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The Catholic Defender: The Tradition of Our Lady of Hope

Tradition holds that during the Franco-Prussian War, Mary appeared to six children on January 17, 1871, in the village of Pontmain, France. She told them to pray for protection as troops approached the village and assured them that the conflict would soon come to an end. After the children and villagers prayed with their priest at the site of her appearance, the Prussian troops left the village, and one week later, the war ended. All of the Pontmain citizens who fought in the war returned safely home.

This apparition of Mary came to be known as Our Lady of Hope (also called Our Lady of Pontmain). A basilica was built in her honor in 1900, which was entrusted to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. When they came to the United States, the Oblates founded a shrine for Our Lady of Hope in Lake Champlain, New York.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Hope at the Basilica is a gift of the late Bob and Dolores Hope, in memory of Avis Townes Hope, the mother of the famed entertainer. Bronze sculptures of Mary and two angels are surrounded by white Carrara marble and Fior de Pesco marble. Carved into the façade of the altar are the words of Our Lady of Hope, “Pray my children.” The chapel features the following prayer: Detail of Our Lady of Hope Chapel

O Mary, my Mother, I kneel before you with heavy heart. The burden of my sins oppresses me. The knowledge of my weakness discourages me. I am beset by fear and temptation of every sort. Yet I am so attached to the things of this world that instead of longing for Heaven I am filled with dread at the thought of death.O Mother of Mercy, have pity on me in my distress. You are all-powerful with your Divine Son. He can refuse no request of your Immaculate Heart. Show yourself a true Mother to me by being my advocate before His throne. O Refuge of Sinners and Hope of Hopeless, to whom shall I turn if not you?Obtain for me, then, O Mother of Hope, the grace of true sorrow for my sins, the gift of perfect resignation to God’s Holy Will, and the courage to take up my cross and follow Jesus.But above all I pray, O dearest Mother, that through your most powerful intercession, my heart may be filled with Holy Hope, so that in life’s darkest hour I may never fail to trust in God my Saviour, but by walking in the way of His commandments I may merit to be united with Him, and with you in the eternal joys of Heaven. Amen.

A crowd gathered to pray as word quickly spread among the anxious villagers. Children saw the beautiful Lady, and gleefully pointed up to her. Adults, however, only saw three stars forming a triangle. As they prayed the Rosary, the children saw the garment's stars multiply until it was almost entirely gold. Next, the children saw a banner unfurl beneath the Lady. Slowly, a message appeared: But pray, my children. God will hear you in time. My Son allows Himself to be touched. Upon hearing the message read aloud, the crowd spontaneously began the hymn "Mother of Hope". As they sang, the Lady laughed and joined in the singing.

The children squealed with delight as her hands kept time with the music. When the crowd began "My Sweet Jesus," her expression changed to profound sadness and a red crucifix appeared in her hands, with the words "Jesus Christ" above it. Her eyes mournfully contemplated the crucifix during the hymn. As the people sang "Ave Maris Stella", the crucifix vanished and her smile returned, though with a touch of melancholy. Two small white crosses then appeared on her shoulders before the Lady disappeared behind a cloud. As the night's prayers came to a close, the apparition ended. It was about nine o'clock; the phenomenon had lasted about three hours.

Joseph Barbadette, who later became a priest of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, recounted:

She was young and tall of stature, clad in a garment of deep blue, ... Her dress was covered with brilliant gold stars. The sleeves were ample and long. She wore slippers of the same blue as the dress, ornamented with gold bows. On the head was a black veil half covering the forehead, concealing the hair and ears, and falling over the shoulders. Above this was a crown resembling a diadem, higher in front than elsewhere, and widening out at the sides. A red line encircled the crown at the middle. Her hands were small and extended toward us as in the 'Miraculous Medal.' Her face had the most exquisite delicacy and a smile of ineffable sweetness. The eyes, of unutterable tenderness, were fixed on us. Like a true mother, she seemed happier in looking at us than we in contemplating.

That same evening, Prussian forces inexplicably abandoned their advance.[6] General von Schmidt of the Prussian Army, who was about to move on the city of Laval towards Pontmain, received orders from his commander not to take the city.

On the evening of 17 January 1871, the Commander of the Prussian forces, having taken up his quarters at the archiepiscopal palace of Le Mans, told Charles-Jean Fillion, bishop of that diocese: "By this time my troops are at Laval". On the same evening, the Prussian troops in sight of Laval stopped at half-past five o'clock, about the time when the apparition first appeared above Pontmain, a few miles away. General Schmidt is reported to have said on the morning of the 18th: "We cannot go farther. Yonder, in the direction of Brittany, there is an invisible 'Madonna' barring the way."

The sudden stopping of the Prussian forces in sight of Laval, and their retirement the following morning, meant, together with the saving of Brittany, the turning back of the tide of conquering soldiery from that part of France. The war was practically at an end. On 23 January 1871, the long-hoped for armistice was signed. Soon, all thirty-eight conscripted men and boys returned home unscathed.

Pope Pius XI gave a final decision regarding the Mass and Office in honor 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 bishops, priests, and the laity by Cardinal Verdier, Archbishop of Paris on 24 July 1934

During the devastation of the Franco-Prussian War, Mary appeared on a farm to students at the nearby convent school. Mary's message was written on a banner that unfurled from her feet: "But pray my children. God will hear you in a short time. My Son allows Himself to be moved by compassion."

In the darkest hours of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), Mary appeared to two boys (Eugene and Joseph Barbedette) as a lady dressed in a dark blue robe, sprinkled with stars, a crown on her head over a dark blue veil, and in her hands a red cross. She was surrounded by a blue and oval mandorla.

Mary's apparition to the children had a scroll that showed changing words, such as, "But pray, my children, God will soon grant your request". -Our Lady was described as wearing a blue robe with many golden stars. She wore a black veil with a golden crown. She was thought to be about 18 years old.


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