June 04, 2003

Dear Believers in Our Lady of Emmitsburg

Although I had previously researched it years ago, when I re-read the account of the apparition of La Salette in 1846 and compared it with the trials of Gianna Talone-Sullivan, I was agog at the close similarities experienced by the two chosen visionaries of Our Lady.

In the book Sister Mary of the Cross Shepherdess of La Salette, Melanie Calvat by Fr. Paul Gouin, the first Preface is written by Joseph F. Cleary, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, England; the second Preface by Monsignor Thomas A. Ronchetti of Leeds, UK and there was a third Preface by Monsignor Francisco Spadafora, Professor at the Lateran University in Rome. The book documents the clerical harassment which the visionary of La Salette had to endure for years, even after approval of her authenticity by a bishop of Grenoble in France.

Melanie was given a message (the secret) from the Blessed Virgin Mary of La Salette on September 19, 1846 which she was not to reveal before 1858. She was also given a Rule for a new Order of priests and nuns to be called the Order of the Apostles of the Last Days. The Rule for this Order was eventually approved by the great Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), who believed in the authenticity of Melanie Calvat. However, one bishop of Grenoble in France set aside the Rule for the Order, thus completely ignoring the original orders given by the Pope. At that time the Pope could not exert his will on France. According to Fr. Gouin, the French bishops were not an obedient lot. It was said that they were on the verge of schism.

That bishop also succeeded in ill-speaking, defaming and eventually throwing suspicion on the shepherdess in the eyes of some of the Roman congregation, but Melanies secret was eventually printed in a booklet A Simple Account of the Apparition, which was published with the Imprimaturof a succeeding local bishop, Bishop Zola, in 1897. However, the booklet was also discredited, its distribution stopped (shades of Giannas video Unbridled Mercy) and Melanie was requested to keep silent by a member of the Congregation of the Holy Office.

But there were bishops and priests who did believe in Melanie and after 5 years of investigations, one of the succeeding bishops of Grenoble, Monsignor Philibert de Bruillard, declared the apparition authentic. His edict was signed on September 9, 1851 and read from the pulpit in the whole diocese of Grenoble on November 16, 1851. In May of 1852 Bishop de Bruillard laid the foundation stone of the sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of La Salette which indeed I first visited in 1994.

This is part of the message (the secret) of Our Lady to Melanie which was the cause of great antipathy towards her by the French clergy. These are Our Ladys actual words as she wept copiously: If my people do not wish to submit themselves, I am forced to let go the hand of my Son. It is so heavy and weighs me down so much that I can no longer keep hold of it& May those in charge of religious communities be on their guard against the people they must receive, for the devil will resort to all his evil tricks to introduce sinners into religious orders, for disorder and the love of carnal pleasures will be spread all over the earth& The priests, ministers of my Son, the priests, by their wicked lives, their irreverence and their impiety in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, by their love of money, their love of honours and pleasures, the priests have become cesspools of impurities. Woe to the priests and to those dedicated to God who by their infidelity and their wicked lives are crucifying my Son & God will strike in an unprecedented way. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth. There will be a series of wars until the last war.

A storm of criticism then descended upon Melanie. As Fr. Gouin wrote: The Bishop of Grenoble at that time had stated that Melanie was deluded and proudand he objected to her taking vows with the Sisters of Providence at Corenc where she had completed her novitiate and indeed sent her into exile in England. Melanies secret, her prophetic language, her painful reproaches and her moving appeal to the clergy, her proclamations of punishment of Divine Justice, were considered strangely severe. A storm of criticism then descended upon Melanie. She was accused of lying, of being unbalanced, even crazy, and of being possessed by the devil. From then on, whenever she was in France, the French bishops thwarted her in anything she tried to do.

Melanie, who was a fighter, will say later on 25 June, 1897: There are people who believe it is their duty to see that Almighty God does not say things which are too severe or shocking when He lowers Himself to talk to His creatures. They allow the Good Lord to complain about farmers working on Sundays, blasphemy or the missing of Mass, but they do not allow Him to complain about the clergy being too fond of money.

In another well-researched book Melanie and the Story of Our Lady of La Salette, written by Mary Alice Dennis and published by Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, it is recorded that Melanie said: If the apparition of La Salette and its secret had been accepted by the French clergy, all the miracles that were done at Lourdes would have occurred also at La Salette. Melanie also said that the de-Christianization of France occurred because of the hostility of the bishops towards the appearance of the Blessed Virgin at La Salette.Even in this respect, there is a close similarity with Our Lady of Emmitsburg and her promise of a sign in a past October!

Melanie Calvat was given the grace of bearing the stigmata of Our Lord and on one occasion, Mother Marie-Eymard, the Prioress of an Order of nuns, testified that she did see the appearance of the stigmata on Melanies hands. The day before she died, on 14 December, 1904, Melanie wrote to Fr. Mésiere: My Most Reverend Father, may Jesus be loved in every heart! Your letter of the 28th November arrived the day before yesterday. I am hurrying to write you these few lines, God willing& Priests should be, in all things and everywhere, a true model of the virtue practiced by our loving Jesus Christ in the holy state of God made man&. Blessed and a thousand times blessed are those priests who live close to the Heart of the Lord, and who serve Him and love Him in spirit and in truth with the Virgin Mary.

Melanie Calvat died December 15, 1904 and permission was given on 19 September, 1918 for the disinterment of her virginal corpse. The skeleton was found intact. As Fr. Gouin wrote: Melanie had endured contradictions, scorn, contempt and injury. But she had indomitable courage and tenacity to pass on to the world the message of Our Lady of La Salette. And at the end of her hard journey, there was a heavenly crown waiting for her.

La Salette is the first of the Blessed Virgins apparitions in which she also warned of coming chastisements. Today, millions of pilgrims continue to visit La Salette each year and it is one of the most visited shrines in the world. The famous message now known as The Secretof La Salette is Melanies message given to her by the Virgin Mary. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Mother of Sorrowsappearance at La Salette, Pope John Paul II said in his address in the Vatican on May 6, 1996: Through the witness of the visionary, Mary asked us that her message be known to all her people& Mary is as present in the Church today as she was on the day of the Cross, on the day of the Resurrection and on the day of Pentecost&

As I write this close to the feast of Pentecost, I hope that this would help the faithful to be more informed about the history of Marian apparitions and the frustrations of the Mother of God and her chosen visionaries by certain members of the hierarchy of the Church over the years. The US scandal of paedophile priests (the result not only of the gross impiety of some of Our Ladys consecrated ones but also of the poor judgment and irresponsibility on the part of several bishops) has also affected all of us in the worldwide Catholic Church and given fodder to our enemies to criticize and humiliate us. But our consolation is that for every one errant priest, there are 99 good and holy ones. However, we must be careful not to add to this the denial of any authentic apparition of the Mother of God with its serious consequences.

May Mother Seton assist us in our battle.

Dr. Courtneay Bartholomew