A Little-known Miracle from the Immaculata

Mr Howard Toon, District Co-ordinator of the Militia Immaculatae

There is a story from the folklore of an Indian tribe in Montana, USA, about a young boy who received a miracle from the Immaculata in 1841.

The tribe had heard the gospels from passing Jesuits, and some of them, including their chief, sent repeated requests to the Jesuit headquarters in St Louis asking for priests to come and tell them more.

Convinced of their earnest wish to be instructed, Fr Peter DeSmet journeyed in 1840 to the Rocky Mountain region where the tribe lived, and was received with great joy. In the following year, he began construction of a Mission in a village on the Bitterroot River, and dedicated it to St Mary.

In order for members of the tribe to be baptised into the Catholic faith, it was necessary for them to become thoroughly familiar with the Catechism beforehand, as one would expect. Amongst them was a young orphan boy who was barely literate. He dearly wanted to be baptised, but his untrained memory was such that, no matter how he tried, he could not remember what was in the Catechism, meaning that he could not avail himself of the Sacrament of Baptism.

Subsequently, the boy presented himself for examination on his knowledge of the Catechism, and amazed everyone by how well he knew it despite his previous history of failure.

This came to the ears of Fr DeSmet, who recorded the boy’s account of what had happened to him. The boy told of how he had paid his usual visit to the house of his friend Jean in yet another attempt to learn the Catechism, when he saw within a very beautiful lady who was floating in mid air and who had a star above her head and a serpent beneath her feet. At first, he was very frightened, but his head cleared, and he suddenly realised that he was thoroughly familiar with the entire Catechism. This is the miracle of this story. The boy added that the Lady had visited him several times afterwards, and had told him she was pleased about the dedication of the Mission Village to St Mary.

The boy was questioned on numerous occasions about what he had seen, and gave the same account each time without variation. With the aid of pictures supplied by the priests, it became clear that the vision he had seen was in fact the Immaculate Conception.

On Christmas Day 1841, the boy received the Sacrament of Baptism and took the name Paul, but as the Chief had already taken that name, he became known as “Little Paul”. Altogether 150 received the sacrament of Baptism that day.

The boy became known as “The Angel of the Tribes” according to Fr DeSmet’s record of the events.

Little Paul was called to his heavenly reward only two years after the miracle and was gifted with a peaceful death and the last Rites of Holy Mother Church.

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