(Notre Dame de la Bonne Delivrance)
In the chapel of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Thomas of Villeneuve (open to the public), 52 Blvd. d'Argenson, Neuilly-sur-Seine, outside of Paris, 14th century, replacing an 11th century version of The Black Virgin of Paris, 150 cm, painted limestone.
France, known as “the Eldest Daughter of the Church is a country rooted in Catholicism, where her love of the faith is depicted in its magnificent Cathedrals, literature, sacred music, artistic works of paintings, frescoes and sculptures. Prayer books contain Illuminations penned in gold leaf and plant colors, and the very air holds the fragrance of religion. In France, Marian devotion runs deep in the hearts of the faithful. One of the first recorded apparitions of our Lady was at Le-Puy, France in the year 70 A.D. A Shrine at LePuy was erected and has drawn many saints and faithful throughout the centuries.
Today in France, there is still a distinct dedication to Our Lady of Good Deliverance. This devotion refers to a classic fourteenth century gothic statue of the Virgin holding the Child Jesus, both coal black in color. The Virgin wears a white veil and a dark blue mantle dotted with fleur-de-lis over a red robe. A Confraternity in honor of Our Lady of Good Deliverance was established in 1533 by Jacques Olier, and numbered thousands of members, which included aristocratic and common members alike. The society was dedicated to honor God and his “very dignified Mother, the glorious Virgin Mary to keep a singular devotion alive in all real Christian men and women”. The group organized processions and aided prisoners, paying their debts when possible. Our Lady of Good deliverance was invoked in all needs, tragedies and sufferings, spiritual and temporal.
In 1587 the young St. Francis de Sales knelt before her in desperation, believing he was destined for the eternal fires. He prayed the Memorare prayer that was set before the statue and instantly his darkness left him and he was filled with joy and consolation. He immediately made a vow of celibacy before God and the Virgin Mary. Many other French saints came to ask for Our Lady’s help, including St. Vincent de Paul and Jacques Olier, founder of The Sulpicians.
The Statue had been situated in the church “Saint-Etienne-des-Grès” but the building was destroyed during the Revolution. A rich, pious lady named Madame de Carignan bought the statue and venerated her in her private home until she was arrested during the Reign of Terror. While she was in jail, she prayed to Our Lady of Good Deliverance with others who had been arrested for their faith, including the Sisters of St. Thomas. When they were all freed in 1806, Madame retrieved the statue and donated it to the Sisters in thanksgiving to Our Lady for having survived imprisonment.
The statue is now located in Neuilly-sur-Seine. The Sisters of St. Thomas pray every day in the chapel on behalf of families, the sick, religious vocations, those who have entrusted themselves to the Virgin, and peace in the world.