Benedetta Rencurel was born in Saint-Étienne-le-Laus on September 17, 1647; orphaned early, she loved to recite the rosary when she brought the flock of the Jullien family to graze in the Vallone des Forni (Vallon des Fours), near her village. To her the Virgin Mary with a beautiful Child in her arms will appear.
Our Lady of the Lake in the Occitan language or Notre-Dame du Laus, is the name with which Catholics venerate Mary, following the apparitions which French shepherdess Benedetta (Benoîte) Rencurel would have had from 1664 to 1718, first at Saint -Étienne-le-Laus, her birthplace, and then at Laus, where a sanctuary now stands, very close to the border with Piedmont, on the Maritime Alps of the Dauphiné. The apparitions were officially recognized by the bishop of Gap Jean-Michel di Falco on May 4, 2008.
The first apparitions were silent, then the Lady revealed her identity and, after a month of announced silence, finally asks that a shrine be built in honor of her Son, in place of an almost abandoned chapel dedicated to “Notre Dame de Bon Rencontre” (Our Lady of Good Encounter), in a place called Laus.
Little by little, the beautiful Lady becomes familiar with Benedetta and involved her in questions and answers, guides, comforts, reassures her, asks her to do something for her, helps her to better understand others and to love more God.
Although urged by the beautiful Lady to become even more humble, the young seer cannot hide for much longer what was happening to her. Soon the authorities were also involved and demanded explanations. The Madonna, because it is now clear that she is the Virgin Mary, she is asking for a procession of all the people at the Vallon des Fours and at the point of arrival she finally revealed her name: “My name is Mary!”, and then added: “I will not show myself again for a while!”
In fact, it will take about a month for her to reappear again, this time at Pindreau. She had a message for Benedetta:
“My daughter, go up the Laus coast. There you will find a chapel where you will smell the scent of violets. “
The next day Benedetta sets off in search of this place and discovers, from the promised perfumes, the small chapel dedicated to Notre Dame de la Bonne Rencontre.
Benedetta opens the portal with trepidation and finds the Mother of the Lord waiting for her above the dusty altar. In fact, the chapel was deserted and rather abandoned.
“I wish to a larger church to be built here in honor of my beloved Son,” Mary told her. “It will be the place of conversion for numerous sinners. And it will be the place where I will appear to you very often.”
The apparitions last fifty-four years, with frequency first daily then monthly interspersed with periods in which the Virgin Mary no longer presents herself to the visionary. A devotion that never stopped and survived many ups and downs, such as the fury of the French Revolution and the suppression of the diocese of Embrun.
In 1672 the visionary moved to Laus, to receive pilgrims who began to flow in large numbers, and offering receptions and prayers, but also suffered harassment of diabolical origin. She was persecuted and beaten by the devil for more than thirty years, but she was not alone, she was helped by the Angels, helping and supporting her, comforting her, and consoling her, then healing her in the hard and fierce attacks of Satan. She also had the grace to be taken by Mary with her Angels, to visit Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.
The Madonna, carrying her to heaven said to her:
“My daughter, follow me, I will show you things you have never seen and that will make you very happy.”
In fact, she saw a multitude of souls, an immense crowd offering themselves at the visit of the shepherdess. “It is the people of God”, Our Lady to Benedetta.
The following year, Jesus on the Cross would appear to her, and from that moment Benedetta said she experienced the pains of the Passion firsthand.
For thirty years Benoite will go to the church at night at the foot of the Avancon Cross and in her room, kneeling, praying, barefoot even in winter. She recites numerous Rosaries every day, and one hundred and fifty times the Litanies of the Holy Virgin with the honorable reparation to the Blessed Sacrament.
Her hours of sleep, three in her youth, were reduced to one. When the crowd of faithful blocks the entrance of the confessionals, on the occasion of the great holidays, Benoite does not sleep and prays incessantly. When sinners persevere in their sins, she sheds great tears, and when her eyes have no more tears, she forces her limbs to cry tears of blood under the sackcloth, with the bracelets, chains, iron belts with which she covers her body.
Then begins a period of serious difficulties: after leaving Laus for a certain period, moving to Marseille, due to the military occupation of the Duke of Savoy, the Jansenist priests to whom the sanctuary was entrusted tried in vain to let her enter the convent, but her choice was to remain in contact with the pilgrims to exhort them to conversion.
On December 28, 1718 Benedetta died and was buried first in the cemetery of her native town and then, subsequently, in the Laus sanctuary, in front of the main altar.
The sanctuary of Notre Dame de Laus still preserves the primitive chapel inside, called de La Bonne Rencontre, where the Virgin appeared to Benoîte Rencurel. In the apse of the chapel, in front of the tabernacle of the high altar, the lamp burns, whose oil pilgrims use to dip the fingers of their right hand to devoutly make themselves the sign of the cross.
In small vials this same oil is then sent to all the countries of France. Everywhere in the world the cult of Our Lady of the Lake is widespread. It is an oil with marvelous capacities. As Our Lady had promised her visionary, if it had been used with a profound attitude of faith towards the omnipotence of her Son, it would have produced prodigious healings not only physical but also spiritual, as in fact has been happening punctually for over two centuries.
The message addressed to the Mother of God to the young shepherdess back in May 1664 in the suggestive place of the French Alps is a message of extraordinary relevance, because it is centered on Reconciliation. It is a message of mercy and reconciliation.
Only by reconciling ourselves with God will we be able to reconcile ourselves with others and with ourselves: it is possible to find inner peace only by reaching and achieving these three stages.
A long series of bishops have recognized the supernaturality of the apparition by encouraging pilgrimages to the sanctuary. The Madonna appeared in that part of France also wanted to leave a tangible sign of her loving presence in that blessed place: a very sweet perfume.
Anyone who climbs to Laus can feel these mysterious scents, which give everyone spiritual consolation and a profound inner serenity. Laus perfumes are an inexplicable phenomenon, which science has tried to explain but without actually managing anything. It’s a bit of the mystery and charm of this Marian citadel set on a lonely plateau in the French Alps, which attracts a large number of pilgrims from all over the world every year.
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