The La Salette Stone

The Apparition of La Salette has relics of its own – the Miraculous Fountain whose healing waters have been begotten of Mary's tears and the stone upon which Our Weeping Mother, that same Blessed Virgin, sat revealed in grief. We have seen the wonders of the Sign. Let us now consider that rough throne or rustic bench that we prefer to call an Altar of Sacrifice.
La Salette stoneThe La Salette stone in its reliquary (archival drawing)

Historical facts and things symbolic reverently cling to that rock – no longer cold or ordinary, but a precious treasure, preserved in a gilt reliquary. That stone that the "Beautiful Lady" was seated upon at the beginning of the celestial vision is a true relic, left behind as a definite and tangible reminder of the great event.

For years it has been treasured in an ornamental repository, an ex-veto offering on the part of a grateful woman for a cure. Like the stars, stones have a language of their own; they are often mentioned in Scripture and in heavenly matters. And that bit of rock of the Holy Mountain has lessons and reflections – a world of spiritual and practical symbolism.
A Reminder of the Apparition

Let us pay veneration and respect to this monument of Our Lady's beneficence, to this hollowed object of devotion and confidence. Let us listen to its historical narrative and its useful significance under the patronage of her – whom we revere and love – sitting and weeping upon that stony rock, in a sense the altar of sacrifice of Mary's prayers and tears to appease her Divine Son against her poor and needy people.

Before September 19th, 1846, this stone was merely a rough and unformed seat near the dried-up stream. It was used as a resting-place by the tired shepherds. It was a handy bench by the spring. And for years it had undoubtedly played faithful sentinel to the fitful mountain source.

Basilicas MuseumThe La Salette stone while it was kept in the Basilica’s Museum
It had become detached from the hills and had found a grassy bed. A composition of lime-stone and mica-schist, grayish-black in color, it resembled much the other rocks of the surrounding slopes. This hard and rude mass was selected by Our Lady of La Salette as the sight of her agony – those minutes of weeping, silent and mysterious, beneath the invisible burden of humankind's iniquity. Seemingly like a lonely wretch who had lost everything in this world, she had come to this desolate mountainous wayside, to sweep alone.

For ten days after the Apparition, the stone remained right there near the newly-revived fountain. Then the Curé of Corps realized that it shouldn't be used by anybody else and that it should be kept in a safe place. Accordingly, in the presence of the shepherds and other witnesses, the stone was removed and taken down to the priest's house at Corps. It was put in a temporary reliquary, simply made of wood and sealed with the parochial stamp.
Protected and Set Aside for Us
On September 18th, 1848 it was examined by the Rt. Rev. Bishop's delegate and officially identified and recognized as authentic and returned to the plain depository. Around the stone, a white silk ribbon was wound in the shape of a cross. The episcopal seal was set four times on the knot where the ends joined and also where the points intersected. This happy reminder staid and so guarded until July 16, 1862.

Then the Missionaries of La Salette with Bishop Ginoulhiac's authority transferred it to a golden reliquary in the form of an “elegant frame-cottage” and enshrined it in the new Basilica that had just been erected. This gilt case was the gift of a pious lady, Madame de Perret of Aptin, Avignon, who had been miraculously cured of a horrible disease in 1848 through the intervention of Our Lady of La Salette. It was her thanksgiving offering for the great favor.

Of course, the stone has by no means its original size for importunate pilgrims were accustomed to break off fragments and use such pieces as miraculous. But the greater part is reliably possessed and lovingly preserved for in recent years it hasn't been touched at all despite covetous glances because it is safely secluded in the sacristy where it naturally suffers certain restrictions. Yet upon request it may be seen and venerated – a celestial power for good, a milestone in Marial history. The stone itself exhales a secret virtue, something divine that penetrates and touches the soul. In its religious silence, it speaks to the heart, a sweet echo of Mary's tears moving to love, prayer and meditation.
Stones in the Old Testament
Fr BernieFr. Bernie Baris, M.S., placing the La Salette Stone in its new place of honor on the Holy Mountain in the Basilica’s reredos (back wall), behind the altar table
In the Old Testament, there are stones mentioned – all worthy of respect –that were sanctified by the hand of Patriarchs and preserved in memory of great religious observances. In the ancient sacrifices, stones were used as their altars. On the high priest's garment were twelve precious stones (Joshua 4:1-8-10) as a sign of the Alliance of the twelve tribes of God’s people.

During that celestial vision, Jacob rested his head upon a stone, the pillow of that heavenly sleep… All these pieces contributed to the Almighty's dispensation amid the chosen people of Israel.

In the New Law, … Christ built his Church upon a rock – steady and immovable (Matthew 16:18). And in the erection of churches thereafter, much is made of the cornerstone. It stands as a testimonial for posterity of the builders and worshippers in this house of God.

St. Peter states that the people of God are like “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5).

La Salette Stone displayThe La Salette Stone as seen today by pilgrims to the Holy MountainBut this stone of the Holy Mountain of La Salette was used by the Blessed Virgin Mary and has been bathed in her tears. Thereon she wept and prayed to make a covenant between God and God’s people…. She selected that rough resting-place as her throne, as an indication of stability (and perhaps) as a prophecy of the splendid monument to be erected on that summit.

That rock was the true cornerstone of the magnificent Basilica that loudly proclaims the power of heaven's Queen and the generosity of the children of earth. It was the base of the vast monasteries that shelter the fortunate and zealous Guardians of the Mountain Shrine where pilgrims and tourists are charitably received and afforded service spiritual and temporal alike.

In addition, the Mountain of La Salette was her Calvary. And like the wood of the True Cross of Golgotha's gibbet, the stone is a precious relic…For the sake of this hallowed rock, let us never forget those heart-felt tears…

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