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Laus, France 1664
Vision of St. Maurice
In May of 1664, Benedicta Rencurel was seventeen, praying the Rosary, her favorite devotion, watching her flock, when suddenly an old and venerable man, clothed in the vestments of a bishop of the early Church, came up to her /
St. Maurice: “My daughter, what are you doing here?”
Benedicta: “I’m watching my sheep, praying to God, and looking for water to drink.”
“I’ll get some for you.”
“You’re so beautiful! Are you an Angel, or Jesus?”
“I am Maurice, to whom the nearby chapel [then it ruins] is dedicated . . . My daughter, do not come back to this place. It is part of a different territory, and the guards would take your flock if they found it here. Go to the valley above Saint-Étienne. That is where you will see the Mother of God.”
“But Sir, She is in Heaven. How can I see Her there?”
“Yes, She is in Heaven, and on earth too when She wants.”
Apparitions of Our Lady of Laus
Very early the next morning, Benoite hastily led her flock to the indicated spot, the Vallon des Fours (Valley of Kilns), so called because the hill above this valley contained gypsum, which the village inhabitants extracted and fired to make plaster for their buildings. Benoite had just arrived in front of a little grotto that was on the site when she saw a Lady of incomparable beauty holding a no less beautiful Child by the hand. She was ravished by the sight. Despite Saint Maurice’s prediction, however, the naive shepherd girl could not imagine that she was in the presence of the Mother of God.
Benedicta: “Lovely Lady, what are You doing here? Did You come to buy some plaster?” “Would You be so kind as to give us this child? He would delight us all!” “Would You like to eat with me? I’ve got some good bread; we can dip it in the spring.”
The Lady smiled again and continued letting her enjoy Her presence, going in and coming out of the cavity in the rock, approaching Benoite and moving away from her. Then, when evening came She took the Child in Her arms, entered the grotto and disappeared. The following day and for the next four months, Benoite contemplated on that site the Joy of the Angels and the Ornament of Heaven. The shepherd girl’s face was transfigured right from the start; she shared her happiness with everyone in cheerful simplicity.
Then, after two months of silence, She made her Her pupil and began to speak in order to teach, test and encourage her. Putting Herself on the level of the mountain girl’s uneducated mind, the Queen of Heaven condescended to familiarities that would surprise us if we did not know that Mary’s goodness is boundless.
One day our tender Mother invited Benoite to rest by Her side, and the weary child went peacefully to sleep on the hem of the Virgin’s mantle.
Another time, doing as mothers do to teach prayers to their children, She had her repeat, word by word, the Litany of Loreto, then enjoined her to teach it to the girls of Saint-Étienne and go to church with them every evening to sing it there. With the sweetness and patience of a mother, She formed her gradually in view of her future mission.
The pious young girl was still uncouth, quite stubborn and readily impatient. Before the Virgin Mary personally revealed Her name, She initiated Benoite in the role she was to play all her life: to work at the conversion of sinners through prayer, sacrifice, and—–a special vocation—–exhortation, for God had granted her the charism of reading in hearts. Consequently, she was often given the heavy task of correcting souls and disclosing their sad condition to them. When needed, she would remind them of their forgotten or hidden sins and urge them to purify themselves of them. A striking conversion, among many others, occurred to give credit not only to the Apparition, but to the seeress’ clairvoyance as well.
Benoite’s employer, Mrs. Rolland, a woman who had no interest whatsoever in religion, wanted to see for herself what was going on at the site of the apparitions. One day before dawn she went in secret to the grotto, entered before Benoite, and hid behind a rock. Benoite arrived, and a few moments later she saw the Beautiful Lady.
Virgin Mary: “Your mistress is over there, hiding behind the rock,” “Tell her not to curse with the name of Jesus, because if she keeps it up there will be no paradise for her: Her conscience is in a very bad state; she should do penance.”
The employer, who had heard everything, tearfully promised to amend. And she kept her word. News of the apparitions began to spread; people were talking about them all over. Many believed in them, but several others were incredulous and treated the shepherd girl as a false mystic. Among the many people who supported Benoite were the little girls of St. Stephen’s who, like her, loved Mary with all their heart.
Virgin Mary: “Tell the girls of St. Stephen’s to sing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin in the church every evening, with the permission of the Prior, and you will see that they will do it.”
Indeed, once they had learned their “lesson,” the Litany was chanted every evening with great devotion. It might be interesting to point out here that Laus is in the diocese of Embrun. Since 1638, the year of the consecration of France to Mary by King Louis XIII, the Litany of Loreto had been chanted regularly in the cathedral of Embrun. As reports of the apparitions took on greater expansion, François Grimaud, the magistrate of Avançon Valley, a good Catholic and a man of integrity, decided to conduct an investigation. After serious examination he concluded that Benoite was not deceiving anyone, nor was she an impostor, or mentally ill. He also observed that Benoite had not asked her Lady to reveal Her identity, so to speak. At the magistrate’s request, although personally it cost her a great deal, Benoite was obliged to ask:
Benedicta: “My good Lady, I and all the people in this place are hard put to know who You are. Might You not be the Mother of our good God? Please be so kind as to tell me, and we will build a chapel here to honor You.”
Virgin Mary: “There is no need to build anything there because She had chosen a more pleasant spot. I am Mary, the Mother of Jesus. You will not see Me here any more, nor for some time.”
September 29, 1664
Benedicta: “Oh, good Mother! Why did You deprive me of the joy of seeing You for so long?”
Virgin Mary: “From now on, you will see Me only in the chapel that is in Laus.”
And Mary showed her the path that went up and over the hill toward Laus, a village the young girl had heard about but never visited, as she actually lived in the village of St.-Étienne d’Avançon.
In 1640, some pious mountain people had built a little chapel dedicated to Notre-Dame de Bon Rencontre (Our Lady of Good Encounter) deep in the solitude of Laus. They had done so for the purpose of gathering there to pray when high water would prevent them from going to the parish church in Saint-Étienne. Exteriorly, the humble thatch-roofed structure looked like all the other small houses; just over two meters square, it had a plaster altar whose only ornaments were two wooden candlesticks and a pewter ciborium. That is where the Queen of Heaven awaited the young shepherd girl, as in a new stable of Bethlehem. since Benoite had never heard of the chapel, the next day she searched a long time for it in tears, going here and there, sometimes wandering away for a moment. She stopped at the entrance of each poor dwelling, trying to detect the “sweet fragrance.” Finally she detected it near a door left ajar. Entering, she found her beautiful Lady standing on a dust-covered altar.
Virgin Mary: “My daughter, you have searched diligently for Me, and you should not have wept. Even so, you pleased Me by not being impatient.” Benoite humbly accepted this remark and then noticed with sadness the pitiful condition of the altar.
Benedicta: “Honorable Lady, would You like me to spread my apron under Your feet? It is very white.”
“No, . . . soon nothing will be lacking here—–neither vestments nor altar linens nor candles. I want a large church built on this spot, along with a building for a few resident priests. The church will be built in honor of my dear Son and Myself. Here many sinners will be converted. I will appear to you often here.”
“Build a church? There’s no money for that here!”
“Do not worry. When the time comes to build, you will find all you need, and it will not be long. The pennies of the poor will provide for everything. Nothing will be lacking.”
Throughout the winter of 1664-65, in spite of the four kilometers that separated the village of Saint-Étienne from the Laus chapel, Benoite went up to it every day. And there she often saw the Virgin.
Virgin Mary: “Pray continually for sinners.”
Oftentimes, She would name those She wanted her to pray for. In this way the Virgin was forming Benoite for her mission, which was to help priests in the ministry of Confession and the conversion of sinners. As of 1665, the Blessed Virgin asked her to stop tending flocks in order to devote herself to her mission.
Virgin Mary: “I asked My Son for Laus for the conversion of sinners, and He has granted it to Me.”
On September 14, 1665, Father Antoine Lambert, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Embrunand most unsympathetic towards the apparitions, came to Laus in the company of several eminent priests, equally unsympathetic to the events at Laus, hoping to put an end to “this sorcery,” prove Benoite guilty of a hoax, and shut down the chapel. When the poor shepherd girl heard that they had arrived, she was so afraid that she wanted to leave.
Virgin Mary: “No, My daughter, you must not run away. You must remain, for you must do justice to churchmen. They will question you one by one and try to catch you with your own words. But don’t be afraid. Tell the Vicar General that he can very well make God come down from Heaven by the power he received when he became a priest, but he has no commands to give the Mother of God.”
One day in the winter of 1665, Benoite was advised by the Virgin Mary to invite those with illnesses to apply oil to their afflicted members.
Virgin Mary: “If they take oil from the lamp in the chapel and apply it to themselves, and if they have recourse to Her intercession and have faith, they will be healed;”that “God has given Her this place for the conversion of sinners.” [Text from the manuscript of Rev. Can. Pierre Gaillard.]
Virgin Mary: “Take heart, My daughter! Have patience . . . Do your duty cheerfully . . . Bear no hatred towards the enemies of Laus . . . Do not be troubled and sick over it if people do not profit from your advice . . . Do not be disturbed by temptations, visible or invisible spirits, or temporal affairs . . . Strive never to forsake the presence of God, for whoever has any faith will not dare to offend Him.”
Canon Gaillard states that from 1664 to 1672, incredulity made only a few small waves. But during the next twenty years unspeakable contradictions arose, especially among the clergy, then infected with Jansenist venom. Father Lambert, Vicar General of the diocese of Embrun, had passed away. A few members of the metropolitan Chapter who were prejudiced against Laus took advantage of the authority they exercised in the interim to issue an interdict against the holy girl; they posted their document on the doors of the cathedral of Embrun, and threatened with excommunication any priest who celebrated Mass in the Laus chapel. They also posted a sign on the church door at Laus forbidding public devotions on the site.
Virgin Mary: “Remove that paper… and let Mass be said here as it was before.”
On March 18, 1700, Benoite’s Guardian Angel had told her, “The Laus devotion is the work of God which neither man nor the devil can destroy. It will continue until the end of the world, flourishing more and more and bearing great fruit everywhere.”
On Christmas Day of 1718, after asking forgiveness of those who were present, for the bad examples she might have given during her lifetime, she requested and received Holy Viaticum. Suddenly her good Mother reappeared before her eyes, leaving behind a fragrance that pervaded the very poor chamber.
Visions of Christ
Benoite She saw Our Lord crucified, bleeding and in agony, with the wounds in His hands, feet and side, and red gashes from the scourging covering His Body.
Benoite: “Oh, my Jesus, if You remain like this another instant, I will die!”
Guardian Angel: “Do not be troubled, my Sister. Although our Divine Master has appeared to you in this condition, He is not suffering anything; it is solely to show you what He suffered out of love for the human race.”
Friday, July 7, 1673
Christ: “My daughter, I am showing Myself to you in this condition so that you may participate in the sorrows of My Passion.”
Every week from that day on, she suffered a mystical crucifixion between Thursday evening and Saturday morning. This weekly crucifixion lasted fifteen years, with a two-year interruption from 1677 to 1679, when Benoite served food to the workers who were building the priests’ residence; in November 1679, the mystical crucifixion was renewed at the Cross of Avançon.
Source: Adapted from Magnificat Vol. XL, No. 5 and Vol. XXXVI, No. 5.
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