The image/title of Our Lady of Grace is venerated in many countries throughout the world and there are many churches and schools named in her honor including this beautiful church in West Sacramento who has gratefully accepted the patronage of Our Lady of Grace.
Our Lady of Grace is one of many titles under which the Mother of God is known; and there is more than one narrative behind this title of the Blessed Mother. However, it is quite apparent that this title is one of the oldest in that it originated at the time of The Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel declared, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). At the moment of Mary’s acceptance, she became Our Lady of Grace with a very special intercessory ability to bestow the graces of our Lord.
The International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio indicates that the title, Our Lady of Grace, originated in medieval times, but is especially well-known in Cambrai, France related to an Italio-Byzantine-style icon of Mother and Child in embrace. The small icon is attributed to Saint Lucas and made its way from Rome to Cambria in 1440 where she is venerated as patroness of the city which is also known as “Cité-Notre Dame” (Town of Our Lady).
The title Our Lady of Grace also has special significance in relation to Saint Padre Pio (of Pietrelcina) who had great devotion to a painting of Our Lady of Grace and Child Jesus hanging in the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy where Padre Pio lived most of his life as a Capuchin priest. The saint reportedly spent hours praying before the image and found great comfort.
At the monastery church of the Carmelites in Vienna, Austria hangs a painting of Our Lady of Grace, which is also known as Our Lady of the Bowed Head. In 1610, Dominic of Jesus-Mary, a Carmelite, found an oil painting of the Mother of God, in a disheveled state, in the monastery church of Maria Della Scala in Rome. He brought the image to his cell, refurbished it and treated it with great devotion. During his venerations, Mary appeared to him and he asked her to pray for one of his benefactor’s soul in purgatory and later all poor souls. Mary promised that, “All those who devoutly venerate me in this picture and take refuge to me will have their request granted and I will obtain for them many graces; but especially will I hear their prayers for the relief and deliverance of the souls in purgatory.” Dominic then placed the image into the church of Maria Della Scala so that more devotees of Mary could venerate it. Many wonderful favors were obtained by those who honored and invoked Mary there. The painting remains in the monastery church on the altar of mercy at the Carmelite monastery in Vienna, Dobling. The image was solemnly crowned by Pope Pius XI on September 27, 1931. (from Roman Catholic Saints.com)
The statue in the southeast corner of Our Lady of Grace Church bears a great resemblance to Our Lady’s image on the Miraculous Medal. On the night of July 18-19, 1830, Our Lady appeared to Sister (now Saint) Catherine Labouré, a novice in the community of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. During this night and on two other appearances, Our Lady asked Saint Catherine to create a medal showing her image as a Lady standing on a globe with her arms outstretched and with dazzling rays streaming from her fingers. Framing the design was the inscription, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”. Although the Medal is commonly associated with Mary’s title as the Immaculate Conception, the posture of Our Lady on the image of the medal with arms outstretched and rays of light (grace) streaming from her fingers certainly fits well with the statue in this church under its patroness, Our Lady of Grace.