Our Lady of Banneux
"Where can Julien be?" Anxiously, 11-year-old Mariette Becco was waiting the return of her younger brother. Night was falling, and Julien should long since have returned. Mariette, the oldest of the seven Becco children, stopped rocking the baby and went to peer out the window to see if she could catch a glimpse of her brother. It was Sunday night, January 15, l933.
There in the garden was the luminous figure of a young woman. At first, Mariette thought that it was a reflection from the oil lamp. After moving the lamp to another position, she looked again. The figure was still there. The woman was very beautiful, about five feet tall. She was dressed in a white gown with a blue sash. A rosary hung from her right hand. Only her right foot was visible, and it was adorned with a golden rose. Her head was inclined a little to the left, and she appeared to be smiling at Mariette.
Mariette called to her mother, "There's a woman in the garden!" Mrs. Becco accepted this with skepticism, until Mariette insisted she come and look for herself. Looking out the window, all she could discern was a white shape. Somewhat frightened, she told Mariette it might be a witch, and told her to shut the curtain and come away.
Not long before, Mariette had found a rosary lying in the road. She got it and said a few decades. As she watched, the lips of the lady moved, but Mariette could hear nothing. Then the lady beckoned to Mariette. As Mariette made to go outside, her mother forbad it. When Mariette returned to the window, the lady had disappeared.
When Julien came home, the family went to bed. Julien and her mother had told Mariette to forget the strange sight.
The next morning, Mariette told her father what had happened. Mr. Becco, a badly lapsed Catholic, told her that the story was nonsense. Nonetheless, he later asked his wife to show him where in the garden she had seen the shadowy figure. On asking Mariette where she had seen the lady, she pointed to the exact same spot. That night, Mr. Becco experimented with the lamp, but could not recreate any illusion.
On the Monday after this apparition, Mariette went to school for the first time in two months. She confided the strange tale to her friend Josephine Leonard, whose first reaction was disbelief. Seeing how upset Mariette was at not being believed, Josephine suggested the girls go and tell the parish priest, Father Louis Jamin. Father Jamin, thinking the girl must have heard of the recent apparition in Buauraing, advised her not to speak of seeing the Blessed Mother.
That night and the next, Mariette looked through the window to see if she could again see the beautiful lady. Although she saw nothing, she was convinced that she had seen Our Lady, and there was a great change in her behavior. She began to study her catechism, and the next day she attended Mass and said her prayers.
Wednesday night, just before seven, Mariette went outside. Her father followed her and found her kneeling before the spot where she said she had seen the lady three days before. She was saying her rosary.
Suddenly Mariette stretched out her arms. She could see the figure of her lady floating toward her through the pines. The figure came to a halt about a yard and a half in front of Mariette. Her feet didn't touch the ground, but rested on a grayish cloud about a foot off the ground. The lady appeared the same, except this time Mariette noticed that she had a halo. Mariette continued to pray. Her father jumped on his bike and went to tell the priest what was happening. The priest was not in, so he persuaded a neighbor and his son to come back with him. As they arrived, Mariette walked out of the garden and approached them on the road. When they asked where she was going, Mariette simply said, "She is calling me".
Twice, Mariette dropped to the ground, kneeling. Then she continued. Abruptly she turned right, and knelt at the brink of a small stream. The lady stood on the other bank and spoke for the first time, telling Mariette to put her hands in the water. Mariette obeyed. Then the lady told Mariette that the spring was reserved for her, and said "au revoir" (goodbye for the present). Although only Mariette could hear the words, she repeated them aloud. The lady then slowly withdrew into the sky, growing smaller and smaller until she disappeared.
Later that evening Father Jamin returned home and was told what had happened. In company with a Benedictine monk and a friend, he went to the Becco household and had a long conversation with Mr. Becco. Mariette was sleeping, and they did not disturb her. When the priest asked Mr. Becco if he believed Mariette had seen the virgin, he answered yes, and asked to come to confession the next day.
The following evening, Mariette experienced a third apparition. Again, she returned to the spring at the insistence of the figure. Here she asked the apparition about her statement that the spring was reserved for her. The smiling lady said, "For all the nations... for the sick... I come to relieve the sick." Following the advice of the priest's Benedictine friend, Mariette asked the lady, "Who are you, Madame?" The lady said to her, "I am the Virgin of the Poor."
In all, there were eight appearances. During the fourth apparition, Mariette asked if the Lady wanted anything and was told she would like a little chapel. In the other apparitions, the message was given "I come to relieve suffering." Asked for a sign, the lady replied, "Have faith in me... I shall trust you... Pray earnestly." At the sixth appearance, Mariette was entrusted with a secret, which she has never revealed.
At the final apparition, the virgin said, "I am the Mother of the Savior, Mother of God. Pray hard." Then, she spoke the parting word "adieu", and imposed a blessing on Mariette. Mariette fainted, and did not see Our Lady's departure. She knew, however, that this would be her final sight of the beautiful lady from the choice of the word "adieu"(goodbye) instead of the previously used "au revoir".
For several years, Mariette was subject to every kind of test. Panels of doctors and psychiatrists examined her. None could find any trace of hysteria or untruth.
As with any reported apparition, those at Banneux were investigated thoroughly. A number of miraculous medical cures were claimed through the prayers and the use of the water at Banneux. Although not accepted as proofs, these are accepted as presumptions in favor of the apparitions. Within a year of the apparitions, the Bishop approved the establishment of the worldwide "International Union of Prayers." Today, this group has more than two million members throughout the world, each pledged to say a prayer of their own choice daily in union with those sent up from Banneux for the poor, the suffering, and for peace on earth. In l942, as a result of the unanimous verdict of the Ecclesiastical Commission, supported by rescripts of approval from the Holy See, the Bishop authorized by Pastoral Letter the cult of Our Lady of Banneux, Our Lady of the Poor. This approval was renewed and confirmed in l947, and again in l949.
The message of Our Lady at Banneux, while given through a single child, is a message for all her children. "I come to relieve suffering." As Our Lady drew Mariette to the water of a healing spring, she draws us all to the living water - Christ Jesus. By declaring herself the Virgin of the Poor, she reminds us of her love and concern for all of mankind.
Our Lady of Banneux, Blessed Virgin of the Poor, look with favor on us, your poor, suffering children. Hear our prayers, and draw us daily to the Living Water.
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Copyright © 2004 by Ann Ball
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