“I am the Virgin of the Poor…Believe in Me, I will believe in you!”
Eight apparitions to the young girl Mariette Beco January 15 – March 2, 1933, Belgium.
Approved by the Holy See on August 22, 1949
Belgium is a small country in northern Europe between France and Germany. Banneux Notre-Dame is a poor farm village built around its church. It doesn’t appear on maps. It is dependent on the people of Louveigne and is 25 km from Liege, the capital of the province. The town if ound in a small plateau in the Belgian Ardennes at an altitude of 325 m. It is surrounded by beautiful valleys of Ambleve, Vesdre, and Hoëgne. On the highway between Louveigne and Pepinster, a kilometer from the church, the small Beco house can be found on the left with a small garden in the front. The area is humid and swampy, which is why it is called “La Fagne”, which means ‘mud’. On the other side of the highway, the great Eifel forests begin.
The Beco Family
Ten miles from Liege, in the plateau hamlet of Banneux. The family was not a pious one. The 15th of January was a Sunday and 11-year-old Mariette, the eldest of the siblings, missed Mass (it seems this was an ordinary occurrence in this family). The Beco family was poor (by Belgian standards) and their 4-room house would later be the cramped quarters for a family of eleven. Mariette Beco was the oldest, born on March 25, 1921 (the feast of the Annuncation coincided that year with Good Friday). At 11 years old, the eldest of seven children, she was not intelligent, yet she was not stupid. She did very badly in Catechism Class. She had stopped going for First Holy Communion instructions.She was a product of her environment, which was, in a word, hopeless. Her father was an unemployed wiremaker. He had no use for God or the Church. He was born a Catholic, but that was a long time ago. He hadn’t been near a church for years. Julian Beco couldn’t care less that his eldest daughter had given up her religious training. His attitude infected the household. There was nothing in the house of a religious nature. His wife, Louise, followed his lead. God had no place in their home.She wasn’t very devout before her experience with Our Lady. Nevertheless, she had a small image of Our Lady on her nightstand, she kept a rosary she had found, and occasionally prayed it before going to sleep.
The First Apparition – Sunday, January 15, 1933
Our Lady invited the girl, with a gesture of her hand, to come close to Her
The winter of 1933 had turned extremely bitter. The eerie sounds of the wind wailing through the trees, bending the branches in a contest of strength, created a deafening din inside the house. Drafts blew through the open cracks under the doors and in the window frames. The flames in the fireplace flickered wildly, as they battled the cold winds blowing down the chimney. It was dark, around 7 in the evening, on this freezing night. Mariette sat by the front window of her house, looking into the black of night for some sign of her brother Julien, who was late returning home. As she opened the curtain to look out, she saw a Lady standing in their front yard, surrounded by a bright light. The Lady was short, about five feet tall, and exceptionally beautiful. Our Lady of Banneux was not dressed like any of the ladies from the village. She wore a long white gown with a blue sash. One of her feet could be seen. She was barefoot, with just a gold rose in between her toes. In this kind of weather, she should be freezing. Mariette noticed that she stood just above the ground, sort of on a cloud. She didn’t seem to be cold at all.
Now Mariette had a very logical mind, even at age 11. The scene she saw before her eyes didn’t make sense. It was probably the reflection of the oil lamp. She took the oil lamp from the table, and put it in another room. Then she went back to the window and looked out. The Lady was still there. She resorted to the next natural course of action – she called her mother. Mariette explained what she was looking at. Louise Beco responded in a natural way also. “Rubbish”, she said.
Mariette was persistent . She described Our Lady of Banneux. Her mother replied jokingly, “Perhaps it’s the Blessed Virgin.”
The child insisted her mother come over to the window and see for herself. Feeling very foolish, Louise went over to the window and looked out. She saw a white shape, but she couldn’t make out any figures.
“It’s a witch.” she said, and let the curtain fall, blocking the image from Mariette’s eyes. The child opened the curtain again.
“She’s beautiful, Mama. She’s smiling at me.” The mother ignored her eldest daughter.
The child noticed that the Our Lady of Banneux had a Rosary, hanging from the blue sash. The cross was the same color of gold as the rose between her toes. Mariette went to a drawer, and rummaged through, looking for a Rosary she had found outside on the road. When she found it, she began to pray. The Lady’s lips moved, but she didn’t say anything that Mariette could hear. After a few decades, the Lady raised her hand, and motioned with her finger for Mariette to come outside. The young girl asked permission to leave the house.
“Lock the door.” Her mother replied.
By the time Mariette returned to the window, the Lady had disappeared. She kept going back to the window to see if the beautiful Lady had returned, but she had not. Pretty soon, her brother Julien came home. She told him what had happened while she was waiting for him at the window. His reaction was similar to that of his mother’s, only a little more vocal.
His comments ranged from “You’re a fool” to “You’re crazy”.
The Next Day, School and a Renewed Ardor for Catechism Classes
Monday, January 16, Mariette told a girl friend at school what had happened. The girl told her she had to tell the priest. Mariette was afraid, but with the encouragement of her friend, the two of them went to the priest’s office. Mariette backed out at the last minute, and ran off. The friend told the priest, Fr. Louis Jamin, what Mariette had said. The priest was sure Mariette was influenced by the recent reported apparitions in Beauraing, and paid no attention to it. He cautioned the friend, however, not to tell anyone about Mariette’s reported apparition.
For the next two days, Monday and Tuesday, the Our Lady of Banneux did not return. However, that one visit had a deep effect on Mariette’s spirituality. She returned to her Catechism class on Wednesday, embracing the material with a renewed enthusiasm. She knew her lesson perfectly. This amazed Fr. Jamin, because Mariette had always been the worst student in the class. After class, Father asked her why she had run away on Monday without telling him what she had seen. By this time, the child had reflected on what had happened. She was not frightened anymore. She spoke very calmly, telling the priest exactly what she had seen. He, for his part, did not treat her as a child, or belittle what she claimed. He only told her to pray to Our Lady for guidance.
The Second Apparition – Wednesday, January 18, 1933:
“Put your hands in the water. This fountain is reserved for Me. Goodnight. Good bye.”
On January 18, 1933, at 7:00 pm, Mariette left her house in a hurry and ran around the yard, as if pushed by some compelling inner force. Then she fell to her knees and seeemed to enter a state of silent prayer. Her father, Julien, ran after her and found his daughter on her knees, a highly unusual pose in their family.
As at the first time, Mariette saw a “bright ball” fast increasing in size, passing between the pine trees and growing, to finally change into a “woman’s silhouette.” The Virgin was now facing Mariette, just a little more than a yard away, fully clothed with light. Her feet didn’t touch the ground, but rested on a sort of “luminous cloud” ressembling the many representations of Our Lady of the Poor and matching the testimonies of the main Marian apparitions since the beginning of the 19th century.
Mariette wondered how a human being can have precise features and forms, and a solid-looking body, change appearance in such a short time, and go against all the laws of our humanity?
Suddenly, the apparition made a “sign” to Mariette and stepped back to give her time to follow. Julien Beco was worried for his daughter whose behavior was so out of character. He called a neighbor, Michel Charleseche, for assistance and the man came with his 12 year-old son. But none of them saw anything of what Mariette was seeing.
Then she said loudly and with a clear voice: “She is calling me!” The girl rose and ran in the direction of the main road, very fast, as if carried by the wind. Suddenly, Mariette stopped in her tracks and fell to her knees twice, near a spring. She heard outside herself: “Put your hands in the water! This fountain is reserved for Me. Goodnight. Good bye.” The Virgin disappeared a few seconds later, respecting the visual laws of perspective: her silhouette became a ball of light easily avoiding the natural obstacles, then fading away in the horizon.
Around 10:00 pm, Father Jamin went to the Beco’s house. He was surprised by Julien’s account of the story and his declaration to convert, make a general confession and go to Mass!
Third Apparition: Thursday, January 19, 1933:
“I am the Virgin of the Poor”
“This fountain is reserved for all nations to bring comfort to the sick. I will pray for you. Goodbye.”
The next day (January 19, 1933) around the same time, the Virgin appeared again to Mariette, who was surrounded by 17 people. The girl continued to be the only one to ‘see.’ She asked her identity to the Lady, who replied: “I am the Virgin of the Poor.” They then went to the spring together. Mary declared: “This spring is reserved for all the nations, to bring comfort to the sick,” whereas the day before, the apparition had told Mariette that the spring was for her alone.
Just before leaving, she said: “I will pray for you; good bye.” The ball of light, seeming to ‘enclose’ the Virgin, rose over the tree tops and disappeared in the night.
Fourth Apparition: Friday, January 20, 1933:
“I would like a small chapel.”
The next day (January 20) around 6:45 pm, the fourth apparition took place. This one had thirteen witnesses, including Father Jamin and the first two journalists. During this apparition, the Virgin made a request: “I would like a small chapel.” Our Lady imposed her hands on Mariette and traced the sign of the cross over her head. At the end, Mariette lost consciousness.
However, during the following days until February 11, the apparitions stopped. Some made fun of Mariette, calling her “Saint Bernadette.” Despite the intense cold, Mariette continued praying, In these days, only she truly believed that the Virgin of the Poor would return whatever the cost. She would see her again.
Fifth Apparition: Saturday, February 11, 1933
“I come to alleviate sufferings.”
On February 11 (anniversary of the apparitions in Lourdes) at 7:00 pm, when she girl reached the fifth decade of the second set of mysteries, Mary appeared, in all her splendor. Like the other times, Mariette ran with incredible speed to the spring after the Lady, dropped to her knees and dipped the tip of her rosary in the water. “I come to alleviate sufferings,” Mary said to her interiorly. The following day, Mariette received First Communion from Fr. Jamin.
Sixth Apparition: Wednesday, February 15, 1933
“Believe in me and I will believe in you. Pray very much. Goodbye.”
On February 15, the Virgin of the Poor appeared to her for the sixth time. This time Mariette had a question, submitted by Father Jamin, to test the authenticity of the apparitions. The concise, evangelical answer came, leaving no ambiguity: “Believe in me and I will believe in you. Pray very much. Goodbye.” Mariette cried, face against the ground. The Virgin had just confided to her a secret.
Seventh Apparition: Monday, February 20, 1933
“My dear child, pray, pray very much.”
The next apparition came on February 20. At the end of the sorrowful mysteries, Mariette, in deep ecstacy, dropped to her knees heavily, her arms forming a cross. A message accompanied the visual apparition: “My dear child, pray, pray very much.” That night, the vision lasted 7 whole minutes.
Eighth Apparition: Thursday, March 2, 1933
“I am the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God. Pray very much.”
On March 2, 1933, came the eighth and last apparition. There were only 5 witnesses on that day. At the beginning of the first rosary, it stopped raining — the sky cleared and the stars shone. Suddenly Mariette grew quiet and extended her arms. Our Lady looked more beautiful than ever before in her visits, but she did not smile. Her face was very serious. Perhaps she, too, was sad because this would be her last apparation to Mariette. The Virgin announced: “I am the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God. Pray very much.“ Then she imposed her hands on Mariette’s head and blessed her with the sign of the cross. She said, “Adieu – till we meet in God.” And Mariette understood this would be her final appearance to her. Heartbroken, the child bowed to the earth in heart-rending sobs.
Fruits, Conversions, and Miracles
After the first apparition, the girl converted. Her father, who had been a powerful force of apathy and rebellion against the Church, experienced a change of heart. Not even in Lourdes, Fatima or Beauraing did such conversions happen so quickly. The parents of Bernadette Soubirous and Lucia dos Santos did not accept the apparitions until long after they had ended. Nevertheless, here in Banneux, the power of Our Lady was felt and obeyed immediately. The priest, Father Jamin, remained hesitant for some time, before publically admitting his belief in the apparition. His position was difficult. The girl of his parish was declaring a heavenly visitation just after another had been declared in the same country in the same month. He knew that comparisons would arise. He also know that the eyes of Belgium, and possibly of all of Europe would be fixed on him and his behavior. A great factor in his acceptance of the apparitions had to have been the immediate fruits that arose. Almost immediately, miraculous cures occurred. The great number of miracles that occurred were overwhelming that it took the local Church by surprise. During some time, it seemed that the apparitions in Beauraing and Banneux were competing for recognition.
On March 19, 1935, a first investigation committee was put in place, headed by Msgr Leroux, director of the diocesan major seminary. Seventy three people testified under oath. On February 18, 1937, the commission’s work was finished. The whole file (428 pages and 21 documents annex) was transmitted by the diocese of Liege to the archbishop of Brussels-Mechlin, then to Rome.
The war evidently slowed down the process. On January 2, 1942, the Holy See authorized the bishop of Liege, Msgr Louis-Joseph Kerkhofs, to make a definitive judgment: the public cult of Our Lady of Banneux was authorized by the prelate on March 19, 1942.
From June 19, 1942 to February 15, 1944, it took 20 meeting sessions for the members of the new committee to make a pronouncement on the personality of Mariette Beco and on the supernatural origin of the apparitions. Some evoked the “hysterical disposition” of the seer. Other talked about a deception or illusion. According to them Mariette imagined that she saw the Virgin Mary after having read a flier about Lourdes (conserved in the library of the patronage in Banneux). The committee hesitated: “The events of Banneux appear to be neither certain nor even probable” !
But the facts were there, certain and undisputable. In 1945, Msgr Kerkhofs, with the help of Father Rene Rutten (1878-1948) ordered a third and last investigation committee. This time, the conclusions were positive and the supernatural origin officially recognized by the bishop of Liege, on August 22, 1949, sixteen years after the events. On August 14, 1956, Msgr E. Forni, the Apostolic Nuncio to Brussels, solemnly crowned the statue of the Virgin of the Poor.
PRAYER TO THE VIRGIN OF THE POOR
O virgin of the Poor, May you ever be blessed ! And blessed be He who deigned to send you to us. What you have been and are to us now, you will always be to those who, like us, and better then us, offer their faith and their prayer. You will be all for us, as you revealed yourself at Banneux : Mediatrix of all graces, the Mother of theSaviour, Mother of God. A compassionate and powerfull Mother who loves the poor and all Peaople, who alleviates suffering, who saves individuals and all humanity, Queen and Mother of all Nations, who came to lead all those who allow themselves to be guided by you, to Jesus the true and only Source of eternal life.Amen.
Blessed Virgin of the Poor, lead us to Jesus, Source of grace. Blessed Virgin of the Poor, save all Nations. Blessed Virgin of the Poor,relieve the Sick. Blessed Virgin of the Poor, alleviate suffering. Blessed Virgin of the Poor, pray for each one of us. Blessed Virgin of the Poor, we believe in you. Blessed Virgin of the Poor, believe in us. Blessed Virgin of the Poor, we will pray hard. Blessed Virgin of the Poor, bless us (+) Blessed Virgin of the Poor, Mother of the Saviour Mother of God, we thank You.
Mary Virgin of the Poor, You lead us to Jesus, source of grace, and you come to alleviate our suffering.
We implore you with confidence: Help us to folow your Son with generosity, and to belong to Him unreservedly.
Help us to welcome the Holy Spirit Who guides and sanctifies us. Obtain us the grace to look like Jesus everyday more, so that our life will glorify the Father and contribute to the salvation of all.Amen