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OTHER TITLES: Our Lady of Hope; Madonna of the Crucifix

VISIONARY(S): Eugene Barbadette (12), Francoise Richer (11), Jeanne-Marie Lebosse (9), Eugene Friteau (6)


FIRST APPARITION: January 17, 1871

LAST APPARITION:  January 17, 1871

​APPROVED:  February 2, 1872

FEAST DAY: January 13th


“But pray my children. God will hear you in a short time. 

My Son permits Himself to be touched.”




  For the third time within thirty years, in the 19th Century in Europe, Our Lady made a brief (3.5 hours) but powerful appearance, this time at Pontmain, France. She said nothing orally, but her messages were unfurled in the form of banner in the sky, to be seen only by the four young visionaries (and the Prussian army).


  The French army was quickly falling to the militarily superior Prussian army which had invaded Paris and now were headed toward Pontmain whose citizens were fearing for their lives. The parish priest, Father Guerin, instructed the children to pray to the Blessed Mother for protection.


  Our Lady heard the prayers and interceded on their behalf to God. On January 17, 1871, Our Lady appeared to four children (and the Prussian army). She appeared in the sky with all her beauty as a young 18-20 year old and gave all of her messages via a banner in the sky. The Prussian army halted its advance and within a few days retreated, abandoning the country they had planned to invade and occupy.


  Once again, as she had done at Rome, Italy, in 1842, and in Filippsdorf, Czech Republic, in 1866, Our Lady displayed the Wisdom, Power, and Merciful Tenderness conferred to her by the Adorable Trinity (Three Hail Mary’s Devotion). She listened to the prayers of the children at Pontmain, appeared only once, said nothing orally, but delivered her messages so as to achieve the maximum impact.




  Our Lady’s zeal for the salvation of France in the nineteenth century is prominent in the string of appearances she made there over the century in just a short time: Paris (Miraculous Medal),1830; Paris again (the Green Scapular), 1840; and Lourdes, 1858. Her predilection for this country during this period is understandable when one considers that the Catholic faith of the French back then had been heavily eroded by Jansenism and the godless belief systems that had been birthed by the so-called “Age of Enlightenment.”


  In 1861, Kaiser Wilhelm I ascended the throne of Prussia, and immediately appointed the infamous Prince Otto von Bismark as his chancellor. Their goal was to unite all German-speaking states into a single country.  Together, they assumed an aggressive, bellicose stance. To assert as well as to test its position among their neighbors, Prussia waged three quick wars: First, against Denmark in 1864 taking Holstein; second, against Austria in 1866 putting Prussia in control of Germany; and finally, against France in 1870.


  France was all but abandoned by Almighty God in the fall and winter of 1870-71, one of several consequences foretold by our Blessed Lady at La Salette for the country’s mass desertion of the Catholic Faith.


​  On July 19, 1870, France declared war on Prussia (Germany) at the provocation of von Bismarck, whose attempts to form a German empire in the east had become more aggressive. But France, already weakened by the bloody revolutions the Blessed Virgin had warned about at La Rue du Bac, yielded little resistance to the forces of von Bismarck; thus, the country was overrun in very little time. Young men from all over France were drafted to help devend their country, but it seemed to be in vain.


  On August 1, 1870, the first cannon was fired, and the Franco-Prussian War had begun. The French army quickly fell to the militarily superior Prussian army. By December 27, the Prussians had invaded Paris. Now they turned to the western provinces of Normandy and Brittany.


  In 1871, one picturesque little village about 180 miles west of Paris remained a model of an ideal Catholic society. Pontmain was a farming hamlet with scarcely 100 residents at the time, who credited the devotion and good example of their pastor, Abbe Guerin, with helping them keep the Faith. No one had worked on Sunday, and seldom was the Lord’s name heard in vain. The village children, raised properly and religiously in the fear of God, respected and obeyed their parents. Three Sisters of the Society of Sisters Adorers of the Justice of God instructed the children on both religious and secular lessons.


  The happy and peaceful way of life heretofore enjoyed in Pontmain was marred when several young men of the village were conscripted to join the army. The conscription was necessary, however, because in January, 1871, the enemy troops, harboring an intense desire to take Laval, the closest major city after Fougeres and the seat of the diocesan Bishop, were ready to make their move. 


  Monsieur and Mademoiselle Barbadette were particularly fearful for their eldest son, Auguste, who had been conscripted into the army on September 23 of the previous year. Their other two sons, Eugene, aged 12, and Joseph, 10, made it a habit to rise early every morning since their older brother had been drafted, to pray a rosary for his welfare.


  By mid-January, 1871, the Prussian army was just a few miles from the town of Pontmain, which was located right inside the French defensive line. The citizens feared for their lives as the parish priest, Father Guerin, instructed the children to pray to the Blessed Mother for protection.




  On the evening of Tuesday, January 17, at about five o’clock, twelve-years-old Eugene Barbadette was leaving his father’s barn. He looked up into the starry sky and saw a beautiful Lady standing in the air, about twenty feet above the roof line and between the two chimneys of Jean and Augustine Guidecoq’s home across the way. The Lady was wearing a dark blue dress covered with gold stars, a black veil, and a simple gold crown. Eugene stood there entranced in the snow for about fifteen minutes. His father and ten-year-old brother, Joseph, came out of the barn. Eugene cried out, “Look over there! Above the house! What do you see?” Joseph described the Lady in the same way Eugene had seen her. Their father did not see her, so he sternly ordered them to return to feeding the horses in the barn.


  For whatever reason, a little later, the father told the brothers to go out and look again. They again saw her. Joseph kept saying, “How beautiful she is! How beautiful she is!” Their mother, Victoria Barbadette, had now appeared on the scene, and told Joseph to be quiet since he was attracting so much attention. Knowing that the boys were honest and did not lie, she said, “It is perhaps the Blessed Virgin who appears to you. Since you see her, let us say five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys in her honor.” (The brothers were truly pious: They had begun their day serving Holy Mass, reciting the Rosary and offering the Stations of the Cross for the intentions of their older brother, serving in the French army.)


  After reciting the prayers in the barn so as not to attract attention, Mrs. Barbadette asked if the children still saw the Lady. When they replied, “Yes,” she went for her eyeglasses. When she returned, bringing their sister Louise with her, neither of them saw anything. The mother’s mood changed, and she accused them of lying.


  Mrs. Barbadette then thought of calling the religious sisters. She said, “Sisters are better than you are. If you see, they will certainly see, too.” Sister Vitaline also knew that the boys were honest.  However, she too could not see the Lady. Sister Vitaline then went to a neighboring house, and asked two little girls, Francoise Richer (age eleven) and Jeanne-Marie Lebosse (age nine) to come with her. The two girls described the Lady in the same way.


  Sister Marie Edouard had now joined the group. Upon hearing what the two girls had said, she went to bring Father Guerin and another child, Eugene Friteau (six-and-one-half years old). Eugene also saw the Lady. By this time a large crowd of about fifty villagers had gathered. Augustine Boitin, only twenty-five months old, babbled loudly, “The Jesus! The Jesus!” Her mother, after learning what was happening, tried to distract her daughter by showing her other things, but to no avail; the baby did not take here eyes off the spectacle in the sky, and continued to giggle and squeal in delight at it.


  At this point, a large oval enclosure, with a frame about the width of an open hand, now surrounded the Lady. Ths space between her and the frame, which was the same blue color as her dress, was about a foot and a half. Coming out from the inside of the frame were four candles in holders, two at the height of her shoulders, one on each side, and two level with her knees. Over the woman’s left breast, a little red cross, approximately the size of a finger, appeared at the same time. The entire tableau seemed to be a huge medal in the sky.


  Father Guerin told everyone to pray, so they knelt and said the Rosary. When this happened, the children reported that the Lady rose upwards a bit, and doubled in size. The blue oval frame surrounding the Lady rose upwards a bit, and then doubled in size. The blue oval frame surrounding the Lady also increased in proportion to her new dimensions. A collection of stars not seen by anyone besides the children flew swiftly beneath her feet, just outside the blue oval, where they arranged themselves into rows of twos underneath her. At the same time, additional stars appeared on her robe, a sight one of the visionaries described as like being a hill covered with ants. “Soon she will be all golden!”


  The rosary finished, Sr. Marie Edouard led the crowd in reciting the Magnificat, and then the rosary was taken up again. Joseph Babin then suddenly appeared on the scene. Ignorant of the reason for the assembly, he pushed his way through the crowd to where he could speak and be heard by all as he said “You have only to pray!, the Prussians are at Lavel!”, only a mile away from the city, and its citizens there were packed inside the old sanctuary of Avenieres beseeching God and His mother to rescue them. The villagers of Pontmain were not a bit distressed by the news, however, remarking: “They could be at the entrance of our village and we would not be afraid.”


​  At about 7:30 pm, the visionaries reported that more words had appeared on the banner beneath the Lady’s feet: “Mais priez, mes enfants.” (But pray my children.) All of the children saw the same message.


  The Litany of Our Lady of Loreto was begun, and by the time it finished, more words had been to the celestial banner: “Dieu vous exaucera en peu de temps” (God will hear you in a short time)


  These new letters emblazoned on the banner, occupied the same line as the first phrase, so that it was now a complete sentence. After the word “time”, a period the size of the letters themselves appeared, with a brilliance comparable to the sun, but by which the children were not dazzled. When the visionaries read out the entire sentence, the crowd exploded into sobs, shouts, and joyous exclamations. The Lady fixed her gaze on the children and widened her beautiful smile. “Look, she smiles!” they cried out together. Suddenly the children burst into both laughter and tears at the same time. “Oh look, she is laughing too!”


  The hymn “Inviolata” was begun immediately. As soon as the first words were uttered, the visionaries announced that more letters were beginning a second sentence below the first on the shimmering banner. At the precise moment the townsfolk finished singing the words, “O sweet and beloved Mother of Christ!”, the four children had spelled out, letter by letter, the words: Mon Fils - (My Son)..


  Emotion swept through the crowd. The children began to jump up and down exuberantly, shouting happily: “It is indeed the Blessed Virgin! It is she, it is she!” As soon as the “Inviolata” was finished, the Salve Regina was begun, during which the rest of the second sentence of Our Lady’s Message was written: se laisse toucher - (permits Himself to be touched). One cannot imagine the joy of the crowd when the entire Message penetrated through the fears of the villagers of Pontmain: But pray my children. God will hear you in a short time. My Son permits Himself to be touched. So Our Lady was telling them that God had heard their prayers and fears about the invasion of soldiers, and that he would answer their needs shortly. He would answer because He is a God who allows Himself to be touched by pleading and prayers.


  The joyous shouting of the villagers quickly subsided, however, as the visionaries called out that the words “My Son permits Himself to be touched” on the banner were being underlined by a golden bar, as if the Blessed Virgin wished to emphasize the encouraging phrase. Then the venerable Father Guerin advised: “Let us sing another hymn to the Blessed Virgin!” and they all began singing “Mother of Hope.” During the entire apparition, Our Lady’s hands had been lowered with the palms facing outward in the gesture with which Catholics are familiar. However, as the people sang the words of this particular hymn, the Blessed Virgin raised her hands to the height of her shoulders, and with the singing of the hymn, gently kept time by moving her fingers. The visionaries reported this new detail with great delight. Near the end of the eight-verse hymn, the gold inscription that had remained for about ten minutes on the celestial banner slowly disappeared. According to the children, “a roller the color of the atmosphere” next passed over the letters, erasing them from sight.


  Suddenly, the faces of the four visionaries assumed expressions of deep sadness, reflecting the change that had now clouded the Virgin’s countenance. “Look, she is becoming sad again!” they reported. “oh look, now something else is happening!” The four children watched with bated breath as a blood-red cross, about a foot in height appeared in front fo the Blessed Virgin. The Body of the crucified Christ on the Cross was of the same crimson color. The crucifix was perhaps a foot or so in front of the sorrowful Virgin. Her hands, which had remained level with her shoulders during the singing of “Mother of Hope”, now lowered and closed themselves around the bottom portion of the cross. Taking the crucifix thus, she inclined it toward the children, as if she were offering it to them for veneration. At the top of the crucifix, where one normally sees the inscription “INRI”, was instead a long, whilte banner on which wre written in letters of scarlet coloring: JESUS CHRIST.


  The sorrow that had transformed Our Lady’s features deepened. Joseph Barbadette would later testify before the ecclesiastical commission that investigated the apparition, that, “Her face was marked with a deep sorrow...the trembling of her lips at the corners of her mouth showed deep feeling... But no tears ran down her cheeks...It was truly the Mother of Christ at the foot of her Son’s cross.”


  At that moment, one of the stars that had lined up underneath Our Lady’s feet shot upward toward the left and passed through the blue oval. Once inside the barrier, the star continued moving upward on the innerwall of the frame until it lit the candle at the height of her knees. It moved up to light the candle at her shoulder, and then arced over Our Lady’s head and down the right side of the frame where it lit the candles corresponding with those on the left side. When this was finished, the star moved up again, penetrated the blue oval at the top, and positioned itself over the Blessed Virgin’s head, but beneath the top star of the triangle which had been present from the beginning of the apparition.


  As Sister Mary Edward began the hymn “Ave Maria Stella”, the red crucifix disappeared from Our Lady’s hands. She then lowered her arms to the position that they had been in before, and a little white Cross, about one and a half inches high, appeared on each of her shoulders. At the same moment, the profound sorrow seen in her features disappeared, and her countenance became bright and happy again.


  Finally, the visionaries reported that a great white veil had appeared under Our Lady’s feet. It slowly began to rise up in front of her figure until it covered her from view from the waist down. After a pause, the veil continued to rise again, until nothing was seen of her except her face with its beautiful smile. When her face, too, became hidden, the children let out protestations of great sadness. Nothing was visible now except the cap-like crown on her head, the oval, the stars, and the candles. Eventually, all of these disappeared too until nothing remained now except the familiar constellations set against the backdrop of the night sky. Eugene and Joseph Barbadette were fighting back their tears, Francoise and Jeanne-Marie were weeping unabashedly, and the boot maker’s baby had become very quiet. It was approximately 8:45pm.




Our Lady to the Rescue


  It was the following morning when the villagers of Pontmain received the news that the previous night, Prussian General Schmidt had been ordered to bring his troops back from Laval at the precise moment he was preparing to overtake it. The time corresponded with the time of the apparition in Pontmain. More amazing still, the Prussian soldiers involved in this invastion were astounded that as they neared the city to capture it, they encountered “a Madonna guarding the entrance and forbidding us to advance!” The troops turned back from Laval, and the city was left untouched. Within twelve days, the Prussian army had withdrawn all troops and abandoned France which would otherwise have been forced to surrender. After the armisice was signed, the men that had been conscripted from

Pontmain returned to their village unharmed where they received the joyful news of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s visitation there on January 17, 1871, which brought an end to the war. The miraculous intercession of our Blessed Mother had saved Pontmain.


  Because of this apparition, devotion to Our Lady of Hope spread. The message of our Blessed Mother is that of hope: “But pray my children. God will hear you in a short time. My Son allows Himself to be moved with compassion.” As we offer our Rosary each day seeking the maternal care of our Blessed Mother, we must be mindful she, who stood at the foot of the cross filled with the hope of the forgiveness of sin and the resurrection to everlasting life, affords us hope also during our journey of life. With our Lady of Hope, we indeed have assurance of never being abandoned, and have hope of being united with our Lord now and forever in Heaven.


What happened to the visionaries?


  Eugene Barbadette became a diocesan priest, and served as pastor wherever he was needed. His final parish was that of Chatillon-sur-Volmont where he ministered for seventeen years until his death on May 2, 1927.


  Joseph Barbadette became an Oblate of Mary Immaculate and was at first involved with the pilgrimages that regularly went to Pontmain as a result of the apparition. After this he had an active priestly life that took him across France and Belgium, but he returned to Pontmain on July 15, 1929, after becoming ill and died there on November 3, 1930.


  Francoise Richer, the only visionary who did not become a religions, worked as a servant and school room assistant. In 1900 she began work as a housekeeper at the rectory of Chatillon-sur-Colmont, and remained there the rest of her life. When Father Eugene Baradette took over, the two reunited visionaries celebrated every anniversary of the apparition be spending the entire day praying the rosary together.


  The most unusual of the four principal visionaries of Pontmain was Jeanne-Marie Lebosse who became Sister Saint-Andre after joining the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux. As time went on, she began to have doubts about the apparition and these doubts only increased until finally in confession she made a complete retraction and was relieved of her role as a visionary, and the responsibilities that went with it. Only after this complete and official retraction did she once again find complete and enduring peace of mind and soul. After an extended illness borne in communion with Christ crucified, Jeanne-Marie went to her eternal reward on December 12, 1933.


Description of Our Lady by Joseph as recorded in his writings


  ”In the air above Augustin Guidecoq’s house, I saw a woman of extraordinary beauty. She appeared to be young, about 18-20 years ofa ge and tall of stature. She was clad in a garment of deep blud. When we were told to describe exactly the shade of blue, we could only do so by comparing it to balls of indigo such as laundresses use for rinsing linen. Her dress was covered with golden stars, pentagonal in form, all of the same size and brilliant, but without emitting rays. They were not very numerous and seemed scattered over the blue without regard to method. The blue garment was ample, showing certain strongly marked folds, and without girdle or compression of any kind from the neck to the feet. The sleeves were ample and long, falling over the hands.

  On the feet, which the dress left uncovered, were chaussons (shoes), the same blue as the dress, and ornamented with golden bows. On the head was a black veil, half covering the forehead, concealing the hair and ears, and falling over the shoulders. Above this was a golden crown resembling a diadem, higher in front than elsewhere and widening out at the sides. A red line encircled the crown at about the middle. The hands were small and extended toward us as in the ‘miraculous medal’ but without emitting rays.


  The face was slightly oval. To the freshness of youth was added exquisite delicacy of feature and of tine, the complexion being pale rather than otherwise. Smiles of ineffable sweetness played about the mouth. The eyes, of unutterable tenderness, were fixed on us. I give up further attempting to describe the beautiful figure of her who looked down upon us and smiled. Like a true mother, she seemed happier in looking at us than we in contemplating her.”




  On March 13, 1866, Bishop Wicart of the diocese of Laval ordered a canonical investigation to begin of the Pontmain event. Two months later during a Confirmation ceremony in the town, pleased by the testimony of the visionaries, he announced his personal belief in the authenticity of the apparition and granted permission for a new church to be built for which he personally laid the cornerstone.


On February 2, 1872. only a year after it took place, he declared it worthy of belief and officially authorized devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Pontmain under the title: “Our Lady of Hope”.




Prayer to Our Lady of Hope (Pontmain, France)  O Mary, my mother, I kneel before you with heavy heart. The burden of my sins oppresses me. The knowledge of my weakness discourages me. I am beset by fears and temptations of every sort. Yet I am so attached to the things of this world that instead of longing for heaven I am filled with dread at the thought of death. O Mother of Mercy, have pity of me in my distress. You are all powerful with your Divine Son. He can refuse no request of your Immaculate Heart. Show yourself a true mother to me by being my advocate before his throne. O Refuge of Sinners and Hope of the Hopeless, to whom shall I turn if not to you? Obtain for me, then, O Mother of Hope, the grace of true sorrow for my sins, the gift of perfect resignation to God's holy will, and the courage to take up my cross and follow Jesus....Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us. Amen.



Garabandal Journal/November-December, 2010: Our Lady of Hope; Marc Conza

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