Our Lady of the Golden Heart
Our Lady of Beauraing
BEAURAING, 1932: DO YOU LOVE MY SON?
Mary’s appearance to 5 children in Beauraing, Belgium, in November and December of 1932 has always fascinated us. There are so many aspects of the visit from Our Heavenly Lady that we don’t quite understand. But we know there was a need for Mary to come to our aid in this place at this time. Nothing is by coincidence with her. Every time she comes to us in an apparition, she has to upset the balance of nature, break through the dimension separating Heaven and earth, just to make contact with us. Then she has to condition the minds of the seers and us, the people for whom she comes to earth, to accept the supernatural, that which cannot be explained.
She knows that a battle will ensue between the power of light and the power of darkness, which has to cause her some anguish. There are so many who won’t believe that she has actually come. The authenticity and sincerity of the visionaries is always seriously questioned. They receive no support from the Church. Actually, because the Church has to take on the role of Devil’s Advocate, it becomes the most difficult obstacle to overcome. Also, she never picks anyone whom we would expect to be the natural choice. Would we doubt an apparition by Our Lady to Mother Teresa, or Pope John Paul II? But that would be too easy. There’s no challenge to our faith in that.
Mary appeared to five children almost every day, sometimes two and three times a day, for over a month. There were 33 apparitionsin all. The bulk of her message was very little. People constantly tried to build things into each of the messages, but the children were firm that the short two and three word messages were all that had been given to them. Her message was strong, but the words were few. We had to strain our spiritual consciousness to grasp the meaning of her words. There was nothing really to grab onto. In many claimed apparitions of Our Lady in this century, she reportedly goes on and on for volumes, talking to the allegedvisionary. Yet in this apparition, approved by the Church, she gave us little gems to ponder on.
Beauraing was and still is an unassuming little village in Southwest Belgium, about 4 miles from the French Border. One would never consider it a candidate for a visit from the Greatest Lady who ever lived, either then or now. At the time of the apparition of Our Lady, the total population was about 2,000 inhabitants. The downtown or main area of the village consisted of three or four blocks. There was no great industry in Beauraing. They were victims of the Great Worldwide Depression as was the rest of the world, but their needs were not as great as others, consequently they seemed to be able to survive with what they had. Dainty suppers were a normal part of their diet. No one ate meat every day of the week, or every week of the year. They didn’t have to concern themselves with change of wardrobe every season, and hand-me-downs were always in style. It was not necessary to keep up with the Joneses, because the Joneses were in the same financial condition as everyone else.
The two families involved, the Degeimbres and the Voisons, felt the sting of doing without, much more than they had ever felt it before. They had to learn to do without even the little to which they had become accustomed.
GERMAINE DEGEIMBRE was a widow. She had been born in Beauraing, and married a local man. Her first two children were born in the town, but the family moved away when her husband was given a job taking care of a farm in Voneche, some miles distance from Beauraing. They stayed in that place for 13 years. Upon the death of her husband, however, she and her children returned to the town of her birth. At the time of the Apparitions, they had only been back in Beauraing for 2 years.
Germaine was a very strong woman, and very personable. She was a single parent, which was more difficult in those days than it is today. However, for her, there was a peace and security in her hometown. She regarded her neighbors as family; she could count on them for help. She had three daughters, Gilberte, 9, and Andree, 14, to whom Our Lady appeared, and Jeanne, 17, who had nothing to do with the Apparitions. However, in her anger and disappointment at not being a visionary, Jeanne voiced the slanderous opinions about the children and the apparitions that many of the townspeople thought, but didn’t say out loud.
Germaine was an outgoing woman. She was very sociable with her friends. Her home was a meeting place, where the laughter never stopped, and the coffee pot was always ready. She was known to have a calm, reasonable disposition. She was able to size up problems and come up with solutions to situations that some families with both a husband and wife were not able to cope with. She never got ruffled. All of the above traits have to be prefaced with Before Mary. Once the apparitions began, everything that had been normal to that time became completely abnormal.
HECTOR AND MARIE LOUISE VOISON were the parents of the other three visionaries, Fernande, 15, Gilberte, 13, and Albert, 11. Hector was employed by the Railroad, for which he was thankful, but he didn’t earn enough on his salary to support his family. To augment his meager income, he and his wife opened a shop on the main street in town, selling wallpaper, pastes and assorted items for the home. This took away from Marie Louise’s time as a mother, but all understood that it was needed. When Hector came home from work, he took over at the store while his wife made supper for the family.
Both the Voisons dabbled in the Socialist Party. Hector spent most of his free time at the Socialist Party headquarters, where he was respected and liked. He was one of the guys, and that was more important to him than the frowns of some neighbors, and the official disapproval of the Church. Neither he nor his wife had been to Church for years, but all their children had been given at least the basics of a Catholic upbringing. There were two good Catholics buried deep beneath exteriors which had been wounded by scars of war and poverty, but it would take a miracle to pull them out.
We have to take some time out here to explain the political-religious situation in this part of Belgium during the early 1930’s. The Wall Street Crash of 1929, and the Great Worldwide Depression which followed in its wake, had turned many people away from Capitalism. It had failed them badly. They were the victims of its excesses. The Bolsheviks, Communists, and Socialists put out their helping hands, and they were accepted by the people.
No one would actually own up to not being Catholic anymore. They just didn’t have time for Church . Trying to survive was enough of a struggle. The whole thing was God’s fault anyway. Sure, why not? Never mind that he had delivered these dear people from the hands of the Germans not 20 years before. Was the First World War his fault, too? One would think that their reaction would have been just the opposite, that they would have turned back to God in thanksgiving for their deliverance from the First World War. But that was not the case.
A new phrase was coined, Cultural Catholics. We find this all over Europe in our travels. Countries that have been stalwarts of the Faith, 95% Catholic from the Middle Ages, are now known as Cultural Catholics. They were born Catholics. They will die Catholics. They were baptized, received First Holy Communion, Confirmation, were married, and buried in the Church. They may even have gone to Mass at Christmas and Easter Time, but that’s where the similarity ends. They knew very little about our religion. Their children were sent to Catholic Schools, but with very little example in the home to back up the teachings of the good sisters; all that was taught the children was generally lost shortly after they left school to go into the “Real World”. Attendance at Mass and the Sacraments by adults was very thin. Obviously, Our Lady’s reasoning for visiting Beauraing at that time was not in Thanksgiving for the veneration afforded her or her Son.
Such was the condition of Beauraing, on November 29, 1932 a little town tucked away in the southwest corner of Belgium, that no one knew or cared very much about. Because of our human limitations, we cannot see into the dimension of God, and neither could the inhabitants of Beauraing. If we were able to, we might have seen a transluscent curtain being lifted, high in the Heavens, and a single figure, small in stature, very beautiful, dressed in white, appear and descend towards the earth once again, accompanied by a legion of Angels, in an attempt to shake up her children, and straighten out the mess we had made.
She knew that a great monster was looming not far from this place. The pestilence of Adolph Hitler was spreading all over Europe. They had just gotten over World War I; the Germans had marched through this little country on the way to France, and had taken it over with ease. The memory was still strong in their minds, but they prayed that nothing like that would ever happen again in their lifetime, or that of their children. Our Lady may have been coming to prepare them for another, more fearsome plague than the first. They would need the strength of Jesus to carry them through the days ahead. Great storm clouds were gathering over Germany, and threatening to embody the entire continent of Europe in its wake.
November 29, 1932 was a cold and windy night. There was a chill in the air, which gave the promise of an early and bitter winter. The Degeimbre family was huddled around the kitchen, the warmest room in the house. Two friends of Germaine’s had dropped over for coffee and conversation. The children were eating supper.
There was a commotion outside of feet running up the steps. Andree and Gilberte knew who it was; they jumped up from the table. Fernande Voison and her brother Albert were calling for them to join them. Together, the four children went to the local school, run by the nuns, to pick up Gilberte Voison, who was finished for the day at 6:30 in the evening. Her father, Hector was supposed to get her, but a tradition of sorts had been established. The two Voison children met her when the father was working, or when they could talk him into letting them go, which was as often as possible. They always called for Andree and Gilberte D (Degeimbre), and the foursome would frolic on their way to the school, meet Gilberte V( Voison), and continue playing until they reached home.
As far as anyone could tell, this evening was to be no different from any of the others when they had played out this ritual. But they were not able to see the Lady descending upon them from far up in the heavens. They walked from the Degeimbre house towards the school. They played their pranks on the way. This was actually the highlight of the whole affair. If they just had to go and pick up Gilberte V and come right home, it would have been boring. But the little games they played, ringing doorbells, then running before they were caught; these little adventures made it worthwhile. There was a very special adventure awaiting them, much greater than they had ever expected.
They walked down the block, and turned the corner to the street on which the convent and school were located. Meanwhile, up above them, the Lady was approaching, a short distance from their view. The children passed a little grotto, which was a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, and turned into the entrance of the convent. Albert ran up to the door and rang the bell. The three girls genuflected in front of the Statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Albert danced up and down the steps of the stoop of the convent, waiting for the sister to open the door. The girls climbed the steps and faced the door. All of a sudden, Albert exclaimed excitedly, “Look, the Virgin, dressed in white, is walking on the bridge.”
The girls paid no attention to him. But then Fernande turned around, partly because of the way Albert’s voice sounded, and partly because of the expression on his face. She looked up and froze in her tracks. The other girls, meanwhile, were still facing the door. “It’s only the light of an automobile, silly” they said.
Albert was having none of it. He made them turn around. As they looked up, they all went into shock. There she was, above the bridge. They all saw the greatly illuminated figure of a woman in white, wearing a long flowing gown. She seemed as though she were walking on a cloud. They were able to distinguish that she was bending her knees, walking on air.
They didn’t know what to do. They did know they needed an authority figure, an adult, at once. Albert rang the bell of the convent. The girls began pounding on the door for all they were worth. They yelled and cried at the same time. Sister Valeria answered the door, but upon seeing that it was the children, she turned and went to fetch Gilberte V. This was the wrong thing to do. They needed her outside. While Gilberte V put on her coat and hat, Sister Valeria took notice of the great commotion going on outside the open door. The children were clamoring inchoherently, and pointing in the direction of the apparition. She asked them what was wrong. They all yelled at once.
“Look, sister, the Virgin is walking above the bridge.”
“She’s all dressed in white.”
The good nun could sense their anxiety. She tried as best she could to see what they were talking about. She looked in the direction to which they pointed. She couldn’t make anything out. She thought perhaps they were referring to the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Grotto. She turned on a light, so they could see better.
“It’s only a branch in the wind.” she said. “Statues don’t walk.”
The children insisted the Blessed Mother was walking above the bridge. She was plain as day. The sister strained her eyes, but could see nothing. About this time, Gilberte V walked out the door, and immediately saw the vision. She exclaimed in wonder: “Oh, Look!”
The children were in a state of panic. They wanted to get home. They wanted their mother.
“Let’s go home.” they said. “We’re afraid.”
The nun dismissed them with a comment about their being silly children, and went inside. She couldn’t help but notice how differently they behaved from the other times they had come to pick up Gilberte V. They were normally playful, mischievous children. This time, however, they looked as if they had seen a ghost. It was equally strange that Gilberte V had taken part in this nonsense. She had been inside with Sister Valeria just minutes before the incident, and seemed very calm and normal. However, the minute she walked out the door, she began to act like the others.
Sister Valeria related the story to the Mother Superior, Sister Theophile, and the rest of the community at dinner that night. She met with strange looks, and a curt comment from Sister Theophile. “Oh sister”, she said, “How can you tell such a story? You sound as childish as those children.” The words spit out like a machine gun. Sister Theophile was angry. Sister Valeria dropped the subject. She felt a flush of embarrassment rush to her face. The Mother Superior had made her positon on the matter very clear. Sister Valeria wondered why her superior was so angry. However, prudence dictated that the younger sister not get involved in it any further.
Meanwhile, the children ran down the streets towards the Degeimbre house, as if they were possessed. They passed a man on the street. From their expressions, he thought there was a fire somewhere. “What’s happened?” he asked.
Without skipping a beat, or slowing down for an instant, one of them yelled “We saw something in white.”
When they arrived at the Degeimbre house, Germaine was still sitting at the table with her two friends, Raymond Gobert and Jules Defesche. It seemed to her that the children had just left the house. She knew immediately that something was wrong with them. Their faces were flushed. They were completely out of breath. They were in a state of shock. They all spoke excitedly at the same time, in between trying to catch their breath.
“I think we saw the Blessed Virgin!”
“We saw a man in white!”
“I think it was the statue that moved!”
“The Blessed Virgin was walking!”
The reaction from the adults was typical, and one which we’ll see more of as we delve into the apparitions of Mary. The first blush of shock was followed by total disbelief, coupled with annoyance, which finally turned into downright anger.
The Mother: “Be quiet, you silly children. Before long you’ll have us believing that a stone statue can move.”
The older Degeimbre daughter, Jeanne, set a pattern from the outset, which was to continue throughout the apparitions. She said what everyone else thought. She lashed out angrily at her sisters. “You two see the virgin? Now if I had seen her, that would be different. But you two! You’re not good enough.”
Germaine gave them a brisk dismissal, sending her two girls off to bed. Then she tried to sweep the whole incident under the carpet. Using her harshest tone, she turned to the three Voison children. “Now listen to me, you children. Don’t tell any of this foolishness to your parents.”
Fernande, the oldest, spoke for the rest. “Of course we will tell them, Germaine, just as we told you.”AND IT BEGAN
What occurred that night of November 29, 1932, in the house of Germaine Degeimbre, was exactly what continued to happen over the next 34 days, and for many years to come, only on a much larger scale. The children faced great opposition from all sides. Actually, they were all alone, with the exception of their Heavenly visitor, Mary. Their parents, their friends, their teachers, the local priest, the Mother Superior, the police, the civil authorities, all of them badgered the five brave little soldiers, in an effort to get them to renounce the “lies” they had been telling. But the children could not renounce them, because they were not lies.
In front of them at all times, from their waking hours to the time they were finally given the respite of sleep, the haunting image of the unbelievably captivating face of the Lady was imprinted on their hearts and minds. She had picked them out of all the children in the world to visit. The strength they derived from the smile she gave them, the radiance of her eyes when she looked at them, was enough for them to go through fire for her. And that is exactly what they did do.
Our Lady didn’t really help them out very much with their opposition. For the first three days, she said absolutely nothing to them. The local people, the skeptics and their parents asked them “What did she say?” Their reply was “Nothing”. Then, on Friday, December 2, in response to questions the people had prodded them to ask Our Lady, she replied:
To the Question, “Are you the Immaculate Virgin?”, she nodded her head and opened her arms.
To the Question, “What do you want of us?”, she spoke for the first time. “ALWAYS BE GOOD”.
They answered her “Yes. We will always be good.”
The response from the unbelievers was “That’s it? That’s all she said?” The sweet, innocent children thought this had been fantastic. “Yes!”, they replied excitedly, “that’s what she said.” We can see here the attitudes of the pessimist and the optimist. Is the glass half empty or half full? To the children, it was half full.
The following day, Saturday, December 3, they repeated their questions.
To the question, “Are you really the Immaculate Virgin?”, she nodded her head in assent.
To the queston, “What do you want of us?”, her response was “Is it true that you will always be good?”
Their response, in unison, was a resounding “Yes! We will always be good.”
We have to get into values here. What would have been the easiest thing for the children to do? The curiosity seekers and various doctors who interrogated the five children endlessly, wanted to hear something. It was not too difficult even for their young minds to grasp what the people wanted to hear. There is no doubt that their lives would have been a lot less complicated had they just given everyone what they wanted. But what was the value in that? To the outsiders, what had happened was not enough. Throughout the apparitions, there was not enough sensationalism. Even a priest, asked to comment about our Lady’s first message, commented that it was too trite a statement to have been made by the Mother of God. Where were the miracles? Where were the signs? What was she saying that was momentous? “BE GOOD ALWAYS”. What was that?
Well, if you’re trying to “Be Good Always”, you know what a challenge that statement is. “Being” is so much more difficult than “Doing”. To many, however, that just wasn’t enough.
But to the children, the great miracle was that she had appeared to them in the first place. They were given the gift of near ecstasy, just being in the presence of Mary. This was the greatest miracle they would ever experience. Why embellish it? But the rest of the world was not privy to their gift. They had no way of knowing what this radiant visitor from Heaven was bestowing on these young people. They were looking at it from the eyes of the world, rather than from Heaven. There was no magical, healing spring, as in Lourdes. There was no Miracle of the Sun, as in Fatima.
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