The Secret Message of La Salette
Mélanie Calvat, France
The apparitions at La Salette, France, are cited as the precedent for hundreds of subsequent unapproved visions and messages. La Salette is famous for an apparition of the Virgin Mary on September 19, 1846, to two shepherd children, eleven year old, Pierre-Maximin Giraud, and fourteen year old, Françoise-Mélanie Calvat-Mathieu. After investigating the children’s claims, the Catholic Church declared the events worthy of belief, which led to a popular devotion to Our Lady of La Salette that was weakened considerably when Mélanie published her secret in 1879 and it was placed on the Index of prohibited books.
Mélanie and Maximin were both born at Corps and had nothing in common other than their birthplace, poverty, ignorance, and occupation. The boy was described by some as boisterous, fickle and outgoing, and the girl as sullen, melancholic and taciturn. They hardly knew each other, having met for the first time only two days before their vision.
According to Mélanie’s account from 1847, it was Saturday, September 19, 1946, the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, at about three o’clock in the afternoon. Mélanie and Maximin saw a Lady in a globe of light and were afraid. Mélanie was able to contemplate her entire face, but Maximin could see only the forehead and the chin. Mélanie dropped her stick as Maximin exclaimed, “Keep hold of your stick! If it does anything to us, I’ll hit it with the stick!”
Then the Lady said to them, “I am here to tell you great news.” Then she said, crying all the time as she spoke:
"If My people are not willing to submit themselves, I am forced to let go of My Son’s arm. It is so heavy and weighs me down so much that I can no longer hold it. For all this time I have suffered for you! If I do not wish My Son to abandon you, I must take it upon myself to pray for this continually. And the rest of you think little of this! In vain will you pray, in vain will you act, you will never be able to make up for the trouble I have taken for you all!
"I gave you six days to work, I kept the seventh for Myself and no one wishes to grant me that one day. This is what weighs down the arm of My Son so much. Those who drive carts cannot swear without adding My Son’s name. These are the two things which weigh down the arm of My Son so much.
"If the harvest is spoiled, it is only because of you others. I made you see this last year with the potatoes; you took little account. It was quite the opposite when you found bad potatoes; you swore oaths, and you included the name of My Son. They will continue to go bad; at Christmas there will be none left."
Mélanie looked at Maximin with a confused look on her face, and the Lady said, “Ah! You do not understand French, My children. I shall tell it to you another way.” She then repeated only the last part of the message in patois, a regional language, beginning with “if the harvest is spoiled.” She continued saying, “If you have corn, you must not sow it. The beasts will eat all that you sow. And all that grows will fall to dust when you thresh it. A great famine will come. Before the famine comes, children under the age of seven will begin to tremble and will die in the arms of those who hold them. The others will do penance through hunger. The nuts will go bad, the grapes will become rotten.” The Lady continued speaking, but Mélanie could only see her lips moving as she gave Maximin a secret. Then she spoke to Mélanie, but Maximin could not hear the words.
After the secrets were communicated to the children, the Lady continued speaking in patois. Her last words, spoken twice in French, were, “And so, My children, you will pass this on to all My people.” The entire experience lasted about thirty minutes.
For many years the children refused to reveal their secrets, despite repeated efforts to extort them. In 1851 they wrote down their secrets, five years after reporting their vision, and placed them in sealed envelopes that were delivered to Pope Pius IX on July 18, 1851. The next day, Cardinal Lambruschini declared that the Holy Father had communicated to him the secrets, which were never revealed.
Although the first message was approved, it seems strange that the Blessed Mother did not know that the children did not understand French. She repeated only the last part of the message in patois, but the entire message was communicated to ecclesiastical authorities and presumed accurate. Secondly, the Lady announced that she had “great news” to tell them, but immediately delivered a message chastising the people for their sinfulness, in which she assumes complete responsibility for saving them from the spiritual abandonment they will soon experience. The Lady’s use of the first person attributes the words of the Lord to herself: “I gave you six days to work, I kept the seventh for Myself and no one wishes to grant me that one day.”
The phrase “if my people refuse to submit” is similar to the use of “surrender” in modern messages. A synonym which means to “cease resisting an opponent or an unwelcome demand.” The dropping of the arm is equated to Christ abandoning us. Finally, the image of Mary holding back the arm of her Son is common to most unapproved apparitions. In this case, according to a literal reading of the message, her son’s arm is weighed down because no one is granting the Lady her day of rest. The emphasis is placed on Mary rather than God; the arm is weighing her down so much that she has been forced to pray, which she considers so much “trouble” that it has made her suffer greatly. The prophecies of famine were never fulfilled.
Mélanie produced three writings: The Autobiography, published in 1900, also called her Childhood Gospel, which narrates the first fourteen years of her life; The Rule of the Mother of God, as it was given to Pope Leo XIII on January 5, 1879, and which corresponds to her Acts of the Apostles of the “Last Times,” and the 1879 version of the Secret of La Salette, which is her Apocalypse. Mélanie read extensively and it was said that everything she wrote after the apparition could have been taken from other sources.
In her Autobiography Mélanie describes herself as so ill treated by her mother that she was beaten, thrown to the ground, expelled from her home at the age of two or three, found wandering in the forest, rebuffed for displays of affection, and separated from her father. She went hungry, became sick, and was neglected, but faced her persecutors with meekness, patience, and forgiveness. Neighbors have testified, however, that in 1846 Mélanie was “sulky, lazy and disobedient,” and that her parents were poor but honorable people who were incapable of inflicting ill treatment on their daughter.
Biographers have found instances of plagiarism in Mélanie’s writing from the autobiography of a Spanish Carmelite, Ana de San Bartolomé, who was the inseparable companion of Saint Teresa of Jesus. After the death of her parents at the age of ten, Ana relates that the Child Jesus often consoled her. In like manner, Mélanie has a “little Brother” she encountered in the forest at the age of two or three. He urges her to flee from the world and form no relationship with anyone. All before the age of six she is graced with raptures, ecstasies, conversations with the Trinity, theophanies, meetings with the Blessed Virgin, journeys to Paradise, and the stigmata. Mélanie even teaches the catechism to foxes, hares, three little fawns, and a cloud of birds. They all bow their heads at the holy names of Jesus and Mary.
Mélanie wrote the first version of her Apocalypse in 1893, which publicly contradicted the decree of the First Vatican Council that was summoned by Pope Pius IX on June 29, 1868. The purpose of the twentieth ecumenical council was to define the doctrine concerning the Catholic Church. One of the council’s decrees, Pastor Aeternus, the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, dealt with the primacy and infallibility of the bishop of Rome when solemnly defining dogma.
Mélanie claimed that the Blessed Virgin had confided in her that “Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.” The line was borrowed from Martin Luther, who declared on August 18, 1520, “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist,” uttered in opposition to the Catholic Church. The Church immediately banned this new message, warning Catholics not to discuss it.
Mélanie’s 1879 version of the Apocalypse is said to have released storms of controversy so violent that the pamphlet was soon placed on the Index of forbidden books. The long, involved message speaks with venom against Catholic priests, all of whom were said to “have become cesspools of impurity… woe to the priests and to those dedicated to God… There are no more generous souls, there is no one left worthy of offering a stainless sacrifice to the Eternal for the sake of the world.” The harsh, condemnatory message belies the many holy priests of the times who were subsequently canonized, such as John Mary Vianney of Lyons, France.
According to this condemned secret, God was about to “exhaust His wrath” on the world and no one would be able to escape the many afflictions. God would abandon mankind and send punishments that would follow one after the other for more than thirty-five years. Dates were specified, with many false prophecies. The Holy Father was advised to never leave Rome. It was predicted that in 1865 there would be a “desecration of holy places.”
The secret contains predictions of wars in France, Italy, Spain, and England. It was said that blood would flow in the streets due to an “appalling general war.” Paris would burn and Marseilles would be engulfed. Several cities would be swallowed up by earthquakes. When people believed that all was lost, Jesus Christ would “command His Angels to have all His enemies put to death.” All persecutors of the Church of Jesus Christ and all sinners would suddenly perish and the earth would become desert-like. Then peace would be made and all would serve, worship and glorify Jesus Christ. The Gospel would be preached everywhere and there would be great unity, failing to explain how the Gospel could be preached on a desert wasteland because all sinners had perished.
According to Mélanie, this period of peace would last for only twenty-five years. A forerunner of the Antichrist would then appear, the earth would be struck by calamities of all kinds, and there would be a series of wars until the last war, which would be fought by the ten Kings of the Antichrist. Then Rome would lose the faith and “become the seat of the Antichrist” and the Church would be “in eclipse.” The detailed sequence of events includes an appeal to the Apostles of the Last Times, the appearance of Enoch and Elijah, and the ultimate demise of the Antichrist.
In 1880 the Bishop of Troyes denounced the 1879 version and received a reply from Cardinal Caterini, Secretary of the Congregation of the Holy Office, stating: “The Holy Office is displeased by the publication of this book. Its express will is that every copy which has been put into circulation be withdrawn, as far as is possible, from the hands of the faithful.”
The same Cardinal of Cabrière who testified in favor of the apparition of La Salette, based on the first message, wrote against “the counterfeit version of our Lady’s secret” in 1893 by saying:
It is this secret, already several times printed, distributed, commented on and recommended by various authors, both ecclesiastical and lay, that M. Mariavi has thought fit to give to the public, presenting it as 'The Gospel of the Virgin Mary', to accompany and complement the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
In order to answer your question Monseigneur, I have just read the two pamphlets concerning which you desire to know my opinion. It is absolutely unfavorable. The authors of previous publications, to do with this secret, were condemned, if not because of the secret itself, at least because of the scope and the consequences they gave it. A similar fate awaits this present publication.
1. It seems, in fact, that we do not have here the secret handed by the Bishop of Grenoble's envoys to HH Pope Pius IX in 1851. In its present form, it was written by Melanie Calvat, but on various occasions and in successive fragments, and seems rather to be the result of a personal composition than an exact repetition of the original text given to Pius IX, and which is said to be no longer in the Vatican.
2. As it stands, this secret has no value other than as Melanie Calvat's personal statement, supported by the signature of two bishops from around Naples. Melanie seems to have been sincerely pious, but she may have been deluded, and it seems that her 'mission', instead of extending to our period, ended with the Church's recognition of the reality of the Apparition.
3. What is certain, according to a well informed author, is that the first versions of the secret were less developed than the last; it is probable, therefore, that under the influence of the setting in which her life ended, Melanie amplified the first form of the writing she had had sent to the Pope; for certain, we do not have here an official copy of the secret handed to Pius IX. Only the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office could, with the Pope's consent, seek out the original and so determine, against the original contents, its true authority.
4. The nature of this secret, as we read it today, is so strange, arranged in such a confused manner, containing particular allusions to politics, it seems to favor, in such a very precise way, the errors of the ancient millenarists—in that it announces a renovation to be accomplished in time and on earth, unlike the teaching of the true religion about the general resurrection at the end of the world, and about the eternal happiness of the elect—that one necessarily hesitates to ascribe it a heavenly origin. Finally, and more especially, the commentator has taken such liberty in evaluating and judging the Catholic hierarchy, in all its degrees, that one wonders what basis there is for the severity of his words, which would not be out of place in the pages of a newspaper most hostile to the Christian faith. One also wonders how he allies the true piety he professes with the harshness he displays towards persons worthy of every respect.
What aggravates the rashness of these judgments is that they are, on several occasions, given in a form that is both mocking and insulting, which is belied by the character and dignity of the persons the author sees fit to denounce.
The holy pope Pius IX, venerable cardinals such as Mgr Perraud, Mgr Lugon and Mgr Sevin, bishops like Mgr Maurin of Grenoble, and all his predecessors down to Mgr Ginoulhiac, of such learned memory: all are included in the hurtful reproaches, which the commentator dares to attribute in the first place to the Most Blessed Virgin Herself!
And all this is written and published, offered and distributed for those who would like to find in these pages food for their curiosity. Would they learn charity and love by learning to despise the legitimate authority of the priesthood? For, the remarkable thing is that this Christian, this Catholic, seems to savour a sort of enjoyment in scourging the leaders of holy Church, those whom he mocks in calling them 'our princes'.
You will not, therefore be surprised, Monseigneur, if I condemn these two pamphlets by Dr Mariavi, if I rebuke their spirit and their character, and if I advise the faithful not to read them.
With my affectionate respect,
+ Cardinal de Cabrihres
Bishop of Montpellier
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