Bruno and Inès Rouy, who have been married for 13 years, gave up their profession and the comforts of life in Bordeaux, France, to settle in the heart of Verdelais, a small village 40 miles south of Bordeaux, at the guesthouse of the Marian shrine dedicated to Mary Consoler of the Afflicted.
For two years, the diocese has entrusted them with the mission of welcoming pilgrims to the shrine. For the past six months, the former winegrower and the former illustrator have taken over the reins of an old hotel, renovated by the diocese and administered by employees of the shrine until their arrival. Their aim is to make the hotel a true place of rest and spiritual renewal.
“In the past, the hotel was run by employees, but they weren’t always available. Living here allows us to animate this place, to give it another dimension in connection with the basilica, the message, and the history of Verdelais,” say Ines and Bruno. They provide a sense of welcome that’s not limited to the hotel.
“We’re also part of the pastoral team, which works as a whole. We don’t just manage the 19 rooms in the hotel; we’re mandated to develop this dimension of welcome which also includes the pastoral aspect.” Indeed, Ines and Bruno are happy to show the shrine to pilgrims, as well as to explain the title of the Virgin “Consoler of the Afflicted,” the meaning of which they themselves have experienced.
It’s a radical change of life for this couple in their 40s, who enjoy the calm and beauty of the place, as well as this life that sways to the rhythm of the Masses at the basilica and the Angelus. Their mission stems from a sorrow they entrusted to Our Lady of Verdelais a few years ago. Ines and Bruno have lost six children—”six intercessors in Heaven,” they like to say—due to repeated miscarriages.
Five years ago, the couple had gone on a pilgrimage to Verdelais, to entrust to the Virgin their desire for a child. They had promised to make a return pilgrimage in thanksgiving when they could hold a little baby in their arms. However, not wanting to put the Lord to the test and grateful to Christ for many other reasons, they chose to make the second pilgrimage even without having a child to bring with them.
It was on this pilgrimage, thinking about how they could be of service, that they saw themselves serving here. “We could both see each other here, and each of us could find their place,” they recall. “Welcoming pilgrims was also another way for us to witness to the fruitfulness we received through the sacrament of marriage.”
“Consoler of the Afflicted”
Today, in this place rich with 900 years of history, they welcome groups, parishes, priests, and many pilgrims passing through who’ve come to confide in Our Lady, Consoler of the Afflicted. “There are always people passing through,” say Ines and Bruno. “The place attracts with its beauty and because of what happens here.”
Here, Mary is invoked as “Consoler of the Afflicted.” She touches hearts, as she is full of understanding and tenderness towards all the afflicted, having experienced trial and affliction herself. She thus helps those who invoke her to taste the mercy, tenderness, and consolation that come from the Father.
Five ex votos have recently been placed in the basilica in thanksgiving for graces she has showered upon people there. It’s a blessed place, where the first miracle dates back to 1185, when a young blind man recovered his sight. Between 1819 and 1883, no less than 133 cases of miracles were recorded there.