Legends of the Blessed Virgin – Our Lady of Verviers

Legends of the Blessed Virgin, by Jacques-Albin-Simon Collin de Plancy“Mother of our Creator.”

The country round Liege is rarely-visited by earthquakes, yet there have been occasions for fearing such accidents. Such was the feeling of the inhabitants of Verviers on the morning of the 18th September, 1692. The weather was lowering, the atmosphere underwent an unusual change, and the earth sent forth such fearful sounds, that the sages of the city declared that nature was suffering, and that the results would be most unfavourable. The almanac of Matthew Laensburg, which had then acquired some celebrity, was far from reassuring the people, for he announced for the season they were entering – Phenomena, and derangements of nature.

When everything prospers, when our health, business, appetite, and sleep are good, we are bold and boastful; but when a change takes place, then we show the white feather and feel conscious of our weakness. Thus, said an old sage, fear is good, since it renders us humble. The tempest awakens the tepid soul, thunder instills good resolutions, the fear of some sudden disaster brings to our mind the remembrance of the slight tenure on which our lives depend, and the desire to pray, our only real strength here below, revives our troubled hearts. Thus were the churches of Verviers crowded on the day we record. The church of the Franciscan Father or Recollets, seemed to have attracted the largest congregation; for the city had great devotion to an image of the Blessed Virgin which belonged to that church, and which had been the source of many graces to the good townsfolk. This image, nearly of the natural size, was of stone, and placed over the porch in such a manner as to look down upon all who entered the sacred building; while the figure of the Infant Jesus stood on a globe at the distance of a foot from His mother, on her right, holding his hand up as it were to bless the faithful. Before entering the church, no one failed to raise his eyes to these sweet figures and to say his “Hail, Mary.”

On the 18th of September, 1692, as the Father who said the mass was leaving the altar, the congregation rushed out of the church to see the cause of the clamour which was heard from without. A prodigy had taken place before an immense multitude of spectators, amounting to four thousand citizens, who testified to the truth of the event.

The two statues turned, faced, and approached each other. Their hands were joined by this movement. The sceptre which our Lady had before borne was thus held by her and her Divine Son jointly. They who half an hour before had seen the statues in their former position, were thunderstruck, as the reader may imagine. Was it a phenomenon of nature? But how could such a wondrous event take place by any natural means? No! it must be a miracle.

At the same time the sun shot his rays through the clouds, and fine weather appeared, which made the people imagine that this was a sign from the God of Nature of his Divine interposition.

In order to preserve a memorial of this wonderful event, the public notaries were charged to draw up a statement of the facts, the truth of which was attested on oath before the crucifix, by the most respectable townsmen who had seen the prodigy.

A few days afterwards, all Europe was terrified by hearing, that on the 18th of September, the very day of the miraculous movements of the images of our Lady and her Divine Son, at Verviers, a dreadful earthquake had desolated many countries; that several towns in Sicily had been destroyed by this disaster; and that a hundred and eight thousand souls had perished. The good people of Verviers now understood the reason of the wonders which they had seen, and that they had escaped by the special intervention of the Blessed Mother of God with her Divine Son, in favour of a pious and devout city.

Who will deny that this event was a miracle? It was followed by so many wonderful cures, supernatural gifts, and signal favours obtained at the feet of our Lady of Mercy of Verviers, that we may be permitted to believe that it was something more than a simple phenomenon.