January 10, 1871: It was wartime, and France had been devastated by the Franco-Prussian War. Most of France was under Prussian occupation and the enemy had reached as far as Laval, located in the Normandy area of France. The next area of conquest would probably be the hamlet of Pontmain, some 30 miles away.
In addition to the war, the entire area was engulfed in a Typhoid epidemic and smallpox was spreading. It must have seemed to be the worst of times to those living here.
On January 11th, 1871, during the Battle of Le Mans, the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) put on a mysterious display that had everyone talking. Some people felt that it foretold something that was about to happen.
Not only that, but an earthquake occurred around noon of January 17th. People had begun to lose hope, and were beginning to feel that their prayers were not being heard…or at least not being answered. But, little did they know that their world was about to change!
With the Prussian army camped nearby, the villagers were prepared for occupation the following day. That evening children were working in the barn, when one of them went outside for a small break, and saw a beautiful Lady standing above the roof of the house opposite. The other children prompted by the call of the first child, gathered outside the barn to view the wonderful phenomenon. The Lady smiled, at which the children responded with pleasure and without any fear.
A scroll appeared beneath the feet of the Lady, that read:- “But pray my children, my Son permits Himself to be moved.” Here Our Lady was telling them of the great mercy of God, Who “permits Himself to be moved” by our prayers.
Within eleven days, Prussia had mysteriously withdrawn its troops. An Armistice was signed and the war was over – Pontmain and France had been spared.
God Himself is of such Loving Mercy, that He permits Himself, to hear our prayers with a truly Fatherly love. Our Lady is teaching us to hope and have confidence in God’s infinite Love. It is of the greatest importance that we respond, childlike, to this invitation, and pray fervently for our deliverance from all attacks from the devil and his human agents, gathering menacingly around us, in these present days of strife.
Increase your prayer life with the holy rosary and the chaplet of Divine Mercy. Add to these little gems like:
“Jesus, Mary, I love Thee, save souls.”
“Send forth Thy Flame of Love’s graceful effect into the whole human race, now and in the hour of our death.”
“Jesus mercy. Mary help.”
These powerful appeals to Jesus and Mary, offered often throughout the day, will save many souls, and bring a torrent of graces on the world. “But pray my children…” unceasing prayer is essential NOW, and constantly, to overcome the terrible evil about to engulf us. No matter how tired or busy you may be, there are ALWAYS a few free moments in which you can engage In the vital work of mercy of saving souls. Pray, pray, pray children of Mary, pray!!! There is not a moment to lose.
Church approval: Within a year, the Bishop of Laval Diocese, Bishop Wicart, authorized devotion at the site. Today the Basilica of Our Lady of Hope welcomes the 200,000 pilgrims that come to Portmain to ask for her intercession.
About the visionaries: Joseph Barbadette became a priest of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate; his brother Eùgene became a secular priest. One of the girls who had seen the Blessed Mother became his housekeeper, and the other, Jeanne-Marie Lebosse, became a nun.