Mary of the Day (March 23 – Part One) – Our Lady of the Cape or Notre-Dame-du-Cap (Québec – Canada)

Queen of the Holy Rosary, Queen of Canada

The statue of Our Lady of the Cape, seen on the opposite picture, was given to the Shrine of Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, in 1854, the same year as the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. We therefore celebrated in the year 2004, the 150th Anniversary of both events. This very same statue is still venerated in the Shrine today.

The shrine of Our Lady of the Cape or Notre-Dame-du-Cap is located on the St. Lawrence River in the town of Cap-de-la-Madeleine (Quebec), halfway between Montreal and Quebec City. It is one of Canada’s most visited shrines, since it is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, Queen of Canada. The history of this shrine shows that when the faithful abandon the practice of the Rosary, everything collapses in families and society. As Pope John Paul II says, we must return to the practice of the daily recitation of the Rosary in the families, for the survival of people and nations.

Historical background
French explorer Jacques Cartier, sailing the majestic St. Lawrence River, in 1535, had planted the Cross of Christ on one of the islands of the St. Maurice River, that separates the present cities of Trois-Rivieres (Three Rivers) and Cap-de-la-Madeleine. This was on October 7, which was to be proclaimed a few years later, by Pope Pius V, the Feast of the Holy Rosary.

Master Jacques de la Ferté, a priest of St. Marie Madeleine of Chateaudun, in France, and a member of the Company of the One Hundred Associates, received a plot called the Cape of Trois-Rivieres. In 1651, Master de la Ferté gave to the Jesuit Fathers, the first missionaries in the area, a domain, asking them to establish there a center of missions for the native people who went there every year to trade furs. In remembrance of the first owner, the Jesuits called the place Cap-de-la-Madeleine.

The small stone church, built-in 1720, still exists today. It is the oldest church preserved in its integrity in Canada. In the back, the new Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, built-in 1964.

In the first years, this land was blessed with the passage of Fathers Brebeuf, Daniel, and Lalemant — three of the eight North American martyrs, canonized in 1930. For 18 years, Father Jacques Buteux was the main apostle of this settlement, and was martyred there by the Iroquois in 1652.

In 1659, a modest wooden chapel was erected by the governor of Trois-Rivieres, Pierre Boucher. It was given in 1661 to the new parish of St. Mary Magdalene, which inaugurated the devotion to Our Lady.

Cap-de-la-Madeleine was created a parish on October 30, 1867 by Blessed François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec City. In 1694, a Confraternity of the Rosary was established in the parish. Bishop de Saint-Vallier, the successor of François de Laval, wanted to replace the wooden parish church with a stone church, but the parishioners had to ask the financial aid of the other settlements in Canada at that time: Quebec City, Ville Marie (Montreal), and Trois-Rivieres. Our Lady was already establishing the foundations of a national shrine.

The “birth certificate” of the Shrine of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary was signed on May 13, 1714, by Bishop of Saint-Vallier, of Quebec City. It is open to the cult in 1720, and as of today, it is the oldest church in Canada that has retained its primitive state.

Flourishing at its beginning, the Confraternity of the Rosary experienced serious flagging one century later, due to the lack of zeal of a priest. The recitation of the Rosary was abandoned, and the parishioners did not even go to Mass on Sundays. Deprived of his Protectress and of zealous pastors, the morals of the population declines, as history has shown in every country.

(End of Part One – to be continued tomorrow)