Mary, Queen of the family devotion approved

As little Adelaide Roncalli was picking flowers on the 13th of May 1944, she was visited by a heavenly family!  Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus appeared to seven-year-old Adelaide Roncalli on May 13, 1944 in a small village in the north of Italy named Ghiaie di Bonate which is near Bergamo also near Milan.  At the six o’clock hour on that late afternoon, Adelaide was picking elder flowers and daisies along the path which slopes down by the pine wood to offer them to a painting of Our Lady. Her sister, Palmina (six-years-old) and some other little girls were with her.

From Adelaide’s diary:
“I was picking flowers for the image of the Virgin Mary which hangs halfway down the stairs in my home. I had also picked some daisies and I had arranged them into a wheelbarrow that my dad had made. I saw a beautiful elder flower but it was far above my reach for me to pick. I stood there, admiring it, when I saw a golden spot coming down from above and drawing near the earth little by little; while it was approaching it got bigger and bigger and I could make out the presence of a beautiful Lady with Baby Jesus in her arms and Saint Joseph on her left. The three persons were enveloped into three oval circles of light and remained suspended in space not far from the wires.

The Lady, beautiful and majestic, was wearing a white dress and a blue mantle; on her right arm she carried a Rosary made of white beads; on her bare feet two white roses stood. Her dress was set off by a string of pearls, all equal, tied in gold in the shape of a necklace. The circles enveloping the three persons were bright with shades of golden light. At first I was scared and was on the point of running away, but the Lady called me in a sweet voice and said: “Do not run away, as I am the Virgin Mary!”. So I stopped and was gazing at her, but I was a little afraid. The Virgin Mary looked at me, then added: “You must be good, obedient, respectful of your neighbors and sincere: pray well and come back to this place for nine evenings, always at this time”.

Our Lady looked at me for a few seconds and then slowly went away, without turning her back on me. I kept staring at them intently until a whitish cloud hid them from my view. Baby Jesus and Saint Joseph had not spoken; they only looked at me with an amiable expression”.
Palmina and the other girls tried to get Adelaide’s attention, but she was unresponsive in her ecstatic state. They called to her and tried to pull on her because they were worried. Palmina ran off to tell her mom that ‘Adelaide was dead, but on her feet.’ In a while, Adelaide came out of her ecstasy and she told her friends about her vision. No one at home made much out of the occurrence on the first day.

The apparitions took place at about six o’clock in the afternoon twelve more times during May 1944. Crowds grew and grew every successive afternoon. The Virgin Mary was the only one to speak to Adelaide. According to the child’s story, the Virgin spoke  in her dialect inviting all of us to prayer, to conversion, to penance. In the final days of the apparitions, the crowds grew to be as large as 350,000 people.

There were solar phenomena associated with the apparitions just as was the case in the final Fatima apparition (October 13, 1917). The description of a witness from the May 21st apparition is as follows: “the sun came out of the clouds, whirled dizzily on itself projecting beams of yellow, green, red, blue, violet light in all directions; the beams of light colored the clouds, the fields, the trees and the stream of people. After a few minutes the sun stopped its whirl and those phenomena began soon again. Many noticed that the disc had turned white like a Communion Host; the clouds seemed to be lowering down on the people. Some noticed a Rosary in the sky, some others a majestic Lady with a trailing mantle.” From Bergamo many witnesses observed the sun become pale and radiate all the rainbow colors, shed in all directions; they also noticed a large yellow light beam falling over the Ghiaie perpendicularly.”

After the apparitions stopped, Adelaide was sorely tried by certain clergy. Just a few years later in 1948, the local bishop forbade devotion, claiming that “every form of devotion for Our Lady, as she appeared at Ghiaie di Bonate, remained hereunder forbidden, in compliance with the canonical laws.” The lay faithful however continued to believe. Adelaide Roncalli maintained throughout her life that she did see the Holy Family in apparitions. Adelaide married after a failed attempt to enter religious life. She lived a very quiet life in Milan and died August 24, 2014 at the age of 77.

We have look into the content of the 7th apparition to see the prophecy that has recently come to fruition.  During the May 19, 1944 apparition, the young Adelaide asked Our Lady to work a miracle so that all the people may believe that they were appearing. The Virgin said, “The time for it will come, many will be converted and I will be recognized by the Church”. Then She added gravely: “Meditate upon these words all the days of your life, summon up your courage in all your sorrows. You will see me again in the hour of your death, I will keep you under my mantle and will take you to Heaven”.

The time has come for recognition by the Church as we share exciting news about this devotion.  It just so happened that the Bishop of Bergamo, Francesco Beschi, wrote in a letter dated January 1, 2019 to the faithful approval of the devotion to Mary, Queen of the Family. Here is part of his letter:

Now it is time for this devotion, always accompanied and never stifled by the shepherds of the Church, free from the bonds of bias and from that need of signs that hides unbelief, may shine to illuminate and support the path of so many faithful, especially those who live in situations of fatigue and suffering.
A devotion that right here, at the Ghiaie di Bonate, near the chapel dedicated to
Mary Queen of the Family, a small house for all pilgrims and wayfarers, finds a
safe harbor.
Here, at the Ghiaie di Bonate, entrusted to the prudent and wise guidance of the shepherds of the parish community.
Here, at the Ghiaie di Bonate, where the worthy commitment of the parish community, supported by that of the diocese, has seen in recent years an effort that is necessary to protect and guard these places so they remain places of silence and a simple and cordial welcome. In order that essentially everyone, just everyone, no one excluded, can feel at home.
As Pope Francis writes: “Mary lived like no other the Beatitudes of
Jesus. She is the one who was overcome with joy in the presence of God, she who kept everything in her heart and she let herself to be pierced by the sword. She is the saint among the saints, the most blessed, she who shows us the way of holiness and accompanies us. She does not accept that when we fall, we remain on the ground. She carries us without judging us.
Conversation with her consoles us, frees us and sanctifies us. The Mother does not need many words, you do not need to strain too much to explain what happens to us. It’s enough to whisper again and again: “Hail Mary full of grace, the LORD is with thee…” »(Gaudete et Exultate, No. 176).
Thanks dear pilgrim and traveler for your passage and your visit. I ask you to say
a prayer for me and for the Church of Bergamo assuring you of mine. May God the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Family,
bless you and your loved ones.
Bergamo, Italy
1 January 2019, Solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God
Francesco Beschi, Bishop of Bergamo

Roses in the Potato Pot

Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Secretary of Divine Mercy
Our Lord gave a Polish nun, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, a means of accruing great graces for our time, devotion to the Divine Mercy.  Jesus asked Sister Faustina to write His words down in diaries and to proclaim His message of Mercy. The entries in Sister Faustina’s diaries have been compiled into the book Divine Mercy in my Soul. They form the basis for a Church-wide celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday that is held the first Sunday after Easter Sunday every year. Divine Mercy Sunday carries the grace of a plenary indulgence when the conditions of reciting chaplet prayers, making a Divine Mercy novena, going to confession, receiving Holy Communion, venerating an image of the Divine Mercy and praying for the intentions of the Pope are met.
During her life, Sister Faustina always worked under obedience to her confessor to begin the process of spreading devotion to the Divine Mercy. At Our Lord’s request, Sister Faustina worked with a Polish artist to portray on canvas the sacred image of Jesus with one arm raised in blessing and the other hand showing red and white rays emanating from His illuminated chest. Beneath His image, Our Lord wanted the words Jesus, I Trust in You! to be written. Faustina lamented that no artist could capture the splendor of Our Lord.

Despite illness and other obstacles, Sister Faustina always worked to the best of her ability to convey all that Jesus revealed to her about His unfathomable mercy. Sister Faustina died on October 5, 1938 at the age of 33 from tuberculosis. Due to misunderstandings, the messages of Divine Mercy were banned until 1978 when the messages won the approval of Karol Wojtyla, then archbishop of Krakow, Poland. Cardinal Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II and became an even stronger voice for proclaiming the Divine Mercy throughout the world. He beatified Maria Faustina Kowalska in 1993 and she was canonized on April 30, 2000, the first canonized saint of the jubilee year 2000. She is the patron saint of World Youth Day, a celebration conceived and instituted by Pope John Paul II. It is certainly a related grace that Pope John Paul II entered eternal life on April 2, 2005 on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday that year.

During her life a miracle of roses gave Saint Faustina a sweet consolation in the midst of her household duties in the convent. Sister Faustina recounts, “One time during the novitiate, when Mother Directress sent me to work in the wards’ kitchen, I was very upset because I could not manage the pots, which were very large. The most difficult task for me was draining the potatoes, and sometimes I spilt half of them with the water. When I told this to the Mother Directress, she said that with time I would get used to it and gain the necessary skill. Yet the task was not getting any easier, as I was growing weaker every day. So I would move away when it was time to drain the potatoes. The sisters noticed that I avoided this task and were very much surprised. They did not know that I could not help in spite of my willingness to do this and not spare myself. At noon, during the examination of conscience, I complained to God about my weakness. Then I heard the following words in my soul, “From today on you will do this easily; I shall strengthen you.
That evening, when the time came to drain off the water from the potatoes, I hurried to be the first to do it, trusting the Lord’s words. I took up the pot with ease and poured off the water perfectly. But when I took off the cover to let the potatoes steam off, I saw there in the pot, in the place of the potatoes, whole bunches of red roses, beautiful beyond description. I had never seen such roses before. Greatly astonished and unable to understand the meaning of this, I heard a voice within me saying, “I change such hard work of yours into bouquets of most beautiful flowers, and their perfume rises up to My throne.” From then on I have tried to drain the potatoes myself, not only during the week when it was my turn to cook, but also in replacement of other sisters when it was their turn. And not only do I do this, but I try to be the first to help in any other burdensome task, because I have experienced how much this pleases God.”
Saint Faustina used the metaphor of becoming a violet to achieve the humility she so desired in the following resolution: “I will hide from people’s eyes whatever good I am able to do so that God himself may be my reward. I will be like a tiny violet hidden in the grass, which does not hurt the foot that treads on it, but diffuses its fragrance and, forgetting itself completely, tries to please the person who has crushed it underfoot. This is very difficult for human nature, but God’s grace comes to one’s aid.”
We give thanks to Our Lord for giving us His Divine Mercy that is so critically needed. The spiritual significance of the red and white rays (Eucharist and Baptism) are significant from ancient times. We may venture to say that all the occasions of red and white rose miracles or red rose and white lily manifestations help us to recall the Divine Mercy of God and His great love for us.

Fatima Flowers

27 Fatima Apparitions
During the twentieth century, Our Lady began to explain a means to fight the evils of our days. She made known to three shepherd children from Fatima, Portugal the desire of Jesus to make her known and loved in the world by devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Fatima has been thoroughly researched and promulgated by the Church and is one of the most well-known apparition sites of the Virgin Mary. Its inclusion in this compilation will focus on flowers in the events of Fatima and triumph.
In the early twentieth century, Fatima was mostly a farming community north of the capital, Lisbon. The Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children who ranged in age from six to nine. Lucia Santos was the eldest of the three visionaries. In her family, she was the youngest child with a strict and devout mother and less attentive father. She was a natural leader with a good memory. Lucia would organize games with the other village kids and was clever. She knew her catechism well because of formation by her mother and the parish church. Her education was limited, however, because there were no primary schools in the village at that time. Children would spend their days playing innocent games and performing family chores or responsibilities. Lucia was especially close to Jacinta and Francisco Marto who were her first cousins in the village. They were the sixth and seventh children of Olimpia and Ti Marto. Francisco was about two years older than Jacinta and how they loved playing the games Lucia suggested. When Lucia was given the responsibility of shepherding the family sheep to grazing land every day, Francisco and Jacinta missed Lucia so much, they asked their parents if they could accompany Lucia with their own sheep. Permission was given, so the three spent their herding days singing, dancing, playing games and saying a quick form of the rosary.
Jacinta was just six in 1916. She was a lively and exuberant girl. She loved the flowers that carpeted the grazing lands. Lucia describes how Jacinta relished the flowers: “My cousin (Jacinta) went one day with her mother to a First Communion ceremony in which some of the youngest children strewed flowers before the Blessed Sacrament. After that she would often leave us at our play to gather armfuls of flowers which she would throw at me in the same way. When I asked her why she did it, she said she was doing what the angels did.” Other times Jacinta would pick bouquets of flowers of every hue to put into her hair or to weave into garlands for Lucia.
One afternoon in the spring of 1916, an angel came in from the East in marvelous light. He said, “Fear not! I am Angel of Peace. Pray with me!” With his head bowed low to the ground, he said a prayer of reparation three times: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You.” He told the children to pray this often and then he departed.
After some weeks the angel came a second time and exhorted the children to pray. In this apparition he said, “Offer up everything within your power as a sacrifice to the Lord in an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended; and of supplication for the conversion of sinners. Thus invoke peace upon our Country. I am her Guardian Angel; the Angel of Portugal. Above all, bear and accept with submission the sufferings that the Lord may send you.”
The Angel came a third time after the summer of 1916 had passed and he brought the Blessed Sacrament. He held a chalice in one hand and a Host that dripped blood into the chalice with his other hand. He let go of the chalice and Host and they remained suspended in mid-air! Then he knelt deeply in prostration to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and proclaimed this prayer three times: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.” Then the angel stood up and clasped the chalice and Host. He took the Host and extended It to Lucia. To Jacinta and Francisco, he offered the chalice to drink saying, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” After the Eucharist, the angel took leave of them.
These visits gave the children great peace and made them more aware of a great purpose they had beyond the innocent games they were used to. They took prayer more seriously and were becoming acutely aware of sins against belief in the Eucharistic Lord. They carried on their days of shepherding with prayer and had discussions about Jesus in the tabernacle, his Passion, and what the words the Angel said meant. Jacinta and Francisco asked Lucia many things and looked to her for answers and leadership since she was the most knowledgeable of the three on spiritual matters, but most of the things they wondered seemed beyond their years to understand. Lucia said of this time, “The value of sacrifice was for the first time clear. Suddenly we knew its appeal to God and its power to convert sinners. From that moment we began offering to Him all that mortified us, all that was difficult or unpleasant, except that we did not then seek extra sacrifices and penances as we later learned to do. We did, however, spend hours and hours prostrated on the ground, repeating and repeating the prayer the angel taught us.”
In May of 1917 flowers were bursting open all over the countryside. There was a clear blue sky on the afternoon of Sunday, May 13th when the Queen of the May visited her children.
Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco had finished their lunch and said the rosary. The kids were engaged in making stone castles when they noticed a flash of lightning. They were surprised because the weather was warm and clear. When they perceived a second flash, they started to get the herd of sheep and head for safety. They halted abruptly when they saw a beautiful lady dressed in white standing over a holm oak tree but not touching the uppermost foliage. She immediately told them not to be afraid. Lucia asked where she was from, she replied, “I am from Heaven.” Lucia asked what she wanted. Our Lady asked them to return every month on the 13th at the same time and location for six months and that she would tell them their mission. Lucia asked Our Lady more questions and she replied to every inquiry. Before she left, a wonderful light emanated from Our Lady’s hands and shone on the children. Lucia described, “This light penetrated us to the heart and its recesses. It allowed us to see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we see ourselves in a mirror.” Then she reminded them to pray the rosary every day for peace in the world and for an end to the war (World War I). She then rose in the air and disappeared in the east surrounded by a brilliant light. After the visit, the children’s first concern was for the sheep, but all were fine. Next, they couldn’t deny how wonderful they felt. There were in wonderment at the visit and felt joy, but also the beginnings of a responsibility to the lady’s request to pray and sacrifice more for the conversion of sinners. Lucia wanted to keep the visit a secret from their families. She persuaded Francisco and Jacinta keep silent about the occurrence, but Jacinta couldn’t stop herself from telling her mother. Mrs. Marto didn’t believe Jacinta’s story, although Jacinta tried over and over again to convince her. Finally, with some exasperation Mrs. Marto insisted Jacinta tell the whole family including her father and uncle what had taken place. Not deterred, the exuberant way she related all the events was somewhat convincing, especially to her dad. Jacinta described how the lady held a beautiful gold rosary in her hands and how when she went back to heaven “it seemed that the doors closed with such speed that her feet were almost caught outside. Heaven was so pretty…there were so many wild peonies,” Jacinta enthused.
Soon it was the talk of the village. Lucia was surprised when her older sister asked if they had seen Our Lady at the Cova da Iria. Lucia’s mother heard the gossip, too. Mrs. Santos didn’t question for a moment the veracity of the claim, she immediately assumed Lucia was mistaken. Her mother’s disbelief and the parish priest’s doubt was part of the cross that Lucia had to bear. It was part of what Our Lady told her at the first meeting, “…you are going to suffer a great deal, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”
The day on which the second apparition was to take place June 13, 1917 coincided with a great feast in the village, the celebration of the feast of Saint Anthony. Most villagers were going to the festivities in their best attire to enjoy food, music and camaraderie. Maria Rosa (Lucia’s mom) hoped the celebration would distract her daughter from her fanciful thoughts. However, Lucia intended to be at the Cova as Our Lady had asked. Lucia invited some of her friends from her First Communion class to be there with her, Jacinta, and Francesco. In addition, a small gathering of adults from neighboring communities gathered to be present. Our Lady came, just as was anticipated. During the second apparition, Our Lady taught Lucia the Fatima prayer that she wanted to be said after every decade of the Rosary. It is “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need.” Lucia was so ravished by Our Lady’s grace that she asked Our Lady to take them to Heaven. Our Lady responded, “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. You, however, are to stay here a longer time. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish the Devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the World. I promise salvation to those who embrace it and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by myself to adorn His throne.” Our Lady made a beautiful promise in this statement. It sums up everything this compilation of flower accounts throughout history has emphasized. The Virgin Mary wants to be known and loved because she is our mother who only wants the best for us, Heaven. She wants to be able to place our souls before the throne of God just as we may place flowers before the tabernacles of our churches; all for the glory of God.
Lucia suffered derision from her family after the second apparition. Curious Portuguese from many diverse communities came to ask the children about the apparitions and made nuisances of themselves in the process. In their curiosity to see Lucia, they trampled down the family garden. Mrs. Santos was beside herself. She bemoaned having these problems at her age and besought the parish priest to urge Lucia to confess and be free of Satan’s influence. Lucia experienced profound doubt about whether God was behind the apparitions or Satan. Between the 2nd and 3rd apparition, Lucia agonized about being deceived and longed for peace to return to her and her family. The only time she felt comfort was at the Cova da Iria site of apparition. Maria Carreira (also known as Maria da Capelinha which translates to Maria of the Chapel) was an early local proponent of the apparitions. She was an older mom figure. She suffered from illness, but experienced profound peace at the apparition site. She would often spend hours with Lucia, Jacinta, and Francesco praying the rosary and saying the prayers of reparation. Maria Carreira witnessed all that happened to the holm oak tree during the apparitions and it was she that took steps to decorate the tree with ribbons and flowers to honor Our Lady’s heavenly perch.
As the thirteenth of July grew closer, Lucia resolved not to go again to the Cova to see the Lady, but mystical tugging at her heart drew her and her cousins there again. A large number of people were present when the children had the third apparition. At this apparition, Our Lady’s hands opened and shone light that penetrated into the earth. To the children’s horror, they saw fire engulfing grotesque forms that had been human. They saw demons and lost souls mixed in the conflagration and heard cries that were monstrous in their pain and despair. The onlookers heard Lucia gasp in terror. The vision of hell ended and then Our Lady said, “You have seen hell, where the souls of sinners go. To save them, God wants to establish throughout the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart…” The vision of hell was the first part of a three-part secret that Our Lady revealed only to the children at that time. The essence of the revelation was that sinners were going to hell by obstinate rejection of the goodness and authority of God. She said that a war worse than World War I would break out if people didn’t quit offending God by rejecting Him. Finally, the children saw that many people would be martyred for the faith if atheism and disbelief continued to spread throughout the world. The good would be martyred including priests, bishops and even the Pope because of hatred and the rejection of God.
Then when all the forms of governance throughout the world that reject God by oppression and persecution of the faithful have played out their miserable course, She promised “…In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” The triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has not yet come to pass. In one sense we all prepare for triumph for our own individual soul, but this statement made one hundred two years ago expresses some greater event that many have prayed for, dedicated their time and effort to achieving, and that still awaits us.
The children suffered very much as a result of knowing that secret and not being able to tell anyone what it was. Due to the gravity of the scene they were shown of hell, Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco undertook many, many penances. Frequently they gave their lunches away and would eat green acorns or other things they would scrounge while shepherding. They would suffer thirst or tie a rough rope around their waists to offer those discomforts up to Our Lord. Most of all they prayed a great deal, especially the Rosary.

So many people were talking about the apparitions and the secret, that the local secular government officials were becoming involved, especially the Mayor. He wanted to interrogate the children. To achieve this, the three were tricked into taking a ride with him. The Mayor’s henchmen threatened the children with death unless they divulged the secret that Our Lady told them. None of the children breached the trust Our Lady had in them and they prepared to give their lives to protect the secret. They were baseless threats though, and the children were returned to their homes, but the abduction had a consequence.
In the meantime, a larger crowd had gathered at the Cova da Iria for the August apparition than in July. When word came that the police had taken the children, some in the crowd were outraged. However, a rumble of thunder dissipated the angry reaction and then the signs that accompanied Our Lady’s arrival appeared. The crowd saw a flash of lightning and a little white cloud came to rest on the top of the holm oak tree, stayed a moment and then rose in the air and disappeared. As people looked around, they saw every hue of color displayed on the faces of others, on their clothes, and on the ground. The trees seemed not to have branches or leaves, but were covered with flowers; every leaf appeared as a flower. This brief heavenly moment passed, but was discussion material for days to come.
The fourth apparition to the children took place unexpectedly on Sunday, August 19th at a different location than the Cova da Iria. Our Lady appeared again at the top of a slightly taller holm oak tree. At this meeting Lucia expressed how difficult it was for people to believe that she was appearing and she asked Our Lady for some grace so that all would believe that she was appearing. Our Lady responded, “In October, I will perform a miracle so that everyone may believe in the apparitions. If they had not taken you to the town (meaning detention by the Mayor), the miracle would be even greater. St. Joseph will come with the Holy Child to bring peace to the world. Our Lord will come to bless the people. Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will also come at that time.” In every apparition, Lucia asked for cures for the people that requested. Our Lady responded in kind to each question. She finished her visit exhorting, “Pray! Pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell for not having someone to pray and make sacrifices for them.”
One of the children wanted to keep the small branch of the holm oak tree that Mary stood on during the visit, so they broke it off. Lucia stayed with the sheep at the grazing site, but Jacinta and Francisco rushed off with the branch to tell their families about the latest apparition. On the way to their house, they passed Lucia’s home. When Jacinta exclaimed to Lucia’s mom that they had just seen Our Lady at a different grazing site, Mrs. Santos replied harshly, “My, what little liars you turned out to be! As if Our Lady would appear to you wherever you go!”
Jacinta insisted, “But we did see her…see here, Our Lady had one foot on this twig and the other on that one.”
Maria Rosa replied, “Give it to me. Let me see.” As Maria Rosa took the branch from Jacinta, her face changed from disapproval to wonder. She smelled the branch, “What does this smell of? It is not perfume, it’s not incense, nor perfumed soap; it’s not the smell of roses nor anything I know, but it is a good smell.” The rest of Lucia’s family gathered around to hold and smell the branch. Our Lady lovingly gave Lucia a small gift that day to quell her mother’s opposition to what Lucia was experiencing, a fragrant branch touched by her heavenly feet.
Jacinta and Francisco then went to show their family the branch. Their father was in the kitchen when Jacinta entered smiling and said, “Look, Father, Our Lady appeared to us again, at the Valinhos! We’ve saved this branch that her feet touched.”
As she came in, a magnificent fragrance wafted into the kitchen. Mr. Marto asked to see it, but by the time he held the branch, the fragrance was gone. Mr. Marto concluded that Our Lady needn’t convince him with a miracle, his faith already had.
The children performed as many sacrifices as their strength allowed. They chose to be thirsty for much of that hot August. Their sacrifices were heroic and selfless. The extreme penances they undertook during the time of the apparitions and after when Jacinta and Francisco contracted the influenza that eventually took their lives is hard to understand. As with Our Lord’s sorrowful passion and in the lives of so many saints, the level of sacrificial suffering is unfathomable, but therein lies the mystery of the cross and redemptive suffering.
The September 13th apparition was similar to the preceding ones. Our Lady asked that all pray the rosary every day for the end of the war (WWI). She said that in October there would be a miracle so that all would believe. She indicated that donation money should be used to build a chapel. The witnesses at the apparition site that day reported that the air suddenly cooled during the time of the apparition. Some noticed the sun dimmed so much that many could see stars in the sky despite the mid-day time of the apparition and many saw a shower of iridescent flower petals that disappeared before touching the ground.
There was abundant anxiety on the part of the villagers before the October apparition. The community was divided with believers and those who thought the whole thing was a hoax. One thing was certain, many people from all of Portugal were going to see for themselves. Rain started falling the evening of October 12th and a thick fog formed. It didn’t deter the pilgrims that made their way on foot to the Cova da Iria. The crowd that gathered was estimated at 70,000.
The lightning flashed and the children prepared to see Our Lady. When she appeared Lucia asked the question, “What do you want of me?”
Our Lady responded, “I want them to build a chapel here in my honor; I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue to say the rosary every day. The war will end and the soldiers will return home soon.”
Lucia inquired about healing the sick. Our Lady said, “Some will be healed, others not! They must amend their lives and ask for forgiveness for their sins. Offend not Our Lord any more, for He is already much offended!” Our Lady opened her hands to reveal brilliant shafts of light. She rose into the air and pointed to the sun. Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco saw good Saint Joseph dressed in white holding the Infant Jesus, who was clothed in red. The Holy Infant and Saint Joseph each raised their hand in blessing and made the sign of the cross three times over the crowd. The Virgin appeared again dressed in blue and white as The Lady of the Rosary. Lucia then saw Our Lord dressed in red and white robes as the Divine Redeemer blessing the world. Beside the Divine Redeemer, the Virgin appeared again as Our Lady of Sorrows. Finally, Our Lady appeared dressed in the brown robes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The crowd didn’t see the apparitions of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that the children saw. Instead the rain had suddenly stopped, the overcast layer of clouds had parted and they saw the appearance of the sun change into a dull silver plate that started to spin and throw off shafts of light. Lustrous colors of all the hues of the rainbow were cast off as the sun spun with great speed in the sky. Then the orb appeared to wobble as it revolved! Next, it burst out of its place in the sky. It “danced” about and continued to bathe the crowd in unimaginable colors. The crowd was awestruck. The display continued for about ten minutes. Then the sun appeared as a fireball that was headed right for the earth. At this point the crowd was in terror. No one doubted the end of the world was at hand. There were screams and prayers rising from the mass of people. Then, just as quickly as it was about to fall to the earth, it returned to its place in the sky shining in its natural state. A wave of relief rose up from each witness. Truly, they had just witnessed the miraculous. An added grace was that their rain-drenched clothing and gear was now dry. Secular Portuguese newspapers carried accounts of the miracle from reports at the scene. Their eyewitness accounts give us descriptive and compelling evidence as to the magnitude of the miracle at the concluding apparition.

The armistice that ended World War I was signed November 11, 1918. As Our Lady prophesied, Francisco died soon after from the influenza on April 4, 1919. Jacinta died alone in a Lisbon hospital on February 20, 1920. The Fatima apparitions were approved by the Church on October 13, 1930. Lucia went on to the consecrated life. She became a Carmelite sister and lived much of her life in Coimbra, Portugal. Sister Lucia continued to have apparitions from Our Lady and one vision of the Holy Trinity.
On May 12, 1965 the golden rose was bestowed on shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on behalf of Pope Paul VI. Pope John Paul II was mortally linked to the Fatima revelations when he was shot at Saint Peter’s square on May 13, 1981. While he was recuperating from the gunshot wounds in the hospital, he asked for the Fatima documents. He credited the Virgin of Fatima for preserving his life. He visited Fatima the next year, May 12-13, 1982 to thank Our Lady of the Rosary’s “motherly hand which guided the bullet’s path” and preserved his life. He gave one of the bullets intended to kill him to the Bishop that oversees the Fatima shrine, and he placed the bullet into the Virgin’s crown on the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
An act of collegial entrustment of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was made by Pope John Paul II and the world’s Bishops on March 25, 1984. John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta on May 13, 2000 at the shrine at Fatima. Sister Lucia was in attendance for the ceremony at the age of 93. The Pontiff and Sister Lucia visited together on that poignant occasion.



The month after the beatification ceremony, in June 2000, the Vatican revealed the third part of the secret that Our Lady told the shepherd children on July 13, 1917 and it regarded martyrdom of the faithful and the clergy including the Pope. On February 13, 2005, Sister Lucia died at her Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal at the age of 97. Less than two months later, on April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II died on the eve of the Feast of the Divine Mercy. The last page of the Fatima book would seem to be nearly closed except for the matter of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the important role we play in that triumph.

Terese the little flower

The Family of the Little Flower
One of the most well-known saints of flowers may be Saint Thérèse of the Little Flower Jesus. She attained such a high degree of mystical union with Christ during her life with the humble spirituality that she imbued and wrote about, that she was named the thirty-third doctor of the Church on the centennial anniversary marking her death in 1997. To understand her spiritual formation, it is insightful to know about the aspirations of her very pious parents and sisters and the trials that marked their lives. Individually, her mother, Zélie Guérin and dad, Louis Martin wanted to become a sister and a priest, but they were each told that they didn’t have a vocation to the religious life. When they met each other, they recognized in one another those qualities of a holy love and agreed to marry.
Louis and Zélie Martin welcomed child after child into their beautiful family. Marie was the first-born, then Pauline, Léonie and Hélène. After Hélène was born, Mrs. Martin would start to undergo years of her own white martyrdom because of loss and illness. We only gain insight into the heart of Mrs. Martin from letters she wrote to her brother, a pharmacist and her sister, a Visitation nun. Mrs. Martin had a deep, heroic faith through which she experienced joys and sorrows making her a model of courage for all mothers.
Hélène was just a toddler when the Martin family had their first baby boy, Joseph Louis. Mrs. Martin wrote of her dreams for him: “…What a glorious day when he’ll ascend the altar, or preach from a pulpit!” Due to formation of a glandular breast tumor, Mrs. Martin couldn’t fully nurse the baby. In those days there was no infant formula to rely upon to nourish a newborn, parents had to find a nursing mother in their community to feed their baby. Mrs. Martin sought out a wet nurse for their son. The countrywoman, Mrs. Rose Taillé nursed Joseph Louis for almost five months; his health declined after a bacterial infection and he died.
Although she grieved, Mrs. Martin had to carry on with the important responsibilities to her family and her lace-making business. When Hélène was suffering from a painful ear infection, Mrs. Martin advised her to ask her little brother in heaven to intercede. The next morning, the infection and discharge were gone. Mrs. Martin yearned for another son to serve as a missionary priest and started a novena to Saint Joseph for that petition. Her prayers were answered almost to the day that the novena ended. Their little Joseph John Baptist was born December 19, 1867. When the baby was three months old, Mrs. Martin wrote, “He is as pretty as a little flower and laughs like a cherub…” The baby stayed at the cottage of the nursing woman, Rose Taillé. Bronchitis set in his lungs for three months and weakened him. Mrs. Martin traveled to Rose’s twice a day to visit the baby. The baby had a slight improvement so the Martins brought him home, but then he developed an intestinal disorder. Mrs. Martin wrote: “…it breaks my heart to see a baby suffer like this. He only utters a pitiful wail. He has not closed his eyes for forty-eight hours, and he is doubled up with the violence of the pain.” Their beloved Joseph John Baptist passed away August 24, 1868. When Mrs. Martin lost her father ten days later, she was numb with grief.
Life didn’t slow down for the Martins; they were completely advocating the proper upbringing of their daughters. Marie and Pauline stayed at the boarding school run by the Visitation nuns, one of whom was their aunt, Élise. Mrs. Martin was so grateful for the help of her sister in educating and rearing Marie and Pauline. She had hoped that her daughters would choose the religious life. The younger Martin daughters, Léonie and Hélène stayed with their parents where they would welcome another sister, Céline, on April 28, 1869. Due to the losses of her sons and father, for a time Mrs. Martin lived in fear and dread of another death, but being the courageous person she was, she resigned all to the will of God. Céline thrived and for a time the family enjoyed a respite from sorrow, but that too was short-lived. The next year after a short illness, five-year old Hélène died on February 22, 1870. Her passing tore at the hearts of her parents and sisters, especially Léonie, her close playmate in the family. The grief was heavier for the family than the deaths of the infant baby boys, but they carried on with a fresh blow to their hearts.
Mrs. Martin kept a space in their home as a shrine with a large statue of the Virgin Mary and a place to pray. Every May, Mrs. Martin would have a countrywoman bring in armloads of flowers, blossoms and white thorn from the country to decorate their shrine. The Martin daughters recall vases of flowers that
reached up to the ceiling. The statute of the Virgin Mary that the Martins venerated was well worn with the hands chipped from the girls saying their prayers before it and kissing it. While Mrs. Martin mourned the loss of Hélène, she recalled an untruth that Hélène had told. She remonstrated herself for not taking the child to confess and was distressed at that thought as she prayed in front of the statue. The next moment she heard a consoling beautiful voice say, “She is here with me.” In utter relief and elation, Mrs. Martin renewed her energy to carry the crosses that were asked of her. At this time, she was expecting their eighth child in August and was planning on bringing home Céline from the nurse out in the country after being weaned.
At every birth Mr. and Mrs. Martin faced two primary worries. The first was that they had to find a nursing woman who could feed their baby and the second was seeing that their baby was baptized immediately in the event of death. The breastfeeding complication developed for the children born after Léonie because of the start of Mrs. Martin’s breast tumor. The cross of not being able to feed her newborns was a profound one for Mrs. Martin. During the sickness of the second baby Joseph, Mrs. Martin would make the five-mile trip to the nurse’s home in the country twice a day to visit her sick baby.
Out of sheer necessity and some humiliation, Mr. and Mrs. Martin always tried to find a nursing mother of good reputation to feed and take care of their infant. With anticipation growing over the birth of another little one, the Martins had hoped to find a nurse that could stay with them in their home, but they weren’t able to. When little Thérèse Mélanie was born August 17, 1870, Mrs. Martin tried to nurse her but at last they turned to someone in the community who promised to feed their baby. To their profound horror, the woman didn’t adequately feed the baby. When the Martins began to suspect starvation, they brought the baby home. Mr. Martin sought urgently for another nurse in the middle of the night. Sadly, Thérèse Mélanie returned to Our Lord on October 8, 1870. Mrs. Martin wrote: “…She was as pretty as a flower…Oh, I wish I could die also! I am utterly worn out these last two days. I have eaten practically nothing and been up all night in mortal anguish.”
Mrs. Martin’s blood sister, Sister Dosithee (Élise) shared in every sorrow. At each fresh bereavement, Sister Dosithee’s letters were filled with consoling passages and exhortations to trust, trust, and never stop trusting in God’s will. In the letter Sister Dosithee wrote after Therese Melanie’s death, she recalled one spiritual writer who said, “Some children belong only to God. They are those whom He takes from this world. They love their Mother in Heaven more than other children do. Those mothers are blessed who have such children, whom we call God’s spring flowers.”
The next year when Mrs. Martin’s sister-in-law suffered the loss of an infant after his birth, she wrote words of consolation to her: “…When I closed the eyes of my dear children and buried them, I felt the sorrow indeed, but it has always been resigned sorrow. I did not regret the pain and cares I had borne for them. Several people said to me, ‘It would have been better if you had never had them,’ but I could not endure this sort of language. I did not think that the sufferings and anxieties could be weighed in the same scale with the eternal happiness of my children. Then they were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find them again up yonder.”
The Martins prepared for a ninth child to join their family. Mrs. Martin was in high anticipation of her baby. In a letter to her sister-in-law she confided something that happened during this pregnancy that hadn’t happened during the other eight. She noticed that when she sang, the baby she was carrying sang with her! The ‘little winter flower,’ Marie Françoise Thérèse Martin was born January 2, 1872. Within a week, Mrs. Martin noticed that Thérèse smiled at her. She valiantly tried to breastfeed the baby, but when an intestinal malady appeared, the doctor recommended mother’s milk from a wet nurse. Of all the possibilities, the Martins returned to Little Rose Taillé, the countrywoman who had cared for both baby Josephs. It was trying for Mrs. Martin to maintain hope for the health of the new baby girl. She was showing the same symptoms that led to the deaths of the other babies. She appealed to Little Rose to stay with them at the Martin house to nurse Thérèse. There was resistance from Little Rose’s husband because they had four young children of their own. Little Rose agreed to try to nurse for a week at the Martins and then take the child to her house from then on. At her first sight of Thérèse, Little Rose was doubtful. “Too late!” Rose worried. Broken-hearted but never despairing, Mrs. Martin prayed the most ardent prayer to Saint Joseph before his statue for a cure. Prayers said, Mrs. Martin returned to find Thérèse nursing hungrily. There was encouragement until she stopped sucking and it seemed to all who were present that she stopped breathing. The realization that her baby had died fell like a thud on Mrs. Martin’s heart. Resigning herself, she said the prayer of Job, “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” That resignation to the will of God spoken with her heroic faith was just the miracle it took to revive Thérèse. As Mrs. Martin relayed to her sister-in-law, “At last, after a quarter of an hour, my Thérèse opened her eyes and began to smile. From that moment she was completely cured.” Thérèse stayed with Rose and grew healthy and strong until she was 15 months old and then returned to her family. She had a firm attachment to Rose and even women she saw dressed like Rose at the market, just as she showed disdain for fancily dressed women who came to her mother’s lace-making business.
As was noted, Mrs. Martin had a lump in her breast for eleven years that restricted her ability to breastfeed. After Thérèse was born, cancer set in. Through all the stages of the ravages of the disease, Mrs. Martin displayed dignity and resignation to the will of God. The whole family prayed for her cure and while quite ill, Mrs. Martin and her daughter Marie undertook a pilgrimage to Lourdes for healing, but it was not to be. Our Lord took Zélie Martin to Himself at the age of forty-five on August 28, 1877. Her entire married life had been one of self-donation and oblation.
With the loss of their mother, the mourning family moved from Alençon to Lisiuex to be closer to Mrs. Martin’s brother and sister-in-law. Mr. Martin, Marie and Pauline took up the responsibilities of the household. Thérèse’s main playmates were her sister, Céline and a cousin close in age, Marie Guerin. Sometimes they would pretend to be Anchorite hermits who gave up all comforts to follow Christ. Sometimes they would challenge each other to a friendly rivalry where they would try to gain triumphs throughout the day by overcoming impulses or making up for failings. These virtuous games laid the groundwork for Therese’s spiritual “little way.”
Even as a very young girl, Thérèse’s sisters gently formed her conscience. She began to overcome her impulses starting as early as four to please her family and to please Jesus. Thérèse had always loved flowers for their beauty. One day she ran to the fields and gathered flowers to make a garland for her altar. Her grandmother saw the bunch and requested them for her own. Without hesitation, Thérèse politely relinquished the bouquet. It was only the presence of big tears in her eyes that gave away the effort of this sacrifice to her sisters.
Thérèse made careful spiritual preparations for her First Holy Communion. It seemed like an endless wait to her because she had to wait almost a whole additional year since diocesan regulations were that only nine-year olds by December 31 could receive and as her birthday was two days later, January 2 the wait of another year seemed extra-long. The delay only heightened her thirst to receive the living God. Her sister, Pauline gave Thérèse a booklet that explained the value of the little garland of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every page had a flower on it with the words, “I have gathered some…” followed by a short prayer. Therese entered the number of “flowers” she had gathered each day into her preparation book. At the end of three months, Thérèse joyfully noted that she had made 2,773 acts of love and made 818 sacrifices. It was sweet joy for Thérèse by the time she received Our Lord in the Eucharist.
Some years later Thérèse’s eldest sisters, Marie and Pauline, entered the Carmelite Monastery in Lisiuex. Living as a cloistered Carmelite sister necessitated adherence to living by the Rule that was established during the Middle Ages. Among the sixteen articles of the Rule, are poverty, chastity and obedience. Silence has to be kept from early evening until morning of every day. There are dietary restrictions and fasts that also are strictly adhered to. Life as a Carmelite was demanding, but those chosen as flowers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel are magnificently graced for their sacrifices and prayers. Thérèse longed to become a Carmelite, too. As soon as she began receiving Holy Communion, a desire grew and grew in her to become a Carmelite.
By the age of fourteen her calling to Carmel became more pronounced. She felt it necessary to act upon her calling by trying to enter the cloister as soon as possible. This desire presented a problem. Most Carmelite aspirants had to be twenty-one to be accepted into the community life and to keep up with the rigors of living the Rule. Would the Superior of the Carmel at Lisiuex allow her to begin as a postulant as a teenager? How would her loving father react to her desire to leave the family and become a Carmelite even after so many of his loves had left his world? Would her Uncle Guerin who was her legal guardian give his permission for her to enter Carmel? There were many hurdles to overcome and Thérèse began to face them.
Thérèse prayed for the strength to ask her father’s blessing. She asked him in their garden as he returned from evening Vespers on Pentecost Sunday, 1887. She couldn’t manage not to cry and there he was searching for the source of her tears. “What troubles you, my little queen? Confide in me,” he spoke. With such tenderness, Thérèse told him her heart’s desire. At first he sat down from the surprise and expressed some doubt. Then discerning how deeply she wanted this vocation, he promised to help her achieve it. At that moment he picked a white flower that was growing in between the bricks of the low part of the garden wall and gave it to Thérèse. She described the scene: “I received this flower as a relic and noticed that in gathering it, my father had pulled it up by the roots without breaking them; it seemed destined to live on, but in other and more fertile soil. Papa had just done the same thing for me. He allowed me to leave the sweet valley, where I had passed the first years of my life, for the mountain of Carmel.” Thérèse pressed the plant between the pages of The Imitation of Christ book she kept with her until her death.
Initially her guardian, Uncle Guerin flatly refused his permission for her to enter the Carmel. After a period of fervent intercessory prayer on Thérèse’s part, he consented. However, the Superior of the Carmel, Father Delatroëtte, sternly refused her request saying that only the consent of the Bishop of Bayeux could change his mind. A meeting between the Martins with the Bishop was inconclusive. Previous to meeting with the Bishop, Mr. Martin, Céline and Thérèse had intentions of going on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome. After their reception with the Bishop, Mr. Martin counseled Thérèse to ask the Pope for his permission to enter Carmel and that is what she did.
The pilgrimage was enriching for the Martins; they toured Venice, Bologna, and finally Rome! They were pilgrims to the Catacombs, the Basilica of Saint Agnes, the Colosseum, and Saint Peter’s Basilica. Thérèse tried to be relaxed, but overarching all the wonderful sightseeing was the anxiety she harbored about the impending Papal audience. That is where she needed to ask Pope Leo XIII for his dispensation so she could be admitted into the Carmel at Lisiuex
The Martin’s turn came to meet the Pope. The priest that led the pilgrimage warned his group not to initiate talk with the Holy Father in the receiving line. As the priest announced Mr. Martin, he mentioned that he was the father of two Carmelites. Pope Leo rested his hand on Mr. Martin in blessing. When it was Thérèse’s turn, she was expressive as teenagers are. She knelt down to kiss his foot and then pleaded by clasping her hands at the level of his knee and implored, “Most Holy Father, in honor of your Jubilee, permit me to enter Carmel at fifteen.”
Somewhat surprised, the Pontiff replied, “Come, come, you will enter if it be God’s will.” He then blessed her. Thérèse couldn’t hide her disappointment, she was led away in tears. The fact that her intention was still unresolved was another step of the heavy cross she bore of not yet attaining the vocation that consumed her.
However, her sincere desire stirred the empathy of the priest that led the pilgrimage. In his communication to the diocese about the pilgrimage, he wrote, “Among the pilgrims was a girl of fifteen, who begged the Holy Father to be allowed to enter a convent immediately in order to be a nun.” Word began to spread throughout the clergy of Lisiuex of Thérèse’s intention and sentiment built in her favor. Letters were written and within two months Thérèse received permission to enter Carmel after Easter in 1888 at the age of fifteen.
Thérèse completed her postulancy on January 10, 1889, an occasion marked by accepting the Carmelite habit. This grand event was to be the last joyful occasion that she and her father would share on earth. At the beginning of the ceremony, Therese came out of the cloistered enclosure wearing a white velvet dress, which was trimmed with Point d’Alençon lace, the specialty lace made renown by her mother, and swans down. She wore a long flowing veil with a wreath of lilies while her long lovely curls hung on her shoulders. It was one of Mr. Martin’s proudest moments. Thérèse processed on his arm to the sanctuary of the chapel just as a father gives away the bride, in this case, a bride to Christ. Then the ceremony commenced with the Eucharist and prayers. Thérèse then put on the Carmelite habit and said the last painful good-bye to her father.
Cloistered community life had great joys and great trials of soul. Matters were not necessarily easier for Thérèse even with three of her blood sisters and a first cousin in the community. She was misunderstood by the Prioress and the Novice Mistress and also by other sisters. One illustrative example was when Thérèse had the task of arranging the flowers around the coffin of an aged nun who had died. She performed this with great joy because she had always loved flowers. Within earshot she heard one sister remark to another, “Look how she gives prominence to the flowers sent in by her family and hides the others underneath.”
Showing no denial or indignation to the false accusation, Thérèse smilingly replied, “You are quite right, Sister. I thank you for the hint.” Thérèse proceeded to rearrange all the flowers according to her critic’s suggestions. The display was not as beautiful, but once again Jesus accepted her spiritual bouquets of charity and humility as sweetest smelling blossoms for His throne.
These same small acts of love, self-abnegation, oblation were carried out by Thérèse day and night in multitudes of diverse ways and described in an autobiography she was under obedience to write called, The Story of a Soul. It is the story of her life from spiritual infancy to religious life and the “little way” of spirituality. The little way is that in all the incidents of our life we react best when we react with extraordinary love, God receives these small gifts as great spiritual offerings. Some examples may be remaining positive in difficult circumstances, suffering in silence, offering a smile or encouraging words. Thérèse wrote, “We must offer Jesus the flowers of little sacrifices and win Him by a caress.” The essential key is to remain humble in our acts so that God’s grace can rush in and fill up all the areas according to His will.

Thérèse compared the life of souls to flowers. She wrote, “Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be adorned with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.”
Thérèse garnered every possible grace at the Carmel to scatter fresh flowers at the feet of the Savior. She asked that He use the graces she labored for to be applied to priests, in particular, missionary priests. The apostolate of mission work strongly appealed to her. As was noted in Chapter 20, French Catholics began the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, which was a favorite charity of her mother and father and one which they had generously supported. One day in 1895, the Prioress, Mother Agnes (her sister Pauline) mentioned to Thérèse that she had received a letter from a seminarian who would serving in Africa as a missionary. He asked the Carmel for a spiritual helper, a sister who would consecrate all her good works for the salvation of his soul and the souls of the people he would be ministering to. Thérèse accepted this request with great joy. Now she could assign a name to where she wanted all the graces from her good works to go. In 1896 she was given another missionary priest as a spiritual brother. Thérèse embraced being a “virtual missionary” with unbounded zeal. The Carmel of Hanoi, Vietnam invited Thérèse to transfer to their community, a thought that filled her with longing, but by that time, Thérèse was in poor health. She had been suffering fevers for two years and on the day when she expectorated blood, she knew that eternity was closer at hand.
Pneumonia weakened her condition and then tuberculosis set in. There were no cures available. The prospect of her death was, in a sense, joyful to her. Contemplating eternity, Thérèse didn’t entertain thoughts of resting in peace as most do after a destructive illness, rather she promised to “teach souls my little way and spend eternity doing good upon earth.” Furthermore, she foretold the miraculous sign of roses that would come to be associated with her powerful intercession, saying, “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses.” Thérèse underwent ghastly struggles in the final stages of her illness and died September 30, 1897 at the age of twenty-four.
In addition to the notice of her death, the Carmel distributed the manuscript she wrote, The Story of a Soul to all the convents of the Order of Carmelites. It soon became widely acclaimed. The Carmel obtained an Imprimatur and in October of 1898, the book was more widely distributed. The Story of a Soul went on to be read by millions and was published in more than thirty languages. Pope Pius XI canonized Thérèse on May 17, 1925. Airplanes circled over the square of Saint Peter’s dispersing rose petals over the enormous crowd. She was proclaimed patron of all missions on December 14, 1927 and proclaimed the second patron of France (Saint Joan of Arc is the first patron of France) on May 3, 1944. On the 100th anniversary of her death in October 1997, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Therese the 33rd Doctor of the Church and only the third woman to be given that distinction in the company of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Catherine of Siena. Saint Thérèse was also named co-patroness of Missions, a distinction she shares with Saint Frances de Sales. Finally, Saint Thérèse is a powerful intercessor. Many, many Catholics call upon her for intercessory graces, sometimes using the quick prayer, “Little flower, in this hour, show us your power.”
Very recently, Zélie Martin and her husband Louis Martin have been recognized by their valor in maintaining strong Catholic identity in their family struggles. As a couple they were declared “Venerable” by Pope John Paul II on March 25, 1994. Pope Benedict XVI declared Mr. and Mrs. Martin “Blessed” on October 19, 2008 at a beatification Mass at the Basilica dedicated to their daughter, Saint Thérèse, in Lisiuex, France. Pope Francis canonized the couple on October 18, 2015 as the first husband and wife to be canonized together in Church history. They are now known as Saint Louis Martin and Saint Marie Zélie Guerin Martin whose feast day is July 12th .

The Knock Heavenly Tableau

Knock Apparition August 21, 1879
Ireland had experienced the worst of potato crop failure during the “hungry forties,” but some regional crop failure was experienced in the province of Connacht in northwest Ireland during the late 1870’s. Inhabitants in the small village of Cnoc, Gaelic for “hill” named for the surrounding hilly countryside faced a third year of bad crops in 1879. There was little to celebrate at the first fruits harvest festival. The pastor of the village church, Father Bartholomew Cavanaugh, encouraged his parishioners to persevere in their trials. He was a prayerful and fatherly priest. Father Cavanaugh decided to offer 100 Masses for the poor souls in purgatory because he knew their intercession before God is great. Father completed the one hundredth Mass on Thursday, August 21st, 1879 and spent part of the rest of that rainy day on horseback visiting a distant part of the parish.
Mary McLoughlin finished up chores as housekeeper for Father Cavanaugh at about 7:00pm. She stepped out in the damp dusk to walk over to her friend’s house to chat. It was still daylight as she walked past the church and saw some beautiful figures outside the church close to the gable wall. Thinking them to be statues acquired by the pastor, she continued to her friend’s house, yet she was a little puzzled about why they were left out in the rain and why Father Cavanaugh hadn’t mentioned anything about them to her. Mary chatted with her friend, Mary Beirne for about half an hour and then the two walked back past the church. The church was about fifty years old and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. The south wall of the church was a “gable” wall where it joined the sloping roof sections together at the end of the building. Inside the church against that wall lay the altar and tabernacle. There was an inscription on the outside of the west wall that read, “My house shall be called the House of Prayer to All Nations. This is the gate of the Lord; the just shall enter into it.”
The two Marys were at a distance of about thirty yards from the church and they leaned against a low wall that enclosed the church property to see the figures. The marvelous light surrounding the figures was really beautiful and while they gazed on the whole scene, they noticed movement in the figures and that is when the women realized the figures were not statues! Recognizing one of the figures as the Virgin Mary, Mary Beirne quickly returned to her home to summon her mother, brother, sister, and niece to the scene.
At about 8:00pm, Dominick Beirne roused more villagers to the scene, saying, “Come to the chapel to see the miraculous lights, and the beautiful visions that are to be seen there.” Thirteen-year-old Patrick Hill quickly ran to see with his little brother and others. Patrick came upon the group of witnesses and began to pray with them. Little six-year-old John Curry couldn’t see over the wall, so Patrick lifted him up to see the “grand babies” as he called them. Once over the four-foot wall they moved in closer to the apparition to see better. Patrick’s testimony is the most detailed because of his close proximity to the images and because he beheld the details of the amazing sight for more than an hour.

The eye-witnesses saw, in a living tableau from left to right, Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, and an altar upon which stood a Lamb with a number of angels encircling and revolving around the lamb. Behind the altar was a plain cross. All the figures were suspended about two feet off of the ground and there was movement of the figures, but no words were spoken. Although there was driving rain aimed from a southerly wind into the direction of the gable wall, no rain was falling on the figures in the tableau or upon the ground they were suspended above.
Saint Joseph was described as looking aged with iron-gray hair and a beard. His head was bent forward from his shoulders and inclined showing deference to the Virgin Mary. He wore a white full-length robe that did not cover his feet. The Virgin Mary stood straight with her eyes lifted to heaven. She appeared to be praying. She wore a white robe fastened at the neck that hung in folds about her. Upon her head was a regal gold crown that had sparkling points or crosses at the upper edges of the crown and a distinct golden rose in the front and center where the crown fit on Her head. Her hands were raised to shoulder level, apparently in prayer.

Patrick Hill, told the Commission of Inquiry on October 8th 1879, “I distinctly beheld the Blessed Virgin Mary, life-size, standing about two feet or so above the ground, clothed in white robes which were fastened at the neck. Her hands were raised to the height of the shoulders, as if in prayer, with the palms facing one another but slanting inwards towards the face. The palms were not turned towards the people but facing each other as I have described. She appeared to be praying. Her eyes were turned as I saw towards heaven. She wore a brilliant crown on her head and over the forehead where the crown fitted the brow, a beautiful rose. The crown appeared brilliant and of a golden brightness, of a deeper hue, inclined to a mellow yellow than the striking whiteness of the robes she wore. The upper parts of the crown appeared to be a series of sparkles or glittering crosses.”
Saint John the Evangelist was clothed in the robes of a bishop and wore a miter on his head. He held an open book in his left hand and his right hand was raised to the height of his head and closed except for his index and middle finger, which were extended. It appeared to the witnesses that he was preaching or raising his right hand in blessing, except he spoke no words. When Patrick Hill advanced closer to the figures, he saw lines of writing in the book but couldn’t read them because interestingly, as witnesses drew closer, the figures appeared to recede.
Completing the image was a white altar with a young lamb estimated to be about five weeks old standing on the altar and facing west. A cross stood behind the lamb on the altar. Angels fluttered around the lamb during the entire duration of the apparition. The angels’ heads were facing the lamb and turned away from the witnesses so the faces of the angels could not be described.
Seventy-five-year-old Bridget French also came out to behold the scene. As she took in the apparition, she knelt down and exclaimed, “A hundred thousand thanks to God and to the glorious Virgin that has given us this manifestation.” Bridget then proceeded to walk right up to the Blessed Mother to kiss her feet. Bridget describes, “I felt nothing in the embrace, but the wall, and I wondered why I could not feel with my hands the figures which I had so plainly and so distinctly seen.” Bridget noticed further, “It was raining very heavily at the time, but no rain fell where the figures were. I felt the ground carefully with my hands, and it was perfectly dry.”
At about 8:15 pm Mary McLoughlin left the apparition to notify Father Cavanaugh of the vision. Father Cavanaugh related that Mary McLoughlin burst in exclaiming, “Oh your Reverence, the wonderful and beautiful sight! The Blessed Virgin has appeared up at the chapel with Saint Joseph and Saint John and we have stood looking at them this long time. Oh, the wonderful sight!” Father Cavanaugh interpreted from what Mary said that the apparition was over, but he also didn’t clarify to ask Mary McLoughlin if it was still taking place. He later lamented that moment, saying, “I did not go up, and I have regretted ever since that I omitted to do so. I shall ever feel sorry that a sight of the apparitions has been denied me, but God may will that the testimony to his Blessed Mother’s presence should come from the simple faithful and not through the priests.”
The fifteen witnesses estimate that the tableau was visible for three hours, from 7 pm to 10 pm. Some of the witnesses prayed, some wept, all were in awe. Judith Campbell watched in rapt wonder for most of it and then decided to return home because her mother was sick. Finding that her mother had collapsed at the cottage door, Judith asked for help. Some of the witnesses rushed to help lift the mother into bed and then they hurried back to the church. By then, the apparition had ended and they were met with the familiar darkness and rain hitting the gable wall.
The apparition lifted the thoughts of the people from their trials to comprehend the eternal message in the tableau. Donal Flanagan points out in the book The Meaning of Knock that the presence of St. John among the figures may have been because he was the scripture writer who set down the idea of Christ as the Lamb of God. John 1:29 states, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” John wrote in Revelation Chapter 5 verses 11-14, “I looked again and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: ‘To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.’ ” One may imagine that if St. John were preaching aloud that memorable night of August 21st, those scripture passages may have been issuing forth from his lips.
After the apparition, Father Cavanaugh recorded more than three hundred cures that were connected with the Knock chapel. He detailed one such cure, “Some little while ago, I received a ‘sick-call’ late at night to a man who was said to be vomiting blood, and in extreme danger. Hastening to the house, attended by a boy with a lantern, I met the father of the patient coming to hurry me, in distress lest I should be too late (to give his son the last rites). On reaching the cottage, I found the young man covered, so to speak, with blood, and apparently very near death, but conscious. After ministering to him, I called for a glass of water, sprinkled on it a few particles of the mortar from the gable wall of the chapel, and bade him to drink. He did so; at once he began to recover, and is now well.”
After ecclesiastical approval, Knock became a popular pilgrimage destination. First a trickle, then a stream, now rivers of pilgrims visit the shrine, as many as one million every year. A local boy who grew up visiting the shrine went on to fame and holiness. The priest, Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton was born and raised close to Knock. He visited the shrine often before he emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 19 and became known as the Rosary Priest. Father Peyton used print, radio and television to spread devotion to reciting the family rosary. He founded the Rosary Crusade and staged hundreds of radio and television programs encouraging recitation of the rosary. Family Theater shows employed Hollywood stars to reenact the mysteries of the rosary. He made famous the statement, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Father Peyton promised, “If families will but listen to my message and give Our Lady ten minutes of their twenty-four hours by reciting the daily Family Rosary, I assure them that their homes will become, by God’s grace, peaceful, prayerful places, little heavens, which God the Author of home life has intended they should be!”
In the centenary anniversary year of the apparition, Pope John Paul II visited Knock to raise a new Church of Our Lady Queen of Ireland to Basilica status. He said Mass in the new Basilica on Sunday, September 30, 1979. He blessed the sick, he prayed an act of consecration of Ireland and the Irish people to Mary, Mother of the Church, and he bestowed a papal Golden Rose to the shrine on that auspicious occasion. A Mary Garden has also been constructed on the grounds of the shrine to encourage contemplation on the mysteries of our faith through flowers.

Consolation of Lourdes healing water

Our Lady of Lourdes (February-July, 1858)
Another celestial visit was planned for France about 400 miles from the alpine setting of La Salette in the Spring of 1858, almost twelve years after Our Lady of Sorrows appeared. The Soubirous family was struggling that spring. The father, Francois, was a miller by trade, but without enough work, he struggled to feed his family consisting of he and his wife and six children. Bernadette was the eldest child and she had just returned to the family after shepherding for a family away from the village of Lourdes to help make ends meet. The Soubirous’ lived in a one-room dwelling and bread and firewood were constantly in scarce supply. On the eleventh day of February 1858, Bernadette, her sister and a friend were out picking up sticks to use as firewood. They had meandered near some rock formations known as the rocks of Massabielle. They intended to cross a stream, which was a channel from the Gave River to pick up sticks on the other side. Bernadette’s sister and friend readily crossed the stream, but Bernadette was more hestitant. She dreaded the cold and didn’t want to trigger an asthmatic attack. So she sat down and was taking off her stockings to make the crossing when she heard a noise like a strong wind. Looking around she wondered if a storm was approaching, but since the air returned to stillness, she resumed her task. Once again she heard the wind. She got up and looked in the direction of the rock. There was a wild rose bush growing out of the niche of the rock. Bernadette noticed the trailing branch was moving about, but the other surrounding vegetation was still. Suddenly the whole enclave was illumined with light and Bernadette saw a most beautiful woman standing on the wild rose branch. Bernadette described the woman as a Lady, “young and more beautiful than anyone she had ever seen.” The Lady was clothed in white with a blue sash tied around her middle, the ends of which fell in front to the bottom of her dress. Bernadette saw the Lady’s feet exposed between the folds of the bottom of her dress and that she bore a yellow rose as of shining gold on each of her bare feet. The Lady wore a white veil on her head that covered her shoulders and extended below her waist. A rosary of white beads on a gold chain hung on her right arm.
Instinctively, Bernadette kneeled, took out her rosary and began with the sign of the cross, but was unable to do so until the Lady joined in her prayer. The Lady gracefully smiled with every Hail Mary that Bernadette prayed, and during the prayer of the Glory Be, the Lady reverently bowed her head and joined in the prayer to the Holy Trinity. Following the rosary, as suddenly as she appeared, the Lady disappeared. Bernadette didn’t have time to wonder and revel at what had just happened to her because her sister and friend had found her kneeling and asked her why she wasn’t helping with the sticks. She plunged into the stream and didn’t even notice the cold and picked up sticks. Bernadette told her mother about the visitation. Dear Mrs. Soubirous cautioned Bernadette not to return to the rocks, but when Sunday, February 14th came, Bernadette longed to return to Massabielle. Mrs. Soubirous consented. Bernadette and about a dozen other girls went to the site of visitation. They knelt in a semi-circle and proceeded to pray the rosary. Bernadette had holy water to sprinkle on the apparition, as a precaution against the Malefactor. None of the accompanying girls could see anyone except Bernadette, but they were quite convinced by watching the expressions on Bernadette’s face, that she conversed with an apparition that they couldn’t see.
The third apparition took place on Thursday, February 18th. It was with great hesitancy that Mrs. Soubirous permitted Bernadette to return to the rocks for this visitation. With all the talk swirling around about her daughter, she fretted that Bernadette was becoming delusional and the village laughing stock. Two pious women convinced Mrs. Soubirous to let Bernadette go back. They promised to chaperone Bernadette and protect her from harm. The women urged Bernadette to ask the celestial visitor who she was and even brought paper, ink and a pen for this purpose. As the apparition commenced, Bernadette bowed low and continued praying her rosary. The chaperones saw nothing except the wild rose bush growing out of the rock and Bernadette’s ecstatic facial expressions as she interacted with the visitor. Near the end of the visit, Bernadette approached the Lady with the paper and pen hoping that she would write down who she was, but that was not to be revealed. The Lady told Bernadette the following three things during this pivotal visit. She said, “I wish you to come here for fifteen consecutive days.” She said that she wanted to see a great many people come to this place and she told Bernadette poignantly, “I promise to make you happy, not in this world, but in the next.”
The apparitions on the next days served to convince Bernadette’s mother that something supernatural was really happening to their daughter. More and more people were coming to witness the apparitions, including Doctor Dozous, who carefully observed Bernadette’s expressions and her pulse during the event, which remained normal.
The apparition controversy prompted the police to detain Bernadette and make an inquiry into the visitations. She didn’t deny her experiences and although threatened with jail if she continued to go to the Grotto, Bernadette was released to her father, Francois who stated that he would put a stop to his daughter’s activities at the Grotto. Bernadette was obedient to her parents and went to school the next day, Tuesday, February 23, 1858. However, on her way, her steps halted and she could not proceed any further as though a supernatural barrier prevented her. Some guards witnessed this unusual occurrence and were baffled. Bernadette turned to go back home, but she heard an inner locution gently ask why she hadn’t kept her promise of visiting the Grotto. At that, Bernadette hastened to the Grotto, prayed the rosary and waited, but was deprived of an apparition that day.
During the ninth apparition on February 25th, as Bernadette was in communication with the Lady, she suddenly stood up and began to walk to the River Gave, then she stopped, turned back, and looked at the niche in the rock. Bernadette walked back close to the Grotto and to the left and began digging in the dry soil with her fingers. The crowds of people watching were puzzled as to what she was doing. Bernadette dug further and uncovered water welling up out of the ground. At first there was a bit of mud, then more rivulets of water sprung forth. In apparent obedience to the apparition, Bernadette drank of the slightly muddy mixture, washed her face with it and swallowed some grass or herbs growing nearby, too. Her face was dirty from the muddy slurry. The onlookers were skeptical. This type of event was just what the unbelievers had warned about. Bernadette was doing something off beat enough to cast doubt on the authenticity of the apparitions! Yet, she uncovered a spring of water! How did she do that? The debates continued and the controversies were stirred.
The Lady requested during the eleventh apparition that Bernadette ‘Go and tell the priests that a Chapel must be built here.’ Bernadette set out to meet her parish priest that very day. Father Peyramale was not of a sentimental personality. He didn’t treat Bernadette with deference. He had not been to the apparition site and curiosity didn’t drive his Faith. Rather, he questioned Bernadette about many aspects of the Lady. His primary question was who was the Lady? When Bernadette couldn’t answer that key question, the priest said that he was “not in the habit of doing business with people he does not know.”
After the twelfth apparition on Sunday February 28th, the village men decided to dig a channel from the spring Bernadette unearthed to drain into a pool they dug out that was 3-4 feet in length. The message from the 14th apparition was that the Lady desired that people come to Massabielle in procession. This prompted Bernadette to visit her parish priest for a second time regarding the apparitions. Father Peyramale was skeptical especially since Bernadette still didn’t know who was appearing to her. He said sternly, “Tell the Lady people must speak plainly to me. What are her credentials for the honors she asks? I am going to suggest a way by which she might gain credence for her message. You say that she appears at the Grotto with a wild rosebush beneath her feet. Ask her, from me, to make this rosebush put forth blossoms one of these days in the presence of the assembled crowd. When you come and tell me this has been done, then I will believe. Moreover, I will go myself to Massabielle with you.” The sight of a leafless thorny branch blooming in March would indeed be miraculous, but this prodigy was not to be. The Lady would instead send proof of her heavenly origin by the miraculous healings that were beginning to take place for those who washed with the spring water.
Louis Bourriette had suffered a serious injury to his right eye rendering him blind in that eye with vision so compromised in his left eye that he couldn’t distinguish a person from a tree. As news spread about the miraculous spring, Louis asked his daughter to bring him back some of the water. He rubbed the water on his injured eye and prayed for healing. Almost instantly he noticed his vision had been restored to a “luminous haze…then the haze cleared away and the sight became perfect.” Louis proclaimed his healing to his family, his doctor and to all. Later the Commission of Inquiry initiated by the Bishop of Tarbes concluded that the case of Louis Bourriette’s healing was declared to be unexplained according to known laws.
A second miraculous healing occurred in the case of a two-year old child. This baby had been sick since infancy. He was wasting away and on March 4th his grieving parents were awaiting the child’s final breath. Suddenly, in a desperate act of faith, the mother grabbed her baby, covered him in her apron and dashed off to the Grotto in tears and prayers saying, “…The Holy Virgin of the Grotto will cure him for me!” to her skeptical husband.  The mother approached the pool of spring water and plunged the toddler up to his chin in the chilly water. There she held him in the pool for a quarter of an hour praying and hoping. Witnesses felt sorry for the desperation of the mother because by all outward appearances, the baby appeared to be dead. Then the mother wrapped her baby once again in her apron and rushed home. The baby was breathing and in a very deep sleep until the next day when he awoke with rosy cheeks and asked for food. Within days he had begun to walk and was reaching milestones that days before would have been impossible. The restoration of the baby’s health was a second miraculous cure attributed to the healing waters of the spring.
The daily apparitions stopped after the Thursday, March 4th visitation. Three weeks passed without an apparition until March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation. During this apparition Bernadette felt compelled once again to ask the apparition who she was. As every other time, the Lady inclined her head and smiled but didn’t respond. Bernadette asked a second time and the same response was given. Bernadette asked yet a third time and with this the Lady humbly joined her hands together at the breast, raised her eyes to heaven, then let her hands fall slowly and bent toward Bernadette saying with a tremulous voice, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Those onlookers who heard Bernadette repeat the Virgin’s words ‘Immaculate Conception’ were astounded. Some kissed the rock and news of the Lady being the Virgin Mary sped through France and beyond. Bernadette had to keep repeating the words “the Immaculate Conception” so that she wouldn’t forget them when she met again with Father Peyramale to tell him who the Lady said she was. As we know, Bernadette’s education was limited and she wasn’t aware that Pope Pius IX had proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary just four years earlier in 1854. To learned priests and bishops however, the revelation that the Virgin calling herself the Immaculate Conception had opened up a healing spring in the lowly hamlet of Lourdes was a stunning heavenly approbation in the life of the Catholic Church.

Bernadette had two more apparitions at the Grotto, one in April and the last one on July 16th, the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Less than four years later the local Bishop wrote a pastoral letter dated January, 1862. He stated, “We judge that the Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, really appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on February 11th, 1858, and on succeeding days to the number of eighteen times in the Grotto of Massabielle, close to the town of Lourdes. In order to act in conformity with the wish expressed more than once by the Blessed Virgin in the course of the Apparitions, we propose to erect a chapel on the site of the Grotto, which site is now the property of the Bishop of Tarbes.”
Processions to the Grotto were begun in 1864. Bernadette often suffered from illness, but in 1866 she was well enough to enter into religious life in the community of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, France. Before her departure from Lourdes, Bernadette made a last sorrowful visit to the Grotto and said good-bye to her “Heaven.” Bernadette, who became the professed Sister Marie-Bernard, was beset with suffering and lingering illness throughout the rest of her life. She was called home the Wednesday of Holy Week, April 16th, 1879. In her last moments, her arms were extended in the shape of a cross and she said, “I thirst” followed by her final words, “Mary, Mother of God.” She expired at three o’clock in the afternoon at the age of thirty-five. Bernadette was canonized a saint on December 8, 1933 and her feast day is April 16th. Bernadette’s body has not undergone decay and her body lies in a glass coffin in the chapel of the convent and she is known as the Sleeping Saint of Nevers.

The Grotto of Lourdes is one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world. It has the distinction of having two separate Golden Roses bestowed upon it. In 1876 Pius IX gave a Golden Rose to the shrine at Lourdes because as some have said, he was the Pope of the Immaculate Conception. Just eight months before his death, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Lourdes where he conferred the Golden Rose to the shrine on August 14, 2004. His own suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease made his visit all the more touching. He began his greetings, “Dear sick brothers and sisters, I would like to hold you in my arms…” and then his strength failed and he couldn’t continue his remarks. Aides rushed in to help move him from the kneeler to a chair. After the Pope regained his peace, Cardinal Etchegaray continued reading the Pope’s address saying, in part, “Dear sick brothers and sisters, I would like to hold you in my arms, one after another, to show my affection and to tell you how close I am to you and show my solidarity with you…” His words took on added meaning because of his own heroic suffering.
The year from Feb. 2008 to Feb. 2009 marked the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI visited Lourdes in September 2008 to celebrate the anniversary.

Sorrows in La Salette and famine

Our Lady of Sorrows/ The Great Hunger (1846)
We are back in France on our trail of heavenly flowers nearly fifty years after the French Revolution. The alpine valley near the village of La Salette, just 50 miles from Laus, would be where two young cow herders would receive a visit from the Queen of Heaven. It seems more than a coincidence that shepherds are often chosen to carry important messages from God. Angels sang to Shepherds about the birth of Baby Jesus in Bethlehem, Benôite Rencurel of Laus was given a special mission as she shepherded, and the Fatima Shepherds were told important prophecies of world events that were oblivious to those in government. Maybe shepherds are chosen because their contemplation of nature and care for the animals predisposes them to be the best vessels to soak up heavenly messages and relay them to the world. Or maybe it is because Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are the sheep that go astray and need to be brought back into the fold and protected by Him.
Melanie Calvat, 14, described the events of the day before the apparition. “On the Eighteenth of September 1846, I was alone, as usual, watching over my Master’s cows. Around 11:00 A.M., I saw a small boy walking towards me. I was frightened at this, for it seemed to me that everyone ought to know that I avoided all kinds of company.
This boy came up to me and said, “Little girl, I’m coming with you, I’m from Corps, too.
At these words, the natural evil in me soon showed itself, and taking a few steps back, I told him, “I don’t want anybody around. I want to be alone.
But the boy followed me, saying, “Go on, let me stay with you. My Master told me to come and watch over my cows together with yours. I’m from Corps.” I walked away from him, gesturing to him that I didn’t want anybody around, and when I was some distance away, I sat down on the grass. There, I used to talk with the little flowers of the Good Lord. A moment later, I looked behind me and there I found Maximin sitting close to me. Straightaway he says to me, “Keep me with you. I’ll be very good.” But the natural evil in me will not hear reason. I jump to my feet and run a little farther off without saying a word and again I start playing with the little flowers of the Good Lord. In an instant Maximin was there again telling me he would be very good, that he wouldn’t talk, that he would get bored all by himself, and that his Master had sent him to be with me, etc. This time, I took pity, I gestured to him to sit down, and I kept on playing with the little flowers of the Good Lord.
It wasn’t long before Maximin broke the silence by bursting into laughter (I think he was making fun of me). I look at him and he says to me, “Let’s have some fun, let’s make up a game.” I said nothing in reply, for I was so ignorant. I didn’t understand what games with other people were, always having been alone. I played with the flowers on my own and Maximin came right up close to me doing nothing but laughing, telling me the flowers didn’t have ears to listen to me and that we should play together instead. But I had no liking for the game he told me to play. I started talking to him, however, and he told me that the ten days he was to spend with his Master would soon be over and then he would go home to his father in Corps, etc…
While he was talking, I heard the bell of La Salette, it was the Angelus. I gestured to Maximin to lift his soul up to God. He took off his hat and was silent for a moment. Then I said, “Do you want to have dinner?
Yes,” he replied, “let’s eat.” We sat down and I brought out of my bag the provisions my Master had given me.
As was my habit, before breaking into my little round loaf, I made a cross with the point of my knife on the bread and a little hole in the middle, saying, “If the devil’s in there, may he leave and if the Good Lord is in there, may He stay!” I rapidly covered up the little hole. Maximin burst into laughter and kicked the loaf out of my hands. It rolled down the mountainside and was lost from sight. I had another piece of bread, which we shared. Afterwards, we played a game. Then, realizing that Maximin must still be hungry, I pointed out a place on the mountainside covered with all kinds of berries. I urged him to go and eat some and he went straight away. He ate a few berries and bought back his hat full of them. In the evening we walked back down the mountain together and promised to come back the next day and watch over our cows together.
Saturday September 19th was the day before the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, a day recognized by the whole Church (extended in 1814 by Pope Pius VII) as occurring on the third Sunday in September, in this case, September 20, 1846. Melanie gives her testimony of the Virgin Mary’s visit, an event that would change her and Maximin’s lives.
The next day, the 19th of September, I met Maximin on the way up. We climbed up the mountainside together. I discovered that Maximin was a very good, simple boy and would willingly talk about what I wanted to talk about. He was also very flexible and had no fixed opinions. He was just a little curious, for when I walked away from him, as soon as he saw I had stopped, he would run over to me to see what I was doing and hear what I was saying to the flowers of the Good Lord. If he arrived too late, he would ask me what I had said.
Maximin told me to teach him a game. It was already late morning. I told him to gather some flowers for the “Paradise.” We set to work together. Soon we had a number of flowers of various colors. I could hear the village Angelus ringing for the weather was fine and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Having told the Good Lord what we had learned, I said to Maximin that we ought to drive our cows on to a small plateau near the gully, where there would be stones to build the “Paradise.” We drove our cows to the selected spot and then had a small meal. Then we started collecting stones to build our little house, which was comprised of a ground floor which was where we were to live, and then a story above which was to be, as we called it, “Paradise.” This story was decorated all over with different colored flowers with garlands hanging from flower stalks. This “Paradise” was covered by a single large stone, which we had strewn with flowers. We had also hung garlands all the way round. When we had finished, we sat and looked at the “Paradise.” We began to feel sleepy and having moved a couple of feet away, we went to sleep on the grass.
When I woke up, I couldn’t see the cows, so I called Maximin and climbed up the little mound. From there I could see our cows grazing peacefully and I was on my way down when all at once I saw a beautiful light shining more brightly than the sun.
Maximin, do you see what is over there?” At the same moment, I dropped the stick I was holding. Something inconceivably fantastic passed through me in that moment and I felt myself being drawn. I felt a great respect, full of love, and my heart beat faster. I kept my eyes firmly fixed on this light, which was static, and as if it had opened up, I caught sight of another much more brilliant light, which was moving. In this light I saw a most beautiful lady sitting on top of our Paradise. She had her face in her hands and her elbows were resting on her knees.
This beautiful Lady stood up; she coolly crossed her arms while watching us and said, “Come nearer children, and do not be afraid. I have something of importance to tell you.
These soft and sweet words made me fly to her and my heart desired to attach itself to her forever. When I was close to the beautiful Lady, in front of her to the right, she began to speak and from her beautiful eyes, tears started to flow. She said, “If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let go my Son’s arm. I can no longer hold it up. How long I have been suffering for you! In order that my Son not forsake you, I am obliged to pray to Him without ceasing. And you all pay no attention to this. No matter how much you may pray, or what you may do, you will never be able to make up for what I have done for you. You were given six days to labor, and the seventh day to keep holy, and that (seventh day) you will not keep holy. It is that which makes my Son’s arm heavy. Those who drive carts can no longer swear without using my Son’s name. It is these two things that so weigh down His arm. If the crops fail, it will be through your own fault. I gave you a proof of this last year in the potatoes, and you paid no attention to it. On the contrary, when you found bad ones, you swore and included my Son’s name. They will go on rotting until Christmas, and then there will be none.
At this point, I was trying to interpret the word “potatoes” (pommes de terre). I thought I understood it to be “apples” (pommes). The beautiful and good Lady, reading my thoughts, spoke her words in the local dialect of patois, rather than French, “You do not understand, my children. I will tell it to you another way. If the harvest is spoiled, it does not seem to affect you. I made you see this last year with the potatoes. You took little account of this, but when you found bad potatoes, you swore oaths, and you included the name of my Son. They will continue to go bad and at Christmas, there will be none left. If you have corn, you must not sow it. The animals will eat all that you sow. And all that grows will fall to dust when you thresh it. A great famine will come. Before the famine comes, children under the age of seven will begin to tremble and will die in the arms of those who hold them. The others will do penance through hunger. The nuts will go bad; the grapes will become rotten.

At this point in the apparition Melanie and Maximin were each given a private message. Then Our Lady continued, “If they convert, the stones and rocks will change into wheat and potatoes will be found sown in the earth. Do you say your prayers properly, my children?”
We both replied, “Oh! No, Madame, not so much.
She said, “Oh! My children, you must say them morning and evening. When you can do no more, say a Pater (Our Father) and an Ave Maria (Hail Mary); and when you have the time to do better, you will say more. Only a few old women go to Mass in the summer. The rest work all day Sunday and in the winter when they able, they only go to Mass to make fun of religion. During Lent, they go to the Butcher’s like hungry dogs. Have you ever seen any spoilt wheat, my children?”
We both answered, “Oh no, Madame.
The Holy Virgin turned to Maximin, saying, “But you, my child, you must have seen some once near le Coin with your father.
Remember how the farmer said to your father: Come and see how my wheat’s gone bad! You went to see. Your father took two or three ears in his hand, rubbed them and they fell to dust. Then on your way back, when you were no more than half an hour away from Corps, your father gave you a piece of bread and said: Take it, eat it while you can, my son, for I don’t know who will be eating anything next year if the wheat is spoiled like that!
Maximin replied, “It’s quite true, Madame, I didn’t remember.”
The Most Holy Virgin then concluded, “And so, my children, you will pass this on to all my people.
The most beautiful Lady crossed the gully and after two more steps without turning back towards us who were following her (for we were drawn by her brilliance and even more by her kindness which elated me, which seemed to melt my heart), she repeated to us, “So, my children, you will pass this on to all my people.” Then she walked on up to the place where I had gone to see our cows. Her feet touched nothing but the tips of the grass without bending them. Once on the top of the little mound, the beautiful Lady stopped and I hurried to stand in front of her to look at her closely, and try and see which path she would take. I had forgotten both my cows and the masters I worked for. I had linked myself forever and unconditionally to my Lady. She looked at me with a tender kindness, which drew me to her. I could have thrown myself into her arms with my eyes closed. She did not give me the time to do so. She rose imperceptibly from the ground to a height of about four feet or more and hanging thus in the air for a split second, my beautiful Lady looked up to Heaven, then down on the earth to her right and then her left, then she looked at me with her eyes so soft, so kind and so good that I felt she was drawing me inside her, and my heart seemed to open up to hers. The beautiful face of my good Lady disappeared little by little. Light took the place of the parts of her body which were disappearing right in front of my eyes.

Melanie saw Our Lady in just one apparition, but she gives one of the most detailed descriptions of any person who has seen Our heavenly Queen. This is Melanie’s account of how Our Lady appeared:
The Most Holy Virgin was tall and well-proportioned. She seemed so light that a mere breath could have stirred her, yet she was motionless and perfectly balanced. Her face was majestic, imposing, but not imposing in the manner of the Lords here below. She compelled a respectful fear. At the same time, her majesty compelled respect mingled with love.
The voice of the beautiful Lady was soft. It was enchanting, ravishing and warming to the heart. It seemed to me that I could never stop eating up her beautiful voice and my heart seemed to dance or want to go towards her and melt inside her.
The eyes of the majestic Mary appeared thousands of times more beautiful than the rarest brilliants, diamonds and precious stones. They shone like two suns. They were soft, softness itself, as clear as a mirror. In her eyes, you could see Paradise.
The clothing of the Most Holy Virgin was silver white and quite brilliant. It was quite intangible. It was made up of light and glory, sparkling and dazzling. There is no expression nor comparison to be found on earth. The Most Holy Virgin had a yellow pinafore. What am I saying, yellow? She had a pinafore more brilliant than several suns put together. It was not a tangible material. It was composed of glory and this glory was scintillating and ravishingly beautiful.
She appeared to me like a good Mother, full of kindness, amiability, full of love for us, of compassion and mercy. The crown of roses, which she had placed on her head was so beautiful, so brilliant, that it defies imagination. The different colored roses were not of this earth; it was a joining together of flowers which crowned the head of the Most Holy Virgin. But the roses kept changing and replacing each other, and then, from the heart of each rose, there shone a beautiful entrancing light, which gave the roses a shimmering beauty. From the crown of roses there seemed to arise golden branches and a number of little flowers mingled with the shining ones. The whole thing formed a most beautiful diadem, which alone shone brighter than our earth’s sun.
Her shoes (since they must be called shoes) were white, but a silvery brilliant white. There were roses around them. These roses were dazzlingly beautiful, and from the heart of each rose there shone forth a flame of very beautiful and pleasing light. On her shoes there was a buckle of gold, not the gold of this earth, but rather the gold of paradise.
The Holy Virgin was crying nearly the whole time she was speaking to me. Her tears flowed gently, one by one, down to her knees, then, like sparks of light, they disappeared. They were glittering and full of love. I would have liked to comfort her and stop her tears. But it seemed to me that She needed the tears to show better her love forgotten by men. I would have liked to throw myself into her arms and say to her, “My kind Mother, do not cry! I want to love you for all men on earth.” The tears of our sweet Mother, far from lessening her air of majesty as Queen, seemed, on the contrary, to embellish her, to make her more beautiful, more powerful, more filled with love, more maternal, more ravishing. If I could have wiped away her tears, it would have made my heart leap with compassion and love.”

Melanie and Maximin did their best to gather their herds and go down to the village. They told the parish priest and in time the words of Our Lady spread throughout the region. The Virgin said that the sins of not keeping Sunday holy and using the Lord’s Name in vain were very grave sins. Although her posture was cool and majestic, she was crying throughout the message, and the tone of her words in the message were remonstrating, impatient, and sorrowful. Recall that in that period of time, France had to reestablish Sunday as a Holy Day of Obligation after the effects of the French Revolution when the calendar had been switched to a 10-day week to ‘abolish Sunday.’ Our Lady indicated that Sunday worship by the Faithful was not satisfactory in 1846 due to the suppression of Catholic worship during the French revolution and then during the rule of Napoleon. Besides lax Mass attendance, blasphemy against the Holy Name of Jesus was a serious and pervasive sin. Our Sorrowful Mother could no longer intercede to mitigate the justice of God as she complained that she had already done much to ameliorate Divine justice with little to no help from the faithful.
Historical events bore out everything that the Virgin warned and lamented. Ireland was in the grip of a catastrophic potato crop failure. Our Lady said, in part, “I made you see this last year (1845) with the potatoes.

In 1845 there were 8 million people in Ireland and potatoes were the main subsistence crop. 32% of the farmland of Ireland were sown in potatoes because they grew well in small plots of mostly infertile ground. They are rich in Vitamin C and potassium so in those days each Irish man, woman and child would consume, on average, 4.6 pounds of potatoes per day. They were prepared in every imaginable way for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The animals also consumed potatoes as part of their feed. Sadly a fungus called Phtophtera infestans,entered the agricultural picture. Scientists believe it originated from bat dung brought from North America that was used as potato field fertilizer. Phtophtera infestans produced a condition in the potato plant called late blight, which ravaged all parts of the plant including leaves, stem and tubers (potatoes). Late blight caused an astonishingly rapid rate of decay of plant tissue to produce a distinctly foul odor and a black color. There were accounts of entire fields of potatoes spoiling and blackening within hours. The heavy rains and cool air of late summer and fall of 1845 were ideal for propagating the fungal spores. Spores on infected leaves washed into the soil and infected the potatoes rendering them rotten, black, and slimy. The spores propagated by wind and water at a rate of 50 miles/day so although Ireland carried the brunt of the failed potato crop burden, all other potato crops in western European countries were significantly lower than in previous years. In France, the country where Our Lady appeared, the potato crop was down by 20% in 1845. Although the French diet was only partially dependent on potatoes, the blight created hardship because, on average, each Frenchmen consumed 1.1 lbs of potatoes per day. Furthermore, the wheat crop in France was down by 25% and rye was down 20% for
the year 1846 in agreement with what Our Lady warned.
As Our Lady wept and warned in September 1846, the worst was yet to come. Although hopes were high in Ireland during the planting in June 1846 for a good potato harvest in August, the blight returned with more virulence than ever, ruining entire crops overnight. 1846 was the peak year of late blight infestation ravaging about 88% of Ireland’s and 19% of France’s entire potato crop.
A victim of the famine, Diarmuid O’Donovan Rossa, related, “My brother and I went up the hill to dig the potatoes. He was the digger and I was the picker. He dug over two hundred yards of a piece of ridge, and all the potatoes I picked after him would not fill a skillet. They were no larger than marbles.”
Here is an eyewitness account of someone at Christmastime, 1846 in Ireland, the time when Our Lady of LaSalette warned, “They will continue to go bad, at Christmas there will be none left.”
“Women and little children were scattered over the turnip fields like a flock of famishing crows, devouring the raw turnips, mothers half-naked, shivering in the snow and sleet…while their children screamed with hunger.”
There were responses to the growing hunger. Relief services set up soup kitchens throughout Ireland. Donations poured in from all over, but mostly from England, Canada and the United States. Most charitable groups dispensed their soup and food unconditionally, however a small number of Protestant soup kitchens only fed those Catholics whom first gave up their faith and converted to Protestantism. That practice was the rare exception to the relief efforts, but it also demonstrates the tension between the Irish Catholics and Protestants that was evident then.
The succeeding years brought slightly better potato harvests, but by now so many of the poor were weakened by months of hunger and malnutrition that diseases were taking hold and decimating the poorest classes of people, especially the young and old. Dysentery and cholera spread from drinking unclean water and through flies. The worst disease, however, was Typhus, also known as Black Fever. Spread by lice, Black Fever victim’s blood vessels would swell and burst in the skin and brain. The skin of the victim would then turn black from the broken and blocked blood vessels and spread throughout the body. A high fever and delirium accompanied this pathology with the victim eventually dying from heart failure. It is estimated that one million people died from hunger and disease during the famine.
To escape the dire situation in their homeland, a large proportion of people emigrated, mostly to Canada and the United States. One million Irish men, women and children left the Emerald Isle to survive in a new country with more opportunities.

As of 2004, the population of Ireland was 4 million people, about half of what it was before the great famine. The religious vocations and devout Irish-Catholic families that sprang up from the Irish emigration were like more flowers planted in a new garden that would produce millions and millions more flowers for triumph. Today about 34.5 million people in the United States claim Irish descent and although precipitated by tragedy, the “going away” from Ireland has enriched and ennobled our own country in vast ways, seen and unseen.

Fragrance of Laus

France during the seventeenth century when Heaven reached out in various ways to touch the hearts of Frenchmen and spread God’s love through the world. France, at that time, was regarded as the most powerful nation in Europe after winning a series of battles at the end of the Thirty Years war. French Explorers like Father de La Salle, who floated down the Mississippi River from Canada, claimed the entire river basin from the Appalachians to the Rockies for France, naming the area Louisiana in honor of Louis XIV and his Austrian bride, Queen Anne. French missionaries were setting up mission centers in Montreal to teach the faith. They made strides in preaching the Gospel to the Huron and Iroquois Indians, but in the case of Saint Isaac Jogues and some other French Jesuit priests, the blood of their martyrdom watered the seeds of the Church in the new world.
This chapter is about how one ordinary French village was revived spiritually by visitations from the Virgin Mary to a teenage shepherdess named Benedicta (or Benoîte in French) Rencurel. The presence of a flowery fragrance was widespread during the time of the heavenly visitations. The phenomena is the fragrant scent that is supernatural in origin. The composition of the scents could be described as a mixture of lilies and roses, jonquils, violets or other flowers.
In southeastern France in the Alps region near the border with Italy, Benedicta Rencurel was born in September 1647. Benedicta’s father died when she was just seven which imposed poverty on her mother, two sisters and herself. When she was old enough, Benedicta helped contribute to the family livelihood by shepherding. She was employed by the Rolland family to tend their sheep. Although she lacked a school education, she knew her prayers and the faith.
One day while shepherding in May, 1664, Benedicta saw a distinguished older man dressed in vestments like a Bishop. He asked what she was doing and she replied that she was herding sheep and looking for water to drink. He showed her a well that she hadn’t noticed before. Appreciatively, Benedicta exclaimed, “You’re so beautiful! Are you an angel? Or Jesus?”
The man replied, “I am Maurice to whom the nearby chapel (then in decay) is dedicated. My daughter, do not come back to this place. Go to the valley above Saint Stephen’s. That is where you will see the Mother of God.”
Puzzled, Benedicta asked, “But Sir, She is in Heaven. How can I see Her there?”

Maurice remarked, “Yes, She is in Heaven and on earth, too when She wants.”

After that Benedicta guided the sheep to the valley near the village of Saint Stephen. Many shallow caves marked the hillsides and it was in front of one such cave that Benedicta beheld a beautiful woman and child. Benedicta enthusiastically called out to them and asked them what they were doing. The Lady didn’t reply, she just stood holding her Child’s hand. After some time, Benedicta invited, “Would you like to have a snack with me? I have a bit of good bread that we could dip in the spring?” The Lady smiled, but didn’t answer. Benedicta then suggested that the Child could stay and, “make our hearts so glad!” Still the woman said nothing and in time she and the Child disappeared in the cave.

The lovely Lady appeared every day through the summer of 1664. The Lady gradually and patiently taught Benedicta prayers that were pleasing to God and planted firmly in Benedicta’s soul a vocation to work for the conversion of those far from the love of God. Everyone noticed a joyful change in Benedicta. She was a shepherdess for the wealthy Rolland family. Mrs. Rolland was curious about what was happening to Benedicta while she herded the sheep so she hid behind a rock to spy. On that occasion the dear Lady said to Benedicta, “Your mistress is over there, hiding behind the rock. Tell her not to curse with the name of Jesus. Her conscience is in a very bad state; she should do penance.” Upon hearing this, Mrs. Rolland experienced a profound conversion that continued for her entire life. Word spread throughout the area about the presence of the Lady.
François Grimaud, a judge of the district, traveled to Saint Stephen in August 1664 to interview Benedicta and her acquaintances. At his suggestion, Benedicta asked the Lady at the next apparition who she was. The woman said, “My name is Lady Mary. My Son and I wish to be honored by a church at a site I will show you. You will not see me for some time, but I will return.” The judge was intrigued with Benedicta’s testimony. He concluded the interview with a favorable impression of Benedicta.
An entire month passed without the Lady visiting. Although Benedicta missed Lady Mary, she was being strengthened for the mission that lay ahead of her. At the end of September when Benedicta was resting on a riverbank with the sheep and goats of her herd, she saw Lady Mary in brilliant radiance. Benedicta scrambled to get closer and asked, “My good Lady, why haven’t you visited in so long?”
Mary replied, “From now on, you will see me only in the chapel that is in Laus.” The settlement of Laus was very small and although she had heard of it, Benedicta had not been there. Twenty-four years earlier the villagers of the valley of Laus had built a chapel to go to when flooding prevented them from going to Saint Stephen’s; the chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of the Good Encounter (Annunciation). Benedicta traveled to Laus the next day to seek Our Lady in the chapel she spoke about. The village cottages looked alike and she couldn’t readily distinguish which one was the chapel. With some frustration she searched through the village and scrutinized each dwelling to determine where the abandoned chapel was. At last, at the slightly opened door of a dusty small shed, she smelled a most beautiful fragrance. Opening the door further she saw Our Lady standing on the small altar of the chapel. She greeted Benedicta, “My daughter, you have searched diligently for me, but you should not have wept. Even so, you pleased me by not being impatient.”
Benedicta was happy to have found Lady Mary, but distressed at the shabbiness of the chapel. Benedicta suggested using her apron as a mat for Our Lady to step on so she wouldn’t get dirty from the thick layer of dust that had built up over the years. Our Lady assured, “No, soon nothing will be lacking here. You will see linens, candles and everything needed for divine worship. On this spot I wish a church to be built. Many sinners who come here will repent. I will appear to you often here.”
Benedicta was surprised, “Build a church? There’s no money for that here!”
Our Lady prophesied, “Do not worry. When the time comes to build, you will find all that you need. The coins of the poor will provide for everything. Nothing will be lacking.” Every day Benedicta walked the 5-mile round trip to the chapel from October 1664 into the spring of 1665. The Virgin Mary urged her to pray continuously for sinners and would give her names of people to pray for. By the spring, Lady Mary asked Benedicta to quit shepherding so that she could devote all her time to preparing for the spiritual and material construction of the Church, telling Benedicta, “I asked My Son for Laus for the conversion of sinners, and He has granted it to me.” This revelation led people to understand that the Church at Laus was to be a refuge for sinners and for reconciliation. Pilgrims started streaming into the area to pray and have their confessions heard. Priests were brought in to accommodate the pilgrims and to administer the sacrament of reconciliation. A priestly commission was convened in September to assess the authenticity of the apparitions. Benedicta was apprehensive about the investigation and confided to Our Lady that she wanted to run away. Our Lady advised, “No, my daughter, you must not run away. You must remain and give your account to the priests. They will question you and may seem severe, but don’t be afraid.”
The chair of the commission, Fr. Antoine Lambert, entered the investigation with skepticism, it is thought, because Laus was eclipsing the popularity of pilgrimage to Our Lady of Embrun, a devotion he favored. On the first day of the questioning Father Lambert told Benedicta that he would thoroughly investigate her claims of the Virgin’s apparitions. He warned, “…but once again, be careful that these events are not products of your imagination to delude the people, or I will admonish you severely to speak the truth to those who believe you. I will stamp out abuses with every means in my power.” The panel questioned Benedicta about her experiences in great detail. Fr. Lambert wrote a lengthy report and prepared to leave, but stormy weather postponed his departure.
On the morning of September 18, 1665 while Fr. Lambert was saying Mass there was a stirring among the congregants. “Miracle, miracle!” they cried. The miracle had to do with Catherine Vial who did something unimaginable to the people who knew her; she walked into the church on her own two feet. Just the day before and for the previous six years a nervous system disease left her severely crippled and unable to walk. Her devoted parents had consulted surgeons to relieve her condition with no results. By the will of God, the family had just completed a novena for Catherine’s healing when, during the night of September 17, her legs relaxed and she was cured. Fr. Lambert instantly perceived this grace as a sign of God’s favor of the Chapel of Annunciation, as he had also seen Catherine in her decrepit condition the previous day. The healing of Catherine Vial led to the confirmation of the events of Laus. Fr. Lambert concluded, “There is something extraordinary occurring in that chapel. The finger of God is there!” The commission recommended that pilgrimages to Laus could take place and the chapel needed to be expanded.
Our Lady gave a new consolation during the winter of 1665. She told Benedicta that oil drawn from the tabernacle lamp would act as a remedy to those who applied it in faith to their afflicted areas. News of healing led more pilgrims to visit Laus. There were no roads in this region of France in the 17th century, just worn paths that were difficult for people to transverse, especially when they were muddy. Yet, pilgrims, young and old, brought river stones for construction of the new Church and donations were collected in abundance.
The first stone of the Church was laid on October 7, 1666, the Feast of the Holy Rosary. It was also on that day that Benedicta became a professed member of the Third Order of St. Dominic. She wore the associated cape and veil of a Dominican Tertiary but continued with her mission in the world to pray, do penance and lead all to reconciliation with God. Through the guidance of Our Lady, Sister Benedicta worked tirelessly through the four years it took to construct the Church. François Grimaud, the initial judge in the matter, testified that during the Easter season of 1666 he sensed a delightful fragrance at the chapel for more than seven minutes and that it was unlike anything he had ever smelled. It was said that during construction, oftentimes a heavenly fragrance permeated the building site and stretched out into the valley because the church was built to the singing of psalms and hymns. The fragrance became known as the Bouquet of Laus because the fragrance wasn’t confined to the chapel, but spread out into the whole valley. Sister Benedicta said the Bouquet of Laus combined the perfumes of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the angels of heaven. She told of a hierarchy in the odors of sanctity, “My personal observation is that the odors of the angelic hierarchy differ as much as the perfume of flowers. All angels exhale odors, but none so ravishing and so powerful an odor as the Queen of men and angels. The perfumes which exhale from Our Savior Jesus Christ surpass however, in an infinite degree every other odor.”
Finally, after four years of construction the church was ready to be consecrated. The consecration of Notre Dame du Laus (Our Lady of Laus) was set for December 25, 1669. Sister Benedicta described the scene after the Midnight Mass, “Large numbers of angels processed three times through the church with Sister Benedicta following them. They were singing Gloria in Excelsis as they processed.” The crowd gathered outside was amazed at the refulgence coming from the windows. The Vicar General commented that the “sweet odors emanating from the church gave the crowd a foretaste of Heaven.”
In the instance of another blessed event, some workmen volunteered to do the strenuous job of pruning the vineyards for Sister Benedicta’s widowed mother who was very poor. When the job was completed, the Virgin Mary filled Sister Benedicta’s apron with roses from Paradise to distribute to the workmen in gratitude for their neighborly compassion. There was little doubt that the roses came from the Virgin’s celestial home because it was the last week of winter, mid-March, when roses wouldn’t bloom in the alpine climate of Laus.
Sister Benedicta lived out the next 50 years of her life serving the refuge for sinners, Notre Dame du Laus. Later in her life, she was gifted with apparitions of Our Crucified Jesus and underwent pains of mystical crucifixion for fifteen years. Suspicion by some members of the diocesan clergy always dogged her. There were at least two more full investigations of Laus after the Church was built. During one thirteen-day investigation, Sister Benedicta undertook a complete fasting from food. Despite her fast, she was able to answer their questions with clarity and logic. Additionally, no one could ignore the otherworldly fragrance that imbued Sister Benedicta. Her breath, clothes and things that she touched were saturated with a sweet fragrance, which led the board to conclude that she was a good and holy daughter, gifted from the love of God.
During a very trying period of about 15 years, Sister Benedicta was put under house arrest and was only allowed to participate in Sunday Mass. Her guardian angel would often console her and once prophesied to her, “The Laus devotion is the work of God which neither man nor the devil can destroy. It will continue until the end of the world, flourishing more and more and bearing great fruit everywhere.” Sister Bendicta died peacefully on the feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28, 1718. Her tombstone reads: Tomb of Sister Benedicta, died in the odor of sanctity, 1718. Pilgrims noted the presence of an unearthly perfume exuding from the site of her tomb. Sister Benedicta was declared ‘Venerable’ in 1871.
On May 4, 2008 the current Bishop of the diocese that includes Laus gave official Catholic Church approval of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Blessed Benoîte Rencurel. Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco stated in part, “Three hundred forty-four years ago, Our Lady chose to show a simple shepherdess the way of penitence and conversion, to invite pilgrims to reconcile themselves with the world and with God.”
The Bouquet of Laus was given as a gift for conversion and it adds to our anticipation of the scents and fragrances of what ‘God has ready for those who love Him.’

Guadalupe Tilma Flowers December 1531

Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 1531)
During the age of exploration of the New World, Our Lady stamped her image firmly with roses on the Americas at the dawn of the establishment of Christian settlements there. In 1519 Hernan Cortes brazenly conquered the three-hundred-year old civilization of the Aztecs. The wounds that the Aztecs bore in the plundering of their gold and jewels and the dismantling of their way of life were festering in the ensuing decade when Father Juan Zumarraga was made the first Bishop of Mexico City and the first Catholic Bishop in all of the Americas in December, 1528. The heavy-handed actions of the Spanish administrators and soldiers in their interactions with the Aztec people made it hard for Catholic Missionaries to gain much ground in converting the native people. Bishop Zumarraga felt compassion to uphold humanitarian rights of the Aztecs amidst his distress at the way they were treated by his own countrymen, the Spanish leaders. Tensions were high that the Aztecs would revolt. Bishop Zumarraga begged Our Lady to intercede before her Son for peace in the storm.
One very humble new convert was Juan Diego, a 57-year-old former Aztec who lived in the area outside of present day Mexico City. Juan Diego’s wife had died and as they had no children, he went to live with his Uncle, Juan Bernadino. Before dawn on Saturday, December 9, 1531 as Juan Diego was walking on his way to attend Mass and to receive more instructions in the Faith, he began to hear the very beautiful sounds of songbirds. Just reaching the base of the hill known as Tepeyac, the song of the birds made Juan stop in wonder. To his ear, the song of these birds was uncommonly beautiful.
Juan paused to marvel and honestly wondered if he were experiencing the paradise he had heard others speak of. Juan sensed the song was coming from the East and looked toward where the sun would soon be rising when suddenly the melody ceased. After some silence he heard a call coming from the top of the hillock hearkening, “Juanito, Juan Dieguito!” He felt no apprehension at the call, rather he felt a joyous excitement to quickly climb the hill. Upon reaching the top, Juan looked for the caller and there a grand Lady stood. To Juan Diego the woman appeared as a royal personage because her garment shone like the sun. The earth below her feet sparkled like a rainbow. The leaves of the surrounding mezquites, nopales and other weeds looked like emeralds and turquoise having gold stems, branches and thorns. He prostrated in her presence and listened to her speak so tenderly to him like someone who loves you so much even though just having met. She said: “Juanito, the most humble of my sons, where are you going?”
He replied, “My Lady, I am on my way to the Church at Tlatelolco for Mass and to study the Faith given by the priests.”
She said, “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my sons, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, who is the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I urgently desire that a temple should be built here, so I may pour out all my love, compassion, help, and protection. I am your merciful Mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this earth who love me, trust me and invoke my help. I listen to your lamentations and remedy all your miseries, afflictions and sorrows. To accomplish this request, go to the home of the bishop of Mexico, and say that I expressed my great desire that here on this plain a temple should be built. You will accurately relate all you have seen, admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful for your effort and will reward you. I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue that you expend for what I have entrusted to you. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and do your utmost.”
At this point he bowed before her and said: “My Lady, I am going to do as you have asked.” Then he continued on by the trail which led directly into Mexico City. In time he reached the residence of Bishop Juan de Zumarraga. Presently the bishop’s servants paid little heed to Juan Diego and did nothing to initiate a meeting between he and the bishop most likely because of Juan’s lowly state. At last, however, seeing his persistence, they allowed him entrance to the Bishop. Juan fell to his knees before Bishop Zumarraga and related the wonderful events as they had happened to him.
The bishop listened carefully to Juan but gave his story little credence, thinking it to be fantasy. He told Juan to come back in a few days and he would think over his story. Juan Diego left with disappointment in his heart for not having successfully convinced him of the Mother’s request.
On his way home he resigned himself to telling the Mother of his unsuccessful mission. He made his way up the hill, caught sight of her and knelt down. He said, “My Lady, I went where you asked me to go. I gave the Bishop your request for a temple. He listened attentively, but didn’t believe my words. Please, my Lady, entrust this request with someone else… someone more esteemed than I…I am a lowly man.”
“Listen, the least of my sons,” she gently replied, “I have many messengers and servants whom I could call upon for this request, but it is you whom I have chosen. I earnestly implore you to go again tomorrow to the Bishop and ask again for the construction of a temple for which I ask. Tell him again that it is I, Holy Mary, Ever Virgin, Mother of God in person who sends you.”
With renewed determination, Juan Diego agreed to the Heavenly Queen’s request and went home for the night. Very early Sunday morning, Juan got up and traveled to Tlateloloco to attend Mass to be counted among the Indians present. Then in anxious excitement, he again presented himself to Bishop Zumarraga and in tears relayed again that the merciful Mother asked for construction of a temple at the same sight as the apparition. The Bishop listened with greater attention and asked several questions to try to determine Juan Diego’s credibility. While inclined to believe the humble Juan Diego, the Bishop told Juan that in order to act on the request at once, a further sign from the Lady was needed to be certain this was her request. The Bishop’s response was heartening to Juan and he eagerly rushed to tell the Lady about the audience. Bishop Zumarraga had some aides follow Juan to report about where he went and with whom he spoke to in order to check his story. After a short journey the aides lost sight of Juan Diego and although they searched carefully they couldn’t find him. Angry and suspicious of Juan’s motives, the aides recommended to the Bishop that Juan’s words were fraudulent and that he was trying to trick him.
Juan Diego saw the Heavenly Queen for a third time at the top of the hill and joyfully told her of the positive meeting he had with Bishop Zumarraga. She told him to return tomorrow to the hill for the sign, which the bishop requested.
Juan Diego’s joy turned to anxiety when he returned home to find his beloved uncle, Juan Bernadino sick with a high fever. All thoughts of the Heavenly Mother were suspended while Juan sought care for his uncle. A large part of the next day, Monday, December 11 was spent getting a doctor to come to aid Juan Bernadino. Despite the doctor’s efforts, Juan Bernadino grew worse. By nightfall, Juan Bernadino, thinking he was near death, implored Juan Diego to summon a priest for the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and for confession.
Before dawn on Tuesday, December 12, 1531, Juan Diego hastily left his uncle to get a priest for the last sacraments. In reaching the base of the Tepeyac hill and remembering that he hadn’t met the Lady yesterday, Juan Diego took steps to avoid the area where the Lady appeared as he thought there wasn’t a moment to be lost. Using a side trail, he avoided the hill, not even imagining that Our Lady would seek him out, but she did. Our dear Mother spoke, “What is the matter? Where are you going?”
Miserably, Juan replied, “In sadness, my Lady, I must tell you that my uncle is seriously ill. He has the plague and is near death. I am hurrying to get a priest to administer the sacraments of anointing and confession for him. If I succeed in doing this, I will return later to go and deliver your message. Forgive me and be patient with me, my Lady.”
How compassionately did Our Lady regard Juan Diego. Her sympathy was evident in these consoling words renown from this fourth apparition, “Listen, my son, to what I tell you now: do not be troubled nor disturbed by anything. Do not fear illness, nor any other distressing occurrence, nor pain. Am I not your merciful Mother? Am I not beside you? I have made you my responsibility so let nothing distress or disturb you. As to the illness of your uncle, he will not die from it, for I tell you, he is already cured.” Juan Diego’s concern was eased. Having assurance by her words, Juan rededicated himself to the Lady’s mission. Our Lady told him, “Go, my son, to the top of the hill where we met before. There you will find flowers growing. Gather them and bring them to me.”
Juan Diego immediately went to the top of the hill. The scene he found was described best in the words of Father Miguel Sanchez, one of the first chroniclers of the Miracle of Guadalupe. Father Sanchez wrote, “There appeared before his eyes diverse flowers, blooming by a miracle, born of a prodigy, uncovered by a portent. The roses invited their beauty, the lilies offering their tribute of milk, the carnations – flesh and blood, violets – ardor, jasmines, rosemary – hope, iris-love, and broom – captivity. The flowers eagerly rivaled each other and seemed to speak to his hands, not only hoping that he would cut them, but sensing the glory for which they were being cut.” How astounding this was, given that it was December when the ground was too cold for flourishing plants, especially flowers in full bloom and touched with dew when the normal vegetation were thistles, prickly pears, and mesquite.
Juan Diego wore a cactus woven cloak over his clothing. It was a type of mantle to protect against the cold. Known as a tilma, this garment could be described as a length of fabric six feet long and three feet wide that could reach from the front of a person around to the back. Juan tied the bottom of his tilma behind his head and then picked the exquisite flowers and gathered them in the fold of his tilma and then went back to Our Lady to show her. Incredibly, Our Lady took the flowers and arranged them in his tilma with her own hands. She told him, “These roses are the sign that you are to take to the Bishop. Tell him that in them, he will recognize my will and fulfill it. Only in the presence of the Bishop are you to show the roses and tell him all that has happened to you so that he may agree to the construction of the temple.”
Juan Diego went with enthusiasm directly to the Bishop’s residence. He was treated derisively by the Bishop’s servants, however. They wouldn’t announce him to the Bishop and he waited long. The servants noted that he was carrying something curious. They tried to look at what Juan was carefully holding within his tilma, and started to push him to better see, but Juan warded them off on three attempts. One guard caught sight of the colorful bundle and smelled the intoxicating fragrance they were giving off. That prompted him to tell the Bishop that Juan Diego had returned with a curious offering.
Juan told the Bishop all that had happened that day and said that he brought the sign with him. At that time, he unfolded his tilma and let tumble down the exquisite flowers and roses to the floor. The Bishop was marveling at the beauty of the flowers especially what appeared to be Castilian (Spanish) roses that Juan presented. Then he looked at Juan Diego himself and was wonder-struck at the sight on his tilma. He got up from his episcopal chair and knelt down in front of Juan. There on Juan Diego’s tilma was a glorious image of the Holy Mother just as she had appeared to him. What a moment in time! Here was the answer to the prayers Bishop Zumarraga had made to the Virgin for her to intercede before God for peace in the land. She had wrapped her image around the Castilian roses that he knew from Spain with a heavenly fragrance. Both Bishop Zumarraga and Juan Diego felt heavenly affirmation in each of their missions by the most generous and gentle Mother of Jesus. Bishop Zumarraga untied the tilma from Juan Diego and took it to his chapel and hung it on the wall next to the altar. He gave thanks to God and to his mother for so great a miracle. The Bishop invited Juan Diego to stay at length and treated him as a privileged guest. They visited the Tepeyac hill where the apparitions took place and where the Virgin Mary asked for the Church to be built.
Elated at the successful outcome of the audience with the Bishop, Juan Diego asked permission to return to his uncle to see how he was. Juan saw that his Uncle Juan Bernardino’s health had been completely restored. Juan Diego marveled when his uncle told him that the Holy Virgin herself had appeared to him under the same visage as how she had appeared to him and cured his ailment. He said that she called herself, “The Ever Virgin, Holy Mary of Guadalupe.”
News spread far and wide about these events. Many, many people flocked to the Bishop’s residence to view the tilma. The Bishop led a procession with the tilma from his private chapel to place it in the Cathedral so that more people could view it.
Not only was the miraculous origin of the image wondered at, the Aztec people saw several things in the Holy Virgin’s image that were deeply symbolic to them. The blue-green color of the mantle of Our Lady indicated that she was of the royal class and the pattern of forty-eight golden stars on her mantle confirmed that she was royal and powerful. The small brooch on the center of the neckline of her dress has a cross on it indicating that our Queen is Christian, the religion of the Spaniards, not a pagan deity. Our Lady has her eyes lowered and her hands are folded in prayer showing that although she is royal, she is a humble and devout subject of the eternal God.
The native people recognized the tie around her waist as a symbol of maternity that indicated that she was with Child. God gave us an earthly miraculous image of the Queen who carries the Messiah, the Savior of the world in her blessed womb. The Queen is seen standing on a crescent moon. In the pictograph tradition of the Aztec people, the crescent was symbolic to them as the feathered serpent pagan god, Quetzalcoatl. Worship of this demanding pagan god entailed offering children as human sacrifices to him. Twenty thousand children and people were sacrificed annually to Quetzalcoatl by one estimate. The Queen is pictured standing on the burned-out crescent, Quetzalcoatl, demonstrating that she is more powerful than he. Her humble posture with lowered eyes, her identifying modest brooch with a cross emblazoned upon it, and her position of stepping on Quetzalcoatl all exhibit that Christianity is victorious, not through violence, but through humility.
The pictures the Native Americans saw in the image of Guadalupe spoke volumes to them. The design on the dress Our Lady wore has nine big golden flowers on it each one surrounded with smaller blossoms. The stems of the nine larger flowers point out to the Lady’s star-covered mantle. One interpretation of the design is that the flowers of the dress have their roots in the stars of the mantle and that truth (flowers) has its origin in God (stars).
There is a four-petaled jasmine flower design on the dress that is near the womb of the Mother. The four petals represent the four directions: north, east, south, and west that encompass the earth. The placement of the center of the jasmine over where Mary bears Jesus, symbolizes that He is King of all nations, even in the womb.
The indigenous people came to view the miraculous tilma in droves and it brought about a monumental change in their mentality. No longer would they have to sacrifice their precious children to the demanding Quetzalcoatl whom they appeased by human sacrifices in their religion of fear. Rather the consoling, motherly words of Our Lady were repeated over and over by Juan Diego thousands of times to all those who wanted to hear his witness, ”… I am your merciful Mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this earth who love me, trust me and invoke my help. I listen to your lamentations and remedy all your miseries, afflictions and sorrows…”
The Church that Our Lady asked for was erected by Indians who worked long hours to have the adobe shrine ready for Christmas, 1531 just two weeks after the end of the apparitions. A great dedication was planned for the Shrine December 26, 1531. On the four-mile road that led from the Bishop’s Church to the new chapel for Our Lady, the Indians strew flowers and fragrant herbs. There were musicians, dancers, and actors who took their part in the pageantry that surrounded the installation of the tilma in the new chapel. A tragedy occurred when an Indian was accidentally pierced by an arrow in the neck in a mock battle enactment. He had expired from the wound. In tears they brought him before the image of Our Lady on the tilma and prayed fervently for his healing. It was done! The afflicted man arose and had only a scar as evidence of his brush with death and subsequent restoration to health.
The healings and the miraculous image caused a great awakening to the Catholic faith. Many conversions occurred, much more than would be expected than through the efforts of the missionaries alone. Father Motolina, one of the twelve Franciscan missionaries who first preached the Faith in Mexico recorded that between 1531 and 1541 about nine million native people were baptized. One priest wrote that he and another priest “baptized fourteen thousand two hundred souls in five days. We even imposed the Oil of Catechumens and the Holy Chrism on all of them, an undertaking of no little labor.” That whole-hearted conversion number is astonishing given the time in history (less people populating the earth) and the tensions that the Conquistadors had initiated.
The original adobe shrine expanded to larger and larger Shrines to Our Lady. Today the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe stands at the original Tepeyac hill apparitions. The original miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego’s tilma still hangs in the church. Remarkably, even after 488 years, the cactus fiber tilma has the same woven integrity as it had when Juan Diego wore the garment, despite the millions of touches, caresses, and pleas that have been rubbed into it. It has weathered floods, epidemics, and an attempted bombing in 1921, but the image has come away unscathed. On Tuesday, May 31, 1966, Pope Paul VI sent a Golden Rose to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. In a radio address, he said, in part, “With this gift, that we blessed in the Sistine Chapel, we wanted to honor the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and reward the faith and Marian devotion of the Mexican people.” Pope Francis sent a second Golden Rose to the image on November 18, 2013. Many, many miracles have become associated with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and have been documented. Our Lady of Guadalupe remains a marvel for us in the twenty-first century. A study of the eyes of Our Lady showed that they reflected the presence of four people in the room: Juan Diego, his interpreter, Bishop Zumarraga, and perhaps another newly appointed Bishop. On April 24, 2007, Mexico City lifted the ban on abortions for pregnancies up to twelve weeks. In response to this horror of injustice to the unborn, witnesses noticed a supernatural light emanating from the womb of the Virgin of Guadalupe image on the tilma. One visitor described, “an intense light which emanated from her abdomen, constituting a brilliant halo having the form of an embryo.” Isn’t it marvelous how we have a living image of the Mother of God, the Patroness of the Americas, from the very beginning when Christians set foot on the soil until now. We appreciate her patronage over the Americas and any more surprises that she may reveal.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was a royal princess who was known for her acts of charity and her docility. Her father, King Andrew sought out a marriage agreement between his young daughter and the son of a wealthy German landowning family. Not only did King Andrew consent to the marriage, he said the delegation could take the very young Elizabeth with them back to Germany (a distance of 400 miles) to live in the castle right away. Elizabeth was known for her piety, prayer and small acts of mortification. Some in the court were annoyed at her ‘religiosity’ amidst the frivolity that was a constant presence there. Nonetheless, Elizabeth grew all the more charitable.
The chroniclers wrote that on one occasion when the whole Landgravine court had gone to the Church in Eisenach in their stately attire to worship, Elizabeth knelt transfixed at the foot of the large crucifix. She was quite overwhelmed with the contrast between the suffering Our Lord endured and her own life of luxury. In a moment of love and zeal, she removed her crown and placed it at the foot of the cross. When she was rebuked for her action, Elizabeth replied, “Reproach me not! How can I behold the merciful Lord, who died for me, wearing His crown of thorns, and retain mine of gold and gems? Is not my crown a mockery of His?”
Elizabeth’s future husband, Ludwig (Louis), often defended Elizabeth’s charitable inclinations and gave protection to her acts against her detractors. Once as Elizabeth was bringing bread and meat in the skirts of her robes to distribute to a family in need, Ludwig happened to meet her on his way back to the castle on a bitterly cold day. He noticed that she was carrying a burden and inquired tenderly what she was doing. Embarrassed at being detected in her charity, yet not wishing to deceive him, Elizabeth showed him the provisions. Instead of bread and meat, Ludwig saw nothing but masses of beautiful red and white roses! It was all the more astonishing since it wasn’t the season for fresh roses. Surprised by the grace, Ludwig took one of the roses, reverently kissed it, and kept it for the rest of his life.
Ludwig and Elizabeth married in 1221 when she was fourteen and he was twenty-one. They enjoyed a loving marriage. Ludwig was usually away from the court, busy representing the interests of the region to Emperor Fredrick II. In the spring of 1226, Thuringia was struck with flooding, famine and pestilence. Elizabeth mobilized money, clothes, food and even ornaments from the court to give out to the needy. She had a hospital built in the valley below the castle where she went every day to tend the sick and injured. Elizabeth also aided scores of needy people daily despite being a mother of two small children. She was highly regarded among the people of Thuringia for her gentleness and compassion. More tragedy struck the next year when Ludwig, traveling to the Holy Land on crusade, was struck with the plague and died September 11, 1226. Elizabeth bore their third child, a daughter, in October and shortly after was notified of Ludwig’s death. In her grief she exclaimed, “The world with all its joys, is now dead to me.”
After seeing to the burial of Ludwig in the family crypt near Wartburg, Elizabeth’s spiritual director Conrad urged Elizabeth to obtain her widow’s dowry from the estate of her husband and leave Wartburg. Elizabeth received her inheritance from her husband’s estate and promptly distributed a fourth of that to the poor. She wanted to devote herself entirely to religion, so she made arrangements for the care of her children and moved about 70 miles from Wartburg to Marburg. Elizabeth lived very austerely in a cottage in Marburg. In the summer of 1228 Elizabeth established a hospital dedicated to St. Francis in Marburg. On top of spending long hours caring for the sick at the hospital, Elizabeth undertook many penances that wore her down until her death in 1231 at the age of twenty-four. Prior to her death, she asked that her material possessions be distributed to the poor and that they leave just one worn out dress for her to be buried in.
Miracles of healing started to occur through the intercession of Elizabeth. The process for Elizabeth’s canonization was begun. The papacy initiated examinations of the miracles and Elizabeth was declared a saint on May 28, 1235.  Elizabeth preceded her father, Andrew in death. Andrew had a largely unsuccessful reign as King of Hungary with never a peaceful moment in the kingdom. He had been excommunicated from the Church by the local bishop in the summer of 1234 for violating some aspects of an agreement he signed into law for governing Hungary. However, he appealed the excommunication sentence to Pope Gregory and was reconciled to the Church about the same time as his daughter’s canonization to sainthood and before his death on September 21, 1235. We can imagine Elizabeth pulling some strings from heaven to aid her father’s reconciliation with the Church.
A magnificent Gothic church was constructed in Marburg dedicated to Saint Elizabeth and still stands today. Marburg was the popular site of pilgrimages to Saint Elizabeth and continues to be today after 800 years.

Additionally, the miracle of the roses is commemorated with a statue of Elizabeth holding roses in front of a Neo-Gothic Church dedicated to her in Budapest’s Roszak tere (Roses’ Square).