La Salette is a town nestled in the French Alps in the southern part of the country. On the 19th of September, 1846, Our Lady appeared to two children, Melanie Calvat and Maximin Geraud, who were tending the cows of their families. Suddenly they saw a light in the gully below the hillock where they were standing. Within the inner light, the form of a beautiful lady slowly appeared. She was in tears with Her head in her hands. Although the children were afraid, they also wished to console Her and drew nearer to the form. This beautiful Lady stood up, She coolly crossed her arms while watching the children, and said to them:
"Come, my children, fear not, I am here to PROCLAIM GREAT NEWS TO YOU."
And so began the Apparition of La Salette, which the Holy Church has said is worthy of belief. The only order of priests derived from an apparition are the La Salette Fathers. There is also a feast day associated with this Apparition. Although the seers were believed by the vast majority of persons at the time, their lives were rather unremarkable, though good. Each tried to live their lives out in a religious order but failed. However, so far as is known they both remained celibate throughout their lives. Maximin lived until to the age of 40, but even on his deathbed proclaimed the truth of the great news of La Salette. Melanie lived into her 70's, passing away in 1904, alone and poor, as she wished. One can see that Melanie possessed a great zealousness for the Lord in her own way. For example, during one stay at a religious school for boys and girls, she nailed shut the door between the two wings that housed each sex because of the impropriety of the situation. The great Archbishop Ullathorne of Birmingham, England visited the children soon after the Apparition to investigate it for himself. He wrote a wonderful book, The Holy Mountain of La Salette, which is available from Preserving Christian Publications, and came to the firm conclusion that the children were most earnest in what they had seen, they were fervent in belief, devout in vision, and were completely telling the truth. He questioned them separately as well as together and received polite and concordant answers from them.
After the local bishop of the La Salette region had investigated events pertaining to the Apparition, he authorized a Basilica to be constructed on the site, and a dormitory. They are there to this very day, with additions to the living area, and a bookstore. One can hear mass in the Basilica each day even presently; however, the parishioners do not bother to kneel at the Consecration although many enjoy bellowing out the liturgical songs. There are some lovely knickknacks in the bookstore; however they do not have available the Text of La Salette, which contains essential components of the message. There is also a small building at the site where a number of priests are present hear confession. Since however they only speak French, it is not possible to make a confession unless one knows the language. The confessionals were sadly devoid of penitents at the time of my visit, though there were quite a few visitors to the Apparition site. There is also a dormitory where travelers can stay, which is run by the religious associated with the Basilica. It is quite Spartan, just a table, chair, and highly uncomfortable beds, or more like cots, and the food one can purchase in the cafeteria is quite simple. There are somewhat more luxurious accommodations in the town of Corps, which is some miles away.
The scenery at La Salette is breathtaking, being at a high altitude with tall mountains all around. Many of these mountains have glaciers, and there is snow at the peaks even in summer. However, travel to La Salette for a pilgrimage is not so easy because the roads are narrow and winding. There are no large cities nearby. It is not so different a place, probably, than it was in 1846. One can take a bus, or travel by car. If one is unused to the high altitude it may be difficult to adjust; however, the buildings at the Apparition site are few and they are on level ground so it is not so hard to walk from one to the other. If one is more athletic, there is scenic hiking all around the site; one can 'lift one's soul to God' as Melanie urged to Maximin when she heard the village Angelus bell shortly before Our Lady appeared. Statues of Our Lady of La Salette and of the seers grace the actual site where Our Lady stood, and they seem to be the originals cast some time during the 1800's. A distinguishing fact is that Our Lady wore a crucifix which had hammer and pincers at either end of the crossbeam; these represent the twin sorrows of our Lord hammered to the Holy Cross, and then taken down after the nails were removed with pincers.
There is some movement toward the possible canonization of the seers Melanie Calvat and Maximin Geraud. This could be greatly aided by any of the faithful who believe that they have entered the Life of the Blessed, and pray for their protection and intercession from the things of this world. If a number of miracles can be attributed to their intercession, it might go a long way toward moving the Holy See to take up the matter more urgently. Although the seers were rather ordinary and failed in some things, it does not mean that the Eternal Father was not pleased with them; after all He allowed the Blessed Virgin to appear in their presence and speak to them though they were simple cowherds.
Concerning apparitions which speak to the future, many of us have been preoccupied recently with the words of Our Lady at Fatima, and in particular the contents she gave to the seers Lucia dos Santos, and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Martos. Francisco tells us:
"The Virgin Mary and God Himself are infinitely sad. It is up to us to console them!"
And can any one of us disagree with Francisco's assessment even today? This statement by Francisco can be considered to have summed up the essence of Fatima, although we may be curious as to other aspects of the Apparition. We may wonder for example what of the interpretation of the Third Secret given to Sister Lucia, the writing of which is purported to be harbored within the papal household but not yet revealed publicly. There are many theories of which we shan't discuss; however the main theme underlying these discussions is that many of the faithful think that Our Lady of Fatima has spoken of a time when many of the clergy and religious will fall away from the True Faith, perhaps in part unknowingly, and it will take an Act of God to correct the matter. This may tie into other private revelations, such as those given to Pope Saint Pius X and to Pope Leo XIII around the turn of the 19th century. While on the papal throne, Pope Saint Pius X suddenly had a vision of things to come. What the saint saw was terrifying, and he wondered at first if it were a vision of himself before he realized that it foretold an event to the more distant future. He described it thus:
"I saw one of my successors by name fleeing over the corpses of his brethren. He will flee to a place for a short respite where he is unknown, but he himself will die a cruel death."
There was also the vision of Leo XIII, where he foresaw the harm that would come to the Church, and at which point he was inspired to write the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, which is a form of exorcism prayer that was said at the end of each Holy Mass until it was abolished by the fraternal spirit of Vatican II. However, this same Prayer to Saint Michael is recited individually by many devout Catholics, lay and cleric alike, even today to help ward off the devil and his minions. The private revelations given to two great popes suggest, as did certain components of the Fatima Message, that widespread loss of faith even among the clergy would beset the Church in future times as many of the faithful believe.
But I think the strongest evidence of the troubling seriousness of the problems within the Church, involving high ecclesial authority, is that of the text of the La Salette message. Look dear friends, further information about Fatima may never be revealed by the Holy See. However, there is a wealth of information provided to us in the Text of La Salette, written by Melanie Calvat, which was given the imprimatur by her friend Monsignor Zola the Bishop of Leccé in 1879, and republished in 1904 shortly before her death. This text relates the series of events occurring before and after the Apparition at La Salette, and the words of Our Lady. One can see why the text would be banned from the modern religious bookstore at La Salette; it has nothing good to say concerning the state of affairs in the Church and even suggests that widespread devastation is imminent. Our Lady spoke of many things that the children were too young to entirely comprehend; however, miraculously, She allowed children to remember Her words, to relate much of what was said to their families and to the priests and bishops who questioned them, and for Melanie to write it all down when she was of an age to understand what was revealed to her.
The words of Our Lady are not for the faint of heart and are quite sobering, requiring careful thought and contemplation by the reader. As with all messages which we believe to be from God, however, the word of the Most Holy Virgin are meant for our good and to provide the foundation for a realization concerning our duties in life, both priest and lay persons. Concerning priests, Our Lady of La Salette tells us:
"The priests, ministers of my Son, the priests, by their wicked lives, by their irreverence and their impiety in the celebration of the holy mysteries, by their love of money, their love of honours and pleasures, the priests have become cesspools of impurity. Yes, the priests are asking vengeance, and vengeance is hanging over their heads. Woe to the priests and to those dedicated to God who by their unfaithfulness and their wicked lives are crucifying my Son again! The sins of those dedicated to God cry out towards Heaven and call for vengeance, and now vengeance is at their door, for there is no one left to beg mercy and forgiveness for the people. There are no more generous souls, there is no one left worthy of offering a stainless sacrifice to the Eternal for the sake of the world."
Of course She is not speaking of all priests, and probably not even of the majority of priests, but these words are particularly sobering in light of the troubles we sometimes see in priestly ministry today. We can say that the words of the Holy Virgin in 1846 could just as well have been spoken by Her at the present time. We know that the priest abusers, and all the sexually immoral, are cesspools of impurity as Our Lady states, though we hope, they reform their lives and come to a realization concerning the Holy God of Heaven, the Great Amen, and what little He expects from His people, which they have not done. And we must pray for ourselves, because none of us have lived perfectly, though we hope to please God. And priests alone are not singled out at La Salette; Our Lady tells us that the laity are also responsible for the devastation of Holy Church:
"In the year 1864 [and I would add, particularly at the centennial in 1964], Lucifer together with a large number of demons will be unloosed from hell; they will put an end to faith little by little, even in those dedicated to God. They will blind them in such a way, that, unless they are blessed with a special grace, these people will take on the spirit of these angels of hell; several religious institutions will lose all faith and will lose many souls. Evil books will be abundant on earth and the sprits of darkness will spread everywhere a universal slackening in all that concerns the service of God. They will have great power over Nature: there will be churches built to serve these spirits. People will be transported from one place to another by these evil spirits, even priests, for they will not have been guided by the good spirit of the Gospel which is a spirit of humility, charity and zeal for the glory of God."
Dear friends, are not evil books, as well as movies, TV, and newspapers, abundant throughout the earth? Do we do anything about it? In fact we do almost nothing to stop it! And is not an end to faith being put to the world little by little? Is faith not even in danger of being extinguished eve in us at times? We should pray not, and take other firm measures to see that it is not. Each of us is responsible for his own life particularly when we become of age and it will not go well with us to offer the excuse for sin that 'everybody was doing it' when we meet our Maker. Is there not a universal slackening in all that concerns the service of God? We are not just speaking here of the liturgical functions of priests and religious, but of the laity as well. Do we keep the Friday abstention from eating meat, or do some other penance in memory of our Lord and Savior, who died on the Holy Cross on a Friday? Do we try to keep the midnight fast before receiving Holy Communion at mass, or at least the three hour rule imposed by Pope Pius XII, or even the one hour rule that was ushered in by the spirit of Vatican II? Do we keep all the Days of Obligation, even when we are no longer obliged because some local bishops' conference has 'transferred the day of obligation to a Sunday'? Do the ladies cover their heads at Holy Mass, as Saint Paul tells us? Do you know that while not covering the head is an 'option' the suggested attire in the rulebook includes the head covering by ladies. Do we dress up for mass or do we come in casual clothes, or even blue jeans or shorts? Do we show the good spirit of the Gospel which is a spirit of humility, charity and zeal for the glory of God? I think we have a ways to go.
These words of Our Lady of La Salette especially seem to describe our current situation:
"All the civil governments will have one and the same plan, which will be to abolish and do away with every religious principal, to make way for materialism, atheism, spiritualism and vice of all kinds. In the year 1865 [and we should say again, particularly at the centenary in 1965], there will be desecration of holy places. In convents, the flowers of the Church will decompose and the devil will make himself like the King of all hearts. May those in charge of religious communities be on their guard against the people they must receive, for the devil will resort to all his evil tricks to introduce sinners into religious orders, for disorder and the love of carnal pleasures will be spread all over the earth."
Now if the above is our current situation exactly, then we should be very afraid, because it would seem that we will all be lost unless the Lord Himself and His Holy Mother intercede for us. We must pray with vigor, because the times are anxious ones and we do not know what is about to be given birth. We should hope that the last part of the message of Our Lady of La Salette do not apply us presently, because then would come true the saying that 'all Hell will break lose', which will certainly require the intervention of the Lord Himself:
"At the first blow of His thundering sword [that is, the Lord], the mountains and all Nature will tremble in terror, for the disorders and crimes of men have pierced the vault of the heavens. … Several cities will be shaken down and swallowed up by earthquakes. People will believe that all is lost. Nothing will be seen but murder, nothing will be heard but the clash of arms and blasphemy. … The seasons will be altered, the earth will produce nothing but bad fruit, the stars will lose their regular motion, the moon will only reflect a faint reddish glow. Water and fire will give the earth’s globe convulsions and terrible earthquakes which will swallow up mountains, cities, etc... Rome will lose faith and become the seat of the Antichrist. The demons of the air together with the Antichrist will perform great wonders on earth and in the atmosphere, and men will become more and more perverted."
Now if all of the above is true and will come to pass, can there be any hope? Of course, because Our Lord tells us He 'will be with us always, to the very end of the age'. Our Lady too mentions elsewhere: 'My Immaculate Heart will triumph.' And so we live out our lives as best we can, remembering that we cannot let the spirit of this age engulf us, or we too will all perish. We must bring to those in our sphere of influence a right heart, not just those we are in immediate contact with, but persons we care for who are far away that are kept in prayer, even those we do not know, and even the poor suffering souls in purgatory who may be of concern to us. We must remember always to keep the true faith, which is the only means to keep a healthy outlook during the troubling events which surround us, and not forget that our salvation is assured if we are diligent in keeping the Lord's commands as prescribed by Holy Church as much as our God-given talents allow. Penance, dear friends, can be practiced in most every aspect of our daily lives, and we should hope to do so to make amends for our own faults and those of others. We can also listen to the last advice of the Holy Virgin concerning the text of Her message of La Salette; as she left the seers she rose in the air and said:
"AND SO, MY CHILDREN, YOU WILL PASS THIS ON TO ALL MY PEOPLE."
Shall we not try to please our Blessed Mother in this and all things, and in so doing make our lives a pleasing offering to God? Let us be bold and pass the message of La Salette to all the faithful everywhere, to help usher in the return of holiness among those who profess the name of Jesus Christ and even among those who don't.
Magna est glória ejus in salutári tuo
His glory is great in Thy salvation.