Little Émile, two and a half years old, has been missing since Saturday July 8. He escaped the supervision of his grandparents in their garden in Vernet, a small town in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Some eight hundred people have mobilized to carry out the search, but the child remains untraceable. After more than two days of research, a new system is put in place, “more targeted and selective” according to the prefect of the department.
In addition to the efforts made in the field, Émile’s family appealed to another form of support by asking for the intercession of Benoîte Rencurel. Immediately, the Christian community took up the message, a Facebook group “Prions pour Émile” brings together more than 6,000 members this Tuesday morning. Mgr Gobillard, Bishop of Digne, Riez and Sisteron joined in the prayer.
She saw the Virgin Mary for over 50 years!
An astonishing figure, Benoîte Rencurel had a rather exceptional mystical existence. The Virgin would have appeared to him many times over fifty-four years. Angels, as well as several saints, then Christ himself, would also have visited it.
Born in 1647 in Saint-Étienne d’Avançon, now Saint-Étienne-le-Laus (Hautes Alpes), Benoîte Rencurel grew up in a very poor family. To earn her bread, she keeps herds. In May 1664, when Benoîte was seventeen, an event disturbed her daily life as a shepherdess. The young girl is particularly touched by a homily from her parish priest and feels the need to meet the Virgin Mary. The next day, his wish is granted. The “Beautiful Lady” appears to him in the middle of the field. From then on, Benoîte drove his animals to this same grazing site every day. The Virgin entrusts Benoîte with the mission of having a church built so that priests can receive and confess pilgrims. It will become the basilica of Notre-Dame du Laus.
The year following the first apparition, pilgrims flocked en masse to the Laus plateau. Benoîte Rencurel guides these people with kindness. A woman walks barefoot in the snow? She gives him her clogs. A man wants to prostitute his wife to pilgrims? To avoid this disaster, she gives him her reserve of wheat amassed for the winter. She dedicated herself until the end of her life to her mission. Benoîte Rencurel died in December 1718, surrounded by the priests of the sanctuary.
In an interview published in Le Pèlerin in 2018, Father Ludovic Frère, then rector of the sanctuary of Notre-Dame-du-Laus, testified: “What touches me about Benoîte Rencurel is her very concrete side, her common sense , which Heaven will use during these 54 years of apparitions, in the difficult economic context of the end of the 17th century”.
Soon to be holy?
She is the first witness to a Marian apparition whose cause for beatification was introduced in Rome in 1864. In 2008, the Church officially recognized these apparitions. In 2009, Benoîte Rencurel was named “venerable” by Benedict XVI.