The Statue of Our Lady that Connects Four Saints
The Statue of Our Lady that Connects Four Saints
What statue of Our Lady is connected with St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Sophie Barat, and St. John Bosco?
It is Our Lady of Good Deliverance, and it is located in a chapel of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Thomas Villanova in Paris.
The Early History and the Fraternity
The statue has an interesting history. It dates from the Fourteenth Century after it replaced one that was made in the Eleventh Century. At that time it was put in the church of Saint-Etienne-des-Grès which was located on the hill of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris.
Over the centuries, more and more people reported graces being received after praying to Our Lady before her statute, and because of these many favors, the church became a popular pilgrimage site from the Fourteenth Century on.
In 1533, one of the canons of the church, Jean Olivier, founded the Fraternity of Our Lady of Good Deliverance. Two notable members were Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. However, most of its members were not royalty and came from all walks of life. The fraternity was particulalry popular among young people as Saint-Etienne-des-Grès was located near the Sorbonne and other schools in Paris.
With the growth in devotion to Our Lady, the fraternity grew to 12,000 in a short period of time. One of its important ministries was to serve the poor by helping to free men who had been placed into debtors prison.
The French Revolution Threatens to Destroy the Statue
Unfortunately, the fraternity disappeared during the French Revolution. And in July 1790, the church of St. Etienne was sealed up and everything in it was to be sold including the statue. The Countess Madame de Carignan, who had a great devotion to the statue, purchased it in order to save the statue from sure destruction. Indeed, the church itself was demolished by the forces of the French Revolution.
However, about two years after saving the statute, the countess was imprisoned as part of the Reign of Terror. While in prison, the countess became friends with the superior of the Sisters of St. Thomas Villanova. She and her nuns had also been rounded up and imprisoned as part of the general repression of religious orders. Joining together, they all prayed to Our Lady of Good Deliverance to grant them their freedom. Their prayers were answered as they were all released after being retained for about a year.
Despite being freed from prison, the sisters' difficulties were not over. In 1794, their house was seized and was set to be auctioned. Learning of this situation, the countess vowed to give the sisters the statue if they were able to avoid this disaster. It is not clear what saved the house, but apparently, they were able to retain their home. Fulfilling her vow, the countess gave the statue to the Sisters of St. Thomas Villanova. The formal installation took place in 1806 in the sisters' chapel on Rue de Sevres.
In September of 1908, the sister moved to another part of Paris--Neuilly-sur-Seine, and they, of course, brought the statue with them. Work on the chapel began soon after they moved. The statue was placed behind the high altar underneath a baldachin. Two years after beginning construction, the altar dedicated to Our Lady of Good Deliveratnce was consecrated.
About the Statue
The statue is about 5 and 1/2 feet tall, and it is carved from limestone. The paint is original. It has an inscription on the arm: "On my arm God seeks your soul, Come my child". The Child Jesus is using His right arm to tell us to come to Him through Mary, and He is holding a globe to represent the world which He redeemed. The Blessed Virgin Mary has all the signs of royalty including a crown, gold, a scepter, and the fleur-de-lis which was the symbol of the kings of France.
So how are the four saints mentioned at the beginning connected to this famous statues?
Well, all of them have been pilgrims to the shrine of Our Lady of Good Deliverance. Here is a little bit of information about their visits to this famous shrine.
St. Francis de Sales was delivered from Despair
In 1583, the father of St. Francis de Sales, sent him to Paris to study at Clermont College. His father was planning on his son becoming a prominent figure in government and wished to provide him with a top notch education. During his time in college, St. Francis studied rhetoric and humanities in addition to learning riding, dancing, and fencing primarily to please his father. He was also a frequent visitor to Saint-Etienne-des-Grès. At the church, in front of the statue, he made a vow of chastity which he kept a secret from his family for a number of years.
Also, while in Paris, after hearing a lecture on predestination, St. Francis developed a deep concern that he was damned. His despair was so great that he became physically ill. Finally, in late 1586, he took his concerns to Our Lady of Good Deliverance at Saint-Etienne-des-Grès. After reciting the Memorare before her statute, he felt relieved of his burden and concerns and filled with joy. Later, he would share this story in honor of Our Lady's intercession which had freed him from his darkness.
St. Vincent de Paul entrusted His Congregations to Our Lady
St. Vincent de Paul was the founder of both the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity and the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists). He entrusted both of these congregations to Our Lady of Good Deliverance at Saint-Etienne-des-Grès.
At one point in time, there was a plan to place his remains in the same chapel where the statue is, but those plans never came to pass. However, in honor of his devotion to Our Lady 30,000 medals were struck with images of Our Lady of Good Deliverance and St. Vincent de Paul.
St. Sophie Barat asked Our Lady for help with Her Order's Constitution
St. Sophie Barat is well known for her founding of the Society of the Sacred Heart which during her lifetime started many schools throughout Europe and North America. During one of her many travels, she stayed with the Sisters of St. Thomas Villanova in 1815. During that visit, she entrusted the Constitution for her society to Our Lady of Good Deliverance.
St. John Bosco celebrated Mass at the Shrine
Late in his life, St. John Bosco who was the founder of the Salesians, went on a tour of France. Part of his tripe was to visit with the members of his order, and part of the visit was to raise funds for their work. He was seventy years old at the time. From the rigors of his life, at this point, he had almost lost all sight in one eye and required a cane to walk. Nonetheless, he visited Amiens, Lille, Toulon, Marseilles, and Avignon.
Through the work of the Salesians, he was well known in France and was warmly received by crowds of people. He celebrated mass, heard confessions, gave lectures, attended dinners, distributed images and medals, and was given money for the Salesians.
The French treated him as a saint. People cut off pieces of his soutane to keep as relics. One person even took his handkerchief. Everywhere he went, the people cheered him and wanted to hear from Fr. Bosco.
Of course, he stopped in Paris where the crowds were even larger and the welcome even greater. At one point, he completely charmed the crowd, when he stood up in the cab that was drawing him through the streets and gestured to the crowd and said, "I bless you all, my friends; yes, all, and I bless France."
Given his devotion to Our Lady Help of Christians, it is not surprising that St. John Bosco's visit to the City of Lights included celebrating mass at the altar of Our Lady of Good Deliverance on April 29, 1883.
As you can see, several well-known saints have all place themselves before Our Lady of Good Deliverance. If you want to do the same, here is a prayer to Our Lady of Good Deliverance.
Prayer to Our Lady of Good Deliverance
I beseech thee, Oh most Holy Virgin Mary, worthy mother of God, to have mercy on me, to obtain from thy beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, my bodily and spiritual welfare, as He shall deem fitting for His greater glory and for my salvation; and, as His divine Providence has permitted that we should honor and implore thee under different titles, I have recourse to thee under that of Our Lady of Good Deliverance, Oh most Holy Virgin, Mother of God! I beseech thee with the utmost trust and humility to help me in my state of need, and to inspire me with a true sorrow, contrition, and remission for all my sins. I shall make it my duty to proclaim throughout my life thy power in the sight of God. How many sinners, despairing of their salvation, have by thee been converted! How many people, ailing with incurable complaints, have by thee regained health! How many just, have by thee obtained the gift of persevering in God's grace!
Finally, never was it known that thou hadst cast away anyone, however unworthy, who with trust and humility sought thy intercession. I hope, Oh Holy Virgin, that thou wilt also grant me the grace I ask of thee, that thou shalt obtain the solution of all my spiritual and temporal troubles, and assist me throughout my life and especially at the hour of my death.
The Chapel of the Sisters of St. Thomas Villanova
52, boulevard d'Argenson
Learn More About Marian Shrines in France
Learn more about Marian Shrines in France in this beautiful book by Fr. Joseph Roesch. Frequently, seen on EWTN, Fr. Joe, leads you through the shrines dedicated to Our Lady in France which is called the Eldest Daughter of the Church.
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Image: Our Lady of Good Deliverance