Pontmain is a small village in the northwest of France, which found itself in the path of Prussian soldiers in 1871, as they were preparing to advance into the nearest city. The townspeople were anxiously going about their work on the evening of January 17th, including two young boys - Eugene and Joseph Barbedette - who were helping their father feed the horses. Eugene paused from his work to look up into the starry sky, and saw a Lady wearing a dark blue robe with golden stars, a black veil, and a golden crown. His brother, Joseph, was also able to see the Lady smiling at them, but their father and mother could only see a triangle of stars.
Later, the school nuns were called and couldn’t see the Lady either. Yet when the nuns brought two young schoolgirls over, they immediately pointed towards the sky and described the Lady. News spread throughout the town, and people began to gather to pray. None of the adults, including the parish priest, could see the apparition, but the children could. The group prayed the Rosary, and then began to sing. The apparition grew larger, and words became visible that read, “Pray, my children. God will answer before long. My Son lets himself be moved.” They then sang a traditional French hymn, “Mother of Hope,” and the children described Our Lady as smiling radiantly and clapping as they sang. The crowd concluded with evening prayer, and the apparition vanished. The next day, the advance of the troops inexplicably retreated and the village was spared. A few weeks later, the War of 1870 ended.
This apparition was given the title of Our Lady of Hope, due to the title of the song of the townspeople that she so joyfully sang along with. However, I think it goes so much deeper than that. Our Lady truly wants us to turn to her in hopeful prayer when we are in any kind of battle - physical, emotional, or spiritual. God has given her a special grace over evil and her intercession is powerful. She is a star in the darkest night, when all hope seems lost.
I find it so beautiful that only the children could see her. Of course, almost all of her apparitions on earth have only been to children. They have the innocence and the trust to believe much quicker than any of us adults. But in this particular apparition, I also believe they had the ability to possess more hope than the adults. Children have a wild capacity for hope. They knew their Mother would take care of them and save them from the advancing army. They trusted in their mother to protect them, like any child does. Do we have this same trust, sisters?
I myself have experienced this in my time of mission work. In the small Haitian village I called home for a few months, we sang evening prayers almost every night that included simple hymns to Our Lady. They varied from simply calling out her name, to asking her to step out in front of us in spiritual battle. The voices of the children in the orphanage, children wounded by abandonment and loss, would drown out the sound of the adults and I can only imagine how she was smiling and clapping along in Heaven. These moments were an oasis of peace and gave me eyes to see that even in the darkest of nights, she will always lead us to her Son’s light. No matter what battle we’re facing, let us always have a childlike heart that trusts in her protection, that dares to hope!
What is one area of your life right now, or one battle you're fighting, where you could grow in hope? Ask Our Mother to intercede for you, and place your trust in her as a child would his mother.