La Salette is not a household name, but you hear it preached in Bolivia and the Philippines, in Angola and Madagascar, in southernmost India and in Poland, In Byelorussia and in Indonesia. And in a small alpine village, where it was first heard.
Two Congregations bear the name of La Salette. Some others are linked to it. All over the world, pilgrims, saints, writers have sung its praises and continue to make it known : Salette, Saletinski, Saleta, Saletiner... You can see it over entrances, in parishes, spiritual centers and cooperatives; at shelters for lepers and their families; you see it in humble places where the handicapped work, and you see it at high mountain shrine.
An Unknown Village
Before the apparition La Salette was an unknown hamlet lost in one of those giant crevices of the French Alps. A dozen tiny villages clung to the low regions of a ring of mountains that rise over seven thousand feet. Spring torrents rushing down these heights run through dark, winding passes and exit below the market town of Corps, where the highway junction joins it to the rest of the world. No one could have seen fame in the offing.
On September 19, 1846, two shepherds, a boy and a girl, each urging on their four cows, climb the barren slopes that rise above the village of La Salette. After an uneventful morning, they meet within this solitude a woman more beautiful than creation; she appears within a light that is brighter than the sun.
Through her tears she converses with them. She finished her discourse and, having climbed a narrow path, disappeared in her halo of light. That evening the children speak of this to their respective employers, and the very next morning rumors are running. The young boy, Maximin Giraud, skittish and carefree, is eleven years old and has replaced a shepherd that week. Melanie Calvat is nearing fifteen years of age. For five years she has been performing odd jobs in the neighboring farms; she is timid and withdrawn. Simply, but with great precision, the two children answer the questions put to them. Their testimonies agree. The whole world takes hold of their story: the curios, the believers, the official investigators and the journalists, religious and civil authorities. Detractors attack it, visionaries hallucinate over it, creating serious and lasting delusions. Missionaries and pilgrims will make this echo of the Good News known to all the world.
Who is it?
After five years of detailed and rigorous inquiry, the Church attest to the reality of the event and recognizes "The Beautiful Lady": she is Mary, the mother of Jesus, she who has been missioned at the foot of the Cross to be the mother of all those who search and doubt, who journey in faith. Always present to her children, she comes to warn their hearts, to challenge consciences in the face of a godless world, a world without justice and without love. With vigor and with tenderness, she raises us up and puts us on the road together, on the path of her Son Jesus.
The story told by Maximin Giraud and Melanie Calvat travelled everywhere and profoundly touched a world in need of reconciliation. To all those who are or should be thirsting for justice, it points to the Gospel fount of living water.
Here is the story the children told the world. . .
A day in Autumn
In mid-September, 1846, Pierre Selme, a peasant of the Abladins had to find a boy to replaced his shepherd who had become ill. He sought out Giraud the wheelwright in the Corps and tells him, "Let me have you little Maximin for a few days..." "Memin, a shepherd? He is to much of a scatterbrain!" replied Giraud. There is some give and take between the two, and on September 14, Maximin walked to the Ablandis. On the 17th he saw Melanie there.
On the 18th, they are watching the flocks in a communal pasture around Mont Planeau. That afternoon, Maximin made an attempt at conversation with the silent Melanie. They discover that they are both from Corps. They talk a while and decide to "pasture" together at the same spot the next day.
On the mountain slopes
Early on September 19, 1846, the two children climb the slopes of Mont sous-les-Baisses, each urging four cows up to the mountain slopes. besides his own flock, Maximin had a goat and his dog Loulou. Sunlight flooded the Alpine slopes. Far down the mountain the Angelus bells rang out from the village church. This was a sign for the shepherd to lead their cows toward the "flock spring", a small pool formed by the brook as it tumbled down the Sezia ravine. Then they goaded the cows toward an adjoining field on the slopes of Mount Gargas. The animals grazed quietly in the hot sun.
Maximin and Melanie went back up the hollow to the "people spring" and broke out their frugal lunch of bread and cheese. Other shepherds came up from the lower pastures and joined them in friendly chatter. When they left, Maximin and Melanie crossed the brook and came down a few steps toward the stone benches near a dry stream bed; this is the "small brook". Melanie set down her small bag, and Maximin placed his smock and his lunch on a nearby stone.
The other Brightness
Contrary to their habits, the two children lay down on the grass…and fell sleep. The September sun was relaxing the sky was cloudless. The chattering brook highlighted the stillness of the mountains. These were quiet moments…
Melanie woke up with the start and shook Maximin! “Memin, Memin, get up!.. let’s go look for our cows. I don’t where they are!” Quickly they climb the hillock facing the Gargas. From that vantage point they could see the surrounding area, and the cows right there, grazing peacefully.
The two children were relieved. Melanie took few steps down the hillock. Halfway, she froze, stunned, and her shepherd’s stick fall. “Memin, look over there, a light!”
Near the small brook on one of those stone benches…there was a globe of fire. “It’s as if the sun had fallen there!” But the sun still shone in a cloudless sky. Maximin ran to Melanie’s side yelling. “Where is it? Where is it?” Melanie pointed to the bottom of the ravine where they had just rested. Maximin came to her, frozen with fear and said, “ Hold on to your stick! I am keeping mine and if it comes close I’m giving it a good whack!” The light stirred, moved and swirled. Words failed the children to describe the rush of life that streamed from the fiery globe. A woman appeared within the light; she was sitting, her hands, her elbows on her knees, in deepest grief.
The Beautiful Lady
The Lady rose slowly. The children had not moved. She spoke to them in French:
"Come near, my children, do not be afraid. I am here to tell you a great news."
They approached the Lady. The stared at her. She was still crying. "She seemed like a lady that her children was beaten and who run away into the mountain to cry." She was light. She was dressed like the woman of that region: along apron tied at the waist, a shawl crossed and knotted in the back. On her head she woe a peasant bonnet.. There were roses like a crown around her head, around her shawl and her shoes. Light shimmered like a fiery diadem on her forehead. A chain seemed to weigh heavy on her shoulders. A finer link-chain held a brilliant crucifix on her breats, with a hammer on one side and thongs on the other.
What the Beautiful Lady Said on the Mountain
The Beautiful Lady spoke to the two shepherds. “ She wept all the while she spoke to us”, said Maximin and Melanie later. Together, or separately, the two children repeated the same words with sight variations that never affected the sense. Whether her questioners were pilgrims, public officials or ecclesiastics, investigators or journalists, friendly, neutral or hostile, they all heard the same message. “Come near, my children, do not be afraid. I am here to tell you a great news.”
“We listened. All our attention was on her.”
Like Maximin and Melanie we are invited to let her message come into our lives. With them we listen and graze at the crucifix, dazzling with glory.
“If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose the arm of my Son. It is so heavy that I can no longer restrain it.”
“How long have suffered for you! If my Son is not to abandon you, I am obliged to entreat Him without ceasing. But you take no heed of that. No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured on your behalf.”
“I have given you six days to work. The seventh I have reserved for myself, yet no one will give to me. This is what causes the weight of my Son’s arm to be so crushing.”
“The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing my Son’s name. These are two things which make my Son’s arm so heavy.”
“If the harvest is spoiled, it is your own fault. I warned you last year by means of the potatoes. You paid no need. Quite the contrary, when you discovered that the potatoes had rotted, you swore, you abused my Son’s name. They will continue to be spoiled, and by Christmas time this year there will be none left.”
The local dialect word for potatoes (pommes de terre) puzzled Melanie. In dialect one says “la ruff”. The word “pommes” reminded here only of apples. She returned to Maximin for help. But the Lady said, “Ah! You do not understand French, my children. When then, listen. I shall say it differently."
"Si la recolta se gasta…”
Repeating these last sentences in dialect she continued in the “patois” spoken by Maximin and Melanie.
“If you have wheat, it will do no good to sow it, for what you sow the beasts will eat, and whatever part of it springs up will crumble into dust when you thresh it.”
“A great famine is coming. But before that happens, children under seven years of age will be seized with trembling and die in the arms of those holding them. The others will pay for their sins by hunger. The grapes will rot and nuts will be worn-eaten.”
Suddenly, Melanie no longer heard the Lady’s voice although her lips were still moving. She noticed that Maximin was listening very attentively. Then she, in turn, was able to hear words that Maximin could not hear. Maximin’s native restlessness won out over his effort to behave. He toyed with his hat, taking it off, putting it on again, and with tip of his walking stick he poked at pebbles. “Not a single stone touched the beautiful Lady’s feet,” protested Maximin a few days later. “She said something to me and told me,” “You will not repeat this and this. After that I could not hear her, and I began diverting myself.”
Finally, they both heard the Lady’s voice again:
“If my People are converted, the stones will become mounds of wheat and it will be found that the potatoes have been self-shown.”
“Do you say your prayers well my children?”
The children answered with one voice:
Not too well, Madame, hardly at all.”
“Ah! My children, it is very important to do so, at night and in the morning. When you don’t have time, at least say an “Our Father” and a “Hail Mary”; and when you, can say more."
“Only a few rather elderly women to go to Mass in the summer. Everyone else works every Sunday all summer long. And in winter, when they don’t know what else to do, they go to Mass only to scoff at religion. During Lent, they go to the butcher shop like dogs.”
“My children, haven’t you ever seen spoiled wheat?”
“No Madame,” declared Maximin, quick to speak Melanie as well as for himself.
Turning toward Maximin, the Lady replied:
“But you, my child, must have seen it once near Coin with your Papa. The owner of the field said to your Papa, “Come and see my spoiled wheat.” The two of you went. You took of two or three ears of wheat in your hands. You rubbed them together, and they crumbled to dust. Then you came back from Coin. When you were only a half-hour away from the Crops, your Papa gave you a bit of bread and said: “Here, my son, eat some bread, this years anyhow. I don’t know who will eating any next year if the wheat continues this way.”
“Its very true, Madame. Now I remember. Until I didn’t,” admitted Maximin.
The Beautiful Lady concluded, no longer in dialect but in French.
“Well, children, you will make this known to all my people.”
She began to walk and Maximin stepped aside to let her by. The Lady crossed the brook and climbed the little hillock. Without turning towards them, she repeated,
“Please, children, be sure to make this known to all my people.”
All had been said. The Lady climbed the narrow path that led out of the ravine. Reaching the top, she rose about five feet reached the spot where she had risen above the ground. The Lady looked toward heaven, then gazed down to the south-east.
Slowly she seemed to “melt away” within the light: first the head disappeared, then the shoulders, and rest of the body. Maximin saw a rose from the feet of the beautiful Lady and leaped up to seize it. His hand closed empty.
The bright light vanished. Melanie ventured a remark: “It was perhaps a great saint?”
“If only we had known, we would ask her to bring us with her,” said Maximin. The children did not know who had appeared to them on the mountain.
At day’s end the children return to Les Ablandis. To justify not having reported to his employer that afternoon, Maximin said matter-of-faculty: “Sir, Melanie and I met a beautiful Lady who spoke to us a long time.”
“Well, let’s go see Melanie at Pra’s house.”
The Pras owned the neighboring farm. The grandmother was waiting for them on the stoop. Maximin called out to her: “Hey, Mama Caron, didn’t you see a beautiful Lady dressed in fire fly over the valley?”
Everyone gathered in the kitchen and Maximin told his story in French and in dialect. Melanie was summoned from her stable work and fully confirmed it.
Grandmother Pra declared, “It is the virgin that these children have seen. She is the only one whose Son reigns in heaven!
The next day, Sunday, the children were escorted to the pastor. Before Mass he listened to the story and was visibly shaken. Later, speaking from the pulpit, he stammered, moved to tears. From that moment rumors flew. Learning of the event, the mayor went to Les Albandins that afternoon to interrogate the two young shepherds. But Maximin had terminated his work at Pierre Selme’s and gone back to Corps.
All afternoon the mayor tried unsuccessfully to trap Melanie in some contradiction. He made promises. He threatened. Even bribery could not buy Melanie’s silence. “The Lady told me to say it, and will say it!”
Deeply moved. Jean-Baptiste Pra, Pierre Selme and their neighbor Jean-Moussier wisely decided to put everything on paper, with Melanie dictating the Virgin’s words.
Thanks to their enterprise, the first documenwritten on La Salette will be the Virgin’s message. It was dated the day following the apparition, and all parties signed it.
On Monday, the mayor himself interrogated Maximin at Corps and won over Maximin’s self-assurance, his candor and tenacity. His testimony fully agreed with that of Melanie.
The news traveled swiftly. Pilgrims, unbelievers, observers and the inevitable busybodies interrogated, threatened, taunted and tempted the two children trying to trap them in some contradiction. Then came the reporters, the inevitable state officials, and the investigators appointed by the Bishop of Grenoble. To him, of course, belong to right to decide on the matter.
On October 9, 1846, he issued a letter prohibiting priest from speaking about the event until he had reach the decision, “after a necessarily detailed and exhaustive investigation.” The bishop insisted on being kept updated on the children’s behavior, as well as on everything that happened on the mountain. Father Melin, archpriest of Corps became his correspondent. Official diocesan investigators were commissioned to begin keeping dossiers on the event, the children, and the consequence of the apparition.
They submitted their report to a commission whose membership intentionally included supporters as well as opponents of the apparition.
Presided by the bishop, this commission will be kept posted on the investigation. It would hear the two children as well as those in charge of their education; it would allow opponents full freedom of expression. The conclusions of the commission were all more convincing: the children had not been deceived, nor were they deceivers. Had they intended to deceive, they were incapable of inventing such a story.
By 1847, the bishop believed in the Apparition. Still, during the following four years he consulted and kept informed. Other investigators pursued their own research into the matter.
Father Lagier, a native of Corps, and Father Lambert from Avignon contributed valuable research on the subject. In February and May 1947 respectively, they interviewed the children in dialect and scrupulously transcribed their replies. Other works could be cited (cf. La Salette: document authentiques, Jean Stern, M.S., Desclee de Brouwer, Paris, 3 Volumes).
On September 19, 1851, Bishop Philibert de Bruillard, Ordinary of Genoble issued his “doctrinal pronouncement”. Its basic message is the following:
“We judge the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two shepherds on September 19, 1846 on the mountain of Alpine chain, situated to the parish of La Salette, of the archpresbitery of Corps, bears all the characteristics of truth, and that the faithful have grounds for believing it to undeniable and certain
The Basilica of Our lady of La Salette
The impact of this decree was considerable. Many bishops had it read in the parishes of their dioceses. For better or worse the press took hold of it. It was translated into many languages and appeared on the Osservatore Romano on June 4, 1852. congratulatory mail streamed into the bishop’s offices at Grenoble.
The pastoral instincts of the Bishops of Grenoble urge him on. On May 21, 1852, he published another decree announcing the construction of a shrine on the mountain of La Salette, as well as the founding of a group of diocesan missionaries to whom he gave the title of Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette. And he added: “Who can doubt that it was for the whole world that the Blessed Virgin appeared at La Salette.” The future would confirm and exceed all expectations. With a team in place, one can say that the mission of Maximin and Melanie had come into an end.
Bishop Ginoulhiac, the new bishop of Grenobe summarized the situation as he saw the September 19, 1855: “The mission of the two shepherds has come to an end, that of the Church now begins.” Those men and women of all nation and races who have found in the message of La Salette the path of conversion, a deepening of their religious faith, a vital force for daily living, and a rationale for their commitment to Christ in the service of others, are beyond number.
A New Grace
“The apparition of our mother on the mountain of La Salette is not a new doctrine, it is a new grace. It is the revelation of the love and compassion for us to exist in heaven.” Thus wrote Bishop Ullathorne of Birmingham, England in 1854, as he described the sub-ordinate role of an apparition and its concrete influence on the history of our salvation.
Jesus is the total and definitive revelation of our salvation and God’s love for us. Because he is fully God and fully human he is the only and perfect reconciler. His human life, his death on a cross, his resurrection in the very life of God makes him our way, our truth and our life. Be within the church or outside it, any revelation is measured on the strength of its link to Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church, a faith that bids us to walk according to the Spirit of Jesus toward the One whom we calls “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
The first step to take in an event like La Salette is to establish its authenticity. Without this, one can fall into a variety of blunders. The first question is: “are the witnesses, Maximin and Melanie, credible?” Not only in a vague and general way but directly, as it concerns this specific event. The official investigators as well as others had long wondered about the testimony of the two children. The conclusion was tersely expressed: the two shepherds were neither deceived or deceivers. Had they planned to deceive they were unable to invent a story as involved as this one. They lacked the basic notions necessary to cobble such a story together.
Maximin and Melanie had met only the previous day and they had completely opposite temperaments: the boy was hyperactive and garrulous; the girl taciturn and withdrawn. The harmony of their testimonies is all the more convincing.
When authenticity has been established, we come into a second problem, that of agreement with the faith of the Church. Faith cannot be freewheeling, “Test the Spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). At La Salette Mary professed no new teaching. She came to manifest in our world and in our life the saving strength that is ours in Christ Jesus. In tears she begged us to take heed of this. It is her basic message. This why we “have grounds for believing it to be undeniable and certain.”
Then and only then can we submit the apparition of the gospel standard: “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt.7: 16). During the past 150 years the fruits of conversion have multiplied wherever La Salette has been proclaimed.
Two remarks are in order here. This religious impact is valid only when the truth of La Salette has been established. The tie has to be made between this particular conversion or cure with La Salette itself. If this tie exists we can, in truth recognize the specific grace of La Salette at work.
Then, this grace helps us discover Christ as present in our lives, freeing us from evil, opening our minds to the pain of the world, makes us one in the Church’s ministry and worship by means within the reach of all: prayer, genuine sharing in the Eucharist, Lenten practices. The one he has given us as mother in faith walks lovingly with us on this journey. The grace of La Salette will brings all those it touches to very basics of faith. It would be unwise to disregard such an effective aid. The crucified Christ is bathed in the light of the resurrection on the breast of the Beautiful Lady. He is the beginning, growth and perfect completion of the faith, the image of the invisible God, the first-born of creation. Recognizing Him as our God, we become his people.
LA SALETTE IS NOT A DEVOTIONAL SUPPLEMENT. IT IS THE RETURN TO THE ESSENTIAL OF FAITH, A RENDEZVOUS NOT TO BE MISSED, AN OPPORTUNITY TO LAUNCH OUT AFRESH.
The apparition of Our Lady to Maximin and Melanie
The Apparition itself provides an answer to this question. Mary's intervention, her words and the symbols she used are laden with meaning. The choice of the witnesses, the circumstances of time and place support and heighten the significance of the event.
Mary’s intervention pertains to the specific mission she received from her Son at the foot of the cross, a mission she exercises fully since her Assumption. She had been assigned to “pray without ceasing to her Son” for us. But she has also appointed to mediate with us and lead us to her Son Jesus. The Church has discerned the authenticity and the efficacity of La Salette to direct our lives to the One from whom comes our reconciliation. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7: 15). Today, they are without number! Melanie herself was not always free from this pseudoprophetism. We must avoid confusing this with Mary’s intervention, whose sole purpose is to lead us to Jesus through conversion, both personal and communal.
Learning the Signs
Nothing enters our minds without passing through the senses. We need signs. They are “words” intelligible to everyone. They are the first steps leading to a pedagogy of faith. The signs chosen by Mary at La Salette are, from point of view, very evocative.
* THE LIGHT that surrounded was not meant to astound us, but in the tradition of the church it has become a sign of the resurrection. Mary, risen in glory dwells in the glory of her Son. While she spoke to the children, the light envelope them also.
* AT LA SALETTE MARY WEEPS. “Her mother’s love is concerned for the brothers and sisters of her Son, who are still on the journey and struggling with trials and dangers” (Lumen Gentium 62). Mary weeps on her Son Jesus who unrecognized and rejected by people. She weeps over us, “poor sinners”. She weeps over the misfortunes that overwhelm us and goad us into rebellion instead of leading us on to conversion. She weeps over the little heed we pay to her intersession. “I am obliged to entreat him without ceasing. But you take no heed of that.”
To love is to grant someone the power to make us suffer. The tears of Mary are signs of her powerlessness I the face of our freedom, when we refused the salvation that is offered to us. They are likewise the signs of her love, that last resource of a mother who is now reduced to tears in an attempt to reach unfeeling hearts. In this way she reveals the tenderness of God. “Who then is God who weeps over our pain like a mother? Who then is God, so cruelly wounded when we wound others? Who then is God to love us so?”
AT LA SALETTE MARY IS CLOTHED LIKE THE WOMAN OF THAT LOCALITY. The two children are not surprised at this. She wears a dress that extends to her ankles, as long housewife’s apron, a shawl crossed on her breast, a bonnet that covers the hair, and wide-buckle shoes. “We thought she was a woman from Valjouffrey whom her children have beaten and who run away in the mountain to weep.” Mary, “God’s homemaker” assigned to the well-being of the Church: Mary as mother serving her children…
During the apparition Maximin and Melanie focused on the bright source of light that surrounded the large crucifix that Mary bore on her breast. The crucified Savior within the light of the resurrection is the heart and rationale La Salette. Its basic challenge is unavoidable. Mary reminds us: “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (Phil. 1: 21). “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ”(Phil. 3:8), “…and him crucified”(1 Cor.2: 2). “If Christ has not been raised then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1 Cor.15: 14).
The children notice the hammer and the tongs on The CROSSBEAM OF THE CRUCIFIX. They look at the chains and all these roses that outline the shawl, that crown the Lady’s forehead and run along the edges of her shoes. Mary displays these symbols without explanation. We are left free to interpret them and they are a challenge to reflection and the searching of Scriptures and Traditions.
They recall the Passion, the mysteries of the Rosary, sin and reparation, the labor of human kind, the choice we make between the chains 0f injustice and the roses of love. It is anyone’s choice. Some prefer to reflect on the apparition within its historical framework: the dawning of the industrial era, the struggle between capitalism and communism, the emergence of materialistic philosophies, the clash between clericalism and socialism, militant atheism. In any of these, the cross of Christ alone gives meaning to any endeavor and any search, to any commitment, to the respect of the human person, to love. The cross remains the soul of these symbols.
While the Lady speaks Melanie and Maximin are standing close to her. “A person could not have passed between her and us” they said. When she walked “we followed close behind,” they said. To be close, to follow closely means to pursue with her the paths of God. The very first pilgrims understood well the meaning of these journeying. Along the beautiful Lady’s winding and rising path they planted a way of the cross, the pattern of all Christian living, the only road, and one that leads from tears to the resurrection. This path is also an Opening: at the foot of the ravine where Mary began her climb, there is no sense of space, of perspective. At the peak of her climb, horizons near and far open wide before her.
In the light the resurrection Mary reaches the end of her walk and rises slowly above the ground. She gazed heavenward, then toward the earth and slowly “melts” within her “dwelling light”. As at Emmaus before the breaking of bread: “They recognized him; and he vanished from her sight” (Lk 25: 31). “It must have been a great saint” said Melanie. Maximin answered, “if we had known that it was a great saint we would ask her to take us with her!”
THE LAST SIGN: the apparition did not distract the children from their normal lives. They quickly returned to their daily tasks. But from now on this “quotidian” is already transfigured and will be increasingly so as they respond to the grace that has been given them. “After? We fetched our little sacks, and then we led our cows to browse in the fields. We were very happy and we talk about all that we have seen!”
Words to live by
Like the prophets and Jesus himself, Mary speaks the language of the people, that of the local peasantry of the 19th century, of the Bible and especially the New Testament. In this short space no one can show the rich depth of her words. We can look briefly at the avenues of faith she indicates in her message.
First, we note that she weeps as she speaks. Her tears are of tenderness, of pleading and wounded love. She calls us “my children, my people.” Many of her sentences begin with “ifs” and questions: she leaves our freedom intact. Careful listening reveals that she does not threaten us. Her motherly reprimands are meant to save us and point to our only means of salvation.
"Come near, my children. Be not afraid. I am here to tell you great news!"
1. Mary invites us to the journey (Emmaus). Following the risen Christ she takes away all fears (peace). The great news she brings us is the Good News we have forgotten, that of the Gospel reminding us that today, the risen Christ walks with us…
"If my people do not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son's Arm.
It is so heavy that I can no longer hold it."
2. There is no question here of a vengeful God oppressing human kind. Our relationship with him is not servility but of filial obedience. Our goal is to commune with the will of God who wants to emancipate us showing the loving “strength of his arm” (Magnificat). Our refusals add weight to this arm and make it difficult to hold. Mary does not contradict Jesus, but assist him. How do we see God? The question is basic. We know that Christ has come to place all things under God’s rule “so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
"How long have I suffered for you!"
3. Mary suffers for us. During her lifetime as well as on Calvary where she received her mission to be our mother in faith, to our present existence as hapless sinners, our salvation is always her concern, and she continues to intercede for us to lead us to the only Savior, Jesus. This actual sufferings is a mystery, an enigma for theologians, light and comfort for all who discover this love and this grace.
"If my Son is not to abandon you
I am obliged to entreat Him without ceasing.
But you take no heed of that."
4. Mary never cease to pray to the sole Mediator “since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrew 7:25). Jesus who says “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) cannot save against our will for God: “the Lord is with you, while you are with him. If you seek him, he will found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). “Jesus wept over unfaithful Jerusalem” (Luke 19:14).
"No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to what I have endured in your behalf."
5. We can apprise the depth of Mary’s love for us when we realized that we can never respond to such challenge; when we also understand how demanding is this maternal love which can never be fully requited. We can at least commit ourselves generously and to respond to love with love.
"I have given you six days to work. The seventh I have reserved for myself, yet no one will give it to me. This is what causes the weight of my son’s arm to be so crushing."
6. The seventh day is a day of thanksgiving for the work of human kind in collaboration with God (Exodus 20:8-10). It the day of liberation from enslaving labors where people exploit people (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). The Bible holds this meaning of the Day of the Lord.
In both cases the Seventh day is linked to the worship of God, Creator and Redeemer. Is this day a day of rest of a free people? Is it the day of the Lord for the Son and daughters of God? Is it a day of gathering for the reconciliation of brothers and sisters? For Christians this is the day is no longer the seventh.
It has become the first day of the new creation inaugurated by the resurrection of Christ, a day without end for a life extending beyond day.
"The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son’s name.
These are the two things that make my son’s arm so heavy"
7. The cart drivers of old used the Christ-oath at the least provocation. This dreadful habit had become a veritable social plague, a counter profession of faith: building a world without God or against God was a goal of the nineteenth century. It persists today inother guises: a humanistic word, or a world founded on oppression. Today’s swearword? “To hold people in contempt is to hold Jesus Christ in contempt(Cardinal Marty). Jesus is the only Name by which we can be saved, the name capable of making the lame and the halt rise and walk (Act 3:4,5).
"If the harvest is spoiled it is your own fault.
I warned you last year by means of the potatoes. You paid no heed. Quite the contrary, when you discovered that the potatoes had rotted, you swore, you abused my Son's name. They will continue to be spoiled and by
Christmas time this year there will be none left."
8. At La Salette Mary urges us to examine our own times. At the time of apparition there will ruined harvest (wheat, potatoes, walnuts, grapes), famines and epidemics (the death of young children.
Today there are crops wasted or inequitably shared, famines, wars and ethic cleansing, cancer and AIDS, and throughout, the suffering and death of young and innocent. These are calls to awaken, to be converted. This signs of the times must become the signs of God inviting us to build a world according to God’s will, a more human world.
Mary stresses the urgency of the call: at Christmas time the situation will become catastrophic!
"You do not understand, my children? Well then, I shall put it differently. (The beautiful Lady continues her discourse in the local dialect.)"
9. Mary now speaks the local dialect. What she has said up to this point was addressed to everyone. Setting general remarks aside, she adapts her words to the children and what she now says concerns the local situation more directly: harvests, religious habits and even the most concrete and personal acts of life (episode 17). This involves that we readers of today- have to make the required transposition to adapt it to the present situations.
"Si ava de bla… If you have wheat, it will do no good to sow it, for what you will sow the beast will eat, and whatever part of it that spring up will crumble into dust when you thresh it."
10. These words spread panic among the civil authorities at the close of 1847 and matched the reality of subsequent events. The stockpiling of wheat to be sold at inflated prices and the eventual failure of crops led to an economic, financial and political crisis, as well as to the revolution of 1848. Today our profit-motive economy creates an ever –widening gap between rich and poor, between have and have-not nations, vitiating all exchanges and relationships among people.
"A great famine is coming. Before that happens, children under seven years of age will be seized with trembling and die in the arms of those holding them. The others will pay for their sins by hunger."
"The grapes will rot and the walnuts will become worm-eaten. (The beautiful Lady speaks in secret to each of them and once again both understand her words.)"
11 and 12. The events of our times tell us that Mary’s words are still vividly relevant: the death of little children, the uncertainty of life, the scarcity of food, not only potatoes and wheat, but oil and wine (see Jeremiah and Lamentations). Our relation to Mary is of an incommunicable personal nature.
"If people are converted, the very stone will become mounds of wheat and the potatoes will grow self-sown."
13. The call to conversion lies at the heart of La Salette. Every detail of the apparition contributes to this call, the tears, the crucifix with its hammer and pincers and the roses, the light and the discourse. To return to Jesus, to be reconciled by Jesus to the Father brings us to fullness lavished upon us in the kingdom of the Messiah. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The most powerful images cannot describe the Kingdom’s unimaginable abundance.
"Do you say your prayers well, my children? “Not to well, Madame, hardly at all!” the children confess. Ah!"
14. The Virgin will outline for us the path to conversion. From a simple question she indicates three starting points accessible to every one. Then, we can do “more”. Our Mother in faith is an effective educator. First begin with the prayer that Jesus thought us: the Lord’s Prayer. Then, the Hail Mary, which speaks to the one who is mandated to intercede for us with her Son, and persuade us to return to Jesus. Evening and morning: this type of Prayer is really only a beginning and an easy one at that! Then we can progress into “more”.
"Only a few rather old women go to Mass in the summer. Everyone else works every Sunday all summer long. And in winter, when they don’t know what else to do, they go Mass only to scoff at religion."
15. Mary describes how Christians have abandoned the Eucharist, how they are ceased to appreciate the Mass. We have much to do to rediscover the vital needs of gathering together to be nourished by the Word of God, by the Body an Blood offered for the many, by a shared resolution to offer our own live for salvation of the world “through Christ” with him and in him for the glory of the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”
"During Lent they go to the butcher shop like dog."
16. In the Bible people are compared to dogs when they have lost dignity (Mt 7:6; Phil.3: 2). Every year, on the other hand, Lent brings us that wonderful witness of the Passion of Jesus. We are urged to remain master of our souls in spite of powerful enticements, to know how to do without and to share more abundantly with those who hunger and thirst, the homeless, the sick, the prisoner. We would see the beginning of new life and the coming of a better world. We will be judged by this (Mt. 25:31).
"Haven’t you seen spoiled wheat, my children? “No Madame”, they reply. But you my child (Maximin), you must have seen some once near Coin with your Papa. The owner of the field said to your Papa, ‘Come and see my spoiled wheat’. The two of you went. You took two or three ears of wheat, you rubbed them together, and they crumbled to dust."
"On your way back from Coin, when you only a half-hour away from Crops, your Papa gave you a bit of bread and said: “Here, son, eat some bread, this year anyhow. I don’t know who will be eating any next year if the wheat continuous to spoil like this”. “Oh yes! Madame, now I remember. Until now I didn’t.” and the beautiful Lady concluded in French:
17 and 18. Maximin as well as his father had forgotten this episode of the spoiled wheat. Mary had kept it in her heart, however.
Upon first learning of La Salette Mr. Geraud’s immediate reaction was to forbid his Son to speak about it. Maximin ignores the command. The father threatens and Maximin says, “But papa, she spoke of you also!” Giraud senior is stunned. He thought he had liberated himself from God. He now find that God has always present to his hopes and concerns, to his fear of not having bread to feed his son. Giraud did not know was that God is present when bread is share with the hungry children. his yearning recalled a word of the Gospel: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). The Eucharist is the sharing of the presence and his love. Father, give us this day our daily bread! May we be able to say, as Maximin did, “Oh yes! Madame, now I remember!”
"Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people."
"Now, my children, you will please make this known to all my people."
19 and 20. To make it known: this is our mission. To an unbelieving heckler Maximin one day shot back: “The Lady told me to make it known, not to make you believe it!” We stand confronted: what Mary brings out at La Salette is essential to our faith. The best way to “make it known” is to live it.
For this reason the Lady concludes with the word of insistence and encouragement: “Now, my children you will please make this known to all my people.” Melanie was asked: “What do you mean by the word “my people?” “I really don’t know. I believe it means the whole world,” she replied. Mary concerned for all the brothers and sisters of her son whose journey is not yet ended. Each day the people of God grows anew.
The facsimile of the conversations between the 2 children and Our Lady at the apparition site
Maximin Giraud was born at Corps, on August 26, 1835. His Mother, Anne-Marie Templier hails from this same region. His father, Germain Giraud is from the neighboring district. The mother died in leaving Maximin, 17 months old, and a daughter, Angelique, who is 8 years of age. Shortly after, Mr. Giraud remarries. Maximin receives little attention: the wheelwright is at his workshop or at the bar. His wife is not interested in this high-strung, careless little urchin who is always out exploring the streets of Corps, watching the stagecoaches and the old farm wagons, or roaming the countryside with his goat and his dog. Under a mop of black hair there is constant mischief brewing, a quick eye and an agile tongue.
During the Apparition, while the beautiful Lady speaks to Melanie, Maximin twirls his hat on his walking stick, or, with the other end of his staff, poke pebbles toward the feet of the Lady. “Not a single one touched her!” he would calmly reply to the questioners. Feeling appreciated he responds in kind; treated roughly he uses the same currency.
Maximin had a difficult childhood. During the three years following the apparition his half-brother Jean-Francois, his step mother Marie Court, and his father Giraud the wheelwright, all died. His mother’s brother, the “Oncle templier”, a rough and calculating man, becomes Maximin’s guardian. School progress is slow. Sister saint Thecle who keeps an eye on him calls him “perpetual motion”. Constant pressure from pilgrims and busybodies don’t make Maximin’s life any easier. A few visionary partisans of the so-called son of Louis XVI want to use him for political purposes.
Maximin hoodwinks them with gibberish. Against the advice of the parish priest and defying the orders of the bishop of Genoble, they bringthe boy to Ars. Maximin does not enjoy their company but enjoys the ride and the chance to see new sights. The unpredictable Father Raymond, the Cure’s assistant, greets them. He calls La Salette a hoax and the children liars. During the morning of September 25, 1850, the Cure of Ars meets with Maximin in the sacristy, then in the confessional, but without hearing his confession. What might the frustrated Maximin have told him? The upshot of the meeting was that for many years the holy priest will never ceased to doubt and to suffer. Following the decree of September 19, 1851, he will refer everyone to the judgment of the bishop. Many years pass before he can give his own acquiescence and recover his peace. Maximin protested that he had never recanted, but he was at pains to explain his behavior.
A mere listing of the places Maximin traveled to makes one realize to what extent the boy was exploited. From the Rondeau minor seminary to the Grande Chartreuse, from the rectory of Seyssin to Rome. From Dax to Airesure-Adour to Vasinet, then to Tonnerre college, to Petit Jouy en Josas near Versailles and Paris. Maximin was in turn a seminarian, anursing-home employee, a medical student. Failing the state examination he got a job in a pharmacy. He enlisted in the pontifical zouaves but canceled his contract after six month stint and return to Paris. The newspaper La Vie Parisienne published an attact against La Salette and the two children. Maximin protests and the newspaper prints a correction.
In 1866 he publishes a short work “My Profession of Faith in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette” (“Ma prifession de foi sur l’apparition de Notre Dame de La Salette”). It was during the time that Mr. And Mrs. Jourdain, a couple devoted to him, bring a measure of stability into his life, and, at great financial risk, clear his debts.
Maximin enters into partnership with a liquor dealer who uses his now famous name to increase sales. The improvident Maximin gets nothing out of it. In 1870, he is drafted and assigned to Fort Barrau in Genoble. Following this he returns to Corps and is joined there by the Jourdains. The three lived poorly and are helped by the fathers of the shrine with the approval of the bishop. In November Maximin makes a pilgrimage to the shrine. In the presence of a rapt audience he repeats the story of La Salette as he had done on the very first day.
This would be the last time would do so. On February 2nd he visits the parish church, also for the last time. On the evening of March 1st, Maximin receives the sacrament of reconciliation and holy communion, drinking a little La Salette water to swallow the wafer.
Five minutes later he surrenders his spirit to God. He had not reached forty. He remains lie in the cemetery of Corps, but his heart rest within the La Salette basilica.
He wanted the underscore once again his love for La Salette: “I believe firmly, even to the shedding of my blood, in the famous apparition of the most Blessed Virgin in the holy mountain of La Salette, on September 19, 1846, the apparition that I have defended in word and suffering… It is with this spirit that I give my heart to Our Lady of La Salette.”
Maximin had nothing left to give but his loyalty and his faith in the church. In the person of the Beautiful Lady the always lovable and restless boy had finally found found affection in peace of God.
She saw the light of day at Corps in the midst of a large family on November 7, 1831. Her father Pierre, a pit sawyer by trade took odd jobs. The mother, Julie Barnaud gave birth to ten children. Melanie was the fourth. The family’s poverty was so complete that the young were sometimes dispatched to beg on the street.
At a very young age Melanie was hired out to tend the neighbors’ cows. Form the spring to the fall of 1846 she worked for Jean-Baptiste Pra at Les Ablandins, one of the helmets of the village of La Salette. Pra’s neighbor was Pierre Selme and it is he who hired the restless Maximin for a one-week stint to replace his own sick shepherd. In the presence of her companion, Melanie, already timid and taciturn, was on her guard.The children had some common traits. Both were born in Corps but had never met, probably because Melanie’s long absence. Both spoke the local dialect and fragmented French. They had neither schooling nor religious instruction, could either read or write. Melanie’s father was on a never-ending quest for little employment. Her mother, overwhelmed with work and the cares of her brood could give each one very affection.
At the time of the apparition Maximine and Melanie were financially, intellectually and affectively among the poorest of the poor. They were totally dependent, they would be profoundly and definitively stamped by the apparition,which will nevertheless leave their personalities intact. Melanie was very different from her new companion. She lived with strangers and was away from her family except for the winter months when she lived with them in cold and hunger. That had become timid and withdrawn should not surprise anyone.
“She always answered with a simple yes or no,” said Baptiste Pra, her employer. Still, she responded clearly and simply to questions concerning La Salette. She resided four years with the sisters of Providence. Her memory was poor and she still less aptitude for study than Maximin. As early as November 1847, her directress feared “that the celebrity that had been thrust upon her might make her conceited.” Surrounded with concern and consideration on the part of the visitors when she became a postulant, then a novice in the same congregation, she held fast to her own options.
For this reason, the new Bishop of Genoble, while recognizing her piety and devotion, would refuse to admit her to vows “in order to train her…in the practice of Christian humility and simplicity.”
Unfortunately, Melanie then took to lending ear to “troubled and sick individuals,” to people whose mind were obsessed with popular prophecies, pseudo-apocalyptic and pseudo-mystical theories.
This would affect her for the rest of her life. To give credence to her pronouncements she linked them to secret she had received from the Beautiful Lady. Even a cursory review points to immutable differences between that Melanie says and writes, and the words and signs Mary gave at La Salette.
Melanie’s problems and phantasms became the epicenter of her discourse. Through her prophecies she reaps revenge on those opposed her projects. She thus expresses her rejection of a society and a hostile environment. She recreates an imaginary past where the frustration of her childhood are effectively exorcised.
As early as 1854, Bishop Ginoulhiac wrote: “the prediction attributed to Melanie…have no basis in fact; they have no importance with regard to La Salette…the have come after La Salette and have nothing to do with it.” The bishop added: “The children were given the broadest freedom to amend or deny any statement they have made, but they have never altered anything on the veracity of the event of La Salette.” With this in mind, Bishop Ginoulhiac, on September 19, 1855, proclaimed the following from the Holy Mountain itself:
“The mission of the shepherds is herewith ended, that of the Church begins.”
Unfortunately, Melanie pursued her prophetic meanderings. Later, these were orchestrated by the blazing talent of a Leon Bloy and would become a “Melanist” movement allegedly stemming from La Salette, but lacking any foundation except the unverifiable pronouncements of Melanie. All these are far distant from the historical foundations of the apparition. The content of this so-called prophecies, despite her religious veneer, have nothing to do with religious truth as taught by the church, and recalled by Mary at La Salette.
The subject matter is no longer faith but unstable, questionable and sterile terrain and personal assumptions. This type of writing alienates faith instead of strengthening. In 1954, a English priest brought Melanie to England. She entered Carmelite convent of Darlington the following year; she took temporary vows there in 1856, but left the convent in 1860. she tried religious life again with Sisters of Compassion of Marseille. After her stay in their convent of Cephalonia (Greece), and a short sojourn at the Carmelite convent of Marseille, she returned to the compassion for a brief time. Castellamare di Stabia, near Naples in Italy. She resided there seventeen years, writing her “secrets” as well as a rule for a future foundation. The Vatican urged the local bishop to forbid her this type of publication, but she persisted in her search for apparition and an imprimatur, even extracying a hearing from papal official, Bishop Lepidi. This, however, never constituted even veiled approval. The authority invoked by Melanie is incompetent in the matter.
After stay a Cannes on south of France, Melanie traveled to Chalon-sur-Saone, seeking to found a community with the sponsorship of the Canon de Brandt of Amiens. Eventually she entered into litigation with Bishop Perraud, the ordinary af Autun. The Holy See, brought into the matter, decided in favor of the Bishop. 1892, Melanie returned to a place near Lecce, Italy, then journeyed to Messina in Sicity on the invitation of Canon Annibale di Francia. Following a few months in the Pieadmonh region, she was invited by the abbe Combe, pastor of Diou, a priest much taken up with politico-religious prophecies, to settle in the Allier region. She finished a contrived autobiography, wherein she created a an extraordinary childhood enriched with pseudo-mystical wanderings, her own imaginings and chimera provided by her correspondents.
The message Melanie attempts to link to La Salette during this period has nothing whatever in common with the testimony she gave about the Apparition in the early years. When the conversation returns to the event of September 19, 1846, she reverts without fail to the simplicity and the clarity of her early narrative, which agrees with that of Maximin on September 18-19, 1902. She returned to Altamura, near Bari in southern Italy and died there on December 14, 1904. her remains are buried under marble column with a bas-relief depicting the Virgin welcoming the shepherdess of La Salette into heaven. One thing is certain: at the close of her confused errors, there is one point from which Melanie never departed: the testimony she and Maximin gave on the evening of September 19, 1846, in Baptiste Pra’s kitchen at Les Albandins. She held firm throughout the inquiry direct by Bishop Philibert de Bruillard, as well as that of the confirming investigation conducted by Bishop Ginoulhiac. Throughout a difficult lifetime, Melanie remained poor and devout, ever faithful to her first testimony.
Maximin Giraud and Melanie Calvat
September 19: the Apparition of the Virgin Mary at La Salette.
September 20: the first written account (the pra narrative).
Winter of 46: the famine begun in 1845 now rages through Europe.
Controversies in the press. – The greater accounts (Lagier, Bez, Long, Lambert…).
September 19: at least 30,000 pilgrims go to the Mountain. In November and December, the bishop hosts a gathering where eight conferences are given on the truth of La Salette.
Revolution in France; uprisings throughout Europe.
Already 15,000 pilgrims have been inscribed into the Confraternity of Our Lady of La Salette, Reconciler.
On September 25 Maximin meets the Cure of Ars.
The “Secrets of La Salette” controversy.The Bishop de Bruillard publishes the Doctrinal Statement of September 19: the Apparition is authentic, public worship is authorized, a church will be built on the site of the apparition.
New Doctrinal Statement, dated the 25th of May. The laying of The cornerstone of the new church. A community of diocesan missionaries is established called the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.
Bishop Ginoulhiac publishes a Doctrinal Statement confirming Bishop de Bruillard’s decisions and refuting objections of the opposition.
February 2nd, Fathers Archier, Berlioz, Bosson, Buisson and Petit take their first vows in the bishop’s chapel.
Father Sylvain-Marie Giraud takes First vows. Widely Experienced and a spiritual author he is named master of novices.
Father Giraud is elected superior, seeks to instill a genuine religious spirit within the community. He launches the French devotional periodical “Les Annales de Notre-Dame de La Salette.
Vatican I; the Franco-Prussian War; the Commune in Paris.
On March 1st, Maximin Giraud dies at Corps.
Bishop Fava asks that the Missionaries write new constitutions with each article voted on individually. Father Archier is elected Superior General. Father Jean Berthier establishes the apostolic school.
Pope Leo XIII invites Bishop Fava and Father Henri Berthier to seek Vatican approval for the constitutions.
Fathers Archier, Buisson,, Henri Berthier, Jean Berthier, Perrin and Chapuy are the first to take perpetual vows. The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette assume responsibility for the Norway Mission for a ten-year duration. On April 18, the Institute is canonically approved by Rome. On April 20thand 21st Our Lady of La Salette is crowned and the Basilica is consecrated.
Departure for Norway (2 Fathers, 2 Bothers, seven students in Theology). In France, laws against the Congregations are passed.
Laws take effect against religious schools. The Scholasticate leaves Switzerland.
Fathers Pajot and Vignon find haven at Hartford, Connecticut.The North American experience bigens.
A La Salette scholasticate is founded in Rome. In 20 years the number of La Salette Sisters has increased from 11 to 150.
French La Salettes migrate to Madagascar and the Canadian Northwest (Saskatchewan).
In France, The Associations Law is passed. TheGeneral Council chooses exile to Tournai, in Belgium.
The General Administration migrates to Switzerland, then to Italy (Salmata).
Melanie Calvat dies at Altamura (Bari, Italy).
Law of separation of church and state.
First World War. French religious are allowed to reenter France.
American La Salettes join their Fench brothers in Madagascar to found a mission on the island’s west coast.
Final approval of the Constitutions by Rome.
The Congregation is divided into provinces: France, Poland, United States, Brazil. Our Lady of Seven Dolors, in Hartfort, becomes the first U. S. province.
La Salettes from Poland and the U. S. found a mission in Argentina.
The Hartfort Province found a mission in Arakan in Burma. This mission suffers severe hardships during the Japanese invasion and was finally ended through persecution and legally enforced attrition.
The La Salettes from Switzerland and Liechtenstein become a province.
Horrors of the Second World War.
Bishop Caillot recalls the Missionaries of La Salette to the Shrine, cradle and mother-house of the Congregation.
Attleboro: the province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is born in the U. S.
Horrors of the Second World War.
Bishop Caillot recalls the Missionaries of La Salette to the Shrine, cradle and mother-house of the Congregation.
Attleboro: the province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is born in the U. S.
Angola: La Salettes from Switzerland launch a mission. Centennial celebration of the Apparition. Marian Congress in Grenoble and at La Salette.
The Philippines: a mission launched by the La Salettes of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Province (Attleboro).
In the US: the province of Mary Queen is born in St. Louis, Missouri.
Vatican II. The La Salette foundations in Italy become the Province of Mary Mediatrix.
a fourth US province, Mary Queen of Peace, is founded (Olivet and Milwaukee, Wisconsin).
The Philippines attain provincial status under the patronage of Our Lady, Mother of Hope, Antsirabe becomes a province
Renewed and updated after Vatican II, the Constitutions are approved by Rome.
The two provinces in Madagascar merge into one. La Salettes from India, trained in the Philippines, open the mission of Kerala (India).
The Province of Poland begins new works in Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine, Byelorussia…
South American novices go to Cochabamba, in Bolivia.
The 150th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette. A year of celebration throughout the world.
The 5 Provinces in America merged into the Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas
India attains status as a region known as La Salette Matha Region
Myanmar reimplantation of the Congregation on November 18
Elevation of La Salette Matha into a Province
Construction of the Shrine, 1852 - 1864