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Our Lady of Pontmain: “But Pray, My Children…”

“But pray, my children. God will hear you in a short time.

My Son allows Himself to be moved by compassion.”

January 17, 1871

She was dressed in a star-studded robe of dark blue with slippers of the same colour. A black veil on which she wore a gold crown decorated with a red band covered her head. It was in a little village of Pontmain, near the northern end of the diocese of Laval, that the miraculous event occurred. From six to nine that evening the Blessed Virgin appeared continuously in the sky over one of the houses in the village.


At the time of the apparition Pontmain was a small village, inhabited by simple and hardworking country folk, who were guided by their parish priest Abbé Michel Guérin. The Barbadette family consisted of father César, his wife, Victoire, with their two sons Joseph and Eùgene, aged ten and twelve, and another older boy who was away in the army. On the evening of 17 January 1871, the two boys were helping their father in the barn when the eldest, Eùgene, walked over towards the door to look out.

As he gazed at the star studded sky he noticed one area practically free of stars above a neighbouring house. Suddenly he saw an apparition of a beautiful woman smiling at him; she was wearing a blue gown covered with golden stars, and a black veil under a golden crown.

His father, brother, and a neighbour came out to look and Joseph immediately said he too could see the apparition although the adults saw nothing. The mother, Victoire, came out but she too could see nothing, although she was puzzled because her boys were usually very truthful. She suggested that it might be the Blessed Virgin, and that they should all say five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys in her honour.

As it was now about a quarter past six, and time for supper, the boys were ordered inside but soon after allowed to go outside again. The Lady was still there and so the local schoolteacher, Sister Vitaline, was sent for. She couldn’t see the Lady, and so she went to fetch three young children from the school to see their reactions.

Immediately they arrived the two older children, two girls aged nine and eleven, expressed their delight at the apparition, describing it as the boys had done, although the youngest child saw nothing.

The adults in the crowd, which had now grown to about sixty people including the priest, could still see nothing and began to say the rosary, as the children exclaimed that something new was happening. A blue oval frame with four candles, two at the level of the shoulders and two at the knees, was being formed around the Lady, and a short red cross had appeared over her heart.

As the rosary progressed the figure and its frame grew larger, until it was twice life size; the stars around her began to multiply and attach themselves to her dress until it was covered with them.

As the Magnificat was being said the four children cried out, “Something else is happening.” A broad streamer on which letters were appearing unrolled beneath the feet of the Lady, so that eventually the phrase, “But pray, my children,” could be read.

Fr. Guérin then ordered that the Litany of Our Lady should be sung, and as this progressed new letters appeared, making the message, “God will soon answer you.” As they continued to sing, another message was formed, one that removed any doubt that it was the Blessed Virgin who was appearing to the children; “My Son allows Himself to be moved.”

The children were beside themselves with joy at the beauty of the Lady and her smile, but her expression then changed to one of extreme sadness, as she now contemplated a large red cross that had suddenly appeared before her, with a figure of Jesus on it in an even darker shade of red.

One of the stars then lit the four candles that surrounded the figure, as the crucifix vanished and the group began night prayers. As these were being recited, the children reported that a white veil was rising from the Lady’s feet and gradually blotting her out, until finally, at about nine o’clock, the apparition was over.

The following March a canonical inquiry into the apparition was held, and in May the local bishop questioned the children, the inquiry being continued later in the year with further questioning by theologians and a medical examination. The bishop was satisfied by these investigations, and in February 1872 declared his belief that it was the Blessed Virgin who had appeared to the children.

Joseph Barbadette became a priest, a member of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, while his brother Eùgene became a secular priest. He was assisted by one of the girls who had seen Mary as his housekeeper, with the other, Jeanne-Marie Lebossé, becoming a nun. A large basilica was built at Pontmain and consecrated in 1900.

Source: Beevers, The Sun her Mantle, Dublin, 1954.

OL Pontmain


January 1871 was one of the darkest times in the history of France. The Empire had fallen before the advance of the Prussian armies, Paris was under siege, and the enemy forces were driving West. On January 17, the Prussian armies were at the outskirts of Laval. That afternoon the Bishop of Saint-Brieuc signed a solemn vow to Our Lady of Hope, which was read, in the cathedral at six o’clock. Mary chose this particular time to show, in a most extraordinary way, that the prayers of the French people would be answered.

It happened on January 17th, 1871. The German army neared the west of France. The mass of its deserters was endless. They would not heed the commands of their officers, and even though two were executed, it did not stop others from running away.

The snowy weather made for miserable discomfort. All day and night wagons passed through Laval from east to west. All bearing wounded whom needed care. The countryside farmers feared the onslaught of needy and hid their possessions of money, food, wine and linens.Typhoid had broken out and Small pox threatened all. Everything seemed doomed.

Just days before, the Aurora Borealis produced fear and awe in many. Some reported the evening lights as tall masts of ships and others claimed them to look like the steeples of a great cathedral.

The worst fear came with an earthquake at about half past twelve the day of January 17th. No one saved hope for anything. Despondency surmounted unbeatable. Shouts of “No use in praying. God doesn’t hear us!” prevailed from even the most optimistic.

In a barn, a family of two young boys and their father crushed thorns to feed the horses. Eugene Barbedettes, twelve and his brother, Joseph, aged ten, were fascinated with the Northern lights and were anxious to see the show that night.

It was in a little village of Pontmain, near the northern end of the diocese of Laval, that the miraculous event occurred. From six to nine that evening the Blessed Virgin appeared continuously in the sky over one of the houses in the village.

The apparition was witnessed by four small children, Eugene and Joseph Barbadette, Francoise Richer, and Jeanne-Marie LeBosse. Joseph, who later became an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, described the Lady as about twenty years of age and very beautiful.

She was dressed in a star-studded robe of dark blue with slippers of the same colour. A black veil on which she wore a gold crown decorated with a red band covered her head. It was in a little village of Pontmain, near the northern end of the diocese of Laval, that the miraculous event occurred. From six to nine that evening the Blessed Virgin appeared continuously in the sky over one of the houses in the village.

When the children first saw here she stood with her hands extended “like the miraculous medal.” What impressed the children most was her delightful smile, which seemed to be directed at each one of them individually. As news of the strange doings spread quickly throughout the little village, the Curé, the Sisters, and all the inhabitants gathered on the spot. After they had recited the rosary at the pastor’s direction, a large white banner slowly unfolded under the figure of the Lady and on it were written in letters of gold the words:

“But pray, my children. God will soon answer your prayer. My Son is willing to hear you.”

The need for prayer was all around them and through the children’s innocence to see Mary; the hopelessness gave way to prayer for hope. Hope that God would hear their prayers.

Then one of the Sisters led the group in the singing of the hymn, “Mother of Hope”. Our Lady’s reaction was immediate. Her smile broadened until the children cried out, “She is laughing!” and she raised her hands to beat time to the music.

When the hymn ended, however, her expression became grave for the first time and in her hands there appeared a large crucifix. The cross itself was blood red, the corpus a darker shade. At the top was an extra crosspiece, of white, on which was printed in red letters the inscription, “Jesus Christ.” During this part of the apparition, Our Lady’s eyes sadly contemplated the cross, the symbol and the pledge of our salvation. With the singing of the hymn, “Ave Maris Stella,” the cross disappeared, and Our Lady smiled again, though this time not without a touch of sadness. This tender expression remained on her face until, after the recitation of night prayers by the crowd, a white cloud veiled the Lady from view and the apparition was at an end. Before the news of the event at Pontmain had spread beyond the neighbourhood, Our Lady’s promise came true. The very day after the apparition, the Prussians halted their advance and withdrew ten mils. Peace came to the devout clients of Mary in Western France.

The Bishop of Laval lost no time holding a thorough inquiry into the apparition. Careful questioning of the four children and many adult bystanders led him to pronounce that a true apparition of the Blessed Virgin had taken place at Pontmain and to authorize her “cultus” at the scene. Many years later Pope Pius XI, after an exhaustive examination of the evidence, confirmed the decision of the Episcopal court and granted a Mass and Office proper to our Lady of Hope of Pontmain. The barn from which the children had first seen the strange vision in the sky was turned into a chapel and soon became a place of pilgrimage. After the death of the elderly pastor, Father Michael Guerin, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were placed in charge of the shrine. They erected the great basilica of Our Lady of Hope, which was consecrated in 1900.

During the trying days of German occupation in the last war, devotion to Our Lady of Hope received a new impetus. Since the end of the war, tens of thousands of pilgrims have journeyed to Pontmain to pay their thanks to the Mother of Hope or to seek her further intercession. The Oblate Fathers and Brothers introduced the devotion to America in 1952.

Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Author Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Our Lady found this unworthy lukewarm person and obtained for her the grace to enter the Third Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. May this person spend all eternity in showing her gratitude.

More posts by Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • apostolate says:

    Ave Maria!

    Welcome to AirMaria! While you’re here take a look at our Best of AirMaria Videos

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    Our Lady of Pontmain, Pray for us!

  • Edward.Fullerton says:

    To whom it may concern, I recite the rosary every day,yours in,I.N>R.I,Mater Dolorosa,SS Joseph,Michael,Benedict.

  • Sam says:

    I want to ask prayers for my country, for our new President and all he brings with him; for all politicians, for all of our Bishops and Priests…for our people, especially our Catholic people, that they may follow the teachings of Christ in His Church, especially regarding the sanctity of all life. And I ask prayers for myself and all that the Lord has entrusted to me. I pray for the guidance, strength, courage, wisdom and love of the Holy Spirit…Sam

  • Barry says:

    I pray for my family, especially our son who is need of help from heaven above. I pry for all families of thw orld in this time of need.

  • Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain, pray for my country, the United States of America. Ask your Son, Jesus , to have mercy on us, and grant us conversion and protection. We pray for an end to abortion and that President Obama may be enlightened to recognize the Sanctity of Life and to vigorously defend it. Bless our families, our children and young people and parents. Amen

  • Our Lady of Hope, Please pray for our country, most especially for the conversion of our President-Elect Obama. St. Paul please pray for Obama too as you are the patron saint of “conversion”. Also pray for our suffering world and restore peace amidst the storm created by the current recession. Mother of Hope, pray for us. St. Paul, pray for us.

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