|Devotion to Our Lady||
COLLECTION OF ALL FEAST OF OUR LADY (celebrated at Louvain)
The Abbot Orsini writes that “A feast is kept in honor of the Blessed Virgin, called the Collection of all the Feasts of Our Lady.”
Louvain refers to Leuven, the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region of Belgium. There was once a chapel called Notre-Dame de Leuven, or Our Lady of Louvain, which had stood near the church tower of a separate church dedicated to Saint Peter. The chapel owed its origin to an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was given by a group of monks from Abbey Park as a sign of brotherhood in the year 1132.
According to tradition, the wooden statue, which depicted the Blessed Virgin seated with the Divine Child in her lap, was a gift from Heaven deposited on the earth by heavenly angels. The image excited a lively religious fervor upon its reception, and there are numerous miracles credited to pious devotion to the image of Our Lady of Louvain.
OUR LADY OF HELBRON (Germany, 1441)
The Abbot Orsini writes that: “Our Lady of Helbron, or of Nettles, in Franconia, in Germany. This image began to work miracles in the year 1441.”
Helbron, mentioned above in this title of Our Lady, refers to Heilbronn, a city in Germany. Franconia refers to the German lands that were once the eastern region of the Duchy of Franconia, and is named after the Franks, who ruled most of Western Europe during the 8th century. The city of Heilbronn is located in what is still considered a Franconian region.
The only mention of this feast that can be found is by Jonathan Sumption in his book “The Age of Pilgrimage: The Medieval Journey to God,” which makes mention of Our Lady of Helbron when he refers to it thus:
“A street statue in Heilbronn, which was believed to have spoken, had a longer life. The pilgrimage began in 1442 and was still prosperous sixty years later.”
OUR LADY OF THE DIVINE SHEPHERD (France)
Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd, or Notre Dame de Brebieres, is located in the small town of Albert in the diocese of Amiens, France. Brebieres refers to brebis, which is French for sheep, and berger, which is French for shepherd.
At one time, probably sometime in the 12th century, and according to local tradition, a shepherd was grazing his sheep at Brebieres when he observed that many of the animals were staying in the same area to eat, ripping the grass out by the roots. It must have seemed very odd to the shepherd, who decided that the sheep were trying to uncover something, so he started to dig in the very spot himself. In a short time he uncovered a statue of the Blessed Virgin sculpted from a single piece of solid stone.
The statue was fairly large, nearly four feet tall, and represented the Blessed Mother holding the Divine Child in her arm. There was a sheep depicted quietly reclining at Mary’s feet. As has happened so often throughout history, the finding of the statue increased the enthusiasm and affection of the local populace toward the Mother of God. A small chapel was built at the site to honor the statue and receive the pilgrims who had already begun coming to Albert to visit the statue.
Saint Colette can be credited for helping to spread of the fame of Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd at Brebieres. At age fourteen she was somewhat short and had a delicate constitution. Seeking a remedy through the favor of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Colette prayed to Our Lady of Brebieres. She not only obtained vigor and good health, she also found that several inches were miraculously added to her height.
In 1637 the sanctuary was partially burned, and the miraculous image was moved to the parish church of Albert in 1727. During the French Revolution the church was made into a pagan temple to the goddess of Reason while the image of the Mother of God was hidden until 1802 when the horrors of the Terror during this supposed time of reason subsided.
This feast is celebrated in a number of places and by certain religious communities and congregations: Capuchins, Marists and others, on widely different dates. It is a special festival of the shrine of Our Lady of Brebieres, a very old sanctuary near Albert in France, formerly much resorted to by the shepherds.
The pilgrimage here was revived after 1870, and a beautiful basilica was completed in 1887. The statue was crowned in 1901, and devastated in both world wars. The basilica has again been rebuilt.
The collect of the Mass prays that by following the Good Shepherd on earth, we may reach the pastures of eternal life with Mary in Heaven.
OUR LADY OF HAUT (Belgium, 1419)
The Abbot Orsini writes: “In the year 1419, Our Lady of Haut, in Hainault, restored to life a young woman named Jane Maillard, who was drawing water from a very deep well, when, the stonework at the top giving way, she fell to the bottom, and was taken out quite dead; but her mother having offered her by vow to Our Lady of Haut, she immediately showed signs of life.”
Hainault is a province in Wallonia in Belgium that borders on France, West and East Flanders, Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant, and the name comes from the Haine River which flows through the province. The Hainault family was very prominent in the Middle Ages, and Baldwin VI led the 4th Crusade. As of this time I can find no current reference to Our Lady of Haut, or a shrine to the Blessed Mother of that name in Hainault.
“Referring to Our Lady’s great compassion for sinners, Saint Bernard calls her the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. And Saint Leo tells us that, when he looks at her, he no longer sees God’s justice but only His mercy, for Mary is full of the mercy of God.
“She is like a fair olive in the field (Sir 24:14). Only oil (a symbol of mercy) is extracted from the olive; only grace and mercy flow from the hands of Mary.
“Why is the fair olive tree pictured as standing in the field, and not in some garden, enclosed with walls or hedges? So that all can see her plainly, and get to her without trouble, to secure the remedy for all their evils.
“And what safer refuge can we find than the compassionate heart of Mary? There the poor find a home, the sick a cure, the afflicted consolation, the doubtful counsel, and the abandoned help.”
OUR LADY OF THE WOODS (Galloro, 1621)
The little tiled picture of Our Lady of the Woods, found in 1621 at Galloro, marked the site of an older church built there in her honor and long since ruined, probably by one of the periodic invasions by foreign troops.
The tile was discovered by a small boy named Santi Bevilacqua, who was an orphan and lived with his uncle at L’Ariccia. Santi had been sent to watch the sheep, and was in the nearby brambles picking berries when he saw a low stone wall half-hidden in the brush and decided to investigate. He followed the wall and at one point fell into the brambles. When he picked himself up, he saw a picture of the Madonna painted on the wall. Being a pious child, he knelt and said a prayer; then, the following day he returned with a bouquet of flowers.
Soon a number of his friends were coming with him to the Madonna in the woods. They brought flowers and sang hymns as they went along. This did not impress the neighbors, who feared for their fruit with so many children passing by. Finally, the children set about making a path that would let them into the brambles by an easier way, and in the course of their construction unwisely set fire to the brush. Quite a fire ensued and they were forbidden to go into the brush or into the woods to play.
Sometime after this Santi was playing in his carpenter shop and fell asleep in a corner near a pile of lumber. The lumber fell on him as he slept and he awoke only in time to cry out to the Madonna of the Woods to save him. His frightened uncle, unpiling the lumber, discovered the boy unhurt and demanded to know who had saved him. The boy told him again about the Madonna at Galloro. The uncle made inquiries, and found that there was indeed a wall there which had once formed part of a church. There was an attractive little tile on one side of it, showing the Madonna. He set about rebuilding the church.
Research revealed that the tile had been painted by a monk of Grotto Ferrata and that the church had been a pious venture of a good woman. There had been a dispute of the ownership of the land, and the church was abandoned. The years had converted the site into a wilderness again.
Santi’s uncle with great perseverance and with the help of the Madonna, got the funds together and started rebuilding the church. Others helped, and in time a chapel was built to Our Lady of the Woods, and also a home for priests. Santi went there to live, so that he could serve Masses at the shrine.
By 1633, there were fifteen Masses said daily, and the pilgrims were coming in such droves to see Our Lady of the Woods that a fine new church had to be built. The site was nearby but it required the moving of the picture, which was set into the stone wall. It took much skill and prayer to move the picture without damage, but it was finally accomplished by a devout group of workmen, chanting litanies as they worked.
Plague and cholera both passed by Galloro when people prayed at the shrine of Our Lady. These and other miracles endeared her to the people, and it is still a place of pilgrimage, Our Lady of the Woods.
OUR LADY OF THE FOUNTAINS (Valenciennes, France)
Valenciennes is a city in northern France on the Scheldt River, and Our Lady of the Fountain was located half a league from the city in the year 1008.
According to tradition, there was a terrible famine that preceded the Plague in that fateful year of 1008. It is recorded that the city of Valenciennes was so ravaged by the plague that nearly 8,000 people died in only a few days, so that the chronicles of the time tell us that it seemed “the dead outnumber the living.” The people grieved profoundly at the spectacle of death which constantly surrounded them, and having no other recourse, went in great crowds to their churches to take refuge at the feet of Our Mother of Mercy and beg for her intercession.
A holy hermit named Bertholin, who lived nearby at Our Lady of the Fountain, was touched by the misfortune of his brothers, and redoubled his austerities and prayers. He prayed for the people of Valenciennes, saying, “O Mary! Rescue these afflicted who have cried out to you! Will you let this people die who have called upon you for rescue, and who confide their cares to you? Will you be invoked in vain?”
The Blessed Virgin appeared to the hermit Bertholin while he was fervently praying on the night of the 5th of September. The pious hermit was suddenly dazzled by the brilliance of a light purer than the sun, while at the same time the Mother of Mercy appeared to him with an air of kindness. She commanded Bertholin to tell the inhabitants to fast on the following day, and then pass the night in prayer to bring an end to the Plague. “Go to my people of Valenciennes. On the eve of my nativity they will see the guarantee of protection that I want to give them.”
The response was overwhelming. The people of Valenciennes did as they were told, and on the eve of the Nativity, the 7th of September, the people of Valenciennes stood upon the ramparts and towers of the city excitedly awaiting the fulfillment of the heavenly promise. Their confidence was not in vain, for suddenly the night seemed to turn into day and they witnessed the Queen of Heaven descending to earth in majesty, sparkling like a light of Heaven, brighter than the sun. Accompanied by a host of angels, Our Lady seemed to gird the town all round with a cord. Nothing can convey the feelings of joy and devotion with which the people of Valenciennes were seized at this sight. At one point they all bowed and asked the Blessed Virgin’s blessing. Their heavenly Mother did indeed bless them, and those who were sick recovered their health, and they inhabitants of Velenciennes have been forever freed from the plague.
The Blessed Virgin instructed the hermit to tell the people that they were to make a solemn procession, and then to do so every year. The people were eager to fulfill this desire of their heavenly Mother, and left the city singing praises to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Since that time the procession of Our Lady of Saint-Cordon, or the Tour of the Holy Cordon, takes place every year, always along the same route where the holy cord had been placed. The cord of the Blessed Virgin was locked up in a shrine at a beautiful Gothic church, Notre-Dame-la-Grande.
This cord, the Abbot Orsini related, was still preserved at Valenciennes while he was alive. That is no longer the case, as it disappeared during the Terror that was the French Revolution. The church was sold at auction and then razed to the ground, and the reliquary sent to the mint. Of the Holy Cord nothing is now known, although no one witnessed its destruction when it disappeared in the year 1793.
VIGIL OF THE NATIVITY OUR LADY (instituted by Pope Gregory II, 722)
also THE FOUNDATION OF THE LEGION OF MARY (Dublin, Ireland, 1921)
It was providential that the Legion of Mary was born on the evening of the vigil of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Looking at it from a liturgical perspective, the evening vespers, on the 7th of September, would be already introducing the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady on the evening preceding the 8th of September, and so the Legion of Mary could be said to have been born at the very start of the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady. In this way we can say that both the head and 'mystical body' of Our Lady were born at the same time!
The Legion of Mary can be compared to the Church, in the sense that the Church is called the Mystical Body of Christ, and we could, by analogy, call the Legion of Mary the mystical body of Mary. It is the the vehicle and instrument for practicing a True Devotion to Mary and introducing Christ into the world, once again, through Mary. To Jesus through Mary!
NATIVITY OR BIRTH OF OUR LADY
The day destined for Saint Anne to give birth to Mary, who was consecrated and sanctified to be the Mother of God, had finally arrived: a day most fortunate for the world. This birth happened on the eighth day of September, fully nine months having elapsed since the Conception of the soul of our most holy Queen and Lady.
Saint Anne was prepared by an interior voice of the Lord, informing her, that the hour of her parturition had come. Full of the joy of the Holy Spirit at this information, she prostrated herself before the Lord and besought the assistance of his grace and his protection for a happy deliverance.
Presently she felt a movement in her womb similar to that which is proper to creatures being born to the light. The most blessed child Mary was, at the same time, by divine providence and power, ravished into a most high ecstasy. Hence Mary was born into the world without perceiving it by her senses, for their operations and faculties were held in suspense. As she had the use of her reason, she would have perceived it by her senses, if they would have been left to operate in their natural manner at that time. However, the Almighty disposed otherwise, in order that the Princess of Heaven might be spared the sensible experience otherwise connected with birth.
She was born pure and stainless, beautiful and full of grace, thereby demonstrating, that she was free from the law and the tribute of sin. Although she was born substantially like other daughters of Adam, yet her birth was accompanied by such circumstances and conditions of grace, that it was the most wonderful and miraculous birth in all creation and will eternally redound to the praise of her Maker.
At twelve o-clock in the night this divine Luminary issued forth, dividing the night of the ancient Law and its pristine darknesses from the new day of grace, which now was about to break into dawn. She was clothed, handled and dressed like other infants, through she excelled all mortals and even all the angels in wisdom. Her mother did not allow Her to be touched by other hands than her own, but she herself wrapped her in swaddling clothes: and in this Saint Anne was not hindered by her present state of childbirth; for she was free from the toils and labors, which other mothers usually endure in such circumstances.
So then Saint Anne received in her arms her, who was her Daughter, but at the same time the most exquisite Treasure of all the universe, inferior only to God and superior to all other creatures.
OUR LADY OF PUY
On the road which passes the shrine of Our Lady of the Thorn high up in the Jura Mountains, there is the shrine of Our Lady of Puy. All crusaders passed this on their way to the Holy Land on pilgrimage to rescue the Holy Places from the hands of the infidel.
There was scarcely a knight who did not go to bid farewell to Our Lady of Puy and ask her to care for his dear ones, should he not return. Close to this shrine lived a wealthy nobleman, lord of a beautiful, spacious castle in the gorge, who offered hospitality to all while they made their devotions to the Mother of God and entrusted themselves body and soul to the Gracious Virgin Mary. Le Puy claims to be the location of the earliest vision of the Blessed Virgin after her death when she appeared to a sick woman in the first century A.D. It happened in this way.
In about the year 46 Saint Peter sent missionaries into a land that was then known as Gaul (modern day France). Saint George of Velay was the first Bishop of that See. In about the year 70 there was a widow from Ruessium named Villa who was a new convert and became sick with a high fever. Villa prayed to the Blessed Virgin for a cure, and Mary appeared to her, asking Villa to climb Mount Anis to be healed. Villa, believing in the apparition, had her servant carry her to the place indicated. When they reached the spot, the servant set Villa down to rest upon a large rock. Villa fell asleep, and when she awoke she found she was completely cured.
As the woman had slept, she saw, in a dream, a celestial female, whose dazzling robes floated like a white mist, and whose head was encircled by a crown of precious stones; this woman, of exquisite beauty, was surrounded by a retinue of angelic spirits.
"Who," inquired the daughter of the Gauls of one of the blessed spirits, "who is that queen so gracious, so noble, and so beautiful, who comes to me, a poor, sick woman, in my extreme affliction?"
"It is the Mother of God," replied the angel; "she has made choice of this rock to be invoked here, and she charges you to inform her servant George of it. That you may not take the order of Heaven for a vain dream, arise, woman, you are healed."
When she awoke, the woman had, in fact, no more languor or fever. Filled with gratitude, she lost no time in running to the bishop, and relating to him with her own mouth the message of the angel.
It seems that the Mother of God desired that a church eventually be built there, for when Villa told Bishop St. George of her miraculous cure, he climbed the mount himself with some of the clergy to see the place. Arriving at the very spot, Bishop St. George was startled to come upon an impossible sight. Even though it was the middle of summer, the peak of Mount Anis was inexplicably covered in snow. Then, as they marveled, a stag came from out of a thicket and stood before them, marking with his careful steps the outline of the rock upon which Villa had recently been cured. Bishop St. George had a fence built around that rock to preserve the place, but it was not until a much later date that the spot became the location of a new church altar.
It wasn’t until the year 221, well over a century later, when the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by angels, appeared to a paralyzed woman who besought her assistance through ardent prayer. Mary told the woman to ascend Mount Anis, which she immediately did. Upon reaching the fence Bishop St. George had erected there, the woman was instantly cured. The Mother of God appeared to the woman now to request that a church be built in her honor upon that holy ground.
Pope Callistus I gave permission for the church to be constructed, and it was Saint Martial who built the church. He left there a priceless relic – one of the sandals of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the church was completely finished the bishop went to Rome to request a solemn consecration for the church. He had not gotten far when he ran into two dignified old men, each of whom carried a gilded chest. They said the chests held precious relics brought all the way from Rome to be deposited at the new church at Mount Anis, and then told the bishop that heavenly angels had already consecrated the church. Saying so, the pair disappeared.
The bishop went back to his church barefoot, and upon going inside found it brilliantly illuminated by 300 torches. The altar had only recently been anointed with oil which gave off an appealing aroma. Having been consecrated by angels, the church has never been given any other consecration, and was given the name “Church of the Angels.”
The location became a popular site for pilgrims on the route to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, and there was no place in France more frequented. Some of pilgrims who visited Puy include Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Dominic, and Saint Vincent Ferrer, among many others. The Emperor Charlemagne visited the church in the years 772 and 800, and selected it as one of the locations for the gathering of alms to support the Pope, which monies became known as “Peter’s Pence.” The list of holy and great men who came as pilgrims is as impressive as the numbers of ordinary people. Pope Saint Leo IX declared that the Mother of God is nowhere given a more special and filial veneration, and that Notre Dame of Puy was the most illustrious shrine in France.
The Bishop Adhemar de Montheil, living at Puy, was said to be the first person to take up the Crusader’s Cross when Pope Urban II was preaching and encouraging the first Crusade. Acting as the Legate of the Holy See, this bishop went with the famous knight Godfrey de Bouillion on his journey to the Holy Land. Pope Urban II prayed for the success of the crusade at the church of Notre Dame de Puy on the Feast of the Assumption in the year 1095. Shortly before he left, the Bishop Adhemar de Montheil also prayed there for the liberation of the Holy Land, when overcome by a sudden inspiration rose and gave voice to a beautiful new prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, singing - “Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae, vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve!” or “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail our life, our sweetness, and our hope!” This prayer used to be known as the Anthem of Puy, and was a much beloved prayer of the knights on the First Crusade addressed to Our Lady in Heaven.
OUR LADY OF TRUT (Germany, 10th century)
The church of Our Lady of Trut is near the city of Cologne in Germany, and was built by Otho I; that is under his reign, by order of Saint Heribert, Archbishop of Cologne, on the very spot where, formerly, pagan idols had been worshiped. To atone for this, a shrine to the Mother of the true God was erected and has remained both a place of pilgrimage and of miracles.
Among the many miracles which Mary is accredited with at this shrine, two are mentioned in the life of Saint Heribert. During the time of a great drought, the saint went to the altar of Mary, and resting his head in his hands, he prayed long and fervently. When he left the church, rain was falling in torrents. Another time his prayers induced Mary to spare the people from the plague, then raging all around.
Saint Heribert, born in 970, was the Archbishop of Cologne, and was revered as a saint even during his lifetime. He founded the Abbey of Deutz, a Benedictine monastery in Cologne, though no reference can be found to Our Lady of Tru or Trut, and there is currently no town in Germany of that name.
Among the more rare and excellent privileges of most pure Mary, the chief one is, that she is Mother of God, which is the foundation of all the rest. The second is, that she was conceived without sin. The third, that she enjoyed many times the beatific vision in this mortal life, and the fourth is that she continually saw clearly the most holy soul of her Son and all its operations for her imitation. She had it present to her eyes, as a most clear and pure mirror, in which she could behold Herself again and again in order to adorn herself with most precious gems of virtue, made in imitation of those seen in that most holy Soul. There she saw it united with the divine Word and she exercised her humility in seeing how much her own human nature was inferior to that of Christ.
She perceived with the clearest insight the acts of gratitude and praise, with which the soul of Christ praised the Almighty for having been created out of nothing as the rest of the souls, and for the graces and gifts, with which it was endowed above others as a creature; and especially, for having been elevated and made godlike by the union of the human nature with the Divinity. She pondered over His petitions, prayers and supplications to His eternal Father for the human race; and how in all His other activity He prepared Himself for its Redemption and instruction, as the sole Redeemer and Teacher of man for eternal life.
OUR LADY OF HILDESHEIM (Germany, 11th century)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Hildesheim, in the duchy of Brunswick, in Germany. An image is there venerated, which Louis the Meek always wore about him. One day, when he had forgotten it in a wood, it became so heavy that it was impossible to remove it, which made the king resolve to build a church there.”
Saint Mary’s Cathedral at Hildesheim, Germany, is a medieval cathedral, built between the years 1010 and 1020. It is a Romanesque style structure, with thick walls and heavy towers. During World War II the cathedral was almost completely destroyed from allied bombing, although it was later rebuilt as closely as possible to its original appearance. It is listed on the World Cultural Heritage list since 1985. There are many medieval treasures that can still be seen inside the cathedral, but there is no mention of an image once venerated by King Louis the Meek.
There is a statue, known as the Tintenfassmadonna, on display inside the cathedral, which is thought to date from the 15th century. The Blessed Virgin wears a blue coat over a white tunic, as well as a large gold crown with five trifoliate lilies. On her left arm sits the Divine Child Jesus. He holds a pen in his right hand, and there is an unrolled scroll that reaches to His feet. Could it be the Book of Life, upon which is written the names of the saved?
There is also what is said to be a one-thousand-year-old rosebush that is climbing the wall of the cathedral’s apse. The bush survived the bombing of the cathedral in 1945, as the roots remained alive beneath the rubble, and according to legend, Hildesheim will continue to be prosperous as long as the rosebush continues to flourish.
THE MOST HOLY NAME OF MARY
In accordance with Jewish custom our Lady's parents named her eight days after her birth, and were inspired to call her Mary. The feast of the Holy Name of Mary therefore follows that of her Birthday, as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus follows Christmas. The feast originated in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513; Innocent XI extended its observance to the whole Church in 1683 in thanksgiving to our Lady for the victory on September 12, 1683 by John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening the West. This day was commemorated in Vienna by creating a new kind of pastry and shaping it in the form of the Turkish half-moon. It was eaten along with coffee which was part of the booty from the Turks.
The ancient Onomastica Sacra have preserved the meanings ascribed to Mary's name by the early Christian writers and perpetuated by the Greek Fathers. "Bitter Sea," "Myrrh of the Sea," "The Light Giver," "The Enlightened One," "Lady," "Seal of the Lord," and "Mother of the Lord" are the principal interpretations. These etymologies suppose that the Hebrew form of the name is Maryãm, not Miryãm. From the time of St. Jerome until the 16th century, preferred interpretations of Mary's name in the West were "Lady," "Bitter Sea," "The Light Giver," and especially "Star of the Sea." Stella Maris was by far the favored interpretation. The revival of Hebraic studies, which accompanied the Renaissance, led to a more critical appraisal of the meanings assigned to Our Lady's name. Miryãm has all the appearance of a genuine Hebrew name, and no solid reason has been discovered to warrant rejecting the Semitic origin of the word. The Hebrew name of Mary, Miryãm, (in Latin Domina) means lady or sovereign; this Mary is in virtue of her Son's sovereign authority as Lord of the World. We call Mary our Lady as we call Jesus our Lord, and when we pronounce her name we affirm her power, implore her aid and place ourselves under her protection.
OUR LADY OF ZELL (Mariazell, Austria);
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE (Spain 1100’s)
The places dedicated to Mary are the best proof that Mary gives help today to souls and bodies.
The glorious pilgrim church at Zell is nestled in the midst of the Styrian Mountains 50 miles southwest of Vienna. It is mantled in snow most of the winter and is the haven for skiers., is the Lourdes of central Europe. Since its founding, it has become the most popular Marian shrine in Austria, and there is a miraculous wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that is much venerated at the church.
According to tradition, there was once a Benedictine monk known as Magnus, who, in the year 1157, left his abbey at Lambrecht seeking a more contemplative life. As he was passing through a forest looking for a suitable place for his hermitage, he encountered a massive, black boulder that blocked his way. Magnus was stymied, as he could not continue in that direction, and so he took out a small statue of the Blessed Virgin that he kept with him. Placing the statue on a log, he knelt down to pray for guidance.
The heavenly assistance he requested was not long in coming, for the ground began to tremble, and with a loud crack, the boulder broke in two. A strange light emanated from the broken edges of the stone, revealing the miraculous cause of the break. Magnus realized at once that he had found the location of the hermitage he had been seeking, and placed his cherished statue on a stump and built a small shrine to display the miraculous statue. Pilgrims came to the place almost immediately as news of the miracle spread through the region.
Magnus’ statue, known as the "Magna Mater Austriae," can still be viewed. It is just over 18 inches tall, and is kept in what is called the Chapel of Miracles, which is located above the very place where Magnus had made his monastic cell. The statue depicts the Mother of God holding the Divine Child in her arm. The baby Jesus holds an apple, recalling the fall of man and his later redemption. The statue is also known as the Great Mother of Austria, the Great Lady of Hungary, and the Great Mother of the Slavic People.
This first small shrine was enlarged with a church in the year 1200, and was further expanded in 1335 after King Henry I had been granted a miraculous cure after being told in a dream to go to Our Lady of Zell. King Louis the Great of Hungary had the Mariazell Basilica built in the year 1363, which is also known as the Basilica of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, in gratitude for a military victory he won over a numerically superior army of Turks: 20,000 men against 80,000 Turks. The church he had built was of Gothic style, and in 1377, King Louis I added a chapel called the Gnadenkappelle, the Chapel of Grace. The church was damaged by fire in 1420 and again in 1474, but then expanded again in the 17th century, and is the same church that stands today.
The various peoples of the broad Danubian area have made Our Lady of Zell the goal of their pilgrimages. Jewels, crowns, and garments were brought to the Great Mother at Zell. Untold thousands of Austrians, Hungarians, Croats, Slovenes, Czechs have knelt there before Mary’s image, each feeling that his race was under the special protection of Mary.
A lamp of pure silver burns before the altar. It is the gift of the Empress Maria Theresa. She was mother of a great empire and brought her sorrow to Mariazell to the Mother of God. No castle of Our Lady was more honored and enriched by the Hapsburghs.
An average of one million people annually make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Zell, which in 1907 was made a Minor Bascilica by Pope Saint Pius X, who also crowned the statue that same year. There are solemn processions on the eve of the feasts of Our Lady of Mariazell, September 13th, The Feast of the Assumption, August 15th, and the Nativity of the Blessed Mother, September 8th.
The great Cardinal Mindszenty was buried at Mariazell, Our Lady of Zell, in 1975.
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE (Spain 1100’s)
The Marian shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located in the Extremadura region of what was the Kingdom of Castile, now known as Spain. The shrine houses a Black Madonna, a statue crafted by the loving hands of Saint Luke the Evangelist himself. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a place of pilgrimage still very celebrated in Spain. F. Marian assures us that this image, Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was already famous in the fourth century, was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to Saint Leander, Bishop of Seville.
Spain was invaded by the Muslims in the year 711, who completely overwhelmed the Visigothic kingdom then in existence. The beloved statue of the Blessed Virgin was taken by the Christians who fled before the advance of the invading hordes, eventually placing the statue in a strongbox and burying it in a cave near the Asturian Mountains to keep it safe from the enemy. Those who had safeguarded the statue died, while the existence of the statue and the knowledge of its location were lost to men.
A humble, yet very capable man named Pelayo retreated to the Asturian Mountains, and soon other brave men joined him in resisting the Muslim conquerors of Spain. Pelayo was made their king, and this was the beginning of the Reconquista, or re-conquest of Spain, which took nearly 800 years to achieve. When the Reconquista was completed Spain would be a world power, once again Catholic, and Islam driven out of the Peninsula.
In the year 1326, the Blessed Virgin appeared to a shepherd near the village of Guadalupe, asking him to have priests come to dig at the site of the apparition. When they responded, the priests found the strongbox that had been buried in the earth over 600 years previously. It contained documents that identified the cherished statue that became known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. A Marian shrine was built there in her honor.
Immediately pilgrims began to visit the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and in 1340, King Alfonso XI endowed the sanctuary over which he took a particular interest. It was in that same year that Abu Hasan of Morocco had invaded the Iberian Peninsula with a huge army, intending to march into Castile and reverse the earlier Catholic expansion into what had been Muslim territory. The battle of Rio Salado had been hard fought, though it ended in a Christian victory that King Alfonso attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Forty-nine years later, Don Juan I gave the shrine into the hands of certain Hieronomite monks, adding to it the lordship of a large town which had grown up near it. The convent, which took the name of Santa Maria, is situated in the middle of the present city; and, as the times when it was founded were very insecure. It has more the appearance of a superb citadel, than of a peaceful monastery. There is an infirmary for the sick poor, a house of entertainment for strangers, two colleges, and two fine cloisters.
In 1389 the celebrated Spanish architect, Juan Alphonso, began the church, which has a nave and two aisles, and the walls of which are ornamented with magnificent votive offerings, attesting, as the Spaniards say, to more than three thousand authentic miracles of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The image of the Blessed Virgin is upon the high altar, which, but a few years ago, was lighted by more than a hundred lamps of massive silver. Queen Dona Maria, wife of Don Juan II, his son, Don Enrique, and some other princes, have chosen to be buried in this church, which is decorated with excellent tapestry by Zurbaran and Jordan.
The veneration for Our Lady of Guadalupe crossed the ocean, and was established by miracles in Mexico, a country totally devoted to the Mother of God. The magnificent captain, Hernan Cortez, conquered the Aztec Empire, paving the way for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Cortez himself was from Extremadura, so it should be no surprise that the Blessed Virgin should identify herself to the Indian, Saint Juan Diego, as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
OUR LADY OF EINSIEDELN (Switzerland)
The monastery of Einsiedeln does not rise beneath a mild sky; its steeple, covered with snow for a great part of the year, has its outline traced upon dull clouds, in which are hidden long frosts; at its base extends a barren country, where poor harvests ripen with difficulty; the fruits are rare and insipid, and the fields are enlivened only by the lilac flower of the potato; but Our Lady delights to manifest her power there, and the rocky road of the sanctified mountain is often watered with the noblest blood of Germany; for more than one count of the empire, more than one noble German lady, make it a duty to ascend the Einsiedeln barefoot.
There still remains some little of the ancient fervor of the brave men of Frederick in old Germany. As to the Catholic population of Switzerland, nothing can equal their confidence in Our Lady of the Hermits, also known now as Our Lady of Einsiedeln, and there are few families, even in the most distant cantons, where this ancient pilgrimage is dispensed with.
Volumes have been written in Switzerland, on the miracles worked by the Madonna of Einsiedeln, Our Lady of Einsiedeln. We will select from these marvelous accounts only one fantastic legend of the seventeenth century, which we found in a very rare book of devotion, printed at Fribourg. The Swiss piously believe in the authenticity of this strange fact; the French, and anyone else, are free to disbelieve it.
In one of those immense halls of the Middle Ages, the walls of which were adorned with paintings in fresco, of the most frightful character, and around which were seen stone seats, which are found only in the feudal manors of Germany, some Swiss gentlemen were seated at table, who passed round the wine in large cups.
At the most interesting time of the German feast, and as a young officer of the name of Berthold was saying the most foolish things. A pilgrim was introduced, who was going alone and barefoot to Our Lady of the Hermits. The pilgrim had been compelled to beg hospitality at the approach of a tempest, which already made the great pines of a neighboring forest creak, and the waves of the lake roar.
The lord arose from his place and courteously led his new guest to the corner of a wide Gothic fireplace, where whole trunks of oak were burning. This duty fulfilled, Berthold, without any respect for the austere presence of the traveler, resumed the foolish and impious discourse which he had interrupted, now and then giving a side-look at the pilgrim to ascertain the effect produced upon him by his audacious and wicked words, but the pale and emaciated countenance of the holy man preserved the immobility of marble. When the feast was over the guests called for their horses, to return to their several homes.
“The night is dark,” said the lord to the young miscreant, who had the honor to belong to his family. “You have to pass through an area which is haunted by those wandering spirits who move about the world in the dark, to do mischief…I am afraid you may meet with some sad adventure; believe me, and stay here.”
“Bah!” replied the officer, laughing, who was in the service of France. “I fear neither God nor the devil!”
“Are you quite sure of that?” said the pilgrim in a tome of dark raillery, which frightened the rest.
“So sure, my good pilgrim, that I drink to Lucifer, and ask him to escort me tonight, if he is disengaged.”
“You would richly deserve it!” cried the lord of the place.
“We will pray to Our Lady of Einsiedeln for you,” said the traveler. “You will stand in need of it.”
“I will not trouble you to do so,” replied Berthold, saluting the holy man in derision.
A few minutes later Berthold was on horseback and singing the burden of a Bacchanalian song, as he descended the sloping heath which was crowned by the little fortified castle. The hour was late, the silence profound, and the solitude absolute. The moon, full and solitary, shone at times amid huge black clouds in a starless sky, and broad flashes of lightning darted across the horizon.
The young nobleman, for some cause or the other, stopped singing, but kept on swearing. At length he arrived at the dangerous place to which his relative had alluded, and which bore the name of The Devil’s Way, a name common enough in Switzerland. It was a deep gorge, hollowed out between the red sides of two mountains, a sinister place where the Alpine goat-herd would hardly have trusted himself in broad daylight. At that late hour, when the stillness and darkness made superstitions formidable, the young Swiss, uneasy at times, would keep his hand upon his sword. Berthold was not insensitive to the feeling of dread, though he laughed aloud at his fear, ashamed at himself. “I have solemnly called upon Lucifer to serve me as a torch-bearer,” said the miscreant, who wanted to give his pride the satisfaction of a bravado; “but he turns a deaf ear…or else all Hell is empty.”
The thunder rolled at a distance, and a long flash of lighting lit up the woods and mountains, letting him see two hideous dwarfs standing at his horse’s head. “Ah!” said the officer, who felt himself growing pale. Then, resuming all his insolence, he said: “Begone, infernal crew!” Drawing and furiously brandishing his sword, he cried: “Ye two miserable dwarves! You might frighten a cowherd of the Alps!”
The dwarves disappeared, and the galloping of two horses, who came down the almost vertical steep of the mountain, as swift as the wind, made Berthold quickly turn his head. They were two horsemen, covered with black armor, and mounted on horses of the same color. Their eyes glared like burning lamps through their visors, which were down. On their arms were hung, by a small chain of polished steel, the battle club of ancient Germany, which is a club covered with iron spikes, that appeared still red with human blood; and a lurid aura of light played on their helmets. The dark horsemen ranged themselves, in silence, on either side of the pale officer and snatched the reins from his trembling hands. A moment later and the three set off with the swiftness of the wind.
Mountains after mountains disappeared, sparks of fire were struck from the flint stones of the roads; the distance was no sooner perceived than it was swallowed up. Soon they passed over the frail bridges of flexible branches, beneath which cataracts roar, and where the bold chamois hunter hardly dares to set his foot. Thus they reached the region of eternal snows, and the horses redoubling their furious pace, made for a gulf at the bottom of which rolled, at a depth which made one giddy, a torrent the noise of which was scarcely perceptible. All of a sudden, from the midst of those dark waters, reddened at intervals by subterraneous fires, a multitude of hallow and hoarse voices were heard.
“Vengeance! Vengeance!” they cried. “Give up the seducer, the false friend, the duelist, to us!”
“We are bringing him!” replied the horsemen, brandishing their heavy battle-clubs. A cold sweat ran down from the forehead of Berthold; his hair stood on end with fear, and his features shrunk up with convulsions of horror – for among these accusing voices there were the well-known accents of voices which went to his very soul; remorse began to speak as loudly as fear!
“Give up to us the lawless gambler, the detractor, the blasphemer, the false swearer!” cried out the voices from the abyss.
The dark guides of Berthold, laughing in the hollow of their helmets, with a kind of metallic grin, horrible to hear, replied loudly to the subterranean voices, “We are bringing him! We are bringing him!”
“Bring us the impious wretch!”
“We bring him!!!” howled out the black horsemen.
Berthold almost lost his senses. Already the three travelers were close to the extreme edge of an abrupt rock, at the bottom of which was the hollow abyss which clamored so imperiously for the Swiss nobleman. Another second and all would be over for him! But, behold! All at once the two horsemen, in the middle of a furious gallop, suddenly became motionless, like two equestrian statues of black marble. The faint sound of a bell had just died away upon the snow-covered plain—it was the midnight office which was rung at Our Lady of Einsiedeln. Berthold understood that the influence of the Blessed Virgin had paralyzed the terrible power which was dragging him to Hell.
Hastily making the sign of the cross, Berthold recommended himself ardently and sincerely to the protecting Madonna, Our Lady of Einsiedeln, who seemed to interpose herself between him and the exemplary punishment which he acknowledged, with compunction that he had deserved. The bell ceased, and the young officer felt a horrible palpitation of his heart when he saw the two horsemen violently moving upon their black chargers. But the voice of repentance had penetrated to the starry throne of Mary, and the phantoms, after gestures of rage and regret, precipitated themselves to the bottom of the gulf, leaving Berthold on the very edge of it.
The moon, which had quite cleared itself from the clouds which had before darkened the sky, shone like a golden lamp in the height of the firmament, and magnificently lighted up the landscape. The officer discovered, to his great surprise, that he was on one of the highest shelves of Mount Rigi, from which he had great difficulty in descending. It goes without saying that he descended Mount Rigi to the church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln a changed man.
Some days afterwards the young lord went barefoot to Our Lady of Einsiedeln to the profound astonishment of his festive companions, and made a vow, in expiation of his past conduct, that no beverage should henceforth pass his lips but the water of the spring. He edified all who met him by his new, and much more pious, conduct.
THE SEVEN SORROWS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
In 1233, there lived, in the thriving city-republic of Florence, seven rich, distinguished young businessmen. The youngest was twenty-seven, and the eldest thirty-five. All seven were unusually good Catholics. Five years previously they had joined the Confraternity of the Laudesi (Praisers) of Our Lady, and they loved to attend, together, the regular meetings, at which they prayed and sang hymns in honor of the Blessed Virgin.
Then, on the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, after Holy Communion, each of these men simultaneously had an unforgettable mystical experience, which drastically changed the whole course of his life: each one separately saw a supernaturally bright light, in which the Queen of Heaven, accompanied by many angels, said to each of them: “Leave the world and retire together into solitude, in order to fight yourselves. Live wholly for God. You will thus experience heavenly consolations. My protection and assistance will never fail you.”
They went, at once, to consult the spiritual director of their Confraternity. Both he and the Bishop of Florence judged it to be the will of God. They broke the astounding news to their families and friends, and, on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, they, clothed in coarse gray monk’s habits, bade farewell to all their dear ones, and, with the Bishop’s blessing, left their comfortable homes and went to live in a dilapidated old farmhouse on the outskirts of the town.
In May, 1234, the Blessed Virgin showed them, in a vision, a lonely tree-covered mountain and said: “Go to Monte Senario, and live still more austerely!” They began to lead such a strict life, that a visiting Cardinal was shocked by their austerity and ordered them to be less cruel to themselves. Nevertheless, many men wanted to join them, but the seven humbly refused to consider themselves as a new religious order. So, again, they turned to Mary for guidance, and consulted their Bishop.
In answer to their fervent prayers, they were given a sign. To their utter amazement, they found that a vine, which they had planted, had miraculously developed green leaves and clusters of ripe fruit, while all around, the other plants remained bare and frostbitten! The Bishop, had a vision of this, which was interpreted to him in a dream: the seven branches of the vine represented the seven hermits; the grapes were those who were going to join the Order, for, as true religious they were henceforth to spread devotion to Jesus Christ and His Mother among the people. Finally, on Good Friday, April 13, 1239, which that year happened to coincide with the Feast of the Annunciation, the Blessed Virgin again appeared to them. Mary said to them:
“Beloved and elect Servants, I have come to grant your prayers. Here is the habit which I wish you to wear henceforth. It is black, that it may always remind you of the keen sorrows which I experienced through my Son’s crucifixion and death. This scroll bearing the words ‘Servants of Mary’ indicates the name by which you are to be known. This book contains the Rule of St. Augustine. By following it you will gain these palms in Heaven, if you serve me faithfully on earth!”
Thus did Mary herself found the new Order of her Servants. She also gave the same message to the Bishop, who gladly erected the group into a religious order. The new Order of Servants of Mary, or Servite Fathers, expanded marvelously, as the Blessed Virgin inspired many fine young men to join it. Within a few years it numbered over one hundred houses—spreading the devotion to Our Lady’s Sorrows
The Devotion in Modern Times
On the front cover of St. Louis de Montfort’s book, The Secret of the Rosary, we used to see a picture of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. This picture, somewhat mysterious in its origin, was discovered at the time of the 1918 World War II armistice, in the cellar of the boarding school, where Berthe Petit, a humble Franciscan, Tertiary, had been educated. After the troops had departed, one of the Bernardine nuns, in putting things in order, found a piece of cardboard, on which was pasted a pornographic picture and she tore it off to consign it to flames. To her astonishment, she found that it covered this beautiful representation of the Blessed Virgin! It seems to combine the art of both the Eastern and the Western Rites. The facial features resemble those of the well known Pieta. Prayer before this picture has brought signal favors.
Our Lord had confided to Berthe Petit: “Teach souls to love the Heart of My Mother, pierced by the very sorrow which pierced mine.” (Dec. 25, 1909)
“The Heart of my Mother has the right to be called Sorrowful and I wish this title placed before that of Immaculate, because she has won it herself. The Church has defined, in the case of my Mother, what I Myself had ordained—her Immaculate Conception. This right, which My Mother has, to a title of justice is now, according to My express wish, to be known and universally accepted. She has earned it by her identification with My sorrows, by her sufferings, by her sacrifices and her immolation in Calvary, endured in perfect correspondence with My grace, for the salvation of mankind.” (Sept. 8, 1911).
“It is hearts that must be changed. This will be accomplished only by the Devotion proclaimed, explained , preached and recommended everywhere. Recourse to My Mother under this title, which I wish for her universally, is the last help I shall give before the end of time.” (July 2, 1940)
OUR LADY OF GOOD NEWS (Sicily)
On the spot where today stand in Palermo the church of Holy Mary, there was once an inn for pilgrims. It is related that a pilgrim wishing to make a fire to warm himself, picked up a piece of old board that was encrusted with dirt. It appeared it had once been used to cover a wall.
The man attacked the board with an axe but could not break it or even chip off a single splinter. He struck it repeatedly at one angle and then another, but it was of no use—he could not even make a mark in the board; it seemed to be held together with invisible bonds.
Astonished, everyone presumed the board must conceal some divine secret, so they cleaned the dirt from it and discovered a painting—an image of Our Lady with the Infant Jesus nestled on her right arm! She was being crowned by two graceful little angels.
The pilgrims lost no time in getting the story of this strange happening to the Archbishop, and he ordered a procession of the clergy to bring the image to his palace. The Archbishop himself cleaned the board further and as he worked, the features of the Mother and Child became clearer and more distinct. The image was placed on the altar of the archbishop’s palace and venerated with deep affection by all the people. This marked the beginning of miracles; the fame of which flowed out not only through Sicily, but through all of Italy. A confraternity was instituted and with the gifts of the faithful, a church was erected for the Queen of Heaven.
One time while Pignatelli, the Viceroy of Sicily, was going to the church, a messenger who had traveled far, come to him. Pignatelli called out, “Do you bring good news?”
“The very best,” answered the messenger. Hearing this, Pignatelli dismounted and took the letters from the messenger, and entered the church to read them.
The Viceroy and the whole court had been in great anxiety because the Emperor of the Saracens—their principal enemy—had moved many troops from Africa against the Christian army and naval forces. The news that the letters contained was that the Saracens had withdrawn and peace negotiations had been successful.
So, the Viceroy having received such happy news about the Saracens’ threat, paid thanks to the Queen of Heaven; then the Viceroy said to all present, “This church that has the name of Holy Mary, will in the future be known as Holy Mary of Good News, because within it such good news has been received.” Thus he ordered and thus the church was named, and the image became Our Lady of Good News.
OUR LADY OF THE CANDLES
When white men came to the Canary Islands for the first time, the natives presented them with a mystery that no one has ever solved, even to this day—the presence on the islands of a statue of Our Lady!
The natives had discovered the statue of Our Lady of the Candles in the year 1400, as it had been found in a cave by two shepherds who had entered the cave seeking refuge from a storm. Neither of them had ever seen a statue before, and so thought it was a living being.
The sheep would not enter the cave, seemingly out of fear of the statue, so at first the two shepherds motioned for the stranger to go away. When the statue did not move or respond, one of the men picked up a rock to throw at it. Instantly his arms stiffened so that he could not move, and his arms began to throb in pain. The other shepherd moved in close to the statue, and although it seemed to watch him, yet still it neither moved nor spoke. Puzzled, he took out his knife and tried to cut its finger - but instead of marking the statue, his own finger received the wound he had attempted to inflict, and then began to bleed profusely! Terrified, the two men fled the scene, leaving their sheep and everything else behind them.
The men reported what had happened to their chief, relating their belief that a great god lived in the cave. The chief commanded them to bring this being to him. Overcoming their fear, the two shepherds returned to the cave and found the statue had not moved. When the first of them reached out to take hold of it, as soon as he had touched the statue he found his finger was instantly healed of the wound he had received.
The men reverently carried the statue to a house where their chief directed and tried to show it honor in the best way they knew how. A few nights later they were surprised to hear beautiful music, and to see strange beings, all glowing and alight, setting candles around the strange “god” and lighting them. The natives had never seen candles.
A special house was built for the statue, and for fifty years there was beautiful music, light, and a lovely fragrance surrounding the statue that no one could explain. The natives made offerings of fruit and flowers, and noted that the light “beings” kept the candles burning around the crude altar.
In 1520 a native boy was captured and taken to Spain; he returned after a few years, and told the natives about Christianity. When missionaries came, the people were prepared to receive them and the True Faith.
Christians who had recently arrived and lived on a nearby island, recognized whom the statue must represent. At first, they begged the natives of Tenerife to let them have it, though the pagan natives refused, claiming she had brought them good fortune. The Christians decided to steal the statue of Our Lady of the Candles, feeling it was only proper that it should be in Christian hands. They succeeded in their plan, and brought the statue to their church, setting it on the high altar and surrounding it with burning candles.
Returning in the morning, they found that the statue had turned its back to the congregation, and no amount of pulling could get it turned to the front again. A serious sickness then invaded the island, and, repentant and frightened, the Christians took the statue back. Surprisingly, the natives had not noticed that it had been taken. The incredible explanation was that another statue, and exact duplicate to Our Lady of the Candles, had stood in its place during the entire time the original had been away.
Not surprisingly, devotion to Our Lady of the Candles spread rapidly through Spanish countries to South America and the Philippines.
The original statue of Our Lady of the Candles was made of heavy reddish wood, which had never been identified. It is 3 ½ feet high. The eyes of the statue seem to follow the beholder, and the color of the cheeks sometimes changes. The hair is uncovered, golden and worn in braids. The Babe has a golden bird in its hands. Our Lady holds a candle in her hand.
Since there are no bees on the island, the candles are also a mystery. A few days before the feast of Candlemass in the year 1497, great quantities of a particularly pure wax were found at various places on the island. Several times since, the same thing has happened. People gather the wax and save it for pious souvenirs. It is sometimes found in the shape of loaves, weighing ten or twelve pounds. Another mystery concerns the candle stumps which even today are found near the cave. Some are set up on the rocks of the beach. Wax and wicks are of strange materials, which the good people of the neighborhood insist could only have come from Heaven.
OUR LADY OF SMELCEM (Flanders)
According to tradition, one day long ago in the 10th century there were two shepherd boys out tending their flock in a field of Flanders when one of the boys noticed that some of the sheep seemed to be acting strangely.
“There must be something wrong at the end of the field over there,” observed the first shepherd boy with some alarm to his unsuspecting companion.
“Why, what makes you think so?” questioned the second lad.
“The sheep topple forward,” he said, watching as the furthest sheep seemed to dip and then stand erect again. “Look! Let’s go see.”
The boys ran together through the field until they drew closer to the sheep that were acting curiously. Slowing with suspicion as they approached the furthest sheep, the boys carefully made their way through the grazing flock searching the ground and watching for anything unexpected as they neared the place.
When they arrived at the head of the flock, the boys observed that each sheep, upon coming to a certain spot, went down with their front legs bent and their nose touching the ground. Then, gracefully and quickly, they arose and continued to graze. It appeared as if the sheep were bowing in greeting, or even genuflecting, to someone or something. It was all very odd. Turning to look in the direction the sheep faced, the boys suddenly saw a small statue of the Virgin Mary that stood peacefully in the niche of the rocks that marked the end of the pasture.
This, then, is the story of Our Lady of Smelcem. The news of what the shepherds had experienced when they had observed their sheep bending their knees before the image of the Blessed Virgin, spread throughout all of Flanders. The faith of the people, and the sudden pilgrimages, occasioned Baldwin IV, Count of Flanders and surnamed "Fair Beard", to visit Our Lady of Smelcem seeking a cure for a malady from which he had suffered for seventeen years. Praying to the Mother of God for relief, Baldwin was miraculously cured of his malady, and decided to finance the building a church at the place in thanksgiving for having received the favor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
OUR LADY OF LA SALETTE (France)
Mélanie and Maximin, the two children privileged to see Mary in 1846, came from the town of Corps, near Grenoble, in a poor part of south-eastern France. Maximin Giraud was eleven years old at the time and Mélanie Calvat was fourteen. On Saturday, September 19, they were looking after their employers’ cattle, high up on the pasture above La Salette, a village near Corps, when they saw a wonderful apparition of Mary.
A globe of light opened to reveal a resplendent woman, seated on a stone, with her head in her hands. The children later described her as very tall and beautiful, wearing a long, white, pearl studded, sleeved dress, and a white shawl, with some sort of tiara, or crown, on her head. Hanging from her neck was a large crucifix, adorned with a small hammer and pincers, with a brilliantly shining figure of Christ on it. The whole effect was as if she was made of light.
Speaking tearfully, she told them that, unless people repented, she would be forced to let the punishing arm of her Son fall, because it had become so heavy. Mary went on to complain that she had to pray ceaselessly to her Son for them, but the people still worked on Sundays and blasphemed. She also spoke of coming punishments for these sins, including crop blights and famine. She confided a secret to each of the children, which they were not to divulge, although, eventually, these secrets were made known to Pope Pius IX
Finally, she asked the children to spread her message before disappearing. When the children returned home they told their story, an account of which was taken down in writing the next day. They faced much opposition in making known Mary's message, but they maintained their story with resolution. The local Bishop, too, faced quite a degree of opposition in investigating the apparition, and it was only after four years, and after having set up two commissions of enquiry, that Mgr. de Bruillard, as bishop of Grenoble, approved of devotion to Our Lady of Salette, in the following terms.
"We declare that the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two shepherds, on September 19, 1846, on a mountain in the Alps in the parish of La Salette, bears in itself all the marks of truth and that the faithful are justified in believing without question in its truth. And so, to mark our lively gratitude to God and the glorious Virgin Mary, we authorise the cult of Our Lady of La Salette."
We should also note, that St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who was living at the time, also spoke favorably of the apparition of Our Lady of Salette.
OUR LADY OF THE SILVER FOOT (at Toul in Lorraine, France)
At Toul, in Lorraine, there was a statue, which, according to an ancient tradition, informed a woman on September 20th in the year 1284, of an act of treachery which was being planned against the city.
The statue was called Our Lady of the Silver Foot, or Notre-Dame au pied d’argent, as she is known in the native French. The faithful keep the memory of this stone statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was located just inside the entrance of the church and placed over a sculpted clam. In those days, there would be a lamp burning before it on feast days, and almost every day the faithful offered small candles, which they lit and rested on a circular iron candlestick, that was placed before the statue. It was well known that several people, who prayed before this statue, were cured of various diseases, but the devotion and respect of the people, towards this image, grew more than ever at the time of the Bishop Conrad, because of the miracle that occurred in the following manner:
A woman named Helwide was in the Cathedral Saint-Etienne de Toul, praying to the Blessed Virgin for consolation and the repose of the souls of her husband and daughter, who had recently died. It was about midnight, when the canons were praying Matins, that the Blessed Virgin Mary suddenly appeared to her.
The Virgin Mary ordered Helwide to go immediately to find a man named Rimert, who was the guardian of “The Door to the Chair.” The Door to the Chair gave access to the Castrum, a little entrance to the city, near Tanner Street. Helwide was urged to go quickly, for an enemy proposed to enter the city by that door, to set their homes on fire and fill the streets with blood.
Regaining her senses after the vision, Helwide got up feeling very puzzled. She was hesitant about what she should do though, but as Rimbert’s home was not far distant and was on her way home, anyway, she decided she would, indeed, go there.
No sooner had Helwide stepped out of the church, than she met the night-watchmen on patrol. She told them the tale of her vision, and they responded by mocking her and making derogatory jokes. Despite this, two of them still decided to follow and actually see what would happen, if Helwide could find the porter she sought.
The pair arrived, with Helwide, at the house and simply thrust the door open. Rimbert sat on his bunk, seeming startled, yet as if expecting the visit. Helwide briefly stated the purpose of her visit, and Rimbert exclaimed, “I had precisely the same vision and the same warning! I do not know if it occurred in my sleep or in the state of wakefulness, but I have been told that the statue will move her foot in testimony of the truth!”
At these words, all those present were seized with a great desire to see such a prodigy. With a rush they ran to the Cathedral and removed the candles and all that stood before the image. To their disappointment they found that the Virgin’s feet remained mostly hidden beneath the folds of the clothing of the statue as before.
In the meantime, several scholars and some laymen, who were called to see the wonder, arrived on the scene. Seeing that nothing was apparently going to happen, they began cursing all the rest as senseless interpreters of dreams. At they stood not far from the statue, many of them fell silent, as they saw the statue suddenly move, as an entire foot of the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared from beneath the folds of her garment.
Terrified, but convinced, this time they all agreed to announce the peril, which they now knew actually threatened them. Quickly rendering their thanks to Mary, they agreed to defend the city and call for reinforcements. They arrived just in time to take up their positions to defend the entrance to the city, with the assistance of the Episcopal palace guards.
A tremendous struggle occurred, when the butchers broke down the door and entered the courtyard, but the defenders were committed to the fight and held their own. When reinforcements arrived, the invaders fell to the last man.
To perpetuate the memory and recognize the protection granted to them by the Blessed Virgin Mary, the people of Toul had a shoe of pure silver made to cover the foot on the Blessed Virgin’s statue. From that time on the statue was known as Our Lady of the Silver Foot. They also hung, on the wall of the cathedral, a picture which represented the heavenly vision, and Mary was declared patroness of the city.
The image of Our Lady of the Silver Foot was venerated in the city and the surrounding area, and in case of the threat of any public calamity, the Blessed Virgin was invoked and, henceforth, the statue would be carried in procession throughout the streets of the city. The magistrates, themselves, considered it an honor to take the statue upon their own shoulders. Pilgrimages were made to Our Lady of the Silver Foot; prayers were answered, graces were bestowed and miracles wrought.
The original statue of Our Lady of the Silver Foot was destroyed during the ravages of the French Revolution (1789), and was replaced later by a modern statue that was stolen in the 1980’s. The Gothic cathedral was repaired, after being damaged during the French Revolution, but still awaits repair after the damage caused, when it was struck during an aerial bombardment in the Second World War. There was once also a monastery at Toul, but no trace of it remains.
OUR LADY OF PUCHA (Valencia, Spain)
According to tradition, the image of Our Lady of Pucha, or Nuestra Senora del Puche, was fashioned by the angels, and made of the very stone of the sacred sepulcher, where the most holy body of the Mother of God lay hidden for three days.
After the assumption of the great Queen into Heaven, the holy angels took the statue they had created from Gethsemani to Pucha, placing it in a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The statue of Our Lady of Pucha remained there until it was buried, beneath a large bell, by the religious who lived at that first monastery at Pucha, when the Moors entered into Spain at the time of the Goths.
This statue remained in the earth for well over 500 years, until Divine providence facilitated the happy discovery by the great servant of God, Saint Peter Nolasco, founder and patriarch of the Royal Order of Mercy, in the year 1237. Saint Peter Nolasco witnessed, on four consecutive Saturdays, that seven strange lights, looking like seven stars, were observed at night over the same place. They would seem to drop from Heaven seven times, and disappear into the earth, always in the same place. Saint Peter felt certain that this strange phenomenon had a meaning and purpose; so he commanded men to dig about the spot. They had not gone far into the earth when they came upon a bell of prodigious size, beneath which was a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary. Saint Peter took it up in his arms, recognizing it as a valuable gift from Heaven, and built an altar upon the very spot where it was buried. This altar became very celebrated for the number of miracles performed there.
The discovery of the sacred image of Our Lady of Pucha was a powerful encouragement to King James I of Aragon, who was resolved to finish the conquest of Valencia at that time. He credited Our Lady of Pucha, and the prayers of Saint Peter Nolasco for his conquest, when he received, into his hands, the keys to the city of Valencia from the Moors. He acclaimed Our Lady of Pucha the Patroness of Valencia, and of his entire kingdom.
The holy image was always considered miraculous, and was universally revered throughout Christendom. Popes and kings, and very many people of the greatest holiness and nobility came on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Pucha. The powerful protection of Our Lady of Puche was confirmed through many long years, for, whenever there was a dangerous storm threatening, the bells in the church bell tower would ring and people would again witness the wonder of the seven stars.
The angels could also often be heard singing soft melodies and sweetest chants in the choir of the church that were heard by the religious, filling their hearts with heavenly rejoicing.
It is recorded that a boy named Jose Carbonell, the son of Agustin Carbonell, was pushed by another boy and fell with his arm landing in the path of a heavy cart. The boy’s arm was crushed so severely, that it was soon considered necessary for a surgeon to cut-off the arm to save the child’s life.
The following morning the boy’s father went to work at his brother’s farm, from which he could see the church of Our Lady of Pucha. He prayed, as he worked, with humble supplication and many tears. At the end of the day the father returned home to find the surgeon had just arrived and was undoing the bandages over the boy’s injured arm. Once it was unwrapped, the surgeon cried out, “Gentlemen, what is this? This arm is good and healthy!” In recognition of the favor, the boy eventually took the habit of the Religious of Our Lady of Mercy.
The heavenly image of Our Lady of Pucha was eventually taken from Pucha to Valencia, at the request of the Catholic monarch Philip II. The people followed the venerable Patriarch Don Juan de Ribera, Archbishop of Valencia, on foot in solemn procession on Sunday, 17 July, 1588. All was done with the same solemnity with which the procession of the Blessed Sacrament occurred in this famous city.
The praises of the angels could be heard for sixteen nights in the holy church of Valencia, and the wonder of the seven stars was frequently seen, filling with inexpressible joy the witnesses, both inside and outside of Valencia. It is known that the stars have appeared many times on the bell tower of the church of Our Lady of Pucha since then, and, not only in ancient times, but they were especially noted between the years 1723 to 1758.
THE GIVING OF THE NAME "MARY" TO OUR LADY BY ST. ANNE
In this divine consistory and tribunal of the Most Holy Trinity it was determined to give a name to the Child Queen. As there is no proper and legitimate name, except it be found in the immutable being of God Himself (for from it are participated and determined according to their right weight and measure all things in infinite wisdom) His Majesty wished Himself to give and impose that name in Heaven.
He thereby made known to the angelic spirits, that the three Divine Persons had decreed and formed the sweet names of Jesus and Mary, for the Son and Mother, from the beginning before the ages, and that they had been delighted with them and had engraved them on their eternal memories to be, as it were, the Objects for whose service they should create all things.
Being informed of these and many other mysteries, the holy angels heard a voice from the throne speaking in the person of the Father:
“Our chosen One shall be called MARY, and this name is to be powerful and magnificent. Those that shall invoke it with devout affection shall receive most abundant graces; those that shall honor it and pronounce it with reverence shall be consoled and vivified, and will find in it the remedy of their evils, the treasures for their enrichment, the light which shall guide them to heaven. It shall be terrible against the power of Hell, it shall crush the head of the serpent and it shall win glorious victories over the princes of Hell.”
The Lord commanded the angelic spirits to announce this glorious name to Saint Anne, so that what was decreed in heaven might be executed on earth. The heavenly Child, lovingly prostrate before the throne, rendered most acceptable and human thanks to the eternal Being; and she received the name with most admirable and sweet jubilation.
The holy angels honored and acknowledged Most Holy Mary as the future Mother of the Word and as their Queen and Mistress, enthroned at the right hand of her Son; they showed their veneration of her holy name, prostrating themselves as it proceeded from the throne in the voice of the eternal Father, especially those, who had it written on the devices over their breast.
On the eighth day after the birth of the great Queen, multitudes of most beautiful angels, in splendid array, descended from on high bearing an escutcheon on which the name of MARY was engraved and shone forth in great brilliancy. Appearing to the blessed mother Anne, they told her that the name of her daughter was to be MARY, which name they had brought from heaven, and which Divine Providence had selected and now ordained to be given to their child by Joachim and herself.
The more than happy father accepted the name with joy and devout affection. They decided to call their relatives and a priest and then, with much solemnity and festivity, they imposed the name of Mary on their Child. The angels also celebrated this event with most sweet and ravishing music, which, however, was heard only by the mother and her most holy Daughter.
Thus was the divine Princess named by the Holy Trinity; in Heaven, on the day of her nativity, and on earth, after eight days.
(Taken from The City of God, by Venerable Mary of Agreda)
OUR LADY OF VALVENERE (Spain)
There is an image of Our Lady, of which we only have a replica of the original, which appears to have dated from the tenth century and is preserved in the Royal Abbey shrine of Our Lady of Valvanera, or Valvanere, in Rioja, jealously guarded by Benedictine monks. The oldest documents preserved date from the thirteenth century, and tell how, according to tradition, the original image was found by a thief, who later converted and became a hermit.
There was a thief named Nuno Onez, who was a hardened criminal and a “man of licentious life and dedicated to looting.” One day, however, upon hearing the prayer of a man, who was to be his next victim, he was touched by Divine grace and repented of his many crimes, turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary to help him change his life. One day, while he was praying, an angel appeared to him to tell him to go to Valvanera and search for an oak, that stood out from the rest, with a fountain that gushed at its feet and surrounded by swarms of bees. There, in the branches of a strong and noble oak, in the presence of a fountain of pure and clear water, the trunk of which was overflowing with the sweetness of honey, he would find an image of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Nuno went to the place, with a priest, on the following Sunday, and found the image, just as the angel had said. The statue had probably been hidden there when the Moslems invaded the Iberian Peninsula, in the 8th century. In that place, in the last third of the ninth century, he began to build a place of worship that became known as the chapel of Santo Cristo. Soon there was a small group of hermits who met to pray about this image, men who eventually adopted a regular life, inspired by the rule of Saint Benedict. Thus, this small shrine is believed to have given rise to the Monastery of Valvanera, where the Virgin is currently venerated.
Valvanera Monastery is surrounded by a forest, near the town of Anguiano in the valley of the Sierra Demand La Rioja. Its name derives from the Latin “Vallis Venaria,” which literally means: “Valley water veins.” The first Abbot was a man named Don Sancho, in the year 990.
Our Lady apparently has a preference for oak trees, since this is one of several statues found in, or on, an oak tree. On that very spot, today, is seen the magnificent church, which Alphonsus IV, King of Castile, built in honor of the Mother of God in 1073, and which houses the image.
She, the valiant woman of Scripture, who desired that her children, her clients and her devotees might share, in a spiritual manner, the strength and the power of this mighty tree, which is certainly a symbol of her.
OUR LADY OF RANSOM also known as OUR LADY OF MERCY
OUR LADY OF WALSINGHAM (England)
Our Lady of Ransom
The story of Our Lady of Ransom is, at its outset, that of Saint Peter Nolasco, born in Languedoc about 1189. He conceived the idea of establishing a religious order for the redemption of captives seized by the Moors on the seas and in Spain itself; they were being cruelly tormented in their African prisons to make them deny their faith. On August 1, 1218 the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Peter, to his confessor, Raymund of Peñafort, and to King James I, and through these three servants of God established a work of the most perfect charity, the redemption of captives. Its members would undertake to deliver Christian captives and offer themselves, if necessary, as payment.
Word of the apparition soon spread over the entire kingdom, and on August 10 the king went to the cathedral for a Mass celebrated by the bishop of Barcelona during which Saint Raymund narrated his vision with admirable eloquence and fervor. The king besought the blessing of the bishop for the heaven-sent plan, and the bishop bestowed the habit on Saint Peter, who emitted the solemn vow to give himself as a hostage if necessary.
The Order, thus solemnly established in Spain, was approved by Gregory IX under the name of Our Lady of Mercy and spread rapidly. Eventually a feast day was instituted and observed on September 24, first in the religious order, then in Spain and France, and on February 22, 1696 Innocent XII extended it to the entire Church. To this day, the Mercedarians keep this day as a first class feast, with a vigil, privileged octave, and proper Office under the title: Solemnitas Descensionis B. Mariæ V. de Mercede.
Our Lady of Ransom is the principal patron of Barcelona; the proper Office was extended to Barcelona (1868) and to all Spain (second class, 1883). Sicily, which had suffered so much from the Saracens, took up the old date of the feast (Sunday nearest to August 1) by permission of the Congregation of Rites of August 31, 1805. In England the devotion to Our Lady of Ransom was revived in modern times to obtain the rescue of England as Our Lady's Dowry.
Our Lady of Walsingham
The chapel was founded by Richeldis, the mother of Geoffrey of Favraches as confirmed by the earliest deeds showing ownership. According to the text of the Pynson Ballad (c 1485), Richeldis de Faverches prayed that she might perform special deed as a gift to honor Our Lady. The Virgin Mary answered her prayer and led her in spirit to Nazareth, showing her the location where the Annunciation had occurred. Our Lady requested that a a replica house be built in Walsingham to serve as a memory of the Annunciation for all time.
According to the text of the Pynson Ballad (c 1485), Richeldis de Faverches prayed that she might perform special deed as a gift to honor Our Lady. The Virgin Mary answered her prayer and led her in spirit to Nazareth, showing her the location where the Annunciation had occurred. Our Lady requested that a a replica house be built in Walsingham to serve as a memory of the Annunciation for all time.
This Holy House was built and a religious community took charge of the foundation. With papal approval, the Augustinian Canons built a Priory (c. 1150). In 1169, Geoffrey, the son of Richeldis, gifted "to God and St. Mary, and to Edwy his clerk, the chapel of Our Lady" with the intention that Edwy should found a priory. These gifts were, shortly afterwards, confirmed to the Austin Canons of Walsingham by Robert de Brucurt and Roger, Earl of Clare.
By the 1500's (just before the Protestant Revolution), Our Lady of Walsingham had, not only become one of the great pilgrimage sites of England, along with Canterbury and Glastonbury, and but also in all of Europe, as it became third most popular site behind Rome and Compostella, Spain.
Then came the Protestant Revolution and in 1538, the suppression of the devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham began, as evidenced by the writing of the Protestant bishop Latimer, who wrote of the image of Mary, saying that "She hath been the Devil's instrument, I fear, to bring many to eternal fire; now she herself with her older sister of Walsingham, her younger sister of Ipswich, and their two sisters of Doncaster and Penrhys will make a jolly muster in Smithfield. They would not be all day in burning."
The Protestant Revolution caused the Priory property to be handed over to the King’s Commissioners and the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to London and burnt. The original shrine has no remnants, but its site features the marker noting “The Abbey Grounds” in the village.
King Henry VIII approved the burning of the image of Our Lady of Walsingham: "It was the month of July, the images of Our Lady of Walsingham and Ipswich were brought up to London with all the jewels that hung around them, at the King's commandment, and divers other images, both in England and Wales, that were used for common pilgrimage...and they were burnt at Chelsea by my Lord Privy Seal".
After the destruction of the Shrine, Walsingham no longer was a place of public pilgrimage. All devotion was done in secret until after the Catholic Emancipation in 1829, when public expressions and manifestations of the Catholic faith were once again allowed in England.
IN 1896, Charlotte Pearson Boyd purchased the 14th century Slipper Chapel, the last of the wayside chapels en-route to Walsingham, and restored it for Catholic use.
In 1897, Pope Leo XIII, by rescript, re-established the Slipper Chapel as a Roman Catholic shrine, now known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Holy House had been rebuilt at the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation at King's Lynn.
On August 20, 1897, the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, brought the first public pilgrimage to Walsingham. Visitors to the Slipper Chapel increased in number, and after some time, the devotion and the number of pilgrimages increased.
On August 19, 1934, Cardinal Bourne and Bishop Lawrence Youens led the Bishops of England and Wales, together with 10,000 pilgrims to the Slipper Chapel. At this pilgrimage, the Slipper Chapel was declared to be the National Shrine of Our Lady for Roman Catholics in England.
On May 17, 1945, American Forces organized the first Mass in the Priory grounds since the Reformation (Protestant Revolution). During the war, Walsingham was a restricted zone and closed to visitors, but many service men and women showed interest in the Shrine.
The First Cross Carrying Pilgrimage for Peace, Penance and Prayer in began a tradition that continue today. Pilgrims still walk to the Shrine during Holy Week
The Marist Fathers took over the care of the shrine and, together with the Marist Sisters, are organize the the ministry to the pilgrims.
During Pope John Paul II's visit, the Slipper Chapel Statue was taken to London's Wembley Stadium and was carried around the stadium prior to the Papal Mass preceded by The Director of the Roman Catholic Shrine and the Administrator of the Anglican Shrine. The Pope asked that the statue be placed on the altar for the Mass.
John Paul II decreed that the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, patroness of England, and in modern times patroness of all English-speaking peoples, would be celebrated on September 24th in England. It is a solemnity for all parishes in any part of the world named for Our Lady under this title.
Our Lady of Walsingham was formerly celebrated on March 25th, "Lady Day" (Feast of the Annunciation, which was the whole purpose of building the replica of the house at Nazareth in the first place!), but for ecumenical reasons was moved to September 24th. (September 24 in England had been the feast of Our Lady of Ransom.)
The feast of Our Lady of Walsingham was celebrated for the first time on the new date in 2001.
MADONNA, DIVINE SHEPHERDESS (Spain)
In 1703 Mary was given the title Divine Shepherdess, bestowed upon her by Father Isidore of Spain after a vision in which the Blessed Mother appeared to him as a shepherdess.
Father Isidore was born of a rich and noble family of Seville, in 1662. He was the pride of his family and looked upon as a prince among his associates. At the age of nineteen he entered the Capuchin Order. He was devoted to Our Lady from childhood and much more so after entering the religious life. After completing his studies he was sent to a monastery in Cadiz. Here he with Father Feliciano erected small shrines to Our Lady along the roadways. They taught the people how to sing the rosary walking along the street. This custom Father Isadore brought with him on returning to Seville. In such a worldly atmosphere this came as a surprise to the people. Cantina and tavern loungers found themselves sliding out the taverns and joining him, to become part of the sheepfold of Mary.
During one of these street tours Christ’s words, ‘I am the Good Shepherd” flashed across the Father’s mind. That night he had a vision of the Blessed Virgin. She appeared as a young shepherdess with a crook in her hand and a large straw hat falling over her shoulders. The next morning the priest hurried to an artist’s shop in a suburb of Seville, telling of his vision; he gave Miquel de Tovar, the artist, an order that a picture be painted of Our Lady as she had appeared to him. “Our Lady,” he said, sat on a rock under a tree. Her face radiated divine and tender love. Over a red tunic she wore a jacket of white sheepskin such as shepherds wore; from her shoulders hung a blue mantle. A large straw hat, held by a ribbon, dangled over her left shoulder. Near her right hand was a shepherd’s crook, symbolic of the love and care she gives her children. In her left hand she held a rose, while the right hand rested on the head of a lamb, which had sought shelter in her lap. The flock of sheep which surrounded her carried in their mouths – the Virgin’s Flower.
After months, the painting was completed. The admiration of the Spanish for Our Lady as a Divine Shepherdess quickly spread. Practically every church had set aside a corner for the Divine Shepherdess, and the paintings of her became so numerous that the Capuchin Fathers made a collection of them. In the convent in Seville there is today a museum dedicated to this unique and charming representation of Mary. In this museum there is also a fine statue carved by the famous sculptor Francisco Gijon, so natural and so beautiful that it appears almost lifelike. In place of the simple costume of the shepherdess the statue is glorified by a lavish white satin gown. On her dark hair she wears a wide-brimmed straw hat decorated with large daisies. There are also engravings; medals, embroideries and even laces which give evidence of this widespread devotion.
The details may vary in these works of art, but Our Lady is always recognizable by the presence of a crook and a hat. At times the hat is large and of straw; at other times it is of felt and shaped according to the styles of the day, which gives a uniqueness to this interpretation of the Blessed Mother as the Divine Shepherdess.
OUR LADY OF VICTORY (Tourney, 1340)
One of the first, and certainly one of the most decisive engagements of the Hundred Years War, was the naval battle of Sluys, fought on June 20th in the year 1340.
The French had amassed a large fleet of ships for the intended invasion of England, but King Edward III of England met them with a fleet of approximately the same size at Sluys, an engagement that meant the destruction of nearly the entire French fleet. The loss of the French fleet meant that the war between France and England would take place on French soil.
After his victory at Sluys, King Edward III landed with his army and began the siege of Tourney, or Tournai, on July 23rd. (Tournai was a Flemish city, but it was loyal to the French king and housed a garrison of French troops.) Edward had 1,300 men-at-arms and 3,000 archers, as well as 5,455 infantry reinforced by perhaps 1,000 Flemish men-at-arms. He had every advantage, as his army was larger than that of Philip VI of France, he had a good supply line, and rather than reject his presence, many of the Flemish were his allies, and the morale of his army was good.
Philip VI of France remained many miles away from Edward with his army, so Edward sent him a challenge in which he claimed to be the rightful king of France. “Such a great force of men as we have assembled cannot long hold together, without causing harm and destruction to the people and to the land, something which every good Christian should eschew, and especially princes and others who hold themselves for governors of men; therefore we greatly desire that the matter be concluded soon, and that, to avoid the death of Christians, as the quarrel is between you and us, that the debate of our challenge be conducted by our two bodies.”
Philip declined the offer, as Edward was a younger and more vigorous man. The English besiegers cut off the town from any supplies of food, defeated any who sallied forth from the town to attempt to break the siege, and bombarded Tournai with siege engines and canon fire. The lands all around were ravaged and burned.
The siege had gone on only one month when the inhabitants were running out of food and beginning to starve. The inhabitants carried the keys of the city into the church of Our Lady, for they knew that the Queen of heaven alone was able to deliver them from the English, who had besieged them for forty days. No sooner had they testified this confidence in the Blessed Virgin, than the siege was raised, and it came about in this way.
Jeanne of Valois, the sister of Philip and mother-in-law of Edward, left the convent for the purpose of trying to make peace between the two. She went first to Philip, who refused to negotiate for fear of losing face. These were his lands that were being invaded, and it would not do that he should seem unwilling to defend them.
Jeanne went next to Edward, who felt certain that Tournai was about to collapse. Still, she was able to prevail upon him, and the siege was ended through the intercession of two noble women.
OUR LADY OF HAPPY ASSEMBLY (Le Laus, France, 1664)
Le Laus (pronounced Lows) is a little village in southeastern France, 60 miles to the southeast of Grenoble. The story of Mary’s shrine there centers around a young woman named Benoite Rencurel, who was born on September 29, 1647 of humble parents in the little village of Saint Etienne, not far from Le Laus. Her father died when she was seven and after his death her mother found life rather difficult. So, when Benoite was 12, she went to work on a neighboring farm, tending the farmer’s sheep. Each day while the flock grazed she spent a few minutes praying to the Blessed Virgin at a little wayside chapel.
One day, in 1664, Benoite led her little flock into a small valley near Saint Etienne and there toward the end of the afternoon, a Lady and Child appeared to her, standing on top of a rock, a large rock, known locally as Les Flours. The Lady did not speak to Benoite, but smiled in a very friendly way and after a few minutes Lady and Child vanished. However, similar apparitions continued almost daily for two months. Of course, rumors of what was occurring gradually spread around the neighboring countryside.
Finally, M. Grimaud, a district magistrate, questioned Benoite at length and suggested that if the lady appeared again, Benoite should ask her who she was. The girl agreed; on the very next day the Lady appeared, she asked her to please say who she was – was she the Mother of God? The Lady answered:
“Yes, I am Mary, the Mother of Jesus. My Son wishes to be especially honored in this valley, but not on this spot.”
With these words she vanished. Benoite did not see her again for a few days. On September 29, while tending her flock at another pasture, Pindreau, a very brilliant light suddenly appeared on top of some rocks. In the center of the light stood the Blessed Virgin. She told Benoite to go to Le Laus, where she would find a little chapel, filled with a delicious perfume, and there she would also see her. Benoite soon found herself at the little chapel of Our Lady of Good Meeting or Happy Assembly (Notre-Dame de Bon Recontre) and going in, she saw the Blessed Virgin over the high altar, on which stood her image. And the Virgin said to Benoite,
“On this spot I wish a church built – a privileged sanctuary, wherein many sinners will repent. Means will not be wanting, despite the poverty of the country people around.”
The news of this event soon spread; crowds came to the little chapel, which was too small to contain them. So, in 1665, Msgr. Lambert, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, gave permission for a church to be built over the little chapel.
Since there was very little money available with which to hire workmen, the villagers and peasants for miles around carried the stones and built the walls for Our Lady of Happy Assembly – aided by the many pilgrims who came to worship and remained a while to help in the building of the church.
In 1692, during an invasion by the Duke of Savoy the church was partly destroyed, but the statue of Our Lady of Happy Assembly was not damaged. The church was soon repaired and restored. In 1716 a new statue of the Virgin was carved and enshrined behind the main altar of the church. It is said that Benoite wished the new statue to be named Our Lady of Happy Assembly of Laus. The original statue was transferred to a chapel behind the main altar. In 1885 Pope Pius IX gave official recognition to the title of Our Lady of Laus of Happy Assembly, when he ordered the new statue to be solemnly crowned. Benoite Rencurel died on December 28, 1718, and was buried in a vault in front of the altar in the church at Le Laus.
OUR LADY OF CAMBRON (France 1322)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Cambron, of the order of Citeaux, in Hainault, near Mons. It is said that this image, being struck by a wicked man, in the year 1322, bled copiously.”
The abbey of Cambron was founded on the River Blanche and was a daughter house of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. It was situated some leagues from Mons in Cambron-Casteau in Hainaut, Belgium, and took its name from the land on which it was built. Cambron, in its turn, had daughter houses in the abbeys of Fontenelle at Valenciennes and six other sites. The image of Our Lady formerly honored at Cambron was famous for a great number of miraculous cures. A chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Cambron, was built at Mons in 1550 in a part of the prince’s park.
In the following centuries the magistrates of Mons had a beautiful door built for the shrine, and added other embellishments. In 1559, thieves broke into the chapel and stole everything of value to be found there. There was a small oratory was very much frequented.
OUR LADY OF TONGRES (France, 1081)
Our Lady of Tongres, in the diocese of Cambray. This image, in the year 1081, was taken into a garden, where the bishop of Cambray had a church built.
Our story goes back to the First Crusade, and concerns a knight by the name of Hector, who becoming blind while on a crusade, was obliged to return home.
One night in the year 1081 while Hector was living in retirement in Tongres, angelic voices were heard in the garden of his castle, and lights were seen among the shrubs. The next moring his servants found in the garden a lovely statue of Our Lady. He ordered it brought into the castle and had it set up in his private oratory. Here he prayed all night before it, and arranged a processon on the following day in honor of the Royal Visitor.
That night the statue disappeared, only to be found on the following morning in the garden. Hector gave orders that it was to be coverd with a shelter, and sent word to the bishop of the place to ask what to do about it. The bishop came himself, and convinced that the oratory was the place for the statue, had it moved. It returned that night itself to the garden.
The bishop offered Mass at an outdoor altar the next day, and authorized the knight to build a small chapel there. It became a popular shrine of the neighborhood.
In 1090, King Phillip of France, at war with the Flemish, was camped near Tongres. An angel appeared to Hector in sleep and told him to go to the aid of the King of France. Hector roused his servants and to their terror ordered them to bring out his armor and his sword and arm him for the battle. They set out dubiously to accompany him to the camp of the French King.
The armies drew up for battle on the feast of Saint John the Baptist. Hector told his officers to turn him with his face toward Our Lady of Tongres, where his beloved statue was; and in sight of all he recovered the use of his eyes. Hearing of the miracle, the Flemish King and his army fled in terror from an array which seemed to have Our Lady on its side.
After this miracle, Hector spent his entire fortune in enlarging and enriching the shrine. It soon became known throughout Christendom, and was sought by people in trouble, especially in time of plague. A confraternity, enriched with great privileges was established at this time.
During the French Revolution a duplicate statue was kept in the church and the real one of of Our Lady of Tongres was hidden in a wall until the trouble was over. The statue was restored to the church as soon as the revolution was past, and it was crowned with special Papal commendation in the year 1881.
OUR LADY OF BEAUMONT (Lorraine, France, 12th Century)
The little shrine of Our Lady of Beaumont, or Notre-Dame-de-Bermont, is located in Lorraine, France, between the towns of Domremy and Vancouleurs. It is a small church probably dating from the 11th century, though the date of its founding is lost in now the mists of time. It is thought that it might have been built for a monastery of Benedictine monks, but was subsequently sold to a man named Geoffrey de Bourlemont.
It is known that Joan of Arc liked to go to Our Lady of Bermont on pilgrimage on Saturdays when she was a little girl, and also often during the week, to offer candles and flowers to Our Lady. Although a small chapel, it has great importance, as it was here that Joan of Arc commended the affairs of France to the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and it was here that Mary ordered Joan to take up arms to deliver her country of France from the hands of the English.
The full name of the town of Domremy is actually Domremy-la-Pucelle, in memory of Joan of Arc, and the church is about two miles from Joan’s hometown.
The statue shown above is Notre-Dame de Bermont, and is believed to be the statue once venerated by Joan of Arc. It is now kept in the crypt of the Basilica-du-Bois-Chenu.
The chapel was restored shortly before the turn of the century, and several coats of old paint were removed from the walls of the chapel. In doing so a drawing was discovered of a young peasant girl at prayer while dressed in a man’s attire. The image has blue eyes and blonde hair, and since the drawing was made during the time of Joan’s life, and Joan was known to pray at the church, the local bishop stated that he thought the portrait must certainly be of Joan of Arc. As it is little more than a line drawing, it really tells us little of what Joan may have looked like.
Nothing in twelfth-century art is so fine as the air and gesture of sympathetic majesty. This gave Joan of Arc masculine courage, combined with feminine fortitude to carry out her Queen’s command.