Mary of the Day: March 18 – Apparition of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph a Cotignac (France)

On August 10 and 11, 1519: the Virgin Mary appears to Jean de la Baume

On August 10, 1519, Jean de la Baume climbed Mount Verdaille to cut wood. A pious woodcutter, he begins his day of work while praying. When he gets up, in his surprise to see in the cloud, the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus in his arms. At their side are the Archangel Saint Michel and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

The Lady delivers this message to John:

“I am the Virgin Mary.Go tell the clergy and the Consuls of Cotignac to build me here a church, under the name of Our Lady of Graces and that we come in procession to receive the gifts that I want to spread there. “

Then the vision disappears.

Jean thinks it’s a hallucination because of the summer heat. He keeps the message for himself. The next day, he comes to the same place to finish cutting the tree. Once again, the same apparition takes place. Jean then rushes to the village to convey the message to the authorities of Cotignac.

On September 14, barely 1 month after the apparitions, the first stone of the Sanctuary is laid. The whole village comes out to Mont Verdaille in procession with clergy and the french people.

Our Lady of Grace intervenes in the History of France

After 20 years of marriage, King Louis XIII and Queen Anne of Austria still have no children. It was then that Brother Fiacre, an Augustinian religious, had a vision of the Virgin Mary on the night of November 3, 1637. Our Lady spoke to him in these terms:

“Do not be afraid, I am the Mother of God and the child you see is the Dauphin (dynastic title given to the heir apparent to the throne of France) whom God wants to give to France. Take note that I want the Queen to be asked to make three novenas in my honor. See here is the same image that is at the church of Notre-Dame de Graces, in Provence and also the other churches found along the way of this church. “

Brother Fiacre thus runs and does these novenas in the name of the Queen: one to Our Lady of Graces, the next to Notre Dame of Paris and the last to Our Lady of Victories. Less than a year later, September 5, 1638, was born Louis-Dieudonné.

On February 21, 1660, Louis XIV, accompanied by his mother, came to Cotignac to give thanks for his birth.

The appearance of Saint Joseph at Cotignac

On 7 June 1660, the young shepherd Gaspar Ricard d’Estienne took refuge with his animals in the shade of the trees of the Bessillon hill near the village of Cotignac in the south of France. Because of the extreme heat wave, he was seized by a sudden thirst. Then a majestic-looking man appeared to him and, pointing to a rock, said:

“I am Joseph. Raise that boulder and drink it.”

“I will not make it, it’s too heavy.”                  

“You will do it.”

The humble shepherd approaches and manages to lift the rock without any effort. Astonished, he realizes that a spring of water begins to flow in that place. Gaspar rushes to the source to quench his thirst. When he gets up, the mysterious man who had helped him is now gone. The pastor runs to announce the news in the village, but finds mostly incredulity among the villagers. However, some people decide to follow him to see the alleged source. Upon arrival everyone rejoices with joy because the water flows in abundance for three hours, in a place well known for its aridity. Even more inexplicably the rock that Gaspar had moved so easily is irremovable because of its weight. At that precise moment Gaspar understood, by divine inspiration, that that strength had been given to him as a gift from Heaven and exclaims: “St. Joseph was the one there and he gave me the strength!”. Everyone kneels and thanks St. Joseph. 

Subsequently, the healings obtained with the application of that miraculous water attract the crowds towards the hill of Bessillon. The cult of St. Joseph, until then was non-existent in the area, begins an extraordinary expansion, spreading rapidly throughout Provence region. Thus, with the donations received and with the approval of the bishop of Frejus, a chapel was built. The episode arouses well the interest of the clergy and the French people. Cotignac soon became a place of cult for predilection of Catholic France.

“Nothing is simpler, nothing more poor than this apparition … like the Gospel” – commented Mgr. Gilles Barthe, in his pastoral letter of February 14, 1971.  Water is the sign, so essential of our faith, of the spiritual regeneration and of  the new life born for us from the Resurrection of Christ. Here we see the powerful role of intercession of St. Joseph being highlighted. St . Joseph, united to the Virgin Mary in all eternal plans of divine Providence, whom God wants to see associated with his bride in prayer and in the hearts of Christians, especially in the life of families.”

Prayer to St. Joseph of Cotignac
I salute you, Joseph,
whom the Divine Grace has filled,
the Savior rested in your arms
and grown before your eyes,
you are blessed among all men,
and Jesus the Divine Child of
your virginal Bride is blessed.
St. Joseph, given as father
to the Son of God,
pray for us in our cares
of family, health and work,
until our last days,
and deign to help us
at the hour of our death.

Prayer to Our Lady of Graces of Cotignac
As evidenced by the ex-votos that line the wall of the Sanctuary, many pilgrims receive graces coming to Cotignac and imploring the intercession of the Virgin Mary. In particolar, for the gift of children in the family. You can recite this prayer for 9 days (novena) accompanied by a dozen rosaries.

Mother of the Divine Grace, in your appearance at Mont Verdaille
You invited us to solicit your favors.
We run with confidence to implore your help.
To the righteous, perseverance,
To the sad souls, the consolation,
To the hearts slaughtered, the courage and the confidence,
To the sick, the health,
To the sinners, the repentance and the pardon,
To the souls of purgatory, relief and deliverance,
To each of us your maternal protection .
We especially implore your assistance at the hour of our death.
Be our advocate at the judgment of God.
We want to go to heaven to eternally tell you of our gratitude.
Our Lady of Graces, pray for us. Amen