Banneux, January 1933, by Donal Anthony Foley
Less than two weeks after the Marian apparitions at Beauraing in Belgium had ended, in early January 1933, it was claimed that the Blessed Virgin had begun to appear to a young girl in the village of Banneux, which was only 50 miles away to the north east. But despite initial skepticism, Banneux, like Beauraing, would also ultimately be approved by the Church.
On the evening of Sunday 15 January 1933, at about seven o’clock, Mariette Beco was in the kitchen of the family house with her mother. She looked out of the window into the night and was surprised to see a young lady out in the yard, seemingly made of light and smiling at her. Mariette noticed that she was bent slightly forward and inclined to the left, and was wearing a long white gown with a blue sash, as well as a transparent white veil on her head. Mariette could see a golden rose on her right foot, and a rosary with a golden chain and cross hanging on her right arm, which was joined to the left in prayer.
Mariette turned to her mother and said: “Mama, there’s a woman in the garden!” The immediate reply was, “Nonsense!” but Mariette persisted saying, “A lovely lady, beautifully dressed: a completely white dress, a blue sash.” Jokingly her mother replied, “Oh yes! Perhaps it is the Blessed Virgin;” but, when she looked out through the window she saw a white light shaped like a person, with what looked like a sheet over its head: she closed the curtain and declared that it must be a witch. Mariette, though, took another look and still saw the Lady smiling at her, so she began to pray with her rosary beads. She recited several decades and saw the apparition’s lips move in prayer, before the Lady beckoned her with her finger to come outside. As she moved towards the door, though, her mother locked it, and by the time Mariette had returned to the window, the Lady had gone.
The Beco family, and particularly here father Julien, were not particularly religious, having fallen victim, like many others at the time, to indifference in spiritual matters. And it was also a tense period, with the threat of a Nazi victory in the elections in neighboring Germany very much on people’s minds.
Nothing happened the next evening, Monday 16, but the local priest, Fr. Jamin, was surprised to see Mariette at Mass on the Tuesday morning for the first time in months. She also came to his catechism class, and impressed, he asked her to give her account of what had happened, which he noted down immediately afterwards.
On Wednesday 18 January, Mariette left the house at seven o’clock in the evening and knelt to say the rosary near the front gate as her father watched. Then she saw the Blessed Virgin descending towards her between two tall pine trees, a tiny figure growing larger and more luminous as she approached, stopping near her on a small grayish cloud about a foot from the ground. She joined in Mariette’s prayers, but did not touch the rosary that hung from her arm. Mariette, still praying, rose and went out through the gate and onto the road. She later said that the Lady had again beckoned her with her finger and she had followed her out.
She fell to her knees with a thud on two occasions, before she turned to the right and finally knelt for a third time on the ditch, placing her hands in some water there, following instructions from the Lady. Mariette was heard to repeat aloud: “This stream is reserved for me,” and “Good evening.”
Fr. Jamin was informed, and arrived at the Beco house at nearly ten o’clock, and although Mariette was asleep by then, the visit bore fruit in that Julien Beco told the priest that he wanted to come to Confession and receive Holy Communion the next day.
Next evening, Thursday 19 January, Mariette again left the house at about seven, and knelt down in the snow to pray. After a couple of decades of the rosary, she once more saw the Lady, and asking her who she was, heard the reply: “I am the Virgin of the poor.” As the small crowd who had gathered watched, she took the same path to the spring by the ditch. Mariette reported that Mary said, “This spring is reserved for all the nationsto relieve the sick,” and “I shall pray for you. Au Revoir.”
Next evening, Friday 20th, the witnesses heard Mariette say, “What do you wish, my beautiful Lady? and then: “Oh, a small chapel,” before she collapsed and remained unconscious for a few minutes.
Next day she went to see Fr. Jamin to report on what had happened, as she did after each apparition; but it seems that he was not convinced. That evening, she again prayed outside in the snow but saw nothing. She continued though on subsequent evenings to pray, on her own sometimes, but often with her father too, and it was only after three weeks of disappointment that the Lady again appeared to her on 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
She followed the Blessed Virgin out of the garden once more, and after reaching the spring, with similar genuflections as before, she plunged her hand into the water and blessed herself, while reporting that Mary had said: “I come to relieve suffering.”
There were no more apparitions until 15 February, when several ladies and Mariette’s mother were with her in the garden. The rosary was recited and then Mariette again saw the beautiful Lady, who in response to a request for a sign from Fr Jamin said: “Believe in me, I will believe in you. Pray much. Au Revoir.” Later it was revealed that she was given a secret that she was not to reveal.
On the evening of Monday 20 February, she was praying outside as usual, when suddenly she held out her hands as her voice changed and speeded up; she then rose to make her way to the spring just over a hundred yards away. Mariette reported that Mary had said, “My dear child, pray much,” and then looking very sad had simply said: “Au Revoir.”
The final apparition, the eighth, took place on 2 March 1933, as Mariette held out her arms towards her beautiful Lady. In reply to Mary’s words, “I am the Mother of the Savior, Mother of God, Pray much,” Mariette could only say, “Yes, yes.” Mary then indicated that this was indeed the last apparition by saying “Adieu,” instead of, as before, “Au Revoir.”
As in the case of Beauraing, and given the imminent threat from Nazism, we can certainly understand why Our Lady should have asked so insistently for prayer at that time. Tragically, despite the enthusiastic response of the Belgian people at the time to both Banneux and Beauraing, the prayers of the faithful were not enough to prevent the election of Hitler and all the terrible consequences that would spring from that for Europe and the world.
The apparitions at Banneux were approved in 1949, by Bishop Louis-Joseph Kerkhofs, of Liège, and this year is their 80th anniversary.
This article appeared initially in the Wanderer.