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La Salette


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La Salette


In mid-September, 1846, Pierre Selme, a peasant of the Ablandins had to find a boy to replace his shepherd who had become ill. He sought out Giraud the wheelwright in Corps and tells him. "Let me have your little Maximin for a few days..." "Mémin, a shepherd? He is too much of a scatterbrain!" replied Giraud. Ther is some give and take between the two, and on September 14, Maximin walked to the Ablandins. On the 17th he saw Mélanie there. On the 18th, they ar watching their flocks in a communal pasture around Mont Planeau. That afternoon, Maximin made an attempt at conversation with the silent Mélanie. They discover that they are both form Corps. They talk a while and decide to "pasture" together at the same spot the next day.

150 years of our Lady
of La Salette Appearance

On 19th September 1846, in La Salette, a village in the French Alps, Our Lay appeared to two poor and illiterate children, Melania and Maximino, while they tended sheep on the mountain. The "Beautiful Lady", as they said, appeared sitted down, surrounded by light, with Her face in Her hands, and crying. Then She stood up. dressed like a local peasant, She walked some steps, and kindly asked the children to walk towards Her. always in tears and with the cross hanging in Her neck radiating light, She told the children, in the dialect of that region, a long and soulful message to be transmitted by them to their people.
In Her own words, the Beautiful Lady talked about the problems people were having in La Salette, the problems in France, and the troubles in Europe: hunger, child mortality, lack of faith. She was suffering and She called all the people look for conversion by listening to the words of Her son Jesus. When She finished Her speech, She walked other few steps on the grass while rising to the sky.
After tht happening, the message of the Beautiful Lady was transmitted by the little shepherds to the villagers. The people were deeply touched by those words and went to the place of the place of the appearance to search a new life, as Our Lady announced. Since then multitudes of pilgrims from all the world have been finding reconciliation and peace in La Salette.
The "La Salette Happening", as the appearance is known, was officially recongnized by ecclesiastical authorities on 19th September 1851. In 1852 the Congregation of Our Lady of La Salette was founded, with the aim to go on announcing Reconciliation.
This Congregation arrived in Brazil in 1902. Nowadays it works in seven Brazilian states, working with parishes, sanctuaries, pilgrimages, and popular missions. It is also present in 21 different countries worldwide, announcing the Gospel.

La Salette Spirituality - A Personal Perspective
I Introduction - A journey

By Joseph Baxer, M.S.

At the heart of my being is a spiritual journey. Yes, I am flesh and blood. Yes, I live a concretely human life - eating, drinking, smelling, hearing, seeing ... touching and being touched ... experiencing normal bodily functions, good health and occasional disease. Yes, my body constantly speaks to me of limitations and physical exercise stretches limits. And yet within these very real boundaries I experience a dimension of my life that goes beyond them - being loved and loving. It is at once a human dimension of my live, but very much a dimension that surpasses, transcends and transforms the human. "Thee, God, I come from, to thee go" (G.M.Hopkins) " My heart is restless until it rests in thee" (Augustine)


My spiritual journey is an attempt to respond to a God who is at the very heart of my being. It is a journey within ... explored often through the external journey of people, circumstances, history, the give and take of daily life. In many ways it is a journey without a road map. Yes, there are guideposts ... the sacred scriptures and myths of the word's great religions, the wisdom of classic and modern philosophers and theologians, the traditions of those institutions that have sought to be a sign of the way, to illuminate the path for humankind. Ultimately, however, each of us is an individual, answerable to the deepest murmuring of our conscience and heart. The road map for me is discovered in walking the path. This is at once a daily invitation and a daily challenge. I find T.S.Eliot's expression of this challenging journey most apt. "We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." With this paper, I wish to look at some conscious murmuring of my heart's journey and explore what may be inspirational and foundational, nourished by the La Salette experiences on that journey.


II A Personal Context and Vision


Here I look at the context of my life and the conscious values or personal perspectives that direct my life. Later, I will examine what may have been influential in developing that personal paradigm/horizon. Having lived three fourths of my life within a La Salette context, I presume in advance that influence.


In searching for a word to describe the context of my life, "privileged" comes to mind. I am blessed with good health. I grew up in a family where I felt secure and loved although that experience may have been lived unconsciously. A share of conflictual family moments did never sever the family bonds. I judged and experienced God as good and concerned with my life. The practice of the Catholic faith tradition was important. Although my brother would later become a Buddhist monk, it was a manner of reclaiming profound Catholic teachings that were not lived in the world where he found himself. My maturing response to his different faith expression opened my heart to new understandings of God's love. Contact with the Jewish community existed from my earliest years. Our economic situation of family life was one that permitted individual initiative (both parents working as well as each child taking part time jobs) to allow adequate, though far from luxurious, food, clothing and lodging. Although my parents formal education ended with primary studies, they were both self taught and encouraged formal education as well as the teachings of nature. I feel blessed with this background.


This privileged context continued in and through my experience with La Salette, already more than three fourths of my life. Years and years of others "speaking about and living" La Salette, extensive time spent in France at the Alpine mystic site itself with the event and the message, formal education in the US and Europe, speaking and living with members of the Congregation and others from around the globe, exposure to quantum physics and Teilhard de Chardin, ministries that have permitted me to enter cultural situations very diverse from my own ... are all elements that have entered the formation process of the fabric of my being. In the context of these experiences takes place my journey. Examining my life in this context, I will thy to name some of the values which highlight the patchwork quilt of a La Salette spirituality as I live it and then explore the foundations of that spirituality.


Let me outline some elements that are at the heart of my value system or spiritual vision:

a. Gratitude. I have a firm belief that I am a beloved son of God, freely graced with life, love and faith. Further, I am privileged to share through baptism the life of Christ. I am challenged to let my life be that of "Christ who lives within me." Loved, I am invited to let my life be a journey of grateful response to that love of God. This relationship to God, lived out in concrete daily relationships and ministerial tasks, is nourished through the Spirit of God. b. Goodness of creation. I recognize the profound goodness of all creatures and of creation. I seek to bring a respectful attitude towards all of life. c. Evolutionary creation. I acknowledge that the universe and all creatures are in a creative process of becoming. I understand myself and all human beings to be partners - human and divine - in this creative process that "God may be all in all." Special attention today is due to the environment and ecological concerns. Men and women are partners and stewards of creation. d. Christ - alpha and omega. I see Jesus, an anointed one, who is a mediator and saviour for all people of good will, whether explicity in gospel proclamation or in the mystery of God's providential activity. e. Equality of men and women. Regardless of gender, race or colour of skin, all are created in the image of God and are to be treated with profound respect. A special priority of our age that I recognize is to assure that women's rights and dignity be respected. f. One people. While respecting diversity of cultural expressions and a plurality of human traditions. I am convinced that our God wishes all of humankind to be reconciled, one with another in peace and harmony and justice and love. The great religious traditions of our world ar called, challenged and graced to assist in this realization. g. Role of Christianity. My conviction is that as a Christian, I have a particular responsibility to be an empowering agent of reconciliation in our world. This implies economic, social, political and religious reconciliation. h. Ecumenism and interfaith collaboration. Since all of the great religious traditions of our world are a reflection of men and women's search for God's presence, it is a special task today to collaborate among the different branches of Christianity and with other expressions of religion towards developing a world ethic where the profound values of harmony and justice can be realized. i. Catholic Church. For me, our Church is a privileged instrument of God's grace. participation in the Church challenges me to be responsible for a continuing "aggiornamento" within the Church itself and a witness of people living the reign of God. With respect for the Scriptures, Church tradition and those called to leadership, I am obliged to be foremost responsible to the priority of conscience in my life. j. La Salette Congregation. Again, a privileged instrument of God's grace. My participation is centred among a brotherhood who have as a charisma the call to be ambassadors of reconciliation and to empower other to share in that ministry. I understand the development of the Congregation as dynamic, interconnecting with the membership and the world to ever be renewed and new. I am personally convinced that its present form will significantly change if it is to survive as an institution able to respond to the critical needs of the age and the signs of the times.


III Foundation for a La Salette Spirituality


Conscious of these guiding elements and principles of my life, a posteriori, I want now to examine some of the influences within the La Salette tradition that seem important and may have been nutritive, often through a process of osmosis, of my spirituality framework. For me, the roots of my spirituality that I can identify in the Apparition are fourfold:

1 - The presence of Mary at La Salette and the message is a sign of God's tenderness, love and compassion for humankind. A mother who weeps for and with her children is expressive of deep emotion and concern. She affirms by her presence the goodness of creation, the goodness of humankind. It is also a clear affirmation that human history is far from complete. Reaching out to enter human consciousness in this way, God mystic presence in announced in Mary's mouth. Concretely, creation an humankind are sacred.

2 - The intimate universality of God's presence is announced at La Salette. This event speaks at once of intimacy and universal communion. Tears. "Do not be afraid." "Come near." "Do you remember the incident when the wheat..."

"Do you pray well?" The children describe a very personal conversation having taken place. Even the patois is spoken. Forgotten details are recalled. All seems to be embraced ... at once in intimacy that is so personal ... yet also so wide as to extend to all that life is. Ultimately, our mysterious God is announced as immediately present, sharing human life, offering partnership in the journey of life. Here our God is revealed as intimately present especially to the heart, in the deep emotions that human beings can experience. This is a God in conversation, a God of a covenant, "I am your God and you are my people."

3 - The event and message of La Salette are profoundly christocentric. A deep communion with the sacred is invited of the children and of all. "Do you pray well?" What attention to you give to Sundays? Is Lent a time for renewing your awareness of the holy in your lives? I do not want my son to abandon you! Mary is present as universal mother, inviting her children to be in touch with the universal Son, the Son of Man, Jesus, the anointed one. This mystic event forcefully directs attention to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures and the focus of those scriptures ... that humankind is so beloved of God that there is a visible, enfleshed Emmanuael to reconcile us in oneness with the Source of our creation.

4 - La Salette announces a communion of all peoples, bonded together as God's people. Mary refers to "my people". A communal conversion is called for. In the message, there is no distinction between those of different race, colour, gender or creed. No limit is placed upon the mercy or compassion or tenderness of God. No person of good will is excluded. There is no listing of rules and regulations for membership among the people of God. Mary does not limit herself to be mother only to a select few. All are called to conversion. Here the invitation to reconciliation is spoken. Here clearly the providential activity of God is announced for all men and women of good will.


IV Nourishing a Spirituality


I believe that my relationship to God has been deeply influenced by my La Salette experiences. I seek to see my life as one led by the Spirit of God. I've come to be aware, however, that a spirit led life is not automatic, but involves a willing participation and collaboration. My La Salette experience has led me to focus on some "practices" that seem helpful.


First, there is a call to reverence for the sacred, for all of life. Daily sacred space, meditation, quiet time is important for me. This implies daily contact with the sacred Hebrew and Christian scriptures.


Secondly, the invitation to an ongoing, deepening relationship with God is at the same time an invitation to the sacredness of human relationships. At the heart of the La Salette experience is a conversation. I seek to recognize the priority of persons and those relationships ahead of tasks to accomplish or functional roles to fulfil.


Thirdly, human relationships need to be fashioned in many ways, primary among those being the communal sharing of sacred moments. Eucharist is for me a privileged place for that communal sacred sharing.


Fourth, the La Salette event takes place outdoors, with those who are accustomed to physical endeavour. This invites me to understand my bodily health as a gift from God to be cared for and respected. Regular physical work or exercise, adequate sleep and attending to a healthy diet are ways of living a stewardship for the gift of my body in the beauty of creation.


Fifth, Mary invites the children to be ambassadors of the "good news". I see this as a daily invitation to be a messenger, one who seeks to empower others to be reconciled with their own goodness and to recognize their own capacity for service. This is surely an invitation in the spirit of Christ to be a "person for others."


Sixth, the children are aided in their journey by this human, mystic conversation. I am aware that I have many limits and am also in need of accompaniment. This means for me regularly sharing my spiritual journey with another to seek to continually discern the will of God in my life.


V Agenda


I began by acknowledging that at the heart of by being is a spiritual journey. It influences far more than I can consciously be in touch with. It is a journey of faith. "Be it done to me according to our word. "Both Mary in accepting the word of the angel Gabriel and Joseph in following the invitations known through his dreams followed paths that were socially either unknown, unacceptable or considered risky. Maximan and Melanie, in entering a mystic conversation broke through the normal human conventions of their lives, overcoming fear and allowing their lives to take a path that would stretch beyond their wildest imaginations. So, here I stand. I can only seek to be open as those before me, ready to change my heart, be converted again and again. I wish to be ready to respond to the events, circumstances and people that will come into my life. I pray for the grace and the wisdom to be courageous to continue on the journey.




The other brightness

Contrary to their habits, the two children lay down on the grass...and fell asleep. The September sun was relaxing and the sky was cloudless. The chattering brook highlighted the stillness of the mountains. These were quiet moments... Mélanie woke up with a start and shook Maximin! "Mémin, Mémin, get up!... let's go look for our cows. I don't know 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 relleved. Mélanie took a few steps down the hillock. Half-way, she froze, stunned, and let her shepherd's stick fall. "Mémin, 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 Mélanie's side yelling, "Where is it? Where is it?" Mélanie pointed to the bottom of the ravine where they had just rested. Maximin came to her, frozen with fear an dais, "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 flery globe. A woman appeared within the light; she was sitting, her head in 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 great news.>> They approached the Lady. They stared at her. She was still crying. "She seemed like a lady that her children had beaten and who had run away into the mountains to cry". The beautiful Lady was tall. She was all light. She was dressed like the women of that region: a long dress, long apron tied at the waist, a shawl crossed and knotted in the back. On her head she wore a peasant bonnet. There were roses in a crown around her read, around her shawl and her shoes. Light shimmered like a flery diadem on her forehead. A chain seemed to weigh heavily on her shoulders. A finer lind-chain held a brilliant crucifix on her breast, with a hammer on one side and tongs on the other.



Maximin Giraud

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 a neighbouring district. The mother dies leaving Maximin, 17 months old, and a daughter, Angélique, who is eight 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 Mélanie, Maximin twirls his hat on his walking stick, or, with the other end of his staff, pokes pebbles toward the feet of the Lady. "Not a single one touched her!" he would calmly reply to 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-Francóis, 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 said Thècle who keeps an eye on him calls him "perpetual motion". Constant pressure from pilgrims and busybodies don't moke Maximin's life any easier. A few visionary partisans of the so-called son of Lou'si 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 Grenoble, they bring the 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 Curé's assistant, greets them. He calls La Salette a hoax and the children liars. During the morning of September 25. 1850, the Curé 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 cease 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 behaviour. A mere listing of the places Maximin travelled 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 and Airesur-Adour to Vésinet, then to Tonnerre college, to Petit Jouy en Josas near Versailles and Paris. Maximin was in turn a seminarian, a nursing-home employee, a medical student. Failing the state examinations he got a job in a pharmacy. He enlisted in teh pontifical zouaves but canceled his contract after a six-month stint and returned to Paris. The newspaper La Vie Parisienne published an attack against la Salette and the two children. Maximin protestes 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 profession de foi sur l'apparition de Notre-Dame de La Salette"). It was during this 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 a 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 Grenoble. Following this he returns to Corps and is joined there by the Jourdains. The three live 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 be would do so. On February 2nd he visits the parish church, also for the last time. On the evening of March 1 st, 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. His remains lie in the cemetery of Corps, but his heart rests within the La Salette basilica. He wanted to underscore once again his love for La Salette: "I believe firmly, even to the shedding of my blood, in the fomous apparition of the most Blessed Virgin on 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 affection in the peace of God.



Mélanie Calvat

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. Mélanie 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 Mélanie was hired out to tend the neighbours' cows. From the spring to the fall of 1846 she worked for Jean-Baptiste Pra at Les Ablandins, one of the hamlets of the village of La Salette. Prá's neighbour 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 chatterbox companion. Mélanie, 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 of Melanie's long absences. Both spoke the local dialect and fragmented French. They had neither schooling nor religious instruction, could neither read or write. Melanie's father was on a never ending quest, for employment. Her mother, overwhelmed with work and the cares of her brood could give each one very little affection. At the time of the apparition Maximin and Mélanie 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. Mélanie was very different from her new companion. She tived sit strangers and was away from her family except for the winter months when she lived with them in cold and hunger. That she 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 had 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 visitors when she became a postulant, then a novice in the same Congregation, she held fast to her own opinions. For this reason, the new Bishop of Grenoble, 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, Mélanie then took to lending a willing ear to "troubled and sick individuals," to people whose minds 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 the secret she had received from the Beautiful Lady. Even a cursory review points to immutable differences between what Mélanie says and writes, and the words and signs Mary gave at La Salette. Mélanie's problems and phantasms became the epicentre of her discourse. Through her prophecies she reaps revenge on those who oppose her projects. She thus expresses her rejection of a society and a hostile environment. She recreates an imaginary past where the frustrations of her childhood are effectively exorcised. As early as 1854, Bishop Ginoulhiac wrote: "the predictions attributed to Mélanie... have no basis in fact: they have no importance with regard to La Salette... they 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 may 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, Mélanie 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 Mélanie. All this is far distant from the historical foundations of the Apparition. The content of these so-called prophecies, despite their religious vencer, 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 the unstable, questionable and sterile terrain of personal assumptions. This type of writing alienates faith instead of strengthening it. In 1854, a English priest brought Mélanie to England. She entered the 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 the Sisters of Compassion of Marseille. After a 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. Following a short stay at Corps and La Salette, she went to live at 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 their search for approbation and an imprimatur, even extracting a hearing from a papal official, Bishop Lepidi. This, however, never constituted even a veiled approval. The authority invoked by Mélanie is incompetent in the matter. After a stay at Cannes in the south of France, Mélanie travelled to Chalon-sur-Saône, 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 of Autumn. The Holy See, brought into the matter, decided in favour of the bishop. In 1892, Mélanie returned to a place near Lecce, Italy, then journeyed to Messina in Sicily on the invitation of Canon Annibale di Francia. Following a few months in the Piedmont region, she was invited by the abbé Combe, pastor of Diou, a priest muche taken up with politico-religious prophecies, to settle in the Allier region. She finished a contrived autobiography, wherein she created an extraordinary childhood enriched with pseudo-mystical wanderings, her own imaginings and the chimera provided by her correspondents. The message Mélanie attempts to link to La Salette during this period hes 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. She gave an instance of this on a visit to the Holy Mountain on September 18-19, 1902. She returned to Altamura, near Bari in southern Italy and died there on December 14, 1904. Her remains ar buried under a 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 erros, there is one point from which Mélanie never departed: the testimony she and Maximin gave on the evening of September 19, 1846, in Baptiste Pra's kitchen at Les Ablandins. She held firm throughout the inquiry directed by Bishop Philibert de Bruillard, as well as that of the confirming investigation conducted by Bishop Ginoulhiac. Throughout a difficult lifetime, Mélanie remained poor an devout, ever faithful to her first testimony.



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 Mélanie later. Together, or separately, the two children repeated the same words with slight 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 great news.>>


"We listened. All our attention was on her." Like Maximin and Mélanie we are invited to let her message come into our lives.

With them we listen and gaze at the crucifix, dazzling with glory.
<<If my people do 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 gave I 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 it to me. This is what causes the weight of my Son's arm to be so crushing>>.

<<The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son's name. These are the 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 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 spolled, and by Christmas time this year there will be none left>>.

The local dialect word for potatoes (pommes de terre) puzzied Mélanie. In dialect one says "là ruff". The word "pommes" reminded her only of apples. She turned to Maximin for help. But the Lady said:"


<<Ah! You do not understand French, my children. Well then, listen. I shall say it differently>>


Repeating these last sentences in dialect she continued in the "patois" spoken by Maximin and Mélanie:

<<If you have wheat, it will do no good to sow it, for what you sow the beasts will cat, 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 the nuts will be worm-eaten>>.

Suddenly, Mélanie 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 the 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-sown>>.

<<Do you say yours 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 ant 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 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 for Mélanie as well as for himself.

Turning toward Maximin, the Lady replied:

<<But you, my children, 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 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 your were only a half-hour away from Corps, your papa gave you a bit of bread and said: "Here, my son, eat some bread, this year anyhow. I don't know who will be eating any next year if the wheat continues this way".

"It's very true, Madame. Now I remember: Until now I didn't", admitted Maximin.


The beautiful Lady concluded, no longer in dialect but in French:

<<Well, children, you will make it known to all my people.>>



The mile-high shrine

The Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, site of the Apparition of Our Lady in the French Alps, rises before an audience of solemn mountains, at an altitude of over 6.000ft. The Shrine and its lodging facilities have been enfrusted to the "Association des Pèlerins de La Salette " by the diocese of Grenoble. The Missionaries and the Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette provide spiritual thrust as well as the day-to-day administration of the Shrine. They are assisted by chaplains, religious or diocesan priests, by Sisters, lay associates, salaried help and volunteers. The Eucharist, the rosaries, the vigils and the processions form the prayer backdrop for talks on Scripture, round-table sharing on specific themes, informal gatherings, meetings with a chaplain. The relevant topics of missions and vocations are part of the programs.



On the mountain slopes

Early on September 19, 1846, the two children climb the slopes of the Mont sous-les-Baisses, each urging four cows up the mountain. 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 shepherds to lead their cows toward the "flock spring", a small pool formed by the brook as it tumbled down the Sézia ravine. Then they goaded the cows toward an adjoining field on the slopes of Mount Gargas. The animals browsed quietly in the hot sun. Maximin and Mélanie went back up the hollow to the "people spring" and broke out their frugal lunch of bread and cheese. Other shepherds come up from the lower pastures and joined them in friendly chatter. When they left, Maximin and Mélanie crossed the brook and came down a few steps toward two stone benches near a dry stream bed: this is the "small brook". Mélanie set down her small bag, and Maximin placed his smock and his lunch on a nearby stone.



The Verdict

On September 19, 1851, Bishop Philibert de Bruillard, Ordinary of Grenoble issued his "doctrinal pronouncement". Its basic message is the following:
We judge that the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two shepherds on September 19, 1846 on a mountain of the Alpine chain, situated in the parish of La Salette, of the archpresbitery of Corps, bears all the characteristics of truth, and that the faithful have grounds for belleving it to be undeniable and certain. 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 in the Osservatore Romano on June 4, 1852. Congratulatory mail streamed into the bishop's offices at Grenoble. The pastoral instincts of the Bishop of Grenoble urged him on. On May 1, 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 Mélanie had come to an end. Bishop Ginoulhiac, the new bishop of Grenoble summarized the situation as he saw it on 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 nations and races who have found in the message of La Salette the path to 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.



Updated Tuesday, 07 April 2015

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