Question: What happened at La Salette and what is
the spirit of that event?
- La Salette, a French town located in the Alps, was the place
at which a Marian apparition occurred in the nineteenth century. On
September 19, 1846, Maximin Giraud (eleven years old) and Melanie
Calvat (fourteen years old) experienced an encounter with what they
called a "Beautiful Lady." The two children were grazing sheep at La
Salette, when they saw that this woman was seated and was crying. Upon
seeing them, the "Lady" stood up and while crying, spoke in French and
in the local dialect. After that, the woman walked up a steep path and
vanished into a bright light. According to the children, the light
emanated from a crucifix on the woman's chest. Soon after this event,
word spread, and pilgrims crowded the rough paths leading up to the
site where the apparition occurred.
- There soon arose, a basilica and
the first units for lodging. In 1851, the local bishop Bruillard of Grenoble affirmed the
supernatural character of the apparition of La Salette. He based his
decision upon a thorough inquiry of the event, complete with interviews of
witnesses, and an examination of the apparition's message to the seers.
Bishop Bruillard wished to encourage the faith expression (prayer and
devotion) practiced by pilgrims to La Salette.
- The message of the visionaries of La Salette focuses on the conversion
of all humanity to Christ. The "Beautiful Lady" of La Salette implores
all people who would listen to "be reconciled to God." This conversion
requires daily prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments of Penance
and the Eucharist. The woman (the Virgin Mary) was in tears because she
recognized the tremendous responsibility that free will places upon each
person to lead a moral life and follow God's will. The message of La
Salette traces the "narrow road that leads to life" (Matthew 7:14), like
the steep and narrow path the "Beautiful Lady" climbed before melting
away in the light.
- After the visionaries' experience at La Salette, a Christian renewal
transformed the region. In 1872, nationwide pilgrimages began to be
formed across France. For roughly 150 years, La Salette's spirit has been
embodied in a movement that has gained convents, monasteries,
congregations, and arch-confraternities. Christians everywhere saw or
felt its influence. Saints (for example, John Vianney), pastors (such as
Don Bosco), and religious writers (like J.K. Huysmans) have all been
influenced by La Salette.
- Though La Salette's message is embedded in the bygone environment of
the nineteenth century, rural France, it has had a tremendous impact on
the modern world. The spirit of La Salette is one of prayer, conversion,
Castel, R. "La Salette," Dictionary of Mary. New York: Catholic
Book Publishing Company, 1985.
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