|Devotion to Our Lady||
OCTOBER 1 : THE HOLY PROTECTION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
FOUNDATION OF THE ABBEY DE LA COURONNE IN ANGOULEME
The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, Since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”
This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.
On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ St Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. St John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.
After completing her prayer she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.” St Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, the blessed Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”
The Ever-Blessed Mother of God implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them not go away from my icon unheard.”
Sts Andrew and Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible. After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”
At the Blachernae church, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered. In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting St Andrew in contemplation of her.
The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860. Ironically, this Feast is considered important by the Slavic Churches but not by the Greeks.
The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor also notes the miraculous deliverance followed an all-night Vigil and the dipping of the garment of the Mother of God into the waters of the sea at the Blachernae church, but does not mention Sts Andrew and Epiphanius and their vision of the Mother of God at prayer. These latter elements, and the beginnings of the celebrating of the Feast of the Protection, seem to postdate St Nestor and the Chronicle. A further historical complication might be noted under (October 2) dating St Andrew’s death to the year 936.
The year of death might not be quite reliable, or the assertion that he survived to a ripe old age after the vision of his youth, or that his vision involved some later pagan Russian raid which met with the same fate. The suggestion that St Andrew was a Slav (or a Scythian according to other sources, such as S. V. Bulgakov) is interesting, but not necessarily accurate. The extent of Slavic expansion and repopulation into Greece is the topic of scholarly disputes.
In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the establishment of the special Feast marking this event states, “For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision... and it transpired that Your holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!”
Therefore, in the festal celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, the Russian Church sings, “With the choirs of the Angels, O Sovereign Lady, with the venerable and glorious prophets, with the First-Ranked Apostles and with the Hieromartyrs and Hierarchs, pray for us sinners, glorifying the Feast of your Protection in the Russian Land.” Moreover, it would seem that St Andrew, contemplating the miraculous vision was a Slav, was taken captive, and became the slave of the local inhabitant of Constantinople named Theognostus.
Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.
At Novgorod in the twelfth century there was a monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (the so-called Zverin monastery) In Moscow also under Tsar Ivan the Terrible, the cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God was built at the church of the Holy Trinity (known as the church of St Basil the Blessed).
On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and venerating the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”
Today, October 1, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God, the Theotokos. The feast celebrates the protection afforded the faithful through the constant intercessions of Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of God, Theotokos. Commonly celebrated in Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine churches, this feast is also recognized by the Catholic faithful. Referred to by Eastern churches as Pokrov (which means “veil” in Russian), the name evokes the image of the shroud or cloak of Mary, our protector and advocate.
As we do always, today, we glorify the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God, as our Protector and Defender. We entreat, by her intercession, God's loving-kindness and forgiveness, recognizing our sinful ways and need of grace. And Our Blessed Mother lifts our prayers to the Lord, who listens attentively to His Mother’s supplications.
Mary has, throughout the ages, been responsible for aid to Christians, both to individuals and groups, in peace and in war, in deserts, grottos, muddy fields, and crowded cities. The event that we commemorate and celebrate today is consistent with Our Mother’s ongoing protection.
FOUNDATION OF THE ABBEY DE LA COURONNE IN ANGOULEME
The Abbot Orsini writes: “Foundation of the Abbey de la Couronne, of the order of Saint Augustin, in the diocese of Angouleme, under the title of Our Lady, by Lambert, who was its first abbot, in the year 1122.”
La Couronne, or “the Crown,” is a town in France located to the south-west of Angouleme. The Abbey of Our Lady of La Couronne is nothing more now than a pile of ruins that remain from what was once a Benedictine monastery. The first high abbey dates from the 12th century, when on May 12, 1118, Lambert and his religious brothers laid the cornerstone of the Church of the Crown.
On March 12th, on Passion Sunday in the year 1122, the religious make their entry into the primitive church of the Crown in the presence of Bishop William of Perigueux and Bishop Gerard of Angouleme, as well as the Papal Legate Wulgrin II, the count of Angouleme. Lambert was elected to be the first abbot, and was consecrated on Easter Sunday.
The first Abbey Church was replaced by a second, and larger, church, which was necessitated by the spiritual renewal that took place at the end of the 12th century due to the Gregorian reform. It was consecrated in the year 1201 while Junius was abbot.
OCTOBER 2 : OUR LADY OF THE ASSUMPTION (NAPLES, ITALY)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Assumption, at Naples, built by the canonesses regular of Saint Augustin, out of gratitude for the favor which the Mother of God did them, by warning them to leave a house which fell down as soon as they were gone out of it.”
The church dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption is more commonly known as Naples Cathedral, or as the Cattedrale di San Gennaro, in honor of the city’s patron saint, Saint Januarius. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Naples, and the present cathedral was commissioned by King Charles I of Anjou, continued by his successor Charles II, and finished by Robert of Anjou.
Inside the church is a chapel dedicated to Saint Januarius, containing the relics of the saint and a vial of his blood. Saint Januarius was a bishop of Naples who was martyred during the persecution of the Emperor
The church houses a vial of the blood of Saint Januarius which is brought out three times during the year, on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, the 16th of December, and on 19 September, the day his martyrdom is commemorated, when the dried blood usually liquifies. If the blood fails to liquify, then legend has it that disaster will befall Naples.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote of the blood:
“The Neopolitans honor this saint as the principal patron of their city and nation, and the Lord himself has continued to honor him, by allowing many miracles to be wrought through his intercession, particularly when the frightful eruptions of Mount Vesuvius have threatened the city of Naples with utter destruction. While the relics of Saint Januarius were being brought in procession towards this terrific volcano, the torrents of lava and liquid fire which it emitted have ceased, or turned their course from the city. But the most stupendous miracle, and that which is greatly celebrated in the church, is the liquefying and boiling up of this blessed martyr’s blood whenever the vials are brought in sight of his head. This miracle is renewed many times in the year, in the presence of all who desire to witness it; yet some heretics have endeavored to throw a doubt upon its genuineness, by frivolous and incoherent explanations; but no one can deny the effect to be miraculous, unless he be prepared to question the evidence of his senses.”
OCTOBER 3 : OUR LADY OF THE PLACE (ROME)
Abbot Orsini wrote: “This image having fallen into a well at the house of Cardinal Capocius, in the year 1250, the water swelled up miraculously, and cast out the image, which the cardinal placed in his chapel. But Pope Innocent IV obliged him to build another on the very spot where the miracle had occurred. This chapel having been given to the Servites, they have had a fine church built, in which the well is enclosed.”
The church of Santa Maria in Via, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is also known under the special title of Madonna del Pozzo, Our Lady of the Well. The church that presently stands at the location was built between the years 1491 and 1513, and is not the one originally commissioned in 1256.
The miracle that the Abbot Orsini mentions actually occurred in the year 1256, on the evening of 26 and 27 September. At that time the Cardinal Pietro Capocci had a residence at the location, and one of his servants either accidentally or deliberately, it is no longer known, threw an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the well of the stable. The image was painted on a heavy stone tablet, but it never struck the bottom of the well.
Before the image of the Blessed Virgin had gone very far, the water inside the well suddenly rose up and over the top of the well and flowed abundantly in all directions with such force that the image of Mary was suspended upon the surface of the water. The horses were alarmed by the rushing water, bringing the rest of the domestics from their various places to witness the miracle. The image remained where it was until the cardinal himself responded, and with devout astonishment, retrieved the sacred image that appeared to be miraculously floating on the water. Once the image was taken, the water immediately receded.
The first church, Santa Maria in Via, was already built nearby, and was a titular church. It is no longer known why it was so named, but it is known that Cardinal Pietro Capocci had a residence there. When Pope Alexander IV learned of the event, he declared it to have been a miracle and ordered the construction of a new chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The new chapel was built over the well, and was an annex to the older church. The fountain can still be seen on the right hand side upon entering the church.
It was Pope Innocent VIII who ordered the construction of the church that can presently be seen. In the year 1513 the church was given to the Servites by Pope Leo X, and the Servite Order still remains there to serve the church.
OCTOBER 4 : OUR LADY OF VAUSSIVIERES (AUVERGNE, FRANCE)
Our Lady of Vaussivieres, on the mountains of Auvergne, near Mont d’Or, where there is an image which has remained miraculously from the ruins of Vaussivieres, which was ravaged by the English about the year 1374. This image having been transferred to the Church of Besse, was found again in its former place at Vaussivieres.
Our Lady of Vaussivieres, actually spelled “Our Lady of Vassivière,” is located in the mountains of Auvergne, France. The site of this chapel among the mountains is said to be like looking down from the refreshing vision of the Blessed Virgin into a maze of tortuous valleys filled with sighing winds and the noise of the rushing torrent.
The locals maintain that their town was named by the Celts in the distant past because of the temple of water that once stood there, and although the fountain still remains nearby, it is the Queen of Heaven who is now venerated there.
There was once a small village here at Vassiviere until late in the 14th century when all was destroyed. It was during the time of the Hundred Years War in the year 1374, when John of Gaunt, the youngest son of King Edward III of England, decided to lead his army of 9,000 men from Calais to the relief of Aquitaine. Burning and pillaging as he went, he spread destruction and wreaked havoc in an effort to weaken the French, who nonetheless plagued him by setting ambushes along the way. When he came to Vassiviere he left only a fragment of the old church standing, through he left the statue of the Virgin untouched. It is not known why, other than perhaps that she inspired in him a certain respect, or through some unrecorded miracle.
John of Gaunt paid dearly for his raid, for one third of his army died in the fighting, while another third, including a larger number of horses, died from the cold weather, disease and starvation. The remnant of the army that reached Bordeaux on 24 December 1373 continued to succumb to the bubonic plague that was then raging in the city. The following year John of Gaunt left France and sailed for home in failure.
For over two-hundred years the statue of Our Lady of Vaussivieres remained standing in her niche amid the ruin of her chapel, which was now treated as if it were some type of roadside shrine frequented only by herdsmen and travelers. That all changed in the year 1547 when a merchant from Besse and two companions happened to pass by. The merchant was a Protestant, but one of the men with him was Catholic, and he stopped to kneel and pray before the statue of the Virgin, Protector of travelers. The merchant mocked the Catholic for his faith, refusing to recognize the majesty of the Queen of Heaven. He was immediately struck blind, causing him to soon repent of his error. When his sight did not return, he promised that he would become the Blessed Mother’s most ardent devotee if she would only have mercy on him and return his sight to him. Our Lady restored his sight, and the merchant kept his promise, spreading the fame of Our Lady of Vaussivieres far and wide.
Soon there were many more miracles reported, and pilgrims began to congregate and kneel in great numbers amidst the ruins of the outdoor shrine frequented by cow herders. As there was a town in the valley with a church not too far away at Besse-en-Chandesse, it was decided that it would be a more fitting place for the pilgrims to go to venerate the statue of Our Lady. However, each time the statue was moved to Besse it would disappear, only to reappear in its niche in Vassiviere. This happened a total of three times before it was decided to build a new chapel in Vassivierre, where the statue would spend the warm summers, and then spend the rest of the year at the church in Besse-en-Chandesse. And so from July 2nd until the Sunday after the fall equinox the image of Notre-Dame de Vassiviere resides in her mountain hamlet, while the rest of the year she can be found in the church of Saint Andrew in Besse-en-Chandesse.
The people of Besse cut stones to rebuild the walls, assisted by the offerings of the pilgrims who had begun to come to the mountain to visit the statue of the virgin. The shrine they built was a small one, 24’ by 48’, made in the form of a cross. The statue of Our Lady of Vaussivieres was displayed behind a strong grate, surrounded by the candles and votive offerings brought to the shrine. By 1648 there had been 88 authentic miracles, including still-born babies being restored to life long enough to be baptized.
The original statue was destroyed during the Reign of Terror otherwise known as the French Revolution, but a copy was later made and solemnly crowned in 1881. This shrine, as well as many others, are centers of devout pilgrimages, and the miracles wrought by Our Lady in answer to the devout and earnest petitions of her clients are innumerable.
Apparently as one pilgrim remarked, “Mary is a determined lady, and gets her way with her Divine Son,” even to the place of residence, as her “returns” to Vaussivieres, above mentioned, prove.
OCTOBER 5 : OUR LADY OF BUCH (GUIENNE)
According to the Marian Calendar, Our Lady of Buch is located in the Pine Mountains, in Guienne. The sea cast this image upon the sands, while Saint Thomas, the Cordelier friar, was praying on behalf of two vessels which he saw in danger of perishing. He respectfully received this image and deposited it in this place, in a small chapel which he built there.
Guienne, or Guyenne, refers to a loosely defined region of pre-revolutionary, South-Western France. Buch, or La Teste-de-Buch, is a commune in the Gironde department in Aquitaine, located on the south shore of Arcachon Bay.
The “Cordeliers,” known also as the Grey Friars for the heavy grey cloth they wore, are Franciscans. Their belt was but a rope with five knots tied at the end, which gave them their name in France. The “Saint Thomas” mentioned is Thomas Illyricus (1484-1528), a Franciscan native of Vrana in the diocese of Zarian. He was never canonized, although he was a hermit and itinerant preacher and an indefatigable traveler who lived near Arcachon in la Teste-de-Buch. It was he who built the chapel of Notre-Dame Arcachon.
“More than his voice, vibrant with emotion,” wrote the Abbe Mauriac, “more than his ascetic appearance, more than his style so direct and so strong, what stirred and attracted thousands of listeners was his ardent sincerity which overflowed and poured itself out, while his love of God and of souls accented his words and made him very eloquent.”
It was in the year 1519 that Thomas Illyricus found the famous statue now known as the Virgin of Advent at the edge of the sea. He built a shrine of wood that same year for the statue, and pilgrimages date from 1525 and took such a scale that in 1624 the Cardinal Francois de Sourdis authorized the construction of a stone chapel. This small chapel was gradually buried by the sands, and it was decided to build a new one which was completed in 1723. The church is known as the church of L’eglise Notre Dame des Passes, or Notre-Dame Arcachon. Many miracles have been wrought through devotion to Mary at the shrine, and the church is dedicated to sailors who face the channels for entry into the Arcachon basin.
There is a tall cross known as the Sailors Cross which stands at the end of the pier of the chapel. Built at the same time as the construction of the chapel in 1722, the original was cut down by a gale in 1855 and was replaced by the one that we see today. It was once customary for sailors to greet the Cross with two blasts from their fog horn to appeal for divine protection when they went out on the ocean and faced its dangers.
Mary is particularly interested in seafarers and folk living near waters. She who was so familiar with the Sea of Galilee and the profession of the twelve pillars of her Son’s Church; still is vigilant for their welfare and happiness.
OCTOBER 6 : OUR LADY OF ALL HELP
OUR LADY DE LA PLEBE (VENICE)
OUR LADY OF ALL HELP
This shrine of Our Lady dates back to the year 1640, although the statue had been in the same abbey for probably two centuries before any miraculous occurrence was noticed. As the statue was rather faded, it was not thought stylish enough to be displayed in the chapel. It was therefore placed under a staircase near the infirmary, where its most frequent visitor was the old lay sister who had charge of sweeping the corridor.
One day as the sister was busy about her work, the statue spoke to her and told her to hurry up to the infirmary because one of the sisters needed her right away. The sister the statue named was not one of the patients, but was actually the nurse who cared for them. The lay sister thought the nurse had seemed perfectly well a short time before, and saw no particular reason to think that she was in any danger of dying. Still, she went as she was told and found the nurse as she was dying. She had arrived just in time to summon the priest to administer the last rights to the dying nurse.
Shortly after this miracle became known, there was a second one just as remarkable. There was a community benefactor whose son was at death’s door with a high fever. Invoking Our Lady before this same statue the man saw his son instantly cured.
After this second incident the statue was moved into the chapel, and there were many miracles that followed. One miracle was worked in favor of a sister who had been terribly burned; she was instantly cured. A priest, falsely accused of a crime, was acquitted after special prayers to the “miracle lady.” The statue had had no name before this, but the parishioners decided now to call her Our Lady of All Help, Quick Help, or Our Lady of Good Remedy.
At the time of the French Revolution and during the accompanying Reign of Terror, the abbey was destroyed. A pious lady took the statue of Our Lady of All Help and safeguarded it until the trouble was over. After her death the statue was restored to the community. The statue of Our Lady of All Help has survived several wars since.
The statue itself is only about two feet tall. The Blessed Virgin Mary is crowned, and holds her Infant Son in one arm, and a scepter in the other.
There is a short and very lovely prayer which for centuries has been associated with this statue. It is, “Oh, Mother of All Help, say but one word in our behalf to Thy Divine Son, for he cannot refuse thee any favor. Amen.”
OUR LADY DE LA PLEBE (VENICE)
MADONNA DELLA PLEBE : The tide takes its name from the church of Our Lady de la Plebe in the marshes of Venice, Italy, that was built in the year 1480. A broad translation of the title is Our Lady of the People.
OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
OUR LADY OF VICTORY (LEPANTO)
OUR LADY OF BANDEL (ROSARY) (CALCUTTA, INDIA)
The feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted by St. Pius V in commemoration of the victory of the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571 against the Turks who were threatening Europe. In 1716, the feast was extended to the entire Church in thanksgiving for the defeat of the Muslim Crescent in Hungary.
Apart from the signal defeat of the Albigensian heretics at the battle of Muret, in 1213, which has been attributed to the recitation of the Rosary by St. Dominic, it is believed that Heaven has, on many occasions, rewarded the faith of those who had recourse to this devotion in times of special danger. More particularly, the naval victory of Lepanto, gained by Don John of Austria, over the Turkish fleet on the first Sunday of October in 1571, responded wonderfully to the processions made at Rome on that same day by the members of the Rosary confraternity.
We know that the victory of the Battle of Lepanto was achieved when St. Pius V interrupted a meeting with Cardinals at the Vatican and went to a window and started to pray the Rosary. He was deeply concerned about the future of the Church and Christendom that was being decided in those Mediterranean waters. After the Pontiff finished praying the Rosary, he returned to the meeting and told the Cardinals that the Catholic fleet had been victorious. That is, he had a revelation while he was praying the Rosary. It was the way Our Lady showed him that she linked that victory to his praying of the Rosary. Understanding this, St. Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was extended to the whole Church in commemoration for another great victory over the Mohammedans in 1716.
St. Pius V thereupon ordered that a commemoration of the Rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Order Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the Holy Rosary. In 1671 the observance of this festival was extended by Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Clement XI after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August, 1716 (the feast of our Lady of the Snows), at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the Rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.
A set of "proper" lessons in the second nocturn were conceded by Benedict XIII. Leo XIII later raised the feast to the rank of a double of the second class and has added to the Litany of Loreto the invocation "Queen of the Most Holy Rosary". On this feast, in every church in which the Rosary confraternity has been duly erected, a plenary indulgence toties quoties is granted upon certain conditions to all who visit therein the Rosary chapel or statue of Our Lady. This has been called the "Portiuncula" of the Rosary. Today, it is a feast of the second class.
The devotion of the Rosary was revealed to St. Dominic by Our Lady. It was born, therefore, in a private revelation. And we know that such revelations are abhorred by the enemies of the Church – internal and external. Although it came from a private revelation, the praying of the Rosary was extended to the entire Catholic Church, and was considered by St. Louis Grignion de Montfort as the characteristic devotion of predestined souls.
Before Vatican II, the habits of many religious Orders had Rosaries that hung on their cinctures, and good Catholics used to carry the Rosary with them all day. It was considered not only an item for counting the Hail Mary’s, but a blessed object, the seal of a special liaison of the person with Our Lady. Many times, the mere physical presence of the Rosary would repel the Devil and attract special graces. It became the classic religious object to fight against the Devil.
What is the Rosary? The Rosary is a series of mediations on the mysteries from the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. These mysteries are simultaneously prayers that one says vocally and meditations that one makes mentally. This mixture of vocal prayer and meditation is a splendid thing, because while the lips pronounce a plea, the mind concentrates on a point of the mystery. It is a dual activity that intimately unites one with God.
The practice of praying the Rosary to beg a grace from God supposes the theological truth that Our Lady is the Universal Mediatrix of all graces. It is, therefore, a small masterpiece of spirituality and Catholic doctrine as they should be understood. The Rosary is not a religious custom relying on emotions, but rather a serious, solid, and meditative pious practice, which explains why the Rosary has obtained so many graces.
It is very beautiful and valuable to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, because for each decade, one contemplates a different thing with its special graces: There are particular graces for the mystery of the Annunciation, others for the Agony in the Garden, yet others associated with the Ascension of Our Lord. Each one of the decades has its special graces, and the person who meditates on all of them attracts to his soul the ensemble of graces from the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. It is a complete circumnavigation that brings a supernatural plenitude to the soul of the person, which helps us to better understand the salutary influence of the Rosary.
A Catholic, thinking and reflecting on things of the Faith, should draw conclusions that build upon each other and constitute a kind of architectural construct. This should be the spiritual life of a Catholic. It follows in accordance with the way God governs the universe. He wisely judges the weight and measure of everything. This is another reason why the Rosary is an excellent devotion.
The fact that this devotion is specially linked to victories over the enemies of the Church and Christendom induces us to think that it will protect all those who fight against the enemies of the Catholic cause. It is a devotion that most probably will endure until the end time, when the enemies of the Church will be more dangerous than ever.
Therefore, also during the chastisement predicted at Fatima, the assiduous recitation of the holy Rosary should be a decisive factor of victory for those who would be defending the Catholic cause. The historical antecedents of the value of the Rosary are a pledge of analogous future victories.
When St. Alphonsus of Liguori was already old, sick, and in a wheelchair, a lay brother used to wheel him around the cloister of his monastery in the evening so he could take some fresh air. Engaging the brother in conversation, St. Alphonsus asked him:
“Did you pray your Rosary today?”
“I don’t remember,” the brother answered,
“Then, let us pray it now,” the Saint said.
“But you are already so tired. What difference does it make if we don’t pray the Rosary for one day?” protested the brother.
St. Alphonsus answered: “If I did not pray my Rosary for even one day, I would fear for my eternal salvation.”
This is what a Saint said. This episode teaches us that we should do precisely the same. The daily Rosary is a great guarantee of final perseverance and fidelity for the times ahead when the prophecies of Fatima will be fulfilled. The victory in our everyday Lepanto is linked to the recitation of the Rosary.
Let us ask Our Lady of the Rosary to bless this intention of saying the Rosary daily and give us the grace to carry it out.
OUR LADY’S MIRACULOUS CURE OF ST JOHN DAMASCENE
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “In the year 723, in the night following the day when the prince of the Saracens had unjustly ordered the hand of Saint John Damascen to be cut off, Our Lady reunited it miraculously to his wrist, after this faithful servant had prayed to her for it with the design of continuing to write in defense of holy images.”
Saint John of Damascus (645-749), also known as Saint John Damascene, was a priest and Doctor of the Church, who is sometimes also referred to as the Doctor of the Assumption, as he wrote on the Assumption of Mary into heaven. During the time of the iconoclasm in the east, Saint John Damascene also wrote in defense of holy images.
According to tradition, a Muslim caliph unjustly ordered that Saint John’s right hand should be cut off and hung up for public display. Some days after this despicable act took place, Saint John prayed for the restoration of his hand. Saint John had an icon of the Blessed Virgin before which he fervently prayed, and soon his hand is said to have been miraculously restored. To recognize the miracle, and in appreciation for the return of his right hand, Saint John had a replica of his restored hand produced in silver, which he then placed at the bottom of the icon. Those who came after him, and saw the third hand on the icon, subsequently named it “Three-handed,” or Tricheirousa.
The Bogorodica Trojerucica is considered the most important icon of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It is currently located in a monastery of Hilandar on Mount Athos, Greece. The portrait is of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Divine Child in her right arm. It is thought to have possibly been painted by Saint John Damascene himself, but however that may be, it is the very same image before which he prayed for the restoration of his severed hand.
“Gratitude for the benefits received at the hands of the Lord is a virtue so noble, that by means of it we may preserve our intercourse and correspondence with God Himself: He, as rich, generous and powerful conferring upon us his gifts; we, as poor, humble and aware of our needs, returning for them our thanks. He desires to give us plentifully, but at the same time He wishes us to be grateful, rendering Him the glory, honor and praise contained in gratitude” (The Mystical City of God, by Ven. Mary of Agreda).
OUR LADY OF THE CLOISTER (CITEAUX, FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote for this feast on October 10th: “Our Lady of the Cloister, at Besancon. The image of Our Lady, placed in the cloister of La Madeleine, was preserved from a fire, in the year 1624, though the niche where it stood was reduced to ashes.”
Our Lady of the Cloister, also known as Notre-Dame de Le Cloitre, was the name of an abbey at Citeaux, and not at Besancon, as recorded by the Abbot Orsini, although the two towns are not far from each other. The abbey was forcibly emptied and the structures almost completely destroyed during the ravages of the French Revolution, but in 1898 Citeaux was restored by the Cistercians and the rebuilding began. Although only portions of a 15th century library and two other structures dating from the 17th and 18th century remained, Citeaux, with its new church and about 35 monks, is once again the mother house for the order.
FEAST OF THE DIVINE MATERNITY OF OUR LADY
This feast, observed throughout the Western Church on October 11, honor Mary as Mother of God, and bears the same sort of relation to the Annunciation and to Christmas as does the Synaxis of Our Lady in the Byzantine rite. It was long known in Portugal and elsewhere, but was finally instituted in 1931 by Pope Pius XI in view of the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus.
At the same time the Pope ordered at his own cost the restoration of the Marian mosaics in Saint Mary Major, much decayed through age. He issued an encyclical letter, “Lux veritatis.” In this, among the objects of the new festival, is named one truth that was particularly close to the heart of Pius XI, “…that Mary, who is loved and revered so warmly by the separated Christians of the East, would not suffer them to wander and be unhappily led further away from the unity of the Church, and therefore from her Son, whose vicar on earth we are.”
“On this occasion the heavenly Lady was full of the Holy Ghost and moreover bore within Her, as His Mother, the Divine Word, who proceeds from the Father and the Holy Ghost. Saint Joseph received special enlightenment and the plenitude of divine graces, and altogether renewed in fervor of spirit he said:
“Blessed art Thou, Lady, among all women, fortunate and preferred before all nations and generations. May the Creator of heaven and earth be extolled with eternal praise, since from his exalted kingly throne He has looked upon Thee and chosen Thee for his dwelling place and in Thee alone has fulfilled the ancient promises made to the Patriarchs and Prophets. Let all generations bless Him: for in no one has He magnified his name as He has done in thy humility; and me, the most insignificant of the living, He has in his divine condescension selected for thy servant.”
In these words of praise and benediction Saint Joseph was enlightened by the Holy Ghost, in the same manner as Saint Elizabeth, when she responded to the salutation of Our Queen and Mistress. The light and inspiration, received by the most holy spouse was wonderfully adapted to his dignity and office. The heavenly Lady, upon hearing the words of the holy man, answered in the words of the Magnificat, as She had done on her visit to Saint Elizabeth, and She added other canticles. She was all aflame in ecstasy and was raised from the earth in a globe of light, which surrounded Her and transfigured Her with the gifts of glory.
At this heavenly vision Saint Joseph was filled with admiration and unspeakable delight; for never had he seen his most blessed Spouse in such eminence of glory and perfection. Now he beheld Her with a full and clear understanding, since all the integrity and purity of the Princess of heaven and mystery of her dignity manifested themselves to him. He saw and recognized in her virginal womb the humanity of the infant God and the union of the two natures of the Word. With profound humility and reverence he adored Him and recognized Him as his Redeemer, offering himself to his majesty. The Lord looked upon him in benevolence and kindness as upon no other man, for He accepted him as his foster-father and conferred upon him that title. In accordance with this dignity, He gifted him with that plenitude of science and heavenly gifts which Christian piety can and must acknowledge.
OCTOBER 12 : OUR LADY OF APARECIDA, PATRONESS OF BRAZIL
Brazil is the largest Roman Catholic country in the world. In October of 1717, Dom Pedro de Almedida, Count of Assumar, was on his way to the state of Minas Gerais from Sao Paulo. He would have to pass by Guarantinqueta, a small city in the Paraiba river valley. The people of Guarantinqueta decided to hold a great feast to honor the Count, and a lot of fish would be needed. Among the fishermen were three men who always prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception -- Domingos Garcia, Joco Alves, and Felipe Pedroso. Before going out to fish, they asked God to help then in this difficult task, to find enough fish at this time when no fish were available. Felipe knelt and prayed, along with his companions, "Mother of God and our Mother, we need to find fish!" After many hours of catching nothing, the fishermen were very depressed. Joco cast his net once more near the Port of Itaguagu, but instead of fish, he hauled in the body of a statue. The three cast their net again, and brought up the statue's head. After cleaning the statue they found that it was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Naming their find Our Lady Aparecida, they wrapped it in cloth and continued to fish! Now their nets were full
They very carefully washed the statue and saw that it was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. They wrapped her in some cloths and continued to fish. Domingo commented, "We worked all night and have found no fish!" Felipe had a proposition: "Let's continue to fish with faith in the Virgin Aparecida (who appeared)." From this moment on, the net became very full with fish. This was the first miracle of Our Lady of Aparecida. Felipe Pedroso, partner of Joao Alves, took the statue to his house and started the veneration of Our Lady with his family and neighbours. In 1732, he moved to Porto Itaguassu and took the statue to its first shrine, which was built by his son Atanasio. Travelers spread out the fame of Our Lady Aparecida and the pilgrims started to come. The people decided to build a bigger church in the top of a hill near Porto Itaguassu to shelter the statue. The church was opened in 1745 when the statue was brought in from its former site and the village of Aparecida was born, as a district of Guaratingueta.
It is not known how the statue came to rest at the bottom of the river, but its artist is known, Frei Agostino de Jesus, a carioca monk from Sao Paulo known for his sculpture. The image was less than three feet tall, was made around 1650, and must have stayed submerged in the river for many years because it lost its original polychromy. The image is now a brilliant dark brown color, and is covered by a stiff mantle of richly embroidered thick cloth, allowing only her face and hands to be seen. She wears on her head the imperial crown with precious stones with which she was crowned in 1904. In 1930 Pope Pius XII proclaimed her principal patroness of Brazil.
Her feast, on October 12, is a national holiday. Aparecida is yearly visited by more than 5 million pilgrims. Our Lady Aparecida is in the heart of every Brazilian. Many people are named Aparecida or Aparecido, alone or combined with Maria, Jose and other names. The name is also part of the Brazilian colloquial vocabulary as an exclamation of surprise.
also OUR LADY OF THE PILLAR (SARAGOSSA, SPAIN)
James the Greater was one of Jesus' closest friends, as were Peter and John. Son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of Saint John the Apostle, James may have been Jesus' cousin. He is called "the Greater" simply because he became an Apostle before Saint James the Lesser. Following Good Friday, The Resurrection, Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and that wonderful decent of The Holy Spirit at Pentecost, James commenced his own ministry. He spread the gospel, first over Israel and then over the Roman Empire. Later, he traveled to the Iberian Peninsula, arriving about 40 years after Christ, in the village of Saragossa, in Northeastern Spain. Nine others accompanied him on this journey. The name James is "Sant Iago" in Spanish. The country of his choice did not react very enthusiastically to the Good News. This caused him to be very sad. One day, whilst he was at prayer, the Blessed Virgin appeared to James in a vision. She was atop a pillar of jaspar carried by the angels and she was holding a small wooden statue of herself. She gave the pillar and statue to James requesting that a church be built on the same spot, in her honor, and the items she gave him were to be used on the altar. He built a small chapel for her, which later was replaced with the Basilica on the same spot. In the vision she also recalled him to Jerusalem. So after the chapel was completed, he returned to Jerusalem where he was martyred by Herod in 44 AD.
Because he was denied burial after his martyrdom, his followers took his remains to Compostela, Spain. There they found a suitable burial ground. Centuries later the Moors forced their way into Ibiza and took over the entire peninsula in 711. Nobody thought about St James' remains, or his grave. It wasn't until the ninth century that rumours spread that the tomb of James, the Apostle, was in Northern Spain. It was Charles The Great who conquered the grave of the "unbeliever" and demanded large pilgrimages to Compostela. A chapel was built above James' remains. Soon after, this chapel became to4 small and a new and much larger Church was built. This Church was consecrated in 889 and remained standing for nearly a century when in 997, the Moors burned it down. St James' tomb had become the centre of the small town, Santiago de Compostela. Flavia, Bishop of Iria, took up his holiday residence there, which provided advantageous to Compostela. It was time to build a new cathedral. Blessed in 1211, the Cathedral of Santiago still stands today.
Since approximately 1100, Santiago de Compostela has been the most frequently visited place of pilgrimage, after Rome and Jerusalem. During the reformation in the 16th century, interest diminished until Pope Leo declared it a shrine, which it still is today. Pilgrims from all over Europe have been going there for centuries. Often they take months to arrive, driven by the primitive desire to see what is beyond the horizon. Were they the forerunners of today's long distance runners and cyclists? Pilgrims may take anywhere from 5 weeks to 3 months to get there, walking 30 kilometers a day. They sleep at night in dormitories where fifty men and women lay snoring. They awake and start walking at 6 a.m. with backpacks on. The 4-Day Walk, done in Nijmegen (Holland) every year, is child's play compared to this. More and more Dutch men and women take part in this long walk. 2004 was declared a "Holy Year" since the feast of St. James fell on a Sunday. 300,000 pilgrims, from all over the world were expected in Santiago de Compostela on that day alone. Real pilgrims, begin the journey from their homes, villages and towns, but many others begin their walk from either Vezeley or St Jean Pied-du-Port, 1,000 miles (1600 kilometers) and 500 miles (800 kilometers), respectively from their target.
also OUR LADY OF ZAPOPAN, MEXICO
October 12th means Columbus Day to Americans, but to the good citizens of Mexico, October 12th is also the day the "Traveling Lady of Zapopan" comes "home" to spend the Autumn and Winter months in her stately basilica.
South of the border, this crisp Autumn day is actually "The Dia de la Raza", an important national holiday, since it marks for these people the new flood of human blood which rose in New Spain as one of the major effects of Columbus' voyage. As a result of the conquest, Mexico became predominately populated by "mestizos", or Spanish-Indians. To foretell the physical characteristics of the mestizo came the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, when the portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a Spanish-Indian woman appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego.
Guadalajara, capital and jewel of the state of Jalisco, celebrates "The Day of the Mestizo" by rendering ecstatic homage to "The Little Virgin" as Our Lady of Zapopan. She is Spanish in origin, but completely Mexican in the tradition of more than four hundred years that surround her cult. Brought to Zapopan by Father Antonio de Segovia in 1541, the "Little Virgin", less than fourteen inches high, found herself in the heart of a territory, then called New Galicia, still under the conquest of Nue de Guzman. The precious statue, which the warm heart of the Mexican personifies, was the instrument by which Heaven vouchsafed to turn the fears and animosities of the natives into a confidence and love which enabled the zealous Franciscan to gather them into the fold of the Good Shepherd. The story is told that, as he preached, the little statue of Our Lady that he always carried with him, emitted rays of light. The miraculous radiance seemed to penetrate the souls of the Indians and convert them into vessels ready for the waters of grace.
also OUR LADY OF FAITH (LIEGE, BELGIUM)
This refers to an image that was found by a carpenter named Gilles de Wanlin, in the year 1609, who, as he was cutting down an oak, with the intention of making a boat, found in it, enclosed in an iron grating, an image of Our Lady made of white clay, a foot high, which was placed in another oak, and afterwards in a church which was built on the very place of the oak which had borne this fair fruit.
OCTOBER 13 : OUR LADY OF CLAIRVEAUX (FRANCE)
THE SIXTH APPARITION OF OUR LADY AT FATIMA
Saint Bernard had been a monk at Citeaux Abbey, which had been formed under a restored rule of Saint Benedict, when he left to found a new abbey. Taking 12 monks with him, he stopped at a glen called Val d’Absinthe on 25 June 1115, founding Claire Vallee (Valley), which then later became known as “Clairvaux.” He became its first abbot of this celebrated monastery, but this was only the first of 70 monasteries Bernard was to found.
This feast day celebrates the dedication of the founding of the monastery at Clairvaux, in the diocese of Langres, in honor of the Blessed Virgin. This event is believed to have occurred in 1115, and not 1114, as shown in the Marian calendar. Saint Bernard had many grave difficulties to overcome at Clairvaux, as so often happens when one begins to do God’s work. Despite all the trials, however, disciples flocked to Clairvaux, which made it necessary to found many new abbeys.
Saint Bernard died at Clarivaux in the year 1153, aged sixty-three years. His devotion to the Mother of God is universally known. Although he was originally buried at Clarivaux, this saint’s earthly remains were moved to Troyes Cathedral when the abbey was seized by the atheistic French government.
Alphonsus I, King of Portugal, in the year 1142, bound himself and his successors to pay every year, as the vassal of Our Lady of Claivaux, fifty gold maravedis for the upkeep of the shrine. King Alphonsus I was responsible for building many monasteries and convents, and granting various privileges to many religious orders. It is said that the great Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was his uncle.
The original abbey founded by Saint Bernard is now nothing more than ruins, but what remains is protected by the French Ministry of Culture as an Historical monument since the year 1926.
Saint Bernard in his time was regarded as the apple of the Virgin’s eye. He placed all his churches under the special protection of Mary. To him Mary was the great mediator. Not even the weakest human frailty could fear to approach this Mother. Addressing Mary, Bernard says, “Let him deny your mercy who can say that he has ever asked in vain.”
The Sixth Apparition at Fatima
By October the news of Fatima spread more, and the people learned that a miracle was to happen. The children began to speak of the miracle which was to happen.
Seventy to one hundred thousand pilgrims came to the Cova da Iria. Here is Sister Lucia’s account of the sixth apparition in her own words:
“It was pouring down rain and everything was very muddy. My family was very uncertain and feared that if the miracle did not take place; the people would want to kill the three children. Once there, moved by an interior impulse, I asked the people to shut their umbrellas and pray a Rosary.
Soon after that there was a flash of light, and Our Lady appeared above the oak tree. Lucia asked: "What do you want of me?"
Our Lady replied: “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes."
Lucia then said to Our Lady: "I have many things to ask you: the cure of some sick persons, the conversion of sinners, and other things ..."
She said: "Some yes, but not others. They must amend their lives and ask forgiveness for their sins." Looking very sad, Our Lady said: "Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended."
Then, opening her hands, she made them reflect onto the sun, and as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself.
Here, Your Excellency, is the reason why I cried out to the people to look at the sun. My aim was not to call their attention to the sun, because I was not even aware of their presence. I was moved to do so under the guidance of an interior impulse.
After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Dolor's. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, holding the Child Jesus in one hand and the Brown Scapular in the other hand.
At the predetermined hour, the rain stopped, and the thick mass of clouds broke. The sun looked like a disc of dull silver, and began dancing wildly. The people shouted out: "MIRACLE!" It seems that the majority of the people saw the sun trembling and dancing, whirling around like a catherine wheel; it descended almost low enough to burn the earth with its rays. Many thought the end of the world had come, as the sun seemed to fall upon them. People reported color changes in objects on earth, caused by the rays of the sun. Some expressed sorrow for their sins aloud. Some who had come to ridicule now believed.”
After the great miracle of the Sun which Our Lady had performed "so that all may believe," the events of Fatima became the subject of national attention in Portugal.
OCTOBER 14 : OUR LADY OF LA ROCHELLE, FRANCE (La Rochette)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of La Rochette near Geneva. A shepherd coming up to a bush, where he heard a plaintive voice, found there an image of the Blessed Virgin, which led to a church being built there.”
The Marian Calendar I used listed this date as Our Lady of La Rochelle, and further investigation revealed it actually refers to Our Lady of La Rochette, as stated by the good abbot.
La Rochette, France, is a difficult town to locate. The Abbot Orsini wrote that it was near Geneva, and there is a town, La Croix-de-la-Rochette, just south of Geneva along the lake Saint Clair in France. It is near the cities of Savoie, Isere, Haute-Savoie and Lyon in the Savoie department in the Rhone-Alps. The population is quite small, having only 248 inhabitants at the last census. A tourist guide makes mention of an early church which is listed as a sight-seeing destination only. I can find no mention of a miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin still at this site.
“The impetuous floods of the Divinity met in this holy City of the sanctified soul of Mary. It took its origin from the foundation of his Wisdom and Goodness, by which and whence He had resolved to deposit within this heavenly Lady the greatest graces and virtues ever to be given to any other creature for all eternity.”
“And when the hour had arrived for giving them into her possession, namely the very moment of her coming into natural life, the Almighty fulfilled according to his pleasure and full satisfaction the desire, which He had held suspended from all eternity until the time for gratifying this wish should arrive. The most faithful Lord executed his design, showering down all His graces and gifts in the most holy soul of Mary at the time of her Conception in such an overpowering measure as no other saint, nor all of them combined, can ever reach, nor ever human tongue can manifest.”
“Although She was adorned as the Bride, descending from heaven, endowed with all perfections and with the whole range of infused virtues, it was not necessary that She should exercise all of them at once, it being sufficient that She exercise those, which were befitting her state in the womb of her mother.”
DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF TEROUENNE (FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote : “Dedication of Our Lady of Terouenne, in the year 1133, by Milo, its thirteenth bishop. This church was built by Lothair II, and consecrated to the Blessed Virgin several centuries later.
The town of Terouenne, or Therouanne, no longer exists. Although it was once an intellectual, religious, and cultural center that had flourished in the Middle Ages, it was completely destroyed by Charles V, so much so that not one stone remained upon another.
When the region was conquered by Julius Caesar, Therouanne was known by the Gauls as Tarwanna or Tervanna. Later, sometime in the 7th century, Saint Audomar, whose name has since been corrupted to Saint Omer, by which he is better known, converted the native Morini to the True Faith. He was quite successful, and with the support of Saint Achaire Noyon, set up a large bishopric bounded on the north by the Yser, the south by the Canche, and the east by the Lys rivers. Included were the prosperous cities of Arras and Ypres, making it financially possible for a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady to be built at Terouenne in 1133, which was the largest in all of France at that time.
The town of Terouenne was seized from the control of rebels by imperial troops of the Holy Roman Empire in 1553. Emperor Charles V ordered the city to be razed to the ground, which included the cathedral, two parish churches and several monasteries and abbeys, and even the city walls. The work was completed so well that today archaeologists are struggling to piece together what can be found buried beneath the earth. The site of the cathedral once dedicated to Our Lady has been discovered and cleared, but it is little more than a pile of broken stones. A statue of Christ, known as the Great God of Therouanne, somehow survived the destruction, and it is currently on display in the cathedral of Saint Omer. And so, the diocese of Therouanne, which was once the richest and most extensive of all in Western Europe, has disappeared from the map and even the memory of the local population.
DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF MILAN
THE PURITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of Our Lady of Milan, by Pope Martin V, in the year 1417. This church was built in 1388 by John Galleas, Duke of Milan.”
The magnificent Milan Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral that has its roots in the fourth century AD when Milan was a Christian religious center. Today it is one of the most famous and celebrated structures in all of Europe.
Dedicated to the Mother of God, the present cathedral was begun in the 14th century, but was not completed until the 20th century when the last gate was completed in 1965. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte himself ordered that the façade be finished in the year 1805, as he desired to see the beautiful structure completed. He guaranteed that the French would pay for the work, although they never actually did. Even so, it took seven years to complete the work. There were other additions that followed, including stain glass windows and various arches and lace-like spires. There is a large statue of the Blessed Virgin made of gilded bronze which stands atop the cathedral’s main spire. In the end it can be said that the cathedral required 6 centuries to complete, and is one of the largest cathedrals in the entire world.
The first church thought to occupy the location was built by Saint Ambrose, although there is an old baptistery which was constructed in about 335. The good abbot appears to have been incorrect in dating the cathedral from 1388, as there is a plate attached to a stone on the church which states: “El Principio del Duomo di Milano Nel Anno 1386.”
The Milan Cathedral houses a Holy Nail which was used to crucify Christ. It is marked by a tiny red light located in the dome above the apse.
The author Mark Twain said of it: “What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems…a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!”
Due to the long time that it took to complete the cathedral, it is a breathtaking mixture of styles that was worth the loving labor of the workmen throughout the ages!
THE PURITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
This Feast was observed in certain places, with Apostolic indult, on the third Sunday of October, until the reforms of Pope St. Pius X, which fixed the date for this Feast on the 16th day of the same month. The Feast Day never made the universal Calendar of the Roman Rite, though the Mass is yet to be found in the appendix Missæ propriæ quæ in aliquibus locis celebrari possunt of the Missale Romanum.
The Carmelites, however, kept the Feast Day of the Purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as is expected from the Order that so glories to be the first Order founded under the patronage of the same glorious Mother of God. From The Missal According to the Carmelite Rite in Latin and English for Every Day in the Year (Rome: Vatican Polyglot Press, 1953), here are some excerpts from the Mass for the Feast of the Purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Salve, sancta Parens, eníxa puérpera Regem: qui coelum terrámque regit in saecula saeculórum. Eructávit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego ópera mea Regi.
Hail holy Mother, thou didst bring forth the King, who ruleth heaven and earth for ever and ever. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. (Sedulius, and Psalm 44:2 from the Introit of Mass)
Da, quaesumus, omnípotens aetérne Deus: ut, puríssimae Vírginis Maríae integérrimam Virginitátem festíva celebritáte venerántes, ejus intercessióne, puritátem mentis et córporis consequámur.
Grant we beseech Thee, almightly everlasting God: that, as we venerate with festal celebration the most complete Virginity of the most pure Virgin Mary, we may attain purity of mind and body. (Collect)
This Feast is also authorized in the pro aliquibus locis section of the Missal (for some places) for16th October. The collect from this Mass reads:
May the intercession of the Immaculate Mother of God avail each of us unto the graces of perseverance in the cultivation of the interior life, particularly by purity of heart and the observance of chastity according to our state in life. (Collect)
DEDICATION OF THE CAVE OF OUR LADY OF CHARTRES (FRANCE)
During the Middle Ages a movement was afoot in Europe, known as the Rosary of Churches. Cities, small towns and even villages vied with one another to rear cathedrals to Mary. Many of these churches have faded into oblivious; some still stand in all their untouched glory, treasure houses of ancient masterpieces of art, sculpture, glasswork and architecture. Their erection was entirely voluntary, a labor of love. Those who had means and riches gave of them; others gave their labor.
The oldest of these is Our Lady’s Cathedral at Chartres. Even before the Apostles arrived, there was a Celtic shrine at Chartres, dedicated to the Virgin who would bear a great King, “a virgin who will give birth.” A Church was built over this pagan shrine and in the church was enshrined the tunic which the Blessed Virgin was said to have worn while on earth, the gift of the Emperor Constantine. It was at Chartres, too, that Saint Bernard pleaded in 1148 for crusaders to rescue the Holy Land. The Cathedral was destroyed many times, but in the eleventh century the real and lasting church was built with a forest of columns and a treasury of art, jewels and glass. It remains a must on the list of every pilgrim traveling to Europe.
A medieval bishop named Fulbert chose to build his city’s cathedral of Our Lady on top of the highest hill for miles around. He didn’t have much luck and three times his cathedral burned down. One of his successors started to build the cathedral in 1250, when it was entirely completed in dressed stone it “needed to fear nothing from the world’s fire until Judgment Day.”
It is the most important of the eighty cathedrals and nearly 500 cathedral-size churches the French people, with a single-mindedness unparalleled in Church history, built in that fantastically artistic century 1170 to 1270. To these peasants, priests and poets in stone, the Cathedral was the House of God, the Bible in picture and image, and a canticle of praise. The Cathedral of Chartres stands out in unequalled significance, spelling in delicately carved detail and magnificently balanced volumes what the Christian faith meant to twelve centuries of Europeans.
Chartres contains the most famous stained glass window in the world; its predominant, unique, remarkable blue has defied the skill to describe of writers everywhere. The sacred figures come alive in the glass and the whole nave of the church is suffused with sifted light. Everything seen after this is an anticlimax; just as the Mother of God to whom this “other world” art is dedicated, is the epitome of virginity, motherhood and womanhood, as all others of her sex pale into oblivion in the glorious light of her sanctity. This cathedral has a majesty and a magic about it that can still evoke memories of past unity and stir the imagination of an even larger vision. American and African, as well as European pilgrims can say “Our Chartres” and somehow feel that it is really theirs, just as the Mother of God is the Mother of all Mankind.
DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF RHEIMS
Dedication of Our Lady of Rheims, built by Saint Nicasius, archbishop of that city period in the year 405. (It is currently believed the church may have been completed in the year 400 or 401.) It was Saint Nicasius who prophesized that France would be invaded by the Vandals, telling the people of Rheims to prepare themselves. When the Vandals finally arrived at the city gates, Saint Nicasius went out to meet them with his sister, a faithful lector and a deacon. All were killed, but their sacrifice gave time for more of the people of Rheims to flee to safety.
It is interesting to note that when Saint Nicasius was beheaded he was praying Psalm 119. He was slain at the moment when he reached the phrase “Adhaesit pavimento anima mea,” which means, “my soul is attached to dust.” After he was decapitated, his head struck the ground and he miraculously continued the psalm, saying: “Vivifica me, Domine, secundum verbum tuum,” which means, “revive me, Lord, with your words.”
This was the church where King Clovis humbly confessed his belief in the Triune God and was baptized by Saint Regigius in 496, and where all of the subsequent French kings were crowned. In the Gallery of the Kings there is a magnificent painting of the baptism of King Clovis surrounded by images of all of his successors.
This church, having fallen to ruins, was later rebuilt by Ebo and Hincmar. It was finished in the year 845 and still remains a place of pilgrimage to the Mother of God. At one time enemies of the cathedral chapter set fire to a monastery of Rheims. Among the relics which the sacristan tried to save was an ivory statue of the Virgin, containing some of her hair. The sacristan prayed fervently to the Virgin that she would preserve this relic. The abbot, entering the ruins of the church, found the statue upright and unharmed as if placed there reverently. From thence forward, the image was believed to be miraculous.
The present cathedral takes the place of the older churches, the previous one having been damaged by fire in 1210. It was not completed until the 14th century, and is the beautiful Gothic Cathedral that can still be seen today.
DEDICATION OF HOLY CROSS AND OUR LADY ABBEY (ROYAUMONT, FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of the Abbey of Royaumont, under the title of the Holy Cross and Our Lady, by John, Archbishop of Mytilene, in the year 1235. This monastery had been founded by Saint Louis, in the year 1227.”
It was actually in the year 1228 when King Saint Louis IX of France planned for the construction of a new church for the honor or God and His Blessed Mother in the Valley of the Oise. He and his mother Blanche left their palace to reside at nearby Chateau d’Asnieres to be able to direct their efforts to the building of the new church. After purchasing the land himself, the king changed the name from Cuimont to Royaumont.
It was certainly nothing unusual to see the monks assisting in the construction of their own church, but Saint Louis himself labored enthusiastically alongside the workmen and stone masons. Many of the king’s family members followed his good example, so that soon there were many French noblemen working throughout the site. But that is not all, for when the monks sat down to eat at their Refectory, the king waited on over one hundred monks as they ate at two long tables. First, he would sample their food before setting it before anyone, and then he would taste their wine to be certain it was up to his own personal standard. If he were not satisfied, the king would demand a better vintage for the religious. One Maundy Thursday he would wash the feet of the beloved monks of Royaumont.
When the church was completed, it was so wondrous a work that “it was said at the time that none but a king could have constructed such an edifice.” A purely Gothic style church, having “a nave which both astounded and alarmed by its colossal height and boldness” that reached nearly the height of Notre-Dame in Paris, it was a labor of love made by Saint Louis to God and His Blessed Mother. When it was finished, King Louis was wedded there to Marguerite, the beautiful daughter of Beranger IV. The king allocated five hundred livres to be given yearly to the support of the Abbey.
There was also an infirmary attached to the monastery, and among those who were cared for was a leper by the name of Frere Legier. At that time lepers were isolated and treated as social outcasts. The leper’s disease would slowly kill them, but even while they were alive most were usually treated as if they were already among the dead.
King Louis, instead, took a personal interest in the leper. He would visit him frequently with the Abbot, saying: “Let us go and visit our patient.” Then together they would enter Legier’s isolated cell and kindly greet the horrifically disfigured patient. The king would then speak with Legier familiarly and inquire as to his condition before preparing a sumptuous meal for him with his own hands. The King would then feed the leper with loving attention, waiting on him to finish his repast as he continued to converse with him as if he were the equal of the King of France.
If one were to visit Royaumont today, they would find the ruined church with little more than the outer walls, and a few of the surrounding buildings that are still in good condition. Royaumont, like so much that spoke of the love of God in Catholic France, was a victim of the French Revolution.
It was the Marquis de Travannet who had purchased Royaumont from the state when he was ordered to destroy the venerable old church. The Abbey Church easily withstood the discharge of mines that were meant to destroy it, but later the central pillars were sawn through. Massive chains were cast through the stained glass windows that had lighted the interior of the church for centuries, and then attached to those pillars. Pulled by teams of oxen, the roof of the church fell in with “a salvo of flying fragments amid shouts of diabolical triumph,” so that nothing now remained but the outer walls.
In 1812 the Maruqis allowed his brother, the Vicomte de Travannet, to establish his cotton manufacturing business there, employing English prisoners to do the needed labor. He paid dearly for his sacrilege, even in this life, as he was soon denounced with his brother and both arrested. Narrowly escaping the guillotine, he was eventually freed, although the privations he had suffered while incarcerated soon led to his death. The cotton business thus failed, and the equipment was sold in the year 1815 to a cotton magnate from Belgium named Joseph Vander Mersch. Although Mersch seemed to have a certain respect for the ruins, replacing them where they once stood whenever possible, he also met with an early death and a failed business. It was during the time that he owned Royaumont, though, that the pilgrimages began.
It was on the feast of King Saint Louis IX in the year 1865 when the Abbey was acquired by the Oblate Fathers. Though Royaumont was once again in Catholic hands, they had no ability to rebuild the church from the ruins. In fact, only five years later, they were obliged to sell the Abbey to the Sisters of the Holy Family, of Bordeaux. They in turn sold the property in 1905, by order of the Government, and thus ended the dream of Saint Louis IX of France, whose good works are safely held by God in the treasury of Heaven.
DEDICATION OF THE ABBEY OF OUR LADY (PONTIGNY, FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of the church of Pontigny, four leagues from Auxerre, under the title of Our Lady. This abbey was founded in 1114 by Thibaud, Count of Champagne.”
The former abbey of Pontigny is nestled in the Serein valley in the north of Burgundy, and is one of the oldest sites of the Cistercian order. Being only the second Cistertian monastery, it was established in the year 1114 by Hugh of Macon, the companion of Saint Bernard, in this valley north of Auxerre in the French Department of Yonne. It is notable that Hugh later became the bishop of Auxerre.
The monks valued the land, the woods and streams they were surrounded with, and built large farms around their abbey. They raised various crops, bread pigs and sheep, and made terracotta tiles and bricks. It was that strong economic base that enabled them to construct the great Romanesque style church that reached an impressive length of 120 meters that still stands intact today.
In the year 1164 the abbey received the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England Thomas Becket while he was an exile due to his opposition to King Henry, and in 1206 the Queen of France, Alix de Champagne, was buried in the choir of the abbey.
The wealthy abbey was looted and burned by the Huguenots in about 1529 during the Wars of Religion. During the French Revolution the abbey was suppressed, and its buildings largely sold or destroyed, save for the church. Unlike most churches during the time of the French Revolution, the Abbey of Pontigny is completely preserved and is now thought to be the largest Cistercian church in France. The church is notable for its arches and columns with twin bays, its vaults on two columns and portal with tympanum cross and wrought iron hinges.
Known as the church of Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Edme Pontigny, or Our Lady of Saint Edmond of Pontigny, the old church abbey monastery became the parish church of the village of the same name after the French Revolution.
The church of Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Edme Pontigny is now abandoned, and it is used now simply as a kind of cultural meeting place.
OUR LADY OF TALAN (NEAR DIJON, FRANCE)
There is very little information about Our Lady of Talan, or even about the town of Talan, France. It is a small town estimated in the year 2007 to have perhaps 50 inhabitants. It appears to also go by Talon, and was once the capital of the duchy of Burgundy. It is located a short distance from Dijon, as noted, and there is a Forest of Talon that can also be seen on the map. During the Middle Ages there was a castle of Talan that seems always to be mentioned with the castle of Dijon. Perhaps there was also once a chapel there to which this date refers, but I can find no other information.
For your edification, here is a segment from The City of God.
The three Divine Persons conferred with each other saying: “On earth the Word shall have a Mother without a father, as in Heaven He has a Father without a mother. And in order that there may be the proper correspondence, proportion and consonance in calling God His Father and this Woman His Mother, We desire that the highest correspondence and approach possible between a creature and its God be established. Therefore at no time shall the dragon boast of being superior to this Woman, whom God will obey as His true Mother. This dignity of being free from sin is due and corresponds to that of being Mother of the Word, and it is in itself even more estimable and useful. It is a greater good to be holy than to be only mother; but all sanctity and perfection is nevertheless due to the motherhood of God. The human flesh, from which He is to assume form, must be free from sin. Since He is to redeem in it the sinners, He must not be under the necessity of redeeming His own flesh, like that of sinners. Being united to the Divinity His humanity is to be the price of Redemption, wherefore it must before all be preserved from sin, and We have already foreseen and accepted the merits of the Word in this very flesh and human nature. We wish that for all eternities the Word should be glorified through this tabernacle and habitation of the human nature.”
OUR LADY OF THE UNDERGROUND, GRAND CAIRO
Our Lady of the Underground, half a league from Grand Cairo. It is held by tradition that the Blessed Virgin lived for some years in this subterranean chapel.
Here is an excerpt from The City of God by the Venerable Mary of Agreda, relating to their dwelling-place in Egypt, after fleeing from Herod:
of the Holy Family's “Saint Joseph sought to purchase for a suitable price some dwelling in the neighborhood; and the Lord ordained that he should find a poor and humble, yet serviceable house, at small distance from the city, just such as the Queen of Heaven desired.”
“Having therefore found this dwelling near Heliopolis, they took their abode therein. At the first entrance of the Heavenly Lady with her Divine Son and Saint Joseph, She prostrated Herself to the ground, kissing it in profound humility and lovingly thanking the Most High for having secured them this place of rest after their prolonged and laborious journeying.”
“She adored the immutable being of God in this prostration, dedicating all that she was to do in this place to His honor and worship. Interiorly, she made a sacrifice of all her powers and faculties, offering to assume readily and with joy all the labors by which the Almighty could be served during her exile; for in her prudence she foresaw and affectionately embraced them all. By means of her divine knowledge she set a great value on sufferings; understanding how highly they are esteemed at the divine tribunal, and how her most Holy Son looked upon them as a rich treasure and inheritance.”
“Having performed these exalted acts of devotion, she set about humbly to clean and arrange the poor little house, borrowing the instruments for this purpose. Although our Heavenly strangers were thus sufficiently provided with the shelter of bare walls, they were in want of all else pertaining to the sustenance and comfort of daily life. As they now lived in an inhabited country, the miraculous assistance, which they had enjoyed in the desert through the ministry of the angels, failed them; and the Lord left them to the last resource of the poor, namely, the begging of alms. Having come to these straits of suffering hunger, Saint Joseph went forth to seek this kind of assistance for the love of God; giving thereby an example to the poor not to complain of their affliction and, all other means failing, not to be ashamed to have recourse to this expedient. For so early the Lord of all creation allowed Himself to fall into this extreme of being obliged to beg for his sustenance, in order that He might have an occasion to return the alms a hundredfold.”
“During the first three days of their arrival in Heliopolis, just as in other places of Egypt, the Queen had for herself and for her Only-begotten no other sustenance than what was begged by His foster father Saint Joseph. When he began to earn some wages by his work, he made a humble couch for the Mother and a cradle for her Son; while he himself had as a resting place only the bare ground; for the house was without any furniture until by his own labor he succeeded in making some of the most indispensable pieces for the convenience of all three.”
OUR LADY OF CONSOLATION (NEAR HONFLEUR, FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Consolation, near Honfleur. This chapel is much frequented; two children have been raised to life there, in memory of which their figures are there in silver.”
Also known as Our Lady of Grace, or Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the first thing that can be seen among the trees upon the height is a large crucifix that seems to bless the sea, although the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grace is still invisible, hidden under the old trees that surround it. The present chapel is a small one located a short distance from that cross, and the tall trees and lawns that surround the church are in stark contrast to the church’s humble dimensions.
Once inside, everything is modest but neat. There is a low arch, and passing beneath it the view from the windows inside is obscured by the thick foliage of the surrounding trees. On the Gospel side is the statue of the Blessed Virgin on a short pillar. A fabric canopy frames the statue which depicts the Mother of God holding her Divine Child.
At the feet of Our Lady are placed small anchors and hearts of silver gilt that shine on the dais, and we see a small amount of flowers that are the humble obeisance’s of children and the poor. There are votive offerings hundreds of years old, and paintings of ships battered by storms, or broken upon the rocks, beneath which are brief accounts of the perils and the salvation sent after prayer to Notre-Dame-de Grace. Crutches lean against the wall as trophies demonstrating the victorious prayers of the healed cripples who now walk, and burning candles are constantly renewed beneath the holy image, exhibiting the persevering ardor of the faithful. It is a collective testimony of piety and edification from the servants of Mary.
The origin of the pilgrimage to Notre-Dame de Grace goes back to the eleventh century. According to tradition, in the year 1034, Robert the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy, was sailing to England. He was suddenly assailed by a violent storm, and at the height of the danger he promised to build three chapels and devoted to the Blessed Virgin if he returned safely to his lands. The storm ended at once, and the prince immediately returned home to take care of his vow. He built one of the chapels promised near his castle, and dedicated it to Our Lady of Mercy. Another he built near Caen, which he called Notre-Dame de la Deliverance, and the third he built on the plateau overlooking Honfleur, which was named Notre Dame de Grace.
This chapel near Honfleur soon became a busy place of pilgrimage. There is an authentic document at the church from King Louis XI dated January 28, 1478, and letters showing that the chapel was endowed with a certain tract of land containing a house, a barn, etc.
The chapel partially collapsed, and the sea swallowed part of the cliff near the church during a violent earthquake that occurred on September 29, 1538. Only a section of one wall, the altar, and the statue of the Virgin Mary remained standing, but such was the devotion of the people to this special place that many pilgrims continued to come and pray kneeling amid the debris. Unfortunately the landslides did not cease, so finally, in 1602, the last vestiges of the sanctuary were removed to prevent the faithful from exposing their lives to the unremitting danger.
The faithful regretted the loss of their chapel, and one of them, Mr. Gonnyer, undertook to raise a new one. He dug the foundations one hundred paces from the old church to the south-west, but he was forced to stop at that point for lack of money. Offerings from the inhabitants of Honfleur did the rest, and in 1613 the chapel was raised, but she felt the poverty that prevailed in France at that time. It was a small building three times as long as it was wide; thatched, isolated among the heather, and looked more like a barn than a chapel.
The Capuchins took possession on March 16, 1621, and they planted a large wooden cross amid the ruins of the old chapel. They eventually replaced it with a stone cross that they placed closer to the chapel than the old one had been.
In the Middle Ages people understood that the Church provided for the moral and physical welfare of the people as well as the state. They knew that the apostolate of the monastic orders was necessary to form and maintain the ties of charity between the rich and poor, adjust the opulent life of one to soften the sufferings of others, and to communicate to all, through preaching and by example, the secret of living and dying well.
When the Revolution broke out, there was wide-spread desecration in the whole of France, and all religious communities were dissolved. In vain the faithful recipients of so many graces endeavored to protect their sanctuary and the religious who served there. At one time it was hoped Honfleur could keep the Capuchins, and so a petition was drafted for that purpose in 1790.
“Through the removal of religious communities,” said the petitioners, “we fear being deprived of the significant relief that we receive from the Capuchins. These men are religious at all times, labor for the good of the city and the neighboring country, and through the uprightness of their intentions and the justice of their actions they have earned public esteem and confidence. They have a small chapel, located on the coast under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, which is held in great reverence throughout the country, and we urge its conservation.”
The petition was sent to the National Assembly, who refused it. The chapel was plundered and converted into a tavern. The old statue was destroyed, and sadly “those who were but lately to pray and ask for graces forgot themselves to commit orgies in a place where everything, even the walls, reproached them for their apostasy.”
That was so long ago, and now the tides of commercial prosperity have come to caress the people and promote the development of the city and the port of La Havre. Hanfleur possesses all the signs of a prosperous city that is increasing in wealth and population, regardless of the attendant demoralization and miseries of every kind that accompany the seeming prosperity. La Havre is the seat of business where speculators contest in the commercial sphere where they work without ceasing to earn their fortune and contribute to each other’s ruin. Without the aid of the Blessed Virgin, there was no longer any hope for relief.
Still, it was here, at this remote chapel about 5 kilometers from Honfleur, that Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin came with her father and sister Celine in July of the year 1887 to pray to Notre-Dame-de Grace that she might be able to enter Carmel. That woman is better known today as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, or simply Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.”
OUR LADY OF HERMITS (SWITZERLAND)
The origin of the celebrated pilgrimage of Our Lady of the Hermits, the Loretto of Helvetia, goes back to the heroic times of Charlemagne. The saint who first inhabited the hermitage of Einsiedeln, was a young lord of Suabia, named Meinrad, belonging to the illustrious family of the counts of Hohenzollern.
Gifted with that genius of reverie which still forms the prominent feature of the German character, Meinrad, when scarcely arrived at adolescence, loved to buy himself in the thickest parts of the woods, which then covered his country, and to entertain himself alone with God, by the sound of bubbling springs, flowing beneath the shade of oaks.
Oftentimes night overtook Meinrad attentively reading the Scriptures in an old book with golden clasps, which he had inherited from his fathers, or meditating profoundly on the miracles and benefits of the Blessed Virgin. His soul was elevated in solitude; taking pity on the world and its worthless goods, Meinrad made his vows in the Abbey of Richenau, which he quitted afterwards to settle in a small hermitage built on the top of Mount Etzel.
Meinrad spent seven years there; but the good odor of his virtues descended to the depths of the valleys; the shepherd and woodmen came to him, then the great lords, then the noble ladies, humbly to solicit his prayers and counsels. These acts of homage were a torment to the young hermit, who loved nothing but contemplative prayer and the peace of the woods; one night he secretly left his hermitage, carrying with him, as his sole possession, the statue of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of the Hermits, the only ornament of his chapel, and took refuge in a forest of the canton of Schwytz, which bore the characteristic name of the Dark Forest.
Thirty-two years afterwards, Meinrad was assassinated by some wicked men, with whom he had shared the water from his fountain and the wild fruits of the forest; the birds of Heaven pursued the murderers, who underwent the chastisement which their crime deserved. (They were betrayed by two ravens, who harassed them incessantly as far as Zurich; they even made their way through the windows of the inn which the assassins had entered, and did not leave them until they had been punished.)
After the tragic death of Meinrad, his cell, where miracles were wrought, was uninhabited for almost half a century. At the end of that time, a small society of hermits came and settled there under the care of Saint Benno, of the ducal house of Burgundy. Hence the surname of Our Lady of the Hermits, which was given to the chapel of Einsiedeln.
Saint Eberhard devoted his possessions, which were considerable, to building a monastery in this place, of which he was the first abbot.
The chapel of the Blessed Virgin, as it was in the time of Saint Benno, was placed in the great church of the convent, of which Saint Meinrad’s cell formed the choir; the French destroyed this chapel, which had resisted the furious attempts of Protestantism; but God permitted that the miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin should be saved in time. It was replaced in the church of Einsiedeln in 1803, with great solemnity, and in 1817 it recovered part of its ancient magnificence, thanks to the influx of the most distinguished artists, and the abundant alms of the faithful. The statue is thus also known as Our Lady of Einsiedeln.
OUR LADY OF PALESTINE
DEDICATION OF THE CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY OF TOLEDO (SPAIN)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of Our Lady of Toledo, in Spain, about the year 1075, by Bernard, archbishop of that city. This cathedral has a revenue of more than 300,000 livres.”
The city of Toledo in Spain was not reconquered until 1085, when King Alfonso VI, King of Leon and Castile, took the city from the Moors. This was an important step in the Reconquista, as Toledo had once been the capital of Visigothic Spain. The church had been a mosque, and was not actually consecrated until the year 1087. It was placed under the advocacy of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as King Alfonso wrote:
“I, Alfonso, Emperor of all Spain by God’s Providence, convened with the bishops, namely, that for these ten will I preserve the papal honor of Saint Mary of the City of Toledo, which was formerly the See…”
In 1225 a new cathedral was begun to replace the older one, for which King Fernando III laid the cornerstone. Fernando’s good friend, the Archbishop Rodrigo Ximenez de Rada worked very enthusiastically for the completion of the new cathedral where he was bishop.
There are so many masterpieces of art and beautiful shrines in the city of Toledo, Spain, that a visitor may easily miss the White Virgin. She stands atop an altar in the choir of Toledo’s magnificent cathedral.
The sacred image of Our Lady is a polychromed alabaster statue of French origin from the twelfth century. Both Mother and Child are clothed in white, their garments bordered with jeweled gold. Their faces darkened by time are framed with curly, strawberry-blond hair.
The statue has also been called the “smiling Virgin of Toledo;” for the Child’s right hand caresses His Mother’s face. She responds with a smile that gives this image its popular name. It is also called the “Virgin of Prima,” and the “Virgen Blanca.”
There is also another artifact worthy of special mention, and that is the ten foot tall great Monstrance of Arfe. It is made of both silver and gold, inset with precious gems. It took nearly 8 years to construct, and is done in a Gothic style that is truly a magnificent work of art.
OUR LADY OF VICTORY (NEAR SENLIS, FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of Our Lady of Victory, near Senlis, in the year 1225, by Guarin, Bishop of Senlis, and Chancellor of France. This abbey was built by Philip Augustus, in thanksgiving for the victory which he gained over the Emperor Otho IV, at Bouvines, in the year 1214.”
The Battle of Bouvines took place on July 27th 1214, and although it is no longer much remembered as a famous battle, it is one in which the world was changed in its aftermath. Easily one of the most significant battles to take place in the Middle Ages, there were combatants from several European countries taking part on one side or the other.
With the death of King Richard the Lion-hearted, his brother John claimed the lands of Normandy along with England, even though he had no right to them, as they rightfully belonged to his nephew, a boy named Arthur. John probably killed Arthur, as he was the one with the most to gain. When King Philip Augustus heard that John was claiming to be the Duke of Normandy, he called him to account for his nephew. When John refused, King Philip took away his right to rule Normandy. Rather than submit, John joined forces with the German Emperor and the Count of Flanders in open rebellion.
King Philip went to Mass with his troops just prior to the battle. His army probably numbered in total about 15,000 men, while the allied forces arrayed against him were nearly double that size. Knowing that his noblemen were anxious about the upcoming battle, King Philip took off his crown and placed it upon the altar, saying: “If anyone here thinks he can wear this crown more worthily than I, let him step forward to take it.” Philip’s men loudly reaffirmed their faith in their king and went enthusiastically to the battle.
The battle was hotly contested, and both King Philip and Otto IV of Germany had several horses killed beneath them. At one point when King Philip was unhorsed he was surrounded by Flemish pikemen. It is related that his life was only saved due to the superior plate mail armor he wore, but later events came to demonstrate that it was also because of the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
King Philip captured the Count of Flanders and took him back to France to display him to his nobles like a pet in an iron cage. The victory did much more than bring an end to the king of England’s claims to Brittany and Normandy, it also helped strengthen the monarchy in France as it simultaneously weakened the monarchy in England. When King John returned to England, his position was so weakened that he felt compelled to sign the Magna Carta, which greatly limited his power over his subjects. Otto IV of Germany was deposed soon after he returned to his own realm.
In thanksgiving for his victory, King Philip Augustus founded the Abbey of Victory between Senlis and the Bishop Mount, to honor the Mother of God for this signal victory.
DEDICATION OF THE BASILICA OF OUR LADY, HELP OF CHRISTIANS (TURIN, ITALY)
The vast and magnificent basilica of Our Lady in Turin, Italy, built by Saint John Bosco between 1863 and 1868, was inspired by a dream-vision which he had in October 1844. The Blessed Virgin showed Don Bosco a vast and lofty church and said:
“This is my house; from it my glory shines forth. You will understand everything when, with your material eyes, you will see in actual fact what you now see with the eyes of your mind.”
Nineteen years later, Don Bosco finally set to work on the basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians. Our Lady, in a second vision, chose the location as that of the place of the martyrdom of Saint Adventer Solutor and Saint Octavious, who were both soldiers under the Emperor Maximianus in the fourth century.
When the foundation of the church was laid, Don Bosco went to the contractor, Charles Buzzetti, and told him:
“I want to pay you at once for this fine work. I don’t know if it will be much, but this is all I have.”
He then took out his little purse and emptied the contents into the hand of the contractor, who was expecting a handful of gold coins. His jaw dropped in dismay when he saw in his hand only eight pennies.
“Don’t be alarmed,” Don Bosco quickly added with a smile, “the Madonna will see to the payment of her church. I am just the instrument, the cashier.” And to those standing by he concluded, “You will see!”
“The whole church was put up by means of graces granted by Mary,” Don Bosco often said. One sixth of the cost, about one million lire in those days, was borne by the generous contributors, devout persons; the rest came from the small offering of those who had been aided by Mary either in health, in business, in family matters, or in some other way.
“Every stone, every ornament, represents one of her graces,” insisted Don Bosco. The original contractor, who received the eight cents, later testified that, “The Church was paid for to the last cent.”
Among the monuments of the Church, the most splendid is the painting above the main altar. Our Blessed Lady Help of Christians occupies the central position, and is surrounded by symbols: God the Father, the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and Evangelists. It measures more than 33 yards square, and is bordered with gold.
There was much opposition to the project of building a church dedicated to and in honor of Our Lady Help of Christians, but Don Bosco insisted. It appears he had a supernatural knowledge that the future of his own congregation, and that of the whole world in the not too distant future, depended on the powerful protection of Mary, Help of Christians, just as it had needed and obtained that protection at Lepanto on October 7, 1571, and at Vienna, on September 12, 1683.
Don Bosco won out, and the vast church was consecrated and dedicated on June 9, 1868. The dedication festivities lasted nine days, and on each day a Bishop preached while another took part in the religious ceremonies.
By the turn of the nineteenth century the Church of Our Lady Help of Christians in Turin had become famous, and in 1911, Pope Saint Pius X gave it the crowning glory by raising it to the rank of a Basilica – The Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians!
OUR LADY OF VIVONNE (SAVOY, FRANCE)
The Abbot Mathieu Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Vivonne, in Savoy, where a miraculous image is venerated, which was found by a ploughman while preparing his field for the spring planting.”
Vivonne is a village in France having a population of somewhat less than 5,000 inhabitants and located about 20 kilometers south of Poitiers. It is situated on a rocky height looking down upon the three rivers that flow through the region. There are apparently two churches in the village, the better known church being the church of Saint George, on which construction began in the twelfth century. The other church is Our Lady of Sais-les-Vivonne.
According to tradition, a farmer was plowing his field when he overturned something peculiar in the sod. To his great surprise, the man found the object was a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The good farmer took the statue now known as Our Lady of Vivonne, or Notre-Dame de Vivonne, that he had found back to his home. After lovingly cleaning the debris from the statue, the farmer took the statue to the local church and gave it to the pastor of the parish. The pastor immediately placed the statue that had just been discovered in the church later that same day.
The next morning when the priest returned to the church, he found that the statue was missing. After much inquiry and searching for the statue, the farmer found the statue was once again in his field. The man returned the statue to the church, but once again it disappeared from its place, only to be found again in the field. This occurred a total of three times before it was decided to build a shrine in the field where the statue had first been found. The strange phenomenon brought people from near and far to the shrine. Soon the image proved to be miraculous and pilgrimages were formed. The church which was built to honor the image of Our Lady was given to the Carmelite Order.
OUR LADY OF OROPA (VERCELLI, ITALY)
Our Lady of Oropa, near Bielle, in Savoy; this image, of cedar wood, six feet high, is in a chapel, which Saint Eusebius, Bishop of Bercelli, caused to be built, about the year 380; he often retired thither during the troubles caused by the Arians.
The sanctuary of the black Virgin of Oropa, high in the Alps north of Biella, is traditionally associated with Saint Eusebius of Vercelli, who died in 371; but the circumstances of the story are anachronistic. Yet the shrine is certainly an old one, and throughout the Middle Ages was associated with a Community of Canon Regulars.
The vast range of buildings, there today was begun by the dukes of Savoy, early in the seventeenth century, and forms one of the most complete pilgrimage centers in the world (there is even a cinema theater). It is recorded that her in 1895, contemplating the space and beauty of the mountains, Marconi heard the first call to his life’s work.
The black painted cedar-wood statue has been crowned four times, the last time in 1920; the three superimposed diadems (the fourth is represented by a halo of twelve stars) can hardly be said to add to the beauty of the image.
Saint Eusebius who had been exiled into Syria because of his differences with the Arians, died in the year 370. While in exile, the Emperor Constantine permitted him some freedom. Eusebius discovered among some ruins in Jerusalem three statues of Our Lady. On his triumphant return after the Arians had been temporarily overthrown, he gave two of the statues away. The third he kept for himself, placing it in a little hermitage at Oropa which he often visited.
In the 5th and 6thcenturies when Arianism again reared its ugly head, the faithful Catholics took refuge at the shrine of Our Lady of Oropa.
At one time it was decided to transport the statue to another place. As the procession marched along, the statue became so heavy that the men who carried it could not move on. Only when they decided to take Our Lady back to her original shrine at Oropa were they able to move.
The chapel of Our Lady of Oropa is a beautiful one and thousands of pilgrims today make their way there as they have done over the centuries.
The Holy See asked the authorities in 1856 to make a list of the miracles recorded at the shrine. It is long and impressive. Then, as now, Our Lady of Oropa has a way with her Divine Son.
OUR LADY OF MONDEVI (PIEDMONT, FRANCE)
Our Lady of Mondevi, also known as the Madonna della Mondevi, is located at Vic, in Piedmont, Italy. There is found a picture which a tile-maker had painted on a brick pillar, which he had erected for that purpose. This pillar has since been enclosed in a church which was built in the year 1645 at the behest of Maria Cristina of France, in memory of the miraculous rescue of a child from the river, which took place in 1644 through the invocation of the image of the Blessed Virgin of the Annunciation, as the image had also come to be known. Since that time there have been many miracles which have been wrought and continue to attract a great concourse of people.
Originally, the image of this Piedmontese shrine is said to have been depicted on a pillar by a charcoal burner of Vicoforte, about the year 1540. The sanctuary of Madonna del Pilone is outside the city and it was completed about 1730.
The charcoal burners formed what was known as the Carbonari; at first an organization similar to the medieval guilds, whose prime purpose was efficiency and spirituality. However, the group ended in becoming a secret organization that was particularly political, while possibly also spreading revolution to Spain, France, and other countries.
The image of Our Lady of Mondevi was drawn on a pillar during the days of great devotion to Our Lady. It contains so much art that painters try to emulate it, but in vain. The peasant folk especially venerated Our Lady at this shrine, and obtained numerous favors from her.
The church was enlarged in 1779 and equipped with a baptistery in 1807. Inside, enriched with precious furnishings donated by the Savoy princes and frescoes by Bartolomeo Guidobono and others, is kept on the altar of the miraculous image of the Annunciation. The original image has been almost completely repainted in twentieth-century restorations.
OUR LADY’S MIRACLE AT ST FORT (CHARTRES, FRANCE)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “In the year 1116, a chorister having fallen into the well of Saint Fort, which is in the church of Chartres, was saved by Our Lady. All the time that he was in the well, he heard the angels answering the public prayers which were chanted in the church; whence the custom arose at Chartres that the choir never answer aloud to the Dominus Vobiscum, chanted at High Mass and canonical hours.”
The Roman General Julius Caesar wrote that the area around Chartres, in the land belonging to the Carnutes, was the yearly meeting place of the Druids. It is said that since pre-historic times they assembled there from all over Western Europe.
The Cathedral of Chartres is built entirely upon a large subterranean crypt which dates from the 11th century. The crypt is unusually large, which accounts for the wide nave of the present Chartres Cathedral. Few people who visit the cathedral ever think to enter the crypt, though it is here in the depths beneath the famous cathedral that one can see the foundation of the great pillars that uphold the soaring heights of the nave, and also where the well of Saint Fort is located.
The Well of Saint’s Fort is from the ancient name of Locus Fortis, or The Strong Place. It used to be located outside the old, smaller church, and is where the bodies of the martyrs Saint Altin and Saint Eodald were thrown by the Vikings in a raid in the year 858. The well was filled in about the 17th century, but it has been restored, as the earth was removed again in 1901.
If one continues, and passes the well, they will come upon something that the very first Christians are said to have witnessed when they came to Chartres. They found there a statue of a woman seated upon a throne with a child on her knee, a statue that had been venerated by the Druids. It appears that they were aware of Isaiah’s prophesy that a virgin would conceive and bear a son. The statue was described by a 17th century thus:
“The Virgin sits on a chair, her Son sits on her knees and He gives the sign of blessing with His right hand. In His left hand He holds an orb. He is bare-headed and His hair is quite short. He wears a close-fitting robe girdled with a belt. His face, hands and feet are bare and they are of a shining grey-ebony color.
The Virgin is dressed in an antique mantle in the shape of a chasuble. Her face is oval, of perfect construction, and of the same shining black color. Her crown is very plain, only the top being decorated with flowers and small leaves. Her chair is one foot wide with four parts hallowed out at the back and carved. The statue is twenty-nine inches tall.”
It is interesting to note that the eyes of the Divine Child were open, while the Madonna’s eyes were closed. According to Cecil Headlam, the Druids “intended by this device to signify that faith was still in darkness, and that she whom they worshipped was not yet born. But the eyes of the Child, whom she in the fullness of time should supernaturally conceive and bear, were open; for He was without beginning and without end, the Spectator of all time and all existence.”
The statue survived the centuries until the year 1793, when it was burned during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. The people rose up to defend their cathedral, and so the Cathedral of Chartres was not destroyed, although the crypt was used as a warehouse until the year 1857. The statue was then replaced with the copy that can currently been seen in the crypt.