This week I made a brief pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Mercy at Pellevoisin, France. Since I will not be preaching in the parish for the next two weeks (there is a Pastoral Letter on 9/10 June and I am at the International Eucharistic Congress on 16/17 June) I will be offering you some reflections on my pilgrimage over the next two weeks instead.
What Happened at Pellevoisin?
The story of Pellevoisin is simple enough. In the year 1876, Our Lady appeared 15 times to a 32-year-old domestic servant, Estelle Faguette. In September 1875, Estelle was seriously ill; she made a written petition to the Mother of God, asking that her health be restored so that her parents, also ill, might not have to beg for food. By February 1876, Estelle’s condition seemed terminal, but on the consecutive nights of 14-18 February, Our Lady appeared to her, spoke with her about those personal faults which she needed to correct, and declared that Estelle would “publish the glory” of Mary. In the early hours of Saturday 19th February, Estelle found herself to be healed.
In July, the Mother of God visited Estelle on three consecutive nights (Sat 1 – Mon 3) and confirmed her mission to make known Mary’s glory, to accomplish the conversion of sinners. (In the liturgical calendar then in force, the Visitation of Our Lady to St Elizabeth was celebrated on 2 July, and July 3 was the Feast of the Coronation of Our Lady of Lourdes.) Throughout all the visions so far, Estelle had noticed the presence of a plain square of white cloth on the Blessed Virgin’s breast.
A third series took place in September, on the 9th, 10th (Feast of the Holy Name of Mary) and 15th. For the first time, on September 9th, and in all subsequent visions, a red heart was visible on the white cloth – Estelle understood that Our Lady was wearing a scapular of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our Lady held up the scapular and said to Estelle:“I love this devotion.” She paused, then added: “It is here I will be honored.”
Our Lady visited again on 1 (All Saints), 5 and 11 November, with simple gestures of encouragement to Estelle, building up to the final visit on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. On this day the Mother of God confirmed all the previous messages and recalled to Estelle certain words spoken in previous months:
- You know well that you are my daughter. I am all merciful, and mistress of my Son.
- What afflicts me most is the want of respect shown by some people to my Son in Holy Communion, and the attitude which they assume in prayer when the mind is occupied by other things.
- His Heart has so much love for mine, that He cannot refuse my requests. Through me He will move the most obdurate. I am come in particular for the conversion of sinners.
- (On showing the Sacred Heart for the first time:) The treasures of my Son are open; let them pray.” … “I love this devotion.” … “It is here I will be honoured.”
- I recommend calm, not only for thee but, for the Church and for France.
- I have chosen thee. I choose the little ones and the weak for my glory.
Estelle was then commanded to go to her local bishop with a model of the Scapular which she had made, and to pass on these words from Our Lady: “Nothing will be more acceptable to me than to see this livery on each of my children, and that they all endeavour to repair the outrages received by my Divine Son in the Sacrament of His Love.” The Mother of God did not specify the design for the rear panel of the scapular, saying that the Church authorities should decide.
Within a few days, the Archbishop of Bourges had received Estelle favourably and permitted copies of the scapular to be distributed; in 1892, Pope Leo XIII sent a candle to Pellevoisin as a tribute, and declared an indulgence for those who made a pilgrimage there. In 1922, Rome gave permission for Pellevoisin to keep a special votive Mass of Our Lady on 9 September each year. Estelle died on 23 August 1929; in 1983, after a theological and medical inquiry, her healing was declared to be of “miraculous character”.