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It was a bitter January night in a small Belgian hamlet, where eleven-year-old Mariette waited anxiously for her younger brother Julien to return from an errand. This Sunday night, January 15, 1933, just outside the village of Banneux, young Mariette peered out of the large front window of her house hoping to locate at least a hint of movement, when her eyes were drawn to a glistening light near her mother's small vegetable garden. Within the light she made out a Beautiful Lady graciously smiling. "Ah," the young girl gasped with reverent awe and fascinated wonder. "Mama, there's a woman in the garden!"

Determined to get a better view, Mariette reached for her coat and hat on her way out the door when her mother intercepted and locked the door. She, too, looked outside the window but made out no figure. And when little Julien finally returned home, he joined his mother in mocking the vision of his sister.

However, young Mariette's behavior was so atypical during the week she saw the apparition that her entire family was convinced something real had occurred on that snowy Sunday evening. The formerly indifferent girl prayed at her parish church before school each morning and recited perfectly her catechism at the class she used to skip.

After the next apparition, only four days after the first, Mariette was able to describe the Madonna to her pastor with better detail. On this Wednesday evening the Lady appeared only five feet away from the child, who knelt joyfully praying the Rosary. Between two frosted pines the Madonna stood atop a silver cloud ascended only a foot from the ground. She wore a deep blue sash around the waist of her, pearl white gown, which flowed to her bare feet on which rested one golden rose. A thin translucent veil, almost indistinguishable from the oval light surrounding her, framed her dlicate features. The Lady moved her lips, as if she was joining Mariette in the Rosary, but didn't touch the crystalline beads that hung from her right arm.

This night Mariette's father, Julien, watched the child welcome the Virgin. As he returned from gathering two other witnesses, Mariette was making her way down the roadas if she was being pulled toward a small stream close to the house. "She is calling me," she simply explained to her father. Instructing the young girl to place her hands in the water, the Virgin said to her, "This stream is reserved for me." 

"I am the Virgin of the Poor," the Beautiful Madonna identified herself to young Mariette the next night, the third of eight visits. Under that title she requested a small chapel be built and dedicated at Banneux.

For the next three weeks Mariette prayed the Rosary each night in the cold, waiting anxiously for the Beautiful Lady, who did not appear again until February 11th. At school Mariette suffered much ridicule and scorn. Schoolmates and village neighbors had difficulty believing the Mother of God would appear in a vegetable garden, literally next to the cabbage, to a girl who did not even know her catechism.

But as skeptics multiplied so did believers, and devotion to the Virgin of the Poor spread rapidly. In 1949, the Bishop of Liege announced the formal approval of the apparition after recommendation from a committee commissioned to research the visions. Since then, at least 150 small chapels have been dedicated to the Virgin of the Poor, duplicates of the humble chapel erected in August of 1933, just eight months after Mariette's first apparition.

The young visionary did not feel called to religious life, but her devotion to the Virgin of the Poor has been as profound as the first night she encountered her.

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