Berthe Petit (January 23, 1870 – March 26, 1943) was a Franciscan Tertiary known for her devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She had reported visions of Jesus and Mary since an early age, and claimed to experience conversations with Jesus Christ for many years thereafter.
Youth, and vocation to a life of suffering
Berthe was born Francoise Marie Ghislaine Berthe Petit, in Enghien, Belgium and her father was a lawyer. She was a gifted child from an early age and reportedly had her first vision of the Virgin Mary at age 4. During her youth she reported a vision of the Infant Jesus coming towards her and saying "You will always suffer, but I will be with you."
She expressed her desire for a religious life on the day of her First Holy Communion. She said to her teacher, a nun, "I must suffer a great deal, I must be like Jesus." "Who told you that?" asked the nun. "The little Host which is Jesus," was Berthe's reply. Always in delicate health, at the age of fourteen she suffered a serious bout of typhoid in 1884.
On hearing her confession on September 8, 1888, Father Godefroid O.F.M. Cap told her that she would become a "crucified spouse" of Christ, and a victim soul for many sinners. At Christmas Midnight Mass in 1893, Berthe made a vow offering her life and health to God in exchange for the gift of a soul being called to the priesthood, and immediately received a mystical experience in which she believed Jesus accepted her vow, confirmed that she would experience great suffering, and that she would one day know the priest who would be the fruit of her prayers.. This priest turned out to be Louis Decorsant, whom she would not meet until 1908.
After becoming a Franciscan Tertiary, taking the religious name 'Mary Magdalene of the Cross', Berthe suffered from many illnesses. At one point doctors had given up all hope for her, but she mysteriously recovered.
Unfolding mystical experiences of the Heart of Mary
At Christmas Midnight Mass in 1909, Berthe receievd a deeper understanding of her vocation, in the form of a vision of the hearts of Jesus and Mary closely united together, pierced by a sword, and accompanied by words from Jesus: "Teach souls to love the Heart of my Mother pierced with the sorrow that transfixed my own heart." This message was repeated and amplified on 7 and 8 February 1910: Berthe was invited to "live in the heart of Mary" as she lived in that of Christ, and to make known the love of Mary's heart.
In 1910, while on a pilgrimage to St Anne’s shrine in Alsace, Berthe reported a revelation which led her to understand clearly that her specific task was to obtain "the Consecration of the World to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary". Later on the same journey, attending Decorsant's Mass in Rome, Berthe further understood that the entrustment of the world to Mary's sorrowful motherhood flowed from the incident in John's Gospel where Christ, dying on the cross, entrusts "the beloved disciple" (representing both St John the Evangelist, and the whole community of church members) to Mary's maternal care.
On 8 September 1911, Berthe reported an unusually prolonged encounter with Jesus Christ, in which the Lord explained that while Mary's status as 'Immaculate' was a pure gift of God's grace, the title 'Sorrowful' should be justly applied to Mary's heart - and precede 'Immaculate' - because of her voluntary acceptance of her painful role in accepting the suffering of her Son. The Lord also asked that priests should make an act of devotion to Mary's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart at the end of every Mass.
The messages Berthe reported appear in the book The Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Most of the messages deal with the sorrows of the Virgin Mary, warn of Divine judgment and relate to the tears of the Virgin Mary shed over a world in need of prayer and repentance.
The First World War and its aftermath
Berthe attended the 1912 Eucharistic Congress in Vienna, presided over by the Emperor of Austria-Hungary. On September 12, immediately following communion, she received a prophecy that the Emperor's heir would be killed, the first of a chain of events "painful but useful" to God's purpose; this would become clear when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on 28 June 1914. After the First World War broke out, Berthe was able to travel to Switzerland on 18 July 1914, but being unable to return to Belgium, remained in Switzerland for the rest of the war. Reverend Decorsant was able to pass a message, via Cardinal Mercier, to the newly elected Pope Benedict XV, who in May 1915 ended a letter to the bishops of the world with a recommendation to seek the intercession of the "Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary" ('Cuore addolorato ed immacolato di Maria'). Cardinal Bourne of Westminster took a particular interest in Berthe's revelations and led four acts of consecration to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary in England between 1917 and 1919.
In 1919, Berthe was able to return to Belgium; in the same year she received a prophecy of future conflict with nations increasingly divided. In 1927, Berthe moved to Uccle when it became clear that her pre-war residence could not be restored. Between 1919 and 1942, Berthe reported various prophecies of nations being tempted by pride and power; Italy and Germany were mentioned by name. On 24 January 1940, she spoke of Belgium being invaded with surprising rapidity - which came to pass on 10 May of the same year.
In 1943, Berthe became increasingly frail, and was given the sacrament of extreme unction on Sunday 21 March. She died at around 6 p.m. on Friday 26 March, and for three days pilgrims flocked to her deathbed to pray close to her body. She was buried in the churchyard at Louvignies, Hainaut.
- Freze, p. 133.
- G. P. Geoghegan, 2006, A Collection of My Favorite Prayers ISBN 978-1-4116-9457-6, page 131
- Duffer, p. 2.
- Biography of Berthe Petit
- Duffer, p. 5.
- Duffer, p. 8.
- Freze, p. 277.
- Duffer, p. 22.
- Duffer, p. 26.
- The Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Published by LuLu.com 2004, ISBN 1-4116-0396-6
- Duffer, p. 27-28.
- Acta Apostolica Sedis, 1915, http://www.vatican.va/archive/aas/documents/AAS%2007%20%20-%20ocr.pdf page 254
- Duffer, p. 31-37.
- Duffer, I., The Art of Divine Love, or Berthe Petit Published by Lulu.com ISBN 1-4116-0321-4
- Freze, Michael. Voices, Visions, and Apparitions, OSV Publishing, 1993, ISBN 0-87973-454-X