At the time of the apparition the parish of La Salette in the diocese of Gronoble consisted of a few tiny hamlets in the French Alps. Here Our Lady appeared to two young herders, Melanie Mathieu age 14, and Maximin Giraud, age 11, on September 19, 1846.
Throughout all France and the Western world was the coming of an age of new ideas. Revolution was in the air affecting not only political order but also religious orders. The concept of humanism was taking shape leaving the Sunday Mass with fewer and fewer attendance.
Melanie and Maximin were natives of Corps, a small town with fewer than one thousand inhabitants. Their families were extremely poor. Melanie was one of eight children, left to beg on the streets. She was silent child without gaiety, withdrawn and timid with no schooling. Maximin on the other hand was full of spirit. He spent much of his time roaming the streets. Like Melanie, Maximin was a stranger to school.
It was mid-afternoon the two children were tending the cows in the fields. Suddenly there was a thunder like sound, Melanie noticed a large circle of brilliant light shinning in the ravine and called out to Maximin.
Before them appeared the figure of a woman. She was seated, her face in her hands, she was weeping. She arose with her arms crossed on her breast and her head somewhat inclined. She wore a lucent crown, a dress with bursts of light, slipper edged with roses, with a golden crucifix hanging from a chain around her neck. She spoke to the two children in French.
"Come to me my children, I am here to tell you something of the greatest importance. If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son's arm. It is so heavy, so pressing that I can no longer restrain it. How long I have suffered for you! If my Son is not to cast you off, I am obliged to entreat Him without ceasing. But you take no least notice of that. No matter how well you pray in future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured for your sake.
I have appointed you six days for working the seventh I have reserved for myself. And no one will give it to me. This it is which causes the weight of my Son's arm to be so crushing. The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son's name. These are the two things, which make my Son's arms so burdensome.
If the harvest is spoiled, it is your own fault. I warned you last year by means of the potatoes. You paid no heed. Quite the reverse, when you discovered that the potatoes had rotted, you swore, you abused my Son's name. They will continue to rot, and by Christmas this year there will be none left.
If you have grain, it will do no good to sow it, for what you sow the beasts will devour, and any part of it that springs up will crumble into dust when you thresh it.
A great famine is coming. But before that happens the children under seven years of age will be seized with trembling and die in their parents arms. The grownups will pay for their sins by hunger. The grapes will rot and the walnuts will turn bad.
(Here each child is entrusted a secret that the other can not hear, than the lady speaks to both the children again)
If people are converted, the rocks will become piles of wheat, and it will be found that the potatoes have sown themselves.
Do you say your prayers well, my children?" 'No, they replied.'
"Ah, my children, it is very important to say them, at night and in the morning. When you don't have time at least say an Our Father and a Hail Mary. And when you can, say more.
Only a few rather old women go to Mass in the summer. All the rest work every Sunday throughout the summer. And in winter, when they don't know what to do with themselves, they go to Mass only to poke fun at religion. During Lent they flock to the butcher shops, like dogs.
(She asks a question to the children)
My children, haven't you ever seen spoiled grain?" Maximin answered, 'No, never.'
"But my child, you must have see it once, near Coin, with our papa. The owner of a field said to your papa, 'Come and see my spoiled grain.' The two of you went. You took two or three ears of grain in your fingers. You rubbed them, and they crumbled to dust. Then you came back from Coin. When you were but a half hour away from Corps, your papa gave you a piece of bread and said, 'Well, my son, eat some bread this year, anyhow. I don't know who will be eating any next year, if the grain goes on spoiling like that.' "
"My children, you will make this known to all my people."
Slowly she turned away, gliding along the ravine paused and, without facing them repeated the command. "You will make this known to all my people. The Lady rose into the air and in a circle of light she faded away.
After a full investigation the Church and the letter of approval read by Cardinal Lambruschini approved the apparition. A basilica was consecrated in 1879 in honor of Our Lady of La Salette. Prompting revealed the two secrets entrusted to the children. In two sealed envelopes Father Rousselot and Father Gerin carried the letters in 1851. The contents of the two letters were viewed only by Pope Pius lX.
Twelve years after the apparition at La Salette the same message was reiterated at Lourdes, and again in 1917 in Fatima. It is an indictment of man's disobedience to God, of man's forgetfulness of God, of a whole world adrift away from the life of faith and love to the one of worldliness.