In the village of Pontmain, about 30 kilometres to the north of Laval, a farmer was working in his barn with his little boys Eugene and Joseph Barbadette, aged 12 and 10. On the evening of 17 January 1871, the two boys were helping their father in the barn when the eldest, Eùgene, walked over towards the door to look out. As he gazed at the star studded sky he noticed one area practically free of stars above a neighbouring house. Suddenly he saw an apparition of a beautiful Lady smiling at him. Their father sees nothing, except three large bright stars forming a triangle in the sky. But Joseph also sees the Lady. She is wearing a long blue cloak strewn with golden stars; a black veil and a golden crown about 20cm wide with a red stripe in the middle. The lady is also wearing blue shoes and her hands reach out slightly to the side as on the Miraculous Medal. Undaunted, they call their mother, who also fails to see anything even after going back to the house for her eyeglasses. There is nothing to it, declare the parents, and the boys are to get on with work and then come in for supper. After a quick meal, the boys still see the beautiful Lady, so the Sisters of the school are called. Again, they see nothing. The Blessed Virgin Mary smiled constantly and remained motionless in the same position until 9 p.m. The children, parish priest and a lot of parishioners have gathered together, Father Guerin commences to pray with the parishioners.Of course the first prayer is the rosary. At this moment the Lady becomes larger and the stars on Her cloak multiple and a lighted banner is unfurled under her feet.
Later, two girls from a local school, Francoise Richer age 11 and Jeanne Marie LeBosse age 9, were brought and could also see the Lady, while a growing crowd of sixty adults, who had begun to pray the Rosary at the suggest of the local priest. The parish priest of Pontmain starts to pray the Magnificat and golden letters appear on the banner, one by one and as if they were being written by an invisible hand. The village children say the letters one by one and when complete they read:
BUT PLEASE PRAY MY CHILDREN
The parish priest says:”we must pray to the Lady, making Her will known”. The people now pray the Litany of The Blessed Virgin Mother. More words appear as they did earlier:
GOD WILL SOON HEAR YOUR PRAYERS
The fourth pray is the “Invoilota” When they get to the words “O Mater Alma, Christi Carissima”. The following words appear:
All present are now very sure that it is The Virgin Mary and they pray the fifth prayer: "Slave Regina”. Whilst singing this the sentence is finished off:
"MY SON IS WAITING FOR YOU"
These words are underlined. The sixth prayer is then sung. It is a traditional favourite of Pontmain: “Mother of Hope” and the people love to sing it loud and clear. This well loved title is part, of the prayer: "Mother of Hope protect our Frances; Pray, Pray for us!" Then Mary’s smile just glows with love and She lifts Her hands to Her shoulders whilst pointing to the little Red Cross which She wears by Her heart. The seventh prayer is “My Sweet Jesus” at this point forgiveness of all sins will be granted to those who with contrite hearts have first prayed the “Parce Domine”. An expression of suffering and pain appears on The Blessed Virgins Face and a crucifix is formed which She holds with both of Her hands. Both the cross and Jesus are red. Above the crucifix is a small beam on which appears: “JESUS CHRIST"in letters of blood, whilst Our Lady’s deep sorrow radiates out over the crowd. A star breaks loose from the sky and extinguishes the four candles which surround The Lady. She never takes Her eyes off the Crucifix When the parish priest of Pontmain commences the “Ave Maria Stella” the crucifix vanishes and Our Lady returns to Her original pose. Two small white crosses now appear on Her shoulders where they seem to be implanted. Slowly a large white veil floats upwards, to finally cover the apparition completely. The Lady then disappears totally. The Germans start to retreat and on the 20th of January general van Schmidt finally surrenders and on the 28th of January, just eleven days after the apparition, the peace agreement is signed. The message of Pontmain very clearly shows us the effect of the prayers of even a small Parish community. One should turn to prayer, especially in times of trails.
We remember Our Lady’s message in Pontmain very clearly. So now we can look at Her has She appears in the words of the hymns. ‘Mother of Hope, protect us…..pray for us: Mary raises Her arms whilst She looks at the small Red Cross on her Heart: This shows Our Lady to be very closely one with Her Son on The Cross-, thus She is Our Mother of Redemption. And will offer our prayers for us. During the “Parce Domine” Mary pleads with us to offer Jesus Christ our Redeemer to God The Father. By offering Holy Mass as thanks to God Our Father for His Son Jesus Christ Our Lord. The red cross with the red Corpus, the bloody letters and the lighted candles on either side point once more to The Holy Mass. Finally during the “Ave Maris Stella” we see Her as She appears on the Miraculous Medal, giving very generously and the two small white crosses implanted in Her shoulders, speak to us of ‘Triumph’ though Gods Intervention. At Pontmain, Our Lady shows us that She can hold back Her Sons Arm, if we listen to and obey Her Messages.
Joseph Barbadette became a priest, a member of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, while his brother Eùgene became a secular priest. He was assisted by one of the girls who had seen Mary as his housekeeper, with the other, Jeanne-Marie Lebossé, becoming a nun. A large basilica was built at Pontmain and consecrated in 1900.