Small Town Mary

Untitled-1In the 1980s, when I was growing up in a small town in Ohio, there was a popular song that we all loved. It glorified life in a small town and made us feel that we were something special because we didn’t have all the conveniences of urbanity. We could forget that we had a 45-minute drive to “civilization” and all the fun of life in the city.

We used to play that song, my dad and I, and later my friends and I, over and over, and the melody of it got into my bones. I still live in a small town, though it’s a different small town. I’ll probably raise my children in this small town, and when I think of that song, I smile. I could make it my anthem.

Life is pretty predictable in small towns, and the news spreads fast. If someone dies, the church committee knows before the funeral home. If a neighbor finds out someone hs cancer, the prayer chain goes into full gear by sundown. When there are family battles and babies born, there’s a support crew lined up before the reality sets in at home.

A Quiet Village Receives a Heavenly Visitor

When the Blessed Mother appeared to Melanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud — two uneducated peasant children — in 1846, the word spread quickly.

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A Thirty-Year Adventure

(L to R) Pope John Paul II is presented with
the first volume of “La Salette – Documents
Authentiques” with La Salette Frs. Jim
Stajkowski, Lionel LeMay and Jean Stern
looking on.

My three volume work, “La Salette – Documents Authentiques: Dossier Chronologique Intégral (La Salette – Authentic Documents: A Chronological Integral Record)”, stems from a request made by the La Salette Scholasticate in Ipswich, MA., in the 1960s: namely, to microfilm the principal documents pertaining to the La Salette apparition.

Father Hilaire Orset, M.S., then Provincial of France, turned the task over to me. I began to search systematically through the diocesan archives in Grenoble and soon realized that just picking out the "main" documents wouldn't do. As the famous detectives of literary fame, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, would remind us: we must “consider all the evidence!” My research also took me to other places, like the National Archives in Paris. And so the task of microfilming became a much greater project than originally foreseen.

Named Archivist-historian by Fr. Conrad Blanchet, M.S., in I966, I judged that the time had come to prepare an extensive work on La Salette like the one done by Fr. Rene Laurentin on Lourdes. The first volume was published in 1980 and the final one came out in 1991.

Read more: A Thirty-Year Adventure

Frozen in Time – Maximin and Melanie

A wonderful discovery: a new photo of Maximin and Melanie.

Photographic plates left in
the Shrine office on the Holy
Mountain of La Salette
It was at the end of the 2012 Shrine season that a Norman family of pilgrims left a small box in our Shrine Gallery (main hallway of the Shrine Hotel) on the Holy Mountain of La Salette in France. A first glance, these seemed to be photographic glass plates from the years 1850 to 1895. They were stored carefully in a corner of the office of the Pastoral Attendant until such a time that he could quietly go through them.

But time passed and it was winter time and the new Pilgrim season began with the arrival of our volunteers. It is now possible to review these forty-five small glass photographic plates.

On one particular plate he find one plate of the place where the Beautiful Lady appeared and another of the building of the La Salette basilica.

And among these plates, another surprise – a photo of Maximin and Melanie (below) taken during the period when they were asked to testify at the very site of the apparition. They are pictured standing on a slope of Planeau, in a small ravine where the slopes of Mounts Gargas, Chamoux and Planeau meet.

What a great discovery!

The newly-discovered historic picture of Maximin (right with his hat)
and Melanie (center) walking in the area near the place where Our
Lady of La Salette appeared to them, on a slope of Planeau, in a small
ravine where the slopes of Mounts Gargas, Chamoux and Planeau meet
Photo taken of the La Salette Apparition site between
1864 and 1868 (collection of Dardalet family)

The Reconciling Message of a Mother

The Christ of Glory

On the Beautiful Lady's breast, Christ on the cross is the heart of the living light that shapes the entire Apparition and envelops even the two children, Maximin and Melanie. He is the Christ of glory (John 19), the Crucified, who already speaks as the Risen One, the Lord who entrusts to Mary her mission as mother of the believers and calls the disciple he loves to contemplate and imitate her, "taking into his home (Jn 19:25)" the first and perfect disciple. " Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,* take up his cross, and follow me. (Mt 16:24)" And Mary stands at the foot of the cross: her presence is a “yes” carried out in faithfulness, in watchfulness and in the silence of a gift so complete that it no longer has need of words.
All the baptized are called to give such a response. Even more so are the religious, whose sole reason for being is to "follow after Jesus." The letter to the Hebrews (Heb 3:1-6; 12:1-4) presents Christ to everyone as the source, the growth and the fullness of our faith. 
In a striking summary La Salettes are called to affirm in their Rule: "Christ is the rule of our life." A dynamic view of the faith and of the religious life, the continual unfolding of a pedagogy St. Paul described so well: I was grasped by Christ, but how far do I remain from personally grasping him (Phil 3:12)?

Read more: The Reconciling Message of a Mother

The Structure of the Discourse of the Apparition

Mary's Message in her Apparition at La Saleette is so simple and direct that two little children could understand it.  Yet in order to be fully appreciated, it is beneficial to look carefully at each section of her message to examine precisely what she says.

The following outline looks at her message from different perspectives.

First:  The Structure - outlines the specific content of the message;

Second:  The Message - divides the message into topical sections;

Third:  The Audience - specifies to whom she is speaking, whether to a universal audience, to the children or to one specific child;

Fourth:  The Language - the language she uses can indicatae who is her intended audience; for example, her use of French in the opening and conclusion of her message can indicate that this is a message for a universal audience; also her use of the rural dialect can indicate that she cares about our ordinary daily lives and wants to speak to the two children and to us in familiar, understandable language.

This Study has been researched by Fr. Roger Castel, M.S. and Fr. Donald Paradis, M.S.  The present format was designed by Fr. Ron Gagne, M. S. 

For the complet article, please download our PDF Version....Here.

The Children of La Salette:

Maximin Giraud:

….was born at Corps, on August 26, 1835. His mother, Anne-Marie Templier hails from this same region. His father, Germain Giraud is from a neighboring district.
Maximin had a difficult childhood. During the three years following the Apparition his half-brother Jean-Francóis, his step-mother Marie Court, and his father Giraud the wheelwright, all died. Constant pressure from pilgrims and busybodies don't moke Maximin's life any easier. A few visionary partisans of the so-called son of Louis XVI wanted to use him for political purposes. A mere listing of the places Maximin travelled to makes one realize to what extent the boy was exploited.
His remains lie in the cemetery of Corps, but his heart rests within the La Salette basilica. He wanted to underscore once again his love for La Salette: “I believe firmly, even to the shedding of my blood, in the famous apparition of the most Blessed Virgin on the holy mountain of La Salette, on September 19, 1846, the apparition that I have defended in word and suffering... It is with this spirit that I give my heart to Our Lady of La Salette”.

Read more: The Children of La Salette:

The Message of La Salette

La Salette: The Message And Its Meaning

A Globe of Fire

Near this little fountain the two children layed down on the grass and fell asleep. How long their slumber lasted is not certain – half an hour perhaps, or three quarters of an hour or possibly more. In any case Melanie suddenly awoke and called Maximin: “Memin, Memin, let us go and find our cows, I cannot see them anywhere.”
Of course, being at the bottom of the little ravine, they could not see the meadow where they had left them. Quickly they climbed the slope opposite Mount Gargas (hence they were standing on what is now the esplanade in front of the basilica). Turning around they could view the entire alpine pasture land and were greatly relieved to see that their cows had remained where they had been left, peaceably chewing the cud. Reassured, Melanie began to redescend towards the dried-up fountain to recover her little sack of provisions before once again watering the cows. Half-way down the grassy slope she paused immobilized, frozen with fear. “Memin”, she called out, “look at that great light over there”. “Where is it?”, the boy replied, as he ran and stood at her side. (At the place of the Apparition two statues represent the children on the slope of the ravine, in the first stage of the Event.)
At the very spot where they had slept was a globe of fire, as if, in the children's words, “the sun had fallen there”. The light swirled, then grew in size and, opening, disclosed within it a woman, seated, her head in her hands, her elbows on her knees, in the attitude of one oppressed with grief.
Melanie, in her fright, raised her hands and dropped her shepherd's staff. Maximin thought only of defending himself. “Keep your stick”, he said to her, “I will keep mine and will give it a good whack if it does anything to us” ...Even after she conversed with them, the children could not identify their heavenly Visitor. They would simply call her “the Beautiful Lady”.

Read more: The Message of La Salette

Summary of Apparition

Before the apparition, La Salette was an unknown hamlet lost in one of those giant crevices of the French Alps. Early on September 19, 1846, the two children climb the slopes of the Mount Sous-Les-Baisses, each urging four cows up the mountain. Contrary to their habits, the two children lay down on the grass and fell asleep. The September sun was relaxing and the sky was cloudless. The chattering brook highlighted the mountain stillness. These were quiet moments.
Mélanie woke up with a start and shook Maximin! “Mémin, Mémin, get up! Let's go look for our cows. I don't know where they are!” Near the small brook on one of those stone benches there was a globe of fire. A woman appeared within the light; she was sitting, her head in her hands, her elbows on her knees, in deepest grief.
The Lady rose slowly. The children had not moved. She spoke to them in French: “Come near, my children, do not be afraid. I am here to tell you great news.” They approached the Lady. The beautiful Lady spoke to the two shepherds. “She wept all the while she spoke to us”, said Maximin and Mélanie later. “We listened. All our attention was on her.”
Mary's message to the two children at La Salette was the warning of a mother concerned over her wayward children. She complained: “If my people refuse to submit, I will be forced to let go the arm of my Son” and more specifically: “Those who drive the carts cannot swear without using my Son's name...they labor all day Sunday...there are none who go to Mass...when they do not know what to do, they go to Mass just to make fun of religion...” She warned: “If the harvest is ruined, it is only on account of yourselves...If you have wheat, you must not sow it. Anything you sow the vermin will eat...A great famine is coming...” She promised: “If [my people] are converted, rocks and stones will turn into heaps of wheat, and potatoes will be self-sown in the fields...” She pleaded: “Well, my children, make this known to all my people...”

Read more: Summary of Apparition

The Message of Our Lady of La Salette:

This is the message that the Virgin Mary shared with Maximin Giraud and Melanie Calvat, near the small village of La Salette in the French Alps on September 19, 1846. It is told with the help of the nine stained glass windows in the Mary Keane Chapel at the La Salette Shrine in Enfield, New Hampshire. This apparition and message gave rise to the Catholic Religious Community—the Missionaries of La Salette—and their ministry of reconciliation.
First Window:
“If my people do not obey…”
The beautiful Lady stood up and said: “If my people do not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son’s arm. It is so heavy that I can no longer hold it.
“How long have I suffered for you! If my Son is not to abandon you, I am obliged to entreat him without ceasing. But you take no heed of that. No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up what I have endured on your behalf.”

Read more: The Message of Our Lady of La Salette:

Mary Chose Maximin and Mélanie

Untitled-1There is much to learn, I believe, from the behavior of Our Lady of La Salette toward Maximin and Melanie. First, she chose them humble, ignorant and poor. There is nothing much to envy in them. Second, they were not saints in the sense of official recognition as such by the Church. Nor will they ever be. Third, their lives after the apparition and after the local Bishop and assumed responsibility for spreading the news of La Salette, were still very ordinary.

“God chose the foolish of the world
to shame the wise” (1 Cor 1:27)

True, they were very often recognized as celebrities of a sort, but they manifested all the shortcomings of ordinary human beings. It would seem that Our Lady wanted to hold them up to the world as people able to serve God and the Church even though their lives gave no evidence of outstanding holiness.

Read more: Mary Chose Maximin and Mélanie

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