Our Lady of Good Tidings, Lempdes, France (1500’s)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Good Tidings, near Rouen, where a great number of people are seen, particularly on Saturdays.”
It was on December 23rd, 1563, when the bishop of Lucon, Jean-Baptiste Tiercelin, consecrated the church under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle. This first chapel came into the world in the midst of religious convulsions that were then taking place in Switzerland, Germany, and England by the leaders of the ‘Reformation,’ and must necessarily be seen as an action bravely going against the tide. The religious wars that began raging in France ten years after its erection began to be another reason for some concern for faithful Catholics, but the pilgrimages to the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle continued undisturbed. From time immemorial there had been venerated at Notre Dame a statue of the Blessed Virgin, holding in her arm the Infant Jesus. Many went to her in procession, especially children, who came each year to ask Mary for perseverance after their first communion.
The revolutionary turmoil in France, which was to take the throne and the altar, could not leave behind the parish of Our Lady of Good Tidings. In 1790 the National Assembly decreed a new law in which the church of Our Lady of Good Tidings was dissolved. As the pastor, M. Fabre, had the courage to refuse the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, he was thrown into the street.
A short time later, on May 22, 1791, the abbot Fourquet de Damalis, convened in the church an assembly of the faithful, and there were very many who responded. This occurred under the noses of twelve national guardsmen, and so the Police Commissioner, a man named Cafin, responded there quickly. He asked the abbot why there was such a meeting, and the abbot answered him that he was explaining to the faithful the decrees of the National Assembly for the public good. The Police Commissioner accepted the explanation, and the meeting having been perfectly peaceful, the police commissioner was obliged to agree to the monthly meetings and record it in his minutes.
One might think that the worship would be suspended at Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle during the Terror, but we have evidence to the contrary. As at Chartres, a great number of the faithful remained active and opposed the removal of the sacred ornaments of the church and defended their priests, and eager to fulfill their religious duties, they were not to be intimidated by the fear of imprisonment and even death. From the registry of marriages and baptisms, including a few that date back to 1793, we know that there were religious ceremonies such as baptisms and weddings held there secretly, sometimes in an oratory, sometimes in the church.
In the year 1818 a severe epidemic was ravaging the country. The faithful vowed, with the agreement of their bishop, to go in procession to Our Lady of Good Tidings and celebrate in perpetuity the feast of the Visitation, which was the feast of the chapel. The procession took place, and God quickly put an end to the scourge of the plague.
At about that time, a young boy began making regular visits to the church of Our Lady of Good Tidings, who was the patroness of the village. He was a poor boy materially, for Lempdes was one of the poorer villages in France, and he had been born into a peasant family that was struggling to eke out a living in the wreck of post-revolutionary France. He kept the faith, and when he grew up Jean Baptiste Lamy was ordained a priest, eventually becoming the first Archbishop of Sana Fe, New Mexico.