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On the afternoon of Sept. 19, 1846, Our Blessed Mother appeared to the young shepherds Maximin Giraud, age 11, and Mélanie Calvat, age 14, on a mountainside in La Salette in southeast France. Unlike other apparitions of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady appeared to the children in great distress, weeping bitterly.
She said, "Come to me, my children. Do not be afraid. I am here to tell something of the greatest importance." She continued, "If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to lose my Son's arm. It is so heavy, so pressing that I can no longer restrain it. How long I have suffered for you! If my Son is not to cast you off, I am obliged to entreat Him without ceasing."
After the apparition, Maximin and Mélanie shared what they saw and heard with their pastor and bishop . Despite their youth and lack of education, they were consistent in their reports, even when separated, and many quickly came to believe them.
The apparition was officially approved by the Church — by Bp. Philibert Bruillard of Grenoble — on Sept. 19, 1851.
The shepherd children reported that the Blessed Mother they saw was crying — shedding tears for the world's many lost souls. She cried for all the wayward men and women of this world, who, through their actions and words, rejected her Son.
She wept because people did not keep God's commandments. She wept because people no longer observed the Sabbath. She wept because many profaned God's most Holy Name.
This distress during an apparition is unique; no other Marian apparition and few church statuary and paintings depict the Blessed Mother weeping.
Our Blessed Mother prophesied through her tears that due to humanity's sinfulness, a great chastisement would come upon the world. She warned:
If you have grain, it will do no good to sow it, for what you sow the beasts will devour, and any part of it that springs up will crumble into dust when you thresh it. A great famine is coming. But before that happens, the children under seven years of age will be seized with trembling and die in their parents' arms. The grownups will pay for their sins by hunger. The grapes will rot, and the walnuts will turn bad.
In the short period of time after the apparitions at La Salette, many souls in France and beyond responded positively to what the young shepherds reported and resumed going back to church and receiving the Church's sacraments regularly.
During the period immediately after the La Salette apparition, southeast France and the world beyond it underwent positive changes. The diocese of Grenoble built a magnificent basilica at the apparition site. Many miracles were attributed to the waters of the spring that emerged at the site, and a new religious order, the Missionaries of La Salette, was established in 1852.
Many people in the 1850s went from marginally practicing their faith to diligently practicing their faith. And contrary to what Mary prophesied, no great chastisement befell the world. What transpired in the 1850s was similar to what occurred in Nineveh after the prophet Jonah preached repentance. The people repented, and God stayed His hand.
Reading about the La Salette apparition all these years later and observing how one generation halted a great chastisement, one might wonder what is in store for us. In our world today, we average about 73 million abortions per year, sex slavery and pornography are among our largest industries, and billions of people do not even believe in God.
A great chastisement occurring next week would not surprise me at all. In fact, I expect one to happen soon. Our days are numbered if we do not repent.
Looking back almost 100 years since the apparition of Mary in La Salette, it is sobering to think that Mary held back her Son's arm for one generation. Can we really expect her to do so for us if we continue to spiral downward? Our Blessed Mother lamented the absence of people at Mass on Sundays in 1846; today, few, even among those who believe in God, attend church on a Sunday.
The Ninevites repented after Jonah preached to them. Now we face the same choice: to heed Mary's warning given at La Salette about a great chastisement and repent or choose to remain in our sins and face damnation.