Tilly was a small town about fourteen miles south of the English Channel, lying between the bigger towns of Bayeux and Caen. There was a school of seventy students staffed by three nuns. In March, 1896, at about 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, a young boy glanced out of one of the school’s windows opening onto a field to see a “beautiful lady” slowly descending from the sky. As the boy reported this, the other children and the teacher in the classroom rushed to the windows and all saw the same scene. In extreme wonderment, they watched the Lady move here and there – as if uncertain where to land. She finally positioned herself in the air near a big elm tree across the open field.
The seventy students and three nuns evacuated the school and raced across the field to see the “beautiful lady” up close. All of them clearly saw the apparition. The beautiful lady was within an oval-like aura of brilliant greens, reds, pinks, blues, and yellows which emitted “rays.” Inside of these rays was the “beautiful Lady.” Her dress appeared to have been “opulent and Turkish” in style, but it scintillated and changed colors. The Lady stood out in some resplendent and astonishing fashion and was life-size or slightly larger.
Not only had the school’s occupants all seen the descending apparition, but others in the area had also seen her arrival. Soon, there was “a great concourse of the devout and curious” filling up the field, all of whom witnessed the resplendent Lady, too. Most knelt in awe and began praying. They all assumed that this was the Blessed Virgin Mary. After a short time, the apparition vanished.
Blessed Mary did return at frequent intervals in the days thereafter, which made the usual conduct of school activities nearly impossible with these heavenly distractions! The appearances of the “beautiful lady” continued sporadically for about four years. These supernatural appearances submerged Tilly-sur-Seulles beneath an enormous and continuous crowd of pilgrims, reporters, devout and curious, and platoons of both religious and skeptical investigators.
Even on days when the Lady did not appear, crowds of 400 to 2,000 waited for her anyway. The field and nearby trees became a “forest of candles” and effigies of the Holy Mother. When Our Lady did appear, the crowds would swell into the thousands. Skeptics became convinced that these events “surpassed comprehension.” Investigators arriving to debunk the appearances would see her and then have to wrestle with their own disbelief. Witnessing her appearance with their own eyes undermined their initial convictions to doubt and disbelieve.
A large number of witnesses also described seeing other features – including saints, angels, demons, devils, and other assorted imagery which would revolve around the central apparition of the Virgin Mary. It was not realized at that time that these swirling figures corresponded to the apocalyptic visions reported by the two young visionaries at La Salette in 1846. The apparition and its accompanying phenomena usually occurred during broad daylight. But these horrible figures were soon thought of as “disquieting” and phantom-like. Some began gossiping about them as being diabolical.
Many observed some of the witnesses going into “ecstasies, trances, fits, and convulsions.” Their eyes would fix on the apparition and could not be distracted. They could not be jolted by pin pricks, burning candles touching their fingers, or slaps to their faces. Our Lady, asking for prayer, spoke through many of those in ecstasies. Some reported unintelligible languages from various angels, demons, and phantoms.
Two visionaries, Paul Guerard and Marie Martel, had much enthusiastic support by the faithful during their trances or ecstasies. Others witnessed “combat between angels and disgusting creatures.”
It is estimated that the original descent of the Blessed Virgin was witnessed by at least one hundred people. Up to one thousand had observed her prior to the addition of any other beings or imagery. Many miraculous cures were claimed. Yet, certain medical doctors and psychiatrists attempted to explain these supernatural events as either “communicable hysteria” or “mass insanity.” Neither term is viewed with any credibility in today’s field of psychiatry.
Although the Blessed Virgin did not directly warn of what was to come to this area of France in the future, it is commonly known that she frequently appears just before some upheaval, disaster, or deadly event. It is significant that just fourteen years later the broad area around Tilly-sur-Seulles was plunged into World War I. The area became an apocalyptic wasteland of fighting, trenches, mud, deadly gas weapons, insanity, slime, disease, and death – with thousands of rotting bodies and mass graves. This area around Tilly and north to the beaches of Normandy became another massive graveyard during World War II. Some of the most intense and bitter fighting occurred in this area.
No known official investigation by the Catholic Church has ever been conducted. No explanations could ever account for the supernatural visits. Skeptics and investigators were impressed by the events that they witnessed; no answers could ever be found.
At the far western end of the country of France, about one mile from the coast of the English Channel is the small area called Kerizinen which was too small to qualify as a hamlet. Kerizinen only contained a few ancient and poor homes built of rock. On September 15, 1938, a sad and lonely woman, Jeanne-Louise Ramonet, was patiently knitting on an embankment while watching over her milk cow grazing in the meadow. It was one of those pale, sunny days typical of Brittany.
Since the age of two, she had been afflicted with a paralysis of her right leg, causing a serious limp. Her family had either grown and moved away or died from typhoid, so she remained alone in this small bleak home about the size of an average kitchen. Her health issues caused her education to be “very scanty.” In 1936, the parish priest arranged for a free trip to Lourdes with a group of sick people. Although she was not instantly healed in the waters at Lourdes, she did find her health improved enough after her return to walk better and get more work done.
On this day in 1938, a ”ball of light” suddenly appeared before her a few feet above the ground. The light expanded and developed a radiant periphery. In the middle of this “globe” there appeared a “young lady of great beauty.” Jeanne-Louise fell to her knees and the Lady immediately spoke,
“Be without fear! I mean you no evil! You will see me at different times in the years to come. I shall tell you then who I am and what I want from you. A new war threatens Europe. I shall delay it for some months, because I cannot remain deaf to so many prayers for peace arising toward me at this moment at Lourdes.”
Having said only this much, the Lady “rose slowly, slanting toward the north, and disappeared very high in the sky. Jeanne-Louise was stunned. She told nobody and kept the secret in her heart.
She said that she knew that this was the Virgin Mary – described as a “beautiful young lady of seventeen years old.” Her dress was a “very sweet” shimmering deep blue, and her eyes were of the same shimmering color. The dress was undulating at the bottom and had a white border. The sleeves also ended in white borders. A double white ribbon girded the dress at the waist. She wore a shining white mantle, held at the neck by a golden rectangular hook. The mantle covered her shoulders and extended to below her knees. A very light, extremely white veil covered her hair. She stood motionless as she spoke; her head was slightly inclined to the left. The arms were positioned as if in prayer, her fingers crossed on her chest. Her left arm was holding a rosary.
Nearly fourteen months later, on October 7, 1939, the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary – and Jeanne-Louise’s 29th birthday, the Blessed Virgin made her second appearance and said,
“The world does not stop offending God with very grievous sins, especially sins of impurity, whence this war as a punishment for so many faults.”
“But heaven is not insensible to so much misery and comes to give you a means of salvation: peace, you will have it before long, if you know how to acquire it – but for that it is necessary that the people lead a life of prayers, of sacrifices, of penance. It is necessary that very often the children, particularly, be grouped to pray, to recite the rosary, followed by the “Parce Domine” for sinners. Tell your Director (the priest) that he should make public this message. I will give these words a supernatural force that will touch hearts.”
Jeanne-Louise immediately told the priest about the first two apparitions – as the Holy Mother had requested. But the priest forbid her to say a word about them. For the next eleven apparitions over the next nine years (until October 4, 1947), only Jeanne-Louise and her priest knew about them. Because Blessed Mary sternly admonished the priest in certain messages, the last two sentences of the second message and all of the thirteenth message are usually omitted. Apparitions that chastise the clergy are not easily heard or accepted.
The first and second messages accurately predicted a war – which began almost immediately; subsequent messages continued to predict the course of France’s sufferings. In the third message of December 1, 1939, we find Our Lady advising:
“Be sure to arm yourselves with prayer and sacrifice while your soldiers are using physical weapons.”
In the fifth message on April 2, 1940, Blessed Mary gives this warning,
“The prayers said are less in number than were said in the first months of the war. For this negligence, you (in France) will all go through sufferings, but mainly to your soldiers. Many will be made prisoners and many will die of privations and misery.”
In the sixth message of December 1, 1939, Our Lady advises:
“My children of France, serious hours will soon toll for you! The invasion of your country by the enemy is the danger that threatens you.”
It is highly unlikely that this poor, simple-minded woman in this isolated out-of-the-way locale could have any intelligent knowledge of the warfront or current advances. Her priests would similarly be isolated and unlikely to know anything either.
In the eighth message given to Jeanne-Louise on May 8, 1941, Blessed Mary tells us:
“Soon, Russia will bring help to the war – help which will be a hard blow to your enemies. But, beginning at this time, pray, pray a lot, O Christian souls, for this great enemy of the church – otherwise, after the war, the Communists will be seated nearly everywhere, and the church will receive harassments from them.”
As the Soviet threat would not even be realized until after 1946 – only by closeted government circles, it is inconceivable that simple Jeanne-Louise would have such insight or even educated guesses five years earlier. In fact, the public awareness that Communists would “be seated nearly everywhere” was not apparent until the mid-1950’s, seven years after the messages “went public.”
Immediately after the thirteenth apparition on October 4, 1947, Jeanne-Louise limped the two miles to the village priest at Plounevez-Lochrist to again tell what she had seen and heard from Blessed Mary. This time, though, the conversation between her and the priest “was overheard by a young girl who listened attentively” and then eagerly rushed to the village school with the details of the apparitions – which then spread to the village. But, most did not believe any of it. A few began praying in the meadow near Jeanne-Louise’s house – and asked her many questions as well.
Jeanne-Louise repeated all of the messages to those who inquired, word for word as retained clearly in her memory. This included the stern admonishments given to the clergy during the thirteenth apparition for their failure to publicly broadcast the messages, including the warnings and calls for prayer.
Soon, a small shrine was set up in the meadow. Flowers were deposited and candles were lit. Small groups began attending, especially when Jeanne-Louise narrated the new messages, #14 through #21.
In late May of 1949, a woman from Plounevez-Lochrist had become seriously ill. When brought to the hospital, she was declared a “desperate case with death imminent.” Visionary Jeanne-Louise joined others at the meadow shrine and began a novena to Our Lady of the Rosary of Kerizinen for that lady’s health. The 22nd apparition happened on May 24 during the novena. The others saw a “globe of light” descending over Jeanne’s house. Taking the flowers at the apparition site and weaving them into a wreath, the visionary asked several others to take them to the sick woman in the hospital.
Although the good people were denied access to the dying patient’s room, the religious sisters agreed to deliver the flowers to her bed. As soon as the flowers touched her bed, the dying woman began to speak. All present were astonished and watched as her pulse and temperature became normal again. She was miraculously healed. Word of this miracle spread fast and attendance at the meadow shrine increased rapidly.
During the 23rd apparition on August 6, 1949, Jeanne-Louise asked the Blessed Virgin about the absence of good drinking water within a mile of the apparition site. Blessed Mary promised that she would “bring forth a source to gush water.” Three years later, on July 15, 1952, water started flowing from rocks and increased in its flow as more people desired it. The water is still flowing today, and many have claimed miraculous healings from using it.
On December 8, 1953, about a thousand people were reciting the rosary under gray clouds and a thin rain. Our Lady did not appear, but, at 3:00 p.m., as the prayers and Hail Mary’s came to a close, a “strange light attracted the eyes of all to the sky.” The clouds suddenly disappeared and a “very red sun detached itself from a part of the blue sky.” Witnessed by everyone present, the sun seemed to “fall down” and then split into two parts.
“The two halves began to turn in contrary directions, one from another, each one throwing out brilliant rays intensely colored and painting the same colors on everything in the neighborhood.”
The same phenomena were witnessed by larger numbers of people again during May, August, and October of 1954. During the October display, the “sun seemed to fall and emitted the same rays – but without splitting into two halves again.” And then another beautiful, supernatural display happened:
“It was as if a snow of light was flying around all of those in the meadow. The sky was serene, the air clean. The ‘snowflakes’ – which looked like flower petals – were formed at some height and were disappearing before touching the ground. The witnesses ran here and there to catch them, but their hands closed on air. Later, this prodigy occurred again. At times, there are perfumes that come by.”
News of these remarkable phenomena, attested to by over a thousand witnesses, now began to radiate through Brittany and the rest of France.
During the 24th apparition on December 9, 1949, Our Lady told Jeanne-Louise:
“Go to your bishop. I want him to organize prayers and pilgrimages on this site, and that a chapel be built here. The miracles performed by My Son in former times here upon this very land, I want them to happen again, especially in favor of sinners.”
Tradition indicated that a monastery had been built long ago in the meadow of the apparitions, and that Jesus had often appeared there!
Nonetheless, the bishop did nothing! Some of the townspeople compensated by constructing a small, forlorn, shed-like structure on the site. A life-size statue of the Virgin Mary was placed inside. Despite the small size, crowds as big as 6,000 people would gather around this “chapel” – especially on feast days, which must have embarrassed the local clergy.
During the lengthy 31st message of May 12, 1955, Or Lady asked,
“Ask your bishop to establish in the parish an Association of the Children of Mary, which I have spoken of in earlier years.” (This referred to a sanctuary for poor children as well as a school and hospital.)
But the bishop ignored the visionary’s words and request – and began increasing his public declarations against the apparitions at Kerizinen. No official inquiry was ever held for investigating these apparitions – despite the many supernatural occurrences witnessed by thousands.
Eventually, Jeanne-Louise would experience at least seventy-one apparitions of Our Lady. Some included secret messages not revealed; in others, the Virgin did not even speak even though she appeared to her. The Holy Mother was effectively stalemated at Kerizinen – as ultimately acknowledged by Our Lady, herself. During the 31st apparition on May 12, 1955, Blessed Mary concluded:
“The devil has unchained all his malice so that my apparitions not be accepted in Brittany, but, in spite of him I will triumph.”
It was later revealed that Jeanne-Louise had been given “an animated tableau” during the eleventh apparition on May 1, 1944. She was shown images of men hoisting a red flag, and priests trying to stop them. The priests were threatened, abused, and stones thrown at them. In a corner of the “tableau” the devil appeared very happy, encouraging the abuse of the priests. In another corner was a weeping Blessed Virgin. The inscription on the tableau read, “The Image of Communism.” What is significant is that the worldwide threat of Communism was not fully realized until after 1953. At the time of this “tableau,” the Soviet Communists were the much-appreciated allies of the West.
During 1961, Jeanne-Louise became increasing disabled and stayed home more frequently. After 1978, obscurity descended over these apparitions. Devout groups in Canada, France, and Belgium have worked to perpetuate the memory of holy events at Kerizinen.
“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.”
“Our Lady of Pellevoisin,”
PELLEVOISIN, FRANCE (1876)
Estelle Faguette, age 33, lay dying from pulmonary tuberculosis, acute peritonitis, and an abdominal tumor. On February 10, 1876, a doctor declared that she only had hours left to live. On February 14, during the night, a demon appeared at the foot of her bed. But then she also saw the Blessed Virgin at her bedside, rebuking the demon – which immediately departed.
“Fear nothing, you are my daughter. Have courage for you are to suffer for five more days in honor of the five wounds of Christ. On Saturday, you will be either dead or cured.”
The next night, on the 15th of February, both the Devil and Virgin appeared at the same moment.
“Be not afraid, for I am here. This time my Son is showing His Mercy. He will let you have life; on Saturday you will be healed.”
But Estelle said that she was ready to die, if she could choose, because she felt ready. Mary responded with a smile,
“Ungrateful, if My Son gives you life, it is because you need it. What other more precious thing can He give the people on Earth other than life? Don’t think that you will be free from suffering. No! You will suffer and not be free from troubles. This is what life brings. You have touched My Son’s heart by your self-denial and patience. Don’t lose those fruits by making the wrong choice. Did I not say that if He lets you live, you shall make My glory known?”
Estelle saw a marble tile wrapped in white silk paper, but found it impossible to pick up. Then Mary said it was time to look into the past. Estelle’s past mistakes were reviewed. Stunned at what she had done over the years, she felt great sadness. Mary just remained silent and then left with an expression of goodness on her face.
The third apparition was on February 16th, and this time the Devil was a long way away. But Mary reassured her that her wrongdoings were in the past, and her self-denial has “put right the wrongs.” Then Mary reviewed the good things Estelle had done. Mary was touched by a letter Estelle had written last September in which she compared her parents’ suffering to Her Son’s suffering.
The fourth apparition was brief and uneventful on February 17th. The fifth one was the next night, the 18th. Mary came closer to her and let her see the large tile in greater detail. On each corner was a golden rosebud, in the middle a golden heart pierced by a sword with a crown of roses. Written on it were these words:
“I called to Mary in the depth of my despair. She pleaded with Her Son for me and gained my total healing for me.”
Then Mary asked her to let her deeds prove her words. She said that Estelle could gain blessings wherever she goes by proclaiming Mary’s glory. Then Mary said, sadly,
“It saddens me the most to see that people have no respect for My Son in the Holy Eucharist, and the way people pray whilst their minds are on other things. I say this to those who pretend to be pious.”
Estelle began to feel dreadful pains in her stomach and abdomen. Holding her rosary in her left hand, she gave her suffering up to God. Little did she know that she was in the process of being healed. Soon she felt rested, well, and healed – except for the lack of functioning in her right arm. But the Parish Priest believed that when he brought her Holy Communion later that she would be able to make the sign of the cross with her right hand – and it was true that she was able to, later.
The sixth apparition occurred four and a half months later on July 1st. As Estelle was kneeling in her bedroom, saying prayers, Mary appeared, unexpectedly, dressed in white and surrounded by light. She looked at something, crossed her hands over her chest, and smiled, saying,
“Stay calm, my child, patience, it will be difficult for you, but I am with you. Courage, I shall return.”
She left abruptly, but appeared a seventh time the next night, July 2nd. Bright light streamed forth from her hands. Then, she crossed her hands over her chest and said,
“You have already proclaimed my glory. Carry on. My Son has gained more souls who have devoted themselves more deeply to Him. His heart is so full of love for My heart that He can never refuse me anything. For me he will touch and soften the hardest hearts.”
Estelle wished for some sign of her power that she could prove to others, but Mary reminded that her own miraculous healing was evidence enough – and to let it be known.
The eighth apparition was uneventful on July 3rd.
The ninth apparition was two months later on September 9th, and Mary appeared with the same white light, looked around the bedroom in silence, and then said,
“You deprived yourself of my visit on August 15th because you were not calm enough. You have a real French character: they want to know everything before learning, and understand everything before knowing. I could have come again yesterday – you deprived yourself of my visit because I was waiting for an act of submission and obedience from you.”
The tenth apparition on September 10th was very short and uneventful. The eleventh visit was on September 15th. Mary said, sadly,
“I can stop My Son no longer. France will suffer. Take courage and have confidence. It is so much the worse for those who will not believe.”
The twelfth visitation was six weeks later on November 1st. Mary appeared, arms outstretched, wearing a scapular, staring at something invisible in the room, looking around, saying nothing, but gazing finally at Estelle with “a look of much goodness.”
During the thirteenth visit on November 5th, Mary said that she chooses the meek and mild for Her glory. She told Estelle to be brave as many trials are coming soon.
During the fourteenth appearance on November 11th, Mary praised Estelle for making a scapular and asked that she make many more.
The fifteenth and final apparition occurred on December 8th, 1876. Mary appeared “more beautiful than ever” and said,
“You will see me no more. I shall be with you, but invisible. You need not be afraid.”
Estelle asked Mary if she could have the scapular Mary was holding. Mary just told her to come and kiss it. The Blessed Virgin bent down towards Estelle so she could kiss the scapular – a most memorable and wonderful moment for Estelle. Mary added that she wanted her to go to higher authorities and have a model of this scapular reproduced.
“Tell him that helping you do this pleases Me more by seeing my children wear it – while they turn away from everything else which insults My Son while people receive the Sacrament of His Love – and do all they can to repair the damages already done. See the graces which I shall pour out over all who wear it in trust of me and while spreading this devotion.”
Mary spread her hands, and rain fell very generously. Within each drop was clearly written a grace – health, trust, respect, love, holiness – all the graces which one could ever think of.
“These graces are from my Son. I take them out of His heart. He can refuse me nothing.”
She made a semicircle around Estelle’s room and disappeared.
The apparitions were quickly recognized by Monsignor de La Tour d’Auvergne, the Archbishop of Bourges. He authorized the making and distribution of the scapular and allowed public worship of Our Lady of Pellevoisin. The Archbishop ordered two canonical inquiries into the apparitions, which resulted in a favorable verdict on December 5, 1878. Later, in 1883, the parish priest of Pellevoisin, Fr. Salmon, accompanied by Fr. Auvrelle, the Vicar General, journeyed to Rome to present Pope Leo XIII with a bound record of the apparitions and a picture of Our Lady of Pellevoisin. The Pope was pleased to grant indulgences to encourage pilgrimages to the shrine.
Estelle was privileged to visit Pope Leo XIII on two occasions, during which the Pope promised to submit her scapular of the Sacred Heart to the Congregation of Rites. A decree was issued two months later approving the scapular
Estelle Faguette died in Pellevoisin at the age of 86 on August 23, 1929 – 53 years after her miraculous healing from death at the age of 33.
“Our Lady of St. Bauzille-de-la-Sylve”
HERAULT, FRANCE (1873)
Auguste Arnaud, age 30, was a regular participant in Holy Mass on Sundays. He was a father of two, having been married for six years, and a respected member in his community. And he worked on Sundays.
On Sunday, June 8, 1873, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, he attended Holy Mass and then went to work in his vineyard to tend the vines. After working for two hours, Auguste sat down to rest, eat his packed lunch, and smoke his pipe. Suddenly, he saw before him a beautiful young woman dressed in white. She wore a white veil that reached to her feet. She had a fringed belt and a tall crown. He jumped to his feet and asked, “Who are you?”
“I am the Blessed Virgin. Do not be afraid.”
Auguste was reassured by her words and listened with great emotion as she continued,
“You have the disease of the vine. You left St. Bauzille. We must celebrate his feast on the day it falls. Next Thursday you must go in procession to St. Anthony and hear Mass. In a fortnight you must go in procession to Notre Dame, to the Canton of Gignac, Montpellier, and the city of Lodeve. You must place a cross here, changing it later to another. Come in procession each year. Go tell your father and your pastor all of this. In a month I will come to thank you.”
At that, Blessed Mary rose vertically into the air and gradually disappeared. Auguste left the vineyard immediately for home, where he excitedly told his father what he had seen. When they went together to tell the village priest, the priest met their remarks with coldness and skepticism. He found it hard to believe that the Virgin Mary would make that effort just to tell one man not to work on Sundays.
But Auguste remained inspired to perform his mission given to him by the beautiful Lady. He had a carpenter build a wooden cross which he then placed in the vineyard where Mary had indicated. It was just a temporary one as the Virgin had asked for a wrought iron version with her image in the middle in his next effort.
On June 12, he and his family visited the chapel of St. Anthony. On June 22, he made it to Our Lady of Grace in Gignac. He made it to all the places that she had requested. On July 4, he finally replaced the wooden cross with the wrought iron one and set it on a stone pedestal.
Believers, skeptics, and the curious all gathered on July 8, 1873, in his vineyard for the predicted second appearance of Mary. Auguste’s wife worried about what might happen if the Virgin failed to appear and this crowd of five hundred would become disappointed and perhaps angry. But Auguste had plenty of faith and no fear at all.
After a few minutes, Auguste removed his hat and raised both arms high in the air. He seemed transfixed by what he was able to see, while everybody else saw nothing. With his arms still raised, he was suddenly carried with uncommon speed by some invisible force to the cross about forty yards away. He prayed silently while gazing at the Blessed Virgin, dressed now in gold and holding a rosary in her right hand. In a sweet voice:
“Do not work on Sundays. Blessed is he who believes and unhappy the man who does not believe. You must go to Our Lady of Gignac in procession with your whole family.”
She slipped the rosary to her left hand and, raising her right hand high, she blessed Auguste and the whole crowd. Before disappearing, she spoke one more time:
“Let us sing hymns.”
Auguste turned to the crowd and, in a low voice, told them to sing. The crowd began singing the Magnificat. After this day, many visitors frequented the area, leaving many flowers, candles, rosaries, and ex-votos. The activity interested the local bishop to the point of appointing a Commission of Inquiry. After witnesses were questioned and the committee filed its conclusions, the bishop recognized the authenticity of these appearances by Mary with a proclamation in 1876.
A chapel was built near the site and cared for by nuns. Auguste Arnaud died on
February 8, 1936, at the age of 92. He was buried in this chapel where his tomb reads:
“At the feet of the Virgin he so loved and so faithfully served, here lies in wait for the blessed resurrection the body of Augustus Arnaud, piously asleep in the Lord’s peace.”
On January 17, 1871, Eugene Barbadette (12) and brother, Joseph (10) heard the priest pray through Blessed Mary at Mass for mercy to come to the area. Paris was already besieged by Prussian forces, and war-torn France was in complete disarray. The little town of Laval nearby would be the next to fall to the invading Prussians.
That wintry night, looking outside the family’s barn at 6:00 p.m., Eugene noticed in the cold starry night that a section of the sky was without stars. Suddenly, in that very area, a young woman of 18 years old appeared to be hovering in the sky and smiling down at him. She was strikingly beautiful and wearing a dark blue dress covered with stars and a black veil with a golden crown on top. He gasped a yell of surprise, and brother, Joseph came to him and stared up at the apparition as well. Their parents then came to see what was going on but could not see what the boys continued to marvel at. The mother boxed their ears, scolded them, and then forced them to come in and eat dinner.
They ate hastily, rushed back outside, and again saw the beautiful lady in the sky. Joseph records the details later in his writings as follows:
“In the air above Augustin Guidecoq’s house, I saw a woman of extraordinary beauty. She appeared to be young, about 18-20 years of age and tall of stature. She was clad in a garment of deep blue. When we were told to describe exactly the shade of blue, we could only do so by comparing it to balls of indigo such as laundresses use for rinsing linen. Her dress was covered with golden stars, pentagonal in form, all of the same size and brilliant, but without emitting rays. They were not very numerous and seemed scattered over the blue without regard to method. The blue garment was ample, showing certain strongly marked folds, and without girdle or compression of any kind from the neck to the feet. The sleeves were ample and long, falling over the hands.
On the feet, which the dress left uncovered, were chaussons (shoes), the same blue as the dress, and ornamented with golden bows. On the head was a black veil, half covering the forehead, concealing the hair and ears, and falling over the shoulders. Above this was a golden crown resembling a diadem, higher in front than elsewhere and widening out at the sides. A red line encircled the crown at about the middle. The hands were small and extended toward us as in the ‘miraculous medal’ but without emitting rays.
The face was slightly oval. To the freshness of youth was added exquisite delicacy of feature and of tint, the complexion being pale rather than otherwise. Smiles of ineffable sweetness played about the mouth. The eyes, of unutterable tenderness, were fixed on us. I give up further attempting to describe the beautiful figure of her who looked down upon us and smiled. Like a true mother, she seemed happier in looking at us than we in contemplating her.”
But when a local nun heard the startled mother’s story, she reminded her that Mary often comes to young children. Going on the theory that maybe only children could see Mary, she brought two young girls, Francoise Richer and Jeanne-Marie Lebosse (ages 9 and 11) from the convent school to the family’s farm. The nun made certain to not tell the young girls anything. Although not having heard what the two brothers had seen, the two young girls immediately began describing, excitedly, the exact same image of the Virgin Mary down to the last precise detail.
Clusters of people began to gather — within 20 minutes after this vision had begun — yet, none of the adults could see anything. Three more small children began pointing at the sky and describing the same apparition of Mary. Even a two-year old in her mother’s arms started clapping with joy, looking up into the sky, and holding out her arms as if wanting Our Blessed Mother to come pick her up. A total of about 60 villagers gathered before the barn and knelt in the snow to begin praying. Sister Mary Edward began leading the Rosary. The children reported that Our Lady smiled throughout the Rosary, appearing very much alive and showing the dazzling whiteness of her teeth.
Afterward, Father Guerin led in singing hymns and reciting other prayers. The children reported that the Lady became more beautiful and her garments more intense in illumination in proportion to the devotion of the people. “Oh, there are so many stars (on her dress) that the Blessed Virgin will soon be gilt (golden) all over.”
The four young children who could describe what was happening said that three bright stars formed a triangle around Mary. A darker blue oval backdrop appeared and formed around her. Two candles appeared inside the oval on either side of her shoulders. Two more candles appeared inside the oval on either side of her knees. A small red heart appeared on her left side. About forty stars only visible to the children gathered beneath her feet. The villagers were all able to witness the formation of the three stars in a triangle.
As Sister Mary Edward began the Magnificat, the children cried out that the image was changing again. A white band about a yard wide unrolled itself under her feet and extended across the roof of Guidecoq’s house. These words appeared on the banner:
“Mais priez, mes enfants.” (But pray, my children.)
As the Magnificat continued, the dreadful news arrived that the Prussians were now at nearby Laval and heading soon toward Pontmain. More letters appeared on the banner:
“Dieu vous exaucera en peu de temps.” (God will hear you in a little while)
“Mon fils se laisse toucher.” (My Son permits Himself to be moved)
So she was telling them that God had heard their prayers and fears about the invasion of soldiers, and that he would answer their needs shortly. He would answer because he is a God who allows himself to be touched by pleading and prayers. The crowd sang hymns, but when “My Sweet Jesus” was sung, the children reported that she looked sad. A blue band, the same color as the sky, began passing over the words and erasing them. As the white banner rolled away, the Virgin lifted her hand to the level of her shoulders. She seemed to be moving her fingers and speaking, but nothing was heard.
Her hands were then joined over her heart and a large red cross with a darker red image of Jesus appeared in her hands. A star seemed to move and light four candles about her. When the crowd sang Ave Maris Stella, the red crucifix disappeared and a small white cross about eight inches high appeared on each of her shoulders. Mary looked upward. Prayers continued and Mary smiled as the crosses disappeared. She opened her arms outward and downward. A white veil appeared at her feet and rose slowly upward until Our Lady was completely concealed by it.
It was now about 9:00 p.m.; the experience had lasted a total of three hours!
By the next morning the town learned that the Prussian soldiers had witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary on the outskirts of their town. The startled and frightened soldiers had told their Prussian superiors,
“Madonna is guarding the country and forbidding us to advance! We can go no further – an invisible Madonna is barring the way.”
Within eleven days the Prussian soldiers had mysteriously retreated and abandoned the country they had planned to invade and occupy. A truce was signed and the war ended.
After a thorough investigation, the ecclesiastical authority fully approved in February of 1875 the appearances of the Virgin Mary in Pontmain. The Barbadette barn first became a chapel, and then a large basilica, years later in 1900, for “Our Lady of Hope.”
Joseph Barbadette became a priest and a member of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Brother Eugene became a priest of the archdiocese. Francoise Richer became a housekeeper for a priest, and Jeanne-Marie Lebosse became a nun.
“Our Lady of La Salette”
LA SALETTE, FRANCE (1846)
Maximin Giraud (11) and Melanie Mathieu (14), young cow herders, were headed for high pastures in the Alps on Saturday, September 19, 1846. They came from non-practicing Catholic families, disregarded church bells, and were not serious about their religion. Suddenly, around 3:00 p.m., they became stunned and mesmerized by a large, glowing circle of light —“like the sun” — shimmering like a diamond. Then it began to open, revealing a weeping woman inside, bent forward with her face buried in her hands, and her elbows resting on her knees, sitting on a large rock. The glowing globe faded away and the woman stood up, revealing her exquisite beauty in a long white dress that seemed to glitter with small pearls of light. She wore a translucent white headdress with a tall crown underneath. Across her shoulders was a shawl trimmed with roses. A large yellow apron was tied around her waist. A cross hung on a chain around her neck. The following details were extracted from the exact text written in 1878 by Melanie:
“The sight of the Holy Virgin was itself a perfect paradise. She was all beauty and love. The sight of her overwhelmed me. Everything radiated the majesty, the splendor, the magnificence of a Queen beyond compare. The word LOVE seemed to slip from her pure and silvery lips. She appeared to me like a good Mother, full of kindness, amiability, of love for us, of compassion and mercy. She had a beautiful crucifix hanging from her neck (the brightness in which she was enveloped seemed to come from the crucifix). At times the Christ on her cross appeared to be dead. At other times, He appeared to be alive – His head erect, His eyes open … He appeared to speak … showing that He was on the Cross for our sake.”
“The Holy Virgin was crying nearly the whole time she was speaking to me. Her tears flowed gently, one by one, down to her knees. Then – like sparks of light – they disappeared. They were glittering and full of love. … The eyes of our Mother cannot be described in human language. … They appeared thousands of times more beautiful than the rarest diamonds and precious stones. In her eyes, you could see paradise. They drew you to her.”
Then the Blessed Virgin spoke these words:
“Come to me, my children. Do not be afraid. I am here to tell you something of the greatest importance.” As they approached, the globe of shimmering light enveloped all of them. “If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son’s arm. It is so heavy, so pressing, that I can no longer restrain it. How long have I suffered for you! God is being dishonored with swearing. The price for such abuse would be costly. If the harvest is spoiled, it is your fault. A great famine is coming. Many young children will die from a serious disease.”
“Woe to the inhabitants of the earth! God will exhaust His wrath upon them. The leaders of the people of God have neglected prayer and penance, and the devil has bedimmed their intelligence. They have become wandering stars which the serpent will drag along with his tail to make them perish. … There will be bloody wars and famines, plagues and infectious diseases. There will be thunderstorms which will shake cities, earthquakes which will swallow countries. Voices will be heard in the air. The fire of heaven will fall and consume three cities.”
“In the year 1864, Lucifer, together with a large number of demons, will be unloosed from hell. They will put an end to faith, little by little, even in those dedicated to God. Several religious institutions will lose all faith and will lose many souls. Evil books will be abundant on earth, and the spirit of darkness will spread everywhere a universal slackening in all that concerns the service of God.”
“The true faith of the Lord having been forgotten, they will abolish civil rights as well as ecclesiastical. All order and all justice will be trampled underfoot, and only homicides, hate, jealousy, lies, and dissension would be seen without love for country and family. All the civil governments will have one and the same plan – which will be to abolish and do away with every religious principle, to make way for materialism, atheism, spiritualism, and vice of all kinds.”
“The earth will be struck with calamities of all kinds. There will be a series of wars until the last war, which will then be fought by the ten kings of the anti-Christ, all of whom will have one and the same plan. Before this comes to pass, there will be a time of false peace in the world. People will think of nothing but amusement. The wicked will give themselves to all kinds of sins. And so, my children, make this known to all my people.”
Then she turned and spoke to each child individually without the other being able to hear her. When asked if they prayed, they admitted “hardly ever.” She encouraged them to do so every night and morning with at least an Our Father or Hail Mary during the day if rushed. She impressed Maximin with recounting an incident with him and his father, word for word, when he thought they had been alone. Then she turned and left, gliding over the ground and rising into the air in the globe of light again.
Upon returning to their families, their story seemed fantastic, yet, their details matched perfectly, and their manner was so sincere. Despite pressures, bribes, and threats from townspeople, they stuck to their story. About a week later, a spring gushed forth out beside the rock upon which the Virgin had sat. This place had only collected water previously whenever snows melted or after heavy rains. But now, the spring flowed steadily, incessantly, and fully — even in dry weather conditions. And it has never stopped since that time. Numerous miraculous cures have been attributed to the water.
On the anniversary of the sighting, 50-60,000 people gathered and held Mass at the site. Twenty-three people reported miraculous cures. The Vatican approved this apparition in 1851. A Basilica was eventually built on the original site, high in the Alps, in 1879 where their visitation took place.
Mary had correctly prophesized the great famine in Europe and the decline of religion and morals in the world. She also accurately predicted the American Civil War and the “great war” (World War I) that would follow.
Bernadette Soubirous (14) was the oldest daughter of a desperately poor, miller’s family — who had to take a foul-smelling room in the old abandoned prison to survive. Lourdes was a village of about 4,000 people, tucked in the foothills of the French Pyrenees.
On February 11, 1858, Bernadette was sent with her sister, Toinette (11) and their friend, Jeanne to search for firewood that could be sold to the ragpicker for a few pennies that could buy a pound of bread for their dinner. Bernadette was lagging behind the other two because of her asthma. She suggested they cut across some fields to reach a point where the River Gave de Pau meets the canal. She paused in front of the hollowed-out rock Grotto of Massabielle at the base of a small mountain to take off her shoes and socks so that she could wade through an icy cold stream. She remembered her mother warning her to stay warm due to her asthma.
Toinette and Jeanne had already removed their wooden shoes and waded through the icy millstream to the other side when Bernadette heard “a gush of wind” come from the grotto — yet, no trees were moving. She continued to remove her socks, when she heard the rush of wind again. She saw some wild rose brambles stir in the niche above the grotto. A soft light brightened the recess in the cliff. Then, it became a brilliant light — “like a glaring reflection of the sun off water.” In the light she began to see a young woman about her same age, dressed in white with a blue sash. A yellow rose adorned each bare foot. The mysterious young girl in the light smiled at Bernadette.
“When I saw that, I rubbed my eyes. I thought I was mistaken.” But Bernadette could not rub away the image of the girl in the light. The Lady made the sign of the cross with a Rosary in her hand, and Bernadette knelt and said a Rosary in front of her. As Bernadette said her rosary, the young girl in white fingered her own rosary beads but did not move her lips during the Aves. After that, the beautiful Lady motioned for her to come closer, but Bernadette was too timid. Glowing, as if standing in a sunburst, the Lady vanished. Wondering what she had just encountered, she finished removing her stockings and crossed the millstream – which was surprisingly warm now.
The other two girls had not seen or heard anything. Her sister scoffed at her story, and their mother spanked both girls when she heard such nonsense. However, this would be the first of 18 visitations! Despite being forbidden to return to the grotto, friends and others put pressure on the family to let her go, escorted. Just three days later, she felt compelled to return (with father’s permission) and took a bottle of holy water and a group of her curious classmates with her down the path to the Grotto of Massabielle.
She fell into a mesmerizing trance in front of the grotto as she saw the Lady again. Others could not see or hear anything but were impressed by her gaze that could not be broken with distractions. When Bernadette was done praying and the Lady had vanished, friends could not move her physically from her spot. They ran to the sawmill, and the operator of the nearby mill struggled to move the girl as she suddenly seemed incredibly heavy and hard to move. He was able to finally drag her back up the footpath. Later, she was again punished and warned.
Madame Jeanne-Marie Milhet thought that this apparition might be the spirit of her deceased relative, Elisa Latapie. Because Madame Milhet often paid Bernadette’s mother for odd jobs, Bernadette’s mother, Louise, gave in and allowed her to return to the grotto with Madame Milhet and her dressmaker, Antoinette Peyret. On February 18, these two, well-to-do women decided that they would accompany Bernadette to the grotto after Mass. Bernadette saw the Lady for a third time, but the two women, who could not see anything, asked for the Lady to write on a piece of paper so that they, too, could believe. Bernadette held the pen and paper up to the lady in the niche, asking her to write her name down. Mary smiled and then spoke for the first time,
“It is not necessary,” said Mary in a soft, musical voice to Bernadette only. “Would you have the graciousness to come here for 15 days? I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the next.”
On the way ome, one of the women offered to let Bernadette stay with her for those 15 days. But, because her mother and aunt now insisted they should have this role, Bernadette only stayed with the nice woman for a couple of days.
The Lady appeared to Bernadette silently, only smiling during each visit. Bernadette would always hold a blessed candle in one hand and a rosary in the other. Despite crowds gathering and following, nobody else could see anything. They could see that Bernadette was clearly in a trance or ecstasy as she gazed intently at the grotto, moving her lips at times, listening at other moments to someone they couldn’t see.
After the sixth apparition on February 21, Police Commissioner Dominique Jacomet pulled Bernadette in for an intense interrogation, trying to twist the facts and confuse her, adding occasional threats. But Bernadette remained calm, sincere, and consistent — never even making the claim that this was the Virgin Mary. And, despite his threats to jail her if she returned to the grotto, she calmly announced that she would return because she had pledged that she would.
On February 23, the Blessed Virgin told Bernadette three secrets that were for her alone. And she never did reveal what those three secrets were.
Finally, on February 24, Blessed Mary spoke to her again:
“Penitence is what I wish of everyone. Pray to God for the conversion of sinners.
Kiss the ground as a gesture of penance for others. Penance, penance, penance!”
Then, on February 25, with hundreds of curious people watching her silent interactions with Mary, she performed some very strange actions.
“She told me to go drink at the spring and to wash in it. Not seeing any spring, I headed toward the river to drink, but she beckoned with her finger for me to go under the rock. I went and found a little muddy water, almost too little for me to hold in the hollow of my hand. Three times I threw it away – it was so dirty. The fourth time I succeeded to drink some and then spit it out.”
Onlookers feared that she had gone mad, digging in the mud, drinking it, and smearing some on her face. Then she ate from a plant called dorine. The crowd gasped at each odd behavior, but they were later told that she had been instructed to do so “for sinners.” Nevertheless, the crowd left confused and dismissing her; her embarrassed aunts took her home. But later that same day, clear water started flowing from that muddy place.
On February 26, despite being ordered not to go there by the police commissioner, she found 600 people waiting there for her. Where she had dug into the mud was now a clear pool of fresh water. As many as 1,200 crowded into the area on February 28, leading authorities to grab the girl, interrogate, and threaten her again. But she calmly refused their demands, stating that she would not break her promise to go there for 15 days as promised (until March 4th).
At the golden dawn of March 1st, others saw the apparition as well, including Catherine Latapie and her two toddlers. She had broken her arm, paralyzing two fingers the year before, but when she placed her arm into that clear pool of running spring water, her hand was perfectly healed.
On March 2nd Bernadette turned and announced to the on-looking crowd of 2,000 people, “Go and tell the priests that people must come here in procession, and that a chapel must be built here.” Accompanied by her Aunt Bernarde and Aunt Basile, Bernadette approached Father Peyramale, the authoritative priest of St. Peter’s Church, and presented the Blessed Virgin’s request. Doubtful and disgusted, the priest needed to know that this was truly the Virgin Mary. He also demanded that this so-called “Virgin Mary” make the wild rosebush bloom in the winter grotto — as added proof.
Despite thousands of people showing up the last day, March 4, it was the same as the others — without any grand finale or miracle as was greatly hoped. Life returned to normal — now that the 15 visits were over.
But on the night before the Feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette received an “inner call” to return to the grotto one more time. Before the sun rose on March 25, she and her parents made their way to the Grotto of Massabielle. They were surprised to find a crowd already there, hopeful that this feast day might bring some special blessings or favors. The Virgin did appear again to Bernadette! Bernadette decided to meet the priest’s request, so she dared to ask Mary four times,
“Mademoiselle, would you be good enough to tell me who you are?”
The Blessed Mother slipped the rosary over her right arm, unfolded her arms, extended her hands toward the ground, and then folded them at her breast. She then raised her eyes toward heaven and finally answered,
“I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Bernadette had absolutely no idea what that meant, but she kept repeating the strange words to herself all the way to Father Peyramale’s residence so that she would not forget this precious response that they had all been waiting for. After she reported to him what Mary had told her, he was simply astonished. How could this uneducated girl, whose catechist had described her as “a blank slate,” know that the Virgin Mary had been born without sin? Pope Pius IX had proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception only four years earlier. When she left, Father Peyramale was now a believer and broke down and wept.
On April 7, the Tuesday after Easter, Bernadette prayed at the grotto in the early morning. Several hundred watched — including Dr. Dozous, who was there to examine her during her visionary experience — as Bernadette took a large candle and encircled the flames with her hands and fingers. This should have severely burned anyone else but she had no reaction or burns as the stunned doctor examined her closely. Bernadette reported, “Our Lady still wants her chapel.”
By the end of June at least 50 others reported visions of Mary there. On July 16 was Bernadette’s last vision, after again receiving an “irresistible invitation” on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Disguised with a cloak and not crossing the river, she admired Mary’s presence from farther away – yet felt like she was at the same distance as previous visits. “I had never seen her so beautiful.” This was her last visit from Mary.
On January 18, 1862, Bishop Bertrand Laurence declared,
“We judge that Mary Immaculate, the Mother of God, really did appear to Bernadette Soubirous, on eighteen occasions from 11th February, 1858, at the Grotto of Massabielle near the town of Lourdes; that these apparitions bear the characteristics of truth; that the faithful can believe them as true.”
The first of several chapels was built, and Bernadette was invited to march in the procession that Blessed Mary had requested, fulfilling both requests before she left her family and friends at age 22 on July 4, 1866, to join the Sisters of Charity in Nevers.
During Holy Week of 1879, Bernadette’s pains and ailments worsened. “I wouldn’t have thought it took so much suffering to die.” On Easter Wednesday, April 16, she stretched out her arms like a cross and said, “My God! … Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner.” Then she died at the age of 35 due to her poor health. Yet, her body lies under glass without any decompositionover 135 years later in the chapel of the Convent of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers! She was beatified on June 14, 1925, and canonized on December 8, 1933 in Rome – on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception!
Today, as much as 14,500 gallons of water are generated daily from the spring that started as a mud hole she dug with her fingers. The latest chapel built there is underground but can hold 20,000 people! During the first 150 years after this, 7,000 authenticated medical cures were documented by the International Medical Bureau of Lourdes. Of those miracles, the Catholic Church has conservatively accepted 67 of them as clearly from the hand of God with no other possible explanation. Here is a sampling of the miraculous healings from the waters of Lourdes:
Louis Bouriette (54), a quarryman, had lost complete vision in his right eye during a mine explosion. He bathed his eye several times with water from the spring, and his sight was totally restored.
Henri Busquet (16) begged his parents to take him to Lourdes as his suffering from tuberculosis was unbearable. A neighbor brought him water from Lourdes and within two days his tuberculin ulcers had healed and infections gone.
Justin Bouhort (2) had never walked and was so sick from various illnesses that he was close to death. His mother plunged her baby into the cold waters of the spring, ignoring the fears of bystanders. The next day, young Justin walked for the first time – and lived to attend the canonization ceremonies for Bernadette in 1933 at the age of 77.
Bedridden for over 20 years, Madeleine Rizan (58) was paralyzed on her left side. Her daughter gave her a few sips of the Lourdes water and applied some to her face and body. She was instantly healed!
Marie Moreau (17) had a bad infection that had nearly robbed her of most of her eyesight. A compress soaked in Lourdes water was placed over her eyes. The next morning, after removing the compress, her vision was completely restored!
A fallen tree had crushed the left leg of Pierre de Rudder (52). Infection had prevented the compound fracture from healing. Hobbling on crutches for eight years, he faced amputation soon. He prayed to the Blessed Virgin in front of a replica of the Lourdes grotto in Belgium. Within minutes, his bones fused back together, and he was able to walk away without any crutches. He was quite active until he died at the age of 75.
In 1963, Vittorio Micheli of Italy (23) was suffering from a cancerous tumor on his hip bone. Lowered into the Lourdes bath waters on a stretcher, his tumor vanished as well as all of his pain. He resumed an active, healthy life again.
Serge Perrin (41) suffered from a blocked carotid artery which caused paralysis, blackouts, and vision issues. In 1970 he visited Lourdes and was completely cured.
Delizia Cirolli (12) suffered from a potentially fatal tumor in her knee and faced amputation soon. After a trip to Lourdes and praying to Our Lady, she was 100% healed.
Jean-Pierre Bely, a nurse, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1972. By 1987 he was bedridden and 100% disabled. After the Anointing of the Sick at Lourdes, he felt a great sense of peace; he regained his mobility and sense of touch again.
Anna Santaniello (41) suffered from severe heart disease, labored breathing, and low oxygen levels. Carried to the Lourdes baths on a stretcher, she walked out on her own. Doctors confirmed her good health, regular heart rhythm, and breathing without restrictions.
At the foot of the Alps in southern France is the village of Laus. In 1666 the hamlet held twenty households, scattered in little huts. The inhabitants had built a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation. A humble, unschooled shepherdess, Benoite Rencurel, was born into extreme poverty – complicated by the death of her father when she was only seven years old. Benoite was protective of her mother, who trained them well in religious prayers, while Benoite had to take a job as a shepherdess for two different masters to help support the family.
In May of 1664, 17-year old Benoite was watching her flock of sheep while praying the Rosary. Suddenly, an old man, clothed in the vestments of a bishop of the early Church, approached her and asked her what she was doing in this place. She replied that she was tending her sheep, praying, and looking for water. He offered to get her some water and went to a well that she had not seen before.
B: “You’re so beautiful! Are you an Angel, or Jesus?”
M: “I am Maurice, to whom the nearby chapel is dedicated. My daughter, do not come back to this place. It is part of a different territory, and the guards would take your flock if they found it here. Go to the valley above Saint-Etienne. That is where you will see the Mother of God.”
B: “But Sir, She is in Heaven. How can I see Her there?”
M: “Yes, She is in Heaven – and on earth, too, when She wants.”
Very early the next morning, Benoite led her flock quickly to the designated area in the Valley of Kilns. As Benoite arrived in front of a small grotto on that site, a lady of incomparable beauty appeared, holding the hand of an equally beautiful child. Despite St. Maurice’s prediction, the naïve shepherd girl just could not believe that she was actually in the presence of the Mother of God.
“Lovely lady, what are you doing here? Did you come to buy some plaster? (local product) Would you be so kind as to lend us this child? He would delight us all!”
The beautiful lady just smiled without answering. Benoite invited her to eat something with her. She just smiled again. She would go in and out of the cavity in the rock grotto, approaching at times, moving away at other times from Benoite. When evening came, she took the child in her arms, entered the grotto and disappeared.
Every day for the next four months, Benoite would come to this place and enjoy the beautiful lady’s presence. She never dared to ask who she was, but the villagers began to seriously wonder if it could be the Virgin Mary – just from the amazing transformation in the face, mood, and spirit of this young shepherdess. After two months of silence, Mary finally spoke – in order to teach, test, and encourage her. One day, Mary invited Benoite to rest by her side and to peacefully fall asleep on the hem of the Virgin’s mantle.
She taught Benoite the Litany of Loreto, and then asked her to teach it to the girls of Saint-Etienne and go with them to sing it in church every evening. Mary displayed the sweetness and patience of a loving mother in dealing with Benoite’s stubbornness and frequent impatience. She told Benoite that she wanted her role to be that of working for the conversion of sinners through prayer, sacrifice, and exhortation. Mary said that God had granted Benoite the “charism of reading in hearts.” This means that she could discern the good or bad condition of one’s soul. She would work with sinners to help them admit to and confess their issues.
Benoite’s employer, Mrs. Rolland – a woman who had no interest whatsoever in religion, wanted to see for herself what was going on at the site of these apparitions. One day before dawn Mrs. Rolland entered the grotto and hid behind a rock. Shortly afterwards, Benoite arrived and Mary appeared to her.
“Your mistress is over there, hiding behind the rock. Tell her not to curse with the name of Jesus, because if she keeps it up, there will be no paradise for her. Her conscience is in a very bad state; she should do penance.”
Mrs. Rolland heard every word clearly — and tearfully promised to amend her ways – which she did, faithfully, after that day.
News of these apparitions spread quickly; everybody was talking about them. Many believed in them; others treated Benoite as a “false mystic.” Francois Grimaud, the magistrate of Avancon Valley and a good Catholic and man of integrity, decided to conduct an investigation. After a serious examination, he concluded that Benoite was not deceiving anyone, nor was she an impostor, or was she mentally ill. But, since Benoite had never asked the identity of the beautiful lady, the magistrate requested that Benoite at least ask her who she really is.
“My good Lady, I and all the people in this place are hard put to know who You are. Might You not be the Mother of our good God? Please be so kind as to tell me, and we will build a chapel here to honor You.”
“I am Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is no need to build anything here because I have chosen a more pleasant spot. You will not see me here anymore, nor for some time.”
Benoite did not see Mary for an entire month and became profoundly depressed. But on September 29, 1664, halfway up the hill that leads to Laus, on the other side of a stream, Benoite caught sight of the Virgin. Crossing the stream, she threw herself at Her feet.
“Oh, good Mother! Why did you deprive me of the joy of seeing you for so long?”
“From now on, you will only see me in the chapel that is in Laus.”
The little chapel in Laus was nothing more than a small, thatch-roofed structure just over two meters square. Its plaster altar only had ornaments of two wooden candlesticks and a pewter ciborium. The chapel appeared to look like all the other small houses in the village, so Benoite had a terrible time the next day trying to locate it in a town she had never travelled to. She stopped at the entrance to every poor dwelling, trying to detect that “sweet fragrance” that she associated with the Blessed Virgin. Finally, she detected the fragrance at a doorway where the door had been left ajar. Inside, she found the beautiful Lady standing on the dust-covered altar.
“My daughter, you have searched diligently for Me, and you should not have wept. Even so, you pleased Me by not being impatient.”
“Honorable Lady,” Benoite replied, “would you like me to spread my apron under Your feet? It is very white.”
“No, … soon nothing will be lacking here – neither vestments nor altar linens nor candles. I want a large church built on this spot, along with a building for a few resident priests. The church will be built in honor of my dear Son and Myself. Here, many sinners will be converted. I will appear to you often here.”
Benoite: “Build a church? There’s no money for that here!”
“Do not worry. When the time comes to build, you will find all that you need, and it will not be long. The pennies of the poor will provide for everything. Nothing will be lacking.”
Benoite travelled the four kilometers to Laus every day, even through the entire winter, praying as Mary instructed for the conversion of sinners. In 1665, Mary asked her to stop tending her flocks of sheep in order to devote herself to her mission.
“I asked My Son for Laus for the conversion of sinners, and He granted it to Me.”
As news of the continuing apparitions spread, the number of visitors to Laus increased. Graces and blessings poured down upon souls; people came by the hundreds and then thousands to pray in the poor little chapel. Cures of all kinds abounded, and sinners were converted in great numbers. By March 25, 1665, an immense crowd had come to the once-deserted chapel. On May 3, 1665, thirty-five parishes converged in a ceremonial procession, and then several priests heard many confessions. Although the Catholic authorities had not pronounced any decision regarding these apparitions, they did permit Mass to be held at the chapel.
That is when the Vicar General, Rev. Pierre Gaillard, entered the scene. Out of curiosity he arrived in August of 1665 and asked for graces. He obtained such great graces there that he was immediately convinced of the authenticity of the apparitions. But Laus was not in his diocese, so he wrote to the Vicar General of the Diocese of Embrun, Father Antoine Lambert, and suggested he make an official inquiry. Father Lambert was unsympathetic and convinced that Benoite’s apparitions were diabolical. He arrived at Laus on September 14, 1665 to put an end to “this sorcery” by proving Benoite to be a fake and shut down the chapel.
Benoite became frightened and wanted to run away, but Mary intervened:
“No, my daughter, you must not run away. You must remain, for you must do justice to churchmen. They will question you one by one and try to catch you with your own words. But do not be afraid. Tell the Vicar General that he can very well make God come down from Heaven by the power he received when he became a priest, but he has no commands to give the Mother of God.”
Benoite remained unruffled during the tricky interrogation, answering him with simplicity and calm assurance. But Father Lambert already had his mind made up.
“It is my conviction, as it is of everyone with any common sense, that your visions are false. Consequently, I am going to close down this chapel and prohibit the devotion.”
Benoite: “Sire, although you command God each morning and make Him come down to the altar by the power you received when you became a priest, you have no commands to give His holy Mother, who does as She pleases here.”
(Impressed by her words:) “Well, if what people are saying is true, then pray to Her to show me the truth by a sign or miracle, and I will do all that I can to accomplish Her will. But, once again, be careful that these not be illusions and effects of your imagination to delude the people, or I will punish you severely to undeceive those who believe you. I will stamp out abuses with every means in my power.”
Heavy rains prevented the Vicar from leaving too quickly, delaying his departure for two days. A well-known cripple in the area, Catherine Vial, was praying a novena with her mother at the chapel. Her nerve contraction disorder was declared incurable by two eminent surgeons. Around midnight of the last day of her novena, she suddenly felt her legs relax, and she was able to walk. The next morning she entered the chapel under her own power, totally cured, as the Vicar General was saying Mass. Quite a stir was created as many shouted, “Miracle, miracle!” Moved to tears, Father Lambert had a hard time finishing Mass. The Vicar General declared,
“There is something extraordinary occurring in that chapel. Yes, the hand of God is here!”
Although there were no resources at all, construction of a much-needed, larger church was undertaken with great enthusiasm. It was the poor who took up the challenge. Many of the pilgrims as well as the local people would carry one or more stones from the streams to the construction site. Thanks to Father Gaillard’s tenacity, the construction was built according to the indications Our Lady had given to Benoite. On October 7, 1666, Father Gaillard laid the first stone of the building at the Feast of the Holy Rosary. At the same occasion Benoite became a Dominican Tertiary.
Within four years, the church was completed. The hands of the poor had gathered its materials; donations had dug its foundations. The earliest historians of Laus are unanimous in reporting the sweet, heavenly fragrance of the place. A great number of people attested to the strong fragrances coming from the church. It was so intense that it spread from the church all over the valley. Judge Francois Grimaud claimed,
“During the Easter season of 1666, I smelled a very sweet fragrance for around seven minutes. I had never smelled anything like it in my life, and it gave me such deep satisfaction that I was enraptured.”
From March 24th until the end of May, 1690, the Laus church was so pervaded with this fragrance that all the pilgrims attested to it. This phenomenon is still experienced today. To avoid any possibility or claim of deception, flowers are not usually allowed at the shrine. The manuscripts of Laus report:
“Every time the Blessed Virgin honored her with Her visit, people smelled a heavenly fragrance that pervaded the entire church. Sometimes the shepherd girl’s clothing was deeply permeated with the heavenly scent for up to eight days. These supernatural fragrances were so sweet and delightful that they uplifted many souls.”
One day in the winter of 1665, Benoite was advised by the Virgin Mary to invite those with illnesses to take oil from the lamp in the chapel and apply it to themselves, and if they have recourse to Her intercession and have faith, they will be healed. Physical and moral cures were granted in great number by means of the oil applied with faith.
Mary appeared to Benoite at least once a month for 54 years! The Virgin Mary gave Benoite the exceptional privilege of reading onto souls. She could “see consciences the way we see in a mirror, all at once.” She revealed faults, grievous and lesser sins, hidden motives, hypocrisy, and errors often committed unconsciously. She would even take away from the Communion rail those people who were not in the state of grace. She would often have to share her painful observations, but her kindness and compassion generally led to grateful responses.
To priests, she revealed their indiscretion, their lack of prudence in their manner of questioning penitents, their neglectful behavior, and their grudges. She would see priests at the altar either shining with light or tarnished, according to the state of their conscience. She would warn them if they appeared “tarnished.” A young priest claimed, “You cannot be in that chapel without trembling if your conscience is not clear.”
Mary counseled and corrected Benoite closely in her mission:
“Take heart, My daughter! Have patience. Do your duty cheerfully. Bear no hatred towards the enemies of Laus. Do not be troubled and sick over it if people do not profit from your advice. Do not be disturbed by temptations, visible or invisible spirits, or temporal affairs. Strive never to forsake the presence of God, for whoever has any faith will not dare to offend Him.”
On Friday, July 7, 1673, a vision of the bleeding Christ on the cross was the beginning of a weekly “mystical crucifixion” that started on Thursday evening and ended on Saturday morning. This lasted every week for 15 years!
Politics and personalities brought turmoil, controversy, persecution, and threats to close the church over some 20 years. But Benoite always remained faithful until her death on December 28, 1718. (Approved by the Church: May 4, 2008.)
Thierry Schoere was a blacksmith who lived in the village of Orbey. On May 3, 1491, he was on his way to market when he stopped by an oak tree. A fatal accident had occurred at that location, and the family had placed a crucifix on the tree where he had fallen. Getting off his horse, Thierry knelt down to pray for the repose of the victim’s soul.
Suddenly, he was dazzled by a bright light. In the brilliant light he could distinguish the figure of the Blessed Mother dressed in a long white veil. She was holding three ears of corn in her right hand while the other hand held a clump of ice. Without identifying herself, she began to speak,
“Arise, brave man. See these ears? These are the symbols of fine harvests that will reward virtuous and generous people and bring peace and contentment in the homes of faithful Christians. As to the ice, it means hail, frost, flood, famine and all its attendant misery and desolation that will punish disbelievers with the gravity of their sins which tire the Divine Mercy. Go down to the village and announce to all the people the meaning of these prophecies.”
When the vision disappeared, the blacksmith became terribly frightened, and, upon reaching the village, he said nothing – in disobedience of Our Lady’s wishes. He went inside the market, purchased a sack of wheat, and started to prepare it for placement on his horse.
But the sack of wheat became uncommonly heavy and could not be lifted. Even with the help of others, the sack could not be moved. The villagers wondered if witchcraft was involved! It was then that he remembered the words of the Virgin, and realizing the weight of the sack was a signal to him, he loudly shared the message that had been entrusted to him by Our Lady. Many people heard the message spoken with sincerity and took it to heart, resolving to do better in the future. When he had finished telling of his experience and the message given to him, he easily lifted the sack of wheat and secured it onto his horse, and left for home.
During the summer of that same year, a wooden chapel was built on the site of the apparition. Pilgrims made their way there, and miracles were reported. Eventually, this little church was enlarged with the addition of other buildings. For many years, various religious Orders conducted services for the many pilgrims who came from all parts of the country, especially on May 3, the anniversary of the apparition.
For the 519th anniversary in 2010, special services were held, during which many ears of corn were blessed by several priests. These priests, the Redemptorists, have cared for the shrine since 1911. Four years after the original apparition, in 1495, after careful investigations were conducted, the bishop of Basel authorized worship at the shrine and all demonstrations of faith.