Thank you to Fr. Edward Rooney for having me on his podcast to discuss Our Lady of La Salette.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Saturday, September 07, 2019
Our Lady of La Salette: A Mother Weeps for her Children is available on Amazon.
The Blessed Mother’s Message and its
Importance for Today
Our Blessed Mother’s apparition at La Salette was over 170 years ago. Does her message still matter for today? The answer is an unequivocal yes.
In examining the message of Our Lady of La Salette in more detail, let us first look at the message itself and its relevance in the context of the time in which it was given.
Our Lady of La Salette spoke in the name of God. In that respect, she followed the tradition of the Old Testament prophets. The Blessed Virgin is the “Queen of Prophets”.[i] She is calling the people to return to God and repent of their sins. In this particular case, she was speaking out against Sunday work and blasphemy, violations of the second and third commandments: keep holy the Sabbath and do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Indirectly, these are also violations of the first commandment because those who work on Sunday or take God’s name in vain are not putting God before everything else as the first commandment directs us to do. These sins are the reason for her tears.
Our Lady of La Salette indicated that during the previous year (1845), there had been a poor potato crop. According to her, this had been a warning from God that the people should change their ways, but they did not heed the warning. Instead they blasphemed even more. Our Lady indicated that by the coming Christmas (of 1846) there would be almost no potatoes to be found. This proved to be the case. Not only France, but also Germany, England, and most especially Ireland suffered from a terrible potato famine.
The people of Corps did heed Our Lady’s warnings and experienced a great conversion. After the years of 1846 and 1847, they had good harvests and only a minimal number of potatoes were affected by disease.[ii]
Our Lady also foretold that the wheat crops would fail. “For several years after the Apparition, it was observed in certain localities that the wheat did almost literally fall into dust at threshing, or, at least, so little grain did it yield, that it seemed to melt under the flail. The ears of corn, which at first appeared fair and full, produced but few grains of wheat.”[iii]
She predicted that many children would be seized by trembling and that a great famine would follow. “During the years immediately following the Apparition of La Salette, a great number of children died from the effects of a strange epidemic.”[iv] “In 1847 there was a very unusual mortality among the children of Corps and nearby villages, and in 1854 great numbers were carried off by cholera, complicated by miliary fever (probably tuberculosis). These little victims were suddenly seized with a violent chill, began trembling all over and died after two or three hours of agony.”[v]
As for the famine, many in Europe died due to food shortages in the years following the apparition. In 1855, “nearly one hundred thousand people had died of starvation in France alone! And according to conservative estimates, from 1854 to 1856 inclusively, as many as one million persons throughout Europe died victims of the same ‘high price of food.’”[vi]
In all of Our Lady’s apparitions, her warnings are conditional. Like the prophets of old, she states that if the people do not repent, evils will befall them. The future is not set in stone. We do have the power to change the dire predictions for the future if we repent, pray for the conversion of sinners, and turn back to God.
Our Lady of La Salette commanded the children to what seemed like an impossible task. They were to make her message known to all the world. That mission continues today.
Back in 1953, Fr. James O’Reilly wrote:
Never more than now have men so much needed the salutary teachings of La Salette. We look out on a world today that seems to be in complete revolt against all authority, human and divine. . . . The Christian principles that once ruled our lives and fostered obedience, modesty, and respect, have been repudiated as old-fashioned. In every department of human activity, in the home, in business, in our national life, our educational system, all forms of entertainment, in music, literature and art, the seeds of revolt, irreverence, indecency and unbridles license have been cultivated, and now we are reaping the whirlwind in a national crime wave, in gross immorality, in an alarming breakdown of the marriage bond and of home life that seems unparalleled in nearly two thousand years of Christianity. . . [Our Lady’s] tears still flow, her work of merciful intercession still goes on for a heedless world. What then, does she ask of each one of us? She pleads for our conversion, and in her gentle maternal way urges us all to lead lives of prayer, penance and reparation.[vii]
How is it possible that those words were written in the 1950s, an era we now look back on as so conservative compared to our own? How much more in need is our world today when so many have turned their backs on God and religious practice?
Our Lady wants all of us to be reconciled to her Son. She wants this so much that she weeps for her children who have fallen away.
These tears are La Salette’s most powerful unspoken message. The beautiful Lady weeps but she never refers to her tears, never so much as alludes to them. They are meant to speak for themselves and they do. They are an unspoken message but they add a crucial dimension to her words . . . [The tears] are liquid sorrow, molten streams of pain running down the Lady’s face and a very obvious show of love. . . [They] highlight the words and give urgency and crucial importance to the entire message. If someone from heaven, and the Blessed Virgin at that, is provoked to tears over disrespect for the Day of the Lord and the Name of Jesus, then the word is out that these offenses are more evil than people think they are and should be carefully avoided.[viii]
How true that last statement is. How many people think nothing of skipping Mass (or never attend at all)? How often do we hear the name of the Lord used in vain? Truly, these acts matter to God.
Not honoring God in his Name and on his day, not worshiping, not praying are the root causes, the deep-seated sins against God that bring on those ‘sins against the neighbor.’ The Lady says, without actually pronouncing the words, that serving God and serving the neighbor are not two acts, but one.
On the face of it, the La Salette message is limited in its demands: Mass, prayer, penance, and respect for Christ’s name appear to be the bare bones of religion . . . On the other hand, when these elements are observed well, they launch an intimate and powerful Christian life, for all of Christian life is based on those demands.[ix]
Our Blessed Mother took the people to task for not paying attention to the sorrow that they were causing her and her Son. “She also reproached her people for not seeing the signs of the times when the potatoes rotten. ‘You paid no least heed,’ she said.”[x]
Do we pay heed to the world around us? Our world, our environment, is in such pain. Our physical world is connected to the spiritual realm. Yes, we need to take practical, concrete actions to help our physical world. But the role of the spiritual should not be neglected. What would our world look like if everyone returned to God, loved God and neighbor, respected God’s name, and kept the Lord’s Day holy? It isn’t too late.
Our Blessed Mother still weeps for us. She wants us to return to her Son. Will we answer her plea?
Prayers to Our Lady of La Salette
Our Lady of La Salette, reconciler of sinners,
pray without ceasing for us who have recourse to thee.
pray without ceasing for us who have recourse to thee.
The Memorare to Our Lady of La Salette
Remember, Our Lady of La Salette, true Mother of Sorrows, the tears which thou didst shed for me on Calvary; be mindful also of the unceasing care which thou dost exercise to shield me from the justice of God; and consider whether thou canst now abandon thy child, for whom thou hast done so much. Inspired by this consoling thought, I came to cast myself at thy feet, in spite of my infidelity and ingratitude. Reject not my prayer, O Virgin of reconciliation, convert me, obtain for me the grace to love Jesus Christ above all things and to console thee too by living a holy life, in order that one day I may be able to see thee in Heaven. Amen.
[i] Ladouceur, 42.
[ii] Ladouceur, 45.
[iii] Ladouceur, 52.
[iv] Ladouceur, 52.
[v] O’Reilly, 52.
[vi] O’Reilly, 51.
[vii] O’Reilly, 163-164.
[viii] Fr. Normand Theroux, M.S., Our La Salette Mission: To Reconcile Her People With Her Son (Attleboro, MA: La Salette Communications Center Publications, 2017).
Friday, September 06, 2019
Our Lady of La Salette: A Mother Weeps for her Children is available on Amazon.
The Seers and the Secrets
During their time on the mountain of La Salette, the Blessed Mother revealed two secrets – one each to Melanie and Maximin. The children were not aware of the contents of each other’s secrets. They had both been instructed not to share them and they honored Our Lady’s request.
Cardinal de Bonald of Lyon, like many others, was very curious about what those secrets might contain. As a consulter to the pope, he had the power to do something about it. In June of 1851, he sent a letter to Bishop de Bruillard requesting that the seers tell him their secrets so that he might then pass them along to the Holy Father. The bishop agreed that the Holy Father should be informed of the secrets, but he wanted to do it directly, without the cardinal acting as middle-man.
The children were not easily convinced to share their secrets with the pope. After all, they had been sworn to secrecy by Our Blessed Mother herself. Such a confidence was not to be easily broken. The bishop’s envoy discussed the matter with Maximin. After some time, Maximin agreed that if the pope, the Vicar of Christ, asked for the secret, he would give it to him.
At the bishop’s house, Maximin began to write down the secret, only to move too enthusiastically and knock over the container of ink. The paper was ruined. He had to start again. He took more care with the second attempt. When he was finished, the bishop showed him how to fold the paper and place it inside an envelope. The bishop then sealed the envelope with molten wax. Two priests signed the envelope as witnesses.
It took three attempts to convince Melanie to reveal her secret. In the end, it was Fr. Rousselot who convinced her to do so. In the course of writing her secret, she asked for the meaning of the word “infallibly”. Later she asked what the term “anti-Christ” meant. Like Maximin, she put the secret into an envelope that was then sealed by the bishop. Later, she remembered a date that she should have included and asked to go to the bishop in order to make the correction. She was given this permission and, after adding this information, felt satisfied.
The bishop sent Fr. Rousselot and Fr. Gerin to Rome with the two secrets along with a letter asking for the pope’s opinion of the apparitions. Bishop de Bruillard agreed to abide by the pope’s decision.
On July 18, the two priests met with Pope Pius IX. He read the secrets. He smiled while he read Maximin’s but his response to Melanie’s was more grave. He said, “Calamities threaten France. But she is not the only one to blame. Italy is, too, and Germany and Switzerland and all Europe. It is not without reason that the Church is called militant.”[i] He told the two priests that he would study the secrets further and then respond to them.
Pope Pius IX met with Fr. Rousselot again on August 22nd. The pope said that the bishop was free to make whatever pronouncement about the apparition that he felt was appropriate. As of the date of this writing, the secrets have never been officially revealed by the Vatican.
Seeing a vision of Our Lady does not automatically make a person a canonized saint. Those who have been blessed with such a vision and then canonized, such as St. Catherine Laboure (Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal), St. Bernadette (Our Lady of Lourdes), and Saints Jacinta and Francisco (Our Lady of Fatima), were canonized due to the virtue of their lives after the apparitions took place. While one might presume that those chosen for such an honor as a visit from Our Lady would have special help from God to live holy lives, all humans retain the gift of free will.
Maximin’s life after the bishop pronounced the vision authentic was one of restless searching. In keeping with his childhood personality, he could not stay in one place for long. He attempted to become a priest and entered the seminary, but he was not academically inclined. He thought he might become a doctor or pharmacist, but that too did not work out. He ended up working a string of menial jobs and was often destitute and hungry. He decided to go to Rome where he became a papal zouave (part of the infantry force designed to defend the Papal States). He served for six months before returning to France. In 1870, he was recruited to fight for France in the Prussian war; he never saw battle, instead serving his time in the Grenoble barracks. By this time, he was thirty-five years old and, like his father before him, suffered from asthma.
Throughout his life, Maximin struggled, never finding a place where he belonged. By all accounts, he was unsuccessful in the world’s eyes. It had been reported that he got drunk easily, but he did not drink much. It is suspected that he most likely had an intolerance of alcohol that made him get tipsy after only having a small amount. Unfortunately, he had the misfortune of living in a place where wine was served with every meal. Despite his professional and personal challenges, he always remained faithful to Our Blessed Mother. He strove to live a life of virtue. A comrade in the zouave testified that Maximin had no patience for off-color jokes or behavior.
On November 11, 1865, the newspaper La Vie Parisienne published an article saying that Maximin no longer believed in the apparition. Maximin sued for libel. The case was settled out of court and an apology was printed in the paper. Maximin responded by publishing a seventy-two page booklet, My Profession of Faith in the Apparition of La Salette.[ii]
Maximin died at the age of forty. La Salette water was his last drink and the Eucharist his last food.[iii] Maximin had the final word on his life and the apparition in his last will and testament:
I believe in all that the holy, apostolic, Roman Church teaches, in everything defined by our Holy Father, the Pope, the august and infallible Pius IX. I firmly believe, even were it to cost the shedding of my blood, in the renowned apparition of the Blessed Virgin on the holy mountain of La Salette, September 19, 1846, the apparition to which I have testified in words, works, in writings, in suffering. After my death let no one assert that he has heard me make any retraction concerning the great event of La Salette, for in lying to the world he would be lying in his own breast. With these sentiments, I give my heart to Our Lady of La Salette.[iv]
Unlike Maximin who died young, Melanie lived to be seventy-two. Like Maximin, she attempted to enter religious life. In fact, she attempted this several times, moving from convent to convent, but never making her vows. Melanie had been a shy child who did not like to be in the spotlight. With time, however, she came to thrive on the adulation of pilgrims. She could not live a quiet life as a religious sister and struggled to obey her superiors.
She also ended up living a wandering life, bouncing frequently between France and Italy. She wrote a largely fictional autobiography in which she claimed to have had extraordinary piety and mystical experiences in childhood, despite all evidence to the contrary. Melanie needed people to honor her and pay attention to her and was willing to tell them what they wanted to hear in order to have that continue. She began to tease people with information about the secret that Our Lady had revealed to her.
“In a series of letters to Abbé Félicien Bliard, beginning on December 26, 1870, Melanie made it clear that she had seen and felt, rather than heard, much of what she had related in the Secret, and that it was impossible to put everything fully into words, as she wrote:
The Holy Virgin spoke all the words, either of the secrets, or of the rules, but I could only guess or penetrate the rest of what she said in words: a great veil was lifted, events were uncovered to my eyes and to my imagination as She spoke all the words and a great space was opened before me; I saw events, the changes in the operation of the earth, and the unchanging God in His glory watching the Virgin, who lowered Herself to speak to two peasants. . .”[v]
In 1879, Melanie published a booklet with the imprimatur of Bishop Salvtore Luigi Zola entitled Apparition of the Blessed Virgin on the Mountain of La Salette. This version of the secret is much longer than the one Melanie wrote for the pope in 1851 and contains much more detail. In 1923, this booklet was put on the Index of Forbidden Books. As of 1966, the Index of Forbidden Books no longer exists. Unfortunately, this episode led many to believe that the apparition at La Salette as a whole was now rejected. That was not the case at all.
The 1879 version of the secret is widely available on the internet.[vi] Indeed, that was the first thing I found when I searched for the message of Our Lady of La Salette. It is highly apocalyptic in nature and is best treated with skepticism. There are those who take this version of the secret as the word of Our Blessed Mother, including the prediction that Rome will suffer apostacy, and use it to argue that this is the case in the world today. This is most unfortunate. Melanie desired attention. She may have been suffering from some sort of mental illness. While one cannot be 100% certain, there is no reason to believe that Our Blessed Mother conveyed this longer, more specific secret.
Yet, despite Melanie’s struggles with pride and her casual relationship with the truth, she did retain a great faith, attending Mass daily. She also never changed a word of her testimony about the original apparition. One can be confident that her reports of what happened on September 19, 1846 were true.
What about the original secrets from 1851? They had seemed to be lost. Father Jean Stem who had been an archivist of the Missionaries of La Salette, had tried to find the official version. The Congregation of the Faith had informed him that they could not be found. However, in 1998, Monsignor Bertone, then secretary of the Congregation of the Faith, opened the files of Pope Leo XIII to researchers.[vii]
Father Michel Corteville found the original documents of the secrets among Pope Leo XIII’s papers on October 2, 1999. They became “the subject of a doctoral thesis in theology which was supported by Fr. Corteville in 2000 at the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of the Dominicans. This thesis of more than 1000 pages was summarized in 2002 in a format more accessible to a wider audience, in a book published by Editions Fayard, under the title Découverte du secret de La Salette (Discovery of the Secret of La Salette) by Father Corteville and Father René Laurentin.”[viii] This book has not been published in English.
While the Vatican has not made any statement on the texts of these secrets, it seems reasonable to believe that these are the original secrets. The events described in these secrets are open to debate. As with all prophetic messages, the details are subject to change based on humanity’s response to the call for conversion.
Maximin’s Secret (written on July 3, 1851)
On September 19, 1846, we saw a beautiful Lady. We never said that this lady was the Blessed Virgin but we always said that it was a beautiful Lady.
I do not know if it is the Blessed Virgin or another person. As for me, I believe today that it is the Blessed Virgin.
Here is what this Lady said to me:
"If my people continue, what I will say to you will arrive earlier, if it changes a little, it will be a little later.
France has corrupted the universe, one day it will be punished. The faith will die out in France: three quarters of France will not practice religion anymore, or almost no more, the other part will practice it without really practicing it.
Then, after [that], nations will convert, the faith will be rekindled everywhere.
A great country, now Protestant, in the north of Europe, will be converted; by the support of this country all the other nations of the world will be converted.
Before all that arrives, great disorders will arrive, in the Church, and everywhere. Then, after [that], our Holy Father the Pope will be persecuted. His successor will be a pontiff that nobody expects.
Then, after [that], a great peace will come, but it will not last a long time. A monster will come to disturb it.
All that I tell you here will arrive in the other century, at the latest in the year two thousand."
Melanie’s Secret (written on July 6, 1851)
Secret which the Blessed Virgin gave me on the Mountain of La Salette on September 19, 1846
Mélanie, I will say something to you which you will not say to anybody:
The time of the God's wrath has arrived!
If, when you say to the people what I have said to you so far, and what I will still ask you to say, if, after that, they do not convert, (if they do not do penance, and they do not cease working on Sunday, and if they continue to blaspheme the Holy Name of God), in a word, if the face of the earth does not change, God will be avenged against the people ungrateful and slave of the demon.
My Son will make his power manifest! Paris, this city soiled by all kinds of crimes, will perish infallibly. Marseilles will be destroyed in a little time. When these things arrive, the disorder will be complete on the earth, the world will be given up to its impious passions.
The pope will be persecuted from all sides, they will shoot at him, they will want to put him to death, but no one will not be able to do it, the Vicar of God will triumph again this time.
The priests and the Sisters, and the true servants of my Son will be persecuted, and several will die for the faith of Jesus-Christ.
A famine will reign at the same time.
After all these will have arrived, many will recognize the hand of God on them, they will convert, and do penance for their sins.
A great king will go up on the throne, and will reign a few years. Religion will re-flourish and spread all over the world, and there will be a great abundance, the world, glad not to be lacking nothing, will fall again in its disorders, will give up God, and will be prone to its criminal passions.
[Among] God's ministers, and the Spouses of Jesus-Christ, there will be some who will go astray, and that will be the most terrible.
Lastly, hell will reign on earth. It will be then that the Antichrist will be born of a Sister, but woe to her! Many will believe in him, because he will claim to have come from heaven, woe to those who will believe in him!
That time is not far away, twice 50 years will not go by.
My child, you will not say what I have just said to you. (You will not say it to anybody, you will not say if you must say it one day, you will not say what that it concerns), finally you will say nothing anymore until I tell you to say it![ix]
[i] Kennedy, 140.
[ii] James P. O’Reilly, M.S., The Story of La Salette: Its History and Sequels, (Techny, Illinois: Divine Word Publications, 1953) 122.
[iii] O’Reilly, 126.
[iv] Kennedy, 182-183.
[v] The La Salette Controversy – Part VI, http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-171/LaSalette6.htm
[vi] I debated including the text of this longer secret here, but decided it was best not to give something so questionable additional publicity. For those who wish to read it, please visit: http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/approved_apparitions/lasalette/secret-of-our-lady-of-lasalette-to-melanie-1879.html
[vii] Mark Wyatt, La Salette Secrets II, http://veritas-catholic.blogspot.com/2006/08/la-salette-secrets-ii.html
[viii] The Secrets of La Salette, https://www.michaeljournal.org/articles/roman-catholic-church/item/the-secrets-of-la-salette
[ix] Both the original French and translated English versions may be found at: http://patristica.net/La-Salette&f&e