Nothing deters the Blessed Mother.
Winter certainly does not.
Her very first recognized apparition — actually, perhaps a bilocation, to the Apostle James the Greater — was on January 2 in A.D. 40, in Zaragoza, Spain, where she appeared on a pillar (though some say it was October).
More documented is Pontmain, France:
Between 5: 30 and 6 p.m. on January 17, 1871, a boy helping his father in a barn there went to look out the door and check the weather.
Snow covered the roofs of the hamlet and the sky was very clear, dark blue, and studded with stars.
That’s when Eugène Barbadette noticed something unusual: above a house across the road, a patch of sky seemed devoid of stars.
As Eugene stared, suddenly there was a beautiful woman, motionless but smiling at him from the odd void. She was wearing a deep blue gown with wide sleeves and decorated with golden stars. Her head was covered with a black veil and she wore a gold crown with a red band around the middle.
At least five others saw her during this apparition that lasted more than three hours.
Here’s what’s most significant: at the time, France was experiencing a bitter cold winter, which had sent wolves precariously close to the village. The country had been hard hit with an epidemic of smallpox, and now was threatened with an attack by the Prussians during what was known as the Franco-Prussian War.
As onlookers recited the Rosary, Mary grew brighter.
“But pray, my children…” said words that unrolled across the sky under her feet, as if formed by an invisible hand. The children shouted out each letter as they materialized. They were formed in gold, like a scroll.
“God will hear you in a short time,” it spelled out next, followed by, “My Son permits Himself to be moved.”
And it was later learned that at the same time, on this very cold night, German troops poised to strike the nearby town of Laval were suddenly called off by Germany’s Supreme Command.
Within ten days the war with France was over!
Now head for the nearby nation of Belgium, where, during the next century, the Blessed Mother arrived at Beauraing on January 3, 1933, and during one of her appearances she arrived after a crack of thunder and a ball of fire landed on a hawthorn. That day she gave secrets to three of the five seers. She appeared as an 18-year-old with beautiful deep-blue eyes. The next month she materialized in a town called Banneux and on February 5, 1933, imparted secrets to the sole seer there.
There are lesser-known cases. For instance, at four a.m. on January 13, 1888, the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared at the sickbed of a woman named Magdalena Kade, dressed in white and wearing a golden tiara and announcing to Magdalena that she would be healed from a long illness, which she was. Many miraculous cures were subsequently reported. A convent and a church, later designated a basilica, were built on the site, which some call the “Lourdes of Bohemia.”
And then there’s Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne, an anti-Catholic (and despite his name, male) Jew in France who had a vision of Mary on January 20, 1842.
He converted to Catholicism, eventually became a Jesuit priest (taking the name Marie), and began a ministry for the conversion of the Jews. Together with his brother, who had converted and become a priest years before, he founded the Sisterhood of Our Lady of Sion.
Just some winter examples!
She has appeared nearly everywhere and in every month and season, perhaps even every year.
If there were ever a lesson for our current time — for this dark winter — it is Pontmain.
[Note: Michael Brown will present an on-line mini-retreat later this month on the Blessed Mother’s apparitions, to be announced shortly]
[Footnote, from the Mail in our archives]:
The photos below were sent by viewer Theresa Thomas. They were originally posted on her brother Robert Kloska’s Facebook page. Wrote Robert, on December 11, 2016: “Today on the way home from 11:45 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Basilica at Notre Dame, I stopped to grab a photo of the snow-covered grotto. As I took the photo, my iPhone shut down, presumably from the cold. As I recharged my phone tonight, I had forgotten that I had even taken the photo. When I looked through my photos, I was stunned to see this strange vertical ‘cloud’ in the photo. It was not visible to my eye when I took it. I’m not sure what to make of it, but it sure got my attention.”
That’s the first photo below.
Then there’s the second one.
Take a look!
Did snow ever look more beautiful (and less cold)?]