Our Lady of Great Power
Our Lady of Great Power is little known in America, unless among the pupils of the Ursulines in Quebec. Generations of these, however, have dwelt within the walls of the Old Monastery during two centuries and more, since the arrival of the statue in the last years of the 17th century.
In the annals of the Ursulines of the Sacred Heart at Perigueux, France, where the statue was solemnly crowned, we find the origin of the devotion. The devotion to Our Lady of Great Power began in the monastery of Issoudun. There a holy Ursuline nun, Mother Saint Peter, was inspired during her prayer to invoke Our Lady under this title. She spoke of her inspiration to her Sisters and her Superiors. The devotion was adopted with enthusiasm, and very soon it was decided that a statue be sculptured and a chapel built, dedicated to Our Lady of Great Power; she would henceforth be chosen as first and principal Superior of the Monastery.
The feast of the dedication took place February 25, 1673, and was celebrated with great pomp, as the chronicle testifies:
“After High Mass two ecclesiastics carried the statue to the entry of the monastery where the nuns, in solemn procession, received it. It was placed on a richly decorated litter and, to the chanting of hymns, psalms and canticles, it was brought to the prepared chapel.”
“When the same statue was raised on its pedestal, the superior laid the keys of the monastery, the seals and constitutions at Our Lady’s feet, begging her, in the name of the community, to accept the gift of all hearts, and of the entire monastery and to allow them to look on her as their Superior forever. Each rendered homage while hymns and canticles of thanksgiving were sung in Mary’s honor.”
Ever after, when a superior was elected, the ceremony was renewed and is still renewed in each Ursuline community every year on a principal feast of the Blessed Virgin; though homage is rendered only every three years, after the election or nomination of superiors.
The statue of Our Lady of Great Power was carried off and profaned during the dark days of the French Revolution. It was found and returned to the monastery at Perigueux; and the devotion continued fervently until 1892, when the bishop of Perigueux, in the name of the Soverign Pontiff, placed a richly jeweled crown on the head of the Mother and the Child, and ratified the numberless and signal favors obtained through Our Lady of Great Power.
Through the Ursulines in Quebec, the devotion soon spread through the New World. Before the altar in Quebec hangs the famous votive light promised to be kept burning as a token of thanks for favors granted to Mother Saint Agatha (Madeleine de Repentigny). Relatives and descendants of this holy nun have kept the lamp burning. One relative, Miss Anthon, had a new lamp made, an artistic gem, the work of the celebrated ecclesiastical goldsmith Calliat of Lyon, France.