Mélanie and Maximin, the two children privileged to see Mary in 1846, came from the town of Corps near Grenoble, in a poor part of south-eastern France. Maximin Giraud was eleven years old at the time and Mélanie Calvat fourteen. On Saturday 19th September, they were looking after their employer’s cattle, high up on the pasture above La Salette, a village near Corps, when they saw an apparition which turned out to be of Our Lady.
A globe of light opened to reveal a woman sitting on a stone with her head in her hands. The children later described her as very tall and beautiful, wearing a long, white, pearl studded, sleeved dress and a white shawl, with some sort of tiara or crown on her head. Hanging from her neck was a large crucifix which had a small hammer and pincers on it. The whole effect was as if she was made of light.
Speaking tearfully, she told them that unless people repented she would be forced to let go the arm of her son because it had become so heavy. Mary went on to complain that she had to pray constantly to her son for them, but the people still worked on Sundays and blasphemed. She also spoke of coming punishments for these sins, including crop blights and famine. She gave a secret to each of the children, which they were not to divulge, although eventually they were made known to Pope Pius IX.
Finally, she asked the children to spread her message before disappearing. When the children returned home they told their story, an account of which was taken down in writing the next day. They faced a lot of opposition in making known Mary’s message, but they maintained their story firmly. The local Bishop also faced much opposition in investigating the apparition, and it was only after four years, and having set up two commissions of enquiry, that Mgr de Bruillard, as bishop of Grenoble, approved of devotion to Our Lady of Salette, in the following terms:
“We declare that the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two shepherds, on September 19, 1846, on a mountain in the Alps in the parish of La Salette, bears in itself all the marks of truth and that the faithful are justified in believing without question in its truth. And so, to mark our lively gratitude to God and the glorious Virgin Mary, we authorise devotion to Our Lady of La Salette.”