The La Salette Story
One of the less well known of Our Lady's approved apparitions is the apparition at LaSalette (France) in 1846.
But as we were, here in Australia in 2007, suffering one of the worst droughts in the last 100 years, the messages of La Salette may have special relevance to us.
France was going through similar problems at the time, with drought and crop failures and famine.
The great Potato Famine in Ireland happened in the same year, and most of Europe suffered from similar fates. Thousands died as a result of the famines.
In mid-September 1846, Pierre Selme, a farmer of Ablandins needed a cowherd, since his regular shepherd was off sick, he went to the township of Corps, and asked his friend Giraud, to lend him his son Maximin for a few days.
At first his father would not let him go, considering him too "scatterbrained" for such a job.
Eventually he gave in, and Maximin went to Selme's farm.
Melanie was in the service of the Pra family at Ablandins. On 19th September the two young children took the cows in their care to a common grazing area. They led the cows to a small fountain, allowed them to drink, and then moved them over to a grassy knoll on the slopes of Mount Gargas, where the cows lay down contentedly.
The two children then moved a short distance away, had their midday meal of bread and cheese, then lay down and went to sleep.
Awakening about half-an-hour later Melanie could not see the cows, and called excitedly for Maximin to wake up and help her find them.
They ran up the slope opposite Mount Gargas, and from that vantage point were relieved to see the cows were where they had left them. Returning to the spot where they had left their provisions, about halfway down the slope, Melanie suddenly stopped and froze in fear. "Memin", she yelled, "look at that great light over there!"
At the spot where they had been sleeping, there was a brilliant globe of light and fire. The children later described it "as though the sun had fallen there!" The globe of light swirled around, grew in size and then opened up revealing a beautiful lady sitting down. She had her elbows on her knees, and her hands covering her face, and was obviously crying, deeply distressed. In fright, Melanie dropped her shepherd's staff. Maximin had now joined her, and he said he would keep his stick, and if it tried to do anything to them he would give it a good whack. The children could not identify her, simply calling her "the Beautiful Lady".
She spoke to them, saying, "Come near, my children, be not afraid. I am here to tell you great news."
Being thus reassured, the children hurried to approach her. Her voice was "like music".
Drinking in her appearance, they noted that she was tall, and seemed to be made of light. She wore a long dress similar to ladies of that region, and an apron which was nearly as long as the dress. A shawl crossed over her breast and she wore a cap or bonnet similar to the ones worn by peasant ladies. Multicolored roses adorned her shoes and crowned her head, and decorated the edges of her shawl.
They noticed that she was weeping, tears streaming down her face, all the time she was speaking to them.
She did not wear a crown as such, but from the roses on her head brilliant rays of light streamed upwards, forming almost a crown of light on her head. She had a heavy chain on her shoulders, and around her neck was a smaller gold chain, from which was suspended a brilliant crucifix with a hammer and pincers attached to the arms of the cross, outside the position of the hands.
She then gave them a message, crying all the time.
After that she spoke to each of them individually, in French, giving them each a secret. (During the investigation which followed, each of them wrote down the secrets, and these were sent to Rome, read by Pope Pius IX, and to this day have not been made public.)
Our Lady then twice commissioned them to "make this known to all my people".
Then she passed in front of the children, crossed the brook, and went up the small hill, gliding over the tips of the blades of grass. The children, sensing that she was leaving them, ran after her. The lady raised her eyes to heaven, and it was only then that Melanie, now standing directly in front of her, noticed that she was no longer crying.
The luminous vision then began to ascend, and disappear - first her head, then her body and finally her feet, which Melanie tried to grasp.
The Seers were a 14 year-old girl Melanie Calvat and an 11 year-old boy Maximin Giraud. Neither of them were what you would call "good children". Schooling not being compulsory, Maximin often played truant, and as a result could not read or write.
He could not make his First Holy Communion until he was 13 years old. It took both of the children so long to be properly instructed and prepared, that Melanie was 17 before she made her First Holy Communion. They did not say their prayers very well, or very often.
Though they were not averse to telling lies when it suited them, when Our Lady asked, "Do you say your prayers well, my children?" they both replied candidly, "Not very well, Madame."
Maximin's mother had died when he was only 17 months old. He spoke the local patois (dialect) but knew very few words of French.
Melanie was almost 15 years old, but because of her small stature did not look that old. She was the fourth of nine children of the Calvat family. With such a big family, money was very scarce, and Melanie was hired out as a shepherdess before she was 10 years old. She, also, could not read or write.
In the spring of 1846 she was working for the Pra family at Ablandins, one of the hamlets of LaSalette. Since she never attended Catechism classes, she had not yet been able to make her First Holy Communion. She was of a shy and private nature, having grown up without much contact with children of her own age. Although both the seers lived in Corps, they had not yet met before that special day in September 1846.
Once again Our Lady had chosen two of "the least" to be her messengers to mankind!
There were several symbols associated with Our lady's apparition at La Salette.
They exist in a similar manner as Christ's parables - easily seen and understood, to help people get the real meaning behind them.
First is Mountains
Whenever I am on a high mountain (such as Mt Kosciusko - Australia's highest mountain) or high up somewhere (such as the top of the Empire State Building in New York, where I was in 1973 or top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (1995) or on top of the Hill of Nine Pines at Garabandal in Spain (1995) or flying at 35,000 feet above the ocean (several times) I always feel that I am closer to God.
During Jesus's life on earth, He made use of the symbol of mountains on many occasions - His Transfiguration on Mt Tabor, the Beatitudes on the Mount of Beatitudes, His Agony in the Garden on Mt Olivet, His crucifixion on Mt Calvary, His Ascension from the summit of the Mount of Olives.
And in earlier times, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt Sinai, Noah's Ark came to rest on Mt Ararat, and Moses saw the Promised Land from the top of Mount Nebo.
Second is Light
Our Lady appeared in a brilliant globe of fire, the children describing it as "looking like the sun had fallen there". Then when the globe opened up they saw this beautiful Lady who appeared to be made of light. From a garland of roses on her head brilliant rays of light formed almost a crown of light. Light was also very evident at Christ's Transfiguration, and at the October 13th 1917 miracle of the Sun at Fatima, and brilliant flashes of light preceded and heralded Our Lady's apparitions at Fatima and also at Cuapa, Nicaragua.
Christ is the "Light of the World".
Third is Our Lady's tears.
Our Lady's tears at La Salette, and later at Akita Japan, and various other places in the world where it has been reported that her statues cry. And more recently here in Australia - at Rockingham Western Australia.
Fourth is the Hammer and Pincers
Mary did not explain the meaning of these symbols, but it is thought that the Hammer represents Sin, which nailed her Son Jesus to the Cross, and the Pincers represent penance and prayer. The pincers were used to remove the nails from Christ's hands and feet, just as penance and prayer do away with sin.
Fifth is Roses
Roses have long been a symbol of Mary, and of her Rosary. At La Salette she had roses of all colours on the edge of her shawl, on her head was a garland of multicoloured roses, and there were roses around her feet - Three sets of roses, perhaps reminding us of the Blessed Trinity.
Sixth is Water
Water has long been a symbol with religious significance - the water of Baptism, the Holy water that we bless ourselves with every time we enter or leave a church, the water of the Nile turning blood red before the release of the Israelites from Egypt, the parting of the waters in the Red Sea, and Lourdes water and Fatima water, and now at LaSalette, a stream which normally only ran after rain, or from melting snow, has now run continuously since 20 September 1846, and of course water that is the universal means of cleansing ourselves.
Seventh is children.
Children are, I believe, another symbol. In many of Mary's apparitions, children have been the principal, or only seers - for example, Lourdes, Fatima, Pontmain, Beauraing and Banneux.
Christ often mentioned children, and said, "Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt 18: 1-3)
"Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."(Mt 18:4)
"And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (Mt 18:5-6)
Little children were brought to him then that he might lay his hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said to them, "Let the little children be, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."(Mt 19:13-14)
Our Lady's message was essentially one to combat the sins being committed locally, but throughout the world as well. She said to the children -
"If my people refuse to submit, I will be forced to let go the arm of my Son. It is so strong and so heavy. I can no longer hold it back. How long a time have I suffered for you!
If I want my Son not to abandon you, I must plead with Him without ceasing.
As for you, you pay no heed.
However much you pray, however much you do you will never be able to repay the pains I have taken for you.
I gave you six days to work; I kept the seventh for myself, and they will not give it to me.
This is what makes the arm of my Son so heavy. And then, those who drive the carts cannot swear without bringing in my Son's name. These are the two things that make the arm of my Son so heavy.
If the harvest is ruined, it is only on account of yourselves. I warned you last year with the potatoes.
You paid no heed.
Instead, when you found the potatoes spoiled, you swore and brought in the name of my Son. They will continue to spoil, and by Christmas this year there will be none left."
Our Lady Complained of Only Two Things.
Amongst all the then current sins of mankind, these two stood out, and they are still being committed to this day. How often do you hear the Lord's name spoken in vain? How many people work on a Sunday, instead of giving the whole day over to the Lord?
I know there are many people who HAVE to work on a Sunday, but for those people, do you treat another day of the week as "Sunday" and give it over to the Lord?
This is your way of making up for the fact that you are rostered on Sunday in your employment, and must work on that day. The sin here is in those employers who choose to work themselves and their staff unnecessarily on a Sunday. And with employers who habitually work on a Sunday - is it completely necessary? or is it something that you could defer till the next day?
If it is done simply out of greed, then it is one of the sins which help produce worldwide crop failures and famines - you have Our Lady's word for that, not just mine!
And those people who habitually use the Lord's name in vain - you have probably been doing so for so long that you no longer recognise it as a sin - if you ever did.
Right here and now, commit yourself to finding some other name or word or words to vent your anger, if it is completely uncontrollable, and commit yourself to never again use the Lord's name that way.
And if you slip up occasionally while you are retraining yourself, immediately say a prayer for forgiveness. Even something as simple, as "Sorry Jesus, I didn't mean that, it just slipped out. Help me to be stronger and not let that happen again."One of the things that struck me as unusual in Our Lady's message, was the fact that she speaks in the first person for most of the message, and then in the paragraph beginning "I gave you six days to work", the words are obviously those of the Lord Himself.
It seems to me that this part of the message is so strong that it was actually Jesus speaking, whereas most of the time he leaves Our Lady to speak her own words on His behalf.
Continuing The Mission
Mary's visit to La Salette was a Missionary visit, a journey from far away, undertaken to bring good news, and to convert people, to bring God to them, and bring them back to God.
She also imposed a mission on the children. After giving them a message, she said, "Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people."
As she was leaving, going up the small hill, floating over the tips of the grass, she repeated this instruction.
"Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people". After the children had done this, firstly by telling Melanie's employer, for whom Melanie was working as a cowherd, then their parents, then later by telling their priest Father Jacques Perrin, then later their Bishop and the mayor and many others who questioned them at length, trying to get them to contradict one another, the Bishop of Grenoble began a long and detailed study of all that the children had told them.
Five years later on 19 September, 1851 Bishop Philibert de Bruillard of Grenoble made his long awaited announcement:
"We judge that the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the two cowherds on the 19th. September 1846, on a mountain of the chain of the Alps, situated in the parish of La Salette, in the archpresbytery of Corps, bears within itself all the characteristics of truth, and that the faithful have grounds for believing it indubitable and certain."
On 1st May 1852, Bishop de Bruillard made a further historic two-part announcement.
One part was that a shrine would be constructed at La Salette in honour of Our Lady's apparition there, and the other part was the founding of a body of Diocesan priests to be known as "The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette", whose duties would be to look after the shrine, and to receive the pious pilgrims who would journey there, to look after them , and to dispense to them the spiritual treasures of the church, especially Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.
As Jesus ascended to His Father, He commissioned His disciples with these words, "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations: baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world."(Mt 28:19-20)
As Mary ascended from the children at LaSalette, she commissioned firstly the children, to "make this known to all my people," then by inference the Church was also to continue making this known, and since we are the Church, that commission also extends to all of us. You can be a missionary of Our Lady of La Salette.
On 18 September 1855, the new Bishop of Grenoble, Mons Ginoulliac stated "The Mission of the children is now ended, that of the Church begins."
For more information, and/or to join the LaSalette Missionary Association, contact-
LaSalette Missionary Association,