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Octave, the “miracle child” born nine months after a bishop’s blessing



La Famille Mandelli.

Raphaëlle Coquebert - published on 03/19/22

"Don't underestimate the power of God," the bishop told the couple, and nine months later their son was born.

Odile and Jean-Marc had given up on their dream of a large family. After their marriage in 1994, it took them five years and a hormonal treatment to have their first daughter, Zoe, in 1998. They thought their second daughter, Eloise, in 2000, would be their last. Odile and Jean-Marc tried to accept that they would forever be parents of two children. “This renunciation was very painful,” Odile tells us. “The interminable wait for a child is a real trial for a couple. It feels as if God hasn’t blessed you.”

A practicing Catholic for as long as she can remember, and driven by her deep faith, Odile gave this cross to the Lord. As a wine grower in the countryside of Aube (France), she focused on cultivating her vines while raising her two daughters.

Jean-Marc looked kindly on Odile’s faith journey, but didn’t accompany her to Sunday Mass, bearing in his heart the pain of not having more children. The music he taught was a consolation for him. Life went on for both of them.

An impromptu exchange with the bishop

The issue seemed closed until an Easter procession — traditionally organized by the diocese of Troyes on the night of the Easter Vigil — which is 12 miles of singing songs and prayers punctuated by stops for physical or spiritual sustenance (confessions, testimonies, etc.).

Jean-Marc wasn’t a regular at Sunday Mass yet, but had been going more regularly than before, since his second daughter’s First Communion. “She had insisted that I receive Communion that day,” he says with surprise. “For the sake of consistency, I went to the sacrament of penance first, which I had abandoned for 20 years. As a result, my practice of the faith intensified.”

Seeing the bishop of Troyes pass by (Bishop Marc Stenger, who resigned in 2020 due to health reasons), Odile and her husband questioned him about the lack of priests at their large parish. “But what about you?” the prelate asked. “Would you be willing to give one of your children to the Church?”

“We only have two, and they’re girls,” the couple replied. “Having struggled to have them, we can’t do anything for you.”

The bishop responded, “Don’t underestimate the power of God. He works where He wants, when He wants. And now I’m going to bless you.”

The 40-somethings accepted it with a smile. “My name isn’t Sarah (Abraham’s wife), or Elizabeth (Mary’s older cousin and mother of John the Baptist)!” joked Odile.

An effective blessing!

Heaven didn’t turn a deaf ear to the bishop’s declaration of faith. Three months later, Odile discovered with surprise that she was pregnant — 17 years after having her second daughter.

“As surprising as it may seem, at the time, I had trouble digesting the news. I was 45 years old, the page had been turned, and I was gripped by anxiety,” she said. “Now that our son is 5 years old, I tell myself that God’s time isn’t man’s time… Of course, we were ready to welcome him, as were his older sisters, who jumped for joy. As for my husband, who was challenged by the event, he has definitively returned to practicing his faith, to my great happiness.”

Nine months after the Easter procession, their son was born, on the octave of Christmas (the eighth day after Dec. 25)! Appropriately, they named him Octave.

“The name had been chosen ahead of time,” said his mother, “But the date was a new wink from the Lord. And as it should be, it was the bishop who baptized this long-awaited son, whom the people of Aube have humorously nicknamed ‘the bishop’s baby!’”

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