Our Lady of the Fields, Paris, France, consecrated by St Denis (250) – 26 February:
The title of Our Lady of the Fields, or Notre-Dame des Champ and the devotion to Mary as such, takes us back to the earliest days of Catholic life in France.
Our Lady des Champs, at Paris, was dedicated in ancient times to Ceres. Saint Denis, to whom we owe a great deal of our traditional devotion to Mary, was the first Bishop of Paris. According to tradition he drove the demons from the Temple of Ceres, the pagan goddess of agriculture and placed therein, an image of the Madonna modelled after Saint Luke’s famous painting. The Temple was henceforth dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, whom Parisians have honoured for centuries under the title of Our Lady of the Fields. It is said that a picture of the Blessed Virgin is still to be seen there, on a small stone, a foot square, which was made after that which Saint Denis brought to France.
This house, which is a Benedictine priory, was afterwards occupied by the Carmelites, who were received there in the year 604 and founded by Catherine, Princess of Longueville. It was the first occupied by those nuns in France; the mother Ann of Jesus, the companion of Saint Teresa, was its first superior.
If the Blessed Virgin were a goddess she would be a very human goddess – simple and approachable, forgetful of her privileges and of her beauty. Her constant humility adds to her charm. Saint Denis knew this well. He found her so gloriously beautiful that he gave to her the place in the temple – and in the hearts of the people – formerly held by the pagan goddess.
“I am the Flower of the Fields,” the Holy Ghost has the Blessed Virgin say. A flower of the fields has a simple beauty that charms us even more because it blossoms by itself without care or cultivation. Our Saviour Himself marvelled at such a flower and of it He spoke these words of praise that have been repeated through the centuries: “See how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.”
But lilies soon fade and roses are hardly open, before they begin to shed their petals before the wind. The beauty of Mary is less perishable; it remains ever fresh and unchanged in the valley of our exile.
Bl Adalbert of Tegernsee
St Agricola of Nevers
St Alexander of Alexandria
St Andrew of Florence
St Dionysius of Augsburg
St Faustinian of Bologna
St Isabelle of France
Bl Ottokar of Tegernsee
St Paula Montal Fornés of Saint Joseph of Calasanz (1799-1889)
Bl Piedad de la Cruz Ortiz
St Porphyrius of Gaza
Bl Robert Drury
St Victor the Hermit (Died 6th Century) Priest