Deepertruth: The Amazing Story of Our Lady of the Willow Tree
On Sunday June 14, 2020, Deepertruth Member John Carpenter presented the story of the Virgin Mary appearing in the village of Plantees, France in 1649. As the Catholic Faith was under going a challenge from a Calvinist movement in the area, Heaven intervenes in the most unique way. Pierre Port-Comber, a farmer, abandoned the Catholic Faith for this new heretical group. Mr. Combet grew to reject anything Catholic would purposely work on Sundays and Feast Days as an outward protest.
Pierre was married to a devout Catholic, Jeanne, who bore six children trying to raise them Catholic but Pierre did not respect his vows he made before God and his wife. He brought heresy within his household against his wife's objection. Like St. Monica, she began to intercede for her husband at Mass and the Rosary.
Despite Jeanne's devotion, Pierre would work on Sundays and Holy Days to inflame the Catholic majority. On March 25, 1649, the Feast of the Annunciation Pierre staged himself to work near a road he knew neighbors would travel to make a spectacle. He began to attempt to cut into a willow tree with his knife when he found blood spilling out splashing on him. Thinking he cut himself he wiped off the blood and proceeded to stab the tree and again the tree bleed bright red blood.
Jeanne came by the scene noticing Pierre was covered in blood. Thinking he was hurt she quickly ran to him looking for evidence of a wound. Pierre attempted to explain the strange occurrence so his wife took the knife and cut into the tree with zero blood, not even tree sap noticed. Pierre watching his wife retook the knife and again stabbed into the willow tree and again the bleeding occurs.
As Pierre was shaken by what was happening, other Catholics on their way to Mass began to take notice what was happening. The neighbor, Louis, also stabbed the tree and like Jeanne, no appearance of blood noticed. Soon a crowd of the faithful were assembling there at the willow tree observing what was the commotion. It became obvious that what was happening was a sign from Heaven, a warning from the Lord to Pierre to return back to the Catholic Faith and respect the Lord's Day.
After this occurrence, Pierre was called to the Magistrate to answer the accusation he worked on the Feast of the Annunciation. Because this was well known in the community, Pierre paid a fine. Word spread far and wide and the Bishop himself heard about the happening and called for an investigation. The obvious conclusion was that Pierre was warned by God to return to the Catholic Faith. The willow tree occurrence greatly affected Pierre and realized his need to repentance but his ties to Calvinism left him a challenged man. The Calvinist literally threatened Pierre with violence causing Pierre to hold back to real conversion.
It was seven years later on March 25, 1656, the Feast of the Annunciation, Heaven again intervenes with Pierre as he was working in his field. He looked up as in the distance a beautiful lady wearing a white dress, a blue mantle and had a black veil over her head covering partly her face. Within a flash the lady came towards Pierre and he noticed this woman was special, she spoke with a sweet voice speaking to Pierre, "God be with you my friend!"
The Virgin Mary asked Pierre, "What is being said about this devotion? Do many people come?"
Pierre responds, "Yes many people come," Then the Lady's demeanor changed as she said, "Where does that heretic live who cut the willow tree? Does he not want to be converted?" Pierre knew he was whom she was speaking of and again Our Lady spoke, "Do you think that I do not know that you are the heretic? Realize that your end is at hand. If you do not return to the True Faith, you will be cast into Hell! But if you change your beliefs, I shall protect you before God. Tell people to pray that they may gain the good graces which, God in His mercy has offered to them."
Can you imagine being warned by the Virgin Mary in this way? Pierre realized this warning was real and was filled with sorrow. He was at a loss of what to do but hide his face in shame. Pierre attempted to reach out to her begging, "Please stop and listen to me. I want to apologize to you and I want you to help me!" Mother Mary was by this point out of his reach. If there was any doubt who this Lady was, Mary stopped and turned towards Pierre floating in the air and was ascending into the Heavens until out of sight. Pierre became emotional falling to his knees crying tears of joy. The Virgin Mary personally appeared to him showing the love of God. Pierre prayed, "Jesus and Mary I promise you that I will change my life and become a good Catholic. I am sorry for what I have done and I beg you please, to help me change my life…"
On the eve of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 14, 1656 Pierre became sick, he called for a priest to hear his Confession. It was an Augustinian priest who gave him the Eucharist on the great Feast, August 15th. With his conversion, his son and five daughters also were received into the Catholic Faith and several Calvinist and other Protestants were converted. What a blessing Pierre would have to see his family restored in the one True Church, the Catholic Church. On September 8, 1656, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pierre dies and was buried under the willow tree as he had previously asked.
Fr. Fais, a parish priest from Vinay helped a woman to buy the field where Mary appeared to Pierre and built a chapel calling it "Our Lady of Good Meeting" on the spot where Mary spoke to Pierre. A Basilica was built over the spot of the miraculous willow tree and in honor of Our Lady of the Willow a statue was carved of the Virgin Mary. Great honor was given to Jesus in the Mass and people remembered Our Lady's call to conversion.
France was to suffer as a result of the French Revolution that attacked the Church and the statue and shrine were damaged. The statue was cut to pieces but a Pius Woman gathered the pieces of the statue and hid it until the end of the French Revolution. A piece of the willow tree was also saved.
The people remembered the honor given to Our Lady of the Willow and repaired the statue and the church placed over the spot of the miracle. In 1856, two hundred years after the first apparition of Our Lady, Blessed Pope Pius IX decreed that the statue of Our Lady should be crowned on her birthday, September 8, 1856. 400 priests were present for this ceremony. The Shrine was placed in the hands of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate with the help of local priests. More than 30,000 faithful gathered for the crowning of Our Lady of the Willow. A second crowning ordered by Pope Paul VI in 1973.
On March 17, 1924 Pope Pius XI declared the Willow Church a minor Basilica where the original statue of Mary is honored. Pierre's grave is at the foot of the altar along with a box containing a piece of the old willow tree. Pilgrims have come to the sight from all over the world and many items of thanksgiving are left after a miracle had taken place. They have counted at least a hundred miracles known and undoubtedly, many more unknown.