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The Shrine that Wouldn't Burn

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By Richard Bauman

The great Peshtigo fire of 1871 devoured more than a million and a half acres of Wisconsin woodlands. Yet 5 acres in the central area of the conflagration didn't burn. The fire swept through forests, towns, and homes, killing between 1,200 and 2,400 people. But the people and animals huddled within those 5 acres survived the fire.

Why didn't they perish in the deadliest fire in United States' history? Perhaps it was because those 5 acres were the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help and were protected by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Shrine's History
In early October 1859, 24-year-old Adele Brise told her parish priest about seeing a woman dressed in dazzling white standing between two trees. After several minutes, this mysterious figure disappeared. Adele didn't understand what the image meant. She said the woman was clothed in white with a yellow sash around her waist. Her dress was long and flowed over her feet. There was a crown of stars around her head and a bright light shining around her.

The priest told her that if she saw the woman again, she should ask, "In the name of God, who are you and what do you wish of me?" The following Sunday, she again saw the vision on her way to church. When she asked the priest's question, the woman replied, "I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same." She also told Adele to teach catechism to the local children and to help them learn to pray.

When she told her parents about the apparition, her father built a small wooden chapel on the site of the appearance. Land was donated to her, and in 1861 a larger chapel was built, bearing the inscription "Notre Dame de bon Secours, priez pour nous," which translates to "Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us."

Adele obeyed Our Lady's instructions. At first, she traveled from house to house, teaching the children. Later she started a small school near the chapel. Other women joined her, and they formed a community of sisters according to the rules of the Third Order Franciscans.

The Great Peshtigo Fire
The great Peshtigo fire wasn't just one fire, but rather numerous fires that together created a massive firestorm, destroying forests, farmland, buildings, and people, leaving practically nothing but smoking ash in its wake. As the fire roared toward the towns, some people fled to the Shrine. A wooden structure surrounded by forests, it hardly seemed a place of refuge. Nevertheless, those who went to the Shrine made the right decision.

Sister Adele prayed in the chapel as refugees arrived. They prayed to the Blessed Mother to hold back the fire. Outside, others carried a statue of the Blessed Mother, praying and processing inside the fenced perimeter throughout the night. The hellish flames pushed against the picket fence, but never breached the property. The paint on the outside of the fence was scorched, but the pickets remained whole. It was as if an invisible fireproof barrier had been erected inside the perimeter of the fence.

Near dawn, another miracle of sorts occurred. Clouds rolled into the area, and the rain ultimately extinguished the fire. When those in the chapel opened its doors to the morning light, they saw mucky gray ash covering the land. There weren't any trees, houses, or farm buildings to be seen except the Shrine.

"[It was] an emerald isle that shone out amid a sea of ash," said Fr. Peter Pernin, the pastor at St. Mary Church in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. He and others had survived the fire by submerging themselves in the Peshtigo River. There are those who will suggest natural reasons for the fire surrounding but not consuming the Shrine, but if you could ask any of those who survived the night there, they would all tell you that God, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, had heard their prayers and spared them.

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Woodstock - Oct 23, 2020

AMEN!!! Without The Graces and Blessing from Jesus to & from the Holy Spirit and Intercession of MOMMA Mary along with prayers from others, I would have and should have been one of those die in ???? THANKS

Bernadette - Oct 19, 2020

So amazing and beautiful. I would love to have the option to email this very moving miracle.

- Oct 13, 2020

Amen praise God thank you Mother Mary