Much like the Ukrainian people of our own time, where cities and towns are facing a Russian invasion, the people in the little town of Pontmain, France faced an advancing army as the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 raged. They were terrified. But suddenly, the Virgin Mary, while simultaneously making herself visible to a group of children in Pontmain, appeared in the sky adorned in a robe filled with glowing stars. The Prussian Army made the decision not to advance – they said a woman in the sky was blocking the way! – and the war soon ended.
“Next to the Battle of Lepanto, this is one of the most famous cases of the Virgin Mary miraculously interceding in war,” says “Miracle Hunter” Michael O’Neill, who is the executive producer and host of EWTN’s new series “Explore with the Miracle Hunter.” This popular show, which chronicles miracles around the world with impressive dramatizations, has now been made into a weekly EWTN series with new episodes and a regular time slot. The story of Our Lady’s appearance in Pontmain, France is just one of the many “Explore” episodes viewers can look forward to seeing at 6 p.m. ET, Saturdays, with an encore at 6:30 a.m. ET, Wednesdays.
“When we think about miracles, we all imagine how they may have happened, what that would have looked like,” O’Neill said. “These episodes bring those moments to life with some spectacular recreations, paired with some beautiful cinematic footage of these locations. Because of everything going on in the world right now, this is a great way for people to see the world without leaving their homes — and it will hopefully encourage people to travel to these sites in the near future.”
This coming week, tune in to see the astounding miracle at Lanciano, Italy, in which an unbelieving monk had his doubts turned around during the consecration of the Mass, when the Eucharist transformed into real flesh and the wine into real blood. This will be followed the next week by an episode on the famed visions of Jesus Christ at Paray-Le-Monial, where Catholics were blessed with the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and “Explore Naples,” which is one of O’Neill’s favorite episodes.
Travel with O’Neill to the Neapolitan basilica which houses the blood of St. Januarius in a special container known as an ampoule. Most years, the dried blood liquefies on the saint’s feast day. But in the rare years when the blood does not liquefy, disastrous things have happened: Mt. Vesuvius erupts, earthquakes happen, the economy collapses, or, most recently, the city faces a worldwide pandemic.
“Every year on Sept. 19, they have a special feast day Mass with the bishop and they bring out this relic,” O’Neill said, who traveled to the site and filmed the event in 2019. “The basilica and the streets are packed with people. The bishop will hold up the ampoule and, if the blood liquefies, the cheer is so loud it’s like a winning touchdown at a football game! It’s a portent of a good year for Naples.”
O’Neill is also partial to “Explore: Rome,” in which he tells the story of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a wealthy French businessman who was challenged by friends during a visit to Rome to wear a Miraculous Medal and say the Memorare for seven days. This Jewish atheist not only ended up experiencing a vision of the Virgin Mary but also instantaneously converted to Catholicism and was infused with knowledge of the Catholic faith, later becoming a priest and founding the Order of Our Lady of Sion devoted to the conversion of Jews. And that’s not the half of it!
Other “Explore with the Miracle Hunter” episodes will include visits to Beauraing, in which the Virgin with the Golden Heart appeared numerous times, urging the people of Belgium to pray; Pompeii, in which Our Lady of the Rosary won the heart of Blessed Bartolo Longo, who at that time was a satanic priest; and Trefontane, site of the beheading of St. Paul and the apparition of Our Lady of Revelation, which O’Neill says may be the most interesting of all!
As the war rages in Ukraine, viewers can take comfort in these miraculous stories, particularly the story of the Vatican-recognized apparitions at Pontmain, France. So tune in this Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on EWTN. And meantime, consider asking Our Lady of Pontmain to intercede for the people of Ukraine – and the world.
Our Lady of Pontmain, pray for us!