The Apparitions at L’Ile Bouchard

L’Ile Bouchard: 8 – 14 December 1947

L’Ile Bouchard (Bouchard Island) is a small town in north-western France, on the River Vienne, a tributary of the Loire, situated a little over twenty miles south of Tours, and about ten miles east of Chinon. Here, in the parish church of St Gilles, from the 8th to the 14th of December 1947, about eight months after Tre Fontane, unfolded a little-known series of apparitions of Mary, which, despite a slow process of approval, show every indication of being authentic.

The first apparition in the church at L’Ile Bouchard took place on the afternoon of that same day, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. At about one o’clock in the afternoon, Jacqueline Aubry, aged 12, her sister Jeanette, aged 7, and their cousin, Nicole Robin, aged 10, were on their way back to school after lunch in the Aubry house, when, at Jacqueline’s suggestion, they stopped at the church of St Gilles to pray.

They went to the altar of the Virgin and began to say a decade of the rosary; but they were not quite half way through when Jacqueline suddenly saw a beautiful Lady before her, all in white, with hands joined in prayer and a rosary over her right arm. To the left was an angel holding a lily, eyes fixed in contemplation of the Lady. Then Nicole and Jeanette also looked up, and exclaimed in wonder at the marvelous scene before them.

As the Lady smiled at them, Jacqueline whispered that they must tell other people what was happening, so they ran out together and saw a school friend, Laura Croizon, aged 8, and her 13 year old sister, Sergine. Returning to the church, the five girls made their way towards the altar, as Laura cried out that she could see a beautiful lady and an angel. Sergine, though, saw nothing, and the others had to describe the scene for her. The altar of the Virgin had a stained glass window featuring Our Lady of Lourdes to its left, and a statue of Our Lady of Victories directly above it. The apparition was situated several feet off the ground in the corner between the altar and the window.

The girls described a beautiful Lady, surrounded by a golden light, wearing a brilliant white dress edged with gold, and a blue sash, and carrying a white rosary. Her veil was a white of a different hue and fell down to near her feet, while the girls could see her striking long blond hair falling down the front of her body, in two parts, to her knees. Her smile was wonderful, and they thought her to be aged about 16 or 17.

The angel, surrounded by an intense white light, was kneeling on his right knee in profound contemplation, and wore a rosy-white robe, also edged with gold. Like the Lady he had blue eyes and blond hair. In his right hand he held out a lily stalk, while his left hand was placed upon his heart. He had white wings, also trimmed with gold, whose feathers shone and moved slightly in a “breeze” the children could not feel. The two figures were in a rocky grotto.

The Lady stood on a rectangular stone block, decorated with a garland of five pink roses, while on the rocks just below were the following words in letters of gold, about three inches high: “O Marie conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous.” (O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you). This is the invocation made famous at the Rue du Bac.

Once the girls had explained all this to Sergine, the Lady disappeared, and they all made way their way out of the church. Jacqueline and Jeanette rushed home to tell their mother, but she did not believe them. Once back at school the news spread very quickly, as Jacqueline excitedly recounted to one of the sisters, Sr. Marie de L’Enfant Jésus, that she had seen a beautiful Lady in the Church, but wondered who she might be—was she the Blessed Virgin? The Sister believed instantly, but feared a negative general reaction.

The parish priest, Fr Clovis Ségelle, and the head teacher, Sr. Saint-Léon de la Croix, came into the school yard just then, and were not impressed by these reports. Fr Ségelle said that Jacqueline must have been seeing double through her thick glasses—and indeed, because of her poor vision and chronic conjunctivitis, Jacqueline did have to wear glasses and continually wipe her eyes.

Jacqueline explained that the other girls had also seen the Lady, and so Fr Ségelle and Sr. Saint-Léon decided to question them separately. Each gave the same account, and as school began again, Jacqueline spoke once more with the head teacher, who dismissed her curtly, while managing to give her the impression that she should have stayed in the church if the Lady was really so beautiful. Jacqueline took up this idea, and lost no time in fetching the other girls and leading them back to the altar of the Virgin, where they were delighted to be beckoned by the smiling Lady.

As they knelt before her, though, her expression became extremely sad as she slowly uttered her first words: “Tell the little children to pray for France, for her need is great.” Jacqueline, still not sure who the lady was, then whispered to Jeanette and Laura to ask the Lady if she was their “Maman du Ciel,” (Heavenly Mother). They did so, and the reply was “But of course I am your Maman du Ciel!” Jacqueline then asked about the angel. The Lady looked at him, and he turned towards the girls and said: “I am the angel Gabriel.”

Mary then turned back to the girls and asked for their hands to kiss, bending low to reach the hands of Jacqueline and Nicole. But the other two girls were much smaller and could not reach high enough. Jacqueline took them up, one after the other, and lifted them up at arms length, as though they were practically weightless.

All four testified to the solidity and warmth of Mary’s hand and the touch of her lips. Before disappearing in a cloud of silvery dust, she asked them to return that evening at five o’clock and the next day at one o’clock. After the girls left the church, they noticed a shining white oval on their fingers, but before they got back to school these traces, which they did manage to show to a local woman, had faded.

Jacqueline and Nicole spoke of what had happened, and after class they were separated and asked to write out accounts of their experiences, which were matching. Once the girls got home they found their parents not inclined to believe them, and only Jacqueline was able to return to the church, for the rosary and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in honor of the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Mary appeared and beckoned to her, but as she debated whether to go forward or not, looking back toward Sr. Saint-Léon for permission, assuming that she too could see the apparition, the bell rang for Benediction, and when she looked back the apparition was gone. But once the Blessed Sacrament had been returned to the tabernacle, Mary reappeared.

The next day, Tuesday 9 December, at one o’clock, all four girls assembled in the church, and so the general pattern for the week’s events was set. They knelt by the Virgin’s altar and began to pray Hail Marys, when suddenly a shining golden sphere, about three feet across, came out of the wall and unfolded itself as a rectangular curtain of silvery light, on which the rocky grotto stood out in relief.Mary’s long golden hair, which had so impressed the girls on the first day, was now hidden underneath her veil. The angel was kneeling on the other side, while the words on the rocks had changed. Now they read: “Je suis l’Immaculeé Conception,” (I am the Immaculate Conception). Again they were being presented with important words from a previous Marian apparition, this time Lourdes.

They could also see parts of a word written in letters of gold across Mary’s breast: “Ma …cat,” but didn’t understand what they meant; her hands hid the middle part of what would be revealed later as, “Magnificat,” the traditional name given to Mary’s song of praise uttered during the Visitation to Elizabeth, (Lk 1:46-55), which took place shortly after the Annunciation.

The girls were then joined by a certain Madame Trinson, who owned a shoe shop in the town. Mary, with a grave expression, showed the girls the golden cross of her rosary, and asked them to kiss it. Jacqueline and Nicole both stood up to do this, and Madame Trinson was amazed to see Jacqueline repeat her feat of the previous day, lifting up the two younger girls as though they were dolls, as light as a feather, in order that they too could kiss the golden cross. The metal was cold to their lips and they were penetrated with a sense of Mary’s grief.

The Virgin then made a beautiful, but extremely slow, sign of the cross. It took two minutes to complete, and the girls copied her movements, with Madame Trinson looking on in astonishment. Once this was over Mary said that she would tell them a secret that they could reveal in three days, and with great emphasis said: “Pray for France, which in these days is in great danger.” Then she asked that the priest come at two o’clock, with the children and a crowd, so that they could all pray. She also asked for a grotto, and that her statue and that of the angel should be placed in it, promising to bless them once this was done. With that the apparition disappeared.

Fr Ségelle, however, refused to come at two, and so Jacqueline, Jeanette and Laura, with about twenty other children, and thirty adults, assembled in the church. After they had said ten Hail Marys, the Virgin and the angel appeared as before, out of the golden ball. She asked for hymns and prayers, before telling them to return each day at one o’clock, until everything was over. At five-thirty Fr Ségelle informed the archbishop of the day’s events.

That same day, to general surprise, the Communists decided to call off their general strike.
On the third day, Wednesday 10 December, one hundred and fifty people waited in the church for the next appearance of Mary. Suddenly the Virgin was present, and again she requested a sung version of the Hail Mary, before asking the girls to kiss her hand. The crowd, like Madame Trinson, were amazed to see the frail Jacqueline repeat her feat of lifting the two smallest girls.

Then Jacqueline’s mother called out to her daughter requesting a miracle so that all would believe, to which Mary replied: “I have not come here to perform miracles, but to tell you to pray for France. However, tomorrow you will see clearly and you won’t need to wear glasses any more.”

Then Mary told the girls that she was going to tell them a secret, which they must promise not to reveal. They agreed to this, and, after the secret the Virgin asked them to return again the next day at the same time, before disappearing into the golden ball. This apparition had lasted about a quarter of an hour. As in the case of other authentic apparitions, the girls could not be persuaded, by any means, to divulge the secret.

Naturally enough, the people wanted to know what the answer to the request for a miracle had been, and the girls related that Mary had said that from tomorrow Jacqueline would see clearly and not need glasses. At five o’clock, Fr Ségelle interviewed Jacqueline, and poured scorn on the idea that her eyes, which were really in a dreadful condition, could possibly improve overnight.

Jacqueline’s parents were in something of a quandary; they were non-practising Catholics, and her father had been embarrassed by remarks concerning his daughter, and become angry. But the transparent sincerity of his eldest daughter had struck him deeply, and now they would have to wait and see what the morning brought.

When Jacqueline woke up, she was able to open her eyes without any difficulty and had normal vision. She called to her parents in delight, who were overjoyed at seeing their daughter’s eyes cured so miraculously. Her father rushed to get Fr Ségelle, who exclaimed on seeing Jacqueline: “So it’s true that She has descended among us!” The priest immediately contacted the archbishop and was told to be present at the next apparition.

This was the fourth day, Thursday 11 December, and by one o’clock the report of this miracle had ensured a full church. Mary appeared and requested that they sing the Hail Mary, before asking: “Do you pray for sinners?” They replied that they did, and then she led them through ten Hail Marys, but only said the first part of each prayer, the angel Gabriel’s message, and not the second part.

Jacqueline asked her to heal people who had petitioned the girls for cures, to which the Virgin replied that she promised that there would be “happiness in families.” Before disappearing she again asked about the grotto. After this, the girls were questioned separately in the sacristy.

On the fifth day, Friday 12 December, three hundred people were in the church for the one o’clock rendezvous. When Mary appeared, the girls could see something new: now she was wearing a “crown” made up of twelve shining rays, each about a foot long, two narrow blue ones in the center and then five wider ones to each side, colored red, yellow, green, pink and a brownish red.

Now the Virgin held her hands lower so the word “Magnificat” could be read. The girls thought the crown resembled a rainbow. She then asked them to sing the Hail Mary, before leading them, as on the previous day, in ten spoken Hail Marys. After this she said: “Do you pray for sinners?” to which they replied “Yes, Madame,” and then she continued: “Good, above all pray a lot for sinners.” Jacqueline asked for a miracle, but Mary repeated her previous statement that she had not come to perform miracles, but to ask for prayers for France. After another decade of the rosary she disappeared, and again the girls were questioned separately as to what they had seen and heard.

For the sixth day of the apparitions, Saturday 13 December, five hundred people were in the church at one o’clock, as the Virgin appeared again, but this time without the crown. Mary again asked for prayers, invocations and hymns, as Jacqueline repeated her request for a miracle, to hear the reply, “Later.” Then after more prayers and invocations, the Virgin told them that she would appear the next day for the last time. Again the children were interrogated afterwards.

The last day of the apparitions, Sunday 14 December, saw L’Ile Bouchard crowded with pilgrims and the church of St Gilles jammed solid with two thousand people, while more gathered outside. While waiting for the girls, the congregation prayed the rosary—many had not prayed in years—as the young seers took their places for the last time.Once more, Mary and the angel were before them, for an apparition which lasted over half an hour.

Again prayers and hymns were requested, after which Jacqueline read some messages that had been given to her, including one from Sr. Marie which said: “Madame, what should we do to console our Lord for the suffering sinners cause him?” The response was: “Pray and make sacrifices.”

After more prayers and invocations, Mary requested that the congregation sing the Magnificat, and Fr Ségelle led everyone in this, and later still she reemphasized the need to pray for sinners. Realizing that the apparition would soon be over, Jacqueline asked the Virgin to give some proof of her presence, to which Mary responded with a smile: “Before I go I will send a bright ray of sunlight.”

With that, she began to bless the crowd, and as she did so, a mysterious ray of sunshine streamed in through a pane in the southwest window of the choir, illuminating the precise spot of the apparition. It grew in strength and began to cover a larger area, forcing those near the altar of the Virgin to shield their eyes. Those affected also remarked on the heat of this ray. The girls had their backs to the light, but those placed so they could see their faces, and the flowers they held, saw them gently lit by marvelous sparkles and colored lights, as if by reflection from the jewel-like interior of the grotto.

This ray of sunlight was inexplicable in natural terms, since normal sunlight does not spread out like a fan from a single point—for this to happen the sun would need to have been situated virtually outside the window. Moreover, this ray, given its point of entry, should have been blocked by some of the pillars of the choir. In addition, subsequent tests would show that it was physically impossible for a normal ray of sunlight to have illuminated that particular part of the church on the winter’s day in question, and so we are in the presence of a miracle.

After it was over, Fr Ségelle gave the congregation, many of whom were in tears, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and once more the girls were closely examined. They faced much further questioning over the next few months from the curious, and many other trials, but remained faithful to their testimony.

With L’Ile Bouchard, we have positive signs of approval of the cult, and a lack of a definitive judgement one way or the other. The Bishop authorized the construction of a grotto, following Mary’s request, and also permitted pilgrimages to the church. The cult of Notre-Dame de la Prière, “Our Lady of Prayer,” has been recognized, a recognition reaffirmed in November 1988 by Mgr. Honoré, the archbishop of Tours, in a letter published in the L’Ile Bouchard parish bulletin.

Several ecclesiastical investigations into the apparitions were held, with that of the Vicar-General of the diocese, Mgr. Fiot, being the most important. Although there has been no official recognition of the events at L’Ile Bouchard, there has been a de facto recognition by successive archbishops of Tours, in that they have allowed a grotto, and statues of Mary and the angel, to be placed in the church of St Gilles, and also sanctioned the growing pilgrimages to L’Ile Bouchard. In addition, the French theologian Fr. Vernet, published a lengthy study favorable to the apparitions in 1992.

Regrettably, though, it seems that, following the retirement of Fr Ségelle, until the spring of 1998, a succession of priests unfavorable to the apparitions were in charge of the parish, and this retarded matters. In addition, it seems that there has been a policy of silence and restraint, which may be linked to various troubles the children had afterwards, including persecutions, which only stopped following the intervention of the police.On 8 Dec 2001 in a public decree, the Archbishop of Tours, André Vingt-Trois, authorized “pilgrimages, and the public cult celebrated in the church of St. Gilles of L’Ile Bouchard, to invoke Our Lady of Prayer.”

Decree by Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois

Since 1947 many Catholics have made the pilgrimage to the church of St. Gilles, at L’Ile-Bouchard, to venerate the Virgin Marie. These pilgrimages have borne many fruits of grace. Never falling into sensationalism, they develop a spirit of prayer and strengthen the faith of the pilgrims.

Having carefully studied the events, and taken council with appropriate persons*, I authorize these pilgrimages, and the public cult celebrated in the church of St. Gilles of I’Ile-Bouchard, to invoke Our Lady of Prayer, under the pastoral authority of the parish priest of L’Ile-Bouchard.

Tour, 8 December 2001
Andre Vingt-Trois
Archbishop of Tours

Translation by Paul Rhoads. (*Translators note: specialists at the Vatican were among those consulted.

8 December 2001 decree by Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois