The New Miracle of Our Lady of Lebanon
By Richard P. Salbato
Over a hundred years ago in the little town of Bechwat, Bekaa, Lebanon a statue of the Virgin Mary of Hope became famous for many miracle cures by Her intersession. The statue shows Mary wearing a blue dress with stars all over, an expression of Queen of Heaven. She is holding a cross in Her hands and has a crown of gold on Her head. The small Church sets on the side of a mountain in a remote area above the fertile valley. On the side of this mountain grows fruit trees of every kind. The Church (now a shrine) is only 20 feet long and 20 feet wide and the statue sets on the left side of the altar. A few years back the pastor built a new much larger church just above the old one, but left the famous statue in the old church. Masses (Maronite Catholic) are held in the new church and special honor to Our Lady is in the old Church, now the Shrine of Notre Dame de Bechwat.
Before these new happenings, people from all over Lebanon made pilgrimages to the shrine to honor Our Lady, to thank Her for favors or to ask Her help in their lives. Like Fatima and Lourdes in the West, Our Lady of Bechwat is the shine of Our Lady in the Middle East. Although a Catholic Church and Shrine, Orthodox and Moslems have come to honor Our Lady for many years. The small road up the mountain was part paved and part dirt, making the drive difficult in the rainy seasons.
This is the same statue as in Pontmain, called Our Lady of Hope
Then four weeks ago something new happened to the statue. A Moslem woman and her nine year old son went to pray before the Statue of Our Lady, and suddenly the little boy said to his mother. "The statue is looking at me." The mother looked up and the statue was talking and moving its hands but no voice could be heard. The head was turning towards the Moslem and her son and looking at them, while at the same time saying something and moving the hands with the words.
The Moslem woman ran out to tell others to come and see and they all saw the same thing. Near the Shrine was a man who was crippled for seven years, and he went inside and was instantly cured. On that first day others were cured and many saw Our Lady moving.
Over the next four weeks the news went out and thousands a day began to flock to the side of the mountain to see the statue move and to pray for cures. The crowds became too much for the small mountain roads and the little town. The police were called in to direct traffic and to change the roads to one way around the town. This helped but was not good enough. By the third week a contractor came in and paved all the roads to and from the Shrine. Food booths were set up to feed the people who came, and booths and shops opened to sell Rosaries, pictures and statues. The Cures are still happening daily and some still see the statue move.
When my driver and I showed up on the forth week, it was already a well organized shrine, with in and out railings for the people going in and out of the shrine. Police directed the traffic and the movement in and out of the Shrine. Food and lights were set up all over the mountain. Inside the little Shrine it was hard to stay long looking at the statue as the crowds were waiting to have their turn close to it. Hundreds of candles were the only light inside and this made a good atmosphere of silence and reverence. I did not see any miracles or any movement of the statue but it did have a gentle smiling face.
Outside I met a priest from the Catholic TV station of Lebanon. He was once a well known singer, who later became a priest and now hosts the Catholic TV program and web site. He was making a report on the miracles and said Mass in the large Church. I attended his Mass, which was very reverent. Maronite Masses are not new to me, and I do like them, as there is a lot of singing and the canon is done in the language of Christ. During the Mass, two other priests heard confessions on both sides of the altar almost throughout the entire Mass.
For 35 years now I have investigated miracles and there are few that I find to be from God, but when a miracle is simple and powerful, I am quick to believe it to be from God. Saint Paul said, "I do not come to you with fancy speech but with the power of God." This miracle has no mystic, no seer, no messages in words, but it does have the great power of the Holy Spirit in cures and grace.
Lebanon has a great history of defense of the faith going back to Saint Maron, who fought the Monophysite heresy. They held out against the Moslem invasions of the seventh and eighth Centuries and even to the Twentieth Century remained mostly Christian. They are not considered Unates since they never separated from Rome. Their patriarch resides in Beirut and has jurisdiction over dioceses in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Australia, Brazil and the United States.
After the invasion of Syria and Israel and the massive bombing of Beirut you would expect a poor and defeated country but that is not what you find. Beirut is a thriving city with almost no visible effects of the bombings. Industry is thriving and everyone seems to be happy and confident in the future. The people are highly educated and speak mostly English and French and not so much Arabic. Lebanon is the bread basket of the Middle East, with long beautiful beaches and ports. In the mountains it snows and even in the valleys sometimes. When this snow melts, the rivers make the wide valley rich in some of the best vegetation in the world. When you see their foot long potatoes and five inch tomatoes you will know what I mean.
Always a peaceful people, the Lebanese have always been noted for high education and intelligence and because of this have become the traders of the Middle East. Maybe there are problems in Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine and Africa, but there is something wonderful happening in Lebanon and I think God has great plans for this country. May Our Lady of Bechwat carry Lebanon in Her arms to a great future.