France belongs to the Virgin Mary; She is its patron and protector
In 1636 Jesus asked Mother Anne-Marie that France be consecrated to Him. He said to Mother Anne-Marie: “I want the King to honour my Mother and his kingdom in the way that I will make known to him; I will make his kingdom, through the intercession of my Mother, the happiest country in heaven.”
Consequently, on 10th February, 1638, Louis XIII published the Official Edict which solemnly consecrated France to the Virgin Mary to obtain “a good peace”, and the fidelity of the French people in the service of God. No other motive, not even the desire to have an heir to the throne, was contained in the Royal Declaration: “For these causes we declared and we declare that, taking the most holy and most glorious Virgin as the special protector of our Kingdom, we consecrate especially to Her our person, our country, our crown, and our subjects.”
The King formed the solemn and perpetual vow to renew this consecration every year on the feast of the Assumption, so that, by the aid of this powerful patronage, “France will always be safeguarded so that the All-good and Almighty God may be so honoured in this act, and that sovereigns and subjects may strive to attain the celestial end for which we are all created.” By this act of consecration, through the intercession of his most holy Mother, Jesus pours His love over France: the borders are saved, invasions repulsed, internal revolts disbanded and, on 5th September, 1638, France now has an heir [Dauphin], the future Louis XIV. This consecration of Louis XIII remains valid today even if the majority of our contemporaries are indifferent to God.
The 11th July is the anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance in France
As patron of France, the Blessed Virgin has many sanctuaries in Her honour. Let us linger a while at the oldest one of all, the sanctuary of Notre Dame de Puy, which celebrates a jubilee year (when the Annunciation falls on Good Friday.)
Le Puy en Velay is surrounded by a volcanic landscape of rocky peaks made of former volcanic vents. The Cathedral of Notre Dame du Puy (Our Lady on the Hill), dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation, stands on Mount Anis. This diocesan cathedral is also one of the most ancient Marian shrines in Europe.
“At the beginning of the Christian era, Puy was a small, unimportant city. For thousands of years, there existed a kind of dolmen or stone slab, supported by three or four lateral raised stones. In the first century the Gallo-Romans had built a pagan temple around it, but this was later destroyed.
In the fourth century, a paralyzed Christian woman begged God to heal her. Suddenly one day she saw the Virgin Mary on the top of the dolmen. An angel appeared and told her: “The Queen of Heaven has chosen this place to make it her domain, to receive and to answer prayers.” The woman was then healed on the spot. She went immediately to her bishop to tell him what had happened. After an investigation, the bishop ordered the construction of the requested shrine over the foundations of the old temple. The consecration of this oratory in honour of the Virgin took place on 11th July, the anniversary of the apparition, and the day we still celebrate its dedication today. Inside the oratory is a statue of the Virgin Mary who became the “Lady of the shrine”, replacing the previous pagan deity.” (1)
Throughout the centuries, Puy has been one of the most visited shrines in the world: Six popes, fourteen kings, two emperors, heads of state, princes, soldiers, bourgeois, but also and especially the poor, have come to the Puy-en-Velay to pray and to implore the Virgin for favours. It remains an important Marian shrine that still today attracts many visitors . Le Puy en Velay is also one of the principal departure points for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Saint James’ Way).
(1) Mother Anne Marie of Jesus Crucified, a stigmatized religious (1599-1653)
Source: In Altum and Marie de Nazareth. Translation from the French by CP&S