Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Beauraing.
Our Lady of Beauraing, Immaculate Virgin, bring to Jesus, your Son, all the intentions that we entrust to you today. Mother of the Golden Heart, reflection of the Father’s tenderness, look upon the men and women of our time with love and fill them with the joy of your presence. You, who promised to convert sinners, help us discover the infinite mercy of our God. Awaken within us the grace of conversion so that our lives may be a reflection of that mercy. Make every moment of our existence “a yes” to the question you ask today: “Do you love my Son? Do you love me?” Then the kingdom of Jesus will come to the world. Amen.
The world was staggering under the burdens of the catastrophic financial collapse of 1929, which led to the Great Depression in 1932. But soon after crawling out of the wreckage, the world was to be hurled once more into a devastating world war—number two—just as Our Lady of Fatima had prophesied!
Through this crucial time of self-determination—repent or be punished—Our Immaculate Mother was watching and endeavoring to lend her sweet assistance to rebellious mankind. Thus, in the Autumn of 1932, as in the Autumn of 1846, Our Lady came once again to young children. This time the country was Belgium, in the valley of Beauraing.
This time it was not to the mountains to which Our Lady came, but to the plains, and to a place which had something of beauty attached to it in the past, as its very name implies, though it was to bear an incomparable loveliness when graced by the immaculate presence of the Queen of Heaven.
Between November 29th, 1932, and January 3rd, 1933, Our Lady appeared thirty-three times to five children: Fernande, Albert, and Gilberte Voisin, and to Andrée and Gilberte Degeimbre. Although Our Lady appeared at various locations in and around the convent grounds, she appeared most of the time on a May tree—Mary’s tree! It was on a tree, also, that she appeared at Fatima, and she is said to have appeared on a tree at Heede, Germany, as well.
There is something significant about these trees on which Our Lady stood! It was through a tree, and that which grew on it, that Adam and Eve sinned, and the human race was damned forever. It was through a tree, and through Him Who hung upon it, that the same human race was Redeemed from that damnation. Now, once again, it is through a tree, and through her who stood upon it, that the sinful world is given the opportunity, and the only means, by which it can be saved from the unspeakable wrath of God at the sight of its countless sins. Many unheard-of atrocities in this world could be avoided, and as Our Lady said at Fatima, many souls could be saved from eternal damnation, if only we would do as she requested of us upon that “noble tree.”
As with Maximin at La Salette, and Francisco at Fatima, so now there appears on the scene another erstwhile skeptic; this time a grown woman, who brings with her a big stick to “knock It” with. On one occasion, Madame Degeimbre started to thrash the bushes, like poor Lucia’s mother at Fatima had thrashed her. But she also later became, like Lucia’s mother, a firm believer in the apparitions.
As at her visits to La Salette and Fatima, Our Lady appeared at Beauraing garbed in an unspeakable light, more dazzling than the sun. Here as at Fatima, she was dressed in spotless white, and both at La Salette and Beauraing she had golden rays shining around her Heart.
As Lucia had asked at Fatima, so Albert repeated here, “What do you wish?” And the first request of Our Lady was: “Always be good.” Thousands of the faithful began flocking to the place of the apparitions, and in December witnessed the children in ecstasy, much like St. Bernadette at Lourdes.
On December 29th, Our Lady appeared, opened her arms and revealed on her breast a Heart of Gold. Her actions were reminiscent of her apparition on June 13, 1917, when she revealed to the Fatima children her Immaculate Heart, surrounded by terrible thorns, which, they were told, were placed there by our sins and blasphemies.
On December 30th, in addition to showing her Heart to three of the children, Our Lady said: “Pray. Pray very much.” On January 1 she said to Gilberte Voisin: “Pray always.” On January 2, she said: “Tomorrow I will speak to each one of you separately.”
A great crowd was on hand for what was to be the final appearance, January 3rd, 1933. After two decades of the Rosary, four of the children gave a joyful shout and fell to their knees. Fernande sobbed because she could not see the vision.
Our Lady gave three of the children a secret, which they never divulged. To one she also promised: “I will convert sinners.” Upon saying “goodbye” to the fourth child, she said: “I am the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven. Pray always.” She then showed the Heart of Gold as she disappeared.
Fernande remained kneeling while the other children went inside the convent to answer questions. Suddenly Our Lady appeared to her and asked: “Do you love my Son? Do you love me?” When Fernande answered “yes” to both questions, Our Lady added: “Then sacrifice yourself for me.” Again she showed her Golden Heart and disappeared, saying: “Goodbye.”
Here again, as the world was rushing to its destruction in the Second World War, Our Lady came at the eleventh hour, to call men back to God, through sacrifice, penance, and prayer!
Tragically, men refused to listen to the Mother of Eternal Wisdom, and men went forward erecting their flimsy temples to false peace and worldly pleasure. Thus, the chastisements came, just as she had predicted. War! The punishment for the sins of mankind! Many priests were martyred: 11,000 were slain by the Communists in Spain alone. Many homes were destroyed, many people were killed, just as she had foretold at Fatima, where she also said that “most of those who die in war go to Hell.”
Hell! A terrifying word; a word which we are told by the Saints to consider daily, but which most so-called Catholics, at the Devil’s suggestion, put out of their minds entirely. Many of them, in fact, following the heresy of the Modernists, don’t even believe that Hell exists! Ah, would that they could, like St. Teresa of Avila or Sister Josefa Menendez, go down into Hell but for a moment or two, and see the countless numbers of apparently “good” people suffering there forever in endless hate, unspeakable rage, and despair. If they could see, as Josefa did, a young girl going down to Hell and cursing her parents the while, because they had permitted her to read suggestive and immoral books!
No wonder Our Lady wept at La Salette! No wonder she opened the earth at Fatima and showed the children a horrifying vision of Hell, and told them, as Our Lord Himself declared in Scripture, that most human beings go there! No wonder the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady is wrenched with sorrow, pierced with thorns and bleeding! But because she is our Mother, the Mother given to us by Jesus from the Cross, she continues her miraculous warnings, to save her little ones from this unimaginable eternity of pain, separated from the infinite Good for which we were created.
So urgent was (is!) the need, and so short the time, that from thence onward, Our Lady began to come much more frequently and with shorter intervals between. The next year was an extra Holy Year, and in that Year, only a few days after her visit to Beauraing, Our Lady appeared again in Belgium, this time at Banneux. Some time later she would come to Heede and then to Marienfried. (1)
OUR LADY TO FERNANDE VOISIN, JANUARY 3, 1933
IN 1932 ALBERT VOISIN was a lively boy of eleven with a fifteen-year-old sister, Fernande. One November evening they called for their friends Andree and Gilberte Degeimbre and made their way to the convent school in their small home town of Beauraing to collect another friend, Gilberte Voisin, at the end of the evening study.
As they waited at the school door Albert suddenly cried out, “Look, the Virgin Mary is walking over the railway bridge!” He was a notorious prankster, so the girls took no notice. But Albert assured them he was not joking. When at last they turned to look, they saw a woman in white strolling through the air above the bridge and the convent garden. The children were afraid and hammered at the door.
Sister Valeria came to the door with Gilberte Voisin. Gilberte looked towards the bridge and she too saw the apparition, but the nun saw nothing and told the children to go home. When she reported the alleged vision to Mother Theophile, the Superior, she was scolded for her credulity. The frightened children ran home to their respective parents, who were deeply skeptical and sent them to bed in disgrace for lying.
+ A SECOND APPARITION
The following day the children were at the convent school as usual to collect Gilberte Voisin when the apparition reappeared. Strangely, the youngsters were not frightened this time. Again they tried to convince Madame Germaine Degeimbre, but without success. She advised Hector Voisin that in future he should collect his daughter from school himself if the two families were not to be held up to ridicule all over the town.
The next evening, at about six o’clock, the Degeimbre children wanted to go to the convent again in the hope that the Virgin would appear. Their mother refused at first, but then she had second thoughts: what if someone was playing a practical joke on the children? She decided to accompany them and get to the bottom of the mystery. Other neighbors joined the group and they all set off for the convent. The children ran ahead and the adults heard their cries of delight: “She is here! She is here again!”
This time the vision appeared on the walkway between the garden and the convent door. Later the children reported that the Virgin was standing three feet above the ground. She wore a white dress and her hands were clasped in a gesture of prayer. Then she opened her arms to welcome them before vanishing. The adults saw nothing.
Later that night, Germaine decided to conduct further investigations on her own. Convinced that the children were not telling lies, she felt someone must be deceiving them with reflections or mirrors. The children begged to be allowed to go with her, and, when they were about to leave the garden, they saw the Lady in the hawthorn. And when they reached the convent they fell to their knees and began reciting the Ave Maria. Germaine walked towards the spot on which their eyes were fixed, but Andree Degeimbre warned her mother not to go further for fear of offending the Virgin. After a few moments the apparition vanished, and the distraught children cried. Germaine and the other adults then made a thorough search of the garden for the supposed trickster, but found no one.
In school the next day, Mother Theophile addressed all the children severely and said there was to be no talk of “visions”. Meanwhile, Madame Degeimbre and Madame Voisin had been to see the parish priest, Father Leon Lambert. The priest said that during Mass on December 8 he would pray for clarification: were the children being duped or was the Blessed Virgin truly visiting them?
+ WE WILL BE GOOD!
The following evening Mother Theophile padlocked the garden gate and let dogs loose in the yard as a further disincentive to the curious. Undeterred, the children went along as usual, followed by a small group of interested adults. Again the Virgin appeared and the young visionaries fell to their knees. The girls were silent but Albert asked them, “Is this the Blessed Virgin?” The Virgin nodded affirmatively, so he added, “What is it you want with us?” Then the girls spoke in chorus, as if in answer to a voice which they alone had heard: “Yes, we will always be good.” After this the vision disappeared.
On Sunday, December 4 the children went again to the convent school at about 6:30 in the evening. This time they took with them a little boy who had polio and a blind uncle of the Degeimbre girls. Again they asked the vision to declare unambiguously whether she was the Blessed Virgin or not. Later they reported that she had nodded her head. They then asked her to heal the two sick people they had brought with them. There was no apparent response.
They returned again on the 5th, and this time the accompanying group had grown into a crowd. Albert asked the Virgin for some sign to convince the adults that the vision was authentic. On the following day, December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, the Virgin appeared holding a rosary and the children at once began to recite it. The Virgin asked them to return on the Thursday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Word of the apparitions had spread throughout Belgium, and on Thursday twelve thousand people turned up. This time the children went into an ecstatic trance during which they were subjected to investigation by doctors who were interested in abnormal psychological states. One Dr. Lurquin lit a match and held it under Gilberte Voisin’s hand. She uttered no cry of pain, and later examination revealed no burn mark. The doctor also nipped and pinched the children, but drew no response.
In the following days not every child saw or heard the same phenomena, and so discrepancies and confusion arose. As a result Mother Theophile suspected that the Devil was involved, so on Christmas Eve she fastened a medallion of St. Benedict to the tree in the garden where the Lady had appeared. The apparitions briefly ceased.
+ PRAY VERY MUCH
They resumed again on December 27, when the Virgin told the children, “My last appearance will happen quite soon now.” On the 29th nine thousand pilgrims arrived in the hope of receiving a miraculous sign. That evening, Fernande Voisin claimed to have seen the Virgin reveal a golden heart radiating heavenly light. She alone saw this phenomenon, which made the subsequent interrogations even more ill-tempered. The youngsters were constantly interviewed and cross-examined by doctors and officials until they were tired out. On December 30, Fernande and Gilberte Voisin and Andree Degeimbre claimed they had seen the luminous golden heart; but only Fernande said she had heard the Lady say, “Pray very much.”
On January 3, 1933, thirty-five thousand pilgrims made the journey to Beauraing. The children at once went into an ecstatic trance and began to pray the Ave Maria in unnaturally high-pitched tones. Each child received a private message from the Virgin; they were all deeply touched and wept openly—–all except Fernande, to whom the Lady had not appeared that evening. She was heartbroken.
Fernande knelt by the gate and began praying the rosary desperately. At that moment there was a brilliant flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. It was apparent from the look on Fernande’s face that she could see the Virgin once again. After this the visions ended.
+ BLESSINGS AND CURES
Enthusiasm for the visionaries’ story competed with a mood of skepticism, so that controversy raged throughout Belgium. In May 1933 the Bishop of Namur set up a committee to evaluate the visions.
Then came the first reports of cures and blessings. A young girl, Pauline Dereppe, was healed of a severe bone disease after praying at Beauraing. A middle-aged woman, Madame Van Laer, was cured of her tuberculosis. As the news spread, the number of pilgrims increased phenomenally: there were two and a half million in 1933 alone.
All the children survived into adulthood, married and raised children. Albert became a missionary schoolmaster in the Belgian Congo. It was not until 1949 that the findings of the committee of inquiry into the apparitions at Beauraing were made public. The Bishop declared, “The Commission has thoroughly studied the events and we are convinced of the supernatural character of the visions.”
+ VISITING THE SHRINE
At the north-west end of the church is the Garden of the Hawthorn, marking the place where Our Lady first appeared to the children. This is also the site of the Railway Bridge. A lovely statue of the Virgin in Carrara marble stands to greet you. Two miraculous cures were officially recorded here: those of Maria Van Laer and Madeleine Acar. Here too are the very paving stones where the visionaries fell to their knees. Under the podium is the Crypt of St. John, which contains a beautiful statue of Our Lady as well as stations of the Cross by Max Van Der Linden.
Don’t leave without visiting the Votive Chapel and the commemorative stone to the pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II on 18 May 1985. Proceed through the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, where Mass is celebrated daily, to the Monumental Arch under which is the Altar to the Queen of Heaven.
At the head of the nave is the Upper Church which is reached by a stairway [there is a ramp for wheelchairs]. On the right is a silhouette entitled The Mother of God, traced by Maurice Rocher and realized in ceramics by Alice van der Gaast. Under the Upper Church you find the Rosary Church with the ceramics of the Mysteries of the Rosary by Max Van Der Linden and also the metal stations of the Cross by the Swiss artist Willi Buck.
Between the shrine steps and the Town Hall is the Marian Museum, which displays souvenirs of the apparitions including clothing Worn by the visionaries themselves. Each year tens of thousands visit the chapel built near the little convent school. Beauraing has become one of the best-loved of all the shrines of Our Lady.
On 21/22 of August each year an international pilgrimage takes place and the anniversary of the apparition is celebrated on November 29.
The Beauraing cemetery contains the tombs of Andree Degeimbre and Fernande Voisin. (4)
Image: Notre dame au coeur d’or, Sanctuaire de Beauraing, Belgique, photo by: Tnd (5)
Research by REGINA Staff