Pontmain, a town not far from the border of Britanny and
Normandy, was, in the year 1871, the scene of one of the more
important of the modern apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
Early on the evening of January 17, members of the Barbadette
family were at work in their barn when Eugene (age 12) went
to the door and looked at the starry sky. He noticed something
unusual, a blank patch of sky over the house opposite theirs.
Then within the patch, he saw stars appear in the shape of a triangle.
Within the stars appeared a beautiful young woman. An
expression of surprise brought his 10-years-old brother Joseph,
who saw the Lady immediately, and his father, who saw
nothing at all. The two boys began to describe what they were
viewing. The Lady wore a blue dress decorated with stars and
blue shoes with a gold buckle. She had a black veil on her head
and a gold crown. The boys’ mother arrived on the scene and
saw nothing.
Their mother sent for a nun from the local convent school
and she arrived with three children. Two of the three immediately
saw the Lady. Soon other villagers arrived. Everyone
could see the triangle of stars but not the Lady, seen only by the
four children. The woman unrolled a scroll upon which a message
calling for prayer was printed. She also showed the children
various symbols—a red cross, some candles, and two luminescent
crosses. She then assumed the same position she had
in the apparition to Catherine Labouré in Paris in 1830, with
her arms to her side and hand extended in a blessing.
The local priest who had joined the group witnessing the apparition
sent a report to his bishop, who appointed an investigating
commission. Its report was positive; the bishop also
ruled favorably. The Barbadette barn became a pilgrimage site.
The two Barbadette children entered the priesthood and lived
to see the completion and consecration of a large church near
their family’s house that was dedicated in 1900. Then in 1901
they participated in a second study of Pontmain ordered by
Pope Leo XIII that also ruled favorably. Benedict’s successor,
Pius XI, gave permission for a special mass and liturgy for ‘‘Our
Lady of Pontmain.’’
The Pontmain apparition took on special significance for
many French Catholics as it occurred at the point that the Germans
made their deepest penetration of the country. On January
17, 1871, the army stood on the outskirts of Lavel (just 30
miles from Pontmain) and were prepared to take it the next
day. Instead, they received orders to withdraw. Many came to
believe that the Virgin appeared at Pontmain to stop the German
Sharkey, Don. The Woman Shall Conquer. Kenosha, Wis.
Franciscan Marytown Press, 1976.
Sullivan, T. S. Our Lady of Hope The Story of the Apparition at
Pontmain. St. Meinrad, Ind. Grail, 1954

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