Pontmain and Our Lady of Hope Pt. 2—The Blessed Virgin Brings a Message to Catholic France

Pontmain Apparition in Catholic France
Apparition in the night over Pontmain, France

CJS.Org Introductory Remarks:

This is the second part of a highly detailed, well-researched narrative of the Apparition of Our Lady of Pontmain. This is taken from Bernard St John’s 1904 book The Blessed Virgin in the Nineteenth Century: Apparitions, Revelations, Graces.

There are three parts to this series:

Part 1 The Apparition of the Virgin 

Part II – The Blessed Virgin Brings a Message to Catholic France

Part III – A Crucifix the Colour of Arterial Blood 

Please see the first part  – not simply for the beginning of the account, but also for some further historical information regarding France, which may help to better comprehend more fully the significance of Pontmain.

We also have an archive of posts about Catholic France which can help supply further context.

Here we resume the story with the account of the children of Pontmain beholding the Virgin in the cold night sky, with the village priest and bystanders gathered around.

As yet Our Lady has appeared largely still and motionless, but now things begin to change …

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From Bernard St John:

Meanwhile Sister Vitaline continued to lead the way with her Rosary of the Japanese Martyrs, all the bystanders responding.

“Now there is something else!” exclaimed, as in one breath, the four children Eugene, Joseph, Françoise, and Jeanne-Marie.

“What is it you see. dear children?” asked the priest.

They quickly described what the “something else” was. It was a red cross of from seven to eight centimetres in length, appearing instantaneously on the breast of the Apparition, and at about the place of the heart.

At the same time, and as instantaneously, an oval circlet could be seen taking form and enframing the aerial figure at a distance of about fifty centimetres above the head and below the feet.

The oval band seemed to be about from ten to twelve centimetres wide, of a deeper blue than the dress, and came just within the three great stars forming the triangle.

Respecting the signs to be wrought on the piece of background enframed within the oval circlet, and respecting the play of stars, or of seeming stars, in connection with the sublime phenomenon of Pontmain, we refer the reader to fully detailed accounts of the Apparition.

It may be mentioned here, however, that the three great stars forming a triangle, the topmost one of which was just above the head of the Apparition, and which were seen by all present that evening, could be seen by no one the following evening. Astronomical science can throw no light on this point.

According to the calculations of Abbé Ricard, to whose pen we owe the earliest and most authenticated account of the event of Pontmain, the Apparition must have been at about six o clock in the constellation of the Great Bear, the stars of which in no way correspond with those forming the triangle in question.

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As what they saw was put forth by the children in its every detail, the majority of persons present believed, while a few seemed to take pleasure in appearing incredulous. Altercations going on in the throng, the children seemed for a moment to be forgotten. “Look!” exclaimed Eugene Barbedette; “she has become sad.”

The four voyants here testified that the smile of ineffable sweetness on the face of the Apparition had suddenly given place to an expression of extreme sadness.

Again doubts and differences of opinion began to prevail, and the tension of mind of the little assembly became relaxed.

Here Abbé Guerin interfered. “If,” said he, “it is only the children who see, it is because they are more worthy of seeing than we.”

“If you were to speak to the Blessed Virgin, Monsieur le Curé,”suggested Sister Marie- Edouard.

“But I do not see her,” replied the priest, simply and humbly.

“If you were to tell the children to speak to her,” gently persisted the nun.

“Let us pray let us say the Rosary,” was Abbé Guerin’s answer.

To those present their priest’s words were a command. All went on their knees excepting the two boys and the two girls, who continued erect, looking up at the sky. Probably never had the angel’s salutation to Mary, fifty times repeated, proceeded from a chorus of voices under circumstances so exceptional.

As the collective prayer proceeded, full of ardour and intensity, the Apparition increased in size before the eyes of the astonished children, and to such a degree that, at the end of the recitation of the five decades, bystanders learnt from the lips of the voyants that the figure was twice the size of Sister Vitaline.

Everything going to form this incomparable night picture had increased in size, together with the centre figure. And with this the stars had increased in numbers on the dress to the extent that the children, delighted, cried out: “Oh, what a lot! What a lot! How they swarm! She will soon be all gold.”

Prayer was resumed. Abbé Guerin gave the word of command, and Sister Marie-Edouard began intoning the Magnificat. The strains of the full-voiced anthem rose.

These sounds of earth were quickly answered by the luminous figure in the sky. At the end of the first verse of the Magnificat, the children joyfully exclaimed: “There is something else!”

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What they saw was as a band of white linen, about a yard wide, appearing beneath the feet of the Apparition and extending in a straight line high above the house of Augustin Guidecoq.

They described it. Then the Magnificat was resumed; but only to be interrupted again and again, for letters of gold were about to appear, one by one, on that white band, and to be spelt aloud by the children as they appeared.

On seeing the first sign, the voyants cried out: “It’s a stroke!” then, “It’s a letter it’s an M!” “The M remained alone for some seconds; then it was followed by another letter. “It’s an A!” exclaimed the little interpreters. It was a contest as to which should speak first. The A was quickly followed by an I, and the I by an S. The word mais (but) was spelt out with delight and triumph. No other letter followed for some ten minutes.

The little crowd was thrilled and, at the same time, a prey to religious curiosity of the intensest kind. The children were requested to spell out the letters again and again. They were questioned and cross-questioned, and put to the test in every possible way.

Here an interruption occurred. A man of the locality happening to pass by, and not knowing what was going on, said: “You have nothing for it but to pray, for the Prussians are at Laval.”

A woman of the throng replied: “Were they at Pontmain, we should not fear!”

As the singing of the Magnificat continued other letters appeared and were spelt out as before. As the last strains of Mary’s canticle of praise died away, the following words in gold on the white band could be distinctly seen: “Mais priez mes enfants

The voyants repeated them again and again …

According to the children’s account, the exquisitely beautiful smile had not ceased playing on the face of the Apparition during the whole of the singing of the Magnificat, with the exception of a few moments when altercation had been going on in the throng below.

With this, the first line of Heaven’s message to France in her hour of need still ringing in their ears, some wept, while others prayed. Indeed, at that juncture, prayer seemed the most natural vehicle for expressing the strong emotion that was moving the little band.

The increasing coldness of the air caused Cesar Barbedette to propose that the persons assembled should take shelter within the barn. Accordingly, the barn doors were thrown wide open and the greater number of those present went inside.

The four children remained at the open doorway looking up at the sky, with the nuns and a few others round them. Something of what they saw was to be seen reflected in their faces and in their animated gestures.

On a sign from Abbé Guerin, Sister Marie- Edouard struck the first notes of the Litany of Loretto. All then sang as with one voice.

“We must beg the Blessed Virgin to make her wishes known,” had said the priest.

The Apparition in the air was not long in responding.

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“Now there is something fresh,”exclaimed the children; “There’s a D and an I and an E and a U.”

In this manner were slowly spelt out the letters forming the following words: “Dieu vous exaucera en peu de temps” (“God will soon answer your prayers”).

At the end of the last word there was a round spot like a great full-stop in gold. These words, coming after the previous ones, formed in all one line.

When the meaning of them had made its way into the minds and hearts of those around, all were borne up and thrilled with an indescribable feeling of hope. “It is over! It is over! they exclaimed. “The war is over; we shall have peace!”

“Yes; but let us go on praying,” said Eugene Barbedette.

Just before this the four had joyfully exclaimed:

“She’s smiling at us! She’s smiling at us!”

Prayer was resumed. All began singing the Inviolata. Hardly had the first strains begun when the children cried out: “There’s something else! It s a stroke an M.”

On seeing another letter M, little Jeanne Marie Lebosse, one of the voyants, began thinking that the word mais (but) was about to be repeated. She expressed her thought, adding naively: “Perhaps the Blessed Virgin thinks that we did not under stand it the first time.”

“No, no,” they exclaimed directly afterwards; “there’s an O and an N: it’s Mon (my).”

The letters forming the word Fils (Son) followed. The singing of the Inviolata continuing, the refrain at this moment was: O Mater alma Christi carissima. May we not see a probably Divine coincidence between the last word on the scroll in the sky and the words, “O sweet and beloved Mother of Christ “rising from the throng?

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A pause followed. When the children had repeated again and again the words Mon Fils, when they had been plied with questions on all sides, there was a general outburst of emotion. “it was indeed the Blessed Virgin,” said all. There could be no longer any doubt on the subject.

“Up to that time,” says Joseph Barbedette later on, “the question as to whether it was the Blessed Virgin that we saw had not much troubled us; but the words Mon Fils dispelled all doubts on the subject.

“It is the Holy Virgin! It is the Holy Virgin!” exclaimed, with joy at heart and tears in their eyes, the simple peasants around. The same ineffable smile continued to play on the face of the Apparition, say the children.

The words Mon Fils commenced a fresh line of the aerial inscription. During the singing of the rest of the Inviolata, and also of the Salve Regina, fresh letters appeared one after the other.

“There’s an S,” exclaimed the four children; “and an E!”

The word se (himself) was pronounced. “There s an L,” they continued, “and an O.”

This went on until the word laisse (allows) was spelt out and pronounced.

Sister Vitaline, who, though she could not see, attempted to judge, thought the children were making a mistake in reading the words as se laisse (allows himself), and that these words in reality were se lasse (is weary).

She had no doubt in her mind, as many others had at that time, in connection with the war, something of the burden of the message of La Salette, and was thinking that God might indeed be wearying of waiting for His guilty people.

She therefore began correcting, as she thought, the little interpreters.

“No,” they cried out together; “it’s an I. It’s Mon Fils se laisse (my Son allows himself).”

“Read it again,” said the nun. “It must surely be se lasse (is weary).”

“But, Sister Vitaline, wait,” was the rebuke that came from one of the youthful mouths; “there s more to come. There s another letter forming.” “It s a T,” they continued; “now there’s an O.” This went on until the word toucher (to touch) was spelt out.

Then the meaning was clear to Sister Vitaline as to the rest. At the end of the singing of the Salve Regina the Divine message was complete: “Mais priez mes enfants, Dieu vous exaucera en peu de tempsMon fils se laisse toucher”  (But pray, my children, God will soon answer your prayers. My Son allows Himself to be moved by compassion).

The last sentence was underlined by a broad gold stroke. The whole was read out again and again while the full meaning of the message was being engraved in the minds and hearts of those who heard. Intense emotion prevailed. Joy, gratitude, and silent prayer did their part.

The four children were besieged by questions. Meanwhile, the inscription was still in the sky.

After a few moments the Curé said to Sister Marie-Edouard: “Sing a hymn to the Blessed Virgin.”

The hymn chosen was a French one of sweet cadence, beginning: “Mere de l’Esperance (O Mother of hope). The following strophe was sung, the nun’s voice leading the others:

Mere de l’Esperance 

Dont le nom est si doux, 

Protégez la France, Priez, priez pour nous!

[Our Lady of Hope, Of Whom the name is so soft, Protect France, Pray, pray for us.]

Hardly was the singing resumed than the revelation in the sky was resumed also. What then took place had to be described in another way than by spelling out letters.

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