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Notre-Dame de la Salette (Our Lady of La Salette), La Salette-Fallavaux, Isère, Rhône-Alpes, France

Commemorated on September 19
Notre-Dame de la Salette (Our Lady of La Salette), La Salette-Fallavaux, Isère, Rhône-Alpes, France
On September 19, 1846, two uneducated youngsters hired to herd cattle in the French Alps fell asleep on the job. Melanie Calvat, 14, and Maximin Giraud, 11, were each in charge of four cows belonging to different owners. When they awoke, they began looking for the animals on the slope of Mount Gargas. They found them grazing by the stream, and, to their surprise, a large fireball on the ground nearby. As the young cowherds approached, they saw a woman seated within the orb, her head in her hands, as if stricken with grief. When she stood up, they saw that she was garlanded with chains and roses, and that her brilliance emanated from the symbols of Christ's passion on her breast: cross, hammer, and pincers. She spoke to them, weeping all the while, first in French, and then, when Melanie didn't understand, in the local dialect: "Come closer, my children; don't be afraid." But the beautiful lady's message was as harsh as the rugged environment. She warned that because people disobeyed God's will, working on Sundays and taking His name in vain, "A great famine is coming. … Do you say your prayers well, my children?" "Hardly ever, Madame," they replied. "Ah, my children, you should say them well, at night and in the morning, even if you say only an Our Father and a Hail Mary when you can't do better. … Very well, my children make this known to all my people." In fact, an agricultural crisis had already begun, which would indeed grow worse and by 1848 provoke revolutions in Europe and send millions of Irish overseas. Melanie and Maximin told her employers about the incident. The grownups identified the mysterious Lady as the Holy Virgin and wrote down her message the next day. Five years later, the Bishop of Grenoble approved the validity of the apparition, and the remote village of La Salette became a major pilgrimage site. (Photo of a statue at the apparition site, by Giacomo Cesana, from www.flickr.com. Information from the Sanctuary's website, lasalette.cef.fr.)  

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