Our Lady of La Salette
On 19 September 1851, Pope Pius IX formally approved the public devotion and prayers to Our Lady of La Salette, referring to its messages of apparition as “secrets”. On 24 August 1852, Pope Pius IX once again mentioned the construction of the altar to La Salette. The same papal bull granted the foundation of the Association of Our Lady of La Salette, formalised on 7 September.
On 21 August 1879, Pope Leo XIII formally granted a Canonical Coronation to the image at the Basilica of Our Lady of La Salette. A Russian style tiara was granted to the image, instead of the solar-type tiara used in its traditional depictions of Virgin Mary during her apparitions.
In 1846 the village of La Salette consisted of eight or nine scattered hamlets. The population was about 800, principally small farmers with their families and dependents. On the evening of Saturday, 19 September 1846, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat (called Mathieu) returned from the mountain where they had been minding cows and reported seeing “a beautiful lady” on Mount Sous-Les Baisses, weeping bitterly. They described her as sitting with her elbows resting on her knees and her face buried in her hands. She was clothed in a white robe studded with pearls; and a gold colored apron; white shoes and roses about her feet and high headdress. Around her neck she wore a crucifix suspended from a small chain.
According to their account, she continued to weep even as she spoke to them, first in French, then in their own dialect of Occitan. After giving a secret to each child, the apparition walked up a hill and vanished.
After five years of investigation, the Bishop of Grenoble, Philibert de Bruillard announced in 1851 that the apparition was likely to be a true revelation and authorised the commencement of the following of Our Lady of La Salette. This determination was later confirmed by his successor, Bishop Ginoulhiac.
According to the children’s account, the Virgin invited people to respect the repose of the seventh day, and to respect the name of God. She sorrowfully threatened punishment, in particular a scarcity of potatoes, which would rot. The context of these punishments places the warning just prior to the winter of 1846–1847, which was in Europe, and especially in France and in Ireland, a period of famine in the months which followed the apparition. This was one of the factors of the apparition’s popular appeal.
The message of the visionaries of La Salette focuses on the conversion of all humanity to Christ. John Vianney, John Bosco, and writer Joris-Karl Huysmans were all influenced by La Salette. The spirit of La Salette is said to be one of prayer, conversion, and commitment. Fr. René J. Butler, M.S. of the La Salette Missionaries of North America says “The whole purpose of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette was reconciliation.”
Pope John Paul II stated: “As I wrote on the occasion of the 150th anniversary, ‘La Salette is a message of hope, for our hope is nourished by the intercession of her who is the Mother of mankind.”
Sensation about Our Lady of La Salette arose when Mélanie and Maximin made their message public, which caused the bishop of Grenoble to investigate the apparition. During the investigation, a number of accusations were made against the visionaries, including the assertion that the apparition was actually just a middle-aged woman named La Merlière.
No mention of secrets is made in the children’s first accounts, presumably out of fear they would be compelled to disclose them. The children later reported that the Blessed Virgin had confided a special secret to each of them. These two secrets, which neither Mélanie or Maximin ever made known to each other, were sent by them in 1851 to Pope Pius IX on the advice of Mgr. de Bruillard. It is assumed that these secrets were of a personal nature. Maximin advised the Marquise de Monteyard, “Ah, it is good fortune.”
Maximin Giraud, after an unhappy and wandering life, returned to Corps, his native village, and died on 1 March 1875. Mélanie Calvat died at Altamura, Italy on 15 December 1904.
The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries. The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette is located in Attleboro, Massachusetts; it is famous for its elaborate Christmas light displays.
To God be the Glory…….