The feast day of Our Lady of Einsiedeln is September 14.
The statue of Our Lady of Einsiedeln is said to be material proof of the power of prayer and the ability of meditation to change the vibrations and feelings of a place hundreds of years into the future. Brother Meinrad, a Benedictine monk, left his monastery at Richenau in 840 in order to move into the woods and live as a hermit. It was firmly believed that anchorites and hermits served the world by being in a state of constant prayer. At first Meinrad lived in a cave near his monastery. But as it was the custom in ancient times to look upon hermits as those with great wisdom, too many of the local people came to him for advice. He moved to a much more isolated place where there were no human settlements. He erected his hermitage with a chapel, his cell, and two small rooms to shelter travelers. His belongings were a candlestick, a missal, a Bible, a copy of the Rule of Saint Benedict and a statue of Mary holding the Christ Child. This statue had been given to him by the Hildegard, the abbess of Zurich. Meinrad was devoted to the Virgin Mary, and he lived in this isolated environment for twenty years, conversing with the trees, the flowers, and the animals. The people of the valley respected his privacy and admired his sanctity. In 863, two robbers who suspected that Meinrad was secretly hiding a great treasure went to the hermitage asking for shelter. After Meinrad took them in, they killed him with the candlestick. Being at one with nature, it is said that Meinrad had two crows as his guardians. The two robbers were not only angry and disappointed at not finding any treasure, but they were also terrified by the two crows who flew around their heads, pursuing them all the way back to Zurich. The crows did not leave them until they were identified as the murderers of the holy man.
Meinrad’s cell quickly became a place where people went for spiritual favors and healing. So great was Meinrad’s devotion to Mary, that the people felt she had a special love for those who visited the place he spent in prayer. His cell became known as the Lady Chapel, and soon a community of hermits came to live in the same place. In 940 a new Benedictine monastery was erected, which enclosed the cell of Meinrad. Today, it is the abbey of Einsiedeln, Switzerland.
In 948 a church was built around the Lady Chapel of Einsiedeln. On September 14, the day before the consecration ceremony, the church was filled with a blinding light and the bishop saw a vision of Jesus Christ on the altar. When he went the next day to perform the Consecration, he heard a voice clearly tell him that the church had already been consecrated to God. His deposition is still intact and preserved at the abbey. Meinrad’s statue, called Our Lady of the Hermits continued to be the focal point for pilgrims. After almost one thousand years of a peaceful existence, in the spring of 1798, the sanctuary was invaded by French revolutionary troops. They sent what they thought was Meinrad’s statue back to Paris and razed the Lady Chapel to the ground. In reality, the people of Einsiedeln hid the statue. It was deemed safe to return it to the church in 1802 but first was restored in Austria. The restorer took great care in removing centuries of smoke grime from the statue. When the people saw this lighter-skinned version of Our Lady of the Hermits they refused to accept it. “It is not ours,” they said. “Ours used to be black.” He had to blacken the skin of the statue in order to make it acceptable to them.
It is believed that the statue that is at present displayed in the chapel is not Meinrad’s original but a copy that was made in 1466 after a fire had struck the church. It is important to note that grace abounds in the place that Meinrad spent his days in prayer devoted to the Virgin Mary. He successfully created a peaceful atmosphere in that place regardless of the fact that his original hermitage and original statue no longer exist.