July 26 and 27: Our Lady of Faith (Notre-Dame-de-Foy,
Not far from the small town of Dinant, in the country of Liege near a home belonging to the lord of Celles, two magnificent oaks once grew. One of the two venerable old trees was felled in the year 1609 for lumber. The worker who inspected the tree found in the interior a small statue of the Mother of God, enthroned, as it were, with three iron bars that served as a trellis. Apparently, at some time in the distant past, some pious Christian soul had placed the holy image in a hollow of the oak, as if in a niche. Then, over a period of time, the opening the tree had made while it was still young gradually closed, and as it grew, the tree hid in its womb the precious figure.
To honor the Virgin, the statue was subsequently displayed on the other oak, once again behind an iron grating, by order of Baron of Celles. In this new sanctuary the Mother of God was honored with the title of Our Lady of Faith. Those passing by did not fail to venerate the statue; and there were many unexpected healings. Graces of all kinds multiplied, and soon pilgrims began to flock to the area because of the dazzling miracles.
A priest of the Society of Jesus had recently been sent to Gravelines. He worked diligently to cultivate souls, as if upon a fruitful vine, and by his sermons excited the people of the region to a greater love for the Mother of God. Seeing that this devotion had taken root, he met with the local Magistrate to discuss how to maintain and increase the piety of the people. It was decided that they should make replicas of the statue of Our Lady of Faith, made from the wood of the first oak. When the first was completed, the image was observed to have a great resemblance to the original. Received with great joy, it was to be placed in a large reliquary above the high altar in the parish church.
The image of Mary, Our Lady of Faith (de Foy), was solemnly installed by the Bishop of St. Omer on the feast of the Ascension. Since the year 1622 she has been honored by huge gatherings of the faithful. Great numbers of miracles occurred and still occur daily, says Father Boil, and he cites as support of his assertion a booklet entitled: Remarkable Healings made through the invocation of Our Lady of Faith, Gravelines, which was a booklet printed at St. Omer in 1623, with the approval of the Bishop.
To satisfy the pious zeal of the faithful, the venerated image of Our Lady of Faith was frequently reproduced. The oak, which for so many years had contained the image, served this purpose, as its wood was used to create other similar statues of Our Lady of Foy. The additional statues of the Holy Virgin which were distributed to churches in Bailleul, Dilingue, Gravelines, Huy, Lille, Lobbes, Marchiennes Montmartre, Saint-Omer, Oudenbourg, Reims, Ruislip, an D’Furnes, among others. These cities were honored to possess this image of Mary, and welcomed the statue, made of the same wood of the tree of Foy. In all of these various localities Our Lady of Faith began to work many wonders.
Of all the images made of wood modeled after the original Madonna, the most famous perhaps is the one that is kept today at the cathedral of Amiens. The statue was placed in the church of the Augustinian religious at the beginning of the year 1629, whose monastery was located in the parish of Saint Michael. As of May 3 of that year wonderful miracles began to occurr, and soon the Bishop of Amiens, Francois Le Febvre de Caumartin, formed a commission to study and conduct the necessary investigations. He ended by canonically recognizing devotion to the image and published four major miracles which had occurred, including the most striking being the resurrection of a dead child.
Here are some details recalling this memorable prodigy. A child had fallen into a pit and been buried for several hours. The devout Christians who struggled to rescue him did all in their power to revive him, but to no avail. Finally, the people took the child before the statue of Our Lady of Foy and knelt to pray with confidence for Our Lady’s intercession. Immediately the child showed signs of life and awakened as if from sleep.
At Gravelines, there had been a child who died at birth. While he was being prepared for his burial, the sorrowful mother invoked Mary in the image of Our Lady of Faith. Suddenly, a life-giving warmth spread through the child’s icy members, who then began to cry and shake his small hands. The child received baptism, and now grows under the watchful eyes of his mother, for whom he is a constant consolation.
A ship captain related that his ship had recently sunk beneath the waves, and that the sailors and passengers aboard had all perished. The captain alone remained struggling against the swells, without hope of rescue, and recalled that he himself was near death. In his pressing moment of need he has recourse to Our Lady of Faith, and vowed to make a pilgrimage to the church if he should live. Although he was three leagues from Gravelines, he was instantly transported to the shore and hastened to fulfill his vow.
On another occasion, a father, whose child had died, came to Amiens carrying the lifeless body of his infant son. The child had been baptized out of necessity by the hands of his grandmother. The father arrived at the church of the convent during the celebration of Holy Mass. He set the child before the image of Our Lady of Faith, and the little corpse revived before the wondering eyes of the faithful during the Elevation.
The chaplain of the queen-mother, who was a former canon of the cathedral, split the press of people and inquired whether the child had been baptized. On the negative reply of the father, who falsely believed the grandmother’s baptism had been invalid, the priest renewed the sacramental rite and gave the name of Augustine to the happy child of the Blessed Virgin. Sometime after the miracle, the child died again and was buried in the cemetery of Saint James. After thirteen days the body was exhumed, and there was no sign of any corruption.
During the plague of 1634 which ravaged Amiens, the people of the town processed with the image of Our Lady of Foy, and the bishop presided over the ceremony and celebrated the Pontifical Mass. The plague ceased.
In the year 1636 the noble ladies were frequently seen with their maids of honor praying before the holy image, and Cardinal Richelieu who attend the litanies that were sung every day in this blessed sanctuary. In addition, the brotherhood, established under the title of Our Lady of Foy, included a number of high ranking personages, including King Louis XIII, Anne of Autriclhe, King Louis XIV, Queen Marie-Therese, King Louis XV, as well as the members of the noblest and most illustrious families of Picardy. The religious association had chosen as its main feast the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, a mystery that recalls so perfectly the incomparable faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
All of these prodigies had an immense effect, and the number of extraordinary favors soon became considerable. The miraculous Madonna of Foy drew the faithful more than ever in all their necessities.
image of Our Lady of Foy was hidden to protect it from the impious during the time of the French Revolution.
In 1878, Bishop Battle, of pious memory, celebrated Mass at Notre-Dame de Foy, and the restoration of this cult was finally decided. Soon the venerable Chapter, supported by the bishop, asked the Pope to deign to open the treasure of indulgences. Many devotions and pilgrimages were once again made in her honor, and candles were constantly kept burning before her image. Every 15thof August, the Feast of the Assumption, there again resumed public recitation of Litanies along with processions as the people showed their love and appreciation for their Heavenly Mother. Since then Our Lady of Faith constantly gathers new testimonies of love by her precious favors.
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