God’s Shepherds

Editor: This article was written in French by Fr. Pierre Liaud, M.S. (1865-1930), first published in 1897 in his book, "The Mystical Flowers of the Mountain of La Salette (Les Fleurs Mystiques de la Sainte Montagne de La Salette)". This article has been edited and expanded.

Untitled 1Fr. Pierre Liaud, M.S. (1865-1930) with his students
The mother of God chose two herders who were watching their cows on the Mountain of La Salette to be the fortunate witnesses of her merciful apparition. These children belonged to extremely poor families. They were young and they gained their daily bread in humble service. Both were profoundly ignorant of the things of God, as well as of human affairs. They did not possess that knowledge which children of their age commonly have.

In the Apparition of La Salette and later, the Blessed Virgin, however, perhaps in order to bring out the power of her Son, preferred them to all those whom riches and education and virtue and talents seemed to have prepared to receive her confidences and to communicate her august message to the world….

“Shepherd my people, Israel”

In the scriptures we hear about God’s preference in choosing shepherd to speak to God’s people. When the voice of the Lord God made itself heard by Moses in the burning bush, the future liberator of the people of Israel was shepherding his father-in-law's flock (Exodus 3:1-17).

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, ‘Here I am.’

Amos was watching sheep when the Spirit of God descended upon him and made him a prophet.
…the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’ (Amos 7:15).

David was in the fields with his flock when God named him king of Israel and ordered the prophet Samuel to anoint him (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart… Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he arrives here.” Jesse had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth with beautiful eyes, and good looking. The Lord said: There – anoint him, for this is the one! (1 Samuel 16: 7,11-12).

God acted in the same manner under the New Law. Hardly was Jesus, the desired of the nations, born, than angels were sent to the shepherds of Bethlehem to invite them to gather at the crib.

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)

Shepherds in French History

Untitled 2Benoîte (Benedicta) Rencurel (1647–1718), a young shepherdess
And in the more recent past, we can recall that the young woman who saved Paris from Attila's fury was St. Genevieve (c. 422-512 AD), the shepherdess of Nanterre, who with Saint Clotide prepared Clovis for baptism in Reims. She thus became known as the “Patron Saint of Paris.”

And when, later on, France was almost entirely invaded by implacable enemies, God sent the young woman of Domremy to deliver him. This young woman, Saint Joan of Arc (c. 1412-1431), was a shepherdess. It was while she kept her peaceful flock that celestial voices made themselves heard and told her to go and rejoin the King of France, who no longer had a corner of land for a king of France, who no longer had a corner of land for a kingdom.

Venerable Benoîte (Benedicta) Rencurel (1647–1718), a young shepherdess saw Our Blessed Lady holding the child, Jesus, in her arms (1664). She was favored with numerous apparitions by the Most Blessed Virgin, and of angels too, while she was watching her herds….

Why choose shepherds?

Why has God so favored lowly shepherds more than others? It is without doubt because of their poverty, of their humility and because of their innocence and candor. Generally shepherds are not ambitious for the things of this world – they content themselves with little, nourish themselves soberly… The grand scenes of nature seem to elevate their souls, and lift their hearts more readily, away from worldly distractions, toward God and celestial things.

Mary, too, like the Lord Himself, has always had an inclination for the little ones and for weaklings. Nearly all of the sanctuaries, where she is most honored, have been raised in honor of one of her apparitions to children, to shepherds. As later on at La Salette, Lourdes, Pontmain, the Most Blessed Virgin showed her divine preferences for the little ones and the lowly.

The innocent cowherds of La Salette

Untitled 3The choice of the cowherds made by Our Lady at La Salette recalls, in a certain way, the call of the Apostles. These unpolished and uneducated men were called to the most sublime apostolate by Our Savior on the borders of Lake Genesareth, while they were in the act of mending their nets. Jesus opened their minds to the truth of his life and teachings. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these men of Galilee astonished the world by their sublime teachings and converted it to the Savior's Cross.

The cowherds of La Salette were chosen by the Mother of God on the mountain of La Salette where they were guarding their herds. They were still young and without knowledge of the most elementary truths of life or of faith. However, they received the mission to pass on this message from the most powerful of Queens, the Queen of Heaven, to her Christian people.

What an admirable vocation! Mary even rendered these two unsuspecting children capable of retaining a long discourse which, first of all, they did not even understand. And also she gave them the courage to narrate it faithfully to the world.

They were sent forth

Receiving, in some manner, the gift of the Apostles, these children told their willing auditors that they had a mission to retell to us what they had heard and seen. Our Lord himself had said to his Disciples:

Then Jesus said to them: “…Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette spoke thus to the cowherds: "Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people. As the Psalmist says:

"And today a person may say of these poor herders, even as was said of the Apostles: "A report goes forth through all the earth, their messages, to the ends of the world" (Psalm 19:5).

A Great Lesson in Humility

What a grand lesson in humility does the choice of the witnesses of the apparition of Our Lady at La Salette give us. We find, in this memorable fact, a new proof and a striking confirmation of the truth of these words of the Holy Gospel:

Untitled 4The Good Shepherd: Alfred Handel, d. 1946; photo; Toby Hudson
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26).

In fact, God does not seek those who are great and rich. God leaves glory and celebrity aside and his heart inclines toward those who are ignored, those who are young and humble. God's ways are not our ways. God always chooses those who are weak in order to confound the powerful!

Mary chose the simplest of people

In keeping with her Son's example, Mary, at La Salette… did not choose among philosophers, clergy, or the century's most knowledgeable people in order that her words might reach the whole world. Instead she preferred as witnesses – of her merciful visit to earth, as confidants of her sorrows and as apostles to her discourse – lowly, timid, poor, ignored children.

The cowherds of La Salette were so ignorant that they did not know their own country's main language. They only spoke the language of the uneducated, and the Blessed Virgin in her humility did not hesitate to speak their rude mountain language to and with them.

It seems that, through this choice, the Blessed Virgin wished above all to give an important lesson to the people of our own day. Many people have forgotten this teaching of our Savior's: "…unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3)…

On the mountain of La Salette Mary is alone with only poor herders to watch and listen. One of the first lessons of Our Lady's Apparition at La Salette was uttered by her Son: "…learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29).

Let is go forth to make her message known, knowing that God will provide and Mary will guide us along the way, just as she did for the two humble cowherders of La Salette.

(Reprinted from the La Salette Publication, Our Lady’s Missionary, “Children of Light”, December 1946, pgs. 293-295)

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