When we think about shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, we often think of the many places in Europe, however, there is a very popular pilgrimage site located on this side of the Atlantic, located in the country of Canada, in the providence of Quebec – this pilgrimage site is known as Our Lady of the Cape (Notre Dame du Cap). During the summer and spring months, many pilgrims make their way to this quaint region along the St. Lawrence River to see the shrine dedicated to Our Lady and the Patroness of Canada.
Dating back to 1714, the chapel has been a place of miraculous moments, most notably in 1879 and 1888. Unlike many of the other Marian shrines we have looked at so far and will continue to learn about in the future, no apparitions ever happened on this particular site, but that doesn’t mean that Our Lord and Our Lady can’t work miracles.
It is providential in some ways that I am writing about this particular Marian Shrine today since yesterday, October 7, is traditionally held as the day we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary. This Marian shrine has been known for many years to be under the patronage of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. In 1694, an old Confraternity of the Rosary was established at the parish of St. Mary Magdalen, just 58 years after the first proprietary came from Chateaudan, France. Although the two miracles wouldn’t occur until many years later, this place became a site for pilgrims to honor the Mother of God.
The first miracle took place in March of 1879 and is known as the “Bridge of Rosaries.” Two priests, Pastor, Fr. Luc Desilets, and his Parochial Vicar, Fr. Duguay, brought a very lukewarm population of Catholics back from spiritual depravity with a devotion to the Holy Rosary. The priests had decided to build a larger church. With the stone on the other side of the river, the more economic means to get it to the building site would be if the river froze over, since it was one mile wide. However, during this particular mild winter, the river did not freeze over once. Fr. Desilets made a vow with the Blessed Mother that he would not demolish the current church building, but would rename it and dedicate it to Our Lady of the Rosary, if the bridge of ice was formed to transport the stone.
In late March of that same here, the prayers of Fr. Desilets were answered by the Virgin Mary. The parishioners of Cap-de-la-Madeleine were able to transport the stones across the frozen river to the place where the new church was being built, all under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary. The people fervently prayed the Rosary as horse drawn sleds carried the stones over the very fragile ice. The Rosary Bridge was built in 1924 to commemorate this miracle.
The second miracle took place in 1888 on the eve of the consecration of the small chapel to Our Lady. According to three witnesses, Fr. Desilets, Fr. Frederic O.F.M, and another man, Pierre Lacroix, the face of Mary, with the features of the Miraculous Medal came alive before their very eyes. To their dying day, each man testified with certainty what they witnessed. One of the witnesses said, “I saw very distinctly the eyes of the statue wide open (this statue with eyes cast down), but in a natural manner, and as though it were looking up above us.” This statue was given to the church by a parishioner in 1854, the same year that the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was promulgated by the Catholic Church. It still remains in the main altar of the small church today.
Although people had visited the site in the past, it was at this point that people flocked in numbers that were incomprehensible to the past. Pilgrims traveled any way they could to the Cape – boat, train, or by carriage. Although Our Lady never appeared on this site, the two miracles were enough to call out to the people of North American to come to this site in Quebec, Canada.
With the arrival of the Congregation of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1902, the pilgrimage site quickly expanded due to the help of their founder, Blessed Eugene of Mazenod. The Oblates also served the people who arrived at the site and provided them the Gospel message with a sort of “Mission on the spot.”
Countless pilgrims have visited the site over the years, which has included many priests and bishops. Most notably is the visit by Pope St. John Paul II in 1984. On September 10, during an outdoor Mass, the Pope said, “This Marian pilgrimage is an immense grace accorded to the Canadian people. May the river of the prayerful never run dry here.”
Our Lady of the Rosary…Pray for Us
Our Lady of the Cape…Pray for Us