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September 1914 . . . The Miracle Of The Marne

December 5, 2014 Featured Today No Comments

By MARY O’NEILL

(Editor’s Note: Mary O’Neill is a Catholic writer living in France. She notes that much of this story has been translated from the French from an article in l’Homme Nouveau, September 13, 2014.
(There has as yet been no official decision from the Church concerning the authenticity of this apparition.)

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The centenary of the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 has brought to light many little-known or forgotten stories. The following story is one example. Historians speak of the “Miracle of the Marne,” when the German army suddenly retreated and turned back from Paris. But there may also be a supernatural reason for this retreat.
At the beginning of September 1914, the German army was advancing rapidly toward Paris, down the valley of the Marne river. Sure of their victory, the Germans imagined themselves already “in Paris in two days’ time.”
The French government left the capital city and went to Bordeaux. The railway stations and all the roads out of Paris were full of panicking refugees. The French army packed soldiers into taxis and trains to take them to the battle site where villages were burning. The British army sent reinforcements to help their allies.
On September 8, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, the bishop of Meaux (an important town in the Marne valley) made a vow to build a sanctuary for the Virgin Mary if his village was spared.
The very same day, a spectacular apparition of the Virgin Mary seems to precede the sudden and inexplicable turnaround of the battle and the hurried retreat of the German army.
Some witnesses said that our Lady was seen by as many as 100,000 German soldiers. But the order was given “under pain of death” not to speak about this apparition. In spite of this, some wounded German prisoners of war spoke to the nurses who cared for them, or to the army chaplains.
A letter addressed to the Carmel of Pontoise recounts: “On 3 January 1915, a German priest, wounded and taken prisoner during the Battle of the Marne, died in a French ambulance where he was cared for by some nuns. He said to them: ‘As a soldier I should keep silent, but as a priest, I must say what I have seen. During the Battle of the Marne, we were surprised to be pushed into retreat, because our numbers were legion compared to the French, and we expected very soon to arrive in Paris.
“ ‘But we saw the Virgin Mary, dressed all in white, with a blue belt, leaning her head toward Paris. She turned her back to us, and with her right hand seemed to push us away….I saw her myself and a good number of my companions also’.”
About the same time, two German officers, also wounded and prisoners of war, were admitted into a French hospital run by the Red Cross. When they saw there a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, a nurse (who could speak German) heard them exclaim: “Die Frau von der Marne!” “Oh, the Virgin of the Marne!” She asked them to speak about this, but they refused.
Another German soldier, also wounded, walked into the chapel of the Rue du Bac in Paris. When he saw the Miraculous Medal, he cried out: “There she is, the Virgin of the Marne!”
A nun who was caring for wounded soldiers at Issy-les-Moulineaux wrote down these words spoken by a German Catholic to the army chaplain who was assisting him. Gravely wounded, and about to die, he told them this story in gratitude for their care: “If I were at the Front, I would be shot, because the order was given under pain of death never to say what I am about to tell you.
“You must have all been astonished by our sudden retreat when we had arrived almost at the gates of Paris. We were prevented from advancing any further.
“A Virgin stood in front of us with her arms outstretched, pushing us back each time we had the order to advance.
“This continued for several days, and we did not know if she was one of your French saints, Genevieve or Joan of Arc. Afterward, we understood that it was the Virgin Mary who stopped us from moving forward. On the 8th of September she pushed us back with such force that all of us, as one man, turned and fled. What I am telling you, you will undoubtedly hear again, for we were perhaps 100,000 men who saw her!”
Alas (German discipline?) very few spoke about this later, at least in writing or in public.
Thus, in the valley of the Marne, there remains an oral tradition and a popular devotion, centered on the statue of our Lady, a memorial placed in the town of Barcy, marking the place where the German troops stopped their advance.
Another German soldier is recorded as saying to a Jesuit priest who came to hear his Confession: “Father, believe a dying man, if the French army knew what we have seen, they would believe themselves to be very strong.”
Some newspapers at the time made reference to the “Miracle of the Marne” and gave details like the reports given above. In January 1917 Le Courrier de La Manche reported several of these witnesses.
But the only witness whose name has been recorded was Madame Bongard, wife of the former mayor of Barcy, who spoke about her own mother in 1914.
Like all the young girls at that time, she offered her services in one of the hospitals which received the wounded soldiers, both French and German.
She was sent to a hospital in the occupied zone, in the region of Saint-Quentin.
Here is what she told her daughter: “The wounded Germans, hundreds of them, all said the same thing: ‘It’s unbelievable. . . . It was the Virgin Mary who pushed us back. We really saw her, and yet we were the strongest. We were the strongest. We were crushing the French lines, we were about to arrive in Paris, and suddenly it was a debacle! We saw her, it was her, the Holy Virgin. Was it an apparition, or a mirage? With her hand, she pushed us back, and before this supernatural power we turned and fled . . . we could no longer advance!’”
To fulfill the promise of the bishop of Meaux, a statue of Our Lady of the Marne was placed in Barcy, in June 1924, to mark the furthest point of the German advance toward Paris.
Madame Bongard finished her report by saying: “When, as a young woman, I came to Barcy for the first time with my fiancé, I learnt that Barcy had been at the center of the first Battle of the Marne. The statue of the Virgin Mary made the same gesture with her hand, a signal to stop, that my mother used to make.”
To mark the centenary of this miracle, the present bishop of Meaux led a pilgrimage in September this year to all the villages and battlefields where these events occurred, finishing at the statue of Our Lady of the Marne, on a hill overlooking the river.
You can find a photo of the statue of Our Lady of the Marne on the Internet.

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