Pilgrimage Theme 2023

Lead us to Jesus!

“Look at the star, invoke Mary!”

In Banneux, we follow this fraternal advice of Bernard of Clairvaux. We invoke Mary, the Virgin of the Poor, recalling with gratitude, the beautiful message she gave us during the winter of 1933. Every day, at the time of the Rosary, we pray the “invocations of Banneux”. The word “invocation” may seem dated, but it reminds us of the good advice of the doctor of the Church.

The first invocation is obviously the most important: “Virgin of the Poor, lead us to Jesus, source of grace.” It is from this that our theme for the year 2023 comes: “Lead us to Jesus.” Her mother’s heart rejoices when we pray to her. She precedes us as she preceded Mariette Beco and walks with us to the Spring. And, like Mariette, we push our hands into the water, in memory of our baptism where the Father told us: You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter, it pleased me to choose you.  The heart of the Father rejoices every time new brothers and sisters gather around his only Son and the family grows.

  1. “The one who shows the way”

In a famous Byzantine icon, the Mother of God holds the baby Jesus on her left arm; with her right hand, she shows her Son. When we look at him closely, we realize that Jesus is no longer a child, but the Lord of glory: in his left hand he holds the Book, with his right hand he blesses the world. It is already the glorious Christ, who after his earthly journey is the Lord Almighty…

Byzantine iconography has the art of making the great mystery of salvation appear before our eyes by condensing it into a single image. The Marian icon evoked here is called   “Hodegetria” from the Greek hodos (way) and hegeisthai (to show or guide). Mary shows us the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6) and encourages us to follow him with her.

For Mary followed her child from the manger to the cross; and on the day of her dormition, she even followed him to heaven where she is assumed body and soul in the glory of her Son. Mary is an expert when it comes to introducing us to the great mystery of Christ (Eph 3:4). She has an unparalleled intelligence, intelligence that she wants to share with us.

  1. “Christ in His mysteries” (Dom Marmion)

The Catholic Church has developed its own pedagogy through the prayer of the Rosary. While reciting the Hail Marys, we contemplate Jesus Christ in his joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious mysteries. And we do it in the presence of the Blessed Virgin who is a few steps ahead of us. For since Jesus entered her life, she has been faced with a mystery that she welcomes in faith. But this is not blind faith: it knows that its eyes of flesh will not be enough to see clearly. Long before Antoine de Saint Exupéry, she understood that “one sees well only with the heart. The main thing is invisible to the eyes.” So she welcomes events and words into her heart, keeps them and meditates on them. She enters more and more into the light of mystery, a light that she wants to share generously with us.

When Mary gathers us around her, she does not seek a circle of admirers. She does not wish to be adored …  She leads us to her Son Jesus.

  1. Rosary on the arm

When the Beautiful Lady shows herself to her, Mariette discovers a rosary on her right arm. It was also the same in Lourdes. Some observers are surprised: “Aren’t you going to say that the Virgin Mary prays the rosary?” Of course not! She does not hold it in her hand to use it. She carries it on her arm. And Mariette immediately thinks of this rosary she had found on the road to Tancrémont.

She pulls it from the drawer where she had left it. To the apparition of the Virgin of the Poor, the child responds with an impulse of prayer … And the answer that seems appropriate to her is that of the rosary.

As a connoisseur of the events of Banneux, our friend, Nicole Ingenbleek, highlighted the pedagogy of the Virgin during the 8 apparitions.  Her surprise appearance on Sunday, January 15 provokes the child to prayer … But also to the return to Mass and catechism. Mariette resumed her place in the Christian community of Banneux.

During the 2nd, 3rd and 4th apparitions, the Beautiful Lady appears during the prayer of the 1st Rosary where the joyful mysteries are meditated: It is “the time of joy”. The joy of a warm and smiling presence; the joy of taking the first steps on the path of trust and rediscovering the grace of baptism; the joy of being part of a great family that embraces all nations and gives a place of honour to the sick… Mariette had only one desire: that the apparitions continue…

But after 3 days in a row of great joy come three long trying weeks: the Beautiful Lady no longer shows herself! The desire of the child only grows (the Latin verb desirare also means: to regret the absence …).

On February 11, the girl’s perseverance was rewarded. Mary reappeared during the recitation of the 2nd Rosary – Sorrowful Mysteries! And for good reason: she evokes suffering and promises that she comes to relieve it. On February 15 and 20, the apparitions also begin  during the Sorrowful Mysteries. It is rightful to make the link with Father Jamin who is going through a painful crisis of faith and whose faith is saved by Mary’s words. “Believe in me, I will believe in you!” The apparition of February 20 ends in tears …  “Why are you crying?” asked a witness. “Because she left so soon!”.

On March 2, the wait was long. Mary only appears during the 3rd rosary: Glorious Mysteries! But in the meantime, the torrential rain has given way to a starry sky!  The Beautiful Lady bids farewell. The moment is serious but full of hope. I can’t help but think of St. John’s farewell speeches. Heartbreaking moment, but rich in a marvelous promise. “I’m going to prepare a place for you and when I go to prepare it for you, I will return and take you to be with me, so that where I am, you will be too.” (Jn 14:2-3).

Throughout this year 2023, we will let ourselves be led by Mary: may she obtain for us the grace to know Jesus better and to love him more!

“Look at the star,

invoke Mary,

if you follow her, you fear nothing!”

By welcoming Mary as our guide, we will certainly reach Jesus, our big brother and Saviour of all mankind.

Father Leo Palm, rector