MOVIE: VOICES FROM HEAVEN 5 - OUR LADY'S APPARITIONS - BEAURAING
The Apparitions at Beauraing, 1932-33
Beauraing is a small town in the southern, French speaking, part of Belgium, and it was here that the Blessed Virgin appeared to a group of children, between late November 1932 and January 1933.
The five children came from the Voisin and Degeimbre families, neither of which were particularly convinced Catholics. On the evening of 29 November 1932, Fernande Voisin, a fifteen year old girl, Andree Degeimbre, aged fourteen, and her sister Gilberte, aged nine, were with Albert Voisin, aged eleven. They made their way to the local convent school to meet Albert's sister, Gilberte Voisin, who was staying on until six-thirty to study. They entered the grounds and passed a small Lourdes grotto in front of the railway embankment that skirted the convent garden.
While waiting for the front door bell to be answered, Albert looked towards the embankment over the grotto and cried out: "Look! The Blessed Virgin, dressed in white, is walking above the bridge!" The girls looked and could see the luminous figure of a lady dressed in white walking in mid air, her feet hidden by a little cloud. The sister who answered the door could see nothing, but as soon as Gilberte Voisin reached the door she too saw the figure.
Over the next few evenings a pattern gradually developed in which the children would see Mary by a hawthorn tree near the grotto, but from outside the convent grounds. They knelt in the street and looked through the railings, from the outside of the convent gate. The children would simultaneously drop to their knees, on the cobble-stoned street, with a force that made bystanders wince, and yet they suffered no injury; moreover people were astonished with the high-pitched quality of the children's voices as they prayed.
They later told how they saw a beautiful Lady wearing a white gown and holding her hands together as in prayer, with rays of light surrounding her head. On 2 December, Albert asked her if she was the Immaculate Virgin, to which she smiled and nodded her head, and in answer to what she wanted she said simply: "Always be good."
On Thursday 8 December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a crowd of about fifteen thousand assembled expecting a great miracle, but they only saw the children in ecstasy, impervious to lighted matches held underneath their hands, pin pricks, or lights shone in their eyes. Meanwhile, the local priest, Fr. Lambert, and the Church authorities generally, were taking a very prudent and circumspect attitude towards events at Beauraing, and refusing to get involved: the local bishop ordered his priests not to go to the site.
The apparitions did not occur every night, although the children assembled and said the rosary; if Mary did appear they would fall to their knees in unison. They were closely watched to ensure they could not talk to each other, and when the apparition was over were questioned separately. On 28 December the children said that she had said that: "My last apparition will take place soon."
The next day Fernande saw the Blessed Virgin with a heart of gold surrounded by rays, and this was also seen by two of the children on 30 December, as Mary repeated the phrase: "Pray, pray very much," which was only heard by Fernande. On the last day of 1932 all the children saw Mary's golden heart. On 1 January 1933, Mary spoke to Gilberte Voisin asking her to, "Pray always," with the emphasis on always; the next day she told the children that on 3 January, at what was to prove to be the final apparition, she would speak to each of them separately.
A very large crowd, estimated at between thirty and thirty-five thousand people, assembled that evening as the children began their rosary. After two decades four of them called out and fell to their knees, leaving Fernande, the oldest, in tears because she could see nothing. Mary spoke to Gilberte Voisin, imparting to her what has been seen as the main promise of Beauraing, "I will convert sinners," and then: "Goodbye." To Andree she said: "I am the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven. Pray always," before disappearing.
Fernande remained kneeling while the other children went inside for questioning, when suddenly, she, and many in the crowd, heard a loud noise like thunder and saw a ball of fire on the hawthorn tree. Mary appeared and spoke to Fernande asking her if she loved her Son and herself; when Fernande replied that she did, the response was: "Then sacrifice yourself for me." At this the Blessed Virgin glowed with extraordinary brilliance and extended her arms, so that the girl could see her golden heart, before saying, "Goodbye," and disappearing.
Although there were problems from some quarters opposition to Beauraing had practically ceased by the time the bishop appointed a commission of inquiry in 1935, with the work continuing under his successor. In February 1943 Bishop Charue authorised public devotions to Mary at Beauraing, but it was not until July 1949, following the Second World War, that the shrine was officially recognised and two important documents issued. The first dealt with two of the many cures that had taken place at Beauraing, declaring them to be miraculous.
The second document was a letter to the clergy in which the bishop said, "we are able in all serenity and prudence to affirm that the Queen of Heaven appeared to the children of Beauraing during the winter of 1932-1933, especially to show us in her maternal Heart the anxious appeal for prayer and the promise of her powerful mediation for the conversion of sinners."
Mary's words at Beauraing
At Beauraing, as at Lourdes, very little was said by Mary, almost as if to emphasise the importance of Fatima. These few lines could easily be fitted on the back of a postcard.
"Always be good."
Mary indicated that she was the Immaculate Virgin when questioned, and told the children to return on 8 December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. When asked by Fernande if she wanted a chapel built, she replied, "Yes," before disappearing.
Mary again asked for a chapel.
"My last apparition will take place soon."
"Pray, pray very much."
Mary told the children that she would speak to each of them separately and gave each a secret before bidding them farewell.
"Goodbye." (to Gilberte Degeimbre)
"I will convert sinners. Goodbye." (to Gilberte Voisin)
"Goodbye." (to Albert Voisin)
"I am the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven. Pray always, Goodbye." (to Andree Degeimbre)
Mary appeared later and spoke to Fernande Voisin asking her if she loved her Son and herself; when Fernande replied that she did, the response was: "Then sacrifice yourself for me." "Goodbye."
Sources: Sharkey & Debergh, Our Lady of Beauraing; F. Toussaint & C. Joset, Beauraing, Les apparitions; Sharkey, "The Virgin with the Golden Heart," in A Woman clothed with the Sun.