“Our Lady of Prayer”
L’ILE BOUCHARD, FRANCE (1947)
December 8, 1947 was going to be a very special day for three little girls, Jacqueline Aubrey (12), her sister Jeanette (7), and their cousin, Nicole Robin (10). It was the feast of the Immaculate Conception and also the day they would meet the Virgin Mary. At school that day the nuns who taught their classes had encouraged all the children to pray for France due to its troubles with the Soviet Union at that time. The girls had eaten their lunch at home and were returning to school when Jacqueline suggested they stop on the way back to visit the chapel.
Halfway through praying a decade of the Rosary in front of the altar, they looked up and were astonished to see a “beautiful lady” with her hands joined in prayer. A white rosary hung from her right arm. To the left of the lady was an angel, holding a lily while his eyes were fixed in contemplation of the lady. The altar of the Virgin had a stained glass window featuring Our Lady of Lourdes to its left, and a statue of Our Lady of Victories directly above it. The apparition was situated several feet off the ground in the corner between the altar and the window. While the beautiful lady smiled at them, Jacqueline whispered that others should see this wonderful sight as well. She ran outside to notify others. She immediately grabbed two friends, Laura Croizon (8) and her sister, Sergine (13) and then returned to the church.
Laura immediately saw the beautiful lady whereas her older sister could not – so they had to describe what they were seeing to her. They emphasized how beautiful the lady was. She was wearing a brilliantly white dress with gold trim at the neck and wrists. There was a blue sash around her waist and a veil covering her head. They noted that the veil’s white color to be different from the dress, and it was decorated along the edges with motifs known as “Touraine” in this region of France. With hands joined in prayer the beautiful lady radiated a strong golden light. She had blue eyes and long blonde hair – almost down to her knees! They estimated her to be 16 or 17 years old.
The lady stood on a stone block that was decorated with a garland of five pink roses. On the rock, written in gold, were the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
The angel was kneeling on his right knee, surrounded by an intense white light. He wore a robe of a soft rose color. He, too, had blue eyes and long blonde curly hair. In his left hand he held a lily stalk while his right hand was placed over his heart. His white wings were trimmed in gold while his feathers moved slightly in a breeze that the children could not feel. He seemed to be in profound contemplation of Our Lady. This area of the church was strangely lit with colors that the girls had never seen before. Eventually, the apparition disappeared into what appeared to be a “cloud of silvery dust.”
The children returned to school with excitement and told Sister Marie de L’Enfant Jesus about what they had experienced. She immediately believed them, whereas the parish priest, Fr. Clovis Segelle – despite extensive questioning – did not believe them. After school the children returned to the chapel and were delighted to see the lady beckoning them. But she seemed extremely sad as she slowly uttered,
“Tell the little children to pray for France, for her need is great.”
Jacqueline asked the lady if she might be the Heavenly Mother. The Virgin quickly affirmed that she was indeed their Heavenly Mother. Then the girls asked her about the angel. He turned and announced that he was the angel Gabriel. Mary then turned back to the girls and asked for their hands to kiss, bending low to reach the hands of Jacqueline and Nicole. But the other two girls were much smaller and could not reach high enough. Jacqueline took them up, one after the other, and lifted them up at arms length, as though they were practically weightless. All four testified to the solidity and warmth of Mary’s hand and the touch of her lips. Before disappearing in a cloud of silvery dust, she asked them to return that evening at 5:00 and the next day at 1:00 p.m.
After the girls left the church, they noticed a shining white oval on their fingers, but before they got back to school these traces, which they did manage to show to a local woman, had faded. Jacqueline and Nicole spoke of what had happened, and after class they were separated and asked to write out accounts of their experiences, which were matching. Once the girls got home they found their parents not inclined to believe them, and only Jacqueline was able to return to the church for the rosary and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in honor of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mary appeared and beckoned to Jacqueline, but as she debated whether to go forward or not, looking back toward her teacher, Sr. Saint-Léon, for permission, assuming that she too could see the apparition. The bell rang for Benediction, and when she looked back, the apparition was gone. Once the Blessed Sacrament had been returned to the tabernacle, Mary reappeared.
On the next day, December 9, the four girls assembled at the appointed time and began praying the Rosary. The Blessed Virgin appeared in a shining golden sphere, about three feet across that came out of the wall and unfolded itself as a rectangular curtain of silvery light, on which the rocky grotto stood out in relief. Her long hair was now hidden by her veil. Written across her breast in gold letters was the word “Magnificat.” The words on the block of stone underneath her feet had changed. Now the words on the rock read, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
The girls were then joined by a certain Madame Trinson, who owned a shoe shop in the town. Blessed Mary, with a grave expression, showed the girls the golden cross of her rosary, and asked them to kiss it. Jacqueline and Nicole both stood up to do this, and Madame Trinson was amazed to see Jacqueline repeat her feat of the previous day, lifting up the two younger girls as though they were featherweight dolls so that they too could kiss the golden cross. The metal was cold to their lips and they were penetrated with a sense of Mary’s grief.
The Virgin then made a beautiful, but extremely slow, sign of the cross. It took two minutes to complete, and the girls copied her movements, with Madame Trinson looking on in astonishment. Once this was over Mary said that she would tell them a secret that they could reveal in three days. Blessed Mary repeated her urgent request to pray for France. She asked for a grotto to be built with the images of her and Gabriel to be placed within it. Then she asked that the priest come at two o’clock along with the children and a crowd, so that they could all pray.
Fr Ségelle refused to come and so Jacqueline, Jeanette and Laura, with about twenty other children and thirty adults, assembled in the church. After they had said ten Hail Mary’s, the Virgin and the angel appeared as before out of the golden ball. She asked for hymns and prayers before telling them to return each day at 1:00 p.m., until everything was over. At 5:30 p.m. Fr Ségelle informed the archbishop of the day’s events. That same day, to the surprise of everyone, the Russian Communists decided to abandon their plans of a general strike.
Approximately 150 people gathered the next day, December 10, to await the appearance of the Blessed Virgin. Suddenly the Virgin was present and requested a sung version of the Hail Mary. She then asked the girls to kiss her hand again. The crowd was amazed to see Jacqueline repeat her feat of effortlessly lifting the two smallest girls. During the apparition, Jacqueline’s mother called out to her daughter to request the Blessed Mother for a miracle so that all would believe. To this request Mary replied,
“I have not come to France to perform miracles, but to tell you to pray for France.” But then to Jacqueline, she said, “Tomorrow you will see clearly and will no longer have need of glasses.” Then she disappeared into a golden ball of light.
Jacqueline wore thick glasses and had to wipe her eyes often because of chronic conjunctivitis. When Jacqueline awoke the next morning, she was able to open her eyes without difficulty and then discovered that she now had normal vision! Overjoyed, her father rushed to tell Fr. Segelle about the miracle. The priest exclaimed, “So it is true that She has descended among us!”
Again at 1:00 p.m. the next day, December 11, the church was full of people. The Virgin asked the girls if they had prayed for sinners — to which they replied that they had. Then Mary led them through ten Hail Mary’s, but she only spoke the words with which Gabriel had greeted her at the Annunciation. Jacqueline asked Mary to heal people who had petitioned the girls for cures, to which the Virgin replied that she promised that there would be “happiness in families.” Before disappearing she again asked about the grotto. After this, the girls were questioned separately in the sacristy.
Three hundred people crowded into the church of St. Giles on December 12. Our Lady appeared wearing a crown composed of twelve sparkling rays – each about a foot long. These were interspersed with smaller ones of various colors — two narrow blue ones in the center and then five wider ones to each side, colored red, yellow, green, pink and a brownish red. After listening to the singing of the Hail Mary, the Virgin led the children again in saying ten Hail Mary’s of the Rosary – and again pronouncing only the words of the angel Gabriel. The word “Magnificat” was again visible in letters across her chest.
Five hundred people attended on the next day, December 13. This time Mary appeared without her crown. She indicated that the public miracle that had been requested would come “later.” Jacqueline was then told that the last apparition would occur on the next day.
The crowd of two thousand packed into the church of St. Giles (and around the outside of it) on December 14 and began praying the Rosary. The Blessed Virgin and Gabriel appeared and remained for over 30 minutes. At Our Lady’s request that the Magnificat be sung, Fr. Segelle sang it reverently with the people. Mother Mary asked for more prayers to be said for sinners. In response to the request for a miracle, Mary responded with a smile,
“Before I go, I will send a bright ray of sunlight.”
After blessing the people, Our Lady vanished. But a mysterious bright ray of sunshine streamed through a window and settled on the precise place of her appearance. Then it grew in size and intensity so that all had to shield their eyes. The four girls were surrounded by sparkles of various colors. The ray of light was later determined to be inexplicable in natural terms. Normally, such a beam of light would have been interrupted by some of the pillars of the church. Subsequent tests proved that it was physically impossible for a normal ray of sunlight to have entered that part of the church at that time of year because of the position of the sun. It was therefore declared to be a “miraculous occurrence.”
Fr. Segelle examined the girls separately and found them to be truthful and consistent with all the details of the appearances and with the 72 questions that he asked of each of them. After carefully studying the facts of the apparitions, Archbishop Honore approved Mary’s request for a grotto and began construction of it. He permitted pilgrimages and sanctioned the veneration of Our Lady under the title of “Our Lady of Prayer.” The grotto and statues were completed in November of 1988. Bishop Andre Vingt-Trois declared on December 8, 2001:
“Having carefully studied the events and taken council with appropriate persons, I authorize these pilgrimages, and all manner of public worship.”
The Secretary General of the Interior Ministry declared publicly (after meeting the girls):
“France was saved by the prayers of these four children and by the people here who prayed at the feet of the Virgin Mary.”