It was 10:30 at night when the beeping started. The kids were all sound asleep and we were, naturally, on the 32nd of 33 floors. Only the restaurant with a view and the birds were higher than us.
An announcement was made. The fire alarm had been activated, the firefighters were on their way. We could stay or we could go -- the option was ours. Looking at the three sleeping heads, there was no option. The “what ifs” drowned out even the relentless droning of the alarm.
31, 30, 29, 28. Down, down, down. What’s going on? I’m scared. Why is this happening? 27, 26, 25, 24. Little legs. Little curls. Little voice. Should we pray?
Yes, we should pray. To whom shall we pray? To Mary, of course.
“And a little child shall lead them” (Is 11:6).
--Turning to Mary
The Hail Mary got us down another flight of stairs. By the time we reached the seventh floor, we got the all clear. Construction dust, not flames, was the culprit. All was well.
An elevator ride brought us back up to 32, back to our temporary home in the sky overlooking the rushing water of the Canadian Niagara Falls. As we tucked the kids back in bed -- or at least tried to -- we remembered the little figure standing on the nightstand in the shadows of the room. It was a small plastic replica statue of Notre Dame de Protection (Our Lady of Protection), which we had picked up during our recent stop in Quebec City only a few days before.
The statue had been provided by the Centre-Catherine-de-Saint-Augustin, where we had learned how the original Notre Dame de Protection statue had been brought to New France by Blessed Catherine de Saint-Augustin, an Augustinian Hospitaller Sister of the Mercy of Jesus, in 1648. Catherine was only 16 years old when she arrived in Quebec, and she was deeply determined to serve the sick and suffering in the French colonies in present-day Quebec
It was thanks to Our Lady that she even arrived in the colonies at all, though, after Catherine had contracted the plague aboard the ship headed West from France. She is said to have been healed through the intercession of the small statuette and the powerhouse intercessor that it depicted.
While visiting the center, we got to know Catherine’s story of great works and even greater faith -- and about the little statue that earned a huge reputation for the miraculous. Numerous other miracles and healings have been attributed to the statue over the centuries -- including the protection of a home from a rapidly spreading fire in a village near Quebec in 1866 after an image of Our Lady of Protection had been attached to the door of the home that was spared.
So it was this statue that was sitting on the nightstand in our room during our fire alarm drama on the last night of our Canadian vacation.
--A little miracle
Now, I’m not saying there was a miracle. We know there was just some drywall dust that triggered the fire alarm at our hotel that prompted our long descent with three little people in our arms and at our side. But, my goodness, it was certainly comforting to parents to see her stalwart self standing there in our room when we returned.
There she was, Our Lady, Notre Dame de Protection, holding her infant Son and looking at us as if to say: “I got you. I know what it’s like to be a parent, what it’s like to love our children, and what it’s like to fear for them, especially when facing the unknown. You can count on my protection today and always.”
And so we shall.
Our family will never forget our journey down 25 flights of stairs that night. As someone has already told us, “At the very least, you have a story to tell.” And believe me, our kids are telling it! We will never forget the young nun who carried the Marian statue with her from France to the New World, and who has inspired widespread veneration. And we will never forget, either, as our son reminded us, to turn to Our Lady for help -- the one who protects us and always, always carries our needs to her Son.
Gretchen R. Crowe is the editor-in-chief of OSV News. Follow her on Twitter/X @GretchenOSV.