Though Our Lady of Grace Cathedral in Cambrai, France is not the most world-renowned cathedral, it was so beautifully standing in the middle of the town that I thought it deserved a look-see.
This church – built in 1702 after the Gothic cathedral was destroyed during the French Revolution – was the destination of pilgrims who came to worship the Blessed Lady, for whom the church is named.
The coolest thing about this church – I discovered as I passed through the nave and into a chapel – is a Bysantine-style icon of Our Lady of Grace, which was housed in the original Gothic church. My discovery was purely happenstance, I assure you. Can you imagine the awe I felt when I gazed upon such beauty?! I later found out that St. Bernadette used to say that this painting reminded her of the Lady of Lourdes, more than any other. (It’s way up there behind the altar, surrounded by lit tapers.)
In this tender depiction of motherhood, Mary holds Her holy Child and softly rubs Her cheek against His. He grasps Her scarf with one of His tiny hands and caresses Her chin with His other. It is such an endearing portrait. In another part of the church, I discovered a white marble statue of the same likeness. It appears that the statue was carved to mimick the image portrayed in the icon.
The plaque on the wall adjacent to Our Lady’s chapel holds words written by St. Bernard:
In following Her, one does not deviate; in praying to Her, one does not despair. In thinking of Her, one makes no mistake. If She takes you by the hand, you will not fall; if She guides you, you will not know fatigue; if She is with you, you are sure to arrive at your goal.
I find his words as reassuring as the beauty that surrounded me in the church.