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Our Lady of La Salette

Maximin Giraud_Mélanie Calvat.jpg

Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat

Short & Long Versions

This apparition story is presented in two ways: 

  • Summarized version

  • Full story that reveals what occurred in La Salette. This is lengthy and may be easier to read on a computer screen. This is an English translation of the original text of the "Message and Secret of La Salette" authored by Maria of the Cross, Victim of Jesus nee Mélanie Calvat, Shepherdess of La Salette Castellamare, November, 21, 1878. Published by the Association of the Children of Our Lady of La Salette, Beaupreau, France. It's edited and condensed from the original to focus on the core account of the apparition.

Two shepherd children, Mélanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud, were tending to their flock in the French Alps on September 19, 1846. They rose from an afternoon nap, climbed a small hill to confirm their flock was intact, then turned back to where they had slept when a bright light came alight. Their eyes were drawn to a globe of fire appearing as if “the sun had fallen there." 


Suddenly, a radiant Lady appeared before them, sitting on a stone, weeping and clad in a brilliant light. This ethereal figure spoke in their native dialect, delivering a message that combined both stern warnings and a call to return to faith and prayer.

For approximately 90 minutes, the Lady lamented the waning piety among the people, the desecration of the Sabbath, and the irreverence shown towards her Son in the Eucharist. The message, delivered with tears streaming down her face, emphasized the need for repentance and a return to a devout life.

The apparition at La Salette was rich in symbolism. The Lady wore a crucifix adorned with a hammer and pincers, representing the instruments of Christ's Passion. She held a chain with a crucifix and hammer, signifying the connection between human sins and Christ's sacrifice. The roses around her symbolized prayers and penance, while the radiant light signified divine presence.

Though both illiterate, Mélanie and Maximin repeated the messages verbatim to their families, employers and the local Catholic priest.  

The initial reception of their account was met with skepticism and disbelief. Some doubted the authenticity of the apparition, questioning the credibility of two shepherd children. However, as the message spread, many were moved by the Lady's words, prompting a more extensive investigation.

In 1851, after a thorough investigation, the local bishop, Philibert de Bruillard, issued a pastoral letter recognizing the authenticity of the apparition. Following the bishop's approval, pilgrims began flocking to the site of the apparition. A sanctuary was built to commemorate Our Lady of La Salette, becoming a destination for those seeking spiritual solace and renewal.

Today, the La Salette sanctuary nestled into Alpine heights marks the quiet pasture spot where the shining Mater Dolorosa materialized nearly two centuries ago. 


Friday, September 18, 1846

On the eve of the Holy Apparition of the Holy Virgin, I was alone, as usual, watching over my Master's cows. Around eleven o'clock in the morning, I saw a small boy walking towards me. I was frightened at this, for it seemed to me that everyone ought to know that I avoided all kinds of company.


This boy came up to me and said: "Little girl, I'm coming with you, I'm from Corps, too." At these words, the natural evil in me soon showed itself, and taking a few steps back, I told him: "I don't want anybody around. I want to be alone."


But the boy followed me, saying: "Go on, let me stay with you. My Master told me to come and watch over my cows together with yours. I'm from Corps."

While he was talking, I heard the bell of La Salette, it was the Angelus. I gestured to Maximin to lift his soul up to God. He took off his hat and was silent for a moment.


Then I said: "Do you want to have dinner?" "Yes, he replied, let's eat."


We sat down and I brought out of my bag the provisions my Master had given me. As was my habit, before breaking into my little round loaf, I made a cross with the point of my knife on the bread, and a little hole in the middle, saying: "If the devil's in there, may he leave, and if the Good Lord is in there, may he stay!" and I rapidly covered up the little hole.


Afterwards, we played a game. Then, realizing that Maximin must still be hungry, I pointed out a place on the mountainside covered with all kinds of berries. I urged him to go and eat some and he went straight away. He ate a few berries and brought back his hat full of them.


In the evening, we walked back down the mountain together and promised to come back the next day and watch over our cows together.

Saturday, September 19, Morning

The next day, I met Maximin on the way up. We climbed up the mountain side together. I discovered that Maximin was a very good, simple boy, and would willingly talk about what I wanted to talk about. He was also very flexible and had no fixed opinions. He was just a little curious, for, when I walked away from him, as soon as he saw I had stopped, he would run over to me to see what I was doing and hear what I was saying to the flowers of the Good Lord. And if he arrived too late, he would ask me what I had said.


Maximin told me to teach him a game. It was already late morning. I told him to gather some flowers for the "Paradise." We set to work together. Soon we had a number of flowers of various colors. I could hear the village Angelus ringing, for the weather was fine and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Having told the Good Lord what we had learned, I said to Maximin that we ought to drive our cows on to a small plateau near the gully, where there would be stones to build the "Paradise." We drove our cows to the selected spot and had a small meal. Then we started collecting stones to build our little house, which comprised of a so-called ground floor which was where we were to live, and then a story above which was to be, as we called it, "Paradise."

This story was decorated all over with different-colored flowers, with garlands hanging from flower stalks. This

"Paradise" was covered by a single large stone which we had strewn with flowers. We had also hung garlands all the way round. When we had finished, we sat and looked at the "Paradise." We began to feel sleepy and having moved a couple of feet away, we went to sleep on the grass.

September 19, Afternoon

When I woke up I couldn't see the cows, so I called Maximin and climbed up the little mound. From there I could see our cows grazing peacefully and I was on my way down, with Maximin on his way up, when all at once I saw a beautiful light shining more brightly than the sun.


"Maximin, do you see what is over there? Oh! my God!" At the same moment, I dropped the stick I was holding.

Something inconceivably fantastic passed through me in that moment, and I felt myself being drawn. I felt a great

respect, full of love, and my heart beat faster.

I kept my eyes firmly fixed on this light, which was static, and as if it had opened up, I caught sight of another, much

more brilliant light which was moving, and in this light I saw a most beautiful lady sitting on top of our Paradise, with her head in her hands.

This beautiful Lady stood up, she coolly crossed her arms while watching us, and said to us: "Come, my children, fear not, I am here to proclaim great news to you."


These soft and sweet words made me fly to her, and my heart desired to attach itself to her forever. When I was up close to the Beautiful Lady, in front of her to her right, she began to speak and from her beautiful eyes tears also started to flow.

"If my people do not wish to submit themselves, I am forced to let go of the hand of my Son. It is so heavy and weighs me down so much I can no longer keep hold of it. I have suffered all of the time for the rest of you! If I do not wish my Son to abandon you, I must take it upon myself to pray for this continually. And the rest of you think little of this. In vain you will pray, in vain you will act, you will never be able to make up for the trouble I have taken over for the rest of you.

"I gave you six days to work, I kept the seventh for myself, and no one wishes to grant it to me. This is what weighs down the arm of my Son so much.

"Those who drive carts cannot speak without putting the name of my Son in the middle. These are the two things which weigh down the arm of my Son so much. If the harvest is spoiled, it is only because of the rest of you. I made you see this last year with the potatoes, you took little account of this. It was quite the opposite when you found bad potatoes, you swore oaths, and you included the name of my Son. They will continue to go bad, at Christmas there will be none left."

"If you have corn, you must not sow it. The beasts will eat all that you sow. And all that grows will fall to dust when you thresh it. A great famine will come. Before the famine comes, children under the age of seven will begin to tremble and will die in the arms of those who hold them. The others will do penance through hunger. The nuts will go bad, the grapes will become rotten." 

At this point, the Beautiful Lady, who was entrancing me, for a moment did not make herself heard. I could see,

however, that she was continuing, as if speaking, to move graciously her kindly lips. At this moment, Maximin was

receiving his secret. Then, turning to me, the Most Holy Virgin spoke to me and gave me a secret in French. 

Then the Holy Virgin gave me, also in French, THE RULE OF A NEW RELIGIOUS ORDER. When She had given me the Rule of this new religious Order, the Holy Virgin continued:

"Do you say your prayers properly, my children?"

We both replied: "Oh! no, Madame, not so much."


"Oh! my children, you must say them morning and evening. When you can do no more, say a Pater and an Ave Maria; and when you have the time to do better, you will say more.

"Only a few old women go to Mass; in the summer, the rest work all day Sunday and in the winter, when they are at a loose end, they only go to mass to make fun of religion. During Lent, they go to the butcher's like hungry dogs. Have you ever seen any spoilt wheat, my children?"


We both answered: "Oh no, Madame."


The Holy Virgin turned to Maximin, saying: "But you, my child, you must have seen some once near le Coin, with your father. The farmer said to your father: 'Come and see how my wheat's gone bad!;' You went to see. Your father took two or three ears in his hand, rubbed them, and they fell to dust. Then, on your way back, when you were no more than half an hour away from Corps, your father gave you a piece of bread, and said: 'Take it, eat it while you can, my son, for I don't know who will be eating anything next year if the wheat is spoiled like that!' "

Maximin replied: "It's quite true, Madame, I didn't remember."

The most beautiful Lady crossed the stream, and after two more steps, without turning back towards us, she repeated to us:

"And so, my children, you will pass this on to all my people." 

Then, She walked on up to the place where I had gone to see our cows. Her feet touched nothing but the tips of the grass and without bending them. Once on the top of the little mound, the beautiful Lady stopped, and I hurried to stand in front of Her to look at Her so, so closely, and try and see which path she was most inclined to take. For it was all over for me. I had forgotten both my cows and the masters I worked for. I had linked myself forever and unconditionally to my Lady. Yes, I wanted never, never to leave Her. I followed Her with no other motive and fully disposed to serve Her for the rest of my life.

In the presence of my Lady, I felt I had forgotten paradise. I thought of nothing more but to serve Her in every way

possible; and I felt I could have done everything she could have asked me to do, for it seemed to me that She had a

great deal of power. She looked at me with a tender kindness which drew me to Her. I could have thrown myself into Her arms with my eyes closed. She did not give me the time to do so. She rose imperceptibly from the ground to a height of around four feet or more; and, hanging thus in the air for a split second, my beautiful Lady looked up to Heaven, then down on the earth to her right and then her left, then She looked at me with Her eyes so soft, so kind and so good that I felt She was drawing me inside Her, and my heart seemed to open up to Hers.

And as my heart melted away, sweetly gladdened, the beautiful face of my good Lady disappeared little by little. It

seemed to me that the light in motion was growing stronger, or rather condensing around the Most Holy Virgin, to

prevent me from seeing her any longer.

And thus light took the place of the parts of Her body which were disappearing in front of my eyes, or rather it seemed to me that the body of my Lady was melting into light. Thus the sphere of light rose gently towards the right. I cannot say whether the volume of light decreased as She rose, or whether the growing distance made me see less and less light as She rose. What I do know, is that I was a long time with my head raised up, staring at the light, even after the light, which kept getting further away and decreasing in volume, had finally disappeared. I take my eyes from the firmament, I look around me.

I see Maximin looking at me, and I say to him:

"Maxi, that must have been my father's Good Lord, or the Holy Virgin, or some other great saint." And Maximin throws his arms into the air and says: "Oh! If only I'd known!"

September 19, Evening

The evening, we went back down a little earlier than usual. When I arrived at my master's farm, I was busy tying up my cows and tidying up in the stable, and had not yet finished when my mistress came up to me in tears and said:

"Why, my child, why didn't you come and tell me what happened on the mountain?"

Maximin, not having found his masters who were still at work, had come over to mine and recounted everything he had seen and heard. I replied:

"I did want to tell you, but I wanted to get my work finished first." A moment later, I walked over to the house and my

mistress said to me:


"Tell me what you have seen. De Bruite, the shepherd (that was the nickname of Pierre Selme, Maximin's master), has told me everything."

I began, and towards the middle of the account, my master arrived back from the fields. My mistress, who was in tears at hearing the complaints and threats of our sweet Mother, said: "Ah! You were going to harvest the wheat tomorrow (Sunday). Take great care. Come and hear what happened today to this child and Pierre Selme's shepherd-boy." And turning to me, she said, "Repeat everything you have said."

I started again, and when I had finished, my master said: "It was the Holy Virgin or else a great saint, who has come on behalf of the Good Lord, but it's as if the Good Lord had come Himself. We must do what this Saint said. How are you going to manage to tell that to all Her people?"


I replied: "You tell me how I must go about it, and I will do it."


Then, looking at his mother, wife, and brother, he added: "I'll have to think about that." Then everyone went back to their business.


After supper, Maximin and his masters came over to see my masters and to recount what Maximin had told them, and decide what was to be done.

"For, they said, it seems to us that it was the Holy Virgin sent by the Good Lord. The words which She spoke convince us of this. And she told them to pass it on to all of Her people. Perhaps these children will have to travel the world over to make it known that everyone must observe the commandments of the Good Lord, lest great misfortunes come upon us."

After a moment's silence, my master said to Maximin and I: "Do you know what you must do, my children? Tomorrow, you must get up early and both of you go and see the priest and tell him everything you have seen and heard. Tell him carefully how it all happened. He will tell you what you have to do."


Sunday, September 20

I left early in the morning with Maximin. When we reached the presbytery, I knocked at the door. The priest's housekeeper came and opened the door and asked us what we wanted.


I said to her (in French, and I, who had never spoken French), "We would like to speak to Father Perrin."

"And what have you got to say to him?" she asked.


"We wish to tell him, Miss, that yesterday we went up to watch over our cows on Baisses Mountain... and we recounted a good piece of the Most Holy Virgin's words. Then the church-bell rang: it was the final call for Mass. Father Perrin, the parish priest of La Salette, who had heard us, flung open his door, he was in tears and was beating his chest.


He said to us: "My children, we are lost, God will punish us. Oh! Good Lord! It was the Holy Virgin who appeared to you!"


And he left to say Holy Mass. We looked at each other, Maximin, the housekeeper, and I. Then Maximin said to me: "Me, I'm off home to my father in Corps," and we parted company.

As my masters had not told me to return to work immediately after speaking to Father Perrin, I saw no harm in going to Mass. And so I was in church. Mass begins and after the first reading from the Gospel, Father Perrin turns to the

congregation and tries to recount to his parishioners, the story of the Apparition which had just taken place, the day

before, on one of their mountains, and he urges them to stop working on Sundays. His voice was broken with sobs, and all the congregation was greatly moved.


After Holy Mass, I went back to my masters to work. Mr. Peytard, who still today is the mayor of La Salette, came to question me on the Apparition, and when he had made sure that I was speaking the truth, he went away convinced.

I stayed on in the service of my masters until All Saint's Day. Then I was boarded with the nuns of Providence, in my

home town of Corps.


The Most Holy Virgin was tall and well-proportioned. She seemed so light that a mere breath could have stirred Her, yet She was motionless and perfectly balanced.


Her face was majestic, imposing, but not imposing in the manner of the Lord's here below. She compelled a respectful fear.


At the same time as Her Majesty compelled respect mingled with love, She drew me to Her. Her gaze was soft and penetrating. Her eyes seemed to speak to mine, but the conversation came out of a deep and vivid feeling of love for this ravishing beauty who was liquefying me. The softness of Her gaze, Her air of incomprehensible goodness made me understand and feel that she was drawing me to Her and wanted to give Herself. It was an expression of love which cannot be expressed with the tongue of the flesh, nor with the letters of the alphabet.

The clothing of the Most Holy Virgin was silver white and quite brilliant. It was quite intangible. It was made up of light and glory, sparkling and dazzling. There is no expression nor comparison to be found on earth.

The Holy Virgin was all beauty and all love; the sight of Her overwhelmed me. In her finery as in Her person, everything radiated the majesty, the splendor, the magnificence of a Queen beyond compare.


She seemed as white, immaculate, crystallized, dazzling, heavenly, fresh and new as a Virgin. The word LOVE seemed to slip from Her pure and silvery lips. She appeared to me like a good Mother, full of kindness, amiability, of love for us, of compassion and mercy.

The crown of roses which She had placed on Her head was so beautiful, so brilliant, that it defies imagination. The different colored roses were not of this earth; it was a joining together of flowers which crowned the head of the Most Holy Virgin. But the roses kept changing and replacing each other, and then, from the heart of each rose, there shone a beautiful entrancing light, which gave the roses a shimmering beauty. From the crown of roses there seemed to arise golden branches and a number of little flowers mingled with the shining ones. The whole thing formed a most beautiful diadem, which alone shone brighter than our earth's sun.

Mary's Cross

The Holy Virgin had a most pretty cross hanging round Her neck. This cross seemed golden, (I say golden rather than gold-plated, for I have sometimes seen objects which were golden with varying shades of gold, which had a much more beautiful effect on my eyes than simple gold-plate).

On this shining, beautiful cross, there was a Christ, it was Our Lord on the Cross. Near both ends of the cross there was a hammer, and at the other end, a pair of tongs. The Christ was skin-coloured, but He shone dazzlingly; and the light shone forth from his holy body seemed like brightly shining darts which pierced my heart with the desire to melt inside Him. At times, the Christ appeared to be dead. His head was bent forward and His body seemed to give way, as if about to fall, had He not been held back by the nails which held him to the Cross.

I felt a deep compassion and would have liked to tell His unknown love to the whole world, and to let seep into mortal souls the most heartfelt love and gratitude towards a God who had no need whatsoever of us to be everything He is, was and always will be. And yet, O love that men cannot understand, He made Himself man, and wanted to die, yes, die, so as to better inscribe in our souls and in our memory, the passionate love He has for us! Oh, how wretched am I to find myself so poor in my expression of the love of our good Savior for us! But, in another way, how happy we are to be able to feel more deeply that which we cannot express!

At other times, the Christ appeared to be alive. His head was erect, His eyes open, and He seemed to be on the cross of His own accord. At times too, He appeared to speak: He seemed to show that He was on the cross for our sake, out of love for us, to draw us to His love, and that He always has more love to give us, that His love in the beginning and in the year 33 is always that of today and will be for ever more.

Tearful Virgin

The Holy Virgin was crying nearly the whole time she was speaking to me. Her tears flowed gently, one by one, down to her knees, then, like sparks of light, they disappeared. They were glittering and full of love. I would have liked to comfort Her and stop Her tears. But it seemed to me that She needed the tears to show better Her love forgotten by men.


I would have liked to throw myself into Her arms and say to Her: "My kind Mother, do not cry! I want to love you for all men on earth."


But she seemed to be saying to me: "There are so many who know me not!"

I was in between life and death, and on one side, I saw so much desire by this Mother to be loved, and on another side, so much cold and indifference... Oh! my Mother, most beautiful and lovable Mother, my love, heart of my heart!

The tears of our sweet Mother, far from lessening her air of majesty, of a Queen and a Mistress, seemed, on the

contrary, to embellish Her, to make Her more beautiful, more powerful, more filled with love, more maternal, more

ravishing, and I could have wiped away Her tears which made my heart leap with compassion and love.


To see a mother cry, and such a Mother, without doing everything possible to comfort her and change her grief to joy, is that possible? Oh! Mother, who is more than good, you have been formed with all the prerogatives God is able to make; you have married the power of God, so to speak; you are good, and more, you are good with the goodness of God Himself. God has extended Himself by making you His terrestrial and celestial masterpiece.

Pinafore & Chains

The Most Holy Virgin had a pinafore more brilliant than several suns put together. It was not a tangible material, it was composed of glory, and this glory was scintillating, and ravishingly beautiful. Everything in the Holy Virgin carried me firmly and made me kind of slide into the adoration and love of my Jesus in every state of His mortal life.

The Most Holy Virgin had two chains, one a little wider than the other. From the narrower one hung the cross. These chains were like rays of brightly shining glory, sparkling and dazzling. Her shoes were white, but a silvery brilliant white. There were roses around them. These roses were dazzlingly beautiful, and from the heart of each rose there shone forth a flame of very beautiful and pleasing light. On Her shoes there was a buckle of gold, not the gold of this earth, but rather the gold of paradise.

The sight of the Holy Virgin was itself a perfect paradise. She had everything needed to satisfy, for earth had been

forgotten. The Holy Virgin was surrounded by two lights. The first light, the nearer to the Most Holy Virgin, reached as far as us. It shone most beautifully and scintillatingly.

The second light shone out a little around the Beautiful Lady and we found ourselves bathed in it. It was motionless (that is to say it wasn't scintillating) but much more brilliant than our poor sun on earth. All this light did not harm nor tire the eyes in any way.


In addition to all these lights, all this splendor, there shone forth concentrations or beams of light and single rays of light from the body of the Holy Virgin, from her clothes and from all over Her.


Her Voice

The voice of the Beautiful Lady was soft. It was enchanting, ravishing, warming to the heart. It satisfied, flattered every obstacle, it soothed and softened. It seemed to me I could never stop eating up Her beautiful voice, and my heart seemed to dance or want to go towards Her and melt inside Her.

Her Eyes

The eyes of the most Holy Virgin, our Sweet Mother, cannot be described in human language. To speak of them, you would need a seraph, you would need more than that, you would need the language of God Himself, of the God who formed the immaculate Virgin, the masterpiece of His omnipotence. The eyes of the majestic Mary appeared thousands of times more beautiful than the rarest brilliants, diamonds and precious stones. They shone like two suns; they were soft, softness itself, as clear as a mirror. In her eyes, you could see paradise. They drew you to Her, She seemed to want to draw and give Herself.

The more I looked, the more I wanted to see; the more I saw, the more I loved Her and I loved Her with all my might.


The eyes of the beautiful Immaculate One were like the door to God's Kingdom, from which you could see all that can elate the soul. When my eyes met those of the Mother of God and of myself, I felt inside me a happy revolution of love and a declaration that I love Her and am melting with love. As we looked at each other, our eyes spoke to each other in their fashion, and I loved Her so much I could have kissed Her in the middle of Her eyes, which touched my soul and seemed to draw it towards them and make it melt into Hers. Her eyes set up a sweet trembling in all my being; and I was afraid to make the slightest movement which might cause her the smallest displeasure.

Just the sight of the eyes of the purest of Virgins would have been enough to make the Heaven of a blessed creature, enough to fill the soul with the will of the Most High amid the events which occur in the course of mortal life, enough to make the soul perform continual acts of praise, of thanksgiving, of atonement and expiation. Just this sight focuses the soul on God, and makes it like a living-death, looking upon all the things of this earth, even the things which seem the most serious, as nothing but children's playthings. The soul would want to hear no one speaking unless they spoke of God, and of that which affects His Glory.


Sin is the only evil She sees on earth. She will die of grief unless God sustains Her. Amen.


Following five years of investigations, Bishop Philibert de Bruillard of Grenoble, announced in 1851: “We judge that the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin to the two cowherds on the 19th of September, 1846, on a mountain of the chain of Alps, situated in the parish of La Salette, in the arch-presbytery of Corps, bears within itself all the characteristics of truth, and that the faithful have grounds for believing it indubitable and certain.”


On August 24,1852, Pope Pius IX mentioned the construction of the altar to La Salette. The same papal bull granted the foundation of the Association of Our Lady of La Salette. On August 21, 1879, Pope Leo XIII formally granted a Canonical Coronation to the image at the Basilica of Our Lady of La Salette, with a Russian-style tiara instead of the solar-type tiara used in its traditional depictions of Virgin Mary during her apparitions. 


The feast day is celebrated on the original day of the apparition: September 19. 

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