The 19th century witnessed a number apparitions of Our Lady in France. In 1830, she appeared to St. Catherine Laboure and revealed the devotion of the Miraculous Medal. In 1840, she appeared to Sister Justine Bisqueyburu and revealed the devotion of the Green Scapular. In 1858, Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes and sparked a renewal of the rosary devotion.
During the 19th century, there were two other significant Marian apparitions in France: Our Lady of La Salette in 1846 and Our Lady of Pontmain in 1871.
On September 19, 1846, Our Lady appeared at La Salette-Fallavaux to two children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat. The children saw a beautiful lady weeping bitterly. She was sitting with her elbows resting on her knees and her face buried in her hands. She was clothed in a white robe studded with pearls; and a gold colored apron; white shoes and roses about her feet and high headdress. She wore a crucifix suspended by a necklace from her neck. She rose up, crossed her arms, and said to the children: “Come near, my children, be not afraid, I am here to tell you great news.”
She spoke in French: “If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let go the hand of my Son. It is so strong, so heavy, that I can no longer withhold it. For how long a time do I pray for you! If I would not have my Son abandon you, I am compelled to pray to Him without ceasing. And as to you, you take no heed of it. However much you pray, however much you do, you will never recompense the pains I have taken for you. Six days have I given you to labor, the seventh I have kept for myself, and they will not give it to me. It is this which makes the hand of my Son so heavy. Those who drive the carts cannot swear without introducing the Name of my Son. These are the two things which make the hand of my Son so heavy. If the harvest is spoilt, it is all on your account. I gave you warning last year in the potatoes, but you did not heed it. On the contrary, when you found the potatoes spoilt, you swore, you took the Name of my Son in vain. They will continue to decay, so that by Christmas there will be none left.”
Mélanie had difficulty understanding the full meaning of the message, and so, Our Lady spoke in the dialect of Occitan. She predicted a famine for the punishment of sins. Our Lady asked the children, “Do you say your prayers well, my children?” They answered: ” Not very well, Madam.” Our Lady exhorted them: ” Ah, my children, you must be sure to say them well morning and evening. When you cannot do better, say at least an Our Father and a Hail Mary; but when you have time, say more. There are none who go to Mass except a few aged women. The rest work on Sunday all summer; then in the winter, when they know not what to do, they go to Mass only to mock at religion. During Lent, they go to the meat-market like dogs.”
Our Lady helped Maximin to remember his experience of seeing wheat that was spoilt. Before disappearing, Our Lady repeated twice to the children in French: ” Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people.”
The apparition of Our Lady of La Salette reminds us of the importance of observing the first three Commandments. We should be faithful to our morning and evening prayers, respect the Name of God, rest and attend Mass on Sunday, and observe fasting and abstinence.