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Our Lady Brings Hope to France

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By Marc Massery (Jan 17, 2018)
This is the third article in a series on approved apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the winter of 1871, Prussian armies swept across northern France, seized Paris, and moved east toward a little village called Pontmain.

Even in the face of an impending invasion, Pontmain villagers continued to go about their daily chores. Two of these villagers, Eugene Barbedette, age 12, and Joseph Barbedette, age 10, were feeding the horses in their parents' stable on the chilly evening of Jan. 17, 1871. As Eugene stepped out of the barn to take a break from work between the hours of 5 and 6, he looked up into the sky. Above a neighboring house, he saw a woman floating in mid-air. She was dressed in a blue mantle, covered with gold stars. Upon her head she wore a black veil and a gold crown. The boys could see her, but their father and mother could not.

Two local girls came by, Francoise Richer, age 11, and Jeanne-Marie Bosse, age 9. They could see the woman in the sky and described her just as the boys did. Dozens of villagers caught word of this strange apparition and gathered close to the barn to be near the children. The local pastor and all the villagers knelt on the cold ground to pray a Rosary and then the Magnificat. As they prayed, the children saw gold letters backed by a white banner slowly begin appearing in the sky. The message said, "But pray my children. God will hear you in a short time. My Son allows Himself to be moved with compassion."

Upon hearing this message, the villagers felt a deep sense of relief. They burst into the hymn "Mother of Hope," a traditional favorite of the region. As they continued to pray to the Blessed Mother, the possibility of invasion no longer troubled them.

Then the banner bearing the message vanished. The villagers prayed a litany to the Blessed Mother, who smiled all the while. As they began a hymn of repentance to Christ, her face turned solemn. A red crucifix appeared in her hands, which bore the inscription "Jesus Christ" in red letters on a white frame. Later, Joseph said, "Her sadness was more than anyone can imagine ... [the same] sadness of the Mother of Jesus at the foot of the Cross that bore her dying Son."

After they sang "Ave Maris Stella," the crucifix vanished. Two small white crosses appeared on each of Our Lady's shoulders. A smile returned to her face as she lowered her hands by her waist, arms extended as they are on the Miraculous Medal. The pastor led the villagers in evening prayer. A large white veil appeared before the feet of Our Lady and gradually enveloped her. By 9 p.m., the apparition had ended. The two brothers announced that she had gone, and everyone went home.

During the apparition, Prussian General Karl von Schmidt received orders to withdraw from the Pontmain area. The general said, "We cannot go farther. Yonder, in the direction of Brittany, there is an invisible Madonna barring the way." Not long after, France and Prussia signed an armistice, and the war was over.

In 1872, the bishop of Laval, Casimir-Alexis-Joseph Wicart, recognized this apparition as authentic. It remains one of the lesser known approved apparitions today, even in France.

View the next article in this series.

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