Our Lady of Hope
We have one complaint, however. She picks the most out of the way places to visit us. If it’s not a high mountain place, like La Salette, where you take your life in your hands to get up there, it’s a village in the middle of nowhere, where there are no decent roads as in the instance of Fatima, and no directions, as at Pontmain, France.
Pontmain is not even a town, but a village. It’s not on the map. No one in the United States talks about it, because no one knows where it is. Yet, it’s a very special place, very out of the way, but so wonderfully out of the way that it remains untouched. In those days before Google Maps and GPS systems, there was no reason why we were able to find this place, except that Our Lady had determined that she wanted us to go there, so that we could spread her message at Pontmain to the world.
Pontmain is a small village on the borderline between the Normandy and Brittany sections of France. It is very small, situated between Fougeres and Mont St. Michel, which is on the Normandy Coast. In the winter, there are cold, howling winds, bringing icy weather to the entire area.
The winter of 1871 was such a time. January was an especially brutal time for man and beast. Those who could avoid it did not venture out into the weather. But unfortunately, not everybody could stay at home.
France was engaged in a war with the infamous Bismarck, and his mighty Prussian troops. The little people, the common folk, flocked to their churches, to the shrines of the Rue du Bac, La Salette, and Lourdes. They prayed, fearful that it was too little too late, but hopeful, knowing that Our Lady was a merciful Mother, that their prayers would not fall on deaf ears. Rosaries, Stations of the Cross, confessions, fasting, communions, all were offered up to their Heavenly Mother in a desperate plea for help.
We can just picture in our mind’s eye, millions of angels carrying all these prayers and offerings up from the earth and laying them at the feet of their Queen. They had to run out of room in Heaven for all the prayers and petitions offered up. At one point, Mary’s beautiful eyes might have looked out over the land she had tried so hard to protect, that she had loved so much. We can imagine a sadness coming over her sparkling eyes. Perhaps a tear slipped down her velvety cheek, and descended to the earth; when it landed, an explosion of energy lit up the entire sky. It happened on January 11, 1871. Scientists called it an Aurora Borealis. The faithful called it Mary to the Rescue.
Many of the young men of Pontmain had answered the call to duty. They were somewhere in the war zone, but no one knew where, or how they were. Stories of the massacres the French were suffering at the hands of their enemies, found their way back to the town. In addition, the Prussian troops had gotten to Laval, a town extremely close to Pontmain.
On the evening of January 17, the men of the Barbedette family were working in their barn. Dinner would be ready soon, but they wanted to get finished with their chores before going inside. It had begun to snow lightly, not like the other days. The winds had died down. The pure white powder fell gently, as if it had come directly from Heaven. Monsieur Barbedette, known as Bierot, his sons Eugene 12 years old, and Joseph, aged 10, were all working side by side. It was about 6 in the evening. In the recesses of their minds was concern over the third Barbedette son, Auguste, who was away fighting the war. The father felt that by working, he could take his mind off his fears; but it was not happening. Not an especially religious man, he found himself praying his rosary under his breath. A neighbor woman, Jean Detais, came by with rumors about the war situation, and possible news about the son Auguste.
Eugene could not get over how gently the snow had fallen outside. He couldn’t hear a sound. There was not the slightest breeze blowing, much less the Gail storm winds that had buffeted the area earlier that day. He walked to the door of the barn. He didn’t want to hear any bad news about Auguste. He thought that by walking away from it, by not listening to Jean Detais, he could prevent it from happening. The night cold air was refreshing. He looked outside. The snow had stopped. He remarked to himself how unusual it was that the sky was so full of stars, though there was no moon that night. He looked around him. He was immediately frozen to the spot.
Above neighbor Augustin Guidecog’s house, about twenty five feet in the air, a beautiful lady was suspended in the air, her arms outstretched. She was looking at him, and smiling. He had never seen anything like her in his life. Her eyes gleamed like stars. Her teeth were pearl white. They sparkled as she smiled at him. To the 12 year old Eugene, she was a lady, but she appeared to be about 18 to 20 years old. She wore blue, but dark blue, darker than the sky. Her dress was long and loose; her sleeves flowed, and on her collar was a band of gold. There was a black veil on her head, topped by a gold cap which resembled a crown. A thin red band ran across the cap. She wore blue slippers tied with gold ribbons.
The neighbor woman noticed the boy standing in a daze at the door. He was staring up into the sky. She went over to him to see what the matter was. He asked her to look up in the sky and tell him what she saw.
“I see nothing.” she answered.
Eugene looked at her incredulously. How could she not see a lady suspended in air. It was the most unusual sight he had ever seen, and she couldn’t see it. He called his father and brother to look up at the sky. Bierot could not see anything, but young Joseph’s expression turned to joy as he looked up above Guidecog’s barn.
“I see a beautiful lady”. he exclaimed. He proceeded to describe the scene in detail, just as Eugene had seen it.
The father, Bierot, ordered the boys back into the barn to finish their work. He told Jean Detais, the neighbor, not to mention what they had said to anyone. She promised that she would not. The boys returned to the barn. Bierot took one last look before he closed the barn door. What could it be that they had seen? There was nothing unusual in the sky. The stars were brighter than he remembered seeing them before, but that was probably because the wind had blown all the clouds away.
The spark of a thought kept gnawing away at the back of his mind. He had been working with the boys all day. Their behavior had been normal. They hadn’t acted silly. As a matter of fact, there had been a serious tone to the day. They were all worried about the well-being of Auguste. It would have been out of character for them to take a sudden turn to silliness, as he had first attributed their claim about a lady in the sky. Then, he thought, they didn’t see the lady at the same time. First Eugene saw her, and then Joseph. They both described her in the same way. Bierot took one last look in the sky, shrugged his shoulder, and went back to work.
The boys could not get the beautiful lady out of their minds. Her gaze warmed them, as if she had covered them with her mantle. The eyes, those cobalt blue eyes that pierced them, the sparkling teeth, the delicate features of her face, formed an indelible impression on their mind. They worked quickly, which was not like them at all. When they had finished their work, they raced each other to the barn door. They pushed it open, and looked out. She was still there. She was still smiling at them. She was radiant.
Bierot called his wife; maybe she would see something. This was driving him crazy. Mrs. Barbedette came to the barn door. She looked up, but saw nothing. Her husband was somewhat relieved. However, as a precaution, just in case it was a vision from Heaven, they all knelt down to say five Pater Nosters and five Ave Marias. Then they went into the house for supper.
The boys wolfed their food down, so that they could run back outside to see if the Lady was still there. As soon as the last mouthful had been finished, they ran outside the door again. She was still there. The mother asked them to describe how tall she was.
“She’s about the same size as Sister Vitaline.”
This gave the mother an inspiration. She called the nun, asked her to look up into the sky, to see if she could see anything. Sr. Vitaline could not. The boys were becoming frustrated.
“How can you not see it?” Eugene cried out. “She is so brilliant. Can you see a triangle of bright stars?”
Everyone agreed that they could see three bright stars, which they had never seen before, and never saw again, except for that night.
“Well, the top of the triangle is where her head is, and the two stars at the bottom are at a level with her shoulders. Can you see that?”
No one but Eugene and Joseph could see the lady.
Mrs. Barbedette had heard the stories which had made their way up from the south of France about the two children from La Salette, and the little girl at Lourdes, who had claimed to have seen the Blessed Virgin. Perhaps this was the same, and only children could see the apparition. She took the nun with her, and together, they went back to Sr. Vitaline’s school.
There were three children there. The nun asked them to come along with her and Mrs. Barbedette, to see if they could make out anything unusual in the sky. As they walked towards the home of the Barbedette’s, one of the children, Francoise Richer, age 11, pointed up into the sky.
“There’s something very bright above Monsieur Guidecog’s barn”, she exclaimed. Mrs. Barbedette and the nun looked at each other.
As they got closer, both Francoise and a younger girl, Jean-Marie Lebosse, age 9, cried out, “Oh, the beautiful lady, with the blue dress and the golden stars”. No one had said anything to these two. They had no idea of what they were supposed to be looking for. They had not spoken to the Barbedette boys as yet. But they saw the same thing that Eugene and Joseph had seen. The third child, however, saw nothing.
Word of the event spread through the little village rapidly. Soon, just about every resident of Pontmain was at the Barbedette barn, looking up into the clear winter sky, praying for a glimpse of the Lady.
She became enclosed in a blue, almond shaped frame, from which protruded four candles, two at the level of her neck, and two at the level of her knees. On her heart, a tiny red cross appeared.
The gathering took on the semblance of organization as the local priest, Fr. Guerin came upon the scene. The children reported that the expression on the face of the Lady had fallen into sadness. The priest ordered everyone on their knees in prayer. They began to recite the Rosary, the favorite prayer of Mary. The first of 5 changes began to take place.
As she listened to the earnest prayers of the people for peace, and for the safe return of their children, the visionaries saw her begin to swell in size. She grew to almost double her original size. The triangle of stars grew with her, but the rest of the stars made way for the magnificent visitor, queen of all the stars in the heavens. Some of the stars became enmeshed in her gown, while others positioned themselves at her feet.
A Sister Marie-Edouard, who was well known as a leader, began to lead the people in singing the Magnificat. The children shouted out as a new development took place. A banner formed at the feet of the Lady, between her and the top of the barn. It was about the size of the roof of the barn, and as they sang, a word was formed on the top of the banner. It was MAIS, which means “BUT”. As the hymn came to the end, the sentence was formed.
MAIS, PRIEZ MES ENFANTS – BUT PRAY, MY CHIILDREN
The children called out the sentence as it appeared. A shout of joy was sounded among the people. They began to pray the Litany of Mary. Another sentence appeared.
DIEU VOUS EXAUCERA EN PEU DE TEMPS – GOD WILL SOON ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS
As the children read out this sentence, the people began to weep tears of joy. It is Mary. She’s there to help them. Praise Jesus! He allowed her to come again. As the assemblage wept and praised God and His magnificent mother, the Lady began laughing. The children shouted, “Look, she’s laughing…..Look, she’s laughing!!” Soon, the people were affected by the laughter of the Lady. Everyone laughed with her.
They began to sing another hymn to Our Lady. Under the first sentence, a much larger letter began to be formed. It came to them in three stages. The first was
MON FILS – MY SON
It stayed like this until they began to sing the Salve Regina, at which point the next two words were formed.
SE LAISSE – ALLOWS HIMSELF
At the very end of the Salve Regina, the last word of the sentence was formed.
TOUCHER – TO BE TOUCHED
The entire sentence was
Mon Fils Se Laisse Toucher – My Son Allows Himself To Be Touched
Another translation of
the sentence is
MY SON IS WILLING TO HEAR YOU
In a small village in the middle of nowhere, at the very darkest hour, Mary, the giving Mary, the loving Mary, began a precedent which has stayed with us from that time until this. We can change His mind through His Mother. Tribulation and chastisement can be lessened, minimized, and very possibly done away with, through the intercession of the beautiful Lady who was given to us at the foot of the Cross.
At a given point, the group began to pray the evening prayers. It was about 8:30 at night. A large white veil appeared at the feet of Our Lady. Slowly, it ascended, covering her as it climbed up. Within a short time, it covered all of her except her face. It stopped for a beat, as she looked down at her children with so much love. Then it moved up over her face. to her crown, where it stopped. The crown could be seen for a moment, and then, it, too, vanished. It was 9 o’clock. She had been with them for three hours.
There was an entry made in the log of the Prussian Army for January 18, 1871. They had entered Laval, a short distance from Pontmain. The army was ordered to stop their advance, turn around and return to Paris. There was no reason
given; the order was executed. The troops left the area. Within ten days, the war was over. An armistice was signed. All the soldiers from the little village of Pontmain were returned unharmed. The swift action of the Lord in honor of the request of His Mother, was realized.
Of all Our Lady’s apparitions, this one is our favorite, in that the Message is one of Great Hope, of Mercy. This is the Mary we know, the Mary of Hope. This is the Jesus we know, the One who wants to be touched, who wants to change His mind. My Son Allows Himself To Be Touched
[What you have read is a condensed version of the Chapter on Our Lady of Pontmain in Bob and Penny Lord’s book, The Many Faces of Mary Book I. For ordering information go to http://www.bobandpennylord.com/many-faces-of-mary/index.htm