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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
Exclusive Representation of the Nativity Scene.
It was May 13, 1856. On a fresh spring morning, so delightful under our beautiful Occitan sky, I was joyfully making my way, with my rosary in hand, to the venerated shrine of Our Lady of Grace, in Rochefort (Gard). After having climbed the holy mountain on which stands the monument dedicated to the Queen of Angels, I entered the church served by the Marist Fathers. I was edified and deeply touched to see a venerable old man kneeling on the steps of the altar of the Virgin, and at his side, a young soldier deeply recollected, almost bowing to the ground his face tanned by the sun… On leaving the church, I approach the old man with whom I engage in conversation. “This young man, he says to me, it is my son; he is a soldier in the 10th line; he returns from the East where he took part in the murderous fights between the Anglo-French army and the Russians. Before his departure, we came to pray in this sanctuary. My son put himself under the protection of Our Lady of Grace; he took on her glorious livery, put on the scapular, hung a medal of the Virgin around his neck, and with tears in his eyes I begged the good Mother to bring him back safely to my home. Faithful to his promise, he addressed his prayers to Mary every day, especially before the battle. In the most bloody affairs, bullets, shells, and machine-gun fire always respected him; his scapular was like an impenetrable armor that seemed to flee from the enemy. Finding himself one day in the trench, under the walls of Sebastopol, it seemed to him that he heard a mysterious voice saying, “Change places.” He took two steps forward, immediately a shell fell, exploded, and tore to shreds the body of the soldier who had replaced him, and whose bloody head violently struck his kepi. He is knocked down, and believes himself dead; but he does not take long to regain his senses and to recognize that he was not even wounded, and that the blood with which he was flooded was that of his unfortunate companion in arms… Preserved in a very special way by Mary, who always covered him with Her wing, and snatched him from the thousand dangers he ran and on the waves of the sea and on the battlefield, he came to thank his divine Liberator, and I accompanied him on this pious pilgrimage, to thank, me too, the merciful Virgin, who answered our prayers, and gave me back my son, the only support of my old age.”
This moving account of an old man with patriarchal manners, a candid face, and a simple and naive faith, made a deep impression on me, and I thought I would be pleasing to your pious readers, by making known to them this new trait of goodness of Mary’s inexhaustible tenderness.
Father Th. Blanc, priest of Domazan (Gard).