Mélanie and Maximin, the two children privileged to see Mary in 1846, came from the town of Corps near Grenoble, in a poor part of south-eastern France. Maximin Giraud was eleven years old at the time and Mélanie Calvat fourteen. On Saturday 19 September, they were looking after their employer’s cattle, high up on the pasture above La Salette, a village near Corps, when they saw a wonderful apparition of Mary.
A globe of light opened to reveal a resplendent woman seated on a stone with her head in her hands. The children later described her as very tall and beautiful, wearing a long, white, pearl studded, sleeved dress, and a white shawl, with some sort of tiara or crown on her head. Hanging from her neck was a large crucifix adorned with a small hammer and pincers, with a brilliantly shining figure of Christ on it. The whole effect was as if she was made of light.
Speaking tearfully she told them that unless people repented she would be forced to let go the arm of her son because it had become so heavy. Mary went on to complain that she had to pray ceaselessly to her son for them, but the people still worked on Sundays and blasphemed. She also spoke of coming punishments for these sins, including crop blights and famine. She confided a secret to each of the children, which they were not to divulge, although eventually these secrets were made known to Pope Pius IX.
Finally she asked the children to spread her message before disappearing. When the children returned home they told their story, an account of which was taken down in writing the next day. They faced much opposition in making known Mary’s message, but they maintained their story with resolution. The local Bishop too faced quite a degree of opposition in investigating the apparition, and it was only after four years, and having set up two commissions of enquiry, that Mgr de Bruillard, as bishop of Grenoble, approved of devotion to Our Lady of Salette, in the following terms.
“We declare that the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two shepherds, on September 19, 1846, on a mountain in the Alps in the parish of La Salette, bears in itself all the marks of truth and that the faithful are justified in believing without question in its truth. And so, to mark our lively gratitude to God and the glorious Virgin Mary, we authorise the cult of Our Lady of La Salette.”
Saint Annibale Di Francia and Melanie Calvat
From: “THE KINGDOM OF THE DIVINE WILL
An Introduction to the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta
The Little Daughter of the Divine Will”
1897 – 1898
Saint Annibale and Melanie Calvat with Daughters of Divine Zeal
In the beginning, Saint Annibale entrusted the girls’ orphanage to a distinguished widow who had been converted to a life of piety through one of his sermons: Laura Jensen Bucca was a genuine help to him for several years, but then she resigned. The priest turned to various religious communities, only in vain. So he decided to found his own congregation of nuns whom he called Daughters of Divine Zeal, patterned after the inspiration of the Rogate – the expression of the zeal burning in the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls.
The budding community was not without its headaches: tribulation goes hand in hand with all the works of God. Not only that, it is the bright badge of divine favor. In the light of a schism which occurred, the Institute was suppressed by Church authority. Thanks to the offices of a venerable Friar Minor, Fr. Bernard of Portosalvo, a one-year stay on the decree was given to the Fr. Annibale. The Institute was put on trial. During that year, he had as a cooperator for his work none other than Melanie Calvat, the famous young shepherdess to whom the Mother of God appeared on the mountain of La-Salette. Melanie remained at the Institute for one year, from September 1897 to September 1898 – a year which, in the words of Saint Annibale, was a year of blessing. The trial period was weathered successfully, having a healthy and vigorous effect on the community, and the women’s congregation was put on a safe footing.
Melanie died at the age of 72, alone and unattended, on December 14, 1904, at Altamura, near Bari, Italy. She is buried beneath a marble column with a bas-relief depiction of Our Lady welcoming her into heaven. In spite of her unapproved writings, Melanie was always faithful to her original account of the apparition and message of La Salette. She demonstrated this at the Shrine of La Salette during her last visit there September 8-19,1902.