|Devotion to Our Lady||
OUR LADY OF THE PALM (CADIZ, SPAIN)
The Church of Our Lady of the Palm preceded by some time the miracle which made it famous. There is no exact record of why it was named that way.
The miracle for which it is best remembered took place during an earthquake and a tidal wave on the first of November, 1755. There had been an extremely strong earthquake on that day that was reported to have been felt throughout all of Europe. Cadiz is a seaport of Spain exposed to the Atlantic Ocean and was directly in the path of the tidal wave said to be more than 90 feet high. The recently reported tsunamis in Asia pale in comparison to that wave. Lisbon, with 275,000 inhabitants, was said to have lost 90,000 people and had 85% of its buildings destroyed from the wave. The water penetrated as much as 8 kilometers inland, mainly striking Portugal, Spain and Africa.
The townspeople of Cadiz were in terror and were on the point of abandoning the town when two unidentified men – thought later to be the patron saints of the city – closed the water gates and urged the people to go to the Capuchin Church of Our Lady of the Palm. Here a Mass was in progress. The priest calmly finished the Mass, seized a banner with a picture of Our Lady on it, and went out into the street where the wall of water was already advancing upon them. He planted the banner in the street almost in the shadow of the great wave and called out in a loud voice, “Thus far, my Mother.”
The water advanced as far as the banner, and then miraculously stopped its forward progression, even though up until that point it had destroyed everything in its path. Then, as the priest walked boldly forward toward the wall of water with the banner in his upraised hand, that gigantic wave receded from him and turned away from the face of Mary to return placidly to the ocean.
An anniversary procession was established, along with a confraternity of Our Lady of the Palm. With the exception of 1837, when there was a Civil War, the procession was held annually. The rosary was recited along the route of the tidal wave, and prayers of thanksgiving said.
Many years after the first miracle, another storm caused the people to remember Our Lady of the Palm. Ships were wrecked in the harbor of Cadiz, and the ocean was impassable. The people demanded a procession of Our Lady of the Palm, though it was out of season, and when the procession was finished, the storm abated.
OUR LADY OF EMMINONT (ABBEVILLE, FRANCE)
The shrine to Our Lady of Emminont, or Notre-Dame D’Emminont, is near Abbeville in France. It is much visited by pilgrims devoted to the Mother of God who at their prayers and petitions still performs for her people many miracles.
The relics of Saint Wulfram (also spelled Wulfran or Vulfran) of Sens, who died in 656, were brought to the shrine in the year 1058. Until that time, the church had been known as the Collegiate Church of Our Lady in Abbeville, but after the relics of Saint Wulfram were interred there, the church was rededicated in Saint Wulfram’s honor. The church retains that name to this day.
Franciscan Brothers, well-versed in wood carving, care for the shrine. They were consulted in 1510 concerning work on the Cathedral of Amiens. In richness of detail, Abbeville surpasses many other cathedrals. The nave was built between the years 1488 to 1539, and the small choir between 1661 and 1663. The construction was paid for by the King of France, and Count of Ponthieu, and the faithful of Abbeville. The church is much smaller than it was originally intended to be, as the initial blueprint for the church was never completed. The nave is quite short, has only two bays, and the choir is extremely small. Still, the façade is a superb masterpiece of the flamboyant Gothic style.
During the French Revolution the Church of Saint Wulfram was profaned and given the name of a “Temple of Reason” by the unreasoning revolutionaries who sought to destroy the immutable God by demolishing priceless monuments and artifacts, and even the glory of their own history.
The town of Abbeville was heavily bombed by the German’s during World War II, so that much of what is seen there today is of fairly modern origin. The church was also damaged, but efforts were made to restore the church to its former grandeur.
The list of favors granted by Our Lady of Emminont is indeed innumerable. It includes miraculous cures, astounding spiritual and temporal favors and streams of graces and blessings.
OUR LADY OF 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 PORT LOUIS (MILAN, ITALY)
According to the Abbot Mathieu Orsini: “Tradition reports that this image received one day the homage of two angels, whom several persons saw bending the knee before it.” Devotion to the Mother of God was hereby inflamed and pilgrimages made to the shrine. Many miracles were and still are wrought through Mary’s intercession.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary spoke to the Ven. Mary of Agreda thus:
“My daughter, although in the present life thou canst not penetrate into the mystery of the love which I had and still have for men; yet, in addition to that which thou hast understood, I wish, for they better information, that thou consider again, how the lord has given me the title of Mother and Teacher of the church. With it He infused into my soul an ineffable participation of charity and mercy for the children of Adam. As I was a mere creature and since this blessing was so immense, its effects would have deprived me many times of life, if the divine power had not miraculously sustained me. These effects I felt frequently in my thanksgiving, when souls were received into the Church or were made partakers of the eternal glory; for I alone could know and estimate this happiness in its entirety, and since I realized it, I gave thanks for it to the Almighty with intense fervor and deepest humility.
But the occasions in which I was affected most deeply, was when I asked for the conversion of sinners and when any of the faithful fell into eternal perdition. At such and other times, experiencing the extreme opposite of my joys, I suffered much more than the martyrs in all their torments. I exerted myself for each soul with an eminent and supernatural force. For all this the children of Adam stand in debt to me, since I offered up for them so many times my own life. Though at present I am not any more in a condition to offer it for them, yet my love, which seeks their eternal salvation, is not diminished, but is more exalted and perfect.” (The Mystical City of God by Ven. Mary of Agreda)
OUR LADY OF DAMIETTA (EGYPT)
The shrine of Our Lady of Damietta is in Egypt. This church was consecrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin, in the year 1220, by Pelagius, apostolic legate, to counteract lack of faith in her and to atone for some blasphemies hurled against her. The image is miraculous.
The city of Damietta, situated at the mouth of one of the branches of the Nile, was taken by the Muslims through treachery in the eighth century. They then successfully defended the fortified city against the Greeks, who repeatedly tried to recover it. They also survived the assaults of King Amaury I of Jerusalem.
Damietta was finally taken by the knight Jean de Brienne in the year 1219, after a difficult siege lasting over a year. The mosque was made into a church in honor of the Blessed Virgin by the King of Jerusalem and the Legate. It was here that Saint Francis of Assisi stopped before going to speak with the Sultan in an effort to convert him. Unfortunately, the Christians did not hold Damietta very long, as in the year 1221 the Crusaders were defeated and forced to give up Damietta.
In the year 1249 King Saint Louis IX of France went on crusade to the Holy Land, determined to take Damietta and keep it. The Crusaders at that time believed that Egypt was the key to maintaining control of the region, but a storm rose up before they could make land. When the King finally reached the coastline near Damietta, he had only a third of his companions with him, for the rest of the ships had been scattered in all directions.
The Sultan’s army was waiting on the beach, the gold in their armor glistening in the morning light. Their numbers were so great, and their eagerness to dispute the landing so apparent, that some of the French knights wondered if it were prudent to proceed.
King Louis had the Oriflamme unfurled, and then gallantly attacked. The courage of the knights more than made up for their lack of numbers, and soon the enemy were repulsed. In a short time the French royal standard could be seen atop the highest tower of Damietta. The mosque of El-Fatah was consecrated into a church and a bishop, Gilles, was installed. The fact that King Louis intended the conquest to be permanent is demonstrated by the endowment he had drawn up for the cathedral church of Damietta.
In the year 1259, King Louis decided to take his forces to Cairo. His supply lines were cut, and his men began to succumb to various diseases, so it was decided to retreat to Damietta. The king remained with the rear guard, and although he fought well, he was overwhelmed and captured. As part of the ransom for himself and his men, Saint Louis was forced to give up Damietta and a large amount of gold.
The Arabs attempted to make Saint Louis swear an oath that he would keep his word about the treaty to which he had agreed. If he should break his oath he was required to accept that it meant he esteemed himself as a reprobate who denied God and Our Lady, that he separated himself from the communion of the saints, renounced God’s law, and spat and trampled on the Cross, the sign of man’s redemption.
Saint Louis refused to take such an oath, and no threat of mistreatment, torture or threats of death could make him accept the blasphemous oath. “I would rather die a true Christian than live beneath the Almighty’s wrath,” he calmly answered their threats.
Still, the ransom was eventually paid, and Saint Louis with his queen and about 6,000 of his men, left Egypt and embarked for Acre. When word later came to the Sultan that Saint Louis was planning on returning, he had Damietta razed to the ground with its castle, leaving only the mosque of El-Fatah.
OUR LADY OF GOOD REMEDIES (MEXICO, 1519)
In 1519 Cortez brought with him a famous little statue to participate in the conquest of Mexico. The statue was first set up in a temporary chapel in one of the rooms of Montezuma’s palace where the Spanish officers made their devotions. On the terrible night when the Indians rose against the Spanish conquerors, one of the officers rescued the statue before fighting his way out of the palace. He did not get far out when he was cut down by Aztec arrows and died at the foot of the Maguey tree. The tiny statue was either pushed or it fell into the roots of the tree where it was overlooked by the Indians.
Some twenty years later, and Aztec convert prince, John the Eagle, was walking near the tree when he heard a sweet voice calling him; puzzled, he went to the nearby mission of the Franciscan Fathers and told them about it. They thought it was his imagination. Some days later John met with an accident, a large pillar of a church under construction fell on him; badly crushed, he was given the Last Sacraments. During the night when he was thought to be dying, the memory of the sweet voice kept returning to him. He prayed to Our Lady to help him; very early in the morning she gave him a sash to wear and cured him. A few days later he passed the tree again, and heard the sweet voice; curiously, he looked carefully around the roots of the tree; half buried in the sand, he found the tiny statue of Our Lady.
The Aztec convert thought he should do something about it. “Come home with me, gracious Lady,” he said, “I will see that you have a good home and are cared for;” he brought the little statue home wrapped in his cape and placed it on a rude altar.
Here Mary reigned as queen in the humble home for ten or twelve years; John kept the little shrine supplied with flowers, and occasionally with fruit and pretty stones. Gradually people came to pray at the shrine, their number increasing so, they were under foot day and night. John took up the local school-master’s suggestion to build a little chapel; he set about building a shrine and enthroned Mary, Our Lady of Good Remedies, there.
The next day to his horror, she was gone. Lonely and sorrowful, John went to the Maguey tree where he had first found her – and there she was! He returned the statue to the new shrine and decorated it carefully but she disappeared again; just when John became ill with fever, which is often fatal in this land. John’s relatives hurried to carry him to Our Lady’s feet in Guadaloupe; as he lay gasping before the shrine of Our Lady of Good Remedies he heard the same sweet voice say: “Why do you come to my house when you put me out of yours?”
John apologized and she continued, “If you did not want me in your house, why not take me back to the Maguey tree and build me a chapel there?”
“If you cure me, Lady, I most certainly will,” promised the sick man. He was cured by Our Lady of Good Remedies, and he was as good as his word. He built a chapel into a hermitage and spent the rest of his life there.
Years later, after John’s death, the shrine fell into ruins. In 1574 the Spanish governor happened to see the ruins and was told the story. He ordered the building of a beautiful church to house the statue. At one time during an Indian uprising the Indians determined to exile Mary as dangerous to their tribe. After the danger had passed, Mary was reinstalled in the church. She was called Our Lady of Good Remedies and also “The Little Lady of the Rain,” because she brought relief to the dry areas there. Other cities sometimes borrowed her for a procession around their parched fields, begging her to help them – which they say she always does.
also OUR LADY OF VALFLEURIE (LYONS, FRANCE)
The title traces its origins to the carved wooded image of the Black Madonna at Valfleury (Loire), France, near St. Etienne and St. Chamond south of Lyons, and is venerated annually on November 6th. She is also known as Our Lady of Valfleurie; Notre-Dame de Valfleurie; La Vierge au Genet d'Or (golden broom); La Vierge au Genet la Vielle Dame d'Or; and La Vieille Dame. The original statue, in wood, was found in a flowering broom bush at Christmas in 800 A.D., dates to Christmas 800. Pilgrimages began since that time, but almost ceased entirely during the years of the plagues that struck the region, and resumed in earnest again in 1629. The original image was replaced with a new sculpture in wood in the 12th century, which, in turn, was completely reconstructed in 1869. The fate of the original is unknown.
OUR LADY OF THE POND (DIJON, FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This image of baked earth was discovered in the year 1531, on occasion of an ox stopping always in this place, and though he grazed there constantly, the grass was always found still more abundant.”
Our Lady of the Pond, or literally Notre-Dame de l’etang in French, is a chapel located in the valley of the Ouche at Velars, situated about ten kilometers from Dijon in Burgundy. It is still an important place of pilgrimage. The chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary dates from the 12th century.
On July 2nd in the year 1435 (not 1531) the buried statue of the Virgin and Child was discovered. It is made of stone, and may have possibly been hidden there during the Muslim invasion. The Benedictines of the Abbey of Saint Benigne, Dijon, were initially charged with serving the sanctuary are the ones who built the first chapel to house the miraculous statue. Our Lady of the Pond quickly became the main shrine of the region. There were many famous people who went there on pilgrimage, including Saint Francis de Sales, who composed a prayer to Our Lady of the Pond.
The monastery and chapel were sold and razed in 1791 during the anti-Catholic Terror of the French Revolution. A stone cross was later erected on the site of the monastery to keep alive the memory. During that time the statue of Our Lady of the Pond was entrusted to the clergy of neighboring parishes.
The shrine of the miraculous statue was then moved permanently to the church of Velars, which was rebuilt in 1861 specifically for that purpose. The statue is located in a niche behind the altar behind a thick wrought iron gate. A large number of votive offerings almost completely cover the walls.
The chapel of Notre-Dame d’Etang has long been the destination of pilgrims, although it has been closed since May of 2002. A study revealed the presence of major structural defects in the chapel, for the stones crack and crumble. If the repair work is successful, the chapel may be reopened.
Prayer of Saint Francis de Sales:
“Holy Virgin, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of all those who trust in you, I humbly prostrate myself at the feet of your miraculous image of the pond. We choose you for our guide and our sovereign, we offer to serve you as faithfully as we can the rest of our days, and to love, honor and serve anywhere as much as we can. We just put our soul and body under your special protection.
“We give you and we put in your hands all our sorrows and miseries, all our thoughts, our affections, our words and actions, as well as the course and the end of our life, so that by your holy intercession and by your merits, all our works are made according to your will and to please your Divine Son. We beg you to honor us with a special protection during the whole course of our life and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
OUR LADY OF BELLE FONTAINE (LA ROCHELLE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote simply: “This image has been honored from time immemorial.”
Our Lady of Belle Fontaine, or Our Lady of the Beautiful Fountain, is also known as Notre-Dame de Bellefontaine in French. Our Lady of Belle Fontaine is located near Begrolles-en-Mauges, a French commune in the department of Mine-et-Loire, in the Pays de la Loire region of France, which has a population of just over 1500 people.
According to tradition it was sometime in the 13th century when there was a man hunting near the Benedictine Abbey when he severely injured his hand. Apparently the injury was so severe that the man feared that he might lose his life from the flow of blood that would not stop. Having with him a bowl, he filled it with fresh water he found nearby and placed his hand in it as he prayed intently to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her intervention on his behalf. The man’s faith was rewarded, as the hunter looked at his hand to witness the wound miraculously close as if he had never been injured at all.
In recognition of the miracle the hunter later returned to place a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the vicinity of the place of his miraculous healing. The statue quickly attracted pilgrims from many parts of Europe when the news of the miracle became widely known. Thus, starting in the 13th century, the statue of the Virgin was venerated under the title of Notre-Dame-de-Bellefontaine. A small chapel was also built around the statue of the Virgin Mary.
Shortly before the coming of the French Revolution, a chapel was built whose care was entrusted to a local hermit. The statue of the Blessed Virgin miraculously escaped the revolutionary turmoil, and the place remained a place of celebration for the faithful of the two neighboring counties. The nearby Benedictine Abbey, which had been founded at the end of the eleventh century, was plundered and confiscated by the state during the Revolution, and then sold in the year 1791. In 1794 some of the buildings were set ablaze and the rest of the abbey left in ruins. Some of the property was purchased on January 17, 1817, by a Trappist monk, Urban Guillet, and it once again became a flourishing monastery.
The pool from which the hunter obtained the water still exists, and is now protected behind a metal grate. There is also a modern statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary located in a grotto nearby, as the original statue disappeared during the fighting and chaos of World War I. It's current whereabouts are unknown.
OUR LADY OF ALMUDENA (MADRID, SPAIN)
According to tradition this statue, Our Lady of Almudena, was carved out of cedar and juniper by Saint Necodemus to propagate devotion to the Virgin Mary. It was polychromed by Saint Luke. The apostle Saint James gave it to Saint Calocero, who built a small chapel where it was displayed on the height of Cuesta de la Vega in present day Madrid. This sanctuary was free of the profanations during the persecutions suffered by the Christians in Gothic Spain. It became a large church during the fourth century under the Emperor Constantine.
During the Arab invasion of the 8th Century, the Christians of Old Madrid hid the image of Mary to avoid its being profaned or destroyed. It was sealed in a niche formed in one of the dados of the ramparts in a section close to the shrine. Once the statue was placed there in the year 714, they covered the place over so that it looked like a plain mending of the ramparts.
For three centuries and a half the Mohammedans were in Madrid. The shrine was briefly turned into a Mosque, but in 1083 Alfonso VI conquered Madrid and after the old shrine was purified and converted back into a church dedicated to Mary. King Alfonso ordered that on the wall of the major chapel a picture of the Blessed Virgin be painted to take the place of the lost image. In the course of centuries knowledge of the whereabouts of the statue had been hidden and lost.
After many efforts, the king determined to celebrate a novena of prayers, fasts, and penances as well as almsgiving, asking heaven to grant that it be found. At the end of the novena, a procession took place on November 9, 1085. It was supposed to leave the church of Our Lady and march around the walls of the city. When the procession, in which the king himself and many other notables marched, came opposite to where the statue was hidden, the stones of the wall fell away and the statue was revealed in the niche with two candles on either side that were still miraculously alight, having burned continuously for over three-hundred years.
The next day the statue was taken to the church. All of Madrid celebrated a festival of great jubilation. The statue was borne by four prelates and carried to the church of Our Lady. It was given the name of Nuestra Senora de la Almudena, Our Lady of Almudena, for the statue was hidden near a Moorish granary.
Alfonso VI ordered the building of a larger church which was given over to the Augustinians. In 1664 the municipal government of Madrid decided to participate in the feast and the procession celebrated in honor of the Holy Patroness.
When the church was torn down in 1868, the statue was taken to the church in the Calle del Sacramento.
OUR LADY OF LAST AGONY
MIRACULOUS CURE THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF OUR LADY OF LORETTO
Our Lady of Last Agony, to whom we owe next to God our restoration in the spiritual life, who gave us new birth so to say on Calvary, while her Divine Son agonized on the Cross, deserves the above title in full measure. Her title is a translation of that of Co-Redemptress of the Human Race, since the work of Salvation has for all of us its full consummation only in the decisive moment of death. Besides, the Church invites us to ask God for the grace of a Happy Death through the merits and the intercession of the Queen of Martyrs.
How gratefully, therefore, ought we to thank God for having secured for us, by the assistance of His Mother, at the moment of our death, the palm of victory!
Whence did Mary obtain the extraordinary privilege of procuring for those who are faithful in invoking her, the grace of a happy death and the assurance of eternal salvation? Without doubt, devotion to the Mother of God faithfully practiced during life, is a sign of predestination and, as such, assures for us at the hour of death the assistance of this divine Mother. How could Mary abandon at this supreme moment anyone who has faithfully called upon her during life?
Because Mary has merited by her own death the power of succoring her faithful servants at the moment of the great passage from life to eternity; having assister her Divine Son during His agony and death on the Cross, she received from Him the mission of assisting us equally during our agony and at the hour of our death.
It is through Mary that Jesus was given to us, when He came a tiny Babe in the infirmity of human flesh, wrapped up in swaddling clothes, in order to save us; it is equally through Mary that on the last day we hope to see face to face this same Jesus surrounded by the glory of the Father – the source of eternal happiness for us: “And after this our exile, show unto us the Blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
A true servant of Mary cannot perish, because devotion to this divine Mother, in keeping us virtuous, gives us a certain pledge that Heaven will be ours. Death is the crown of life: a good life cannot end in eternal loss. If we prove ourselves worthy of Mary’s assistance, as Our Lady of Last Agony, she is bound to procure for us the special grace of a holy death.
OUR LADY OF THE PORTUGUESE
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “On this day, about the year 1546, the Portuguese gained a great victory over the infidels, who had been before the castle of Die, in the East Indies, for the space of seven months, and who would have carried it by storm, if Our Lady had not appeared upon the walls; which caused so great terror in the enemy’s camp, that the siege was at once raised.”
The Portuguese began building the stronghold of Diu, their symbol of Portuguese influence and authority in the region protecting their lucrative trade with India, on November 20th, 1535, and finished the work a short time later on February 29th of the following year. The fort was circular in shape, having walls 20’ high and 12’ thick, made of solid stone and lime. There was a deep ditch immediately before these stout walls, and the fort had three triangular shaped bastions. Manned with a garrison of three hundred and fifty men, it was further supported by a fleet of eleven ships. Manuel De Souza was named the fort’s first Captain.
It was not long before the Portuguese came under siege, as an Ottoman fleet made up of 72 ships laid siege to the stronghold in September of 1538. There were many pitched battles, but as time wore on the Portuguese suffered from a shortage of men and ammunition, and a lack of adequate nutrition brought scurvy and great suffering to the defenders. The fort had less than 40 men left alive when the siege ended after a strong Portuguese relief force arrived on scene, but in actually the victory was the result of the gallantry of the men and women defending the fort and the grim determination with which the Portuguese held the bastions against every manner of assault.
In 1546 there was a second assault on Diu that began on the eve of Easter, and this time the Portuguese thwarted the efforts of the Turks to capture the fort in a pitched battle recorded as one of the greatest ever fought by the Portuguese troops in India. The siege had continued uninterrupted from April 20th 1546 until November 7th, when a Portuguese fleet finally arrived on scene under Viceroy Juan de Castro.
The Portuguese success in Diu confirmed Portuguese dominion and their hold over the region. Contemporary accounts, of course, do not mention the miraculous intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the siege, even though it was recorded that she appeared on the ramparts holding a lance in her hand to defend the fort from the enemy.
OUR LADY OF THE TOWER SECRET (TURIN, ITALY)
Our Lady of the Tower, at Fribourg, built on the lands of the heretics, on the very spot where an image of Our Lady had been found.
Don Bosco, the amiable saint of the nineteenth century built a major shrine to Our Lady Help of Christians, tying it in with the past and with the future.
The church was begun in 1863 with the sum of 8 cents. Don Bosco never revealed all that Our Lady had told him in the several visions that preceded this, but he did reveal that she asked him to build a great shrine and that it would be a source of grace to all who came there to pray. The saints do not ask as many questions as other people do; he simply got permission, hunted up an architect who was willing, in the coldly realistic nineteenth century, to begin a church on 8 cents, and said when the work was finished that he had been paid every cent owing to him; but, that he had been confronted in the beginning by a man who many people said was completely mad. The architect must have had real faith even to listen to Don Bosco.
Like everything else accomplished by the great Saint of Turin, the building was beset with difficulties. No one could understand why he insisted on naming it for Our Lady; even his own fellow priests. The money to pay for the project did not come in by the thousands of dollars, or even by the hundreds, but by the penny. Every stone in the building, every bit of decorations, was a gift of love, and sacrifice from some grateful person who had benefitted from Our Lady’s help. The completed building is a testimonial of miracles and a shrine of beauty fit to stand with the world’s finest.
The curious thing about Don Bosco’s shrine to Our Lady, and the one that should cause us thought, is the story of the right-hand tower. There is a large central dome, and on each side of it, a smaller one. On top of left-hand one is an angel holding a banner. The right-hand dome is built the same, but its decoration is an angel offering a crown to Our Lady. One who saw the original sketches of the Church, drawn out in Don Bosco’s own hand, saw on the right-hand tower, a date 19.., indicating that at some time in this warring century there would be a victory over evil to correspond with Lepanto. Our Lady often tells her secrets to the saints, and apparently Don Bosco knew the name and the place, and thought it better not to reveal what he knew. Our Lady of the Tower Secret would take care of it in time; and the left-hand angel bearing a banner labeled LEPANTO would have a counterpart, if mankind proves worthy.
Don Bosco’s church with Our Lady of the Tower was raised to the rank of a basilica by Pope Pius X, Saint Pope Pius X.
OUR LADY OF NANTEUIL (FRANCE)
This shrine dates from late in the 1st Century, making it one of the oldest shrines in France. According to tradition, some of the first Christians in the area discovered the statue residing on the branch of an oak tree. They happily took it, and placed it on a nearby wall near a fountain and went to summon the neighbors to show them what they had found.
On returning, they found that the statue was not where they had left it. Since this was an isolated spot, they wondered who might have taken it. Later, the statue was found once again where they had first seen it, sitting on the branch of the oak tree. Since Our Lady did not seem to want to be moved, the first chapel was, accordingly, built around the tree, with the branches with the statue being on the upper floor.
A parish church, later built next door, shows late 12th century architecture, but the shrine was already very old at this time.
The religious upheavals of the 16th Century left Our Lady of Nanteuil undisturbed, but before the French Revolution, a change came over the statue. The smiling face became sad, and many pilgrims testified to seeing tears on the cheeks. The Revolution indeed brought sorrow to the shrine. One of the pilgrims threw a rope around the neck of the statue and pulled it to the ground, breaking all but the head. A woman who carelessly tossed the head aside and looked for better loot was punished by almost instant death. Another woman took up the mutilated head and hid it until the destruction was over and a new body could be made to go with it.
One of the many miracles recorded of Our Lady of Nanteuil is the cure of a little boy who was completely crippled. His mother carried him on her back for thee pilgrimages, and the third time to the shrine of Our Lady of Nanteuil, he returned home entirely cured. The shrine was especially famous for the cures of sick children, and was a favorite of King Louis XI.
This shrine had a privileged altar that was highly indulgenced. It was a favorite of the Venerable Olier, and of that saintly vagabond, Benedict Joseph Labre.
OUR LADY OF THE GROTTO (LAMEGO, PORTUGAL)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Grotto, in the diocese of Lamego, in Portugal. This chapel was cut in the rock, in the same place where an image of the Blessed Virgin had been found.”
Lamego is both a municipality and a city in northern Portugal, the city having a total of less than 9,000 inhabitants. The city is an ancient one, as the Roman’s came to settle the area in about the year 500 BC. The people became Catholic when the Ricardo I, the Visigothic king, converted to Christianity late in the 6th century A.D. There is an ancient chapel located in the municipality of Lamego, dating from about that time, named Sao Pedro de Balsemao, but there seems to be no reference to an image of the Blessed Virgin once being found there. I can find no current reference to it in Portugal, although there are shrines with similar names in places like the island of Malta.
After the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula the following century, the region was fought over by Christians attempting to regain their homeland against the Moorish forces who resisted them. This continued until King Ferdinand I of Leon and Castile took the fertile valley from the Moors for the last time in the year 1057.
One of the most important events to ever have occurred in Lamego was the meeting of the kingdom’s first Cortez (a meeting of the nobles) in which Afonso Henriques was acknowledged as the first king of Portugal in about 1140. King Afonso was responsible for building the Cathedral of Lamego, but only the tower of the original structure remains. The rest of the cathedral that can be seen today was added in later centuries.
Pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela were popular during the Middle Ages, and Lamego was one of the towns situated on the path that many would take to that shrine in Spain. Lamego was also a starting point for those travelling to the city of Cordoba or Seville in Spain.
There is also an ancient castle encircled by a wall atop a hill overlooking the region. It dates from the 12 century, but many of the structures and residences in the town are centuries old, giving the town a decidedly medieval flavor.
OUR LADY OF PIGNEROL (SAVOY, FRANCE)
Our Lady of Pignerol, is also known as Our Lady of Pinerolo, or Notre-Dame de Piedmont in French. It was built in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin about the year 1098, by Adelaide, Countess of Savoy. It is a national shrine of Savoy.
Pinerolo is a town in northern Italy near Turin in a region historically known as Savoy, which was annexed to France. The town itself began just over 1,000 years ago due to its central location along a trade route that ran between France and Italy.
The pious and far-seeing countess anticipated by almost one thousand years the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady. Mary was publicly honored under this beloved title, and frequently repaid the generosity of her devout Adelaide by answering the pleas of her children, crying to her for help in every need. Answering their prayers, curing their ills and obtaining miracles for the faithful where human aid was despaired of, but where faith always conquered. When the Assumption of Our Lady was proclaimed a dogma, the rejoicing at the Pignerol shrine was indescribable.
Pope Pius XII, in November of 1950, solemnly proclaimed:
“By the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
Although this declaration of Pope Pius XII was made “ex cathedra,” belief in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a commonly held belief among early Catholics and the Fathers of the Church. In the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse of Saint John, Chapter 12, the woman mentioned is said to be an allusion to both the Church and our Blessed Mother:
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.”
This passage is generally interpreted as the Church being clothed with the Son, or Son of God, while Our Lady has the moon beneath her feet, representing the things of the material world. She is crowned with 12 stars, the apostles, and is in labor to bring forth the children of God amidst a world full of affliction and misery.
OUR LADY OF CHIEVES (HAINAULT, BELGIUM)
OUR LADY OF OSTRA BRAMA (LITHUANIA)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Chieves, in Hainault, where, in the year 1130, the lady of the place, named Ida, had a chapel built near a fountain where an image of Our Lady had been found, which has since wrought many miracles.”
Known today as Notre-Dame de la Fontaine, or Our Lady of the Fountain, the chapel is located in a town named “Chievres,” (and not Chieves). A short distance from the town of Ath, the town of Chievres is located in the municipality of Wallon in the province of Hainaut in Belgium. In 2006 the total population was only 6,198. There is also a United States Air Base located nearby.
Sometime in the early part of the 12th century, near the church of Chievres, there was an elderberry tree located next to a spring that held a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was probably one of the roadside shrines that existed all over Europe at that time. A young woman named Eva de Chievres (also spelled Eve, Ide, or Ida) decided to have a chapel built to house the statue and protect it from the weather.
It is interesting to note that Eva married a famous knight named Gilles de Chin. According to legend, the Blessed Virgin assisted this knight in slaying a dragon that was terrorizing the land around nearby Wasmes. Gilles was accidentally killed while contesting in a tournament in 1137, and Eva later retired to the abbey of Ghislenghien where she died at age 65.
The shrine Eva founded was originally known as Notre-Dame du Sehu, or Our Lady of the Elder, but it eventually became better known for the fountain located nearby, and thus became known as Notre-Dame de la Fontaine. The shrine was famous as a place of pilgrimage due to the numerous miraculous healings there, and was also a “chapel of respite” where stillborn babies were sometimes miraculously brought back to life long enough that they might be baptized and go to heaven.
Among the many miracles noted there, in the year 1315 a Norman pilgrim was cured of gout, an illness from which he was suffering in all his joints. He paid for the rebuilding of the chapel, and also to have another constructed in his homeland to honor Our Lady of Chievres. In the year 1568 there was another Norman by the name of Antoine Depres, who had come to Belgium for a lengthy hospital treatment which he hoped would be a remedy for the skin disease afflicting his legs. He was completely cured after visiting Our Lady of Chievres. The Archbishop of Cambrai conducted a rigorous investigation and proclaimed the cure miraculous the following year. In 1579 there was a man named Nicolas Lens who suffered from a contraction of his muscles or nerves so that his legs remained continually drawn up to his chest. Appearing before the statue of Our Lady, Nicholas’ limbs were suddenly loosened and he ran to kneel before the image of Our Lady. In the years that followed he never failed to carry the processional cross while barefoot to give thanks to Mary and Our Lord for the miracle.
The chapel was rebuilt several times over the centuries, and in 1632 a well was made in its center that drew water from the spring. The chapel was destroyed in 1789 as a result of the French Revolution. The statue of Our Lady was later found in the ruins and preserved in the church of Chievres. In 1893 Father Victor Duray organized construction of the present red brick chapel. In the present day there is a procession which takes place on the Sunday after Ascension Thursday. The statue of Our Lady of Chievres is carried in a beautiful Gothic-style litter.
Prayer to Our Lady of Chievres:
You are the fountain of pure water
In which rests the Holy Spirit.
Give us to be silent,
And hear the call of God,
Like you to be available
To accomplish His Holy will.
You are the fountain of grace
From which your children draw.
Do increase our little faith,
Today as in the past,
Save us from all danger,
And to our patients, give health.
You are the Fountain of Wisdom
From which pilgrims drink their fill.
Let us taste the Gospels
Open our hearts to forgiveness
Calm our anxious minds,
Turn our eyes toward Heaven.
Notre-Dame de la Fontaine,
We have every confidence in you.
OUR LADY OF SION (QUEEN OF THE JEWS)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Institution of the confraternity of Our Lady of Sion, at Nancy, in Lorraine, in the year 1393, by Ferri, of Lorraine, Count of Vaudemont.”
Sion, or Zion, is one of the places in the diocese of Toul where the seed of Christianity first took root. The epitaph of a young Christian named Nicetius, who lived in the fourth or fifth century, was found there, and it is recorded that a church dedicated to Our Lady was at the center of a very large parish in the Carolingian period.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Sion is built on the hill of Sion-Vaudemont in the town of Saxon-Sion, in the region of Saintois south of Nancy in the department of Meurthe-et-Moselle. It was built over the ruins of a temple once dedicated to the worship of a Roman goddess.
Bishop Gerard of Toul first built the parish church of Sion in the tenth century, and placed a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary behind the altar. In the year 1306 the eighth Earl of Vaudemont, Henry III, built the present choir and placed a new statue there of the Blessed Virgin nursing the Infant Jesus.
In the year 1396 Count Ferri of Lorraine and his wife founded, along with 36 lords of the country, the Brotherhood of the Knights of Our Lady of Sion. There is a more recently founded organization bearing the name Notre Dame de Sion, which is commonly abbreviated as NDS. It is also a Roman Catholic congregation, but was founded in 1843 by Alphonse Regensburg and his brother Theodore. Originally founded with the intention of converting Jews to the True Faith, the congregations radically changed its orientation after Vatican II and no longer works to convert the Jews.
In 1741 the nave of the basilica was enlarged to accommodate the crowds of pilgrims. The tower that rises over the church was completed after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and is surmounted by a monumental statue of the Virgin. The statue is 7 meters tall, dates from the mid-nineteenth century, weights 8 tons, and is composed of five parts bolted together. In 1873, September 10, by order of the blessed Pius IX, the statue was crowned.
One of the chief pilgrimages of France, Notre Dame de Sion, at Saxe-Sion, is dedicated to Our Lady under the above mentioned title. It dates from the Episcopate of Saint Gerard, whose Madonna was broken during the French Revolution. As if to demonstrate the uselessness of this revolt against God and His saints, the statue was replaced in 1802 by another statue of the Blessed Virgin which is now also miraculous.
THE ROSARY VIRGIN OF CHIQUINQUIRA (COLUMBIA)
Way up on the Andean Plateau, 150 kilometers to the north of Bogata, Columbia, is the city of Chiquinquira, founded in 1856, and where at the country house of the Spaniard Don Antonio de Santana, a wondrous miracle occurred.
Don Antonio, in 1555, being a devout Christian had an oratory built in his home and requested the Dominican Brother, Fray Andrews Jadraque, to have the image of the Holy Virgin painted. The silversmith and painter, Alonzo de Narvaez did the work. The brother demanded that the Virgin bear a rosary, the official emblem of his order. The cloth had room for two other images at the side, and it was decided to put Saint Anthony of Padua at the right and Saint Andrew the Apostle at the left. The painting was done in tempora, but since the chapel was of straw, the paint faded under the action of the sun, the air and the rain.
The damage was such that the town priest had it removed from the altar as unworthy for the celebration of Holy Mass. The canvas was taken to Chiquinquira and was used for a rag to dry the wheat under the sun. Seven years later Dona Maria Ramos arrived from Spain and grieved to find the chapel used for animals. Day after day she prayed there that Mary comfort her soul, hopeful that her prayers would be heard. On Friday, December 26, 1586, at 9:00 o’clock in the morning, the canvas was suddenly brightened by the Holy Virgin. Maria was in pious astonishment, almost in a trance, and soon the miracle drew crowds of people.
This wonderful happening was followed by miraculous cures. The Church authorities ordered an investigation to be made of the Virgin of Chiquinquira to verify the truth of the miracle and in the year 1630, the Dominican Brotherhood authorized by the archbishop of Bogata, took charge of the sanctuary, and built a church which was replaced by the present Basilica in 1801. The Holy See, after discussion of the wonderful miracle, granted a liturgical feast day that is celebrated with special services also in some sections of Venezuela and Ecuador as well.
In 1919, by order of the Holy See, the Holy Image was crowned with splendor in Bogata, and in 1944 it was granted the gold scepter and precious jewels as the mother queen of Colombia. The Virgin of Chiquinquira is the comforting heart of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador; prelates, magistrates, and other leaders of the nation have knelt down at Mary’s feet and throngs of people, rich and poor, continuously flow to this place to pray for consolation and guidance through this earthly life.
OUR LADY OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
also OUR LADY OF GOOD NEWS OR GLAD TIDINGS
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Good Tidings, in the Abbey of Saint Victor, which was visited every Saturday by Mary of Medici. The abbey was founded in 1113 by Louis the Fat.”
Louis the Fat, referred to above, is King Louis VI, king of the Franks, who reigned from 1108 until 1137. The Royal Abbey of Saint Victor was paid for by King Louis VI, but it was William of Champeaux, the archdeacon of Notre-Dame in Paris, who unintentionally began the Abbey dedicated to Saint Victor in 1113.
It seems William was famous for the lectures he gave to great crowds of his eager students, but he eventually decided to leave all to become a hermit. He relinquished his chair, thinking to retire to a small hermitage dedicated to Saint Victor near Paris. Due to his fame, however, he was followed by many men who wished to become his disciples and learn ever more from him. Thus, William was unexpectedly forced to once again become a teacher to his own community.
This was the origin of what became known as the Royal Abbey School of Saint Victor, as King Louis gave his jewels for the construction of the abbey church. When William was made Bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne in 1113, he was succeeded at Saint Victor’s by another elected from their ranks, and so they had their own order that became a center of learning as well as of piety. The abbey was also blessed by the generosity of popes and nobility.
In the 16th century the 12th century buildings were demolished, and Francis I had a new church built. Everything was then destroyed during the French Revolution, when the Vicotine order was dissolved and the buildings leveled to make way for a metro station. At this time there are no known detailed plans or illustrations showing the church or other buildings that once stood there. It is remembered, however, that the church was once renowned for possessing one of the grandest collections of medieval stained glass windows in Paris.
OUR LADY OF LA GUARDE (BOLOGNA, ITALY)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This picture was in the Church of Santa Sophia, at Constantinople, with this inscription: “This picture, painted by Saint Luke, must be taken to the mountain of La Garde, and placed over the altar of the church.” A Greek monk set out for Italy about the year 433, with the picture entrusted to him, and deposited it on the mountain of La Garde.”
The account mentioned by the abbot above is also told in the chronicle of Graziolo Accarisi, who wrote of a Greek hermit who went on pilgrimage to Constantinople where he received from the priests of the church of Santa Sofia the icon of Our Lady of La Guarde. This image was attributed to Saint Luke the Evangelist, and there was an inscription on the painting itself that it should one day be taken to the “mountain of the guard.”
The hermit took the icon, and walked throughout Italy in search of the place where the icon was meant to be, but it was not until he reached the city of Emilia near Bologna that the authorities of the city came out to greet him and processed with the icon back to the mountain. The icon had finally found its home, and it is now more commonly known as the Madonna of San Luca.
Among the many miracles attributed to the image is especially noted the “miracle of the rain,” which occurred on July 5th, 1433. An extremely heavy spring rain came late in the season, threatening to destroy the crops. Facing the prospect of famine, the people turned to the Blessed Virgin for assistance. The storm and rain stopped suddenly with the arrival into the city of a procession carrying the miraculous icon. Since that time these processions have been repeated annually. There is even an incredible arched walkway that is only a little short of four kilometers on length that is meant to protect the icon from the elements, as well as those on procession.
The icon shows the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus in blessing. She wears a blue-green robe, with a red tunic. The nose, eyes and fingers appear somewhat elongated. The Divine Child wears a tunic of the same color as His mothers’, with his right hand in a gesture of giving a blessing, and his left hand being closed. In 1625 the image was covered with a silver panel which leaves only the faces of the figures uncovered.
The icon was crowned in 1603 by the Archbishop Alfonso Paleotti. The sanctuary of Saint Luke, where the icon is kept, was declared a national monument in the year 1874. In 1907 the church was raised to the dignity of a minor basilica by the holy Pope Saint Pius X.
PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY IN THE TEMPLE
also OUR LADY OF QUINCHE
also OUR LADY OF PEACE OF SALVADOR
also OUR LADY OF THE RULE (SPAIN & PHILIPPINES)
The feast of the Presentation was instituted in the Greek church more than nine hundred years ago, since Saint Germanus, who held the see of Constantinople in the year 715, composed a sermon upon it.
Mary’s Presentation, offering, in the Temple was the greatest a creature ever made to God; at the age of three, she offered Him not spices, nor animals, nor precious metals, but herself as a perpetual victim to His honor. She well understood the voice of God calling her to devote herself entirely to His love.
God willed that from that time on she should forget all, and think only of loving and pleasing Him. Promptly and immediately, she obeyed the Divine Call.
Mary’s offering at her presentation began really in her mother’s womb, her sanctification at the instant of her Immaculate Conception. At that moment she received the use of reason and began to merit – the general opinion of theologians. (The Angels and our first parents had this blessing also.) In the first moment of her existence she offered herself entirely to God, and devoted herself without reserve to His love and glory, subjecting her will thereto.
The immaculate child understood that her holy parents, Joachim and Anne, had promised God by a vow to consecrate their child to Him for His service. Mary was reminded that it was the ancient Jewish custom to take daughters to the temple for education.
So when Mary was three years old, Joachim and Anne set out with her from Nazareth, eighty miles from Jerusalem, accompanied by choirs of unseen angels. When they reached the temple, Mary fell upon her knees, kissing the hands of her parents, and imploring them for their blessing. Then she ascended the fifteen steps of the temple and presented herself to the priest, Saint Zachary, for the service of her Creator.
Mary well knew that God does not accept a divided heart; so she vowed virginity, desiring to remain in the temple service her whole life. Our Lady revealed to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, that she kept one special commandment before her eyes constantly:
“Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God,” and she implored of God the grace to keep all the laws and to live to see the Mother of the Redeemer; and that even she had to pray for grace and virtue always. On learning from Scripture that God was to be born of a virgin, her soul was inflamed with such love, and she begged to be the servant of that happy virgin.
Saint John Chrysostom tells us God found on earth no other virgin more holy and more perfect than Mary; nor a dwelling more worthy than her sacred womb, and so He chose her for His Mother – surpassing in perfection and virtue all other creatures.
As Mary did, offer yourself promptly and completely to God through her, without delay, without reserve, entreat her to offer you to God. He will not reject a creature offerd to Him through His Mother, the living temple of the Holy Ghost, the delight of the Lord and the chosen Mother of the eternal Word.
Have unbounded confidence in Mary, who rewards the homage of her clients with the greatest love.
OUR LADY OF LAVANG (VIETNAM)
The fact that the Blessed Virgin visited a small group of Catholics in the little jungle village of Lavang, in Viet Nam, in 1798, is not surprising to anyone who knows the ways of the Mother of God. She has always been faithful to her children by grace.
It was as a result of one period of persecution that a number of Vietnamese Catholics found refuge about 1785 in a jungle that hardy foresters would hesitate to penetrate. Here they stayed hidden, suffering privations, dangers and illnesses, in order to practice their religion. One of the few comforts they had was reciting the rosary every day at dusk.
On one such evening, they were first frightened and then enchanted to behold a Woman and Child standing nearby in a mysterious glow of light. Simple as these people were, some among them recognized the Virgin Mother and Her Child. All listened entranced while Mary told them softly that she was fully aware of their hardships and of their chronic sickness due to contaminated water. She told them to gather certain leaves that grew near and make a strong tea of them; this would keep them healthy. Solemnly she added, “From this day on, prayers said on this spot will be heard – and answered.” The year was 1798.
Not long after the Virgin’s visit, the people heard that the persecution they escaped had ended. Most went back to their original homes; they could talk about little but the apparition they had seen, and word of this miracle spread.
By 1820 even the Buddhists believed in Our Lady’s promise and built the first little shrine, a pagoda, on the spot where Mary had been seen. Within a short time these Buddhists become Christians; and their small shrine became the first Church of Our Lady of Lavang. The faithful found solace and courage in this devotion in times of oppression and general misery that have come again and again to the Vietnamese.
In 1885 during a period of rabid anti-Christianity, the Lavang chapel was burned; a priest, Father Philip Minh, now Blessed Philip, was beheaded. There was another lull between attacks and work was begun on a building to replace the burnt chapel.
There were great difficulties in transporting supplies plus lack of adequate funds, but the great church of Our Lady of Lavang somehow evolved and was dedicated in 1901 in the name of the Protecting Mother of the faithful. A congress of all dioceses of Viet Nam was called and Lavang became a place of pilgrimage for countless devout people of Southeast Asia.
During the Marian Congress of 1961 a new basilica of Our Lady of Lavang was dedicated by Archbishop Peter Ngo-Dinh Thue of Hue. At that time he told Catholics of South Viet Nam that he received messages still from Catholics in North Communist Viet Nam who say they never fail to believe that the Holy Virgin of Lavang will one day deliver their country from Communist oppressors.
Viet Nam is a land of many martyrs. Across the centuries, devoted religious, scholars, leaders and the poor have paid homage to Mary.
OUR LADY OF THE VAULT (ITALY)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Vault, near the town of Saint Anastasia, in the environs of Florence.”
There is no town named Saint Anastasia or Santa Anastasia near Florence, Italy, and I can find no reference to a church known as Our Lady of the Vault.
There is a church in Florence that this feast might be referring to – The Duomo, Florence’s Cathedral of Saint Mary, or Santa Maria del Fiore. The dome is said to be the largest free-standing dome since ancient times, and is 348 feet high. It provides for a wonderful view of the city of Florence, and is a true triumph of 15th century engineering. The problem was that the dome was also expected to be 150 feet wide, and even those building the cathedral had no idea how they would go about spanning the space when they got to it, for it was far larger than any attempted since the days of antiquity with the great Roman engineers. The problem was put off for a later generation.
It’s hard to believe that such a design problem was left to the last minute, but fortunately, there was one man capable of the job. His name was Filippo Brunelleschi, and his work became the future emblem of the city of Florence.
Consider that the builders did not even have the money to afford the massive supports and scaffolding that was thought to be necessary to even begin work on the dome. One suggested solution was a proposal to fill in the space with dirt, and then pile it up in the shape of a dome which they could build around. To save the expense of removing the dirt after the dome was built, coins could be placed here and there in the dirt pile, and the poor invited in to look for the money, if they were also willing to take out the dirt they had dug through.
But Brunelleschi understood the secret of Rome’s Pantheon. He began by building the outer ribs to support and distribute the weight, and instead of heavy stone, used interlocking bricks, which were lighter and more solid. No scaffolding was required, as the builders used chains attached to the dome they were building to suspend themselves in place to work. Even so, it took sixteen years to complete, but it was a huge advance in engineering for that time.
The city of Florence recognized the genius of Brunelleschi, for after his death he was buried directly beneath the dome he had created. He remains the only person ever buried in the vaulted cathedral dome.
OUR LADY OF MONTSERRAT (SPAIN)
In Spain, Mount Montserrat has been dedicated to the veneration of Mary, Our Lady of Montserrat. It is a mountain standing alone, ten leagues from Barcelona, which was, according to the celebrated naturalist Humboldt, the great Atlas of the ancients, at the foot of which the fine kingdom of Valencia displayed the golden apples of the garden of the Hesperides. This mountain, which owed its name of Monte Serrats (sawed mountain) to its extraordinary form, seems as if composed of inlaid work, which makes it look as if divided and covered with spiral cones, or pine cones; so that it appears, from afar, to have been the work of men.
At a distance, Montserrat is a pile of grottoes and Gothic pyramids; when near, each cone appears a mountain by itself; and all the cones, terminated by needles, or points, which make a great noise when the wind blows, form an enormous mass of about five leagues in circumference. It was probably this singular conformation that led to the invention of the fable of the giants, who had heaped mountain upon mountain to scale the heavens.
It is on a platform of his celebrated mountain that the superb convent has been built, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, which is one of the most celebrated pilgrimages of Christendom. An inscription, of the year 1239, preserved in the convent above a large picture of the same period, thus records the foundation of this fine monastery:
“In the year 808, under the government of the Count of Barcelona, Geoffry le Velu, three young shepherds having one night seen a great light descend from the sky, and heard melodious music in the air, informed their relations of it. The bailiff and the Bishop of Mauresa having repaired, with all these people, to the spot which they pointed out, saw likewise the light from heaven, and after some search, they discovered the image of the Blessed Virgin, which they wanted to remove to Mauresa; but, being come to the place where the monastery now stands, they could not advance any farther. This prodigy induced the Count of Barcelona to build a convent of women there, from which he took the nuns of the royal abbey of Las Puellas of Barcelon; the first abbess of Our Lady of Montserrat was his daughter Richilda, who took possession of it about the year 895. This community of nuns subsisted until about the year 976, when the Count of Barcelona, Borrell, with the consent of the pope, placed Benedictine monks at Montserrat.”
The convent of Montserrat is a grand and noble edifice, situated on a platform very confined, and projecting from the mountain, which bears the name of Saint Mary’s platform; enormous rocks project above it, which seem every moment ready to fall; it is defended by the steep points of the mountain, as by natural fortifications, and on the accessible side by six strong towers. Besides the church of Our Lady, the fortified enclosure contains a house of entertainment for travelers, a hospital, and an infirmary.
The church of Our Lady of Montserrat his only a nave, but is nevertheless very spacious; the stalls of the choir are of very remarkable workmanship. The image of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Montserrat, has a face almost black, like those of Toledo and Guadeloupe, and many others which are visited in Spain; it is painted all over, and represented in an advanced age; though very brown, the face is graceful: she is seated on a seat made in the form of a throne, and holds in her right had a globe, from which springs a fleur de lis, while she supports with the other hand the Infant Jesus, seated on her lap, giving a blessing with his right hand, and holding in the other a globe, surmounted by a cross.
The inhabitants of the mountain, divided into four classes, namely, monks, hermits, choristers, and lay brothers, succeed each other uninterruptedly in their prayers. The arrangement of the places is such, that from several of the hermitages the chanting of the monastery is heard, and the sound of the bells of the different hermits, repeated by the echoes, is united in the turnings and anfractuousness of the mountains. From the summit of Montserrat, the kingdoms of Valentia and Murcia are seen, and even as far as the Belaric Isles, which forms the finest prospect in the world.
Princes and kings of Spain often climbed on foot the steep path which leads to the altar of Our Lady of Montserrat, and innumerable captives came there to hang up the chains which they had worn among the Moors. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, before he devoted his life to religion, came thither to watch his arms, according to the usages and customs of that old chivalry, of which his head was then full.
After passing the night in prayer, and solemnly dedicating himself to Our Lady of Montserrat as her knight, according to the warlike ideas which he still had in his mind, and under which he conceived the things of God, says F. Bouhours, his historian, he hung up his sword on a pillar near the altar, in token of his renunciation of secular warfare; then, after communicating early in the morning, he left Montserrat.
OUR LADY OF THE ROCK OF FIESOLA (TUSCANY, ITALY)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Rock, in the territory of Fiezoli, in Tuscany. This image is placed in a rock, where two shepherds retired to pray; Our Lady ordered them to build a church in this place.”
The town of Fiezoli was originally Etruscan before the Roman Sulla settled it as a reward for his veterans. In the year 539 the Byzantine general Justinus captured the town and had it razed to the very foundations. The town came back over time, however, as by the Middle Ages it was actually more prosperous and influential than neighboring Florence, until it was sacked by the Florentines in 1025 and its nobles induced to change their residence to Florence.
According to local legend, the Gospel was first preached at Fiesola (in the province of Tuscany, Italy) by Saint Romulus, a disciple of Saint Peter during the days of the Christian persecutions. Proof of that is the fact that the ancient cathedral stands outside the city walls.
The cathedral of Saint Romulus was built in 1028 by Bishop James Bavaro with materials taken from several other edifices – hence, the shrine took the name Our Lady of the Rock. The little church, now known as the Cathedral or Duomo of Saint Romolo, is in the cathedral square – called the shrine of the Primerana – is the one dedicated to Our Lady. It was then enlarged in 1260, and again the following century. The bell tower dates from the year 1213.
The cathedral contains sculptures by Mino da Fiesole, and the old cathedral was once a Benedictine abbey and had a large library, though that has long since been dispersed to other locations. The abbey closed in 1778.
Among other apparitions, too numerous to mention, is the one in which Mary warned Saint Andrew Corsini of his approaching death. During his lifetime, our Blessed Mother obtained from her Divine Son for Andrew the gifts of prophecy, miracles of healing, the conquest of hardened souls and many other conversions.
The cathedral of Fiesola is the resting place of a long list of saints and illustrious churchmen, all of whom were devout clients of Our Lady.
OUR LADY OF THE MOUNTAINS (ITALY)
Also known as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Polsi, or Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Polsi, Our Lady of the Mountain, it is located near San Luca in Calabria in Southern Italy. Until recently the sanctuary could only be reached on foot because of the rugged terrain and its location at the bottom of a gorge.
It is known that the site has been inhabited since pre-Roman times, as there were Hellenic settlers there who worshipped Persephone. Basilian monks had founded a hermitage there in the 7th century honoring the Blessed Mother, which was replaced by a Roman Catholic presence about the year 1500.
During the period from spring to October the area around the sacred shrine comes alive with a considerable number of pilgrims from all over the provinces of Calabria and neighboring provinces. Once near the sanctuary, however, you might still find shepherds grazing their flocks.
There is more than one legend about the founding of Our Lady of the Mountains. One of them is that in the ninth century there were Byzantine monks fleeing from the Saracen invasion. They made their way into the heart of the mountains where they founded a small colony and a church. Possibly due to the extreme distance to the nearest villages, the site was later abandoned.
Another, more widespread legend, tells that in the eleventh century a shepherd boy, a native from a nearby town, was intent on finding a lost bull. When he found it, he watched as the animal dug up an iron cross. Then he experienced a vision of the Blessed Virgin with the Christ Child, who said:
“I want you to build a church to spread devotion to me. I will grant graces, above all, to the devotees who will come here to visit me.”
Still within the sanctuary are kept the statue of Our Lady of the Mountains, a sculpture of great beauty, and the Holy Cross. The statue of the Blessed Virgin was carved in limestone, and is said to have eyes that follow the beholder. She and her Divine Son wear golden crowns that date from 1860, when the father superior of the Basilian convent, Domenico Fera, crowned the statues.
The celebrations that take place at the Sanctuary and their dates are:
August 22. On this date there is a procession from a nearby village to the shrine.
September 2: Day of the solemn feast of the Madonna of the Mountains.
September 14: Feast of the Holy Cross.
Every 25 years: Coronation of the statue of Our Lady of the Mountain – the last time was 2 September 2006.
OUR LADY OF THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL, PARIS (FRANCE)
It was almost midnight, when Sister Laboure was awakened by someone calling her. She saw at the foot of her bed a beautiful child, beckoning her to follow; arriving at the chapel, she beheld Our Lady, who spoke to her for two hours.
On November 27, while the community was assembled for prayer, Mary came for a second visit. Her head was covered with a soft white veil, she stood on a ball on which was a serpent with crushed head. In her hands Our Lady held a small ball, the globe, with a tiny cross at its top, and offered it to God as she prayed. Upon her fingers were many rings, filled with precious stones of varied beauty and brilliancy. As rays of light shot forth from those stones, Our Lady lowered her eyes and spoke to Catherine Laboure:
“This ball which you see is the world; I am praying for it and for everyone in the world. The rays are the graces which I give to everyone who asks for them. But there are no rays for some of these stones; many people do not receive graces because they do not ask for them.”
Then Mary’s arms were lowered and she became brighter and lovelier; a group of words encircled her head: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
And a voice said: “Have a medal made according to this picture. All who wear it when it is blessed will receive many graces especially if they wear it suspended about their necks.”
The vision of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal turned and showed the letter “M” surmounted by a cross with a crossbar beneath it; under the initial of the name Mary were the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary: the first encircled by a crown of thorns; the second transfixed by a sword. Encircling the entire picture were 12 stars with a golden frame.
In December 1831, the third apparition repeated the request for the making of the medal of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Sister Catherine told her superior and her confessor about Mary’s request. When Father Aladel told the archbishop, his Excellency said, “Have a medal made at once and send me some of the first made.” In June, 1832, the first 2,000 medals appeared. So many miracles were wrought by the use of the medal, that it was called “The Miraculous Medal.”
Six years later another desire of Our Blessed Mother’s was answered when an altar was constructed on the very spot where she appeared, in the Chapel of the Apparitions.
Sister Catherine Laboure died in 1876, December 31, and all felt she had gone directly to Heaven. On July 27, 1947, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII. When her casket was opened shortly before, her body looked as lovely as it did when she died fifty-six years before.
The Miraculous Medal is a badge stating that the wearer has on ideal: the Blessed Virgin, and one ambition: to retain purity of soul throughout life by keeping that soul in the state of grace always. If you wear Mary’s Miraculous Medal and live for what it represents, you should be one of the happiest people in the world.
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!”
OUR LADY OF WALSINGHAM (ENGLAND)
The Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham dates from the year 1061. In that year a Catholic noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches, had prayed to the Blessed Virgin for the favor of knowing what she might do to honor her. The Blessed Virgin appeared to the noblewoman in vision, showing her the Holy House where the Annunciation had taken place, and according to some traditions, the replica was miraculously completed in Walsingham as Richeldis de Faverches prayed. It soon became a popular place of pilgrimage, and the Augustinian canons were granted papal approval to build a priory in 1150.
This was England during the reign of the pious king Saint Edward the Confessor. A long list of succeeding kings and queens made pilgrimages to the shrine during the following centuries, including the daughter of Queen Isabella of Spain and wife of King Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon. It is even said that Anne Boleyn may have once had the intention of visiting the shrine during an unaccustomed moment of piety.
The royal patronage, along with the gifts of pious Catholics, enriched the shrine, so much so that by the year 1346 the priory gates had to be kept locked at night due to the great value of the jewels and other offerings at the shrine. When Erasmus visited the shrine, he noted that it was surrounded on all sides with gems, gold and silver. The shrine of Walsingham was by now one of the most prominent religious centers in all of England, especially during times of war or plague when travel to Rome and the shrine of Santiago de Compestella were more difficult than usual.
During the “Reformation,” King Henry VIII showed his true intention by stealing all of the offerings of gold, silver, and precious jewels at the shrine. When a group of Catholic men protested that this was no “Reformation,” but burglary, they were all hanged, beheaded and quartered by a man who would be god, pretending to have virtuous motives for starting a new sect. In the year 1538, the monastery was suppressed and the famous statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to London and burnt. Little more than an arch remains today of that original shrine, although the site is marked on the lawn in the place where it once stood.
In a time when it was a crime to be Catholic in England, nothing remained of the shrine of Walsingham but the memory of the glory that once was. It wasn’t until the year 1829 when the Catholic Emancipation was finally declared and public expressions of Catholic faith were once again tolerated.
In 1896, a woman named Charlotte Boyd restored the Slipper Chapel, which was once a wayside chapel for pilgrims en-route to the shrine of Walsingham. A copy of the Holy House was built there the next year, and in 1897 Pope Leo XIII declared it the new National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Visits to the shrine increased since that time, and a copy of the original statue was reproduced based on the seal of the ancient shrine.
OUR LADY OF BEAURAING (BELGIUM)
On the evening of November 29, 1932, five children, fun-loving, mischievous playmates, ranging from the fifteen to nine years of age, were walking toward the railway viaduct in the Vallon part of Belgium, in the simple and quiet village of Beauraing. Suddenly one of them exclaimed that there was a bright light moving at the viaduct. First they thought these the lights of a moving car. Very soon, however, they discovered the figure of a lady, and they instantly recognized that this could be nothing less than the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Beauraing.
Nobody wished to believe what the children related. But the next evening they came home with the same story. The village laughed at them and their parents were angry. The next time the children related with more details that they had seen a lady who was more beautiful than her statues, dressed in pure white, with a crown of golden rays on her head.
On December 2nd the children asked the lady some questions; she, smiling, confirmed that she was the Immaculate Virgin and demanded they “always be good.” As the vision continued, more people came to Beauraing, including police officials, doctors and psychologists.
There were thirty-three apparitions in all. On December 29th the children related, the Blessed Virgin revealed on her breast a heart of gold. The next evening she asked for more prayers. On January 1, 1933, Our Lady of Beauraing reiterated this request and told Fernande, the fifteen year old girl:
“If you love my Son and love me, then sacrifice yourself for me.”
The Belgian bishops at the beginning forbade any processions or cults and started an investigation that was to last for ten years, during which serious objections were brought against the children. Finally, in 1943, a decree was issued by the Bishop of Namur authorizing the cult of Our Lady of Beauraing.
On July 18, 1947, Msgr. Charue personally received papal blessings for the Sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Beauraing – the Virgin of the Golden Heart. This devotion has since taken on new and ever increasing proportions.
The final approbation was given on July 2, 1949. The cures of Miss Van Laer and Mrs. Acar were declared miraculous by a decree given by Msgr. Charue. Many conversions and graces have been obtained through the intercession of Our Lady of Beauraing. The editor of the Belgian Communist paper, “Le Drapeau Rouge” (the Red Flag), was one of the first to become Catholic at the Shrine of Our Lady of Beauraing.
OUR LADY OF GENESTA (GENOA, ITALY)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “A poor woman, named Petruccia, undertook to build this church, which appeared to everyone impossible; she did not fail to lay the first stone of it, and assured everyone that she should not die before the Blessed Virgin and St. Augustine finished this work. In fact, this church was found miraculously completed a short time afterwards.”
There is no shrine of Our Lady of Genesta, or a city in Italy by the name of Genesta, near Genoa or anywhere else. Initially, it seemed likely that it might have been a town later absorbed into Genoa, or that the town simply no longer exists. There are several ancient churches in France dedicated to Saint Genest, but these are not near Genoa. I regret that I can find no information on this date for the Marian Calendar.
The story of the woman named Petruccia, however, is an entirely different matter. Her story, and the story of the church, are actually associated with Our Lady of Genazzano. Petruccia is Petruccia de Nocera, and she was a Third Order Augustinian intent on restoring a church under the care of the hermits of Saint Augustine.
Petruccia had been left with a good deal of money after the death of her husband in the year 1436, and decided to use it to restore the church where she spent much of her time in prayer. She did not have enough money to complete the work, but she trusted that others would come forward to finish what was left when her money ran out.
A grand new church was begun, but Petruccia ran out of funds after only the first part of the construction had begun. People began to insult her and make fun of her for wasting her money, and even friends turned on her to mock her. She would patiently answer them:
“My dear children, do not put too much importance on this apparent misfortune. I assure you that before my death the Blessed Virgin and our holy father Augustine will finish the church begun by me.”
Petruccia was not wrong. On the 25th of April, 1467, in the middle of the afternoon, a crowd began to gather in front of the unfinished church of Our Mother of Good Counsel when the chords of a beautiful melody could be heard, a melody that seemed to come from a luminous cloud that came down upon the church. The cloud stopped against one wall of the church when the bells of the church began to ring by themselves, as well as all of the bells located anywhere around the town.
When the little cloud dissipated, a beautiful image was revealed to the faithful, a painting of Our Lady tenderly holding her Divine Son in her arms. The painting was hovering in the air, and although it did not move, it was not attached to the wall. It remains that way to this day. Miracles and wonders began to occur before the image of the Virgin Mary.
The fame of the miraculous cures spread far and wide, attracting crowds of pilgrims. The visitors gladly gave alms for the completion of the church, validating the confidence Petruccia had in the Blessed Virgin.
Sometime later the marvel was explained when two foreigners entered the city wearing strange clothing and speaking a foreign tongue. They told the story of how they had followed the cloud from Albania, walking upon the waters of the sea, when the image had departed their homeland after the death of Iskander before the advance of the invading Turks.