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Our Lady of La Salette

Mary Consoler of the captives.

It was one of the principal works of the Priests of the Mission, of the Trinity and of Mercy to inspire patience in those captives whom they visited in the cities and the countryside, without being able to redeem them all, to maintain them in virtue or to call back the renegades to repentance. A singularly touching fact will tell us how devotion to Mary served this pious apostolate:

“Two Christian and very virtuous women, having been taken captive to Algiers, suffered for quite a long time all sorts of ill-treatment and persecution from their ruthless masters who absolutely wanted them to renounce the faith in Jesus Christ, in order to triumph more easily over their prudishness. They resisted with magnanimous courage and endured, with admirable patience, the unheard-of cruelties that the barbarians exercised on them in hatred of their religion. Finally, their vulnerability and the unjust perseverance of their persecutors in mistreating them led them to take a cowardly resolution which would have precipitated them into the last of their misfortunes if God, who is infinite in His mercies and who sympathizes with the weaknesses of men, had not pulled them out of this deep abyss by an effect of His omnipotence. They resolved to pretend to deny the faith and to observe the law of the Alcoran on the outside, without ceasing to be Christians, to hear mass and to attend the sacraments when they could. As one abyss attracts another, they married Mohammedan Moors and lived as if they had embraced their religion by contracting marriage with them. They continued to give great alms in secret to the Christian slaves and to have many masses said by a Cordelier Father named Brother John of Zamora, who was a captive, to whose prayers they recommended themselves with affection, begging him to offer them every day to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary in all his prayers; which the venerable Father did with all the more charity, as he had extreme compassion for seeing such virtuous women in these unfortunate engagements.

To keep them in these good sentiments of piety, and to strengthen them in their devotion to the Blessed Virgin, the refuge of sinners, he secretly brought them, at their request, a small embossed image of the Blessed Virgin, very old, which had originally been made in Greece, and which some captive Christians were keeping, so that they could make their prayers to Her, and implore Her powerful protection. They received it with great respect, and having placed it in a safe place, they often went to kneel before this devout image, to pray to Her, with tears in their eyes, to have pity on the horrible misery into which the misfortune of their condition had thrown them.

“One day, as they were praying to Her, with extraordinary fervor, to remove them from this double captivity of body and soul to which they were reduced, they saw a sweat of water and blood flowing from the face of this image. At first they were extremely frightened. But their fear increased even more when, after having wiped this sweat with a cloth, they saw that this image was sweating so profusely that it seemed as if all the pores of this figure had been opened. They promptly informed the venerable Father John of Zamora who, having gone to their house, witnessed this miraculous sweat; whereupon, he took the opportunity to strongly impress upon them the enormity of the crime they had committed, in that having been redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ and regenerated to grace by the purifying waters of baptism, they had been unfortunate enough to scandalize the whole Church by their apparent apostasy, in order to free themselves from the miseries of their captivity. Seeing them burst into tears and repentant of their sin, he told them, in order to console them, that God was only doing this miracle to testify to them that, as He had once sweated water and blood in the Garden of Olives and at the beginning of His Passion, He had still wished to consummate it on the cross by the water and blood that came out of His divine side, in order to satisfy in all rigor for the sins of mankind the angry justice of God His Father, He had allowed this devout image of the Blessed Virgin to sweat the water and blood, in order to assure them by this miracle done in their presence and for their sake, that He was ready to forgive them their past sins, provided they conceived extreme sorrow, and that they made all possible diligence to break their chains, to free themselves from a forced condition, where they were in obvious danger of damning themselves.

After having testified to the Reverend Father of their extreme sorrow for what they had done, they recommended themselves to his holy prayers, and promised him to do whatever he would advise them to do to appease the wrath of God who was irritated against them, and to get out of this disastrous state. His advice was that they should ask a Christian who had been a captive, who had redeemed himself, and who was about to return to Spain, to take them with him on the ship he had sent for. The compassion that this generous Christian had for their miserable condition, and the zeal that God inspired in him for their salvation, led him to serve them in this perilous undertaking. As they had not yet arranged everything, he promised and swore to them that he would return with his ship at a certain time which he indicated to them; and, he added, “to assure me that you will always be in the same dispositions and ready to leave, you will plant a few sticks at the edge of the sea. I will anchor where I see these agreed signs, and I will send my boat to you incessantly to take you to my ship.” Having agreed with him on all these things, he left for Spain, from where he returned a few days later, to remove these poor women from captivity. He came to anchor at the place he had marked for them, and finding them ready to leave, he received them in his ship, and, at their earnest prayers, he went to land them at Civita-Vecchia, whence they went to Rome to throw themselves at the Pope’s feet and confess to him the misfortune which had befallen them. His Holiness, imitating the charity of the Good Shepherd of the Gospel, reconciled them to the Church and sent them back to Spain with his blessing.

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