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la Salette


Village in the Diocese of Grenoble, southeast France. Since the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two children there on Sept. 19, 1846, it has been a major pilgrimage shrine. The apparition occurred while Melanie Mathieu-Calvat, age 15, and Maximin Giraud, age 11, poor peasants with almost no secular or religious education, were herding cows on a mountain above La Salette. They were startled by the appearance in a globe of brilliant light of a beautiful Lady resplendently attired but weeping. She gave them a message, which they could hardly have invented, "to all her people": unless there should be repentance from widespread religious apathy, she would be forced to let fall the arm of her Son. The children were told to pray, and each was entrusted with a secret.

Initial disbelief in the apparition soon gave way. In the glen where the episode had taken place a spring began to flow, and miraculous cures associated with its waters began to multiply. Bishop Philibert de Bruillard of Grenoble began a canonical inquiry of the children and the miracles. After five years of silence he gave an official judgment that the apparition had all the characteristics of truth and that the faithful had grounds for believing in it, inasmuch as the events could not be explained except by divine intervention and the testimony of the miracles was superior to men's objections. Devotion to Our Lady of La Salette was therefore authorized. Subsequent popes since Pius IX, to whom the children made known the secrets, have confirmed La Salette and the cult. Leo XIII made Bishop de Bruillard's church (185264) a minor basilica (1879). A proper Mass and Office was granted in 1942.

From the first, objections had been raised by anticlericals, clerical liberals, and sincere people on grounds of mendacity and the uncouth nature of the children; but the objections ignored the exhaustive episcopal investigation. St. John vianney, the Curé of Ars, who had accepted the account, interpreted an interview with Maximin as a denial of the apparition; but, following two favors received through the intercession of Our Lady of La Salette, he publicly renewed his belief the year before his death (1858). The fact that neither Maximin nor Melanie subsequently became manifest saints led some people to doubt the apparition, the authenticity of which is independent of the persons to whom it was revealed. "Our Lady left me as I was," said Maximin, who died a holy death in nearby Corps at the age of 40. Melanie, who died in 1904, made several efforts to become a religious in Grenoble, Darlington (England), and Marseilles; in 1867 she went to live in south Italy, returned to France (1884), and again to south Italy, attending Mass daily. Neither Maximin nor Melanie ever repudiated any part of their account.

Bibliography: l. j. aubin, "La Salette," Catholic Encyclopedia Suppl. II (New York 1922). l. carlier, Histoire de l'apparition de la Mère de Dieu sur la montagne de La Salette (Paris 1941). j. jaouen, La Grace de La Salette (Paris 1946). j. beevers, The Sun Her Mantle (Westminster, Md. 1953). j. s. kennedy, Light on the Mountain (New York 1953). l. bassette, Le Fait de La Salette (Paris 1955). w. b. ullathorne, The Holy Mountain of La Salette (4th ed. London 1855).

[h. m. gillett]

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