OUR LADY OF LAUS
On September 16, 1647, Benoîte Rencurel was born in the town of Saint-Etienne d'Avançon, in the southern Alps. There was no school in Saint-Etienne d'Avançon, so Benoîte never learned to read or write. Her only instruction came from Sunday Mass. She learned there that Mary is the most merciful Mother of God, which awakened in her a desire to see her. Benoîte, a contemplative soul, loved to pray for long periods of time.
One day in May 1664 while Benoîte was tending sheep in a little valley she was reciting her rosary when she perceived a beautiful Lady on a rock, holding the hand of a child of singular beauty. “Beautiful Lady!” she said to her. “What are you doing up there? Would you like to have a snack with me? I have a little bit of good bread—we could dip it in the spring!” The Lady smiled at her simplicity, and did not say a word to her. “Beautiful Lady! Would you like to give us this Child, Who would make our hearts so glad?” The Lady smiled again without answering. After having stayed a while with Benoîte, she took her Child in her arms and disappeared in the cave in the side of the rock, where the shepherdess saw her enter and go out several times.
Over the course of four months, the Lady appeared every day, talking very familiarly with the young girl. On August 29, Benoîte asked the visitor what her name was, and heard the response, “My name is Lady Mary.”
Finally, one morning at the end of September, the shepherdess, who had stopped her sheep and goats on a river bank, perceived Lady Mary before her. The lady then tell her “From now on, when you want to see me, you will be able to in the chapel in Laus.” The next day, Benoîte went to the little chapel of Laus. She entered and saw on the altar the Virgin Mary. Benoîte was embarrassed to see the poverty and dirtiness of the place. The Virgin Mary added that she wanted a church to be built there in honour of her and her most dear Son. Many sinners, men and women, would be converted there.
During the winter of 1664-1665, Benoîte went up to Laus very often. Every day she saw the Virgin who urged her “to pray continuously for sinners.” God is offended by their sins, but He wants to show them His boundless mercy, which can only be accepted freely. The news of the apparitions spread among the villagers with the help of vigils during the winter nights. Starting on the Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19th, pilgrims came to Our Lady of Laus. Many obtained graces through her intercession; they came to go to confession and to resolve to change their lives.
Only after a woman was miraculously cured and the cleric questioned the woman who had been miraculously cured, as well as the witnesses, then affirmed: “The finger of God is there.” Thus, on September 18, 1665 the Marian apparitions and the pilgrimage were officially recognized by the diocesan authority. Then construction was begun on a church large enough to accommodate pilgrims who were becoming more and more numerous.
Between 1669 and 1679, Benoîte had five apparitions of Christ Who revealed Himself to her in a state of suffering. One Friday in July 1673, the bloodstained Saviour said to her: “My child, I am making myself appear in this state so that you might participate in the sufferings of My Passion.” Indeed, the Lord Jesus wished to unite to His redeeming sacrifice those very people who are its first beneficiaries.
For more than 45 years Benoîte participated in the sufferings of His Passion. Many pilgrims came to her. But so many mortifications and hardships had gotten the better of her health. On Christmas Day 1718 she received Holy Viaticum. Three days later, she confessed and received Extreme Unction, with great consolation. Around 8 o'clock that night, Benoîte bid farewell to those surrounding her, then, having kissed a crucifix, her eyes raised to Heaven, she died in peace and went to join her Spouse Jesus and Her Most Holy Mother Mary in Heaven.
Today the sanctuary of Laus is a spiritual center that, faithful to its mission, welcomes pilgrims who have come to place themselves under Mary's maternal protection and receive the sacrament of forgiveness.
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