Our Lady of ​
Sorrows Church
Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette
The appearance of Our Lady in 1846 to young children in the French Alps
La aparición de nuestra señora en 1846 a los niños en los Alpes franceses

The Story of Our Lady of La Salette
La Salette, France 1846
Much less well known than the aparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes and fatima is th appearance of Our Lady some years earlier, in 1846, to young children in the French Alps.​​
The little hamlet of LaSalette was home to perhaps 500 peasants in the mid 19th century, among them two children who did not even know each other until shortly before the apparition.

Maximin Giraud, age 11, and Melanie Mathieu, age 15, were typical of children in small agricultural communities at the time; neither attended school, and both spent their days as shepherds, herding their flocks to pastures up the mountain near the village. It was at such a pasture, 6,000 feet high in the French Alps, that their lives were changed forever on September 19, 1846.

It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day, and it began with the two children leading a small herd of cows up the slope of the mountain. After a lunch of bread and cheese, the two fell asleep near a spring which had gone dry long ago. When they awoke, their cows had wandered off and were nowhere to be seen.
After a few tense minutes, they caught up with them on a nearby slope, but they were utterly unprepared for what they saw next.

As the children returned to the spot where they'd fallen asleep to get their knapsacks, next to the dried-up spring, they saw a brilliant light.  As their eyes adjusted to the light, they saw a woman sitting on a large stone, her face resting in her hands, and her elbows on her knees, weeping.

She said to them as they approached, "Come near, my children, be not afraid; I am here to tell you great news." She wore a white robe, covered with pearls, and an apron almost as long as the robe. The children used the word "cap" to describe that which was on her head, but rather than a substance, they said it appeared to be made of light. There were roses beneath it, as well as on her dress.

The "Beautiful Lady," as they would always describe her, told of her unceasing prayers to her Son to spare the people there despite their refusal to honor the Lord's Day, and to take His name in vain.  Speaking in the manner of the prophets of old, she said, "Six days have I given you to labor, the seventh I have kept for myself, and they will not give it to me.  It is this which makes the arm of my Son so heavy.  Those who drive the carts cannot swear without introducing the name of my Son.  These are the two things which make the arm of my Son so heavy." She continued to weep all the while she spoke with them.

​She warned of a great famine to come if the people did not mend their ways, and asked, "Do you say your prayers well, my children?" They admitted they did not. "You must be sure to say them well, morning and evening." She described to them a conversation between Maxime and his father that had taken place once when no one else was present.​

At one point, she talked with each child separately, giving each a secret that they refused to share with anyone. (They agreed to reveal the secrets five years later, to Pope Pius IX, but only to him.)  In all, she spoke with them for perhaps half an hour, and concluded by telling them children to "make this known to all my people." Then she climbed to the top of a nearby hill, and as the children described it, she began to disappear, "She seemed to melt away."

Maximin and Melanie were as uneducated in the ways of faith as they were the more mundane subjects of school. Their families were not church-goers, and had not taught them the most basic of prayers. When they returned to the village, they described the woman they had seen not as the Blessed Virgin but simply as "the Beautiful Lady."

As word spread of the children's story, the hamlet was thrown into turmoil. To many, it was clear that they had witnessed an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, and even the skeptical were shunned by the way the children were able to repeat the Lady's words in fluent French despite the fact that until that day, they spoke only a patois, a local dialect.

At dawn the next morning, on Sunday, they were sent to tell their story to the parish priest, who was initially irritated at being interrupted as he was preparing his sermon.  Soon, his attitude had changed, and he became thoroughly shaken. "How fortunate you are, my children. You have seen the Blessed Virgin." He asked them to tell their entire story from the beginning to end, and he transcribed it as they went. Soon afterward, he entered his church to say mass, and parishioners were startled by the emotion of a sermon far different than the one he'd originally planned.

Skeptics were furious. The mayor and the police chief dealt harshly with the children, trying to shake their story. They accused the children of lying and worse. But they would not recant, and before long, the tide began to turn. Soon there were incidents of mass conversion, and long-empty churches in the area filled again. Maximin's own father, who had angrily forbidden him to retell the story of "the Beautiful Lady," returned to his long lost faith. The spring at the site of the apparition that had been dry for so many years was once again filled with water.

More years of controversy followed, but in 1851 the Bishop of Grenoble, France, after a lengthy investigation, proclaimed the apparition of La Salette "bears within itself all the characteristics of truth." In 1852, the cornerstone was laid for a beautiful Basilica built on the site of the apparition. It remains a magnet for pilgrims to this day. And in front of the entrance to the Basilica are bronze statues depicting the apparition on, the very site where it occurred. One of these statues, that of the "Weeping Mother" the children first say, was reproduced in the Memorial to the Unborn dedicated on the grounds of St. Catherine of Siena Church, Great Falls, Virginia, USA.

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La Salette