Friends of La Salette

About La Salette there is an irresistible appeal. Even the most-embittered and sin-hardened are awakened from the deadly slumber of Untitled 1spiritual indifference by the heart-rending scene of a beautiful, charming Lady, seated on a rough field-stone, on a desolate mountain-top weeping silently. Here, no hysterical sobbing, the safety-valve of uncontrolled grief and taut nerves, but only silent, restrained yet crushing sorrow of a deeply hurt mother. Each tear, like a glittering diamond, slowly pierces the hard core of ingratitude and indifference until the blood of compassion flows from the salutary wound. 

Proud heads have humbly bowed before a Weeping Mother; blasphemous tongues have been silenced; unbelievers have cried out their exultan “Credo”; obdurate sinners have become extraordinary saints; unwilling sufferers forgot their own pain and bravely smiled to console a broken mother.
The Reconciler of Sinners
The human appeal at La Salette is tremendous, but greater still the efficacy of grace, which like the ever-flowing miraculous stream, gushes forth from the Holy Mountain. To Bernadette of Lourdes, Mary gave Her name: "I am the Immaculate Conception"; to the children of Fatima Mary called herself, "The Lady of the Rosary". To Maximin and Melanie, Mary gave no name. The children simply referred to her as the "Beautiful Lady". But the name which her tongue did not frame, her silent tears eloquently expressed.  

In a harmonious and extraordinary accord of faith, Mary’s clients conferred upon her the noble title "Reconciler of Sinners", a name – times without number – canonized by the Church, a title rigidly conformed to the sound conclusions of Catholic Theology. The graces of conversion obtained through the intercession of Our Lady of La Salette are beyond calculation. Many are well known and reliably reported, but, by far, the majority of conversions will ever remain unknown, indelibly inscribed in the secret archives of eternity.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, at the present time, to properly evaluate the tremendous spiritual impact of the Apparition upon our modern civilization. We are too close to the event itself to view it in its proper perspective.  A more thorough evaluation will be the fruit of painstaking research by future historians.  It is certain that many well-authenticated miracles have been wrought through the powerful mediation of Our Lady.  It is equally true that numberless conversions have been reliably reported. 
Contemporary Saints Responded to La Salette
Untitled 2St. Don Bosco (1815-1888)
Yet there is, to my mind, another outstanding factor to be considered. The number of contemporary saints, some of them recently canonized, and saintly founders of flourishing religious congregations who were intimately affiliated with La Salette is extraordinary and astounding. Many of them heard the impelling summons to sanctity in the solitude of La Salette; here many formed heroic plans; here religious rules were drafted; here many learned that the way to glory is the way of the Cross. 

Many of these modern saints had a strong devotion to Our Lady of La Salette. We cannot discount the tremendous influence each exerted upon his own personal followers. Here at the foot of Mary’s Alpine throne, these men and women found the courage to bravely scale the dizzy heights of sanctity.
St. Don Bosco and La Salette
When Mary appeared at La Salette, there lived at Valdocco in Italy a young priest, only 30 years old, St. Don Bosco (1815-1888). He was destined to become a great and popular saint, the patron of youth and the founder of the flourishing Salesian order. Already, in these early priestly years he had the project in his mind of founding homes for homeless urchins. But his plans met with the bitterest opposition from anti-clerical government officials, and he received no positive encouragement from his ecclesiastical superiors. 

1846 was then a year of much anxiety and troubling doubts for Don Bosco, but upon hearing of Mary's apparition, he hurried to the Holy Mountain and there his doubts disappeared. He was confirmed in his vocation to dedicate his life to poor orphan boys. Was not Mary, the Queen of Heaven, dressed in peasant garb? Did she not address poor peasant children? Did she not speak to them in the local patois? These were the thoughts that occupied Don Bosco’s mind as he knelt at the foot of Mary's Alpine pulpit. He was now convinced that his was a divine inspiration. 

With indomitable courage he was to carry out his plans formulated at La Salette, and all this in the face of the bitterest opposition. He was never to forget La Salette. Each night it was his custom to give a spiritual talk to his boys, and practically always he told them about the Madonna of La Salette. His biographer tells us that he spoke of Mary as if he had seen her. Once in Gualdo Tadino I met a very old man and he himself told that as a young boy he had first heard of the Madonna of La Salette from the lips of Don Bosco himself. 

These are days when propaganda and advertising are a popular and common practice. One hundred years ago this was not the case. Don Bosco is said to have broken all records when he published 30,000 booklets on Mary's apparition. Remember how he lived from day to day with his orphan boys, never knowing where the next meal would come from, and you can readily imagine what tremendous love he must have had for Mary of La Salette, a love that could prompt such heroic sacrifice.
St. Peter Julien Eymard
Untitled 3St. Pierre Julien Eymard (1811-1868)
Saint Peter Julien Eymard (1811-1868) was a Marist Father when the Apparition took place. He was one of its first witnesses. In a letter, still extant, written to Fr. Melin in 1848, we find these words. "I have examined, I have seen, I have believed." In the register of the pilgrimage he penned the following words: "Were I not a Marist Father, I would ask my bishop, as the greatest possible favor to permit me to consecrate myself body and soul to the service of Our Lady of La Salette." 

He very frequently visited the Holy Mountain and the nearby city of La Mure (his birthplace) and many times preached to the assembled pilgrims. In La Salette’s message he saw as a predominant characteristic, that of expiation. It was in his long meditations at La Salette that he conceived the beautiful plan of founding two congregations of men and women who would be perpetual adorers of the Blessed Sacrament in reparation for sin. In his heart it was at La Salette that he founded the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament.

Untitled 4Marguerite Guillot, S.S.S. (1815-1885)
Fr. Eymard was the spiritual director of Marguerite Guillot (1815-1885), she who was to become the first Superioress General of "The Servants of the Blessed Sacrament." She had been incurably sick. Fr. Eymard had her brought to the Holy Mountain where an outstanding miracle took place. 

She was completely cured and spent many fruitful years as head of the newly founded community. Small wonder that Fr. Eymard had wonderful confidence in the miraculous water of La Salette and always carried it about with him. Fr. Eymard celebrated his last Mass at the altar of Our Lady of La Salette in the chapel of our Missionaries at Grenoble.
The Curé of Ars and La Salette
The saintly John Vianney (1786-1859), the Curé of Ars, had been an ardent believer of Our Lady, but because of Maximin's boyish prank, he spent eight years in a state of extreme doubt. On his own admission, those years left him no peace of mind. To settle his doubts he had recourse to this stratagem. He asked Mary to perform two specific miracles. The miracles were wrought. From that time on La Salette had no greater champion. To his many penitents he would say, "Not only can one believe in La Salette; one must believe in La Salette." On his deathbed one of his last prayers was to Our Lady of La Salette.
Other Holy People and La Salette
Untitled 5St. Madeleine Sofie Barat, R.S.C.J. (1779-1865)
Time does not permit a complete enumeration of the many saints favored at La Salette. I will mention but a few whose affiliation was of the most intimate. 

St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, R.S.C.J. (1779-1865), foundress of The Society of the Sacred Heart, had the first statues of La Salette erected in her convent gardens.

St. Emily de Rodat (1787-1852), canonized in 1950, was a great lover of La Salette, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Villefranche. By a strange coincidence she died on the 19th of September; and therefore this is also her feast day.

We will pass over very quietly the tremendous impact of the Apparition on Fathers Giraud and Berthier. 
Fr. Sylvain-Marie Giraud, M.S.
The former, Fr. Silvain-Marie Giraud, M.S. (1830-1885) left honor, wealth and assurances of the highest offices in the Church to dedicate himself to Mary’s service. It took five years to obtain an exeat from his bishop. Barring none, he was the most promising and outstanding secular priest of his day. But Mary’s message had for him an irresistible appeal. 
Fr. Jean Berthier, M.S.
Untitled 6(from left) Fr. Silvain-Marie Giraud, M.S.; Fr. Jean Berthier, M.S.
Fr. Jean Berthier, M.S. (1840-1908), founder of the Congregation of The Holy Family, found at La Salette the source of his incomparable Apostolic energy. Fr. Killers, S. J., in his “Dictionary of Spirituality” speaks of him as “the greatest missionary of modern times.” An incessant preacher, director of an Apostolic school, founder of a religious community which he looked upon as the fruit of the Apparition he wrote 36 volumes. 

During his own life-time he saw more than a million copies sold. The French press always referred to Fr. Berthier’s arsenal. His cause has been introduced in Rome. To his missionaries, he left his La Salette spirit. In fact, they wear a crucifix with hammers and pincers and the 19th of September is their patronal feast. To them he said: "Whatever I am, whatever good I have been able to do, I owe it to Our Lady of La Salette."
Others Who Loved Mary’s Message at La Salette
I also list others who had close affiliation with La Salette: 
  • Venerable Pauline-Marie Jericot (1799-1862), foundress of The Society of the Propagation of the Faith and the Living Rosary Association; 
  • Jean Leon Prevost (1803-1874), founder of The Religious of St. Vincent de Paul; 
  • St. Euphrasia Pelletier (1796-1863), foundress of the "Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd"; 
  • Venerable Fr. Jean-Claude Colin, S.M. (1790-1875), founder of the Marists; 
  • Saint-Just de Bretenières (1838-1866), a member of the Foreign Missionaries of Paris, martyred in Korea with 102 others;
  • Fr. Léon Dehon (1843-1925), founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart; 
  • Fr. Piotr Semenenko, C.R. (1814-1886), co-founder of The Congregation of the Resurrection. 
All these holy men and women found an irresistible appeal to sanctity at La Salette and were inspired each one in his own way to make known Mary’s message.

To you and me, Mary makes her tearful entreaty once again to "Come near” and “be not afraid." With these wonderful examples of holiness and appreciation for Mary’s apparition at La Salette, let each of us pursue our vocation as well as heed her mandate to “make (her) message known to all (her) people.”
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