Apparition at Pontmain
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 neighboring 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 neighbor 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 honor.
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