Heaven’s Bright Queen – Apparition to Maximin and Melanie, La Salette, France, 1846

photograph of a statue of Our Lady of La Salette, taken 1 December 2007, by nikolastan, swiped off WikipediaArticle

Not that many years ago the name of La Salette was unknown, save only to the inhabitants of its immediate vicinity. It is a small village in the southern part of Dauphine, consisting of eight or ten hamlets scattered about, at no great distance from one an other. The principal hamlet where the church is situated, and which gives its name to the whole parish, is not less than 3,700 feet above the level of the sea. The population, about 800 souls, are poor and simple, principally small farmers, with their families and dependents. Late on the evening of Saturday, the 19th of September 1846, two children, servants of two of these farmers, returned from the mountain where they had been engaged all day in keeping cows, and told their masters a very wonderful story. The eldest of the children was a girl of fifteen years of age, who had been out at service ever since she was nine or ten years old, and had been with her present master for the last six months. The other child was a boy of eleven, who was quite a stranger in the village, having been brought from the town of Corps, a distance of four or five miles, on the previous Monday as a temporary substitute for a cowherd who was ill. These two children then told the following tale:

They said that about midday they had driven their cows, according to their usual practice, to a certain rivulet to drink; that they had at the same time eaten their dinner and, after wandering about a short time, they lay down and fell asleep near a fountain which was at that time dry; that the girl, Francoise-Melanie Mathieu, was the first to awake, and, seeing that the cows had strayed, she immediately awoke her companion, Pierre-Maximin Giraud; that they went together to look for their cattle and, from the brow of the hill soon discovered where they were; but before going to drive them back, they went to get their dinner bags; that their eyes were at once arrested by the appearance of a very extraordinary brilliance, dazzling as the sun, yet not of the same color; and that presently this light appeared to open, and they distinguished within it the form of a lady yet more brilliant. She was sitting on the stones at the head of the dry fountain, in an attitude of the most profound grief.

She was clothed in a white robe studded with pearls, and a gold-colored apron; white shoes, and roses of every variety of color about her feet; a wreath of roses around her head dress, which was a high cap and slightly bent in front; upon her breast was a crucifix suspended by a small chain from her neck; on the left of the crucifix was a hammer, and on the right the pincers; another and larger chain encircled all these instruments of the Passion, and this again was within a still larger wreath of roses. Such at least was the description of the costume as given at the time by the children, but, as Maximin now very justly observes, “How could ignorant children, called upon to describe such extraordinary things, have been able to find fitting expressions, when the best educated persons sometimes fail in finding them to depict mere ordinary objects? When called upon to describe what I saw, I feel something of the same embarrassment which Saint Paul must have felt when he returned from the third heaven, for the eye of man hath not seen, nor his ear heard, what it was then given to us to see and hear Let not people, therefore, be astonished if what we called a cap, a crown, a handkerchief, chains, roses, an apron, stockings, buckles and shoes, had scarcely the real form of these objects. In that beautiful dress there was nothing earthly; rays of light and a variety of hues combined to produce a magnificent whole, which we only diminish and materialize by attempting to describe.”

When the Lady stood upright, she was of a tall and majestic appearance – so tall, Melanie told us, that she had never seen anyone of equal height; the children, however, were unable to gaze steadfastly upon her countenance because of its brightness. At first her elbows rested on her knees, and her face was buried in her hands, whilst tears flowed copiously from her eyes. The girl was frightened, and dropped her stick; but the boy bade her pick it up again, adding that he should take care of his, for that if it (meaning the figure which they saw) offered to do them any harm, he would give it a good blow. Then they heard a most sweet and gentle voice, bidding them not to be afraid, but come forward, for that she had great news to tell them. The voice sounded as if of one speaking close to their ears, though the figure was seen at the distance of nearly thirty yards. It at once dispelled all their fears; they ran towards her as to a loving mother, of whose good-will they were well assured. The Lady herself arose and advanced to meet them, not seeming, however, to tread upon the earth as she went, but to be raised a few inches above it. Presently she stood between them, and addressed the following words to them, weeping as she spoke: “If my people will not submit themselves, I must let the hand of my Son fall upon them; it is so strong, so heavy, that I can keep it up no longer. How long a time have I suffered for you! If I wish my Son not to abandon you, I am obliged to pray to Him without ceasing; and you pay no regard to all this. However much you may pray, whatever you may do, yet you never can recompense all the trouble that I have taken in your behalf. I have given you six days to labor in, I have reserved the seventh for myself; yet they will not give it me. It is this which makes the hand of my Son so heavy. Wagoners cannot swear without introducing the name of my Son. These two things are what make the hand of my Son so heavy. If the harvest is spoilt, you yourselves are the only cause of it. I made you feel this last year in the potatoes, but you took no account of it; on the contrary, when you found the potatoes were spoiled, you swore, and you took the name of my Son in vain. They will go on as they have begun, and by Christmas there will be none left.”

Thus far the Lady had spoken in French, and the girl had not understood what she was speaking of in this last sentence, because in the patois of that country potatoes are not called pommes de terre, but truffes. Melanie, therefore, was going to ask Maximin what was the meaning of this word, pommes de terre; but she had not yet spoken, and the Lady knowing her thoughts, anticipated her words by saying: “Ah, my children, you do not understand me; I will speak differently.” And she then went on to repeat the very same sentence beginning with the words, “If the harvest is spoilt” using the patois of the neighborhood. This she also continued to use in the fol lowing: “If you have corn you must not sow it; all that you sow the beasts will eat; any that comes up will fall to powder when you thresh it. There will come a great famine; and be fore the famine the children under the age of seven years will be seized with a trembling, and will fall in the hands of those that hold them; the rest will do penance by the famine. The walnuts will become bad, the grapes will rot; but if they be converted, the potatoes shall be self-sown in the earth.”

Here the Lady paused, and it seemed to Melanie that she was speaking to the boy, but she heard nothing of what was said; then, in like manner, she spoke to Melanie, and the boy saw that she was speaking, but could not hear what was said, or whether anything was really being said at all. Only after wards, when the vision had disappeared, the children spoke to one another about this mysterious silence, and each declared to the other that the Lady had at this juncture confided to them a secret, which they were on no account to reveal to anyone until the time came for so doing. Neither knew anything about the secret of the other, whether it was the same as his own or different.

The Lady then resumed her discourse to the two children together, asking, in the patois of the country, “Do you say your prayers well my children?” “Not very well, ma’am.” The Lady replied, “Take care always to say your prayers, my children, every night and morning. When you can do nothing else, say at least a Pater and an Ave Maria; but when you have time, say more. Only a few old women go to Mass, the others work on Sundays during the summer; and in the winter, when they know not what to do, the youths go to Mass only to make a mockery of religion. In Lent they go to the shambles like dogs. Did you ever see corn that was spoiled, my child?” Maximin answered, “No, ma’am.” Melaine, too, gave the same answer, but in a gentle tone, for she was not sure whether or not the question had been addressed to her as well as to her companion. The Lady then spoke to Maximin, and said: “You have seen it, my child, once when you were with your father at Coin. The owner of some ground there told your father to go and see his wheat that was spoilt. You went, both of you, and you took two or three ears of corn in your hands; you rubbed them, and they crumbled into dust. Then you went home; and whilst you were about half an hour’s walk from home, your father gave you a piece of bread, and said, Take this, my child; let us eat it this year whilst we can get it; I don t know who will be able to eat any next year, if the wheat goes on like that ” Maximin answered, “Oh, yes, ma’am, I remember now; just now I had forgotten all about it.”

Then the Lady spoke once more in French, and said: “Well, my children, you will cause this news to be told to all my people,” and with these words she passed on before the children and crossed the rivulet, and ascended the short but steep side of the opposite slope; then she repeated the very same words, and again she walked forward to the spot where the children had gone when they were in quest of the cattle.

“Motionless as statues,” we quote the words of Maximin as he published them, “our eyes fixed on the beautiful Lady, we saw her, with feet close together like those of a person skating, gliding over the top of the grass without causing it to bend. When we had recovered from our rapture, we ran after her and soon overtook her. Melanie placed herself in front, and I behind, a little to the right. There, in our presence, she rose gradually, visible for some minutes between heaven and earth, at the height of two or three feet; then her head, her body, and her feet became lost in the light which surrounded her. We could see nothing but a globe of fire rising and penetrating the firmament. In our simple language we called this globe a second sun. Our eyes remained long fixed on the spot where the luminous globe had disappeared. I cannot describe the ecstasy in which we found ourselves. I speak only of myself; I know very well that my whole being was overpowered; I was, as it were, paralyzed. When we came to ourselves again, we looked at one another without being able to utter a single word, some times raising our eyes towards Heaven, sometimes looking on the ground around us. We seemed to be seeking the resplendent figure which, however, I have never since beheld. . . . My companion was the first to break silence, and said: It must be the good God, or my father’s Blessed Virgin, or perhaps some great Saint. ‘Ah,’ I replied, ‘If I had known that, I would certainly have asked her to take me with her to Heaven.'”

It was now time to leave the mountain; the children drove their cows to the village. There they first met the mistress of Melanie, to whom Maximin began to talk of the beautiful Lady they had seen. “My expressions,” he says, “of a Lady in fire, a second sun, etc., made her think that I was gone mad. Nevertheless she begged me to tell her all that I had seen and heard, and she was much astonished at the recital. I, in my turn, was amazed that she had not seen as well as I, this brilliant light placed on the top of the mountain, and consequently visible, as I supposed, to a very great distance. I could not imagine that I had received a special grace.” Then Maximin alone went on to the farm to which he belonged, and as soon as his master came home he communicated to him the same story.

The strange news soon spread among the neighbors, but was not believed. Early the next morning, the master of the boy, who had promised to take him back to Corps on that day, brought both the children to the parish priest. He was a very simple-hearted old man; and, after having listened to the tale, and questioned and cross-questioned the children, he was so impressed with their truthfulness that he repeated a good deal of the history to his parishoners in the middle of that day’s Mass; an irregular and rash act, for which he was afterwards reprimanded and removed. He was so much affected in reciting the story, that those who had heard nothing of it before scarcely knew what he was speaking about. However, as soon as Mass was ended, they lost no time in informing themselves, and all crowded round the children to hear it from their own lips. Our readers may easily imagine the cross-examination to which they were subjected. Still, nobody could succeed in shaking their testimony; they steadily persisted in repeating the same thing over and over again to all inquirers, answered all their questions with a readiness and simplicity truly surprising, and disposed of all their objections with the ease and ingenuity of the most practised advocates; in a word, though their evidence stood alone and unsupported, yet it was impossible to throw discredit upon it by any contradictions or inconsistencies in their manner of giving it. The girl was sent by her master to drive the cows to the mountain as usual. It was a long and tedious ascent, and not one of the neighbors had the curiosity to accompany her; they did not yet believe the story they had heard; the pilgrimage to La Salette had not yet begun. After Vespers (our readers will not have forgotten that it was Sunday), eight or ten people went up, and these were the first pilgrims, led rather by curiosity than by faith; and they made Melanie tell her story again, and point out the precise spots where everything was said to have happened. On her return fn the evening, the Mayor of the village came and questioned her; he questioned the boy also in a separate room; he then brought them face to face, and gravely told them that what they had been saying was clearly a lie, and that God would punish them very severely if they persisted in repeating it. He exhorted them therefore to confess the imposture, and promised to shield them from all punishment. His eloquence was entirely thrown away; the children said they must do as “the Lady” had told them, and proclaim the fact. Next he offered them money, about two pounds, to bribe them into silence; it was in vain; and, lastly he threatened them with imprisonment and other punishments; but this, too, was equally inefficacious, and the worthy magistrate returned to his home battled and perplexed, and perhaps half disposed to be convinced. At a later hour the same evening the boy was taken back to his parents at Corps, according to agreement; and this was, of course, a means of spreading the wonderful story throughout a wider circle; or rather, there became two centres, as it were, from whence it circulated throughout the neighboring towns and villages, the boy at the town of Corps, and the girl at La Salette. Of those who heard the story, some shook their heads and laughed, and whispered something about priest-craft, ignorance, and superstition; but others, on the contrary, turned it over in their minds, and thought it would be well to go and examine the witnesses for themselves, to confront them with one another and with the scene of the supposed vision. Of those who adopted this latter course, many returned quite satisfied and convinced; and all acknowledged that they certainly were unable to detect the fraud and imposture, if fraud and imposture there were. There was nothing, perhaps, either in hearing the story from the children, or in seeing the places where it was alleged to have happened, that was calculated in itself to enforce conviction upon an unwilling mind; only the most incredulous were obliged to confess that, if the story was really false, it was strange they could not succeed in detecting the falsehood in any of the multiplied examinations, conducted with more than judicial severity, to which these young and ignorant children had been subjected. Daily experience shows us how the most plausible tale is often made to break down, or at least to seem to break down, under the pressure of some skillful cross-examination; but in this instance there was nothing of the kind; the witnesses could not be brow-beaten; the story kept its ground. And this was a great step. A consistent story, how ever strange, if it be continually repeated and insisted upon, gradually gains belief; it perplexes and annoys those who would fain disbelieve it, but it slowly gains the assent of the indifferent and unprejudiced. And it was so here. Persons priding themselves upon their prudence, perhaps, again and again made offers to the children of large sums of money if only they would hold their tongues and say no more about it; but their answer was always the same, viz.: that they had been specially charged by “the Lady” to cause it to be told to all the people, and that they must obey this command. Still, it must not be thought that they went about in an excited, gossiping way, neglecting their daily duties, and taking upon themselves the office of itinerant preachers; far from it: they remained steadily in their former humble occupations, the girl continuing in the same service at La Salette, and the boy living at Corps with his parents; only they always repeated the history to those who asked for it, and answered the objections of those who tried, to gainsay their testimony, and pointed out the precise spot where it all happened to those who sought their company for that purpose.

We must not omit to mention another circumstance also which tended greatly to give credibility to the children’s words, viz.: that an intermittent fountain at the spot where this “Lady” first appeared, and which on that day, and for some time previously, had undoubtedly been dry, was found to be flowing copiously on the following morning, and had never since ceased; nor has it ceased up to the present day, though previ ously to the Apparition it flowed only at rare intervals, after a heavy fall of rain or the melting of snow upon the mountains.

So much, then, for the original story of the children and their steadfastness in maintaining it. Let us next inquire how this story was received by the authorities of the church. Did they encourage or discountenance it, or did they observe a strict neutrality?

Many of the parish priests in the neighborhood wrote to consult the Bishop (of Grenoble) as to what they ought to do and say under the circumstances; and these inquiries soon be came so general that, on the 9th of October, that is, within three weeks after the story had first been heard of, his lordship addressed the following circular to his clergy:

“Monsieur le Cure: You have, no doubt, heard of the extraordinary facts which are said to have taken place in the parish of La Salette, near Corps. I beg you will refer to the Synodical statutes which I gave to my diocese in the year 1829. You will find there, at page 94: We prohibit, under pain of excommunication, to be incurred ipso facto, the declaration, printing, or publication of any new miracle, under any pretext of notoriety whatsoever, excepting only the authority of the Holy See or our own, after a severe and careful examination. Whereas, therefore, we have not yet pronounced upon the facts above referred to, both duty and prudence prescribe to you the greatest possible reserve concerning them, and above all, an absolute silence about them in the pulpit.

“Notwithstanding this, certain persons have ventured to issue a lithograph print of the scene, to which are appended some verses. I have announced to you, Monsieur le Cure, that this publication has not only not received any approbation from me, but that it has much annoyed me, and that I have formally and severely reproved it. You will be cautious, therefore, and both set an example of prudent reserve in your own conduct and also recommend the same to others.

“Accept, Monsieur le Cure, the assurance of my sincere and tender regard.

“+ PHILIBERT,
“Bishop of Grenoble.
“By Order, CHARMARD, Honorary Canon, Sec.”

But whilst the Bishop was thus enforcing a wise caution on his clergy, he was far from being an unconcerned spectator of what was going on. He had already removed the parish priest of La Salette to another cure, and substituted a priest brought from a distance; he now required all the clergy of the neighborhood and of his own episcopal city, and all others whom he knew to be traveling in that direction, to institute the most careful inquiries upon the spot, and to communicate the result to him without delay. He studied with great diligence the mass of documents which were thus forwarded to him and, in consequence of what he learned in this way, he appointed two commissions early in December to draw up a report for him, and to advise him whether or not he should pronounce any decision on what was said to have happened. One of these com missions consisted of the chapter of his cathedral, the other of the professors in the ecclesiastical college of the diocese. On December 15th these reports were presented, and they were perfectly unanimous in the advice which they gave; advice characterized by that extreme caution and prudence which are so uniformly found in ecclesiastical decisions on matters of this kind, but the very reverse of which Protestants, in their ignorance, habitually attribute to them. Both the canons and the professors advised his lordship to abstain from giving any decision whatever: he could not, they said, give an unfavorable decision, for the whole affair was tres plausible, and such as they should certainly be disposed to believe at once if it were only an ordinary and natural event that was being called in question; and, moreover, it had produced none but purely beneficial effects; it had excited the devotion of the people, and made them more exact in the performance of their religious duties; it had entirely removed in the neighborhood where it had happened the faults complained of the swearing, the desecration of the Sunday, etc., etc. The Bishop could not, therefore, declare the story to be false, and prohibit all belief in it. On the other hand, it rested on the authority of two children, who might possibly be either deceiving or deceived; and the personage who was supposed to have appeared to them had not required them to communicate it to the ecclesiastical authorities; there was no obligation, therefore, on the part of the Bishop to give any judgment at all; and, considering that all eyes were upon him, and what a serious thing it was to pronounce in such a matter, they counseled a complete silence: “to leave those who were satisfied with the sufficiency of the proofs that could be alleged, free to believe it, yet not to censure those who, from a contrary motive, refused or withheld their belief. If this event comes from God, and it is God’s will that the authorities should interfere in the matter, He will manifest His will more clearly and positively. Then it will be quite time enough for the authorities to break silence; there is no necessity to do so at present; there is no danger in delaying; it is more prudent, therefore, to wait.” Such was the language of the Bishop’s advisers, and it is language which will com mend itself to every sober right-judging man. There is some thing in it eminently practical which the English mind is singularly calculated to appreciate; and we will venture to say that it is as far as possible from what any of our Protestant readers would have expected.

Matters remained in this state for a considerable time; that is to say, there was no official interference on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities, either in the way of encouragement or otherwise, for a period of six or seven months. But mean while, the story spread far and wide, and found many to credit it; laymen, priests, and even bishops, came from a distance, examined for themselves, returned home, and sometimes published an account of their visit, uniformly pronouncing themselves in favor of the reality of the Apparition. Rumors of miraculous cures wrought at the fountain, or elsewhere, upon persons drinking of the water of the fountain and calling upon the intercession of Our Lady of La Salette, grew and multiplied. Pilgrims from various parts of France and Italy, and even Spain, and from Germany, began to arrive in large numbers. The affair was growing serious; it arrested the attention of the government, at that time by no means inclined to look favorably upon anything that savored of religious devotion and enthusiasm. People, it was said, ought not to be allowed to flock together in this way in an obscure corner of the kingdom. What was the secret? These prophecies of famine and distress coming upon the land? There might be some political mystery at the bottom of it; it might be intended to take advantage of the superstition of the people to devise some plot, or to create some disturbance of the peace; anyhow, it was a matter that should be looked into and, if necessary, be put down. Accordingly, on May 22, 1847, the children were summoned, by order of the higher authorities, before the juge de paix, or Justice of the Peace, assisted by the Recorder or Registrar of the same district. They were examined, both separately and together; and after a solemn warning from the magistrates to declare the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they each repeated, almost word for word, the narrative which has been already given. In forwarding the depositions to the Attorney- General, which was done on the following day, the examining magistrate enclosed a private note, saying that the children had given their evidence very much as if they were reciting a les son; but he added: “This is not to be wondered at; for they have repeated it so often and to such a number of persons, that they have naturally acquired this habit.” He further added, that he could vouch for the identity of their present narrative with that which they gave at the very first to their masters; at least he had been assured of this identity by the testimony of one of the masters themselves, who had committed the whole story to writing Hie very day after he first heard it, and whose manuscript is still extant.

Two months later, July 19th, the Bishop of Grenoble again appointed a commission, with authority to institute the most rigid examination, and to collect all possible information on the subject, both as regarded the history of the event itself, and also the authenticity of any miracles which professed to have been wrought in connection with it. This commission consisted of sixteen ecclesiastics of the highest repute in the diocese for learning and piety; the two vicars-general, eight canons, the superior of the seminary, and five parish priests. Two or three of these set out about ten days afterwards on a tour of inquiry, which they prosecuted with great diligence throughout the neighboring dioceses of Valence, Viviers, Avignon, Nimes, Montpellier, Marseilles, Frejus, Digne, and Gap. On August 25th they arrived at Corps, and examined the children; and the next day they ascended the mountain in their company, and in the company of some thirty or forty other persons, ecclesiastics and others. Having thus done all that was possible to do in the way of preliminary investigation, having collected a good deal of very important documentary evidence properly attested, the members of the episcopal commission were summoned for their first formal session on November 8th. The Bishop presided on the occasion; the proceedings were opened with solemn invocation of the Holy Ghost, and other prayers; a form of devotion was prescribed for the daily use of all the commissioners during the progress of the inquiry; a plan of operations was laid down according to which the inquiry should be conducted; and this was the whole of the first day’s business. On November 15th they met again to examine witnesses; first, the Cure of Corps, then the boy Maximin. The next day they examined the girl, and also the Reverend Mother Superioress of a religious community, in whose schools both the children had been taught (reading and writing, and their religion, for they had been grossly ignorant) ever since the Christmas after the Apparition; and on the third day they examined both the children together. On all these occasions the ingenuity of the examiners was racked to the very utmost to discover questions that should perplex and expose the children; there were those upon the bench who, by no means, wished the weight of episcopal sanction to be given to the mar velous narrative which the children told, and who, therefore, suggested doubts and difficulties, and proposed questions which they themselves thought quite unanswerable. But their labor was all in vain; and at the end of the third day they had made no progress whatever towards invalidating the testimony of these dull, uneducated peasants. The acuteness of some of their answers (specimens shall be given hereafter), the simplicity of others, and the unhesitating boldness of all, proved to be more than a match for all the captious objections and subtle refinements of the most practiced logicians. The fifth conference was held on November 22nd, and the subject discussed was the nature of probability and of moral certainty, the number of witnesses necessary to authenticate a fact, etc., etc.; and at the end of this session a certain portion of the report was read and adopted. The next two sessions, November 29th and December 6th, were devoted to the examination of documents sent from other dioceses relative to certain miracles alleged to have been wrought upon persons drinking the water of the fountain of La Salette, and joining in certain devotional exercises ad dressed to Our Blessed Lady under this new title. In the first of these sessions, two miracles were admitted as proved according to the strictest rules laid down by the theologians in this matter; and in the second, one only was admitted. The eighth and last session was held on December 13th; in it divers objections and difficulties were started and solved, the remainder of the report was adopted, and the Bishop declared the conference to be now closed. He thanked the members of the commission for their assiduous attendance, and dismissed them, saying that he reserved to himself the right of pronouncing his solemn judgment upon the matter that had been under discussion, at such time as he should deem most suitable.

One feature in the case yet remained which might seem to afford a convenient shelter for doubt and suspicion. “Nothing can be easier,” it was objected, “than for the children to say that they have been entrusted with a very precious secret; but as long as they steadily refuse to communicate to any man living what the secret is, we are at liberty to doubt whether they really have any secret at all; we have no proof of it, and therefore we shall disbelieve it.” When our readers come to learn, by-and-by, the strength of the temptations by which the children were tried upon this head, and consider the facility on the supposition that the children are imposters, which, of course, is what these objectors professed to believe, of inventing a secret, they will estimate this argument at its true value. However, the pastoral solicitude of the Bishop of Grenoble was not satisfied until he had removed even this stumbling-block from the way of the weakest members of his flock. Accordingly, in the month of July, 1851, the aged prelate sent for the two children, and explained to them that all visions and revelations and supernatural events of whatever kind that happen in the Church ought to be fully and completely submitted to the holy Pontiff; that as head of the Church and Vicar of Jesus Christ upon earth, it belonged to him to judge in these matters; he there fore required them, under obedience to his authority, to commit to writing the secret which they said Our Blessed Lady had confided to them, and he, on his part, would charge himself with the responsibility of sending the letters by faithful messengers to Rome. As soon as the children were satisfied by the Bishop’s arguments that it was their duty to obey him in this matter, they sat down at different tables, and wrote their respective letters, without the slightest hesitation, and exactly as if they had been copying what they wrote from some original before them. They signed and sealed their letters, and the Bishop entrusted them to the Vicar-General of his diocese and another priest to carry to Rome. On the 18th of the same month these precious missives were placed in the hands of the Holy Father by the persons we have named. His Holiness immediately read them in the presence of the messengers, but, of course, without communicating to them any of their contents. He said he must read them again at his leisure, and then added: “They are scourges for France, but Germany and Italy, and many other countries, deserve the same;” and he went on to assure the Abbe Rousselot that his books (the Report and its supplement) had been examined by the Promoter of the Faith, and were approved of. The secret which these two poor ignorant chil dren had professed to be entrusted with, and which for five years they had so jealously and so successfully guarded against the pertinacious efforts of thousands of curious inquirers, was no fiction, but a reality; a reality sufficient to engage and satisfy the mind of the Holy Pontiff, and therefore more than sufficient to assure all reasonable men that at least it was no idle invention of the children themselves.

At length, on 19 September 1851, the fifth anniversary of the Apparition, after so many years of careful and patient investigation, the Bishop issued a formal authoritative decision, and in a pastoral letter solemnly declared the Apparition to be a certain and unquestionable fact. He begins this letter by explaining and justifying his long delay, which arose, he says, from no indifference or slowness of heart to believe, but simply from that prudence and circumspection which is so necessary a part of the episcopal character. He knew, on the one hand, that any hasty decision in such a matter would scandalize both weak Catholics and avowed unbelievers; and on the other, that no real harm could arise from a cautious delay, “since the religion of Jesus Christ has no need of this particular fact to establish the truth of a thousand other heavenly Apparitions in times past, recorded in Holy Scripture.” Although personally, therefore, his own conviction of the truth of the children’s narrative was complete at the end of the examination that was conducted in his presence in the months of November and December, 1847, still he had been unwilling to press it upon the acceptance of others who might think differently about it. Since that time he had redoubled his prayers to the Holy Spirit that his mind might be illuminated, and that he might be guided aright; he had scrupulously studied and followed all the rules laid down by holy doctors of the Church as necessary to be observed in affairs of this kind, and was ready to submit and correct his judgment, if the See of Peter, the Mother and mistress of all churches, should declare herself in a contrary sense. “Wherefore,” he continues, “considering, in the first place, that we are wholly unable to explain the fact of La Salette in any other way than as an act of the direct interference of Almighty God, whether we look at it in itself, in its circumstances, or in its object, which is essentially religious; considering, in the second place, that the marvelous consequences which have flowed from this fact are the testimony of God Himself, given by means of miracles, and that this testimony is superior alike to the testimony and to the objections of mere men; considering that either of these reasons taken alone, and still more both together, ought to override all doubt and utterly destroy any weight which might at first sight seem to attach to the difficulties and objections which have been raised against it; considering, lastly, that a spirit of docility and submissiveness to the warnings of Heaven may preserve us, perhaps, from those new chastisements with which we are threatened, whilst contrariwise a prolonged resistance may expose us to fresh and irremediable evils: At the express demand of all the members of our venerable chapter, and of a very large majority of the priests of our diocese, as also to satisfy the just desires of a large number of pious souls, both at home and abroad, who would otherwise, perhaps, accuse us of hiding and imprisoning the truth. Having called upon the Holy Spirit and implored the assistance of the pure and spotless Virgin, We decree as follows: namely, what has been already mentioned that the Apparition of La Salette is a true and certain fact, which none of the clergy or faithful of the diocese are hereafter at liberty publicly to contradict or call in question; that it may be preached and commented upon in the pulpit, but that no prayers or hymns, or other books of devotion connected with it, may be printed without the episcopal approbation, given in writing; and that a church and house of refuge for pilgrims shall be immediately begun, on the site of the Apparition, for which purpose alms are solicited from all the faithful.”

This pastoral was followed by another on the 1st of May in the next year, a few extracts from which will serve better than any words of our own as a commentary upon the last. After speaking of the high privilege he had enjoyed in being the chosen instrument to proclaims the truth of an Apparition of the Blessed Virgin, a privilege and a duty of which he was obliged to avail himself under pain of a blameworthy resistance to the will of God and to the unanimous desire of the faithful, the Bishop continues: “Our mandement of September 19 has been received with universal satisfaction; for, in truth, public opinion had anticipated our decision, and the formal decree which we issued did but give that sanction which was wanting to make it a full and complete certainty. We have received numerous congratulations, expressions of agreement with our decision, gifts, and promises of assistance from divers princes of the Church and a large number of our venerable colleagues. . . . It could not be otherwise, my brethren, for it was not without a purpose that the Mother of Mercy condescended to visit the children of men. . . . Words descended from on high must needs spread far and wide, and be heard by all nations. Look back at the origin of this great event; see its obscure birth, its rapid diffusion first throughout France and the whole of Europe, then to the four quarters of the world, and, finally, its arrival in the capital of Christendom. To God alone be the honor and glory! We have only been a feeble instrument of His adorable will. It is to the august Virgin of La Salette that this prodigious and most unexpected result must be attributed; She alone has made the necessary dispositions of things to bring it about She alone has triumphed over all obstacles, solved all objections, annihilated all difficulties she alone will put the final crown upon her own work.”

He then goes on to announce the arrangements he has made for laying the foundation-stone and blessing the new church, as also for establishing a body of clergy to be called Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, who shall reside on the moun tain during that part of the year when it can be frequented by pilgrims, and during the winter months shall be employed in preaching missions and retreats in different parts of the diocese.

The ceremony of laying the foundation-stone was fixed for the 25th of this same month of May, and the Bishop was assisted in it by one of his colleagues, the Bishop of Valence. More than 3,000 pilgrims assisted at the high Mass, sermon, and benediction.

Thus the pilgrimage of La Salette, whose first feeble beginnings may be said to date almost from the very day after the original announcement of the Apparition, but which had grown so rapidly that not less than 60,000 pilgrims were assembled on occasion of the first anniversary, was now finally and authoritatively established, and from that day forward its celebrity has been more and more confirmed. Between thirty and forty thousand pilgrims visit the Shrine annually, among whom are more than 700 priests, who come to celebrate the holy Sacrifice on so favored a spot. More than 300 chapels or churches, and a countless number of altars, have been dedicated throughout the Christian world under the title of Our Lady of La Salette; 330 confraternities are associated to the Archconfraternity established on the mountain; and the annals of the sanctuary, published every month by the missionaries, are distributed to six or seven thousand subscribers in every part of the globe. Henceforth, La Salette has taken its place among the most famous of Our Lady’s sanctuaries, and as long as the world shall last it will never cease to be an object of the deepest in terest and a place of frequent pilgrimage to the pious servants of Mary. Other such places in various parts of the world are venerable with the traditions of fifteen or sixteen centuries; but it is scarcely possible that there should be ever one whose claims upon our devotion can be more thoroughly and satisfactorily sifted than that whose history is here given.

First, then, let us say something about the children whose tale, first told, on the evening of September 19, 1846, was the beginning of the whole story. Born of parents in the very poorest class, and in a part of the country where the people were at that time notorious for inattention to their religious duties, they had been brought up in the grossest ignorance, both secular and religious. The girl was nearly fifteen years of age; but having been at service ever since she was nine or ten, and having been made by her masters to work on Sundays and holidays almost as constantly as during the week, she had a most imperfect knowledge of the doctrines of the Christian faith; she could not repeat two lines of the catechism, and had not been admitted, therefore, to make her first Communion with the other children of her age. She was naturally timid, care less, idle, and disobedient; her memory and intellectual capabilities were so feeble that, even after the Apparition, after having been taught to repeat twice every day for a twelve month the Acts of faith, hope and charity, she could not be trusted to recite them correctly by herself; matters which many of the children in our poor schools, of the age of seven or eight, or even less, would recite with the utmost facility. She was afterwards for six years under the care of the Sisters of Providence, and the training which she received during that period of course considerably strengthened and improved her mental faculties; we were told, however, by the chaplain of the convent where we saw her as a novice in 1852, that they were still certainly below the average. This fact was not ap parent in the course of the conversation which we had with her ourselves, for we talked only about the history of the Apparition; and upon this subject, as we shall presently have occasion to observe, both the children have always displayed a degree of sharpness and ability altogether beyond their natural powers. Her singular simplicity and modesty of manners was very prepossessing, and the ready straightforwardness of her replies seemed to us thoroughly incompatible with all idea of cunning and deceit. The Bishop of Birmingham, who saw her two years later in the same convent, says that he found “her demeanor singularly modest and recollected, and her manner simple and religious. … I put a series of questions, which she answered with calmness, but with readiness.” She did not persevere in the community of the Sisters of Providence, but removed to the much stricter Order of Mount Carmel, and “is at this moment,” writes one of the missionaries of La Salette, in a private letter addressed to ourselves on 25 September 1867, “at Castellamare, near Naples, where she is gone this year to assist in a religious foundation, of which the mother-house is at Marseilles.”

The boy Maximin we have never seen; but the same venerable authority whom we last quoted writes that “his general appearance is frank, and he prepossessed me favorably. His manner is free and easy, but still rustic. He answers readily when questioned, but his hands are restlessly employed about his knees. His voice has an independent drawl in it, and he has not an atom of mere human respect in his composition.” All reports agree that he has made but a very poor way in learning, for he is both slow in mind, heedless, and volatile. The farmer for whom he was keeping cows at the time of the Apparition described him to the commission of inquiry as “an innocent, without malice and without foresight.” His father testified that it had been a work of three or four years to teach him the Our Father and Hail Mary; and when he was taken into the school of the Sisters of Providence, at the age of eleven years, a twelve-months instruction was not sufficient to enable him to serve Mass. His indolence, too, and love of play, retarded the progress of his studies almost more than any natural deficiency of mental powers. When once he had begun to learn, he was very anxious to become an ecclesiastic, and means were afforded him to gratify this desire; as far, at least, as man can help him that is, as far as his education is concerned. He was sent to the seminary of Grenoble, but after a sufficient trial was rejected as seemingly incapable of steady persevering application; and ten years afterwards we find him serving the Church in a way better suited to his capacity, as a Pontifical Zouave. These, then, are the children who, on the evening of 19 September 1846, came from the mountain, and told the wonderful story here narrated; and we need not say another word to show that they were at least incapable of inventing such a story. Had the message which they professed to have received, and to be commissioned to deliver to the people, been short and simple had it consisted of a single sentence or had it confined itself to a mere general exhortation to greater strictness and holiness of life, and a general denouncement of evils to come if the people did not repent, the case would have been very different. In this case, though it might have been difficult to have conceived any adequate motive that could have induced the children to invent such a tale, still it would not have been a self-evident absurdity to suggest the suspicion. But now, looking at the message as it really stands, considering its length, the minuteness of its announcements, the boldness and accuracy of its predictions, and the whole character of the language in which it is couched, everyone can see at once that the idea of two ignorant peasant children having been the authors of such a narrative is simply preposterous.

But if the story be not true, and if the children were not the authors of it, it must needs be either that they were the instruments and accomplices of the author, or else the victims of some extraordinary ocular or mental delusion. The refutation of this latter hypothesis may safely be left to the common sense of our readers; and the same may be said also of the idea suggested by the Times newspaper, of a “got-up apparition.” Had the scene of the plot been laid in some thick wood, and in “the witching hour of night,” we might have thought differently; but a “got-up apparition” at noon-day, when there was not a single cloud in the heavens, and on the summit of a bare mountain, where not a tree or a shrub is to be seen, is simply impossible. It remains, therefore, to inquire whether the children may not have been the conscious accomplices of some third party yet undiscovered; for if the story be not true, this is the only explanation of the matter that deserves a moment’s consideration. Yet that even this, too, is utterly inadmissible, it will not be difficult to demonstrate, by observing what has been the conduct of the children subsequently to their first announcement of the marvel.

It has been already mentioned that they were strangers to one another until the day before the alleged apparition; the boy had only been in the village of La Salette for five days altogether, and both the place and the occupation being new to him, his master had felt himself obliged to accompany him every day, and to remain in his immediate neighborhood at work, that so he might always have an eye upon him; and he deposes that during the whole of that week the two children had not been in one another’s company until the Saturday. Then on the Sunday they were separated again; the boy re turned to Corps, the girl remained at La Salette; and they never met, save only to be examined from time to time by some of the numerous visitors, until the following Christmas. At that time the girl was taken into a poor-school kept by some religious in Corps, and the boy frequented the same school as a day scholar. Strangers frequently came to interrogate the children, both separately and together; and sometimes these strangers took the boy away with them for a day or two to go and point out the precise spot upon the mountain; but it was never observed that on any of these occasions the children showed the slightest desire to come together after the examination was over, in order that they might “compare notes” as to the questions that had been asked and the answers given. On the contrary, it was notorious that they never sought one another’s society at any time; there was a perfect indifference between them; neither cared to learn how or by whom the other had been examined; nor did they ever make it a subject of conversation with their school fellows. They were always ready to see anybody who came to question them upon the subject, and their answers were always prompt to the inquiries that were put to them; but they never talked of it unnecessarily to their companions, nor communicated to one another afterwards the result of the examination. They never seemed in the slight est degree anxious or oppressed, as with the consciousness of some great mystery in which they had a part to play; but the whole thing appeared to rest lightly and naturally upon them, like any other fact in their past history, which it was not necessary for them ever to speak about, but if interrogated upon, there was no reason why they should hesitate to answer; and in this free and unembarrassed way they have undergone the examination of thousands of curious and cunning inquirers, of priests and bishops, lawyers, magistrates and judges, during a period of several years, and yet have never been detected in any untruth or contradiction.

We have dwelt at such length upon the internal evidence in favor of the story of the Apparition of La Salette, to be derived either from an examination of the narrative itself, or from the conduct of the children towards it, or from any other of its own intrinsic circumstances, that we must pass over in a very hurried way such external evidence as can be adduced for it. It is briefly this: first, the new spring of water upon the mountain; secondly, the universal acceptance which the story has met with throughout the Christian world; and thirdly, the fact of many miracles having been wrought upon persons believing it and calling upon Our Blessed Lady of La Salette for extraordinary help and assistance. The first of these facts cannot of course be anything more than an indirect confirmation of the story told by the children; but certainly it is at least as much as this, and ought not therefore to be set aside as of no value. The children affirm that they saw a lady sitting on a particular spot, and that this lady communicated to them certain intelligence which they were to impart to the people. The people attracted by curiosity go and visit the spot, and they find that an abundant fountain of very pure water is flowing there, where on the day before there had been no water at all. And the whole population of the neighborhood have now had the experience of fifty-eight years, during the whole of which time they have observed that it has never ceased to flow; yet they knew that before the Apparition it was a most irregular and intermittent stream. Here, then, is a plain sensible change in one of the phenomena of nature upon this mountain top; and it falls in with, and to a certain degree corroborates, the children’s story; and at least it certainly predisposes the minds of those to whose knowledge it has been brought, to accept a story which seems to account for the change, and is otherwise well attested. Moreover, it is worth noticing that the children made no mention of this “miraculous fountain” as a part of their story. They are positive that there was no water there on the Saturday; they saw it flowing on the Sunday; but neither of them pretend to know when or how it began to flow.

But secondly, the story has met with universal acceptance; and this, again, is an argument in favor of its truth. How did the tale of the two peasant children command the assent and belief first of those living upon the spot or in its neighborhood, and then of the faithful generally throughout France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and other Catholic countries? How did their feeble voice suffice to bring together on the first anniversary of the Apparition upwards of sixty thousand pilgrims from different parts of the earth? Their story had been most rudely handled by those public journals which habitually laugh to scorn everything that is religious; on the other hand, it had not been endorsed by the ecclesiastical authority; it stood there fore entirely upon its own merits; and nevertheless it was believed by hundreds and by thousands; and at this moment it has not only outlived all opposition, but it has won, not a mere unreasoning assent, but a most deep and hearty devotion from the great majority of the faithful.

VOX POPULI, VOX DEI

The third and last point of external evidence which we mentioned was the evidence of miracles that is, of miraculous cures that have been wrought in connection with a belief in this Apparition and, as it would appear, in confirmation of that belief.

We will state the case of a miracle, wrought in confirmation of the Apparition at La Salette, which has received episcopal sanction. On the 16th of April, 1846, when the community of nuns known by the name of the religious of Saint Joseph were being removed from one establishment to another in the city of Avignon, the whole population of the place saw one of the Sisters being carried in a litter, because she was unable to bear removal in any other way. She had been a member of that community for twelve years; during the last eight of which she had many severe illnesses, which terminated at last in a confirmed consumption. She was obliged to keep her bed, and only attempted to hear Mass five or six times in the year; being carried to the chapel to gratify her own earnest desire, but soon brought back again in a state of insensibility, having fainted from fatigue. On the 14th of February, 1847, she received Extreme Unction; and the holy Viaticum was administered to her two or three times more in the course of the next month. Both the doctors who attended her had pronounced her case desperate; and had warned the Sisters that they might expect her death at any moment, without any premonitory symptoms whatever; for that the marvel was what kept her alive from day to day. The only food that she took was a few teaspoonfuls of milk and water, or very weak broth; and she seemed in the last stages of exhaustion. Whilst Sister St. Charles (this was her name in religion) was lying in this state, the superioress of the house heard rumors of miracles that were said to be wrought by the use of water from the fountain of La Salette. She herself acknowledges that she did not at first believe in these rumors; but by and by, when she heard of a miraculous cure having been wrought in the town of Avignon itself, and having ascertained that this at least was no false report, she determined to have recourse to the same remedy in behalf of her dying Sister. She expressly states in her deposition, that although she certainly desired the recovery of Sister Saint Charles, yet that her principal object in the novena was the glory of the Blessed Virgin, and the confirmation of the story she had heard of her Apparition, on the mountain of La Salette; and it was for this reason she selected this particular Sister from among others who were in the infirmary, be cause her illness was so notorious and so inveterate, that, should she be restored to health, her recovery would answer the end of the novena far better than the recovery of any other. When the idea was first suggested to the invalid, she said she had no wish to recover; and that she would rather die or continue to suffer as she now did, according to God’s good pleasure. The superioress was obliged to interpose her authority in order to prevail upon her to take part in the novena with the rest of the community; but when once the novena was begun, the sufferer expressed her firm conviction that she should be cured. Nothing, however, occurred during the first seven days to give any encouragement to such an expectation; on the contrary, she seemed to be daily growing worse, so that the Sisters began to think their prayers were going to be answered in a different sense from what they had intended, and the sufferings of their companion would be terminated by a removal to heaven, not by a restoration to this earth. There was to have been a general communion of all the Sisters for the object of the novena on the last day, Saturday, but the unexpected arrival of the Bishop of Chalons caused them to anticipate this arrangement, and they went to Holy Communion on Friday. This was a great disappointment to Sister Saint Charles; for she had hoped to have been cured in time to accompany her Sisters to the altar: whereas she now found herself stretched on her bed of sickness, in her habitual state of weakness and suffering, whilst all the rest of the community were assembled in the chapel. Whilst her mind was engaged by this thought, she felt a sudden and complete change throughout her body; all her ailment instantly left her; her own expression is, that “it was as though some invisible hand had lifted them all from off her;” she tried to turn in bed, and found that she could do so with ease; whereupon she immediately exclaimed, “I am healed!” An other Sister, who was lying ill in the same room, misunderstood the words, and fancied she was dying; and being unable to go to her assistance, began to cry; whereupon Sister Saint Charles jumped out of bed, and went to console her. Another Sister, who had the care of the whole house while the community were at Mass, came running to the infirmary in a great state of alarm at hearing noises as of people moving in a room where she had left but two bed-ridden nuns; she arrives, well-nigh out of breath, and seeing one of these dying invalids sitting by the bed-side of the other, she is seized with a sudden faintness. Sister Saint Charles gives her water to drink, and becomes for the moment nurse to her two companions. Then she dresses herself without any assistance, and goes to the chapel, where she kneels without any support during the remainder of Mass. We need not describe the scene which followed; the amazement of the Sisters, the doctors, and the public, who thronged the convent parlor for several days that they might see and con verse with the nun whom they had known to have been so long at the point of death, and whom they now saw in perfect health, and whom they listened to talking continually without fatigue. The medical man who attended her testifies both to the suddenness and completeness of her recovery; he says that he found her pulse, which but two or three days before had been at 150, reduced to 100; her voice clear and sound; her face healthy and joyous; her appetite and her strength returned, so that she could run up and down stairs with ease, and even carry a burden of 150 pounds without fatigue. And he concludes his own account of her state with this observation, that if he is asked how this great change has taken place, he can only say, speaking as a doctor, that “it has not followed the ordinary phases; for myself, I must frankly acknowledge that I have never seen anything at all like it.” Another physician, the medecin en chef of the public hospital of the town, and a practitioner of thirty-six years standing, speaks still more strongly: “I declare,” he says, “that the unlocked for recovery, from a state judged by medical men to be mortal to a state of perfect health which I have witnessed in the above-named Sister Saint Charles, has been wrought suddenly and without the intervention of the ordinary processes of art, et que partout il tient du prodige. “We are not surprised, then, to hear that the Archbishop of the diocese, who had known her during her long and painful illness, and who saw her now that she was thus suddenly restored to health, used constantly to declare that not even a resurrection from the dead would be to him a more patent miracle than the recovery of this person.

We will not detain our readers by any further details on the subject of miracles; we will only say that there have been very many, both in various dioceses in France and elsewhere, some of which are supported by evidence not less clear and striking than that which we have recorded, and several, after having been juridically examined by the proper ecclesiastical author ities, have been solemnly approved and published; and when we consider the express object with which some of the devotional exercises that have been thus rewarded were originally begun, we need not hesitate to say with Richard of Saint Victor, Domine, si error est quern credimus, a Te decepti sumus.

Some people will say, the children fancied they saw something which had no existence; the science of optics affords the truest explanations of many marvels. But what? Melanie and Maximin were seized at the same instant with the same hallucination; and, strange to say their ears were deceived as well as their eyes, and heard the same identical words! Must all the laws of nature be thus overturned to prove that nature has not been overturned in one of her laws? This sudden malady, which had had no preliminary symptoms, and has had no subsequent continuance is as extraordinary as the fact which they refuse to believe.

Now make your choice and come to what conclusion you please; only, if you do not accept the testimony, you will always find yourself in inextricable difficulties on this subject. This is a case in which you must either rise to the supernatural or fall into the absurd. Recognize the truth of the miracle, and what an act of faith will you not be making in an age which is especially opposed to Divine facts? Try to deny it, and what strange suppositions will you not have to invent in order to support this denial? This is the singular alternative in which I leave my readers.

MIRACLES OF OUR LADY OF LA SALETTE

[The following is taken from a letter of the Rev. Bishop of Rochelle to the Cure of La Salette, and dated Blaye, 24 December 1847.]

Mademoiselle Imbert, of Blaye (Gironde), had a cousin, a young person of nineteen years of age, the only child of a widow. This poor lady had lost her husband and several children, who were carried off by a pulmonary complaint. About a year ago, her daughter lost all appetite; she became sick at the sight of food; her tongue was as black as coal. Since that time the medical men have been more than thirty times consulted on the case, and declared there was no hope of recovery. Not to make the patient despair, they ordered iron waters, but told the mother that it would be of no use. For a year this poor girl lived on a few spoonfuls of chocolate in the morning, and water during the day: she became a skeleton. Many novenas had been made for her without effect. About three weeks ago, Mademoiselle Imbert, who had some of the water of La Salette in her possession, wrote to Bordeaux to her cousins, telling them to come and see her, that she would try and cure the sick girl. These ladies arrived; I went to see them on the 5th day of the Novena; I saw the tongue of the poor sufferer, which was frightful to look upon. She drank of the water of La Salette every day, but without a great spirit of faith; for, to the great regret of her cousin, she would not give up the course of iron waters. However, the last day of the Novena, she took a morsel of cake, which she was able to eat; but in attempting to swallow it, she vomited with great sufferings. The poor child, in despair, at length laid aside every remedy, promising the Blessed Virgin to keep to the waters of La Salette, and prayed for her cure with more fervor than during the Novena. On Monday morning, finding herself alone, she filled a small bottle with the miraculous water, placed it about her, and promised the Blessed Virgin that she would always carry it; in the afternoon she asked to be taken to the church; they took her to Saint Martin, a little church near her residence; she placed herself a little behind her mother and her cousin; she fervently prayed to the Blessed Virgin, made many promises to her, and drank some of the water she had with her . At that very instant she felt a sort of shock, she felt that she was cured; her tongue freed itself from the black coating; the skin of it peeled off, she removed it with her handkerchief, and showed it to her mother. They returned home; it was the dinner hour; they sat down, and the girl who had been sick began to eat like anyone else. She had hardly, however, begun, before her tears began to choke her; she rose from table, placed her arms round her mother’s neck, and said: “Mamma! The Blessed Virgin has restored you your daughter; I am cured.” All knelt down, and thanked with tears of joy. The poor girl finished her dinner with the appetite of perfect health, went next day to Mass to offer thanks for her recovery, and returned to Bordeaux a few days afterwards.

The Bishop adds that he also knew of a still more extra ordinary miracle which had happened at La Rochelle, in the case of a young person whom the physicians had abandoned, and considered to be on the very edge of the grave. Her winding sheet had already been prepared, and her teeth were violently locked together, when on Christmas night her friends suddenly thought of forcing them open, to introduce into her mouth a few drops of the water of La Salette. This was done, and those few drops restored her to health.

It had been known in certain circles that Pius IX was favor able to the cause of La Salette. A succession of Papal Briefs and Rescripts was about to make this truth public. By? Rescript of 24 August 1852, His Holiness declares the High Altar of the church of La Salette a privileged one in perpetuity; and by another, dated two days later, he grants permission to all priests who go to La Salette to say a votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin on any day of the year, great festival days and those of the privileged feriae excepted. By a Brief of the same date the Sovereign Pontiff grants to members of the Confraternity of La Salette three Plenary Indulgences on certain conditions; by another Brief, dated 3 September 1852, a plenary Indulgence once a year to all who shall visit the church of La Salette; and by another, also dated 3 September 1852, a plenary Indulgence on certain conditions to the faithful who take part in the exercises of the missions preached by the missionaries of La Salette.

There were three more Papal Briefs in the same month, two conferring spiritual powers on the missionaries of La Salette, and one raising the Confraternity, founded by Mgr. Bruillard soon after the Apparition, to an Archconfraternity, under the title of Our Lady of Reconcilation of La Salette.

A great and crowning favor on the part of Rome had yet to come. It came in the form of an Indult of 2 December 1852, granting permission to solemnize each year September 19th, the anniversary of the Apparition, in all the churches of the dioceses of Grenoble; or to celebrate the same the following Sunday by a solemn Mass and the singing of the Vespers of the Blessed Virgin.

MLA Citation

  • William J Walsh. “Apparition to Maximin and Melanie, La Salette, France, 1846”. The Apparitions and Shrines of Heaven’s Bright Queen, 1905. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 November 2016. Web. 21 September 2018. <>