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It was a damp, clammy November evening in 1932, when four Belgian children walked to the convent of the Sisters of. Christian Doctrine. Eleven-year-old Albert and his older sister, Fernande, first set out for the Degeimbre household to pick up young Gilberte and Andree Degeimbre. It had become routine for the four children to pick up Gilberte Voisin, the younger sister of Albert and Fernande, from the Sister's academy where she attended class. Nothing was out of. the ordinary this Tuesday evening, November 29, in the small Belgian village of Beauraing' until the four reached the door of the convent.

After Albert rang the bell, he turned toward the street and saw a luminous figure walking above the bridge by the Lourdes grotto inside the convent yard. "The Virgin dressed in white is walking above the bridge!" he exclaimed to the others, who, because the boy joked often, did not believe a word. The three anticipated an outbreak of laughter. Surprised by his self constraint and seriousness, they turned around for themselves and saw the same vision.

The four pounded frantically at the door until Sister Valeria arrived. Gilberte Voisin looked immediately to the place where four hands pointed and saw the Lady. But Sister Valeria, seeing nothing, called them foolish, as did the mother of Gilberte and Andree upon hearing their report. "Don't tell any of this foolishness to your parents," she warned the three Voisin children. Yet, not even inside the door, the three blurted out what they had just seen to their parents, who sent them straight to bed after a scolding.

When the children returned from their errand the next evening with the same story, Mrs. Degeimbre, convinced that some trickster was behind the illusions, decided to investigate the mystery and, with other adults, began to escort the children.

"She is here," gasped one of the children spotting the figure on the walk between the convent gate and the front door. The young visionaries saw more clearly her over whelming beauty. She wore a simple ivory gown that flowed gracefully to her feet, which were hidden in a snowwhite cloud. A glimmering light framed perfectly her silk mantle that draped over her head like a wedding v eil. Her arms were extended in a permanent embrace to the children. The Lady appeared four times this night the last time near a rose hawthorn tree in the convent garden, where she appeared from then on.

The Sisters, nervous that the diocese would soon learn of the stories, severely warned the students about any talk of the visions. And to further discourage any activity on the premises, they locked the gates of the academy and released dogs in the convent yard. But despite the nuns' efforts, more and more people joined the children on the convent grounds. On the evening of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, just nine days after the Virgin's first appearance, nearly fifteen thousand people gathered behind the gates of the academy.

The Lady who had by now defined herself as the Immaculate Virgin continued to visit the children, but less frequently. On the last day of the year she revealed her golden heart to all five children. Nearly 35,000 people gathered to witness the Madonna's last appearance on January 3, 1933, when she told each of the children secret messages and, in a gesture of farewell, displayed her golden heart.

As was first anticipated by the Sisters, the Bishop of Namur, alerted by the reports, commissioned a committee to research the apparitions. After fourteen years and seventytwo sessions, the apparitions were approved on July 2, 1949, two years after the erection of a small chapel at the site.

All five children married and started their own families, drifting occasionally back to the hawthorn tree in the convent garden, where thousands of pilgrims pray each year to Our Lady of the Golden Heart.


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