A Song of La Salette

For those who are both devoted to Our Lady of La Salette and fond of poetry, Fr. James P. O'Reilly, M.S., has written a beautiful poetic account of Mary's apparition on the Holy Mountain of La Salette. Line after line, Fr. O'Reilly draws us ever more deeply into the mystery of La Salette, sharing the fruit of many years of meditation. (The stained glass windows below summarize the La Salette Message and are in the Mary Keane Chapel, La Salette Shrine, Enfield, NH. The image of the La Salette crucifix is from the chapel windows in the Hartford House.)

 

Part One: A Visitor from Above

Resplendent in a dazzling globe of light A visitor from Heaven deigned appear
To children two upon a lonely height Of Alpine France, transfixing them with fear.
The brilliance strange now parted and revealed A Lady seated on a rustic bench of stone,
Face buried in her hands, as if to yield To sorrow which behooved her bear alone.

 

It was the Seven Dolors' feast that year, Indeed the very hour when, around 
The world, in monasteries far and near, Was heard the Lamentations' mournful sound:
"Oh all ye passing by the way attend, And see if sorrow be alike unto
This sorrow mine, and your compassion lend To one afflicted and with mourners few."

 

The "Beautiful Lady" now stood up and called The cowherds to her side: "Be not afraid,
Come near, my children!" Running, they installed Themselves before her, fear now all allayed.
Indeed her gaze so gentle was and kind, They felt, they said, enraptured with delight,
But to describe her beauty could not find Words fitting to the object of their sight.

 

She ceased not weeping all the while she spoke However, and her tears, which brilliant shone,
The children's deepest sympathies awoke And to provide all comfort made them prone.
She was encircled by a twofold light; Yet greater still the radiance of her face,
Of which but Melanie caught passing sight And of her features the celestial grace.

 

Over her brow a crown of roses glowed And from their centers came a sort of flame;
Between the roses brilliant pearls bestowed Their tribute to the Lady's regal name.
With shining pearls her white robe sparkled too, Nor humble housewife's apron did she spurn;
A wreath of roses all of various hue Bordered the kerchief on her breast in turn.
Resplendent too with pearls her shoes of white, Adorned with golden buckles; they too lined
With mystic roses of all shades of light — Rosary symbols here do we not find?
But what the most compelled the children's gaze Was the large cross that hung from golden chain
Upon the Lady's breast. To their amaze The Crucified seemed living and in pain!

 

Hammer and pincers, placed beyond but nigh The nailed hands, already set the scene,
And dramatized for all the reason why And purpose of this visit of our Queen.
She ceased not weeping all the while she spoke However, and her tears, which brilliant shone,
The children's deepest sympathies awoke And to provide all comfort made them prone.

She was encircled by a twofold light; Yet greater still the radiance of her face,
Of which but Melanie caught passing sight And of her features the celestial grace.
Over her brow a crown of roses glowed And from their centers came a sort of flame;
Between the roses brilliant pearls bestowed Their tribute to the Lady's regal name.

With shining pearls her white robe sparkled too, Nor humble housewife's apron did she spurn;
A wreath of roses all of various hue Bordered the kerchief on her breast in turn.
Resplendent too with pearls her shoes of white, Adorned with golden buckles; they too lined
With mystic roses of all shades of light — Rosary symbols here do we not find?

But what the most compelled the children's gaze Was the large cross that hung from golden chain
Upon the Lady's breast. To their amaze The Crucified seemed living and in pain!
Hammer and pincers, placed beyond but nigh The nailed hands, already set the scene,
And dramatized for all the reason why And purpose of this visit of our Queen.

She ceased not weeping all the while she spoke However, and her tears, which brilliant shone,
The children's deepest sympathies awoke And to provide all comfort made them prone.
She was encircled by a twofold light; Yet greater still the radiance of her face,
Of which but Melanie caught passing sight And of her features the celestial grace.

Over her brow a crown of roses glowed And from their centers came a sort of flame;
Between the roses brilliant pearls bestowed Their tribute to the Lady's regal name.
With shining pearls her white robe sparkled too, Nor humble housewife's apron did she spurn;
A wreath of roses all of various hue Bordered the kerchief on her breast in turn.
Resplendent too with pearls her shoes of white, Adorned with golden buckles; they too lined
With mystic roses of all shades of light — Rosary symbols here do we not find?
But what the most compelled the children's gaze Was the large cross that hung from golden chain
Upon the Lady's breast. To their amaze The Crucified seemed living and in pain!

Hammer and pincers, placed beyond but nigh The nailed hands, already set the scene,
And dramatized for all the reason why And purpose of this visit of our Queen.

Part Two: Her Message

 


The children, Maximin and Melanie, With rapt attention now gave docile ear
To her "great news", and likewise we With filial love to Mary now draw near.

"My people", she began, "If you will not To my Son's sovereign rule submit, then know
I shall be forced to leave you to your lot And Heaven's long-withheld decree of woe.
"So heavy and so strong has my Son's arm, In anger raised, become, not even I
Can further hold it back, nor fated harm From you avert, however much I try.

"How wearisome the time has been and long That sorrows I have borne but for your sake,
Yet to console me few there are, among My children all, who heed or notice take.
"I am compelled to pray unceasingly, Prostrate before my Son's majestic throne,
In your behalf, lest justice finally Prevail and rule your destinies alone.

"However much you pray, however much You do, the pains you never will repay
That once I took for you, nor suffering such As I endured on Crucifixion day."
Then like the holy seers of ancient days, From Mount Salette as from a Sinai new,
Calling her people from its sinful ways, Mary proclaims the Sabbath's worship due.

 

 

“Six days for labor I have given you, The sacred seventh for myself alone
I have reserved". But look about. How few In humble prayer their Lord's dominion own!
"My people, this it is which heavy makes The arm of Christ, your Savior and my Son,
Who having mercy wasted for your sakes Decrees at last that justice must be done.''

But no less sacred is God's holy name And to be spoken only with respect
Supreme. True love is owed and reverence same To Jesus' blessed name, His Son elect.
But listen now to Mary: "Those who drive The carts dare take that holy Name in vain!"
Does not profanity today still thrive? Does not such monstrous evil still remain?

 

 


"Your fault alone it is, if harvests fail. Last year I gave you warning in the loss
Of the potato crop — to no avail. Well, they will spoil again the land across''.
Melanie turned to look inquiringly At Maximin: "pommes de terre"— what could that mean?
"You fail, I see, in understanding me, " (Mary the children's puzzlement had seen),

''Well, wait and I will say it otherwise'', And she continued in their dialect.
Yet children both — a wonder herein lies — Could later speak each word in French correct.
"If you have wheat, know you will sow in vain, For all you sow the insects will devour,
And what survives will not be hoped-for grain, But into dust will fall at threshing-hour.

 

 


"Famine will sweep through regions far and nigh, But first the children under seven years
With trembling will be seized and then will die, In spite all pleading and parental tears.''
Innocent victims they, who will be spared At least the pangs of hunger which await
The guilty, who for sins long unrepaired Must now demands of justice fully sate.

"Disease will cause the walnuts too to mold (A staple food on which the poor depend),
And France's vineyards, justly famed of old, Will rot mysteriously from end to end".
To all her people Mary spoke thus far. But now to each child she in turn revealed
A secret, and gave strict command to bar All outside sharing of her message sealed.

She spoke first to the shepherd boy, and though It did not seem to him her voice had changed
Melanie now could nothing hear or know Of what she said, for so it was ordained.
Then came her turn her secret to receive, While Maximin, although the Lady's lips
He moving saw, found normal hearing leave Complete, and was of deafness in the grips.

 

 

 

Addressing her two witnesses once more In the patois of the locality,
Mary in glad prophetic tones of yore Foretold to contrite hearts prosperity.
"If sinners will their need for pardon own, The stones and rocks will change to mounds of wheat,
Potatoes too will amply be self-sown And all the dawn of better days will greet''.

 

 

 


Mary, however, anxious to provide Assistance to her people in their need,
Now towards the lowly herders at her side A tender mother showed herself indeed.
"My children, do you say your prayers well?" She asked; and they replied with candor due:
"Not very well, Madame." But truth to tell Who might a better record show? How few!

"My children, " she exhorted them, "be sure To say them well at morning and at eve,
And when you cannot better do, when your Appointed chores but meager freedom leave,
"A Pater and an Ave say at least; But when you time and leisure have, pray more".
Alas! how many in our day have ceased To pray at all, to worship or adore!

 

 


"None go to Mass on the Lord's holy day, A few and aged women folk apart.
As for the rest, the summer's dawning ray Is signal for their labors to depart.
"In winter, when they know not what to do, They go to Mass, but only to deride
The sacred rites. Instead of penance due In Lent, they grant their passions freedom wide".

 

 


How weak our Christian faith, today as then, In Mary's loving and maternal care,
To whom are known needs common to all men, But likewise are the cares of each laid bare.
Hence for the witnesses a question new: "My children, have you never seen before
How wheat, although to harvest-time it grew, Was found diseased, no grain whatever bore?"

"No Madam", Memin hastened to respond, "No wheat thus spoiled I ever yet have seen"
But she insistent was, in accents fond Recalling what had long forgotten been.
"But you, my child, you surely must have seen Some once when in your father's company.
You both went to your neighbor's field to glean Some ears of wheat, but when surprisingly

"You rubbed them in your hands, they fell to dust. Then as you both were homeward bound
Your anxious father handed you a crust And spoke a word which menacing you found."
"'Here, eat some bread, my child, at least this year,' He said, 'for if again the wheat thus spoils
No person will have bread to eat, I fear, This coming year, in spite our hardest toils.' "

The boy, confronted thus with such detail, Exclaimed, "Oh yes, Madame, I now recall."
Oh, such solicitude who would not hail And to such love confide his troubles all?
Now speaking French anew, the Lady said, "My children, you will make this message known
To all my people!" Grace the prophets led, Nor would her envoys face their task alone.

 

Part Three: The Farewell

 


Then turning slightly to her left, she passed Before the children, crossed the little brook,
Advanced some feet beyond, then strangely cast — Not stopping, and without a backward look —
To mountain echoes her injunction: "Well, My children, you will make this message known
To all my people". (But on whom befell To make this great and urgent task their own?

How could two children give, adown the years, To such Event diffusion far and wide,
Or preach to men of Mary and her tears, So that for aye such memories would abide?
And so within the Church there soon arose An Order of Salette uniquely new,
Which, passing through of birth the painful throes, Expanded and in grace and numbers grew.)

Meanwhile as motionless the children stood, The Lady past them was some feet away
Before they from surprise recover could, For they would gladly there forever stay.
Now eager to rejoin her, up the mound They ran. She walked thus in their company
While grazed, beyond, the peaceful herds around And autumn's sunlit sky shone brilliantly.

The Lady reached the grassy summit near, Then with majestic dignity arose
A yard above the ground in azure clear, And now serene her gaze to Heaven goes.
Her eyes she next directed south and east, Beyond the Alps, towards Italy and Rome,
And prayed for Pio Nono, pontiff-priest, Destined to rule the Church from Peter's dome.

Melanie, who in front meanwhile had moved (For to the Lady's left she station had),
Observed her features fair no longer grooved By tears, though yet remaining very sad.
The radiant vision now began to fade. "She seemed to melt away", the children said.
A great light for a moment yet delayed, And lingered too some roses blue and red

Which Maximin would snatch with outstretched hand As souvenir of the momentous day,
But the last ray and flower vanished and Their Lady fair had disappeared for aye.

 

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