The Tenderness of Our Lady

“You read my thoughts from far away” (Psalm 139:2)

Back in Carantec, France, each Tuesday of the month of May (month of Mary), our parish used to propose the recitation of a Marian prayer in one of the local chapels of the village or surrounding areas. Usually the Pastor would be present to lead the prayer. During this particular year, Emile Rolland– our parish priest, asked me to replace him one Tuesday (I was not yet a priest). That very week the prayer was to be held in the chapel of my grandmother’s home, in “Roc’h ar Piguet”(Magpies Rock).

As WW II was breaking out, my grandmother had taken a vow. Her beloved brother had been killed during WW I and so she had grown anxious about her six adult sons, and had promised God to have a little chapel built if none of them died during WW II.

In 1945, as her six sons were still alive, she asked one of them (my father), who was an architect, to draw the plans and have the chapel built.  As a 6 year old boy, I remember vividly watching my father, his younger brother and godson, shoveling cement, yellow sand, chalk and mortar, in a sunny clearing among the pine trees, facing the shores of Saint Pol de Léon.

As I began setting up the chapel in order to welcome the people for evening prayer, I was looking for a picture or painting of Our Lady to put up. I was wanting to place it in the middle of a large space that was just under the crucifix, above the altar. I searched and searched in various places but could not find an appropriate image. So I proceeded to clean up. I swept the floor and set two large bunches of sweet smelling lilac blooms, and left the chapel until the appointed time.

Around 8 pm, people began to arrive in pairs; families and neighbors. When I entered the chapel, I stood amazed! There she was! Mary! Right in the place where I had wished to place an image of her! She was nicely framed in a rectangle of dazzling light. Her silhouette greeted us. She appeared exactly in the space between the altar and crucifix! The first to arrive exclaimed “Look! How nice!” It was indeed more than nice! It was the Lord and Our Mother’s tenderness in action!

For such an image to appear on the wall, several conditions had to come together. The sky had to have cleared from clouds in order to mirror on the water; the tide had to be high at that precise hour (the sea ebbs twice a day in the “Bay of paradise”); the sun had to beam precisely on the statue of “Notre Dame des Fleurs” that was sitting in the rectangular room of the little belfry. These “coincidences” of sun, sea and time had to be united so that the empty space might be filled with the beautiful sunset light that formed a golden tapestry surrounding the finely cut silhouette of the Virgin Mary.

How could I ever forget the joy and the ardor of our rosary on that spring evening? We prayed to Mary in front of that banner of light which had been offered to us and then suddenly vanished at the end of the day.


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