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.

When looking at the narratives of the apparition, I made a fundamental discovery: reality is both simpler and more beautiful than the popular belief according to which, aside from certain minimal variations, Melanie and Maximin both gave their initial recital as they would give it six months later. The truth is much simpler: at first Maximin spoke as a child of 10 would do, emphasizing the questions that were asked of him (“Do you say your prayers well, my children? … Have you ever seen spoiled wheat?”). The truth is also more beautiful: we recognize that the apparition was for them a real experience and not a message that they had learned by heart.

Fr. Jean Stern, M.S., diligently working at
his office computer in the Archives of
the La Salette General House in Rome.

The documents let us see how the message of La Salette spread and the way it was understood by those who heard it. They also give us a key to the origins of the title, “Reconciler of sinners”. As for the secrets, the documents conserved in the Secret Archives of the Vatican led to a radical revision of the explanations given in the past, a revision which takes up a big part of the third volume.

What spiritual orientations did I gain from this work? No radically new orientations, but an energetic renewal of what we La Salettes already know: namely that La Salette means the maternal concern of Mary for her people and especially for the lowest class of people, represented by Maximin and Melanie. For those of us who have received the mission of making this maternal concern known, La Salette implies a tremendous responsibility, sacrifices and a spirituality; being keenly attentive to the downtrodden is not a spontaneous attitude, especially for us human beings.

Maximin and Melanie didn't become saints like Bernadette of Lourdes but they marvelously represent the "misfits" for whom Mary wept. Their failures and their illusions, which are so clearly brought out in the documents, can serve as a warning for us. They remind us, members of the Church, that we are personally responsible for the needy people that (God’s) Providence places on our path.

(Republished and updated from Salette Info, 1992, #2, pgs. 28-29)

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