Lourdes and Fatima are popular Marian shrines, among many others around the world. The apparition at La Salette on 19th September 1846 is much less well known and less closely followed, even though it received diocesan and then papal approval as being worthy of belief.
Two ignorant peasant children, Melanie Calvat (aged 14) and Maximin Giraud (aged 11) were tending their cows one afternoon up on the slope of a high mountain. They saw what looked like a globe of fire come down onto the slope of the mountain. In the midst of the light sat a lady, weeping copiously. She did not explicitly identify herself. The children did not know who it might be. She spoke to them and gave them a message, asking them to tell it to ‘my people’.
The children did not seem to understand everything the apparition said. The tone and content of the message, as it was subsequently written down (and some say elaborated) were frightening to say the least. Melanie’s account was apocalyptic and threatening: disasters, wars, apostasy. Some of the message’s more memorable phrases have frequently been quoted, e.g. “my son’s priests are sewers of impurity”. Melanie says that the apparition also told her explicitly which well-known Italian city the reign of antichrist would start in.
Many of the details in the message, as later written down, have not apparently been fulfilled (e.g. certain cities being destroyed by fire and flood). The overall theme was a reproach to ‘my people’ for not keeping the Sabbath, and for blaspheming the name of God. This was followed with a warning that the true faith would be abandoned by a majority of the clergy and religious, but in the end grace would triumph, and God would be served, adored, and glorified.
The details of La Salette are somewhat elusive, because a number of variant versions of the event started to circulate during the lifetime of the two visionaries. The internet presents a challenging array of ‘true’ versions.
One must always remember that private revelation is not part of the deposit of the faith. And there must surely be a semantic gap between whatever message heaven intended to impart, and the received version, once it had been filtered through a child’s mind, and then subsequently tweaked by any number of interested parties (as at Fatima).
However, with the current assaults of ambiguity and confusion on Catholic faith and morals, and a growing apostasy, one cannot but incline to thinking that Melanie and Maximin were actually told something true, even if the prophetic message has been somewhat coloured in the telling.
Overall, the apparition at La Salette was a warning that religious infidelity among Catholics, especially “consecrated souls”, would result in a terrible affliction of the Church and a disastrous undermining of the Christian religion.