Notre Dame d’Esperance de Pontmain / Our Lady of Hope, Our Lady of Pontmain (1871) – 17 January:
During the Franco-Prussian War, German troops approached the town of Pontmain, France and the villagers there prayed for protection. On the evening of 17 January 1871, Mary appeared in the sky for several minutes over the town. She wore a dark blue dress covered in stars, carried a crucifix and below her were the words – “Pray, my children, God will answer your prayers very soon. He will not allow you to be touched.” That night the German army was ordered to withdraw and an armistice ending the war was signed eleven days later on 28 January.
In May 1872, Bishop Wicart authorized the construction of a Sanctuary, which was consecrated in October 1900. In 1905 Pope Pius X elevated the Sanctuary to the status of a Basilica – The Basilica of Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain.
Pope Pius XI gave a final decision regarding the mass and office in honour of Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain. A final papal honour was given to Our Lady of Hope on 16 July 1932 by Cardinal Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, by passing a decree from the Chapter of St Peter’s Basilica, that the Statue of the Blessed Lady, Mother of Hope, be solemnly honoured with the crown of gold. The Lady then was crowned in the presence of Archbishop, Bishops, Priests and the laity by Cardinal Verdier, Archbishop of Paris. The coronation took place on 24 July 1934.
At Pontmain, it was a matter of a message of prayer, very simple in the dramatic circumstances of war and invasion. At Pontmain, Mary is a sign of hope in the midst of war. A place of pilgrimage, it attracts annually around 200,000 drawn from among the people of the region, with some international pilgrimages, especially from Germany.
It was in the winter of 1871 in the village of Pontmain, France, Eugene Barbedette was busy in his father’s barn helping prepare the animal feed. He stood briefly in the open doorway, admiring the beautiful evening. Suddenly the gaze of the 12 year old was held there, for opposite the barn and in a framework of stars, stood a beautiful lady – motionless – smiling at him.
“Do you see anything?” he shouted to the others, “Look, over there!”
“Yes,” cried his brother Joseph, “a beautiful lady dressed in a blue robe with golden stars, yes and blue shoes with golden buckles…and, she has a golden crown which is getting bigger and a black veil.”
Since the father did not see her, he told the boys to get on with their work; then curiously, he asked, “Eugene, do you still see anything?”
“Yes, she’s still there,” the boy answered and ran to fetch his mother; she saw nothing but with a woman’s intuition, she thought it might be the Blessed Virgin and assembling the family gently, all prayed five Paters and Aves in honour of the Mother of God. She called for a nun at the convent next door, who brought her two little charges with her, the latter, Francoise and Jean Marie, reaching the door of the barn, called out, “Oh, look at that lovely lady with the golden stars!” and clapped their hands with delight.
The news spread quickly, people gathered, with them the Cure, M Guerin. The Magnificat was intoned and Eugene shouted, “Look what she is doing!”
Slowly a great white streamer unfolded and in large letters they read: “Pray, my children, God will answer your prayers very soon. He will not allow you to be touched.”
The Cure then intoned the hymn: “My Sweet Jesus…” At that a red cross with the wounded body of Christ appeared before the Virgin, who held it. At the top in large red letters was written, “Jesus Christ.”
The crowd burst into tears, while the Cure ordered night prayers to be said; a white veil hid the vision, while our Lady smiled at the children, a smile which haunted them all through life with its beauty. Something of the sorrow of farewell was depicted on the faces of Eugene and Joseph, for the cure said quickly, “Can you still see anything?”
“No, it is quite finished,” they answered.
At the moment the message was being written in the sky, a messenger passing in front of the crowd had shouted, “You may well pray, the Russians are at Laval.” But they never entered it.
On the 17th of January, at six o’clock at night, the very hour the Virgin appeared to the children of Pontmain, the division of soldiers, without apparent reason, received the order to retire.
On the 28th of January, the armistice was signed at Versailles. After long and searching inquiry, Mgr. Wicart, the Bishop of Laval, proclaimed the authenticity of the vision and at the very spot where Our Lady had appeared, a cHURCH was erected in honour of Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain. There the Queen of Heaven receives her countless children and gives them fresh hope in their trials, as she gave France peace in her hour of need.
The Basilica is a magnificent structure in the 13th century style and one may still see the barn where Eugene and Joseph worked when Mary appeared.
St Anthony Abbot (251-356) (Memorial)
St Anthony’s Life:
St Achillas of Sketis
St Amoes of Sketis
St Antony of Rome
Bl Euphemia Domitilla
Bl Gamelbert of Michaelsbuch
St Jenaro Sánchez Delgadillo
St John of Rome
Bl Joseph of Freising
St Julian Sabas the Elder
St Marcellus of Die
St Merulus of Rome
Blessed Rosalina of Villeneuve O.Cart. (1263–1329)
St Sabinus of Piacenza
St Sulpicius of Bourges (Died c 647) Bishop
Blessed Teresio Olivelli (1916–1945) Martyr
His Life and Death:
Martyrs of Langres: Eleusippus, Leonilla, Meleusippus, Speusippus