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La Salette (France)(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
On September 19, 1846, the mountain of La Salette in southeastern France became the site of an important and still controversial apparition of the Virgin Mary. The visionaries were two young shepherds, Melanie Calvat (d. 1904), then fourteen years old, and Maximin Giraud (d. 1875), then eleven. The Virgin appeared out of a globe of light, seated with her head in her hands. She was dressed in a white, pearl-studded dress with a tiara on her head. She wore a crucifix around her neck.
The Virgin delivered a simple message aimed at the growing practice of people working on Sunday and the rise of public blasphemy, which would be met with punishments in the form of famine and damage to crops. The children were told to spread this brief public message. However, the Virgin also gave each of them a secret message of greater length. They did not initially divulge these messages, but would tell them to Pope Pius IX in 1851. As has been common, the local bishop established a commission to investigate the apparitions, and in the face of opposition to his investigation, he later established a second commission to reexamine the event. In 1846 he approved the development of devotion to Our Lady of La Salette, and in spite of critics in both the secular and church community, the building of a church on the site commenced in 1852.
While devotion to the Virgin at La Salette developed, much interest focused on the secrets and their content. Maximin’s secret predicted France’s fall into apostasy and unbelief and the coming of the Antichrist. The more lengthy secret given to Melanie saw evil times approaching for Europe, especially France and Italy, and bemoaned the loss of piety and zeal by the priests of the church. There were a variety of specific prophecies. The continuing controversy concerning the apparition led Melanie to move to Italy, where she published what purported to be the text of the secret in 1879.
The 1879 publication lifted the controversy to a new stage. Immediately, critics attacked the text by claiming it varied significantly from the 1851 text sent to Pius IX, having been heavily influenced by Melanie’s reading of apocalyptic literature and other questionable materials. Many bishops in France took action against the 1879 publication and those who believed it. After Melanie’s death in Italy in 1904, the controversy eventually died out, the secret moved into oblivion, and the veneration of the Virgin of La Salette continued based upon the public message.
The church at the site of the apparition became the base of a new religious order, Missionaries of La Salette, although during the controversy over the secret the order was driven out of the land and its personnel replaced by secular priests. The Missionaries of La Salette continues today as an international religious organization.