“I will convert sinners…I am the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven. Pray always… sacrifice yourself for me.”
Fifteen years after her appearances in Fátima, Our Lady appeared to five young children of varying ages – between nine and fifteen in Beauraing, a small town of French speaking people in the southern area of Belgium. Early in the evening of November 29, 1932, several children passed a small Lourdes’ grotto in front of a railway embankment on their way to the local convent school, then, entered the grounds that skirted the convent garden.
While waiting for someone to answer the door, one of them, Albert, 11, looked towards the embankment over the grotto and cried aloud: “Look! The Blessed Virgin, dressed in white, is walking above the bridge!” The girls looked and could see the luminous figure of a lady dressed in white. She was walking in midair, her feet hidden by a little cloud. The Sister who answered the door could see nothing, but when Gilberte, 13, reached the door she, too, saw the figure.
Over the next few evenings a pattern gradually developed in which the children would see Mary by a hawthorn tree near the grotto, but from outside the convent grounds. The children simultaneously dropped to their knees on the cobble-stoned street with a force that made bystanders wince; yet they suffered no injury. The people also knelt down in the street, looking through the railings from the outside of the convent gate. They were astonished with the high-pitched quality of the children’s voices as they prayed.
The children later described how they saw a beautiful Lady wearing a white gown with rays of light surrounding her head. She was holding her hands together as if in prayer. On the 2nd of December, Albert asked her if she was the Immaculate Virgin, to which she smiled and nodded her head; then, in answer to what she wanted, Our Lady simply said: “Always be good.”
On December the 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a crowd of about fifteen thousand assembled expecting a great miracle; but, they only saw the children in ecstasy. Testing the children while they were in ecstasy, they were found to be impervious to lighted matches held underneath their hands. Lights shone in their eyes and pin pricks did not bother them in the slightest. Meanwhile, the local priest, Father Lambert, and the Church authorities were taking a very prudent attitude towards events in Beauraing. They refused to get involved and the local bishop ordered his priests not to go to the site.
Although the children assembled and said the rosary every night, the apparitions did not occur each time; however, if Mary did appear they would fall to their knees in unison. They were closely watched to ensure they could not talk to each other and, when the apparition was over, they were questioned separately.
On the 28th of December, the children said Our Lady told them: “My last apparition will take place soon.”
The next day, the 30th, Fernande, 15, saw the Blessed Virgin with a heart of gold surrounded by rays. This was seen by two of the children as Mary repeated the phrase: “Pray, pray very much.”
Yet, only Fernande heard her say this. On New Year’s Eve, all the children saw Mary’s golden heart. On New Year’s Day, Mary asked Gilberte to “Pray, always” with the emphasis on always. The next day she told the children that on January the 3rd, the date of the final apparition, she would speak to each of them separately.
A very large crowd of about thirty-five thousand people assembled that evening as the children began their rosary. After saying only two decades, four of them said they could see her and fell to their knees, leaving the oldest, Fernande, in tears because she could see nothing. Mary spoke to Gilberte, imparting to her what was seen as the main message in Beauraing: “I will convert sinners” and, then, “Goodbye.” Just before disappearing, Our Lady said to Andree: “I am the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven. Pray, always.”
While the other children went inside for questioning, Fernande remained kneeling. Suddenly, along with many in the crowd, she heard a loud noise like thunder. She then saw a ball of fire on the hawthorn tree. Mary appeared from within this ball and, speaking to Fernande, asked if she loved her Son, and herself. When Fernande said she did, Our Lady responded: “Then sacrifice yourself for me.”
Upon saying this, the Blessed Virgin glowed with extraordinary brilliance and, extending her arms, Fernande could see her golden heart. She then said, “Goodbye” and disappeared.
The bishop appointed a commission of inquiry in 1935. By that time, opposition to Beauraing had practically ceased. The investigation resumed under his successor. In February, 1943, Bishop Charue authorized public devotions to Mary in Beauraing; however, it was not until July 1949, four years after the end of World War II, that the shrine was officially recognized and two important documents issued.
The first dealt with two of the many cures that had taken place in Beauraing. They were declared to be miraculous. The second document was a letter to the clergy in which the bishop said, “We are able in all serenity and prudence to affirm that the Queen of Heaven appeared to the children of Beauraing during the winter of 1932-1933, especially to show us in her maternal Heart, the anxious appeal for prayer, and the promise of her powerful mediation for the conversion of sinners.”