes with golden buckles…and, she has a golden crown which is getting bigger, and a black veil.”
Since the father did not see her, he told the boys to get on with their work; then curiously, he asked, “Eugene, do you still see anything?”
“Yes, she’s still there,” the boy answered and ran to fetch his mother; she saw nothing, but with a woman’s intuition, she thought it might be the Blessed Virgin and assembling the family gently, all prayed five Paters and Aves in honor of the Mother of God. She called for a nun at the convent next door, who brought her two little charges with her, the later, Francoise and Jean Marie, reaching the door of the barn, called out, “Oh, look at that lovely lady with the golden stars!” and clapped their hands with delight.
The news spread quickly, people gathered, with them the cure, M. Guerin. The Magnificat was intoned, and Eugene shouted, “Look what she is doing!”
Slowly a great white streamer unfolded and in large letters they read: “Pray, my children, God will answer your prayers very soon. He will not allow you to be touched.”
The cure then intoned the hymn: “My Sweet Jesus…” At that a red cross with the wounded body of Christ appeared before the Virgin, who held it. At the top in large red letters was written, “Jesus Christ.”
The crowd burst into tears, while the cure ordered night prayers to be said; a white veil hid the vision, while our Lady smiled at the children, a smile which haunted them all through life with its beauty. Something of the sorrow of farewell was depicted on the faces of Eugene and Joseph, for the cure said quickly, “Can you still see anything?”
“No, it is quite finished,” they answered.
At the moment the message was being written in the sky, a messenger passing in front of the crowd had shouted, “You may well pray, the Russians are at Laval.” But they never entered it.
On the 17th of January, at six o’clock at night, the very hour the Virgin appeared to the children of Pontmain, the division of soldiers, without apparent reason, received the order to retreat.
On the 28th of January, the armistice was signed at Versailles. After long and searching inquiry, Mgr. Wicart, the Bishop of Laval, proclaimed the authenticity of the vision, and at the very spot where Our Lady had appeared, a basilica was erected in honor of Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain. There the Queen of Heaven receives her countless children and gives them fresh hope in their trials, as she gave France peace in her hour of need.
The basilica is a magnificent structure in the 13th century style, and one may still see the barn where Eugene and Joseph worked when Mary appeared.
OUR LADY OF DIJON
In the fifth century the Abbey of St Etienne of Dijon had a regular chapter which observed the Rule of St Augustine; it was given over to the secular canons, and later Clement XI made the church the cathedral of Dijon.
The image of Our Lady of Dijon in Burgundy was formerly named the “Black Virgin,” and “Our Lady of Good Hope.” In the year 1513, Mary miraculously delivered the city of Dijon, the ancient city of the Dukes of Burgandy, from the hands of the Swiss. The German and Swiss forces coming against them totaled 45,000 men, and although Dijon was well stocked for a siege, they only had perhaps 6,000 defenders. There were plenty of arrows, but little gunpowder, and most of the French cannon needed repairs.
The invading force was so sure of success that they there were columns of empty wagons pulled behind the army to bring back the loot they expected to take from the French towns and monasteries. The Monastery at Beze was not spared, as even dead monks were dug up in search of treasure.
The army arrived on September 8, the solemnity of Our Lady’s Nativity. There were so many men that the defenders saw nothing but a vast sea of shining armor wherever they gazed. The Swiss opened up with heavy cannon fire the next day, yet there were surprisingly few fatalities. When breaches were made in the walls and the enemy attacked, they were repulsed with heavy loss of life.
On Sunday, September 11, a procession was organized after Mass. The “Black Virgin” was carried through the streets as the French prayed to the Mother of God to spare them from their deadly enemies. The following day a treaty was signed, and the conflict ended unexpectedly. In thanksgiving for this favor, she was titled Our Lady of Dijon, and general procession to her shrine is made every year.
During the French Revolution the church suffered the outrage of being transformed into a forage storage house. Afterward, in atonement to Our Lady for this insult, the faithful of France rebuilt the shrine, and pleaded that the Holy See grant numerous relics and valuable keepsakes to be placed there. Our Blessed Mother responded to the generosity and love of the people by granting favors and cures and extending her God-given miraculous power over the people.
In 1944 the German army occupied the city of Dijon. The people turned to Mary, praying: “Holy Virgin, Compassionate Mother, you who protected our knights of old and who delivered our city from enemy attack, you maintained our ancestors in their times of trouble…Our Lady of Good Hope, pray for us.” On September 11, the Nazi army unexpectedly left Dijon.
OUR LADY FINDING JESUS IN THE TEMPLE
When Jesus was twelve years old, in the eyes of the Law considered a man, he attended the Temple with His parents. His parents thought He was with them in the caravan, visiting friends or relatives. Women were placed in the center of the caravan; men and boys in the front of the back to protect the women. It was not until the end of the day that Mary and Joseph sought Jesus among their relatives and could not find him. Since they could not find him, they returned to Jerusalem in an agony of heart to search for their beloved Son.
On the third day with growing anxiety, they came to God’s Temple to tell Him their sorrow and to plead for His mercy. Hardly had they returned to the Temple when they heard His voice, and God revealed to them the Child they had so diligently searched for all these worried days. Loving Mother that she is, Mary knew that her Son had good reason for his actions, but she was overcome with the pain of her emotions. Mary asked: “Son, why hast thou done so to us?” These words were forced from her by pain at the absence of her Son, Whom she loved above all things, and not by indignation, for He was blameless.
Christ was not unsympathetic to His parent’s grief. He knew what they had suffered for three days, yet he had remained in Jerusalem because of His love of prayer and communion with His Heavenly Father. He also showed them, even then, some rays of His divinity, by which to make known that He had come for the glory of His Father, and to procure our salvation. The glory of God and the salvation of our souls should be our chief object in life. So, He reminded his parents kindly that He must be about His Father’s business, and they returned to their home, and He was subject to them.
OUR LADY OF THE TABLES
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Tables is intimately linked to the history of the city of Montpellier. It is located on the outskirts of town at Montpellier, France. The shrine is said to have taken its name from the many tables of merchants and money changers who stood about the church in the Middle Ages, for the church was a stopping point for pilgrims to pray while on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
There once stood at this site a very ancient, renowned church containing a shrine of Mary – the Blessed Virgin Mary holding her Son in her arms, extended over the city, so to say. She stood upon a byzantine pedestal or table, and was fondly called the “arm of the city of Montpellier.” The final destruction of the ancient church of Our Lady of the Tables occurred during the French Revolution, and now only the crypt and burial vaults remain.
This statue housed at the shrine was a famous statue of black wood – Notre-Dame-des-Tables. In an attempt to preserve it during the Protestant uprisings the icon was hidden for a long time within a silver statue of the Blessed Virgin, life-size, and screened from the public view. It was stolen by the Calvinists and has since disappeared from history.
The current basilica was begun after the French Revolution had ended. Although the statue has disappeared, the people of Montpellier believe Mary still extends her arms over the children of the city, as mentioned above. Her arms of love wield miraculous power, for she is the Mother of God.
OUR LADY OF EXILE
Tradition tells us that St John took Mary to his house in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus. Mary pondered over the wonderful mysteries of her life; she prayed for the new child of hers, the Church; she helped the Apostles with her knowledge of her Son and with her prudent advice. Mary was to all during those long years a pillar of strength. Every day she received Holy Communion; she said again her “Ecce Ancilla” when her God incarnate was within her.
She had to nurse the new-born Church and strengthen the Apostles with her example and prayers; and supply them with many details of Her Son’s Life. She had to establish her position as Mother of the Church. During those long years of exile, the Church learned to regard Mary as its Mother. Our Lord would give still more time to increase her merits by more suffering. Her crown was to be the most beautiful possible, and so she remained behind on earth suffering, which intensifies love, humility and submission of God’s will.
Mother Mary still “walks the earth” as her many apparitions, especially of late years, testify. We are not alone in this vale of tears in this earthly exile, as our Mother is always with us. All we need do is keep our hand tightly clasped in hers, walk in her footsteps, remain securely under the protection of her mantle, and never fear, but be secure and safe until she clasps us in her arm eternally to lead us to the throne of her Son to enjoy the mansion He is even now preparing for us.
OUR LADY OF BETHLEHEM
Bethlehem, the city of David, is located about 5 miles south of the city of Jerusalem. According to tradition, Bethlehem is the place where David was born, and also where he was anointed king by the prophet Samuel.
We do not know not long the Holy Family remained in Bethlehem, but, regardless, often in later years on their way from Nazareth to Jerusalem to pray in the Temple, they must have stopped off at Bethlehem. There, they might have visited the place of the Divine Birth and talked with the shepherds and those of the town who befriended them and were kind to them during the time of the Nativity.
How they must have stood, pondering on the events now past, as their gaze fell on the road which they had taken to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. The text, “And thou, Bethlehem, are not the least of the cities of Judah, for out of thee shall come the Savior who will deliver His people from their sins,” must have been frequently on their lips, as they in gratitude called down a blessing on the city of Bethlehem, for having given them the shelter it had on that glorious night of the Nativity, that “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
OUR LADY'S ESPOUSALS
According to tradition, when Mary was of marriageable age, numerous suitors sought her hand. All were rejected and the humble virgin was given in marriage to St Joseph, who seemed only a lowly artisan. St Joseph was already known as a just and God-fearing man; but he was not so bold as to aspire to the hand of one so accomplished as the daughter of Anne and Joachim. What was his joy at being the choice of Providence? What was his happiness in possessing as his spouse a virgin in whom the holiness of God shone so clearly? His whole soul turned to God in thanksgiving!
It was also a great joy for Mary to receive good St Joseph as her spouse. She bore with solicitude a heavenly secret hidden in the depths of her heart. She had made a vow of virginity, and she had prayed to have a spouse who, though truly married to her, would consent to respect her virginity; and this man God had prepared in the person of virtuous St Joseph.
The marriage of Mary and St Joseph was very real since each accepted the other as spouse with all their mutual rights; yet when Mary disclosed her intentions of remaining a virgin, St Joseph acquiesced as to an order that came from heaven. What joy this brought to Mary.
The marriage of Mary and St Joseph would not have served as a model for Christian marriages had it not been visited by some trials. Some months passed when St Joseph perceived that Mary would soon be a Mother. His holy spouse had kept the Annunciation a secret, and St Joseph was naturally troubled at the time. After much prayer, St Joseph decided to leave Mary quietly; but heaven intervened to render homage to Mary’s virginity and to reassure St Joseph’s conscience.
An angel appeared to St Joseph during the night and said, “Fear not, Joseph, to take unto thee Mary, thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call His name Jesus. For He shall save His people from their sins.” Thus St Joseph learned at once the irreproachable fidelity of Mary and the richness of the treasure he had in his home.
OUR LADY OF PEACE
In July, 1917, the three children of Fatima were granted a vision of Hell. They gazed in horror and fear; then they raised their eyes in desperate appeal to Our Lady, who looked down upon them with somber tenderness saying:
“You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them God wants to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”
“If people will do what I ask, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. The war is going to end, but if they do not stop offending God, another and worse war will break out in the reign of Pius XII. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger, and persecution.
“To forestall this, I shall come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays.”
“If they heed my request, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, she shall spread her errors throughout the world promoting wars and persecutions of the Church: the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.”
“In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; which will be converted, and some time of peace will be given to the world.”
In every one of the apparitions, Our Lady of Peace requested the recitation of the rosary. “Continue to say the rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world.”
OUR LADY’S SHROUD AND TOMB
The translation of the winding sheet, or shroud, of the Blessed Virgin Mary from her tomb in Palestine to Constantinople occurred during the fifth century, and its translation is commemorated on January 25.
In about the year 450, Marcion, the Eastern Roman Emperor, and the Empress Pulcheria, paid for the construction of a church that was located near a fountain of water that was believed to have healing powers. The church was at a place called Blachernae, which was a suburb in the northwestern section of Constantinople. Besides the spring already mentioned, there were a number of churches already built in the area, but the greatest of them would be the Church of St Mary of Blachernae.
When all was ready, the emperor sent a message to Juvenal, the first Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, asking him to send the sacred remains of the Blessed Virgin Mary to them to be honored in the new church dedicated to Our Lady.
It is the tradition of the Church that Our Lady passed the remaining days of her life at Jerusalem, and it was commonly known that the tomb of the Blessed Virgin was located in Gethsemani. Juvenal delicately explained to the Emperor that the sacred body of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been assumed into heaven body and soul, so there were no bodily relics for him to send. He did, however, send a casket and the winding sheet, or shroud of Our Lady.
The emperor Leo I constructed a separate building near the church to house the holy reliquary which contained the mantle and robe of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Such a significant relic made the church an important sanctuary, and the Emperors enclosed the church behind a protective wall and began to build what became known as the imperial palace of Blachernae.
There was also a famous icon of the Blessed Virgin kept at the church. Painted on wood, it is now known as the “Blachemitissa.” In 626 Constantinople was attacked by a combined army of Persians and Avars while the Emperor Heraclius was fighting the Persians in Mesopotamia. The Patriarch Sergius led a procession along the ramparts carrying the icon just mentioned. It was later learned that the fleet of the Avars was destroyed at sea, and that the Khan of the Avars had not attacked the city because he had been terrified at the sight of a young woman in armor adorned with jewels guarding the walls.
There were other occasions in which the Blessed Virgin was known to have given her protection to the Byzantines, such as the time when a Russian fleet was threatening to invade. The mantle of the Blessed Virgin, which was also being housed with the other relics, was dipped in the ocean while the people prayed for divine protection. A few days later the Russian fleet was destroyed.
The church of St Mary was destroyed by fire in 1070, but was later rebuilt. Eye-witnesses said the supporting columns were made of green Jasper, and that the capitals and bases were of gilded white marble. The church was destroyed by fire once again in 1434.
OUR LADY OF ATOCHA
For a long time part of Madrid was nothing but a field of matreeds (tules) particularly in the district of Atocha. Here is a shrine to Our Lady of Atocha, a Spanish contraction for “Theotokos”, meaning “Mother of God,” or a simplification of “Antiocha” which in the 12th Century under this title was already ancient and beloved. Today the statue stands in a business center, a dark little Madonna with an enigmatic smile on her face. Nobody knows where she came from, but everyone from gold-braided officer to the ragged street urchins pay her the most polite respect and give her most unqualified love.
Our Lady of Atocha was in Madrid when there was only a field of reeds and a hermitage. The Moor and the Moslem came – they respected her and left her alone. When Toledo was sacked in 1170, she remained there calm and accessible, watching over her children. In 1525 Charles V brought her his bride and asked her blessing upon their marriage; Don Juan of Austria, departing for the Battle of Lepanto, knelt at her feet and pledged his sword to her; after his victory he sent in thanksgiving his sword to her along with the captured Moorish banners.
Despite all these trappings of the high and wealthy, she still remains Our Lady of all the people, beloved of kings and farmers, such as St Isidore.
Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine: there is not a Spaniard of public importance for a thousand years who would not kneel to ask her help. Her gowns are made from the bridal gowns of queens; yet no shrine better demonstrates how little it matters where we rank in the world or what we do for a living. One of her supplicants asks her for victory for his armies, one for rain for his thirsty fields; Our Lady of Atocha answers all, impartially and lovingly.
In the year 1554 the Spanish Missionaries brought Our Lady of Atocha to Mexico with them. She was brought to a sanctuary called The Santuario De Plateros, which is a church about 30 minutes from the small town of Fresnillo.
There were many miracles that occurred after the arrival of the famous statue.
After the first miracle was reported the Infant of Atocha was separated from the rest of the statue. He was seated instead by Himself in a splendid crystal niche on the main altar, and He can still be seen there today.
In His left hand He holds a jug, which for centuries was used by pilgrims to carry their liquids for drinking. In His right hand is a small basket of food. The face of the Infant is dark and bright. He has long curls, and wears a small hat trimmed with gold and feathers on the side. His clothing is velvet, with exquisite embroidering, and has the initials JHS. .Finally, on his feet he wears solid gold sandals.
The Holy Infant is so small and attractive He is like a magnet to everyone. He is actuall a figure of admiration to the faithful. He grants them the favors they ask for, and gives grace instantly. He usually works during the night visiting the sick and the poor, therfore, He is also known as The Night Walking Infant of Atocha. It is not unusual to see HIs little chair empty while He is out on a mission. In the morning when He returns the sisters dust off His sandals after His all night journeys.
Pilgrimages are daily occurences at the Santuario De Plateros. Thousands of pilgrims go to the Santuario on their knees, singing and praying. The pilgrims come for miles away on foot carrying flowers. The children come also and the little infants are carried in the mother's shawl.
It is impossible to count the testimonials that cover the walls. Pictures, wheel chairs, crutches, braids of hair, have been brought in by those who received miraculous cures. All testimonials are framed with a picture of The Little Infant of Atocha, a picture of the moment of the miracle, and they also indicate time, date and place.
OUR LADY OF LIFE
The town of Mougins is really an ancient village located in the south of France. Only a short drive from Cannes, it is completely surrounded by dense forests, and there are a variety of tall pines and other trees growing amidst the town’s buildings. Like so many other places in Europe, the village was once also surrounded by a stone wall set with strong towers, though most of those walls have long since fallen down. Many of the charming older residences, however, are still in use opposite to newer dwellings.
It was sometime during the 11th century when a local nobleman gave the hill which overlooks the village to the monks to Saint Honorat, who cared for the local populace until the time of the French Revolution. The monks built a chapel on the hill known as Saint Marie, though very little of that original structure still remains. The Chapel of Our Lady of Life, or Notre Dame de Vie in French, was built in 1646, and stands upon the former site of that much earlier church.
If one were to visit the hermitage of Notre Dame de Vie, Our Lady of Life, they would find it situated on a beautiful site still overlooking the village, set in a long meadow bordered by two rows of giant cypresses. There is a natural peace and quietude that seems to invade the soul at this place, which was once a site of many miracles.
The name of the first chapel was changed from Saint Mary to Notre Dame de Vie, Our Lady of Life, when it was discovered that one could find a heavenly respite there. Notre Dame de Vie soon became famous throughout the area as a special sanctuary of grace, for if still-born babies were brought there, they would be miraculously brought back to life long enough to be baptized during the Mass.
"At the present day, the chapel has fallen to ruin, and a stone cross broken in half rises alone amid the ruins; but underneath these ruins there are subterraneous valuts, and a stone altar yet tells where they still come to lay those little chilren whom death has smitten on the threshold of life, and who have been unable to receive the sacred sign which would have made them like unto the angels."
"No sooner are they laid upon this stone, says the mountaineer who serves as a guide to the traveller in this dark crypt, than their eyes open again, a slight breathing escapes from their little lips closed by death, the water of baptism flows upon their foreheads, and then they fall asleep again, to ascend to heaven."
"By digging a little into the ground, the remains of these poor little flowers of humanity, which withered at the icy breath of death in the first hour of their morning, are found round about the altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, who raises up the little children to life, that they may go to Jesus Christ; that ignorant, but exalted tenderness of feeling which came to beg the miracle of Mary, interred them beneath her wing, that she might not forget them!"
"Let incredulity be indignant at this superstition of the heart; tender and pious souls will find in it only a motive for gentle commiseration. No doubt, more than one mother has been deceived in thinking that she saw the cold lips of her child become reanimated with her kisses to receive the sacred water; but whoever should dare to advance that Mary cannot perform miracles as great when she pleases, would be, to say the truth, a bold mortal." (from Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the History of Devotion to Her, by Mathieu Orsini, translated from the French.)
The chapel is home to an ancient statue in polychrome wood of the Virgin and Child. It is piously believed that through this image the Blessed Virgin has often restored to life children who had died without baptism.
In 1730 the practice was prohibited for unknown reasons. There is a tomb in an adjacent enclosure that contains the remains of the tiny bodies of those who were baptized and have passed to paradise.
OUR LADY OF SUCCOR
In 1613 the Spanish governor of Manila sent out a small fleet made up of two large galleys and several barques, to assist a neighboring settlement which was under siege by pirates. The two galleys were named for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Guidance.
The chief gunner on the Guadalupe was one Francis Lopez, a man given to all kinds of wickedness. He had only one soft spot in his hard heart, and that was for Our Lady of the Rosary. Wicked as he was, he never neglected this offering to the Mother of Mercy.
On the voyage in question, the Guadalupe struck a rock and sank and everyone had to swim for shore. Francis arrived safely, but promptly got embroiled in a free-for-all with the native galley slaves, who saw an opportunity to escape from the Spaniards. The slaves entrenched themselves behind the cliffs and rolled rocks down on their former masters. Francis was horribly wounded and left for dead, when the few survivors pulled away in a boat, sent from the Guidance.
For two weeks he lay helpless and in a frightful state from his wounds. He was surrounded by the dead, and deserted by the living. In his lucid moments he prayed not to to Our Lady of Succor, not to be delivered or for his heath to be restored, but for a priest. Francis was in no state to face God without confession, and he begged Our Lady of the Rosary to send him a priest.
Two weeks later, the other galley was in trouble and blown off its course. It was carried into the straits where the Guadalupe had gone down, and with all the efforts of the crew, it could not be gotten around the cape. Finally the captain gave up, dropped anchor, and sent the crew ashore for fresh water. One of the sailors heard someone calling his name.
The wounded man he found was almost too horrible to look upon, but his request was plain enough, “For the love of God, get me a priest!” The Franciscan chaplain of the Guidance was hastily summoned, and the man made his confession, and then died.
Favorable winds filled the sails of the Guidance, and in an hour the vessel was back on course. Back in Manilla, the sacristans were decorating the sanctuary for a feast. Dusting around the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary, one of the ladies noticed an odd fact.
“His little shoes are wet and muddy,” she said, pointing to the Infant, “and Our Lady’s skirts are damp and full of wet sand, as though she had been walking on the beach!”
The prior, Father Michael Ruiz, was summoned to see the phenomenon. He confirmed that the Mother’s robe and the Baby’s shoes showed definite signs of a journey in a wet sandy place, and that the niche where the statue stood was perfectly dry. He carefully noted the day and the time, and summoned a visiting Franciscan who examined the statue and finally took the Baby’s sandals to his room with him as a proof of the incident.
Weeks later when the Guidance came home, the story was put together. Our Lady of Succor had heard the cry of her wandering child, and no one ever doubted that the sand on her robe came from the beach where Lopez died, calling on her for help.
OUR LADY OF CHATILLION
St Bernard is said to have had a great devotion to Our Lady of Chatillion-sur-Seine, because of a miracle which was wrought by the Blessed Virgin Mary in his favor.
Bernard, the third of a family of seven children, was educated with particular care, because while yet unborn, a devout man had foretold his great destiny. At the age of nine he was sent to a famous school in France at Chatillion-sur-Seine, kept by the secular priests of Saint Vorles. He was an intelligent student, greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin. He later wrote several books about the holy Mother of God, and it is thought by many that no one speaks as sublimely of the Queen of Heaven as he does. Mary appeared to Bernard as he wrote and inspired him with heavenly words and wisdom. The most hardened sinners, heretics and agnostics Mary brought to him and she proved a bulwark to his efforts to lead men to her and to Christ, her Divine Son.
Early in his adult life Saint Bernard became sick, so sick that he was preparing himself for death. Feeling useless and barren, his infirmity and the attendant pains he experienced increased to such a degree that Bernard asked two of his brethren to go to the church and beg for heavenly relief from God.
The Blessed Virgin Mary herself soon appeared to St Bernard, entering his cell attended by St Lawrence and St Benedict. All three approached Saint Bernard and touched the parts of his body where the pain was the most severe, bringing immediate relief. St Bernard had also been troubled with an intense flow of saliva which would not cease, and that trouble was also immediately ended.
The saint was not completely cured, however, and although he did not die, it was yet some time before his health was completely restored to him. St Bernard used the time well, producing his first treatise on humility and pride, and “his light began to shine as the morning sun.”
OUR LADY OF THE ROSE (MADONNA OF THE ROSE)
History shows that the rose is the favorite flower of Our Lady herself, the Madonna of the Rose. In her apparition at Guadeloupe, she made use of roses as a sign of her presence and even arranged them with her own beautiful hands in the tilma of Juan Diego. At La Salette she wore a profusion of roses in three garlands and had tiny roses around the rim of her slippers. She brought beautiful roses with her at Lourdes, Pontmain, Pellevoisin, Beauraing, and Banneaux. To Sister Josefa Menendez she showed her immaculate heart encircled with little white roses. Truly, she could be called the Madonna of the Rose.
Mary’s wedding garment, according to approved revelation, was “richly embroidered with blue, white, violet, and gold roses.” At the Incarnation, while the Angel vanished down the path that led up to Heaven, showers of half-blown roses fell on Mary. In the city of Damascus, very familiar to Mar, hundreds of men and women earn their living by working with roses, from which they distill rosewater and extract attar and syrup of rose. These people carry the scent of roses with them wherever they go. This is a lesson for us: let us become so saturated with the virtues of Mary, the Madonna of the Rose, that we carry their fragrance and attract other souls to our Divine Lord through His Mother, the Mystical Rose, the Madonna of the Rose.
Among the many feasts of Our Lady we find mentioned in an old Latin chronicle: “January 30, Our Lady of the Rose, at Lucca in Italy. Three roses were found in January in the arms of the statue of Our Lady there.”
Cardinal Newman says “Mary is the most beautiful flower ever seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God’s grace that from this barren and desolate earth there ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory; and Mary is the Queen of them all. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore, is called the Rose, for the rose is called of all flowers the most beautiful. But, moreover, she is the Mystical or Hidden Rose, for mystical means hidden.”
In the stately college of King’s Chapel, in Cambridge, England, one of the most renowned universities, built by Henry VIII in memory of his father, there can be discerned, hidden in one of the Tudor rose-bosses on the walls, a small head of Our Lady which somehow escaped observation at the despoliation of images at the Protestant Deformation. Brother John, a clever carver, was hired to carve all of the roses; knowing of the king’s quarrel with the pope, he secretly carved a tiny head of Mary, half-hidden within the rose petals in the upper tier of decorations, saying, “There you remain, Our Lady of the Rose, even if wicked men try to drive you and your Son from this Church.” His words came true, when the place was stripped of every trace of Faith, the diminutive head of the Mother of God still remained.
But a rose has thorns, and so had the Mystical Rose – the sharpest for herself alone; so she could have compassion on our infirmities. Never did the breath of evil spoil the splendor of this Mystical Rose; never did God’s lovely flower, the Madonna of the Rose, cease to give forth the sweet perfume of love and praise.
“Mystical Rose, thou hast been hailed to shed they fragrance sweet, to flood our desert with thy perfume rare. We beg thee, daily kneeling at thy feet, let fall thy petals for our repose, shower upon us thy aroma, O thou Mystical Rose.”
OUR LADY’S APPARITION TO ANGELA OF FOLIGNO (1285)
Blessed Angela of Foligno was born in 1248 of a prominent family in Foligno, three leagues from Assisi. As a young woman, and also as a wife and mother, she lived only for the world and its vain pleasures. But the grace of God intended to make of her a vessel of election for the comfort and salvation of many. A ray of the divine mercy touched her soul and so strongly affected her as to bring about a conversion.
At the command of her confessor, Blessed Angela of Foligno committed to writing the manner of her conversion in eighteen spiritual steps.
"Enlightened by grace," Blessed Angela of Foligno wrote in this account. "I realized my sinfulness; I was seized with a great fear of being damned, and I shed a flood of tears. I went to confession to be relieved of my sins, but through shame I concealed the most grievous ones, but still I went to Communion. Now my conscience tortured me day and night. I called upon St. Francis for help, and, moved by an inner impulse, I went into a church where a Franciscan Father was then preaching. It is reported that in the year 1285 she had a vision of both the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Francis of Assisi, who called her to penance.
"I gathered courage to confess all my sins to him, and I did this immediately after the sermon. With zeal and perseverance I performed the penance he imposed, but my heart continued to be full of bitterness and shame. I recognized that the divine mercy has saved me from hell, hence I resolved to do rigorous penance; nothing seemed too difficult for me, because I felt I belonged in hell. I called upon the saints, and especially upon the Blessed Virgin, to intercede with God for me.
"It appeared to me now as if they had compassion on me, and I felt the fire of divine love enkindled within me so that I could pray as I never prayed before. I had also received a special grace to contemplate the cross in which Christ had suffered so much for my sins. Sorrow, love, and the desire to sacrifice everything for Him filled my soul."
About this time God harkened to the earnest desire of the penitent: her mother died, then her husband, and soon afterwards all her children. These tragic events were very painful to her; but she made the sacrifice with resignation to the will of God. Being freed from these ties, she dispossessed herself of all her temporal goods with the consent of her confessor, a Franciscan friar named Arnoldo, so that being poor herself, she might walk in the footsteps of her poor Savior. It was to Arnoldo what she dictated her account of her conversion, now known as the ‘Memoriale,’ or the ‘Book of Visions and Instructions.’
She also entered the Third Order of St. Francis, and presently found herself the superior and guide of others who followed in her path. Many women joined her, even to the point of taking the three vows. She encouraged them in works of charity, in nursing the sick, and in going personally from door to door to beg for the needs of the poor.
Meanwhile, Angela became still more immersed in the contemplation of the Passion of Christ, and she chose the Sorrowful Mother and the faithful disciple John as her patrons. The sight of the wounds which her Lord suffered for her sins urged her to the practice of still greater austerities. Once Our Lord showed her that His Heart is a safe refuge in all the storms of life. She was soon to be in need of such a refuge. God permitted her to be afflicted with severe temptations. The most horrible and loathsome representations distressed her soul.
The fire of concupiscence raged so furiously that she said: "I would rather have beheld myself surrounded with flames and permitted myself to be continually roasted that to endure such things."
Still, she called out to God, "Glory be to Thee, O Lord! Thy cross is my resting place."
These painful trials lasted over two years; but then the purified and tried servant of the Lord was filled with great consolation. She obtained a marvelous insight into divine things and was very frequently found in ecstasy. For a time she had the stigmata, and for many years Holy Communion was her only food, until at last, completely purified, she entered into the eternal joy of the Supreme Good on January 4, 1310.
Pope Innocent XII approved the continual devotion paid to her at her tomb in Foligno, where many miracles were attributed to her. He beatified her in 1693.
Blessed Angela of Foligno said, "To know oneself and to know God, that is the perfection of man; without this knowledge, visions and the greatest gifts are of no account."