Jean Courtel : The Gall of a Gal

Dale O’ St.Oz

Almost every Catholic who practices their religion knows about St. Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans who was instrumental in making the French dauphin King of France despite the neglect shown her from the time of her capture to her trials as a witch and inevitable martyrdom. She in fact, before her calling by numerous saints from heaven suffered from deafness and was a simple shepherdess of a flock, a far cry from being a commander of a liberationary host during the hundred years war between France and England.

About two centuries later in Querrien, La Prenessaye, Brittany in Northwestern France, another French shepherdess and also a teen-ager, 12-year old Jean Courtel, was tending the flock of sheeps when an extraordinary event happened. It was the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1652 and the girl who happened to be a deaf-mute saw a Lady with a child in her arm and holding a stalk of lily on the other while she was playing. This Lady told the amazed girl he instruction:

“I choose this place to be honored. Build me a chapel in the middle of the village and many people will come.”

Astonished that someone so humble in stature will be addressed by this august Lady, she did not know what to do. But she continued to address her and even made a request; “charming shepherdess, give me one of your lambs.”

Her response came out naturally, expressing the attitude of a filial daughter, “The sheeps are not mine. They are my father’s.” (She had some gall)

The regal Lady showed an unmeasurable confidence and told her, “Return to your parents and tell them I require a lamb.”

But even here, the deaf-mute girl, not realizing she could hear and speak logically answered, “But who will keep my herd?” (Some gal, you see?)

The Lady wouldn’t budge, “Myself. I will keep your sheep.”

And so, Jean Courtel rushed home to tell her parents. She specifically told her father that, “A Lady came to see me and asked for one of your lambs.”

Of course, they were happily dumbfounded. Joyful that his daughter is now totally cured from deafness and dumbness he could only explain; “Oh, my daughter, because the Lady had made you speak, we will give her all of the flock!”

It was only then that Jean Courtel became conscious that she could already hear and speak. Brilliant as she was, she read the lips of her parents and somehow learned how to pray. It was in fact at that moment she was praying when she noticed the apparition.

But what she would tell her father next needed a more serious consideration. She has chosen the village as a pilgrimage site. She would like a church built in the middle of the village. Actually, he discerned the miraculous cure of his daughter can only be explained by the fact that she was indeed the Virgin Mary for why should she require a church dedicated to God. At once, he decided that the bishop must know about the events and so, he lost no time in telling him.

But miraculous events do not just happen without wonderful designs. Heaven has a way of connecting seemingly unrelated events even centuries apart. And for the local bishop to easily discern the veracity of Querrien apparitions, the Lady told Jean that a statue of her likeness is submerged in the pond. She said that it was St. Gall himself who sculpted her image and it was lost when his hermitage on the same site had been destroyed.

Indeed, when the good bishop instructed a search, Monsieur Courtel found an image of Our Lady wonderfully preserved submerged in the pond. How could have the Lady known about an event spanning hundreds of years in the past if she were not herself from Heaven? St. Gall, who was a companion of the more renowned St. Columban (Comgall) was from Ireland and only came to France in his missionary zeal later settling in Switzerland to become its outstanding apostle.

This is why on September 11, 1052, Monsignor Denis de la Barde recognizing the authenticity of the apparitions, blessed the foundation stone of the church housing the shrine of Our Lady of Eternal Aid. The current title must have been due to the fact that the span of Our Lady’s blessing is suggested by the span of time between St. Gall who lived in the seventh century and the Marian Shrine built in the 11th century, the phraxis of a 7-11 match.

Jen Courtel, the visionary lived an ordinary and unassuming life and died in 1703 at the age of 63 and was entombed within the church. In 1779, the church which took four years to build was enlarged to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. It is said that in the holy writ that “by their fruits ye shall know them” and apparently the Lady who prophesied a pilgrimage site did not lack the prophetic insight. On August 14, 1950 more than 20,000 pilgrims came for the coronation of the Queen of Prophets who came as Our Lady of Eternal Aid. No less than Cardinal Lustiger, the Archbishop of Paris came to pay homage to the Virgin and also to bless the new buildings on September 10, 2000.

But my Irish eyes must have been smiling when I mentioned St. Gall because this religious genius had outlived himself. He was in fact responsible for the Caroligian plan of abbeys and monasteries which were greatly admired by Emperor Charlemagne. This hermit, abbot, preacher, missionary, architect and community organizer had a great influence in European monasticism. Before St. Francis was adjudged the patron saint of birds (actually of all animals), St. Gall had the privilege and legacy, too. As an exorcist, he caused a flock of birds to be expelled from a suffering nobleman who was a victim of the spirits of the air. In his old age, he rebuked a bear for destroying this hut used to store firewood. The repentant bear was so overcome that he began to follow him wherever he went and always carried firewood for him.

Being the apostle of Switzerland, his legacy had the city of St. Gallen named after him. This same city was also the site of controversy for the dispute on whose ecclessial jurisdiction would it have. The people had long been under the abbot bishop of a monastic order dominant in that place and the bishops assigned by the Roman curia. Only lately had duplicity been settled. And speaking of duplicity, the reader must have heard of the Sankt Gallen Mafia, the rogue group of cardinals meeting in this city through the years, dictating on other cardinals the hidden agenda of modernistic reforms in the Church and even influencing the election of the pontiff.

St Gallen (Gall) may not like this at all. Especially if the bear in the city’s coat of arms would make a destructive stir. It is because the Bear had long sent its agents to infiltrate the church. Maybe a rebuke is in order, and a lot more than that depending on what St. Gall might recommend to Our Lady of Eternal Aid.

For the meantime let’s observe their subversive and subterfuges. They have the gall, these people.

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