Our Lady Of Gifts
Year : 1581
The story of Our Lady of Gifts, also known as Our Lady of Thanks and Our Lady of Grace, is intertwined with many legends. Like all the Pre-Reformation statues in Ireland, the actual records have been lost and one must depend on the memory of the Faithful.
According to the legends, an Italian youth of good family, who had been shipwrecked off the coast of Ireland, was admitted to the Dominican priory of the Holy Cross at Youghal, probably at some time during the early sixteenth century. The youth had had some training in sculpture; he had a fine piece of marble which by some miracle had been saved from shipwreck. This he planned to carve into a Madonna, but the prior insisted that he use it for a pedestal for a statue of the Prior’s favorite saint. The lad obeyed, though reluctantly. Some time later, a small piece of ivory drifted in with the tide. It was badly stained and had several bad flaws, but the prior told him to use it for the Madonna, as long as he was anxious to carve one. The young man decided to complete the Madonna for the Prior’s feast day, but the work was slow and by the eve of the feast it was still unfinished. He stayed up most of the night working on it, but still could not finish it satisfactorily, so finally went to bed.
In the morning he resolved to throw the piece away and ask for a new one, he was dissatisfied with it; but when he went to look at it, he realized that someone else had been working on it. It was beautiful, and it had some strange power to make his heart content. The statue was set up in the cloister hall, and soon the brothers began reporting miracles through the intercession of Our Lady. Eventually the statue was placed in the chapel, where outsiders could pray before it. The miracles continued until the only possible title for the little statue was Our Lady of Gifts.
In 1581, the soldiers of Elizabeth I raided the countryside, burning and looting monasteries. The brother who had carved the little statue was old by that time, too old to go to the rescue of the statue when the soldiers came. He gave it into the care of a novice and told him to hide it. The novice fled into the forest but was seen by a soldier and shot down. Dying he thrust the statue into the niche of a layer of trees. No one knew where it had gone and for many years the Dominicans like other religious were banished from Ireland.
Many years later, the Irish Dominicans reorganized on the coast of Brittany. They were very poor. One day a great log floated in and lodged on the beach. After splitting it, they found, wrapped in a blood stained Dominican scapular, the tiny statue. With great rejoicing Our Lady was once more enthroned. In 1756 the Dominicans were back in Youghal, where they re-established their old ruined priory and set up the little ivory statue. We have on record the miracles worked at the shrine on the return of the Dominicans to Ireland. The priory was built up and enriched by several benefactors who had received help through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Gifts.
The statue is now in the Dominican church at Cork, set into a magnificent shrine given by a happy client of the little Lady of Gifts and Graces. In thanksgiving, too, somebody named her the Lady of Thanks. The statue is very tiny, hardly three inches tall, carved of a very inferior piece of ivory. Our Lady is seated, and has the Holy Infant on her lap. It does not seem pretty to us now; which does not matter at all to the hundreds who have received gifts and graces from her hands.