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OTHER TITLES - Our Lady of Happy Meetings; "Virgin Mary, the Mother of my very dear Divine Son", "Lady Mary".

​VISIONARY: Benoite (Benedicta) Rencurel (17)

NUMBER OF APPARITIONS: Many (over 54 years)



​APPROVED: May 5, 2008

FEAST DAY: September 27th

"I asked my Son for Laus for the conversion of sinners,

and He granted it to me."



  Due to their sensational nature, reported apparitions of Our Lord, His Blessed Mother, or the Saints are seldom welcomed at the outset by Church officials. The cases throughout the centuries that have turned out to be hoaxes, or demonic deceptions, far outnumber those that the Church has officially approved after painstaking investigation, and the embarrassment and backlash suffered by the Church from these debacles have been enough to make any reigning Bishop squirm when he is faced with one in his particular diocese. 

  On the other hand, when a genuine apparition occurs in a locale where the local clergy are disoriented with heretical ideas, an alternate dynamic comes into play that results in a clash of wills between God and His clerics, and scandals of a different type erupt. In cases like these, the genuine apparition undergoes suppression, or even apparent defeat--but only for a time. As with all the ways of God, those events that truly originate from His Hand cannot be hidden for long, and when the moment comes for Him to receive the greatest glory from them, He permits them to emerge triumphant against all apparent odds, and to the confusion of those who would see them finished.  


  The apparitions of Our Lady at Laus, France, represent just such a case. While the apparition at LaSalette was officially approved by the Church only five years after its occurrence, the events at Laus would have to wait no less than 290 years for the same official ecclesiastical recognition. Yet, in the end, the truth did finally prevail, and Heaven's mysterious works there have been validated. In the golden words of the great St. Augustine: "The truth is like a lion: You don't have to defend it. Let it loose, and it will defend itself."


  Nestled in the southern French Alps lies the small farming village of St. Saint-Etienne d'Avancon. On September 16, 1647, Benoite (Benedicta) Rencurel was born -- the second of three girls-- to very poor parents. When Benoite was only seven years old, her father passed away leaving her family in even deeper poverty with debtors seeking payments. There family was in such poverty, that some days they only had stale bread and water to eat. In order to maintain the family, all the children had to work outside the home. Even so, while there was no time for her to be educated at school, Benoite's mother was conscientious of teaching her to pray the rosary and to pray at all times.


  Although high spirited, she was a contemplative soul and enjoyed praying for long periods of time. Her family was faithful in going to Mass and so she was taught through the Sunday homilies and learned about Mary, Mother of God. This particular dogma fascinated the young girl and she spent long periods of time contemplating this mystery while tending the sheep in the fields during the day. This contemplation led to a desire to see Our Lady.


​  During these years of economic crisis, young Benoite began to work as a shepherdess for a neighbor. There is a story that during these years there were men of bad reputation who were heading towards the house, one of whom tried to approach her offering her money for her purity. She fought him off and fled to warn her mother of the approach of the men. When Benoite was 12 years old, her family's financial situation grew even more desperate so she took another job shepherding a second neighbor's flock of sheep.

   When Benoite was 17 years old, she was shepherding the flocks in the field when she saw an old man dressed in the vestments of a bishop of the early Church before her. He asked her: - "My daughter, what are you doing here?"


  "I'm watching my sheep, praying to God, and looking for water to drink."

"I'll get some for you," replied the man as he went to a well that Benoite had not seen.

"You're so beautiful!" she said. "Are you an angel or Jesus?"


  "I am Maurice, to whom the nearby chapel is dedicated . . . My daughter, do not come back to this place. It is part of a different territory, and the guards would take your flock if they found it here. Go to the valley above Saint-Étienne. That is where you will see the Mother of God."

"But Sir, She is in Heaven. How can I see Her there?"

"Yes, She is in Heaven, and on earth too when She wants."



​     The man disappeared, but the next day Benoite did as he told her to and took the sheep to a different field. She was praying a rosary when she saw a resplendent lady holding the hand of a beautiful child standing on a rock. "Beautiful Lady!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing up there?  Do you want to eat with me? I have some good bread which we can soften up at the fountain." This simplicity made Our Lady smile, but she remained silent. Benoite persisted, saying, "Beautiful Lady! Could you give us that child? He would make us so happy." She smiled again, allowed her to hold him, and then disappeared.

  She continued to see Our Lady in the fields as she shepherded her sheep there each day for four months. Our Lady corrected her vivaciousness and her abruptness, her stubbornness and her attachment to things and animals. She taught her the Litany of Loreto by having her repeat what she said, word by word. She had taken Benoite as her student. One day she even invited Benoite to rest beside her and allowed her to sleep on the hem of her mantle. During this time, Benoite had told her employer about the apparitions, but she didn't believe her. One day, she followed young Benoite out to the field and was not able to see Our Lady, but was able to hear her words. During this apparition, Our Lady asked Benoite to warn her employer about the dangers her soul was facing—Her conscience is in a poor state. She must repent! Upon hearing these words, her employer did return to a Christian life--she returned to the sacraments and repented of her sins.

  On August 29, 1664, Benoite asked for Our Lady's name. She responded by saying: "My name is Lady Mary."


  She also told Benoite that she would stopping coming to see her for a while, which saddened Benoite. Yet almost a month later, at the end of September, she sensed that Our Lady was near and rushed toward her. She actually had to ride one of the goats she was tending to cross a river that she was not able to wade through herself. Our Lady then told her that if she wanted to continue to see her, she would have to go to the little chapel in Laus. She searched the next day for a long time to find the little chapel. She knew she had found it when she smelled the sweet smell of flowers and saw the door open. When she arrived, she was thrilled to see Our Lady again waiting for her, but was embarrassed at how dirty and poor the chapel was. She offered her apron for Our Lady to stand on, but Our Lady

assured her that soon the chapel would be well adorned. She asked that a church be built in her honor and promised that many sinners would be converted there.

  Although it was nearly a three mile walk to the chapel, Benoite went frequently to the chapel during the winter of 1664-1665. Over the next few months, the message of Our Lady of Laus began to be clarified. She asked Benoite to pray continuously for sinners. News of the apparitions began to spread throughout the region and pilgrims began coming to the little chapel.

  As the notoriety of the apparitions grew and more people began to make pilgrimages to the little chapel in Laus, people became quite divided regarding the authenticity of the apparitions. The Vicar General of the Diocese of Gap, Father Pierre Gaillard was fully supportive, but wrote to Father Antoine Lambert, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Embrun, in whose territory the chapel fell. Father Lambert was very unsympathetic to the apparitions. On September 14, 1665, he travelled to Laus to meet with Benoite and prove that the apparitions were a hoax. Benoite was frightened, but Our Lady told her: "No, My daughter, you must not run away. You must remain, for you must do justice to churchmen. They will question you one by one and try to catch you with your own words. But don't be afraid. Tell the Vicar General that he can very well make God come down from Heaven by the power he

received when he became a priest, but he has no commands to give the Mother of God."


​  As the questioning began, Father Lambert and the priests who had accompanied him began to ask her questions trying to get her to go back on her word, but she was clear and articulate. Even so, he was convinced of the falsity of the apparitions and threatened to close down the chapel. In response, she spoke to him as Our Lady had told her. Surprised, Father Lambert relented by saying that he needed a miracle to be convinced.


​  Inclement weather prevented him and his companions from leaving Laus that night, so they stayed for another two days. There happened to be a woman in town with a nerve condition that caused her feet to bend backwards to touch her lower back. She had come to the chapel seeking healing through a novena to Our Lady. The night the novena ended, she felt her legs relax--she had been cured. The next morning she entered the chapel on her own while Fr. Lambert was saying Mass. The miracle shocked everyone, including the Vicar. He wrote up the report of the miracle himself saying, "There is something extraordinary occurring in that chapel. Yes, the hand of God is there!" He thus gave permission for the construction of the church that Our Lady had requested.

Sanctuary Lamp Oil   


  During the following winter, the winter of 1665, Our Lady instructed Benoite to use the oil from the sanctuary lamp to anoint those who came to Laus seeking healing and if they apply it with faith and recourse to her, they would be healed. Indeed, numerous reports of miracles and healing were reported--61 cures in the following months.

Laus: A Place for the Conversion of Sinners   


  Our Lady was also making known that Laus be a place of conversion having told Benoite that: "I asked my Son for Laus for the conversion of sinners, and He granted it to me."


  While Benoite had already been sacrificing and praying for sinners, Our Lady now asked her to exhort sinners to go to confession. This was tremendously difficult for Benoite, seeing herself as too unworthy and not being convinced that Our Lady had asked her to do it since she had asked so gently. She describes this saying, "The Mother of God commands me to do it in such a mild manner that I don't believe She absolutely wants it. And when I fail, my good Mother corrects me without getting angry. So because of the shame I feel on admonishing others, I often wait for a second command, and then I obey."

   Our Lady encouraged and admonished her saying: "Take heart, My daughter! Have patience . . . Do your duty cheerfully . . . Bear no hatred towards the enemies of Laus . . . Do not be troubled and sick over it if people do not profit from your advice . . . Do not be disturbed by temptations, visible or invisible spirits, or temporal affairs . . . Strive never to forsake the presence of God, for whoever has any faith will not dare to offend Him."  

Laus: The Refuge of Sinners

   Our Lady specifically asked Benoite to encourage the conversion of women leading impure lives and those who had had abortions. She instructed the visionary to also encourage priests who ministered at the shrine to welcome sinners and pilgrims with charity and warmth. For this reason, Our Lady of Laus became known as the Refuge of Sinners and a place of reconciliation.

Reading of Souls

   To further this grace she was bestowing through her maternal presence at this shrine, she granted Benoite the gift of reading souls which Our Lady encouraged her to use to help people truly recognize their sins. She found it most difficult to reproach the souls that Our Lady asked her to, but when she delayed in her task, Our Lady delayed her visits. She helped them see sins or faults they may not have even been conscious of. Yet, because she was so kind, most people she encountered were very grateful and resolved to amend their lives. She not only had to guide the pilgrims who came so they could truly cleanse their consciences, but she also had to be quite demanding on the priests themselves who ministered to them. She often saw the state of their soul while they celebrated Mass--either surrounded in light or tarnished--and she would warn those whom she saw as 'tarnished'. She warned them about holding grudges, their imprudence in their questions when hearing confessions, and their negligence in their duties. She required from everyone simplicity and purity of soul, humility and a firm will to


Persecution of Menoite

  In 1668, Benoite moved to a little house near the shrine so she wouldn't have to walk the five kilometers from her house to the shrine each day--the path she had been walking already for four years.

  Beginning in 1672, a twenty-year period of great persecution against Benoite and the apparitions at Laus began. After many of the priests who had supported her, especially Father Lambert who had been the Vicar of the diocese, passed away, other priests in positions of authority who denied the authenticity of the apparitions took advantage of the opportunity. A sign was soon posted on the door of the shrine forbidding that Mass be celebrated or that any public devotion take place there. Our Lady told Benoite: "Remove that paper... and let Mass be said here as it was before."


  She was obeyed. It was also during this time that Benoite was kept under house arrest for fifteen years, only being permitted to attend Sunday Mass. Benoite was even threatened with excommunication along with any priest who celebrated Mass in the chapel.


Visions of Christ Crucified and Benoite Sufferings

  The humble shepherd girl could not love Mary without having a deep love for Jesus, Her Divine Son. She had chosen Him as the only Bridegroom of her soul, and she hungered to suffer with Him for the conversion of sinners. There was a Cross overlooking Avançon at the entrance to the vale of Laus. Benoite descended to pray there every day, even when it snowed or rained. Kneeling down, she would gaze at our Saviour on His Cross, and her heart would melt with love and compassion at the thought of all He has done for the salvation of men. To reward her, it pleased our Saviour to appear to her in the reality of His sufferings. She saw Him crucified, bleeding and in agony, with the wounds in His hands, feet and side, and red gashes from the scourging covering His Body.

    Between 1669 and 1679, Benoite received five visions of Christ Crucified. On one of these occasions, July 7, 1673, Christ told her: "My daughter, I am showing Myself to you in this condition so that you may participate in the sorrows of My Passion."


  From that moment on, every Thursday evening through Saturday morning for fifteen years, she experienced in her own body the Passion and Crucifixion of Our Lord.


  The sight of His sufferings caused her such great distress that one day her Guardian Angel came to assure her, saying, "Do not be troubled, my Sister. Although our Divine Master has appeared to you in this condition, He is not suffering anything; it is solely to show you what He suffered out of love for the human race." But these words did not console her. The fact that her good and sweet Master had suffered in that manner and to such an extent was sufficient to maintain the compassion she felt.   


  This caused further ridicule and suspicion from those who were already critical of her and the apparitions. This agony ceased only from 1677-1679 when she was serving food to the workers who were building the house for priests that Our Lady had requested, though they resumed again in November, 1679. Yet while this experience attracted the ridicules of some, it also attracted the veneration of others which was equally as painful for her humility. She pleaded with the Blessed Mother, "May my sufferings be even more cruel if such is God's good pleasure, but let them be less

visible!" The Blessed Virgin appeared to her the following Saturday and responded to her petition: "You will no longer have the Friday sufferings, but you will have many others."

  She certainly did have "many others." The devil's rage could be felt increasingly all around her. What is more, Christ always marks the authenticity of His works with the seal of His Cross.



  In July of 1692, everyone who assisted at the shrine, including Benoite, and much of the population around Laus had to flee because of the invasion of the Duke of Savoy. Upon their return, the bishop appointed two priests who were highly suspicious of the apparitions and were less than zealous for souls--not embodying the charity that Our Lady requested towards sinners and penitents. They even preached on the falsity of the apparitions from the pulpit.


  During this period as well, she suffered many attacks of the devil. Among these attacks were strong temptations against trust in God and chastity and even physical attacks against her person. False 'visionaries' also arose to contradict what Our Lady was trying to accomplish through her apparitions in Laus. One day the devil revealed the reason for his anger and his incessant attacks exclaiming, "She is the reason I am losing so many souls." She remained faithful despite the attacks and temptations of the enemy.

  Finally in 1712, the bishop came around and entrusted the pilgrims flocking to the shrine to the care of a community of priests, the Pères Gardistes, who were described as "a deeply religious group of sound doctrine, moved by an ardent desire for the apostolate." They endeavored to meet Our Lady's request, bringing the pilgrims to the intercession of Our Lady and the devotion to the Sacred Heart which was beginning to be propagated. Even with the pilgrims now in good hands, Benoite still suffered the torments of the devil through which she remained faithful to Our Lady. For a moment when Our Lady stopped visiting for a period to purify her, Satan cried out, "She has forsaken you . . . You will no longer have any recourse but in me!" Benoite replied, "Oh, I would rather die a thousand times forsaken by Mary, than forsake Her for a single moment!"


​Bernoite's Death


  The apparitions would continue for the rest of Benoite's life -- for almost 54 years. Six years after the arrival of the Pères Gardistes at the shrine, Benoite fell ill and was bedridden with a very high fever. On Christmas Day of 1718, she asked to receive Holy Viaticum and asked for forgiveness for any bad example she may have given during her life, at which moment Our Lady appeared again leaving a sweet scent in the room. Three days later, she received the last rites at 3:00 PM. The priests who had been serving in the shrine for the last six years were begging the Lord for "two years more" with her, but she knew her time to return home had come. The priests asked for her blessing as her sons, she hesitated in her humility, but then ceded, saying, "It is up to our good Mother to bless you," she said while she raised her hand from her bed, not wanting to refuse them this consolation, and she said to them, "I give it to you most willingly, good Fathers."

  She said goodbye calmly, seeming quite happy and not experiencing agony. At around 8 pm, she asked her goddaughter to pray the Litany of the Child Jesus and she passed away quietly at the age of 71.



The Chapel - Church - Shrine

  During the apparitions, the Blessed Mother asked for a church and a house for priests to be built, with the intention of drawing people to greater conversion, especially through the sacrament of penance. Construction of the requested church was begun in 1666 over the chapel of Bon-Recontre, and was completed in 1669. 

  The little Laus chapel, where more and more wonders were being wrought, could scarcely hold ten or twelve people. It became absolutely necessary to replace it with a bigger church. The construction and the financing of that church constitute part of "the wonders of Laus."

  Although there were no resources at all, construction was undertaken with great enthusiasm. It was above all the poor, the little people, who took up the challenge, made doubly difficult by often impassable access roads. The people of the area and the many pilgrims who went up to Laus would take one or more stones from A vance stream and carry them to the construction site; even the children brought some of their own. Everyone wanted to donate something, whether materials or money. It took a year to gather all the necessary materials. Thanks to Father Gaillard's tenacity, the construction was built according to the indications Our Lady had given Benoite. To the great credit of those in charge, the chapel of Notre-Dame de Bon Rencontre was incorporated into the structure and became the choir of the new church.

  On October 7, 1666, Feast of the Holy Rosary, Father Gaillard laid the first stone of the building, and the Dominican Fathers from Gap presided over a long procession of pilgrims. It was on that occasion that Benoite became a Dominican Tertiary. From then on she wore the tertiary veil and cape, and people began calling her "Sister Benoite."

  Father Gaillard directed the construction work. Benoite saw to everything and motivated the workers. She prepared their meals, prayed with them and spoke words of salvation to them on occasion, sometimes adding a useful word of advice to avoid accidents. As a result of this, throughout the entire duration of the construction, not a single blasphemy was heard and no accidents occurred.


  Within four years, the church was completed (1666-70). An early historian wrote, "The Church of Our Lady of Laus was built to the singing of psalms and hymns. The hands of the poor gathered its materials, donations dug its foundations, Providence raised its walls, and confidence in God.”

  The church in Laus was raised to the rank of a minor basilica in 1893. Today, the shrine itself attracts 120,000 pilgrims each year. Confession is offered for seven hours each day. One of the emphases of the shrine is reconciliation with God, with oneself, and with others.

  The Catholic philosopher Jean Guitton describes the Shrine at Laus as "one of the most powerful and hidden shrines of Europe" barely attracting 150,000 pilgrims annually.  However, given the promise of Benoite's guardian angel that Laus will steadily increase in popularity and endure until the end of the world, it is inevitable that an apparition and shrine on a scale as grand as this will not remain "hidden" for very long.

 Heavenly Fragrances   


  The earliest historians of Laus are unanimous in reporting the sweet, heavenly fragrance of the place; they mention it as a public occurrence to which a great number of people attested. These fragrances were sometimes so intense that their odor spread from the chapel all over the valley.

  Judge François Grimaud attested, "During the Easter Season of 1666, I smelled a very sweet fragrance for around seven minutes; I had never smelled anything like it in my life, and it gave me such deep satisfaction that I was enraptured." It is related that from March 24th till the end of May 1690, the Laus church was so pervaded with this fragrance that all the pilgrims attested to it. In 1716, because he had smelled this "sweet fragrance," Honore Pela, a sculptor from Gap, donated a beautiful statue in Carrara marble, representing the Virgin and Child. This phenomenon of fragrances is still occasionally experienced by pilgrims today. To avoid any possibility of deception, flowers are not

usually allowed at the shrine.

  Sister Benoite breathed in these fragrances from their source. The manuscripts of Laus report, "Every time the Blessed Virgin honored her with Her visit, people smelled a heavenly fragrance that pervaded the entire church. Sometimes the shepherd girl's clothing was deeply permeated with the heavenly scent for up to eight days; these supernatural fragrances were so sweet and delightful that they lifted up the soul and surpassed all other fragrances on earth." Whenever Benoite returned from being with her good Mother, her face would seem to be ablaze, like that of Moses coming down from Sinai; she would kneel, recite the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, and then for the rest of the day she would be unable to eat.

Chapel of the Precious Blood

  On September 16, 1862, the newly built free-standing Chapel of the Precious Blood, commemorating Our Lord's visions to Benoite was dedicated by Bishop Victor-Felix Bernadou of Gap. The Chapel stands on the spot where the visions took place, and preserves a roadside cross that Benoite and countless others had venerated even before the apparitions began, known as the "Cross d'Avancon". After undergoing a resotration in our own time, the Chapel was re-dedicated on May 1, 2011, by Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco Leandri. 



  The apparitions at Laus finally received official ecclesiastical approval on May 5, 2008, during a Mass in the Basilica of Laus, celebrated by the above Bishop di Falco Leandri, who was accompanied by numerous cardinals and archbishops from around the world. Acknowledging Laus to be the first Marian apparitions to be approved by the Church in the 21st Century, Bishop di Falco proclaimed: "I recognize the supernatural origin of the apparitions and events and words experienced and narrated by Benedicta Rencurel. I encourage all of the faithful to come and pray and seek spiritual renewal at this shrine."


Garabandal Journal, January-February 2019, Our Lady of Laus

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