A little while back I wrote a blog about a chapel in a village near where I live that the locals call the second Lourdes. It was built in recognition of a miracle that occurred in the charming village of Embry in the Seven Valleys region of Pas-de-Calais. Shortly after I received a Face Book message from an English lady who told me she had a story to tell about a miracle that happened to her at Boulogne-sur-Mer in France. I was a little sceptical but I asked her to send me the details and I was so moved by her story I had to share it with you:
Some years ago Anne made the mistake of falling in love with a man who really didn’t deserve it. Although he’d seemed okay when she met him, he was a bully and a coward and one day he beat her so badly that it caused a back injury which wouldn’t heal.
The boyfriend was got rid of but the pain she suffered in her back became increasingly worse and she developed painful sciatica. The back pain caused Anne to start walking in a strange “S” shape as she tried to hold her back into a position that would lessen the problem and she developed a limp. She was prescribed strong pain killers by a Doctor who told her that she might have to undergo major surgery in time. Eventually the muscles in her leg started to waste away. She was terrified of becoming permanently crippled and unable to walk and spent a small fortune on chiropractors and various therapists. It was all to no avail, no one seemed to be able to pinpoint the problem or suggest a treatment that would cure her of the pain.
Almost two years after she sustained the injury Anne became resigned to being handicapped and had learned to suffer in silence but to get on with it as best she could. She booked a holiday with her Mum which cheered her up so much that she decided on the spur of the moment to get the ferry from Dover to Boulogne-sur-Mer the next day for a shopping trip. It was raining that day in Boulogne so mother and daughter took shelter in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne. While they waited for the wet weather to subside they took a tour round the church where, at the rear they found a glass case with a bronze hand and a slither of wood.
The hand is famous; according to legend, in about 633, when Saint Audomare (Saint Omer) was a bishop, an unmanned boat carrying a luminous statue of the Virgin Mary was sighted in the estuary at Boulogne. The statue was carried to the church and soon miracles were reported at the site. The statue was destroyed during the French Revolution and only a slither of wood, now embedded in the hand, survived.
Tongue in cheek Anne laid her hand on that of the statue and laughingly said out loud “well cure my back then”. She thought no more of it and as the sun had come out, the two women left the church, went shopping in the town, enjoyed lunch and went home.
Two days later at home, Anne heard the phone ring and ran downstairs to answer it. She picked the phone up and started to cry as she realised what had just happened. Her movement had for the last few months been slow and deliberate to avoid jarring her back and cause sharp pain and yet… she had just run down the stair. The caller was a friend, a catholic lady and when she heard Anne’s tale she told her that it was imperative that she return to Boulogne to thank God for his mercy.
Anne did return to Boulogne. She sought out the Abbé at the Basilica and told him what had happened. He was overwhelmed and cried with emotion at her amazing story, because he said “no one thought to thank God any more for his aid”. Anne asked for permission to buy a votive plaque in the church. She arranged with the Abbé to have a local mason carve a plaque which is now on the wall of the Church. It is the only English plaque and the most recent – given in thanks for a miracle.
An amazing story…