When Marine and Thomas posed at the Our Lady of Grace shrine in Cotignac, France, one morning this past September, it was like stepping back in time for Marine.
One year ago, almost to the day, the woman from Nice and her mother had taken a photo at the same place during their pilgrimage to ask for the grace to welcome a child. “I was in Cotignac on October 28,” recalls the 30-year-old. “I drew water from the St. Joseph spring, we prayed and placed a candle. We also went to Our Lady of Grace to pray. And on December 17, I learned that I was pregnant!” Surprisingly, the couple wasn’t expecting just one child as they imagined, but twins!
A prayer chain
This was happy news that came to brighten up a trying year. In June and again in October 2020, Marine had had early miscarriages. “Fortunately, I could count on my husband. But between these trials and the lockdown, the isolation was very hard.” In the midst of the pain, the closeness of her mother and the figure of the Virgin were true support. “I went to Lourdes with my mother during the summer. She has a mother’s heart and it is with her that I can live my faith most intimately, because my husband didn’t receive a religious education.”
At the shrine, Marine couldn’t believe what happened: “I came across a golden mosaic of the Virgin that I had seen in a dream. It was a very powerful moment that gave me confidence on my path. I told myself that she was watching over me.”
During the first trimester, Marine, a teacher, had to take time off to rest because of a difficult start to her pregnancy. During this period, she entrusted her pregnancy to the prayers of the community of the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, with whom she remained in contact.
Persevering in the midst of trials
During the fifth month, premature delivery threatened. Since the risk is “common for mothers of twins,” Marine was hospitalized for three weeks but was able to return home for her wedding anniversary.
A few days later, she returned to the hospital for tests. But nothing went as planned: “The staff became worried about the babies who were suffering,” says Marine, tears in her voice. Her husband, Thomas, remembers standing against the wall to let the nurses through. Indeed, as the team could no longer detect the heartbeats of the twins, the delivery “was started that evening.”
On June 10, 2021, three months before term, Marine gave birth to Louis and Gabriel. They were placed in an incubator. Over the weeks, progress and setbacks punctuated their stay in the hospital. Every evening, Marine asked for the intercession of Mary, St. Joseph, and Christ for her children before making the sign of the cross on them.
“One evening when I had Louis in my arms, I smelled a perfume of incense and wood, like church incense. On the internet I read people saying that angels leave this scent.”
It was a great joy when in early August the babies finally came home. The following month, the family went to Cotignac. The mother took the opportunity to pray for other families. She knows how much “hope, patience and courage” are needed by couples hoping for a child. The shrine now has a special place in her heart and she plans to return.