Reflection: The Message of LaSalette

by Father Don Thomas

On the 19 th of September, in 1846, the Virgin Mary appeared to Maximin Giraud, age 11, and Melanie Mathieu, age 14, on a mountain near the village of LaSalette, near Grenoble, some six thousand feet high in the French Alps. The two children had first met the day before while tending cows on the slopes. After their meager lunch at noon, they were tired and fell into a deep sleep. Suddenly Melanie awoke, and not seeing the cows, she called out, “Maximin, come and see where the cows may have strayed”. They quickly climbed the hill in front of them and with relief they saw the cows grazing on the opposite side of the knoll.

Returning to pick up their knapsacks, the two children stopped in their tracks when they saw a very bright light blazing over the bench of stones where they had sat for lunch. The radiance parted and revealed a woman seated on the stones, her elbows on her knees and her face buried in her hands. They realized at once that she was weeping. They were frightened but the Lady rose and reassured them: “Come near, my children, do not be afraid. 1 am here to tell you great news”. They hurried to her side as she took a few steps toward them. Over a shining white dress the Lady wore a full-length golden apron. Along the border of her white kerchief were roses of all colors, and on a fine gold chain a crucifix more radiant than anything else in the vision. On the left of the crucifix hung a miniature hammer, and on the right, pincers. Her headdress was white and crowned with a diadem of roses of many hues. Her shoes were sparkling white with a square gold buckle. Around each slipper were tiny roses that were not crushed as she stood and walked on the tips of the blades of grass. The Lady was so resplendent in light that the noonday sun faded in comparison. Her face was exceedingly beautiful, yet profoundly sad. Tears fell down her cheeks all the while she spoke.

With rapt attention, the children listened to the Beautiful Lady: “If my people refuse to submit, I shall be forced to let go the arm of my Son. It is so strong and so heavy I can no longer uphold it. How long a time I have suffered for you! If I want my Son not to abandon you, I must plead with Him without ceasing. And 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 you. I let you know last year with the potatoes. You paid no heed. Instead, when you found the potatoes spoiled, you swore and brought in my Son's name. They are going to continue to spoil, and by Christmas this year there will be none left”.

The Beautiful Lady had been speaking French, but Melanie, not knowing the French word for potatoes, turned toward Maximin in to ask him if he knew what pommes de terre meant. The Lady interrupted: “Don't you understand, my children? Let me find another way to say it”.

Then, speaking in the local dialect, she continued: “If you have wheat, you must not sow it. Anything you sow the insects will eat, and whatever does come up will fall into dust when you thresh it. A great famine is coming. Before the famine comes, children under seven will be seized with trembling and they will die in the arms of the persons who hold them. The rest will do penance through the famine. The walnuts will become worm-eaten, the grapes will rot”.

The Lady then confided a separate secret to each of the children. Although each child noticed her lips moving, neither of them heard what was being said to the other. Having entrusted these secrets, she continued: “If they are converted, rocks and stones will turn into heaps of wheat, and potatoes will be self-sown in the fields”.

Then she asked: “Do you say your prayers well, my children”? “Hardly ever, Madame.” “Ah, my children, you must say them well, at night and in the morning, if you were to say only an Our Father and a Hail Mary, when you can't do better. When you can do better, say more. In the summer, only a few somewhat elderly women go to Mass, the rest work on Sundays all summer long. In the winter when they don't know what to do, they go to Mass only to make fun of religion. In lent, they go to the butcher shop as dogs do.

“Have you ever seen wheat gone bad, my children”? “No Madame.” “But you, my child”, surely you must have seen some once, at Coin, with your father. The owner of the field told your father to go and see his spoilt wheat. And then you went, and you took two or three ears of wheat in your hands, you rubbed them together, and it all crumbled into dust. On your way back when you were no more than a half­ hour away from Corps, your father gave you a piece of bread and said to you: “Here, my child, eat some bread while we still have it this year, because I don't know who will eat any next year if the wheat keeps up like that”. Maximin in said “Oh yes, I remember. “Just then I didn't recall”. Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people”. Then she crossed the brook, walked slowly to the top of the hill and rose more than a yard in the air. There she turned and gazed in the direction of Rome and said once again: “Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people”. Then she vanished. The light alone remained but in an instant it too disappeared. That evening the children returned home and told their masters what they had seen and heard. Soon, the whole town wanted to hear the story and the children were to tell it again and again.

After five years of careful study and investigation, the Bishop of Gredouble, in whose diocese the event had taken place, gave his approbation in a formal declaration, which stated in part: “We judge that the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two shepherds , September 19, 1846, on a mountain in the Alps, in the parish of LaSalette shows all the signs of the truth, and the faithful have grounds for believing it indubitable and certain”.

 

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