The Blessed Virgin in the nineteenth century. Pellevoisin part 2.


THE thread of the Apparitions, interrupted at the time of the miraculous cure, was resumed five months later. It was on July 1st, and at half-past ten o'clock at night, that Estelle again saw the celestial being of her visions of the preceding February. She was in the room in which her cure had been effected, and on her knees with a book in her hand. A shadow falling over the book was, we have heard from her own lips, the first intimation she had that the Apparition was near.

A quotation from her narrative, written the following morning in the church of Pellevoisin after she had communicated, will best give an idea of what happened. She says: "I was on my knees in front of the fireplace, when suddenly the Blessed Virgin appeared before me in the midst of a soft light. This time I saw her whole figure. She was in white. Her arms were extended, and from her hands fell what seemed like plenteous drops of rain. She looked at something fixedly ; then, taking one of the tassels of her girdle, she raised it to her breast. She crossed her hands on her breast. Then, smiling and looking at me, she said : ' Be calm, have patience. You will have trials, but I shall be near you.' The tassel she held fell from her hand. I could not speak ; I felt too happy. The Blessed Virgin stayed a little longer, and then said: 'Have courage; I will come again.' After that she slowly disappeared."

There was another Apparition the following night. As before, Estelle was on her knees in her room. She had said the first half of an Ave Maria, when the radiant figure was before her. The figure was the same; yet with this difference, that it was surrounded by a garland of multi-coloured roses out lined against the luminous background. The drops like rain seemed to be falling from the out stretched hands. In this vision, the celestial figure, crossing her hands on her breast and looking fixedly at Estelle said: " You have already pro claimed my glory. Continue to do so," she added, after a moment or two; "my Son has also some souls especially devoted to Him. His Heart has so much love for me that He cannot refuse my requests. Through me He will touch the most hardened hearts. I have come especially for the conversion of sinners."

" While the Blessed Virgin was speaking," says Estelle, in her narrative, "I was thinking of the various ways in which she might show her power.

She replied to my thoughts by saying : ‘It will be seen later on.' She remained with me some time longer, and then slowly disappeared. The garland of roses remained a little while after she was gone and then faded away, together with the surrounding light."

The eighth Apparition was on the night of Monday, July 3rd, and lasted but a few minutes. The next was on September 9th, when the scapular of the Sacred Heart was revealed. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and Estelle was in her room on her knees saying the Rosary, when, looking up, she saw before her the beauteous figure of her preceding visions. We come now to remarkable words. "She paused," says Estelle in her narrative, "and then said: “For a long time past, the treasures of my Son have been open ; let them pray.' With this she raised what seemed to be a small square of white woollen stuff that lay on her breast, and turned it so that the other side could be distinctly seen." The voyante tells us that in each of the preceding Apparitions she had noticed this square as of white woollen stuff, but without knowing what it meant. "As the Blessed Virgin held it up," she says, " I distinctly saw upon it a red heart in relief, and the thought occurred to me that it was a scapular of the Sacred Heart. The Blessed Virgin said to me, still holding it up : “I love this devotion ; it is here that I shall be honoured.'

The tenth Apparition was on the following Sunday at about the same time, and lasted but a few moments.

The heavenly visitant said at once : " Let them pray ; I show them the example." She then joined her hands on her breast, says Estelle, and disappeared.

In each of the succeeding Apparitions the Blessed Virgin wears the scapular.

The next Apparition was on September 15th. Respecting it, Estelle says : "With my mistress's permission, I had gone to my room to pray. It was about a quarter before three. The Blessed Virgin appeared, as usual, with arms extended and with abundant rain-drops falling, as it were, from her hands. She told me certain things that bore reference to myself alone. Afterwards, she said slowly: 'Let them pray and put their trust in me.' She looked sad as she added : ' And France, what have I not done for her? How many warnings have I not given her, and yet she refuses to listen. I can no longer restrain my Son. France will have to suffer.' At that moment the thought occurred to me that if I were to repeat what the Blessed 1 Virgin was saying, no one would believe me. She understood my thought, and re plied : ' I have arranged everything beforehand. So much the worse for those that will not believe you ; they will see, later on, the truth of my words.' Then she slowly disappeared."

There was a second person present while Estelle was favoured with this vision. This was Mademoiselle de Tyran, of the household of the Comtesse de la Rochefoucauld. This lady had followed the voyante into her room, and had seen her kneel down and begin saying the Rosary, which, by the way, she recited aloud. About five minutes afterwards the words ceased, and the kneeling figure seemed almost to have stopped breathing. Mademoiselle de Tyran's testimony is that Estelle remained thus on her knees, motionless, for about three quarters of an hour, with hands clasped, and with a forward movement of the body, as if advancing towards some thing ; that at the end of that time she heaved a deep sigh and seemed to brush away tears ; and that then, turning round to the other person present, she asked her whether she, too, had riot seen the Blessed Virgin.

She afterwards described the scapular of the Sacred Heart, and gave particulars respecting her vision.

At each of the succeeding Apparitions there were other persons present.

The next Apparition occurred six weeks later, on the Feast of All Saints. To continue to quote from Estelle's narrative: "To-day I have again seen my good Heavenly Mother. She appeared, as usual, with arms extended, and wearing the scapular she had revealed to me on September 9th. As usual, too, she gazed intently at something I could not see. She did not speak, but cast upon me a loving glance. Then she disappeared."

The next Apparition took place five days later. The following account of it was written by Estelle the same day: "At about half-past two o'clock I went to my room to say the Rosary. As soon as I had finished saying it, I saw the Blessed Virgin standing before me. She looked as beautiful as ever. As I gazed upon her, I thought of how many persons there were more deserving of her favours than myself, and who could do far more than I could to make her glory known. Looking at me and smiling, she said : ' I choose the weak and the lowly ones for my glory.' She paused again, and then added : ' Be brave ; your time of trial is near.' Then, crossing her hands on her breast, she dis appeared." This vision lasted nearly a quarter of an hour.

The fourteenth Apparition was on November I4th. "Yesterday," says Estelle, "I again saw my Heavenly Mother. I had finished saying the Rosary, and had just said a Memorare, when she appeared. Her arms were outstretched, and she wore the scapular. As on former occasions, she remained a few moments silent. When she spoke, she told me something concerning myself alone. She paused again, and then said : * Have courage.' Then, crossing her hands on her breast, she dis appeared." Five persons were present. These included three nuns of the religious community at Pellevoisin, and Mademoiselle Thersile Salmon, sister of the parish priest. They each state that Estelle's eyes remained fixed, and that she was insensible to noise and movement. They say, too, that towards the end she sighed heavily, while great tears rolled down her cheeks. According to the testimony of these witnesses, this vision lasted forty minutes.

The fifteenth, and last Apparition, was on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. " To-day, after High Mass," says Estelle, " I again saw the Blessed Virgin. She was encircled by a garland of roses, as in the Apparition of July 2nd. She said to me : ' Recall to mind all my words.' '

The voyante tells us that, at that moment, all that had been said to her in the course of the previous Apparitions became present to her memory. " She kept looking at me," she continues, in reference to the Blessed Virgin; "then she said: ' My child, remember my words. Repeat them often in order that they may strengthen and console you in your trials. You will see me no more.'' To Estelle's reply the answer was : "I shall be near you, though unseen." Holding the scapular up with both hands, the celestial figure on whom the eyes of the voyante remained fixed, continued: "Go yourself to the prelate and show him the model of the scapular you have made." It must be mentioned here that Estelle had already attempted to produce with her needle a facsimile of the square of white cloth displaying the red heart in relief, which she had seen on the breast of the Apparition.

The words that followed were: “ Tell him (the prelate) that he is to help you to the utmost of his power, and that nothing will he more agreeable to me than to see this livery on each of my children, in reparation for the outrages of which my Son is the object in the Sacrament of His love. Behold the graces that I will obtain for those who wear it with confidence and who help you to make it known."

Estelle tells us that here she saw the effect, already alluded to several times in these pages, as that of abundant raindrops falling from the out stretched hands of the Blessed Virgin. She tells us also that this effect was indicative to her of the flood of graces that was to descend on mortals in connection with the wearing of the scapular. She then listened to the following words, pregnant with meaning to the Catholic mind : "These graces are from my Son. I take them from His heart. He can refuse me nothing."

"I felt that the Blessed Virgin was about to leave me," says Estelle, who continues her narrative thus : " l Courage,' she said, gently ascending the while. ( Should he (the prelate) not be able to grant you what you ask, and should difficulties arise, you will go farther. Fear nothing ; I will help you.' She went half-way round my room and disappeared at a short distance from my bed." As has been already intimated, there are minor details in connection with the Apparitions which we have not attempted to give here, our aim having been to reproduce the phenomena in their leading lines only. Fifteen persons were present at the last Apparition. These included Abbe Salmon and the Comtesse Arthur de la Rochefoucauld, who is now living the life of a Dominican tertiary in the convent she has founded on the site of, and in commemoration of, the facts with which we have to do. We heard from this lady's lips, in the summer of 1900, that her object in founding this convent was that the Church's liturgical voice might never cease on the spot where the events we are recording had taken place.

The testimony of these witnesses coincides in the most perfect manner with what, according to Estelle, took place in the course of the last Apparition. During the quarter of an hour that the vision lasted, the voyante whether on her knees or standing, was insensible to external sights and sounds. Towards the end she was seen to turn her head slowly in a certain direction, and seemed to be following, with an intense fixity of expression, something that was moving. This, as was afterwards learnt, was when the Apparition was making half the semi-circuit of the room before disappearing at the foot of the bed, from which Estelle had risen to life and health, nearly ten months before.

It was naturally supposed that the prelate alluded to in the last Apparition could be no other than the archbishop of the diocese, Charles-Amable Prince de la Tour d'Auvergne, who then filled the archiepiscopal See of Bourses, and who, because of his piety and enlightenment, had come to be called the " angel of the diocese."

This prelate had been watching from a distance what had been going on at Pellevoisin, and although he had abstained from actual interference, his attitude had been one of extreme prudence. He had even written to the cure of Pellevoisin advising him to be cautious in the matter of the scapulars. But, when he heard the particulars of the last Apparition, with certain startling details concerning himself, he consented to receive Estelle at once. In short, he not only received her at his archiepiscopal palace of Bourges, but retained her by him two days examining and cross-examining her. The result of the examination was such as to induce him to write at once to the cure of Pellevoisin, not with the object this time of advising the priest to be cautious in the matter of the scapulars, but, on the contrary, to tell him to get as many of these made as possible and in as short a time as possible. He then appointed an ecclesiastical commission to enquire into the events that had lately taken place at Pellevoisin.

The commission, which was composed of the most prominent ecclesiastics of the diocese, had at its head Abbe Sautereau, first vicar-general of Bourges.

We will consider for a few moments the bearing of the message at Pellevoisin—a message which is complete in itself, and which receives fresh import by being read in the light of the other great Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin in France since 1830. What is to be thought of the words, sublime and full of theological meaning, of which it is com posed ? Let our answer be in the words of Abbe Paul Bauron, cure of the Church of Saint-Eucher, Lyons, who, twenty-four years after the Apparitions, speaking at the Marian Congress held at Lyons in September, 1900, said: "The Blessed Virgin's words at Pellevoisin are not only remarkable in themselves, but are of the profoundest theological significance. They thus serve as an intrinsic proof of the truth of the Apparitions."

The message at Pellevoisin bears no earthly stamp, and the same may be said of the portrait given in the few words with which the voyante describes the being of her visions. These few words present us with a clearly-cut picture of a heavenly reality. As in the case of Bernadette and the Lourdes Madonna, so here we have before us a type of beauty, ideal, distinct and remaining the same in each of the Apparitions. Bernadette and Estelle, the child and the woman, untutored and ignorant of everything but the sublime realities which they saw, alike give us in a few crisp lines material for a portrait more beautiful in conception and more theologically significant than anything that has come to us from the brush or chisel of the greatest artists.

But human art does not rise to the task of portraying heavenly realities. So it is as easy to understand Bernadette Soubirous' disappointment on first seeing Tabisch's statue of our Lady of Lourdes as the Immaculate Conception, as it is easy to understand Estelle Faguette's words to the effect that the much-admired statue of the “Mother-all-Merciful," at Pellevoisin, is but as a figure in a masquerade compared with the surpassing reality of her visions.