Beauraing is a small town in the French-speaking part of Belgium that in 1932 became the site of one of the important modern apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The sighting of the Virgin was made by five children, all students in a Catholic parochial school. On November 29, 1932, at the end of the school day, the childen—Fernande (age 15), Gilberte (13), and Albert Voisin (11), and Andrée (14), and Gilberte (11)Degeimbre —gathered in front of the convent where the girls attended classes and prepared to walk home. Albert was the first to see someone on the railway bridge across from the convent. He called the attention of the others to the figure in white. Initially frightened, they hurried home. Their parents dismissed the story.
The next day at the same time, they again saw the figure. On the third night, it was in the convent garden near a statue of Mary as she had appeared at Lourdes. They saw that the figure was a young beautiful Lady dressed entirely in white with a nimbus of golden rays. She stood on a cloud that obscured her feet. Gilberte Degeimbre was overcome with emotion and the children took her home. Three of the children immediately returned to the garden. The Lady had changed locations, to the lower branch of a hawthorn tree. This would be the site of all of the future apparitions.
The apparitions continued daily through December, the five children gathering at the spot before the hawthorn tree in a trance -like state generally referred to as ecstasy. Others began to observe the children as they watched the Virgin, but as is common in such events, only the children actually saw her. As word spread through the community as to what was occurring, several physicians appeared among the observers, and in the course of the apparition tested the children. They stuck them with pins, placed a flame under their hands, directed a bright light into their eyes. The children reacted to none of these occurrences, and no sign of the testing appeared on their body after the apparition was finished.
The messages at Beauraing were brief, and in fact in more than 30 appearances the Virgin spoke only a couple of times. She did request that a chapel be built, and on one of her last appearances she exposed her Immaculate Heart (devotion to it being a major element in the apparitions at Fatima, Portugal). The last appearance occurred on January 3, 1933, in part noteworthy by the failure of one of the children to see her. The Virgin spoke an individual message to each of the four children and also gave them a secret. Secret messages had first become a part of the Virgin's apparitions at La Salette in France, but the secrets of Fatima had become an item for widespread speculation. After the apparition was seemingly over, the Lady appeared separately to the fifth child.
The apparitions caused a wide debate within Catholic circles in Belgium, and many denounced the children as hoaxers. Their plight was not helped by the appearance of several people claiming to have seen the Virgin also at the same spot but embellishing their story with obviously fanciful material. However, the children stuck to their story and returned each evening to the spot of the apparitions to pray. In 1935 the local bishop finally convened a committee to investigate the apparitions. They worked for nine years, but in the end concluded favorably and the church approved the apparitions. The approval came in the midst of World War II (1939-45) and the Nazi occupation of the country. After the war, a chapel was erected and pilgrimages commenced.
The children went on to lead rather ordinary lives. The four girls married and Albert served in World War II and afterwards moved to the Congo as a teacher. Today hundreds of thousands travel to Beauraing to visit the spot in the convent garden where the children saw the Virgin Mary. The apparitions at Beauraing are frequently tied to those at Banneux, Belgium, a nearby town that experienced a set of apparitons just a few weeks after those at Beauraing stopped.
Beevers, John. The Golden Heart: The Story of Beauraing, Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1956.
Connor, Edward. Recent Apparitions of Our Lady. Fresno, Calif.: Academy Library Guild, n.d.
Sharkey, Don, and Joseph Debergh. Our Lady of Beauraing. Garden City, N.Y.: Hanover House, 1958.