On the 19th September 1846, in a remote part of the Alps two children, Melanie and Maximin, with Maximin’s little dog, Lulu, climbed a distant valley guiding the cows they were looking after. The children rested after lunch and the cows wandered away. When he awoke, as he looked for the animals, Maximin heard a lady weeping. He woke Melanie and the two, and it seems, Lulu, saw a ‘beautiful lady.’ The lady invited the children to come closer and she talked for a while with them. She encouraged them to listen to her message of invitation to renew faith, to honour Jesus, and to pray regularly, even if it is simply an Our Father and a Hail Mary each morning and evening. The lady then disappeared in an extraordinary light. The children never saw her again, the apparition was not repeated.
When Melanie and Maximin returned to their peasant village and told their story people identified the lady as Mary. Their place of vision grew to become, and remains, a place of great holiness and pilgrimage. This is the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, not as well known, but pre-dating, such shrines as Fatima and Lourdes.
This place of remote magnificent natural beauty near 6,000ft above sea level is a place of stillness, peace and beauty. On my visit, on a personal pilgrimage, I seemed to be the only English person but there were many French, Polish, Czech and Spanish pilgrims. It is a shrine which deserves to be better known in Britain.
The majesty of the scenery, the clear air, and the simple beauty encourage wonder and prayer. Whatever one’s thoughts on apparitions or visions it cannot be denied that this is a beautiful and special place, a ‘thin place’ where heaven and earth seem very close. Pilgrimage to this unique place has clearly brought about renewal and refocus in everyday faith for many people.
The message of La Salette is starkly simple. God’s kingdom is close! Draw close to God and Jesus in prayer, and live out your faith.
Before she vanished from the children’s sight the Beautiful Lady ended her message with a commission to the children, to us all, ‘My children, make this (the message of La Salette) known to all my people.’