The La Salette Story
On Saturday, September 19, 1846, a beautiful clear autumn day, the Virgin Mary appeared to Maximin Giraud, age 11, and Melanie Mathieu, age 14 on a mountain near the town of La Salette, some 6,000 feet high in the French Alps. The two children had first met the day before while tending cows on the slopes.
Mary said to the children, "Come near, my children, don't be afraid. I am here to tell you great news." The message given to the children has become the foundation for the La Salette Order of Priests, Brothers, and Sisters. Mary also said, "Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people." And, according to Mary's wishes, that message continues to be shared by the La Salette Order throughout the world today.
The La Salette Cross
The children to whom Mary appeared at La Salette, France, described the crucifix on Mary's breast as more radiant than anything else in the apparition.
A hammer hung on one side and pincers on the other. Although Mary did not explain the significance of these implements, it is thought that the hammer represents sin, which nailed Jesus to the Cross. Just as the pincers removed the nails, penance and prayer help us reconcile the world to God.
Around the world, the La Salette Cross has become the characteristic symbol of Mary's message to be reconciled to God. The emblem pictured below the cross on your right, is located on the altar of the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Salette Shrine in France, at the sight of the September 19th 1846 apparition. The same symbols have been artisically depicted by numerous artists around the world ... and these on the altar of the basilica, cast in bronze and gilded with gold replicate beautifully the image that Melanie and Maximum first described to Baptiste Pra and Pierre Selme in the hamlet of Les Ablandains near La Salette.
The Miracle of Enfield: A Vale Chosen by God Himself
It’s 1782 and many of the folks in Mascoma Valley have become involved in Protestant religious revival. Since the Nineteenth Century is just around the corner, many wonder if the Lord might not choose this time for his Second Coming. And if he does come, what might he expect to find among his followers?
At the invitation of one of the townspeople, two brothers come to the valley to address the faithful on the Shaker religious beliefs. Their celibate community claims that Mother Ann—their foundress—is the feminine counterpart of Christ and that both men and women must now work diligently to build a perfect earth if they are to be acceptable for a perfect heaven. A number of the townspeople like what they hear and before long, a community is born.
The Shakers call Mascoma Valley, “Chosen Vale” and they find God’s presence here in a special way. Over the years, their example attracts new believers and by the mid-century over 350 members share their lifestyle in Enfield, N.H. Numerous buildings spring up and the Great Stone Dwelling House (1837) effectively becomes the largest Shaker dwelling house ever built. Even to this day, this magnificent building stands as a tribute to lives dedicated to God.
The Shaker industriousness knows no boundaries and seeks perfection in all things. Their farm skills lead to the development of our modern seed industry; to patent medicines; and to new forestry techniques. They weave indestructible sweaters, create beautiful and simple furniture, and set to paper a whole repertory of music to praise God and his creation.
Times change, however, and with new times come changes in values and lifestyles. As the Twentieth Century draws near, the Shakers become aware of a dwindling membership. They begin to speak the unspeakable—some of their settlements will have to be closed. Might this be a sign of the Lord’s Second Coming? The Shakers are finally faced with closing their Chosen Vale community in 1923. For four years, the property sits idle.
In 1927, at the invitation of a parish priest in Lebanon, N.H. Father Zotique Chouinard, M.S., a La Salette Missionary contacts Elder Bruce in Canterbury and begins negotiations for acquisition of the property. In early December of that year, the Shakers sell Chosen Vale for $25,000 — the sum Father Chouinard was authorized to spend.
The Enfield property now enters a second phase not unlike the period of the Shakers: young men are to be trained for the celibate religious life and for the Catholic priesthood. In August 1928, the Sisters of Saint Martha arrive to attend to the cooking and household tasks once carried out by the Shaker Sisters.
For forty years the use of this property continues to evolve, but manages to maintain the prayerful commitment of a celibate life dedicated to God along with a quest for practicality and a respect for roots. The beautiful and stately Mary Keane Memorial Chapel is added in 1930 thanks to the generosity of an eminent benefactress.
In 1974 the seminary closes its doors as a result of soaring costs and a change in lifestyles, which results in reduced numbers of vocations at the high school level. Chosen Vale enters yet another phase. The scenic shores of Mascoma begin to attract families seeking a sacred place in which to rest and be recreated. Some even sell their homes to be near the La Salette Missionaries in their search for God’s will today.
In the heart of this great valley home there lies a place of special value and sacredness: The Shaker and La Salette Cemeteries. These sacred grounds bear witness not to death, but to life, to life lived out fully in the service of God. Here lie in peace such heroes as Moses Johnson who built a number of Shaker Meeting Houses; Caleb Dyer who built many of the great edifices in this Chosen Vale and who brought the Shaker Community to its apex; Rev Zotique Chouinard, M.S. who saw the dream of a LaSalette Community come to life at great personal expense to himself and to the early fathers and brothers; Miss Mary Keane who returned to God the hundredfold of gifts with which he had blessed her; and so many others who were able to find here a special presence of God and who proclaim to all that this valley is special, that this is God’s Chosen Vale.
La Salette continues to be a special gift from God. The community which flowed from the apparition of Our Lady at La Salette France in 1846 has grown to encompass mission areas all over the world. The Enfield community sprang from a residence and mother Province in Hartford, Connecticut. From Enfield has come a whole new religious Province in the Philippine Islands. The movement goes on. Where the future and God will lead cannot be foretold. Who would have dreamed back in 1782 that today this Chosen Vale would serve families in a special way? Who would have thought in 1846 when the Shakers were erecting a Sacred Stone that two weeks later Our Lady would appear at La Salette and re-echo the message that “from this ground a spring would flow that would bring healings from afar?” Who would have dreamed in 1927 that Miss Keane would make possible in 1930 a Church that none could even imagine?
Many refer to our on-going story as The Miracle of Enfield. Why doubt it? Nothing short of a miracle could have brought us to where we are today. The signs of God never cease to amaze us as we live each sunrise and sunset under his watchful eye. As St. Paul would say: If God is for us, who can be against us?
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! Now and forever, praised be Jesus Christ!
This Shrine and many other works will continue to be served by the Missionaries of La Salette as long as there are Missionaries of La Salette to serve them.
If you know any man interested in Religious Life and who might be a good La Salette Priest or Brother, please encourage him! And have him contact Br. David Eubank, M.S., either by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 508-530-1617.
And pray, pray, pray for those who are joining us, and that many more may do the same. Thank you.