Keeping with May’s theme of honoring Mary this second week we visit France.

Mary Our Lady of La Salette appeared only once, unlike many other Marian apparitions. Taking place in nineteenth-century France, it occurred when two children, Maximin and Melanie, were tending to their sheep.

They stumbled upon a woman sitting with her face in her hands, crying. She spoke to the children about her desire for the conversion of sinners, and how displeased her son was with the sins that are committed against him.

Her message to the children was to keep the Sabbath day holy by refraining from work and calling them to respect the holy name of Jesus. Pope St. John Paul II reflected on Our Lady on her feast day, saying “LaSalette is a message of hope, for our hope is nourished by the intercession of her who is the Mother of mankind.

On Saturday afternoon, September 19, 1846, two children– Maximin Guiraud (age 11) and Melanie Calvat (age 14)– were tending sheep for their employers near La Salette in the French Alps. The effects of the French Revolution which had terrorized the Church, the blood spilt during the reign of Napoleon, the increasing secularization of social thought, and the rising political turmoil enveloping Europe had taken a serious toll on the faith of the people. In the parish of La Salette, fewer and fewer people attended Mass and the sacraments were neglected. Cursing had overtaken praying; licentiousness, purity; and greed and self-indulgence, piety and sacrifice.

Melanie, one of eight children, came from a poor family and began working at age seven. She had no schooling, knew only bits of the Catechism, infrequently attended Mass, and could hardly recite the Our Father or the Hail Mary. Similarly, Maximin, whose mother had died and who did not like his stepmother, had little religious education and no schooling.

While they were tending their sheep, they saw a brilliant light, brighter than the sun. As they approached, they noticed a “Beautiful Lady” seated on a rock and crying, with her face in her hands. In tears, she stood and spoke to them in their local French dialect. She wore a headdress topped by a lucent crown with a band of roses, a dress with beams of light, and slippers edged with roses. Around her neck hung a golden crucifix: on one end of the cross beam was a hammer and nails, and on the other, a pincher. Over her shoulders was a heavy chain. She gave them a poignant.

Mary’s message to children:

“Come near, my children, be not afraid; I am here to tell you great news.

“If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let fall the arm of my Son. It is so strong, so heavy, that I can no longer withhold it.

“For how long a time do I suffer for you! If I would not have my Son abandon you, I am compelled to pray to him without ceasing; and as to you, you take not heed of it.

“However much you pray, however much you do, you will never recompense the pains I have taken for you.

“Six days I have given you to labor, the seventh I have kept for myself; and they will not give it to me. It is this which makes the arm of my Son so heavy.

“Those who drive the carts cannot swear without introducing the name of my Son. These are the two things which make the arm of my Son so heavy.

“If the harvest is spoilt, it is all on your account. I gave you warning last year with the potatoes (‘pommes de terre’) but you did not heed it. On the contrary, when you found the potatoes spoilt, you swore, you took the name of my Son in vain. They will continue to decay, so that by Christmas there will be none left.”

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