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OTHER TITLE: “The Virgin of the Poor”

VISIONARY: Mariette Beco (11)


FIRST APPARITION: January 15, 1933

LAST APPARITION:  March 2, 1933

​APPROVED:  August 22, 1949



"I am the Virgin of the Poor," ...

"I have come to relieve suffering."



  Fifty miles to the northeast of Beauraing, Belgium, in the French speaking part of Belgium, is the small town of Banneux. The villagers vowed in 1914 to consecrate their town to Our Lady if it escaped the ravages of war. Banneux was unharmed during World War I, and the village was thereafter called “Banneux Notre Dame.”


  Only twelve days after Our Lady of Beauraing, the Lady with the Golden Heart, said "Goodbye" to the five children in Beauraing, Belgium, she made her presence felt again in Banneux Notre Dame (Banneux), Belgium, when she appeared to young (11 years old) Mariette Beco as the Virgin of the Poor. Mariette received eight visits from Our Lady beginning on January 15, 1933 and ending on March 2, 1933. Due to the closeness in time of Beco’s claims and the end of the Beauraing apparitions, many thought Beco was making the apparitions up. But these doubts would soon subside. 


  Just as Beauraing was seen as a continuation of Fatima, Banneux could be seen as a renewal of the message of Lourdes. Mary appeared in similar dress as she did at Lourdes, with a blue sash, and dedicated a spring of water to healing. Unlike Lourdes, the spring of water already existed, and was not ‘miraculously’ discovered. Mary told Mariette that the spring was set apart for her (Our Lady), for all the nations, and for the sick. 


  Similar to Beauraing, Mary claimed in Banneux that: “I come to relieve the sick” and “I come to relieve suffering.” Further, Mary told Mariette, “Have faith in me…I shall trust you…pray earnestly.”


  Mary’s message in Banneux is one of healing. She wants people to experience this healing in their hearts. Violence and strife causes wounds, such as anger and hatred, to fester within, but Mary wants us to experience a great healing of these afflictions. She wants us to have faith that all of this will pass, and God’s healing and peace will reign.




  Belgium is a small country in northern Europe between France and Germany. The sensation caused by the thirty-three reported appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Beauraing, Belgium, had the country all abuzz, and Catholics were flocking there by the thousands to become part of the excitement. Word of these events were just wafting into the little Belgian hamlet of Banneux.


  Banneux is a poor farm village built around its church. It doesn't appear on maps. It is dependent on the people of Louveigne and is 25 km from Liege, the capital of the province. The town is found in a small plateau in the Belgian Ardennes at an altitude of 325 m. It is surrounded by beautiful valleys of Ambleve, Vesdre, and Hoëgne.


  The Beco family was not a pious one. The 15th of January was a Sunday and Mariette missed Mass again (it seems this was an ordinary occurrence in this family). Mariette was the oldest, born on March 25, 1921. (The feast of the Annuncation coincided that year with Good Friday). At 11 years old, and the eldest of seven children, she was neither intelligent nor stupid, yet she did very badly in Catechism Class. She had stopped going for First Holy Communion instructions. She was a product of her environment, which was, in a word, hopeless. Her father was an unemployed wiremaker. He had no use for God or the Church. He was born a Catholic, but that was a long time ago. He hadn't been near a church for years.  Julian Beco couldn't care less that his eldest daughter had given up her religious training. His attitude infected the household. There was nothing in the house of a religious nature. His wife, Louise, followed his lead. God had no place in their home.She wasn't very devout before her experience with Our Lady. Nevertheless, she had a small image of Our Lady on her night stand, she kept a rosary she had found, and occasionally prayed it before going to sleep.


  The Beco family was poor (by Belgian standards). Their small two-story, built by Mariette’s father, consisted of four rooms including a combined kitchen and living room and a tiny bedroom downstairs, and two small bedrooms upstairs, rather cramped quarters for a family of eleven.


  Mariette rarely attended school. All her spare time was spent in helping her mother with the tasks of the household and looking after her younger siblings. She was a rough-and-tumble girl who had no time for flights of the imagination, and was very forward in manner and bold in speech. She had a reputation for always speaking the truth, though not out of any pretense for virtue, but rather because she was fearless of any negative consequences it might bring her.




  On the night of Sunday, January 15, 1933, Mariette was downstairs with her mother, who was tending to her latest infant, while Mariette kept a watchful eye on another sibling who lay sick in his crib. Mr. Beco, still wearing his day clothes, had fallen asleep in the back of the room and was snoring softly.


  Mariette was beginning to worry, because it was seven o'clock in the evening, and her ten year-old brother Julian was still not home. She knelt on the bench under the living-room window and pulled aside the bed sheet serving as a curtain so she could peer out into the front yard to look for him. The familiar small, wild looking vegetable garden extended to the wire and wood-staked fence that separated the Beco yard from the road, but tonight it contained something unfamiliar as well. Standing just a few feet away from the window, in the middle of an onion patch, was the luminous figure of a beautiful young woman. Momentarily startled, Mariette realized her oil lamp must be playing tricks on the frosty window pane, so she moved the lamp away until there was no resulting reflection from it at all in the window. The Woman remained where she stood however, and greeted Mariette with a gentle smile.


  "Mother!" Mariette cried out, "A most beautiful Lady. shining with light. is standing in our garden!"


  Mrs. Beco, who was nursing her infant nearby, merely scoffed and continued rocking.


  "No, mother, really, she's there!" Mariette said. She went on to describe the Lady as being about five feet tall, and clothed in an "impossibly-white" dress girded with a sky-blue sash overhung with two streamers that ended just above the right knee. A nearly transparent veil was draped over the Lady's head which was inclined a little to the left. At the level of her breast, the Lady's hands were joined together in prayer. A gold rosary hung from her right hand. Only her right foot was visible, and it was bare except for a small golden rose set on top of it.


  Louise Beco laughed at her daughter's fanciful description. "Perhaps it is the Blessed Virgin!" the woman patronized sarcastically. Unimpressed she continued to rock and nurse. When Mariette insisted that she should come and look for herself, her mother finally arose from her seat and looked out the window. Louise Beco was surprised to indeed see a luminous form of human shape in the garden, but it was vague and exhibited none of the striking details her daughter was reporting. "It is a witch!" Mrs. Beco exclaimed leaping away and dropping the sheet back over the window. Mariette calmly lifted the curtain again and gazed back out at the luminous visitor.


  "It really is Our Lady!" the girl said with certainty. "She is smiling at me! She is so beautiful!"


  Remembering a rosary she had found in the road not long ago, Mariette went to get it and returned to the window. Mariette said two or three decades of the rosary before the Lady beckoned with her finger for Mariette to come outside. Mariette dropped the curtain and begged her mother to let her go out and meet the Lady. Mrs. Beco soundly refused, and locked the front door. When Mariette returned to the window, the Lady was gone. Shortly after, her brother Julian arrived home. After being questionned he declared he had not seen any "ghosts" outside in the yard and told his sister she was a fool. The story was dropped for the night.


  The next day, when her father heard the story, he told his daughter she was crazy, but became intrigued when his wife admitted to having seen something as well. He had Mariette show him the exact spot where the Lady had stood and that night he experimented with the lamp to try to re-create the vision, but the beam consistently fell into the road instead of the garden. He then poured a bucket of water on the spot, waited for it to freeze over, and experimented with the lamp again. The results were the same.


  That same day, Monday, Mariette surprised everyone by going to school for the first time m two months. There, she confided her secret to her best fiiend, Josephine, who insisted Mariette tell the parish priest of Banneux, Father Louis Jamin. When Mariette recoiled at this, Josephine took it upon herself to tell Father Jamin after school that Mariette had seen "the Blessed Virgin" the night before. Mariette completely lost her nerve at this declaration—she, who was afiaid of nothing—and fled the scene.


  "The Blessed Virgin isn't seen as easily as that,” Father Jamin told Josephine with a smile. "Mariette must have heard about the children of Beauraing and now believes that she has also seen Our Lady."


  Josephine found Mariette hiding nearby and told her what the priest said. Mariette burst into tears—to Josephine's amazement—and insisted she was certain about what she saw.


  Mariette returned to school on Tuesday and Wednesday, and with great determination applied herself to her studies, particularly her Catechism. On the evening of Wednesday, January 18, after all her household duties were finished Mariette bundled up and went outside without a word to anyone. Unbeknownst to her, she was silently shadowed by her father. The temperature that night was a mere twelve degrees.


  She knelt in the same spot in the garden where the Lady had appeared before, and began to pray the rosary. Far away in the distance, up in the sky, Mariette saw the shining figure of the Lady moving toward her. The figure of Our Lady passed between the tops of two pine trees on the other side of the road and came to rest directly in front of Mariette, but just above the ground. Our Lady was standing on a cloud that Mariette described as "smoky". The girl greeted her beautifiil visitor with outstretched arms.


  Unable to see the Lady for himself, Mr. Beco was nonetheless struck by his daughter's motions—and emotions— and jumped on his bicycle to fetch Father Jamin. The priest wasn't home, so Mr. Beco returned with a neighbor, Michel Charlesche, and Charlesche's eleven-year-old son. The trio returned just in time to see Mariette leave the Beco property and walk down the road in their direction.


  "Where are you going?”, her father exclaimed as she walked right by them. "Come back!"


  "She is calling me!" Mariette answered. With the witnesses following behind her, Mariette continued to walk in the direction the Lady was floating. Two times in the journey the Lady stopped, at which point Mariette was thrown to her knees with a force that frightened her father and neighbors, but the girl appeared as if she didn't feel anything. After rising for the final time, Mariette started walking again and then abruptly turned right, following the Lady off the road and into the pine woods. She stopped at the brink of a small stream, and Mariette knelt down while the Lady alighted on the opposite bank


  "Plunge your hands into the water," the Lady commanded. The water was almost completely frozen, but Mariette didn't hesitate in complying. The Lady spoke again: "This spring is reserved for me. “Au revoir”. Then she disappeared. Mariette returned home with her father while Mr. Charlesche went to the rectory to see if Father Jamin had come back. He found the priest there, and together they went to the Beco home, but Mariette had gone to bed, so Father Jamin listened to the testimony of her father and the two neighbor witnesses before returning to the rectory.


  The next day, Father Jamin contacted the Bishop of Liege about what Mariette was reporting, and then the priest asked a number of persons whose judgment he trusted to go to the Beco home and observe anything further that might take place. Around seven o'clock that night, Mariette knelt in the garden in front of her house and began to pray the rosary. Once again the Lady appeared to her, just as before, and Mariette asked her to please tell her who she was.


  "I am the Virgin of the Poor," the Lady replied.


  As on the previous night, Mariette rose to her feet and began following the Lady to the spring, dropping to her knees in the same two places she had the night before. When they reached the spring, Mariette asked "My Lady, yesterday you said 'this spring is reserved for me'. Why for me?"


  The Lady laughed gently, then, smiling beautifully, she answered: "This spring is for all nations. To relieve the sick. I will pray for you. Au revoir." When she finished speaking she disappeared.


  The Virgin of the Poor returned the following night, January 20, to Mariette in the Beco garden at about the same time. This time they did not leave the Beco property. Mariette asked the Lady what she wanted, and the Virgin replied, "I would like a small chapel." After saying this, the Lady's hands—always held together in prayer at her breast—suddenly parted and she made the Sign of the Cross in the air before Mariette with her right hand. At this motion, Mariette collapsed unconscious onto the ground. When she was carried indoors and placed on her bed she recovered immediately, and gave an account of what had transpired.


  Our Lady did not appear to Mariette again until February 11, but that did not prevent the girl from going to pray the rosary in her usual spot in the garden night after night waiting for her. While her mother discouraged her from getting her hopes up that the Lady would ever return, Mariette was certain she would see her again because the Lady had always parted from her after saying Au revoir (goodbye) rather than Adieu (farewell), a more final implication. Sometimes Mariette would be accompanied in her vigils only by her father, or sometimes several people at a time, but on some nights when the bitter winter weather was too severe, the girl would kneel alone in the garden praying the rosary, waiting for the Lady to come.


  Mariette's faith was rewarded on the evening of February 11, the Feast of Our Lady's appearance at Lourdes. After the initial greeting in the garden, the Virgin drew the girl back to the spring in the pine woods, where she declared what are perhaps the most comforting words ever uttered in a Marian apparition: "I have come to relieve suffering." (These words could also have been in anticipation of what was coming. The winds of the most terrible war in human history began to bluster and Our Lady was providing in advance another oasis where people could seek solace in their hardship.) After speaking this beautiful phrase, the Lady said "Au revoir", and disappeared leaving Mariette to weep, on the bank of the spring.


  The Virgin returned to the Beco garden on the evening of February 15. At the request of Father Jamin, Mariette asked for a sign to show him proof that the girls visions were genuine. "Believe in me; I shall believe in you" was the Lady's answer. Her gentle smile then faded, and, with a serious expression on her face, she continued with “Pray a great deal.” This last exhortation was repeated two more times. Our Lady also imparted a secret to Mariette, which she told her never to reveal. Finally she said her customary “Au revoir” , and disappeared. Mariette bowed her head and wept.


  The next apparition occurred on February 20. This, Our Lady’s seventh visit to Mariette, began in the Beco garden, and ended at the banks of the hidden spring, the Virgin smiling all the while. Just before she disappeared, however, Our Lady's smile faded and with the same serious expression as on the previous visit, she said to Mariette: "My dear child pray a great deaL" After she left, Mariette sank to the ground and wept again.


  Almost two weeks passed before MarIette saw her again, but the girl's nightly vigils in her garden continued without interruption. On the night of March 2, 1933, a woman held an umbrella over Mariette's head during a cold, bitter rain while the girl led the small group that had gathered for the rosary. When the Lady did not appear after the completion of the first rosary, Mariette began a second. When the second rosary finished, the rain stopped, the clouds blew away, and a crisp starry sky took their place. "Here she comes!" Mariette announced as she saw the Virgin make her usual approach between the tops of two particular pine trees across the road. For what was to be the final time, the smoky cloud bearing the Blessed Virgin came to rest just above the ground in front of Mariette kneeling in the garden.


  "I am the Mother of the Savior, Mother of God." The Lady pronounced solemnly, without a smile. "Pray a great deal. Adieu, until we meet in God." The Blessed Virgin parted her hands, placed the palm of her left hand on the top of Mariette's head, and with her right hand made the Sign of the Cross in the air over the girl the way a priest does during Mass. As she rose into the air and disappeared, Mariette collapsed onto the ground and wept inconsolably. In between sobs the girl poured forth Hail Mary after Hail Mary. After being carried inside her house, Mariette gave an account of what had transpired and affirmed that Our Lady would never appear to her again. "This time she said 'Adieu'. She will not come again," were her words before breaking down into another round of tears.






  Father Jamin's faithful reports to the Diocese of Liege of everything that happened in Banneux prompted the Bishop to open an official investigation into the eight apparitions claimed by Mariette Beco, and the no more than forty witnesses to her behavior during the alleged visits. As time went on and the word spread, pilgrims began to flock to Banneux and numerous physical cures and even larger numbers of spiritual conversions took place, mostly in connection with the pious use of the water from the spring the Blessed Virgin had disclosed to Mariette. To Father Jamin's great surprise and what he would come to be satisfied with as his sign from the Blessed Virgin—was the return of Mariette's family to the practice of the Catholic Faith.


  On May 21, 1985, Pope John Paul III made an historic visit to the Shrine at Banneux, prayed before the beautiful statue of Our Lady, the Virgin of the Poor, and drank the water from the spring. On this occasion, the Pontiff said "Today, the poor—and there are many forms of poverty—feel at home in Banneux. The poor come here seeking consolation, courage, hope, and union with God during their trials. I encourage those pilgrims who come here to pray, always and with the whole Church, to reflect the merciful face of God."




  Only seven months after the apparitions, the Bishop approved the consecration of a chapel constructed by a group of laymen to fulfill Our Lady's request, although the Bishop made no ruling on the apparitions themselves.


  In a Pastoral Letter dated March 19, 1942, Bishop Kerkofs approved public devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary at Banneux under her requested title of "Virgin of the Poor". On August 22, 1949, he released his Pastoral Letter declaring that the apparitions of the Mother of God to Mariette Beco were genuine and worthy of belief, and that Banneux was to become a shrine suitable to the wishes made by Our Lady there.




  Never having revealed the secret Our Lady entrusted to her during the sixth apparition, Mariette after the visions, avoided the limelight, and sought only to disappear when pilgrims came to meet and talk to her. She would later confess that had she known she would become so famous because of the apparitions she would never have said a word to anyone about them and would have built a little chapel herself in the garden for Our Lady.


  Mariette’s life in the world has not been without difficulty. She married, had two children and with her husband operated a restaurant in Banneux before opening a chip (filed potatoes) shop in Pepinster, a few kilometers from Banneux. The marriage, however, was not a happy one and ended in divorce. Through it all, Mariette has remained devoted to the One she saw. During Pope John Paul II's visit to the shrine in 1985, she went and met privately with him in the sacristy of the shrine chapel.


  Mariette died on December 2, 2011, at the age of 90. In 2008 she made a final statement about her role in the apparitions: “I was no more than a postman who delIvers the mail. Once this has been done, the postman is of no importance any more”.



Prayer to Our Lady of Banneux (Belgium): O Virgin of the Poor, May you ever be blessed! And blessed be he who designed to send you to us. What you have been and are to us now, you will always be to those who, like us, and better than us, offer their faith and their prayer. You will be for all of us what you revealed yourself to be at Banneux: Mediatrix of all graces, the Mother of the Savior, Mother of God, a compassionate and powerful mother who loves the poor and all people, who alleviates suffering, who saves individuals and all humanity. Queen and Mother of All Nations, lead us all to Jesus, the true and only source of eternal life. Amen. 



Garabandal Journal, March-April 2011; The Virgin of the Poor, Marc Conza

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