by Lourdes Policarpio
Unbelievable and incomprehensible. This would be the normal reaction to news that the Virgin Mary had appeared to an ordinary Belgian girl in the tiny village of Banneux in 1933. Why would this be so unbelievable? Because only twelve days before, the Virgin Mary had also appeared to five children in Beauraing, another part of Belgium, where she came to be known as the Virgin with the Golden Heart. The last apparition in Beauraing was on 3 January 1933. That Our Lady would again appear in Banneux, only twelve days after her last apparition in Beauraing, is rather surprising. Why would she appear again in another part of Belgium, which is really a small country? Why another Marian apparition, only twelve days apart?
Banneux is a tiny parish ten miles from the city of Liege. While Beauraing is around three miles from the French border, Banneux lies in the portion of Belgium near Germany. In 1933, the parish had a young 29-year-old pastor, Fr. Louis Jamin. While majority of the people of Belgium are Roman Catholics, those years of the apparitions of Our Lady in Belgium were difficult times. Those were the times of hardship the Lady predicted in a series of apparitions to three children in Fatima, Portugal. Russia was under communist rule and trying to spread atheism to other parts of the world. Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich had come into power – Nazi Germany was born and was systematically forcing neighboring European countries under its rule. (Belgium itself fell to Nazi Germany in 1940.) In 1933, there were many socialists and anti-clerical elements in Belgium not exactly sympathetic to the Church.
Robert M. Maloy, SM, in the book, "A Woman Clothed with the Sun",narrates the minute details surrounding the apparitions of Our Lady of Banneux.
15 January 1933 was a day for Mary in the province of Liege. The new bishop of the diocese, Bishop Louis Joseph Kerkhofs, was consecrating the year to Mary in the Basilica of St. Martin in Liege surrounded by a great crowd.
Ten miles from Liege, in the plateau hamlet of Banneux, it was an ordinary day for the Beco family. The family was not a pious one. The 15th of January was a Sunday and 11-year-old Mariette, the eldest of the siblings, missed Mass (it seems this was an ordinary occurrence in this family). The Beco family was poor (by Belgian standards) and their 4-room house would later be the cramped quarters for a family of eleven.
Fr. Jamin, the youthful pastor, had a catechism class for the children of the village but Mariette was not a devoted student. She was known more for physical prowess as she had won over boys in some games.
At 7:00 p.m. that day, almost all had retired. The Marian events in Liege did not reach this materially - and spiritually-poor family. But the loving Shepherd who is solicitous of his flock and reaches out to those who have gone astray, sent his most esteemed “ambassador” - his own Mother - to this most nondescript family.
Mariette was anxiously waiting for her brother Julien to return home, looking out of the window frequently. Instead of seeing her naughty little brother, Mariette saw a lovely Lady bathed in light, shining and glowing against the backdrop of a dark winter night. The Lady was young, beautiful, clad in white with a blue sash, and with her head and body slightly inclined to the left. On her right arm hung a rosary which had a golden chain and cross shining brightly and on top of her right foot was a golden rose.
Mariette exclaimed, “Mama, there’s a woman in the garden!” But while Mariette’s mother could perceive the light, she could not see the whole vision and brusquely drew the curtains over the window, declaring that it could be a witch!
But Mariette was undaunted and exclaiming over the beauty and smile of the Lady whom she believed to be the Blessed Virgin, she started praying the rosary.
Following the first encounter with Our Lady of Banneux, Mariette narrated the extraordinary phenomenon to her friend, Josephine Leonard, who in turn reported things to Fr. Jamin.
Although the pastor just came from Beauraing, it could only be expected that he would be incredulous over the child’s report of seeing the Blessed Mother in his own turf. He felt that the imagination of these kids could run wild; after the children of Beauraing, wouldn’t any child in turn believe she was another visionary-in-the-making? The second apparition of Our Lady of Banneux to Mariette occurred three days later, on the 18th of January.
Our Lady of Banneux, bathed in light, descended between the tops of two tall pines and, floating on a cloud, beckoned Mariette to follow her. She led the child to the spring and told her, “This stream is reserved for me.” On the third apparition, asked by Mariette who she was, the Lady answered: “I am the Virgin of the Poor.” She also clarified her previous statement regarding the spring: “This spring is reserved for all nations – to relieve the sick.”
On the fourth apparition of Our Lady of Banneux, the Virgin made a request: “I would like a small chapel.” By this time, a few villagers were already curiously observing Mariette, and Fr. Jamin was also closely monitoring events. It was during the fifth apparition that the Virgin said, “I come to relieve suffering.” The words remind one of her apparitions in Lourdes.
The fifth apparition of Our Lady of Banneux took place on 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 75th anniversary of the apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous. The following day, Mariette received First Communion from Fr. Jamin who had to be prodded on this matter. He was still skeptical over the whole thing despite the apparent positive changes shown by Mariette and especially her father Julien, who, touched by the whole thing, asked the priest to hear his Confession after the second apparition.
On the sixth apparition of Our Lady of Banneux, Mariette relayed Fr. Jamin’s request for a sign. This was met by silence on the part of the Lady until she finally said, “Believe in me, I will believe in you. Pray much. Au revoir.”
On the seventh apparition, after descending on the pine trees in front of their yard, Our Lady of Banneux again beckoned Mariette to the stream, some 325 feet away. She was grave and serious and told Mariette, “My dear child, pray much.”
The eight and last apparition of Our Lady of Banneux took place on March 2. The Lady said, “I am the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God. Pray much.” She stretched forth her hands, blessed Mariette and said, “Adieu – till we meet in God.” And Mariette understood this would be her final appearance to her. Heartbroken, the child bowed to the earth in heart-rending sobs. Touched by grace and beauty, how could life return to normal after these eight extraordinary occurrences? Even a child, poor and lackluster in faith, could be overwhelmed by the working of God’s grace.
Both the apparitions in Beauraing and Banneux have been approved by the Church – such a grace for a little country bordered by giants like France and Germany.
Today, Banneux has become a wellspring from which grace flows. The chapel requested by the Virgin has been built. It is called the Chapel of the Apparitions. Since it is too small to accommodate pilgrims, a bigger church – the Church of the Virgin of the Poor – was built in 1984. This new one could accommodate some 5,000 pilgrims. It should be noted that twenty miraculous cures have been rigidly documented. There are long lines to the confessional and the rosary is prayed every day at 7 o’clock in the evening, the time when Mariette would hold her prayer vigil waiting for the Virgin. A Triduum for the Sick is held weekly during the pilgrimage season from May to October and works of charity have also spread for the poor dearly loved by Mary. The place was made a National Shrine by the bishops of Belgium in 1999 and is visited by pilgrims from all over the world.
In 1958, Bishop Kerkhofs wrote: “What is now important is not again the recognition of the facts of Banneux, but the understanding and spreading of the message of the Virgin of the Poor.”
And what did Our Lady of Banneux, the Virgin of the Poor, want to say?
In many of her apparitions, the Mother of God was sublimely serious. In Fatima, she spoke of the dangers of atheistic communism and the grave evils threatening the world. While the apparitions in Lourdes and Banneux have similarities, in Lourdes she gave a profound statement, a re-echoing of a dogma just proclaimed: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
But in Banneux, she came simply to reach out to the poor and the sick. Sent by the Good Shepherd, she led them all to the spring: “The Lord is my Shepherd… He leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23) With the proximity of Beauraing to Banneux, there seems to be no logic to the Banneux apparitions. But does love need to be explained by logic? It is said that the heart has a logic that the mind sometimes does not understand.
The Virgin of the Poor in Banneux is actually also the Virgin of the Magnificat. In her hymn of praise, Mary exalted the God who has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up those who are downtrodden.“He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Her eight apparitions in Banneux to Mariette Beco are an expression of her solidarity with the poor she upholds in the Magnificat, those who are bereft of material and spiritual comforts. It did not matter that she was just in nearby Beauraing twelve days ago. Like the Good Shepherd, she seeks out each soul. Love is infinite and boundless.
The Second Coming of Christ will take place in your lifetime.
According to this book which contains a series of incredible messages and prophecies to an Irish seer, our present generation will witness the Second Coming of Christ.
Click here to read a book review that summarises the key messages of the book.
Get the latest articles straight to your inbox - Free!