The lady of the poor - The apparitions of Banneux
15th January to 2nd March 1993
Banneux, Notre-Dame, a tiny hamlet in the rural district of Louveigne, Belgium, is situated high up in the Ardenes on a plateau some 1,000 feet above sea level. It is flanked by the beautiful valleys of the Amvieve, Vesdre and Hoegne and lies fifteen miles distant from the important industrial town of Liege which is both the capital city of the province as well as the center of the diocese. The Village of Banneux encircles the church. There are some small industries scattered round about. However the region taken on the whole is poor. A little less than a mile from the church, on the left of the road from Louveigne to Pepinster, stands a simple working-class home in which the Beco family live. This marshy place is known as “The Swamp.” On the opposite side of the road stretch the great pinewoods which cover the whole of this eastern region of Belgium and which meet the Eifel forests. In front of the house there is a small garden plot containing a few cabbage stumps. In 1933, the family is made up of father, mother, and seven children, four more will follow later. Mariette, the oldest of them, was born on Friday 25th March 1921, Feast of the Annunciation and which that year happened to be Good Friday, the day when the Cross is given solemn veneration. But there is no Cross in the Beco’s home…In this rather rough place there is very little room for religion. They have broken off practicing their religious faith and Mariette is no exception to the indifference shown by the rest to the family.
FIRST APPARITION. On Sunday, 15th January 1933, snow and ice have covered the Swamp. The wind whistles harshly. It is 7 o’clock in the evening. Mariette, leaning on her elbows, is at the kitchen window that looks on to the garden with the road and pinewood beyond. She wathces awaiting the return of her brother Julien who had left that morning with some friends of about his own age. At the same time she keeps an eye on the youngest baby lying fast asleep in the cot. Suddenly, just a few yards from her, in the little garden, she sees a shining figure of a lady standing motionless bent slightly to the left. “Oh! Mama,” she cries out. “There’s a beautiful lady in the garden! … I think it’s the Blessed Virgin. She’s smiling at me. She’s so beautiful!” Mariette takes out a rosary she had found before on the way to Tancremont and says it as she gazes enraptured at the vision. The lady now beckons her. Marriete grasps the meaning of the invitation and leaving the window, wants to go out. Her mother fears it might be some kind of ghost, forbid this, lock the door and remove the key. Mariette returns to the window but the beautiful Lady has vanished.
SECOND APPARITION. Three days later, on Wednesday 18th January, at about 7 o’clock in the evening, Mariette overcoming her usual fear of the dark, leaves the house. She kneels on the pathway which leads from the front door to the gate. She prays quietly and looks at the spot where on the previous Sunday, the shining lady had appeared, raised slightly from the ground. All of sudden, she stretches out her arms- the Virgin appears to her above the woods, quite a tiny figure in the distant sky. As she draws nearer, she increases in size, and passing between the crests of two tall firs, comes to rest above the frozen ground, a few steps away from the child. A sort of grayish cloud separates her from the ground.
Mariette prays quietly, rosary in hand, looking upwards. She gazes upon the smiling Lady whose lips move as if in prayer. This silent prayer lasts about twenty minutes. The Lady beckons and moves backwards. Marietta follows, leaves the enclosure and steps out into the road. She suddenly stops, falls on her knees and remains in this posture a while reciting “Hail Mary’s” then she rises and continues on her way. A little further on, she drops to her knees a second time. The she stand up obeying the signs of the Virgin who has resumed her gliding again. Quite abruptly she turns at right-angles towards a spring which trickles down the bank at the road-side. She knees at the side of the ditch whilst the Virgin places herself at the top of the bank. The virgin says to her: “Push your hands into the water.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the child obeys: the rosary slipping from her hands as she unclasps them and bathes conscientiously. The Virgin speaks again, “This spring is reserved for me.” She then takes her leave saying: “Goodnight. Au revoir” and rises up above the fir trees close by the spring, keeping her face turned towards the child. She seems to grow smaller as she withdraws into the distance.
THIRD APPARITION. At 7 o’clock in the evening of Thursday 19th January, Mariette accompanied by her father, leaves home with her head covered with an old overcoat to protect her against the cold. A few steps on her way, she falls upon her knees even though the ground is covered with snow, and prays quietly. Shortly after, she stretches out her arms and cries out. “Oh! Here she is.” A moment of silence, then she asks. “Who are you beautiful Lady?” The Lady replies: I am the VIRGIN OF THE POOR.” The Virgin thereupon leads the child to the spring. Mariette walks calmly going down on her knees at the two sports where she had halted the previous evening. At the spring she kneels, her gaze fixed upon the top of the bank where the Virgin is standing. Once more Mariette puts a question. “Beautiful Lady, you said last night: “this spring is reserved for me.” Why “for me”?” and she points to herself, laying her hands on her breast. The Lady’s smile turns to a gentle laugh. She explains that the spring, reserved for herself, is “For all nations … for the sick.” Mariette repeats these words in a firm, clear voice and adds, “Thank you, thank you.” The Virgin quietly continues: “I will pray for you (personally). Au revoir.” She departs as on the evening before becoming smaller and smaller high above the fir trees.
FOURTH APPARITION. Fiday 20th January, Mariette is unwell but this does not stop her from going out at about 7 o’clock in the evening. Kneeling in the garden she says her rosary. Two minutes later she cries out” “Here she is.” After a while, she asks in a clear voice, “What do you want, beautiful Lady?” The virgin replies” “I would like a little chapel.” Then she unclasps her hands and spreads them horizontally without moving them from her breast. With her right hand she makes a sign of the cross to bless the child and then disappears. At this, Mariette faints. Her distraught father helped by a neighbor carries her home. She soon regains consciousness and falls peacefully asleep.
FIFTH APPARITION. On Saturday 11th February, Mariette is kneeling once again in the garden. A few people are present. At the end of the second rosary sorrowful mysteries) Mariette gets up in a hurry and makes her way to the garden gate. She proceeds towards the spring, kneeling at the same places as before. Coming in front of the bank she knees, leans forwards, plunges her hands into the water and then crosses herself with the cross of her rosary beads. The Virgin confides to her: “I comes to alleviate suffering, au revoir.” Then she leaves in her usual way.
SIXTH APPARITION. The Virgin does not return until Wednesday 15th February. This evening she presents herself once again to the enraptured gaze of the child who addresses her: “Blessed Virgin, the Chaplain told me to ask you for a sign.” The Virgin replies: “Believe in me, I will believe in you.” Then she entrusts the child with a secret. When about to leave, she adds: “Pray hard. Aux revoir.”
SEVENTH APPARITION. On Monday 20th February it snows, it is very cold. At the end of the second rosary, Mariette suddenly stretches out her arms and her prayer gets more rapid. The beautiful Lady has come become customary, leads the child to the spring. Mariette kneels in the same places and prays at each stop. At the spring, the Virgin smiling as usual, tells her: “My dear child, pray hard.” After this she ceases to smiles and before leaving says in a serious voice: “Au revoir.”
EIGHT APPARITION. Thursday 2nd March, the rain pours down in torrents. At the beginning of the third rosary, quite suddenly the rain stops, the sky grows clear, the stars sparkle. All of a sudden the child falls silent, stretches our her arms. The virgin appears to her for the eight and last time. She looks grave and does not smile. She says: I am the MOTHER OF THE SAVIOUR, MOTHER OF GOD.” Then with a certain look of sadness in her face, the Virgin gives her final advice. “Pray hard. Adieu.” In the course of these eight apparitions, the Blessed Virgin wishes to remind us of her special role in the mystery of salvation. It is she who conducts us to Jesus the Source of grace, arousing in us those dispositions of faith and prayer which are indispensable if we are to be united to HIM.
Official Recognition of the Apparitions
Twice, first in 1942 and then in 1947, we have officially recognized, though with certain reservation, the reality of the Apparitions at Banneux. Today, after further two years of prayer and careful investigation, we believe in conscience, that we can and must recognize without reservation this reality, that is, the reality of the Eight Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to Mariette Beco, which took place on the 15th, 18th 19th and 20th January, the 11th, 15th and 20th February and the 2nd March, 1933. (Pastoral letter of Mgr. L.J. Kerkhofs, Bishop of Liege, 22nd August, 1949)
Reflections on the Apparitions
The apparitions at Banneux N.D. and the message of the Virgin Mary, seem to us to fit in, in a most extraordinary manner, both with the Gospel and with the life of the Church today.
The insistence on frequent prayer (the thrice repeated “PRAY HARD”) repeats the recommendation of Jesus-Christ as emphasized above all in the Gospel of St. Luke. The church at the moment is questioning us on our prayer. Researches on the subject are being carried our in many dioceses. Our Lady’s simple request “I would like a little chapel” is a concrete expression of her stressing the value of deep prayer.
The Message is an invitation to universal love. “The spring is reserved for all nations.” In this post-conciliar Church, the spirituality of Banneux finds an echo of a fraternity extending to all nations to which the good news of salvation should be announced.
“This spring is reserved for all nations to relieve the sick.” “I come to alleviate suffering.” The sick and the suffering are the constant companions of Jesus in the Gospel. In all ages the Church has instituted works to come to their aid. Today, when other needs pre-occupy her, the church is called upon to examine in depth her mission with regard to them in the context of the mystery of Christ our Savior, of whom she is the messenger.
“Believe in me, I will believe in you” reechoes the words of Our Savior: “Abide in me and I will abide in you.” (John 15:4)
Meditating upon the words of Mary, we must give our attention to the invitation repeated four times, when she led the child to the spring and says to her: “Push your hands into the water; this spring is reserved for me.” Is not this gesture an allusion to the “Living water,” symbol of Jesus Christ, such as He disclosed to the Samaritan woman: “The water, which I will give you, will become a spring of water welling up into eternal life. (John 14:1), Paul VI (21/11/64) said: “The Virgin, who has given Christ, the source of grace, will know how to give to the Church a new force for the realization of her mission and for the salvation of the world.” Let us reflect upon the words which the Virgin said in a more serious voice” “I am the Mother of the Savior, Mother of God.” In this not the signature of the whole Message of the Virgin of the Poor? (Mgr. Kerkhofs – Notre-Dame de Banneux). We would not want to forget the loving words of the Virgin addressed to the child: “I will pray for you (personally) --- goodnight – au revoir … adieu (goodbye)” – The Virgin also confided a secret to her.
Finally, the Virgin blessed the child on two different occasions. We can see in this gesture of Our Lady a sending forth on mission: go and proclaim to the whole world what I have confided to you.