France was coming to herself after the war of 1870, followed by the Commune,which was when the Monarchy was restored. The Revolution had damped the faith, but there was a spirit of hope now. With the beheading of King Louis XVI and Queen Antoinette Marie, the kingdom … no more a kingdom … was rife with wars and discontent. The badge of the Sacred Heart, given to Saint Marguerite Marie Alocoque, had been worn by many in the court, including the King and Queen who promoted it, although France as a nation was never consecrated to the Sacred Heart.
Now, Napoleon III, self proclaimed emperor, was toppled, and, Louis XVIII, the brother of the executed King who had been in exile, was crowned King. The Monarchy would be short.
Pellevoisin, a small burgh in the department of the Indre, looks down from a gentle hill up a magnificent sweep of country. Its parish church of purest Gothic, dedicated to St. Martin possesses an apse of exquisite beauty dating from the twelfth century. It is not here that the feet of pilgrims turn however. They seek a miniature chapel with a statue of the Blessed Virgin wreathed with roses and lying at a stone’s throw from the parish church. In 1876 it was a bedroom to a dying girl, Estelle Faguette. It was to lay someday in the shadow of the great Sacre Coeur Basillica of Montmarte, bringing a possible thread of continuity to the spread of devotion to the Sacred Heart, then growing in France, to that of Fatima, forty years later.
God had said that when Russia was converted, the world would realize that the peace which had finally overflowed the earth was due to the conversion of the earths largest land mass, Russia, by the Pope, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Then the Immaculate Heart would be honored next to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by all peoples. In this Scapular they are honored together. Mary even said: “It is here that I shall be honored”
It was 1876. Springtime.
Estelle was then thirty two years old and had been suffering for twelve years, although she continued to carry out her duties to her master and mistress. She was now in the last stage of pulmonary consumption, complicated by peitonitis. She had been, for these twelve years, a servant in the family of the Comte Arthur de la Rochefoucauld (a famous family of French nobility for centuries through the monarchies)
Her main worry was her parents, for whom she had been the bread winner. The following letter, which she wrote to Our Lady and placed under a little stone in the Lourdes Shrine will give you a glimpse into her personality:
“You know that I am your child ( Estelle was a member of (‘The Children of Mary’) and that I love you; therefore, obtain for me, I beseech you, from your Divine Son, my resoration to health. It is for His glory that I ask it. Behold my parents sorrow! O Mary, you know that I am their all. If, because of my sins, I cannot be completely cured, you can at least obtain for me a little strength of body, so that I may be able to earn my living and provide for the wants of my father and mother, who, as you see, are on the eve of having to beg for their bread. The thought of this causes me intense suffering.
Think, good Mother, of what you endured the night of our Saviour’s birth when you went from door to door asking to be taken in. Think too, of what you suffered when Jesus was stretched on the Cross. I put my trust in you, Mother; I know that if you wish it, your Son will cure me. He knows how much I wished to be of the number of His spouses. Deign to listen to my supplications, and, to interceded for me with your Divine Son. May He restore me to health if such be His good pleasure. If not, may His holy will be done. May He at least grant me perfect resignation, and may that resignation contribute to my salvation and that of my parents.
My heart is yours, holy Virgin; keep it always, and may it be a pledge of my love and of my gratitude for your maternal goodness.”
“She was a fair, comely young woman, with expressive blue eyes and a pleasant mouth. Possessed of good common sense and being practical in character, there was nothing of the ‘visionary’ about her”
A Paris medical man, Dr. Buequois, of the Rue de l’Universite, had told her mistress some months before that her case was hopeless, and that she was slowly dying of consumption. Her attending Doctor now was Dr. Benard, of Bazancais, and she had then received the last Sacraments.
February 10, 1876 Dr. Benard refused to see her saying that he “had more to do than to go on journeys with the sole object of consoling patients.” Dr. Hubert was summoned to Pellevoisin in his stead. He said that it was useless to torture her further with medicine as she had but a few hours to live. He wrote out a prescription, nonetheless. “There are doses here for five hours; but after the next two or three hours there will be no further need of any” he said, and left.
Instead of dying that night, Estelle Faguette was to linger between life and death for nine days, and then to be the object of a cure … as distinctly inexplicable … according to the known laws of nature … as is any one of the miraculous cures on record.
The following night occurred the first of the series of apparitions, which have already given Pellevoisin a place in the religious history of the time. The first five were on five successive nights.
Each morning Estelle put Abbe Salmon, Cure of Pellevoisin, who was at the same time her spiritual director, in possession of the details of her vision of the preceding night. On Thursday morning she told him that she would either be dead or restored to health on the following Saturday.
At first Abbe Salmon was sceptical. Yet, so startling were the revelations he listened to that he thought it advisable to confide these to certain persons, including the nuns of Pellevoisin. Thus, several were in possession of Esselle’s statement respecting her predicted cure.
Friday night came. Those around believed her to be entering upon her death agony. The priest was one.
Next morning found her not only alive but cured. Upon entering her room at an early hour, Abbe Salmon heard “Je suis guerie!” (I am cured)
Yet, she was still in bed. Just as before. Her right arm lay helpless by her side, paralyzed and swollen to double its natural size, as it had been for days. The priest remained sceptical as before.
He was about to say Mass at the parish church , and had promised to return at half-past seven to administer Holy Communion to Estelle. Before leaving, he said: “The Blessed Virgin can obtain your cure if she will. As soon as you have received the Blessed Sacrament try to make the sign of the cross with your right hand. If you succeed, it will be a sign that what you say is true.
At the specified hour, Abbe Salmon came back, and Estelle communicated in the presence of a dozen persons. The priest then told her to make the sign of the Cross with her right hand.
She drew forth the swollen, helpless member, and, to the astonishment of all, made with it the sign of the cross. She became at once able to use her arm freely, and it was noticed directly that it had come back to its normal size.
That day she arose, dressed herself without help, laughed and talked gaily, and ate. Dr. Benard affirmed that it was of a nature to upset all medical prognostics. Dr. Hubert went further, and said that it was not to be explained by natural laws. Dr. Hubert was a pronounced freethinker.
The sublime message of Pellevoisin commenced with the prediction of the miraculous cure and culminated in the revelation of the scapular of the Sacred Heart seven months later.
Here follows the story. The words of Our Lady will be in bold print.
On the five successive nights, as Estelle lay sick, according to her account , she gazed upon a figure of surpassing loveliness, surrounded by a halo of light. The figure appeared first at the foot of her bed. It was clad in a white flowing garment, with white girdle and white veil. The face was of indescribable beauty, The garment resembled fine white flannel. The veil, which was of a more silvery whiteness, slightly shaded the forehead of the Apparition and fell in folds over the back. “Have courage and patience. You will have to suffer five days longer to honour my Son’s five Wounds. On Saturday you will be either dead or restored to health. If my Son grants you life, I wish you to proclaim my glory.”
The next night Estelle was told that she would be restored to health the following Saturday. “In being restored to life, do not think you will be exempt from suffering. No; you will have to suffer. It is in that that the merits of life consists.” Then she listened to words that she was not to divulge.
It is in connection with the vision of the next night that the words: “I am all merciful” occur.
The fifth apparition was to be the last for five months. At this time Our Lady said: “If you wish to serve me, be simple and let your actions correspond with your words. Snares will be laid for you: you will be treated as a visionary; but pay no attention to that. Be faithful to me and I will help you.”
To quote from Estelle’s account, written immediately after her recovery and as an act of religious obedience: “I gazed upon her for a long time. Never had I seen anything so beautiful. By degrees she vanished, till only the soft light surrounding her remained. This was when she felt cured.
Five months later, a quotation from the written narrative of Estelle tells us: “I was on my knees in front of the fireplace, when suddenly the Blessed Virgin appeared before me in a soft light. This time I saw her whole figure. She was in white. Her arms were extended, and from her hands fell what seemed like plenteous drops of rain. She looked at something fixedly: then she crossed her hands on her breast and said “Be calm. Have patience. You will have trials but I shall be near you.” I could not speak. I felt so happy.
Next night, Estelle was praying again when the radiant figure appeared before her.
“You have already proclaimed my Glory. Continue to do so. My Son has also some souls especially devoted to Him His Heart has so much love for me that He cannot refuse my requests. Through me He will touch the most hardened hearts. I have come especially for the conversion of sinners. While the Blessed Virgin was speaking to me, I was thinking of the various ways in which she might show her power. She replied to my thoughts by saying: “It will be seen later on.” She remained awhile and then slowly disappeared. The garland of roses remained a little while after she was gone and then faded away, together with the surrounding light.
The eighth apparition was on July 3rd and lasted but a few minutes.
The next was on September 9th when the Scapular of the Sacred Heart was revealed. “For a long time past, the treasures of my Son have been open; let them pray.” She opened this square as off white woolen stuff. I had noticed it before upon her breast but did not know what it was. As the Blessed Virgin held it up, Estelle says, “I distinctly saw upon it a red heart in relief, and the thought occurred to me that it was a scapular of the Sacred Heart. The Blessed Virgin said to me, still holding it up: “I love this devotion; it is here that I shall be honored.” In each of the succeeding apparitions, the Blessed Virgin wore the scapular. In the Apparition of September 15th, the Blessed Virgin appeared , as usual, with arms extended and with abundant rain-drops falling. Afterwards, she said slowly: Let them pray and put their trust in me. And France,what have I not done for her? How many warnings have I not given her, and yet she refuses to listen. I can no longer restrain my Son. France will have to suffer.” There was a second person present this time. Mademoiselle de Tyran of the household of the Comtesse de la Rochefoucauld. She had followed Estellle into her room. Estelle was saying her rosary aloud. Madamoiselle de Tyran recounts: “After about five minutes, the words stopped and the kneeling Estelle seemed to stop breathing. The testimony tells us that Estelle remained on her knees for three quarters of an hour, leaning forward as if advancing towards something; At the end of that time she heaved a deep sigh and seemed to brush away tears.. She afterwards described the scapular of the Sacred Heart.
There were people present at the rest of the apparitions. Estelle had tried to reproduce the scapular herself. On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, “I again saw the Blessed Virgin” she said. She said to me: “Recall to mind all my words.” At that moment, all that had been said to her in the course of the Apparitions became present to her memory. My child, remember my words. Repeat them often in order that they may strengthen and console you in your trials. You will see me no more.? I shall be near you, though unseen.”
Holding the scapular up with both hands, the celestial figure on whom the eyes of the voyante remained fixed, continued:
“Go yourself to the prelate and show him the model of the scapular you have made. Tell him that he is to help you to the utmost of his power, and that nothing will be more agreeable to me than to see this livery on each of my children in reparation for the outrages of which my Son is the object in the Sacrament of His love. Behold the graces that I will obtain for those who wear it with confidence and who help you to make it known”
Again she saw abundant rain drops falling from the outstretched hands of the Virgin. This was indicative to her of the flood of graces that was to descend on mortals in connection with the wearing of the scapular. She then listened to the following words, pregnant with meaning to the Catholic mind: “These graces are from my Son. I take them from His Heart. He can refuse me nothing”
I felt that the Blessed Virgin was about to leave me says Estelle: “Courage” she said, gently ascending the while, Should he (the prelate) not be able to grant you what you ask, and should difficulties arise, you will go farther. Fear nothing: I will help you”
Fifteen persons were present at the last apparition.
The prelate alluded to in the last apparition was the archbishop of the diocese, Charles-Amable Prince de la Tour d’Auvergne, who because of his piety and enlightenment, had come to be known as the “angel of the diocese” He examined and cross examined. He appointed an eccleastical commission and told his priests to get as many of these scapulars made as possible and in as short a time as possible.
The message of Pellevoisin bears no earthly stamp.
Estelle’s audience with Pope Leo XIII:
In January of 1900 we see Estelle in Rome, at the feet of the Holy Father, Pope Leo XIII. She had been led here by the Duchesse d’Estissae, representing a branch of the de la Roeliefoucauld family , and by Mgr. Touchet, Bishop of Orleans.
The door opened. His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII said: “Let Estelle come in” Estelle knelt down before the Pope. Pope Leo called the lowly woman at his feet “Figlia Stella” He bent forward to listen to her communications. His attitude was one of paternal benevolence. The conversation turning upon France, he said: “Now tell me about France.”
“Holy Father” replied Estelle, “the Blessed Virgin said that France would have to suffer.”
“Yes” the Pontiff echoed, “France will have to suffer”
He then questioned Estelle on the subject of the Apparitions, and accepted a scapular of the Sacred Heart, which, kneeling, she offered him.
“And what, Figlia Stella, do you wish me to do concerning your scapular?” he asked, after a few moments.
“To approve it and give it your blessing, most Holy Father,” was the reply. The petitioner then ventured to put forth a request, to the effect that His Holiness would deign to convey in a written form to the Rev. Jean-Baptiste-Lemius, O.M.I., then Superior of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre, certain instructiosns and encouragement concerning this scapular, in order that the same might spread over the world from the national basilica as from a great radiating centre.”
“Does this good religious often come to Rome?” asked His Holiness, in reference to the Rev. J. B. Lemius.
“Yes, most Holy Father” was Estelle’s reply.
After a few moments, Leo XIII said: “Let him write, and I will sign.”
The sovereign Pontiff continued: “Figlia Stella, speak to me of the Blessed Virgin.” And afterwards: “You must pray to her for me, Figlia Stella: you must pray that my life may be spared for the good of the church.”
- In a second and farewell audience with the Holy Father at which the Bishop of Orleans was present, in the course of this interview, the Holy Father, looking at the voyant of Pellevoisin said: “Figlia Stella, I have not forgotten your scapular. I will speak about it tomorrow.”
- The Congregation of Rites examined the said scapular, and approved of it in a decree dated April 4, 1900. Particulars respecting this decree may be best given by citing authorities.
Official Notice published by the Oblate Congregation, in ‘Petites Annales, in 1900 gives news of the quasi scapular of the Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, mentions 1876 as the date of the scapular of the Sacred Heart coming into existence
Then in a footnote we read: The Congregation of Rites has examined and approved, having made, however, concerning it, two slight modifications. One of these is that the Liturgical words Mater Misericordiae are substituted for ‘Je suis toute misercordieuse, and J’aime cette devotion.”
Drawn From the Book: The Blessed Virgin in the Nineteenth Century Bernard St. John