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Our Lady of the Assumption

The medal of Verdelais.

The following fact, which occurred in the eyes of many witnesses, has been generally attributed to a very special protection of the Blessed Virgin.

Towards the end of the school year 1857, a fourteen year old child, belonging to an honorable family from Bordeaux, had come to spend his last days of vacation at Le Verdon, at the home of my parishioner, Mr. S…, the intimate friend of his family.

This child had not wanted to leave Bordeaux without a medal of the Blessed Virgin, and had, as it were, forced his sister to lend him one that she wore and to which she was very attached. So he left with this happy talisman.

The first few days were spent in the joy and games common to his age. On September 18, Mr. S., having gone hunting, agreed to take her with him. A flock of birds landed on the edge of the beach called Pointe de Sable, a place where the water of the river is very fast. The hunter fired two shots in the middle of this flock of birds, killing several and wounding a few others. One of the latter having fallen in the middle of the breakers, the child approached the edge of the water to spy the moment when, the blade bringing it to the ground, it would be possible to seize it. But when he least expected it, a wave stronger than the others enveloped him, pulled him out to sea and threw him into a very dangerous and extremely violent whirlpool. Even if he had known how to swim, he should have died there; the best swimmers perish there.

In spite of the dizziness caused by the surprise, the child began to implore with fervor the help of God and to make acts of contrition to prepare himself to die. He also seized the medal of Our Lady of Verdelais that his sister had lent him and that he wore around his neck; he held it pressed to his lips and kissed it several times, invoking with all his heart the protection of the Blessed Virgin. At that moment he realized that he was sailing like a plank, without thinking of making any movement; he felt supported as if by an invisible hand, and this lasted for three quarters of an hour, until he was saved by the Hermit, the skipper of the Actif, a longboat making the journey between Le Verdon and Royan.

What persuades us most that it was the good Lord and the Blessed Virgin who sustained him on the surface of the waves, is that for three quarters of an hour, and in spite of the conviction that he was going to perish, he kept all his consciousness without interruption and that he was thus able to continue to recommend his soul to God and to the Blessed Virgin.

However, Mr. S. had thrown himself into the water; he made vain efforts to reach it, but he almost perished. Distraught and desolate, he called for help from all sides, and no one dared to expose his life to save that of the child, for all judged him to be lost unless he received providential help.

This scene had lasted about half an hour when, carried along by the insensitive current of the shore, the child reached nearly a kilometer from the place where the wave had taken him away, and when a rowboat appearing in the distance, making the service from Royan to Verdon, M. S… made a sign to the boatman to approach; this one, without understanding too much the signal which was made to him, began with his passengers to row towards the shore; while approaching, he understood that somebody was drowning and went directly towards the floating object which was indicated to him. Once the boat, diverted by the whirlpool, passed too far from the child to reach him; Mr. S., was in despair: he thought that it would not be possible to save him; but the skipper was not discouraged, he made a long detour to resume his direction, pressed harder on the oars and held out a pole to which the child clung; he was hoisted into the boat: he was saved!

As soon as he saw himself out of danger, he could not contain the emotion of his joy and his gratitude; his first words were: “Let them give me a confessor before I die! Where is my medal?” He was told that he had it around his neck; he seized it and kissed it a thousand times, saying, “It is She who has saved me! it is She who has saved me!” His gratitude, his faith, his thanksgiving brought tears to the eyes of all the passengers. Two honourable ladies on board hastened to give him all the care his condition required; they stripped off their woollen clothes to wrap his body and bring back the warmth. When he was put ashore, he thanked his benefactors with a great deal of affection and received the truly paternal care of Mr. S… Back in his family, he wanted to make a communion of thanksgiving to thank the Blessed Virgin for such a favor.

All these details are confirmed in part by official reports and by the local authority.

Father A. Bouter, parish priest of Verdon.

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