“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you“ (Matthew 7:7). “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer“ (1 Peter 3:12). And again, “And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:15). Time and again we have Our Lord’s promise, and that of His Apostles, that the prayers of His children are heard in Heaven, and they will be answered. Yet whilst we suffer through one of the worst crises the Church has ever known we are tempted to lose hope, to perhaps even doubt the promises. On the anniversary today of this little known apparition of Our Blessed Mother in Pontmain (France) we are given an encouraging message: if we remain patient, faithful and keep praying, God will soon answer us.
Our Lady of Hope
The years 1870 to 1871 and beyond were to be critical and very difficult years for France as Bismarck embarked on a course of German unification, which was to bring untold tragedy to the people of France. So began the Franco/Prussian war, in which France was totally unprepared, therefore making Bismarck’s job that much easier, but for the peoples of France it was to herald in great strife and difficulties.
It was in the year 1871 on a very brisk and chilly January evening that an event was to touch a particular family in the village of Pontmain. This family was not unusual in anyway, yet what they were to see and experience was the epitome of unusual, for it was on January 17th, that the family whilst working in their barn they came upon a vision of a very beautiful lady.
The family was small and consisted of parents, father Cesar, his wife, Victoire, and their three children, all of them boys. It was the second to eldest son, Eugene who first saw this most surprising vision of a lady dressed in a blue gown which seemed to be sprinkled with gold stars and a black veil and crown upon her head. The lady smiled gently at Eugene who stood awestruck at such a sight!
Eugene called his father who was irritated at the interruption, as the day had been long and he was tired, but he went outside to see what the fuss was about. He was more than irritated when he could not see what Eugene was pointing at, but it was his other son Joseph who also exclaimed that he too could see this most wondrous lady. Upon hearing all the yelling Victoire also decided to join her husband and boys to see what the outcry was about, she too was joined by a neighbour.
Victoire was puzzled as she could also see nothing, but she knew her boys were not ones for lies, so it was her suggestion that maybe the beautiful lady was the Blessed Virgin and they should all pray the Rosary. But as the adults could see nothing and the time had come for supper, Victoire and Cesar decided to go inside for their family meal.
The two boys quickly finished off their meal and requested permission to once again go outside and see if our Lady were still there. Upon going outside both boys exclaimed that our Lady was still present, the parents decided to ask the local teacher, Sister Vitaline to come and see if she could do anything to help them.
Unfortunately the sister could also see nothing, so she requested that three other children be brought to the farm of the Barbadette family. When the three girls arrived two of them exclaimed loudly and with great excitement that they too could see the vision though the third and youngest child could not.
During all this commotion a crowd gathered around including the local priest, Michel Guerin, and though the adults could see nothing they began praying the Rosary. It was as they were reciting the Decades that the children excitedly exclaimed that four candles were now surrounding our Lady, two at her shoulder and two at her knees enveloping our Lady in an oval of light, and upon her heart the appearance of a red cross. As the prayers continued the children excitedly informed the crowds of the changing appearance of the vision of our Lady as she increased in her size, and that stars which had gathered around this vision was now becoming a part of her garment.
The children could not contain themselves, as they excitedly continued to inform the villagers of what they could see, they all said that now our Lady was showing a banner at her feet which read, “But pray, my children”. Upon the instructions of the Priest the crowd began to recite the Litany to our Lady, as the crowd sang this prayer more words showed up on the banner, “God will soon answer you” and also “My Son allows Himself to be moved.”
The children could barely contain their excitement upon receiving a visit from the most Pure and Holy Virgin Mother, but Our Lady’s _expression was soon to change to sadness, as the children watched awestruck at the red cross which appeared before our Lady with the figure of Jesus in a deep shade of red. The children continued to inform the adults of the changes that were happening to the vision of Our Lady and all told that one of the stars was lighting four of the candles which surrounded Our Lady, they then saw the Crucifix disappear. The group of villagers then recited the night prayers, as the children said that a white veil was appearing and then obscuring the vision of our Lady, upon this the apparition ended!
At this time and in a move that still defies military reason, the Prussian army decided not to enter Laval only a short distance from Pontmain, and to return to Paris! In March, an armistice was signed and the war ended.
It was also in March of the same year that a canonical enquiry began into the Apparition at Pontmain, and upon further investigation, the Bishop decided in favour of The Apparition of Pontmain in February 1872.
Two of the Barbadette boys, Joseph and Eugene, entered the Priesthood, whilst another young village girl who had also seen this miraculous vision of our Lady became a religious.
A large basilica was built at Pontmain and consecrated in 1900.