Only one apparition took place, on September 19, 1846, in the French Alps on the mountain of La Salette. The seers were two young shepherds from the small Alpine village called Corps, Melanie Calvat (14 years-old) and Maximin Giraud (11 years-old).
First, a silent message:
The Virgin was seated, weeping over the sins that are destroying the world. She wore a shining crucifix on her chest.
Next, a vocal admonition:
“If my people refuse to submit, I will be forced to let go of my Son’s arm. It is so strong and so heavy; I can no longer restrain it. You have caused me to suffer for such a long time.
“If the harvest is ruined, it is only on account of you. I warned you last year with the potatoes and you paid no heed.” …
“Do you understand, my children? Let me find another way to say it. If you have wheat you must not sow it. Anything you sow, the vermin will eat, and whatever does grow will fall into dust when you thresh it. A great famine is coming… Children under seven will be seized with trembling and die in the arms of the persons holding them. The rest will do penance through the famine. … If they convert, rocks and stones will turn into heaps of wheat, and potatoes will be self-sown in the fields. Do you say your prayers well, my children?” …
“In the summer, only a few elderly women go to Mass; the rest work on Sundays all summer long. In the winter, they don’t know what else to do, so they go to Mass just to make fun of religion. During Lent, they go to the butcher shops like dogs.” …
She concluded: “Well, my children, you will make this known to my people.”
(For the full message see the official website: http://lasalette.cef.fr/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=11)
The “secret of La Salette” was communicated to the children in an intuitive way; they always had great difficulty in putting it in exact words due to their limited cultural resources. Each time they tried to prepare a statement, without reference to the previous text, they expressed what they felt in their hearts; so they told the basic parts of the message, according to the questions that were put to them, but with variable sequencing of ideas depending upon the circumstances.
The full original secret remained undisclosed until the end of the 20th century
The Bishops and The Secret: Authentication of the message by the bishop
During her apparition, the Virgin Mary gave both Maximin and Melanie a message for all her people. The bishop of Grenoble authenticated this message by mandate on September 19, 1851.
The Bishops and the Seers
The bishop of Grenoble, Archbishop de Bruillard, had a great esteem for the seers. Later, Bishop Genouilhac learned that the Secret was severe concerning Emperor Napoleon. Therefore he supported the pilgrimage founded by the Fathers of La Salette, but chose to keep the seers apart; he excluded Maximin from the diocesan seminary, and exiled Melanie. Here is an example of his point of view from a speech he gave to a crowd of pilgrims on September 19, 1855: “The mission of the shepherds is over, that of the Church begins.”
Repercussions of La Salette’s Apparitions
A Christian wind started to blow among the intelligentsia and French cultivated society, in the early 20th century, causing exemplary conversions: the writers Huysmans, Leon Bloy, his godson Jacques Maritain, Verlaine, Peguy, Claudel, Massignon, Bernanos and others. It was also a sign of contradiction since the Holy See wished to discourage curiosity by keeping the message a secret.
Adapted from Laurentin & Corteville, La Salette, and Laurentin, Dictionnaire encyclopédique des apparitions de la Vierge, Fayard, Paris, 2007.