Jeremiah, Maximin, and You

(Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-17)
In Chapter one of Jeremiah, the prophet attempted to refuse his vocation, citing his age. Nineteen chapters later he blames the Lord for giving him such a thankless task.

Untitled 1The prophet, Jeremiah, as depicted in the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, by MichelangeloThere are indications in the story of Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat that they sometimes wearied of the position that their encounter with the Beautiful Lady had put them in. Uneducated as they were, they were opposed and contradicted, by local government representatives and even in Church circles. Some called them liars; other said they were innocent dupes. They were hounded by the curious; a few persons even tried to involve them in political controversies of the day.

There came a terrible moment in Maximin’s life when, in 1850, 15 years old, he was brought to the famous Curé of Ars, St. John Vianney. After their encounter, the saint regretfully announced he no longer believed in the Apparition of La Salette. It was not until eight years later that he regained his faith in it.

We know that Maximin’s teens were a troubled period. He lost his father when he was 13. The Bishop of Grenoble was often annoyed with him for failing to take his schooling seriously.

His later years were no easier for him. On one occasion, when he was 26, having the story of the Apparition, he concluded by saying that when the Lady disappeared, “She left me with all my faults.”

Untitled 2(from left) the two witnesses, Maximin and MelanieThe Apparition changed his life in positive ways, of course. In his own way, he was ‘transformed by the renewal of his mind.’ He became a man of faith.

But this did not change who he was. Humanly speaking, he was not a success. He carried his cross as best he could, and died at the age of 38. In his will, he reaffirmed the truth of what he had witnessed on September 19, 1846.

People often expect witnesses of Apparitions to become saints. Perhaps Maximin was a saint, just not a candidate for canonization.

This is a comforting truth. Our goal in life is not to be canonized but, like Jeremiah, like Maximin, to be faithful to our vocation.

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