THE SECRET OF LA SALETTE
I. THE CHILDHOOD GOSPEL
HER time at Corenc, where she was adulated, marks an obvious turning point in her life. Constantly being asked to tell the story of the apparition and of her early life, deep into all sorts of mystical writing and already refined through four years of education at Corps, she began to tell the story of herself. With time and imagination, she will produce her Autobiography in 1900, which resumes an original manuscript dating from 1852. The drift can be dated perfectly. Whilst Mélanie remained under the direction of Sister Thècle, the superior at Corps, she struggled successfully against the temptation of vanity, as her notes testify. But at Corenc, as Mr. Gérente, the convent chaplain, relates to Fr. Bossan, “ I saw priests there (in the parlour) writing down everything Mélanie said as though they were oracles. I once said to a priest from the South, who had already written three pages of conversation with Mélanie : “ But, my good Father, what are you doing there ? – I am writing down everything she says because it is very edifying, On Sunday, I shall read out to my parishioners, in the pulpit, everything I have just written. ” He said this while Mélanie was present.
“ I saw priests, ladies, generals, officers, highly placed men all standing before Melanie as though she were some very important person, speaking to her with humility, asking her to sign prints or anything simply to have her autograph. All sorts of follies were committed with regard to her.
“ In the meantime, Mélanie was ardently throwing herself into the lives of the saints, their mystical writings and revelations, of varying authenticity. “ She read a lot, Mr. Gérente declared to the same interviewer. Everything she wrote after the apparition, she could have taken from her reading. ” (…).
“ There is, therefore, a turning point in Mélanie’s life; it has a perceptible starting point from which a curve could be traced. History guarantees that the inclination to story-telling was alien to the adolescent who, with her little companion on the mountainside, gave a message which she understood no more than he did. ” (Jaouen, La grâce de La Salette, p. 257-259)
All the introductions to the Autobiography admit or accuse – depending on their final judgement – the exceptional strangeness, be it human or supernatural, of the account. Among the “ Mélanistes ”, emotion and unconditional admiration are carried to the limit through the number and harshness of the trials endured by Mélanie, through the lofty sentiments she expresses and the heroic nature of the virtues she implicitly admits to having practised.
Every objection is brushed aside by these two arguments, which are reckoned to be irrefutable :
- Almighty God can do what He wants : our human reason has only to bow.
- The Blessed Virgin Mary could not have chosen a seer, knowing that she would begin to ramble.
Everything written by Melanie, therefore, is literally true. Which is what we contest, with proofs to hand.
AGAINST A BACKGROUND OF PERSECUTION
It is rare to find a child so unhappy and so ill treated by her mother from the age of five, to six months : she was beaten, thrown to the ground, expelled from the home at the age of two or three years, found wandering in the forest, inexplicably re-integrated into the home, rebuffed for her displays of affection, cruelly separated from her sympathetic father, placed with various ill-tempered, perverse masters, one after the other, where she endured endless vexations, went hungry, fell sick, was neglected. In short, she was one of those child martyrs whose parents would face loss of parental rights and imprisonment today.
And all the more a martyr, in that this poor child opposed her persecutors with nothing other than resignation, meekness, patience, forgetfulness and pardon of injuries, dedication and courage in work which drew cries of admiration for this “ holy and spotless victim".
But it is all too much ! Although very enlightening, the exact study of this “ display ” of totally unjust situations, to highlight the victim’s exemplary reaction, would take us too far. We shall simply oppose this flow of writing with two outside testimonies.
The first knocks down the statue of the saint; it is the testimony of her last employer, Jean-Baptiste Pra, certified by his parish priest as being “ a trustworthy man and a good Catholic ” : he relates that before the apparition in 1846, Melanie was “ sulky, lazy and disobedient ”, often insolent, “ to the point of sometimes refusing to answer those who spoke to her ”, thoughtless and often locked in her reveries (Bassette, p. 101).
The second testimony comes from the Mélanistes themselves, who are astonished, as we are too, that for fourteen years nobody protested against these butchers of parents. They made their enquiries and we find their testimony precious, since they reveal that “ the parents were poor but believed to be honourable [!]. Nobody in the little village of Corps would have imagined that Madame Calvat (ten children) was capable of inflicting on her two to three year old daughter ill-treatment unworthy of a mother simply on the pretext that Mélanie’s tastes did not agree with hers.
“ We would not have known of these unedifying facts if Melanie had not yielded to the entreaties of her confessors by giving an account of them. And perhaps there would remain a few doubts in our minds [ah, even so !] about the authenticity of this account, if the parents had not, according to the nuns of Corenc [!], recognised the truth of their daughter’s account. ” (Hyacinthe Guilhot, La vraie Mélanie de La Salette, p. 347)
But Bassette points out that the nuns of Corenc are not reliable ! There is no doubt about it : Melanie Calvat, of a poor family of ten children, was not a child martyr edifying those around her with her holiness. She invented that afterwards.
First point established.
A SUPER-PREDESTINED CHILDHOOD
The concentration of mystical graces, with which she is said to have been favoured, is quite extraordinary. The first of these graces is startling. It is surprising when one learns that she received it at the age of two or three, after her mother had chased her into the woods : an encounter with him whom she will refer to, until the age of twenty, as her Brother. This story inevitably reminds one of Anne de Saint-Barthélemy, the Spanish Carmelite (1548-1626), whose childhood was favoured with very real and extraordinary mystical graces.
We find almost similar situations in the autobiographies of both Mélanie and Anne : Anne is an orphan, consoled by the Child Jesus :
“ It happened to me when I was about ten years old, at the death of my parents which caused me great distress. I still had brothers and sisters, who acted as parents and who were very good. But having reached the age of ten, I was sent to look after the sheep in the fields. Although not far from the village, I suffered greatly to begin with; but soon Our Lord consoled me : the fields were my delight and the birds welcomed me with their song. If they began to sing, I would remain recollected for hours. And often, the Child Jesus would come; He would sit on my lap, and I would find Him there when I came to.
Mélanie is endowed with parents, travestied as butchers, consoled by… a little Brother.
“ … There were three or four days when I was in the woods without seeing or hearing anyone… Suddenly, I saw coming towards me a small child of great beauty, clothed in shining white with a pretty crown on his head. When this little child was near the recluse, he said to her :
“ Good day, sister, why are you crying ? I have come to console you.
– Ah ! said the recluse; my poor little child, speak very softly, for I do not like noise. I am crying because I would like to know all that my Jesus did to save the world, so that I can do as he did without failing in anything; then I would like to know what the world did to cause the death of my Jesus; then I would like to have a mummy; I have no one. I used to be in a house with a woman and children; this woman does not want me any more. Ah ! if only I had a mummy !
– My sister, the little child then said, call me brother; I am your good brother, I watch over you; we have a mummy... ” (p. 38)
Anne feels an attraction for solitude, but Jesus wisely corrects her of this :
“ What I then felt in my spirit I cannot say; how gloriously I felt myself to be in a glorious heaven. I desired to live there forever, to see no one, and I wished to go far away. Once I said to the Child Jesus : ‘ Lord, since you keep me company, let us not go where there are other people, but let us go alone towards the mountains, for with your company I shall want for nothing. ’ But he laughed, and without words he showed me that that was not what he wanted of me. ” (p. 40)
Mélanie’s “ little Brother ”, on the contrary, urges her to seek solitude, at the age of two or three years !
“ Then my loving brother said to me : ‘ My sister, flee from the world, love retirement and recollection; have your heart on the cross and the cross in your heart; let Jesus Christ be your sole concern. Love silence and you will hear the voice of God from Heaven who will speak in your heart; form no relationship with anyone and God will be all for you. ’
“ My little brother came to see me almost every day; sometimes he stayed without seeing me, but often he would come several times in the same day. We would always talk about the passion or the hidden life of Our Lord Jesus Christ… ” (p. 38)
Jesus leaves a mystery hanging over his encounters with Anne :
“ Sometimes, he would take me away at night, without my noticing, half a league away from the village. In alarm, my brothers would go out looking for me and would scold me. But I was not surprised, for not knowing whom I was with – and I did not tell them – they could never have thought otherwise. ” (p. 40)
Mélanie is often expelled from the house at night, and nobody asks how, at her age, she could have survived.
Thus Mélanie plagiarises Anne, always going one better and becoming increasingly more unrealistic – the marks of plagiarism. The habitual presence of Jesus with Mélanie is but the prelude to raptures, ecstasies, conversations with the divine Persons, theophanies, meetings with the Blessed Virgin, journeys to Paradise and the stigmata, between the ages of one and six, if you please ! followed by visits to Purgatory, charisms with animals (the forest is her favourite place), miracles repeated on herself and others, with spiritual marriage at the age of thirteen !
It is all too much ! Especially when one unfailingly recognises in all this a pastiche of the Bible : the crossing of the Red Sea (here a torrent), the prophet Elijah miraculously fed (1 Kings 19.1-8), the divine raven messenger (ibid. 17.2-6), the Song of Songs, Francis of Assisi for the animals, Saint John Bosco for the protective dog, Saint Margaret-Mary for the burning in the chest, Saint Mechtilde and Anne of Saint-Barthélemy for the visits to Purgatory !
But the fervour, or the deliberate blindness, of the Mélanistes are such that Melanie’s going one better, which reaches the farcical, ceases to affect them. It makes one despair of human common sense ! Listen to this catechism lesson to the animals, reproduced by Hyacinthe Guilhot, without raising an eyebrow, p. 130-131 :
“ I told these animals the story of their creation by the all powerful word of our eternal God, as my good Brother had taught it to me, and I encouraged them to seek food everywhere, without harming men, their masters and their kings, for they are created in the image of God through the powers of their souls, and again, through their bodies, they are images of Jesus … To begin with, a wolf would come every day, and I taught him what I could; however, I did not like that very much because, unlike a man, he could not love me with a conscious and disinterested love (sic !)...
“ Before long, the number of wolves increased; there were foxes, hares, three little fawns and a cloud of birds that came every day. And then, for lack of men to speak to about the good God, the She-wolf (she is speaking of herself) preached to them and then sang the canticle : Taste, fervent souls. All the animals showed signs of great attention and bowed their heads at the holy names of Jesus and Mary.
“ The wolves normally came together at a fixed hour; the foxes came together as well as the hares, the fawns and the birds (a snake came too, but was sent away). Once they had all arrived, each animal took the place assigned to him and listened. Then, when they heard the end which went something like this : Sit nomen Domini benedictum ! they all went wild, especially the foxes who played tricks on their brother wolves : they bit their ears and their tails; they slapped the hares with their paws and made them roll over; they pulled the fawns from behind by their little tails… as soon as I told them to retire, they all left. Oh ! how ungrateful I was towards my loving Jesus ! I amused myself with the animals, and wearied conversing with my all. ” (Guilhot, p. 130-131)
It is grotesque, and perfectly ridiculous. The imitation of the Poverello of Assisi is obvious, at least in Mélanie’s mind. There is no doubt in our mind : she is inventing by plagiarising. Second point established.
IN BREACH WITH THE APPARITION OF 1846
More seriously, we would like the Mélanistes to explain one single point : how does this child who has reached the peaks of the mystical life, constantly immersed in prayer and in intimate conversation with all the beings of Heaven even from the age of fourteen or fifteen, this lyrical, delicate, tender-hearted, exquisite young girl, of such refined expression, – how do these attributes agree with the Mélanie of 1846, who was boorish, not very likeable, ignorant, practically without any knowledge of religion, as her parish priest testified, and whose stubborn memory could not retain two lines of the catechism ? How does the super mystical Mélanie agree with the Mélanie of 1846 who failed to recognise this Lady who was weeping : “ We told each other that she was very pretty. As for me, I said it could be some Saint who had disappeared. ” (Bassette, p. 45)
And how does the Mélanie of the Autobiography agree with the Mélanie of 1846, who is not all alone as in all her other “ apparitions ”, but with a naughty fellow, Maximin, even more boorish and bad-tempered than herself, and whom, to cap it all, the beautiful Lady – who has clearly not read the Autobiography ! – associates with her, to the extent of speaking to the two of them in a strangely prosaic language – about potatoes and butcher’s meat and spoilt wheat ! – to the extent of asking them a question that is very strange for those of us who have read the Autobiography :
“ Do you say your prayers properly, my children ?
– Not very much, Madame (!).
– You must say your prayers, my children, morning and evening; when you can do no more, say a Pater and an Ave Maria, and when you have the time, say more. ”
The Mélanie of 1846, oblivious of the Mélanie of the Autobiography who refers to herself as “ the dumb She-wolf ”, keeps her secrets hidden, and that same evening she relates the Apparition as the event of her life ! And the beautiful Lady of 1846 also forgets herself and speaks in both French and patois. It is clearly the first time in fourteen years !
Is the Mélanie of 1900 aware of such obvious discordance ? It would seem so if we compare the 1846 version, recorded in 1847, with that of 1879 : poor Maximin, so unflattered, is practically painted out; Mélanie has made great strides in style, and in… autism : it is a dialogue of her “ little heart" with the beautiful Lady. A few more years, and she will possess this unctuous style, bewitching for some, cringe-making for others; and always enveloping and suffocating one with what is essentially charismatic mythomania. Judge for yourself :
1847 VERSION :
1879 VERSION :
|It is prosaic and rough, but true; they are the facts.
|It is embellished; it draws attention to herself.
|We then saw a Lady in the light. We were afraid. I dropped my stick. Then Maximin said to me : “ Keep hold of your stick ! If it does anything to us, I'll hit it with the stick ! ”
|(…) Suddenly, I saw a beautiful light, more brilliant than the sun and I could scarcely say these words : “ Maximin, do you see what is over there ? Oh ! my God ! ” At the same time, I dropped the stick I was holding.
I do not know what happened in that moment, but I felt myself being drawn, I felt a great respect, full of love, and my heart seemed to run faster than me.
I kept my eyes firmly fixed on this light, which was static and as though it had opened up. I noticed another, much more brilliant light which was in movement, and in this light a most beautiful Lady sitting on top of our Paradise, with her head in her hands.
|Then this Lady stood up straight and said to us :
|The beautiful Lady stood up; she coolly crossed her arms while watching us, and said to us :
|“ Come my children, do not be afraid. I am here to tell you great news. ”
|“ Come, my children, I am here to proclaim great news to you ! ”
|Then we crossed over the stream and she came to the place where we had been sleeping. Then she said to us, crying all the time that she spoke (I really saw her tears flow) (…)
|These soft and sweet words made me fly to her, and my heart desired to attach itself to her forever. When I was close to the beautiful Lady, in front of her to her right, she began to speak and from her beautiful eyes tears also started to flow (…)
|And then I did not understand what was meant by ‘ pommes de terre' [potatoes]. I was about to ask Maximin : “ What does ‘ pommes de terre ’ mean ? ”
|At this point, I tried to interpret the word : ‘ pommes de terre ’. I thought it meant ‘ apples ’.
|And the Lady said : “ You do not understand, my children; I will tell it to you differently. ”
|The good and beautiful Lady, reading my thoughts, thus repeated : “ You do not understand, my children ? I will tell it to you differently. ”
|“ If the potatoes go bad ”, the Lady continued in patois…
|“ If the harvest is spoiled… ”
What are we to make of this Childhood Gospel, and of these reveries ? That, in our interpretation, they represent the temptation of Eve. It begins at Corenc, where she confides in the ecstatic nuns that she is missing her forest, with its snakes, wolves and foxes… A diabolical temptation is slipping in here, making her paint a dream Paradise : as a child, from the age of two to three, she was with her Adam. They were both very nice; he would work miracles for her, and she would tell him everything, more and more mystical.
We have seen that Maximin emerged victorious from this temptation, because he was able to resist it and keep himself from all illusion. Mélanie, who was strongly assailed by the devil at Corenc, – the devil who got her into a thousand eccentricities – gave in, rather like the people of God on the plain whilst Moses was receiving the Tables of the Law on Mount Sinaï.
Yielding to mythomania, Mélanie looks down on Maximin. Surrounded, flattered and listened to, she knows the secrets of God and will pass from the illusion of Paradise in the forest with her “ little brother" Adam to the illusion of the highest mystical graces. Again, at Darlington she experiences the assaults of the devil, from which she will escape through the illusion of the stigmata. It is a constant fact in her life : she inflates her mystical illusions in step with the contradictions she meets.
Thus, Maximin’s path, like Saint Peter’s after his denial, seems to be a path of fidelity, whereas Mélanie’s is the path of infidelity and of schism.
Another point of reflection : the pilgrimage of La Salette develops and the Church continues to walk straight. But Mélanie is not concerned with that, no more than she is concerned with the declaration of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the apparition of Lourdes in 1858, much more brilliant and newer than that of La Salette !
In the Secret she attributes to the Blessed Virgin, in 1879, there is not a single allusion to these glories of the Blessed Virgin ! Still worse, she attempts to overshadow Lourdes by inventing the story that her Secret, Mélanie’s, should have been published… in 1858 ! Later, she will confide to Fr. Combe, that if he had not thwarted her mission, all the miracles of Lourdes would have been done at La Salette (Guilhot, p. 269).
The same thing is to be found in the life of Saint Catherine Labouré; it is probable that Mélanie, making her bitter confidences several years after the death of the seer of the rue du Bac (1876) knew of this… Saint Catherine said, in fact, of the miracles being worked at Lourdes : “ To think that these miracles could have taken place in our chapel ! ” But just before 1858, she had scribbled on a piece of paper, discovered among her things : “ My good Mother, they will not do what you want here; manifest Yourself elsewhere ! ” and on learning of the apparitions of Lourdes, she exclaimed : “ It’s the same ! ”
Provided the Immaculate Virgin is better known, loved and invoked, the rest matters little to a true saint, to a true Catholic ! For it is plain that Lourdes was not the contradiction of La Salette, but its fulfilment.
Mélanie did not understand that, did not want to understand, and isolated herself in her imaginings, awaiting the propitious hour for her revelation to the world…
II. THE NEW LAW :
THE ORDER OF THE LAST TIMES
The event of 1846 should have made her pass, according to her later version of the facts, from her private, hidden life, to her public life. The pious Mélanistes sum up and quote as follows, without a hint of surprise or amusement :
“ Until the apparition of September 19, 1846, Mélanie had remained small for her age, and the little Brother, who frequently came to see her, was always the same height as herself. After Mélanie had joined the nuns of Corenc (them again ! always them !), it was no longer the same. Mélanie began to grow quite rapidly, whereas the little Brother’s height decreased (No ! I tell you, they won't laugh !). She noticed it (!) and remarked on it to him.
– ‘ How funny ! I am growing, and you are diminishing. ’
– ‘ It has to be like that ’, he answers. ” (Guilhot, p. 467) That Jesus should become smaller and that Mélanie should grow ? !
In fact, the 1879 version of the Secret, at the cost of a further pastiche, bestowed on her a new and extraordinary mission : to promote the foundation of the Order of the Sons and Daughters of the Mother of God, also called the Apostles of the Last Times, according to the rule to have come straight from the mouth of the Blessed Virgin.
First of all, let us compare the two versions :
1847 VERSION :
1879 VERSION :
|At this point, the Lady kept silence for a moment; she seemed to be speaking to Maximin, but I heard nothing.
Then, afterwards, she spoke to me in patois, whilst Maximin played with stones.
|Then addressing me, the Most Blessed Virgin spoke and gave me a secret in French :“ Mélanie, what I am about to tell you now will not always be a secret; you may publish it in 1858. ”
Then, the Blessed Virgin gave me, also in French, the rule of a new religious order.
|Then she said :
|After giving me the rule of this new religious order, the Blessed Virgin thus continued her speech :
|“ If they convert… ”
|“ If they convert… ”
Now, let us go back to our chronology. Following recognition of the events of La Salette in 1851, the Bishop of Grenoble announced to his diocese, on May 1, 1852, his plan to build, on the mountain of La Salette, a basilica “ worthy of the Queen of Heaven and of the grateful piety of the diocese ”, together with the creation, at Grenoble, of a body of diocesan missionary priests who would reside on the mountain during the pilgrimage season and evangelize the different parishes of the diocese during the winter. On May 25, 1852, thousands of pilgrims and about a hundred priests were present when the Bishop of Grenoble laid the first stone of the basilica. It was the beginning of a great work of the Church.
But, at Corenc, Mélanie also began to speak of statutes to be given to the Missionaries of La Salette, proposing the adoption of a rule which, she guaranteed, had come straight from the Blessed Virgin; she even wrote a rough draft. Msgr. Ginoulhiac, who was wary of her and had just postponed her vows, was angry, but she vaunted this rule which, “ instead of causing those in force to lapse, would have reinvigorated them, bringing about a rebirth of the spirit of the Gospel".
We are in 1853.
Before continuing with this painful history, which will end only with the death of Mélanie in 1904, let us make one, nay two, reflections :
1). The Blessed Virgin Mary, had, in fact, given the children a mission, concerning the material chastisements that would befall men if they did not convert. “ And so, My children, She told them on two occasions, you will pass this on to all My people. ”
The children accomplished this mission, and the Church has taken it over. Until 1851, there was no question of anything else, other than the Secret, but when Pius IX learned of it, he revealed nothing concerning an Order and a supposedly inspired Rule, to be put into application after 1858 !
2). More disturbing is the date supposedly fixed by the Blessed Virgin : 1858. But if she really made it clear to Mélanie (and not to Maximin) that the Secret, which included the Rule, could be revealed at this date, why did not Mélanie say so earlier ? Would it not have been a good way of keeping the curious at arm’s length ? Sister Lucy of Fatima succeeded in keeping silence over her Secret, without being troubled by it, clearly stating that from 1960 it would be timely to divulge it.
Installed at Castellammare, in Italy, under the protection of Msgr. Petagna, she nevertheless continued to pursue her dream, charged with exhorting religious to fervour. She spoke, so her biographer, Fr. Gouin, tells us, “ with the effusion of the permanent memory of this rule she had received on the day of the Apparition, proposing it as the rule for all monastic life".
At the same time, her chaplain, Father Fusco, together with two or three priests, were putting the rule into practice, for which Mélanie let them have the first floor of the Palazzo Ruffo. Other priests, passing through Castellammare, took this initiative into consideration, among whom was Canon de Brandt from the cathedral of Amiens. She saw in this “ tall and noble figure ”, writes Fr. Gouin, the ideal superior for the order of her dreams. Note that, at the same time, she was accepting sums of money sent to her by Fr. Giraud, superior of the Missionaries of La Salette, to complement the generosity of the Italian prelate protector !
In a letter to Canon de Brandt, dated March 23, 1877, therefore, Mélanie wrote to present her project and let it be known that a noviciate of the new order could be opened in France in a house which a priest had promised to give her !
The priest was Fr. Jean Ronjon, of Chalon-surSaône. On August 24, 1878, he handed over to her, by a legal act, a chapel he had founded at Chalon, and opened for public worship, together with an adjacent dwelling house to house members of the order which was to come to birth through the will of the Mother of God, as Mélanie asserted (cf. Galli, p. 92-93).
We are at the height of anarchy ! In 1876 she even wrote a book entitled : “ A view of the costume and of the works in which the Sons and Daughters of the Mother of God will be employed ”.
A view ? So the words of the Blessed Virgin are amplified by visions ! It is now time to quote the second part of the Secret which she let out in snatches and in private, before releasing a public version in 1879 :
“ 1. It is indeed true that, in the apparition on the mountain of La Salette of 19 September 1846, the most Blessed Virgin showed me that She desired the creation of a new religious order designated by Herself under the title of the Apostles of the Last Times. The proof of this is either in the rule She then gave me by word of mouth following the secret. which you have long possessed, or in the sight of this work.
“ This order will comprise : 1. priests who will be the missionaries of the Blessed Virgin and the apostles of the last times; 2. nuns, who will be dependent on the missionaries; 3. members of the faithful working in the world and who would like to be united and attached to the work.
“ 2. The aim of this new religious order is to work for the sanctification of the clergy, for the conversion of sinners and for the extension of God’s Kingdom throughout the world […].
“ I saw that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached throughout the whole earth and to all peoples in all its purity.
“ I saw that God wanted this order to fight against all the abuses that have led to the decadence of the clergy, of the religious state and to the ruin of Christian society. ” (Guilhot, ed. Téqui, p. 305-306)
As for the thirty three articles of the rule, they are so trivial and vague that any genuine superior would despair of true vocations being based on them. It is true that Mélanie herself was to be their superior… after having formally denied this to Msgr. Ginouilhac in 1853.
But, in the mind of the seer become the foundress of an order, these “ Apostles of the Last Times ” were obviously meant to correspond to the image given of them by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort in his Ardent Prayer, composed for the missionary priests of his Company of Mary : “ These missionary saints, children of Mary, your Spouse, whom you are to gather and separate from ordinary mortals, for the good of your Church, so enfeebled and sullied by the crimes of her children… ” (Golden Book, p. 757) Thus, what the Mélanistes present as the fulfilment of the saint’s prophecy is nothing but a vulgar pastiche composed by an illuminist (cf. Bibliographie, p. 3).
In this context, it is understandable that Msgr. Fava, the new Bishop of Grenoble, should have caused an uproar when he came to Rome in November 1878 accompanied by a La Salette Father to request the crowning and title of basilica for the shrine, and at the same time approval for the Missionaries' rule.
Forewarned of his intentions, Mélanie had sent her work to Rome and knew that it had been well received. Summoned to Rome, she learned that she could count on three cardinals, but more importantly on the new Pope, Leo XIII. At least that is what she claims, and we are reduced to admitting her version of the papal audience. Here it is, as devoutly reproduced by the Mélanistes.
– “ You must go up there and make known the Rule dictated by the Most Blessed Virgin. If there are those who would not want to observe it, you should warn the bishop to transfer them elsewhere.
– Very good, Most Holy Father, she exclaimed, bowing her head as a mark of obedience.
– You will leave immediately, said the Pontiff, who added with a fatherly voice : when the Lord deigns to communicate a monastic rule of life, He can also transmit the spirit and the ability to observe this same rule. That is why it is necessary that you write it down when you are in Grenoble, and before going up to the Holy Mountain you will send it to me.
Mélanie gave a start when she heard that :
– Oh ! no, Most Holy Father, she pleaded, do not send me to Grenoble. I shall have no freedom of action with Msgr. Fava.
– What, how is that ? asked an incredulous Leo XIII.
– Msgr. Fava, explained the seer, would order me to write what he desires and not what has been dictated to me by the Holy Spirit.
– No, no ! replied the Pope with a trembling voice. ” (Msgr. Galli, p. 102)
Whatever credit is to be given to Mélanie’s account, Msgr. Fava’s position, based on his conviction of Mélanie’s mental instability, was a fact, and his reaction expresses his deepest thoughts on the subject :
“ I shall accept Mélanie’s rule only when the Church has proved to me that it really comes from the Blessed Virgin. ”
And there is the reaction of Msgr. Bianchi, Cardinal Ferrieri’s secretary :
“ Eminence, is it a good thing to set up counter-altars ? The counter-altar is Mélanie’s creation, in founding, without the Church’s authorisation, the Sons of the Mother of God in her residence at Castellammare, whilst the missionaries of La Salette are already working on the Holy Mountain. That does harm, a great deal of harm. It should not be allowed. ”
Faced with an opposition so much in line with the law, with common sense and the Church’s discipline, Leo XIII gave way, but without blaming Mélanie, at least so she claims, leaving her morally victorious and persuaded, yet again, that she is the victim of persecution. Infinitely more prudent and respectful of the laws, Pius IX had upheld the competent authority, leaving the ordinary of the place to act, in this case the Bishop of Grenoble.
Fortified by the new Pope’s support, Mélanie continued with her intrigues all the more ardently, always finding, it has to be said, simpletons or strange beings around her to encourage her, flatter her and supply her with the necessary money for her many journeys. She wrote, she directed priests, with no scruple about lying. To one of them, she wrote advising that no mention of the new order should be made to his bishop, for “ in this business, one has to be more cunning than the devil, and all means possible have to be used ”. She tirelessly badgered her correspondents : “ We must not sleep, most reverend Father, we have to act energetically. It is for the good cause that we are fighting. Let us not back down before the enemy. ”
All her endeavours failed.
TRUE OR FALSE LAW ?
What are we to conclude from these developments whereby habit, order and rule became with time and Mélanie’s imagination the work of the Blessed Virgin ? Opposed to the hierarchy ? Might such a woman be Our Lady’s legislator ? She showed herself to be more the figure of Eve pursuing her original revolt; of the Jewish people, constantly rebellious towards Yahweh and Moses, and finally rejecting their Messiah, Jesus Christ; of nineteenth century France, orphaned of its King, pulled in all directions, ending in rebellion against the warnings of Our Lady of La Salette and of Our Lady of Lourdes; finally, a figure of the apostate twentieth century in its conciliar Church, turning its back on the religion of Jesus Christ to found another according to its own taste, “ with its eye fixed on a chimera ” (Saint Pius X).
Catastrophes have come, and they are still coming.
It is the story of the life of Mélanie, who always believed in the possible fulfilment of her dream, from one house to another, with one priest and then another. But her projects all went up in smoke and all ended scandalously in one way or another. And one morning she was found dead, stretched out on her bedroom floor, alone and clothed in her black habit. Dreadful !
Was that the end of her Apocalypse ?
III. MÉLANIE’S APOCALYPSE
It is the last form of the revelations that released storms of contradiction and floods of enthusiasm. The important event that facilitates the passing from one stage to the other is the death of Pius IX (1878) and the accession of Leo XIII : after the Pope of fidelity, the Pope of infidelity.
It is Mélanie’s oracle : she had to appropriate the whole of the New Testament, and thus represent the Church inventing a new spirituality, a new religious rule and a new Apocalypse.
The great Secret stigmatises a clergy unfaithful to their religious duties and possessed by love of money and a taste for honours and pleasure. It is pronounced with the tone of an Old Testament prophet, commissioned to express the violent wrath of Yahweh.
Here are the key phrases of this white hot lava which must cover a rebellious humanity :
1. Against the priests. “ The priests have become cesspools of impurity. Woe to priests and to those dedicated to God… [their] sins call for vengeance… there are no more generous souls, there is no one left worthy of offering a stainless sacrifice to the Eternal for the sake of the world. God will strike in an unprecedented manner… for more than twenty five years. ”
2. Against the kings. “ Expect to be ruled with a rod of iron and to drink the chalice of God’s wrath. ”
3. Advice for the Pope. “ May Pius IX not leave Rome again after 1859. May he be on his guard against Napoleon; he is of a double heart. ”
4. Oracle concerning Italy. “ Italy will be punished for her ambition… a great number of priests and members of religious orders will break away from the true religion; among these people there will even be bishops. ”
5. A date. “ In the year 1864, Lucifer together with a large number of demons will be unloosed from hell; they will put an end to faith little by little, even in persons dedicated to God. Woe to the princes of the Church ! The Vicar of my Son will have much to suffer, because for a time the Church will be given over to great persecution. It will be a time of darkness. The Church will go through an appalling crisis. All civil and ecclesiastical order will be abolished. ”
6. A new date. “ In the year 1865, the abomination in holy places will be seen. France, Italy, Spain and England will be at war. For a time, God will cease to remember France and Italy because the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been forgotten. Paris will burn and Marseilles will be engulfed. ”
7. The false peace. “ (But) the people of God will ask for my help (says the Blessed Virgin) and for my intercession. Then the peace of God will be made among men. This peace will not last long : twenty five years. A forerunner of the Antichrist will fight against the true Christ : He will shed much blood and will want to annihilate the worship of God to make himself be looked upon as God. The earth will be struck by all sorts of plagues. Before this happens, there will be a false peace in the world. ”
8. The Antichrist. “ It will be during this time that the antichrist will be born of a Hebrew nun, a false virgin, who will communicate with the old serpent, the master of impurity; his father will be a bishop. He will be the devil incarnate, he will work wonders, he will feed on nothing but impurity. ”
“ ROME WILL LOSE THE FAITH
AND BECOME THE SEAT OF THE ANTICHRIST ”
9. Appeal to the Apostles of the last times. “ I address an urgent appeal to the earth. I call on the true disciples of the living God who reigns in Heaven… I call on the Apostles of the last times. For now is the time of all times, the end of all ends.
“ But now Enoch and Elijah will come, filled with the Spirit of God. They will condemn the diabolical errors of the Antichrist. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth ! Who will be able to withstand them ? God will allow Himself to bend through the blood, tears and prayers of the just : Enoch and Elijah will be put to death.
“ It is time; the sun will be darkened; faith alone will live. Behold the Beast with his subjects, calling himself the saviour of the world. ”
10. The victory. “ He will be stifled by the breath of Saint Michael the Archangel. And then water and fire will purify the earth and consume all the works of men’s pride, and all will be renewed : God will be served and glorified. ” (Guilhot, p. 285-292)
TRUE OR FALSE PROPHECY ?
Let us try to see clearly into this Secret, which sparked off an ignominious rumpus in the Church when it was published : twisted blows on one side, fanaticism and curses on the other, and everybody, including Léon Bloy, offering interpretations, to such an extent that a Jesuit, Fr. Poulard, affirmed that this secret was “ a suggestion from the devil ”. We cannot retrace all its stages and refer our reader to chapter VI of Le Hidec’s book.
Let us get down to the facts.
1. First of all, there is the original secret delivered to Pius IX written in 1851, and perfectly vouched for in every detail.
“ That same day, July 2, Mr. Dausse went to Corenc, to fulfil the same mission with Mélanie as he had with Maximin. He did not have the same success. Mélanie again refused and began to cry. The matter was postponed until the next day rather than upset her. The next day, in the presence of Mr. Gérente, the chaplain, and Mr. Dausse, she decided to write, which she did calmly and without hesitation. She signed her writing, put it in an envelope, sealed it and wrote : “ To His Holiness Our Holy Father, Pope Pius IX in Rome. ” Mr. Dausse and Mr. Gérente certified that it was indeed Mélanie who wrote this text alone. Mr. Dausse took the sealed envelope and brought it to the Bishop.
“ Only, a few hours later, Mélanie had feelings of remorse. She felt sad and asked to see Mr. Rousselot. She admitted to him that she had forgotten to write something. Mr. Rousselot advised her to re-write her text. The second draft was written at Grenoble, at the school of the Sisters of Providence, rue des Beaux-Tailleurs, Sunday, July 6 between 14.30 and 16.30.
“ Mr. Gérente was prevented from acting as witness as he had done on the first occasion, and so his place was taken by Mr. Auvergne. Mélanie asked for the meaning of the word “ infailliblement ” and the spelling of the words “ ville souillée ” [sullied city] and “ antéchrist ”. The two witnesses then accompanied the young girl to the Bishop, handing him the open envelope in which she had placed her writing and she proposed that he read it. This he did in his room and came back very moved and in tears. He returned the envelope to Mélanie; it was sealed and MMr. Auvergne and Dausse witnessed the same thing as for Maximin’s writing.
“ It might be thought – it is not certain – that the first draft remained in the hands of Msgr. de Bruillard. It is also possible that Mélanie kept it with her. ” (Le Hidec, p. 60).
Likewise, the Pope’s reaction is well known. So far, Mélanie has behaved very sensibly. In this form, the Secret proved to be very useful for the Pope, as he later testified : “ It is fortunate that we were warned; otherwise we would have found ourselves in an impasse, from which we could not have escaped. ” (cf. Le Hidec, p. 196).
With that done, she had only to enter a monastery and be forgotten, which is what she began by doing.
2. But her stay at Corenc threw her into story-telling. In England, then on her return to France, she began to divulge snatches of the Secret, written surreptitiously to Father Calage between 1862 and 1863, in disobedience to orders from the Bishop of Marseilles (cf. Guilhot, p. 274), to Msgr. Zola in 1869, to Fr. Bliard in 1870. The tragic events in France (the Prussian invasion) kept her from publishing it in its entirety, she said. But finally from 1870 to 1875, various versions, each time a little more explicit, were in circulation until November 15, 1879 when there appeared the “ Total Account of the apparition of the Most Blessed Virgin on the mountainside of La Salette ”, with the imprimatur of Msgr. Zola, Bishop of Lecce. Leo XIII’s favourable welcome guaranteed it a good send off, and the generosity of a French benefactress saw to its financing. It was a bomb, twenty years after Lourdes. In competition with Lourdes.
It is possible to discover the point at which Mélanie goes astray from her explanation to Fr. Bliard in 1870 where she says that in addition to Our Lady’s words there were visions; for the great Secret as well as for the Rule :
“ The Blessed Virgin pronounced all the words, for the secrets and for the rules; only I could have guessed or penetrated the rest of what she said in words : a great veil was lifted, events were uncovered before my eyes and my imagination (sic !) as she pronounced all the words, and a great space was unfolded before me; I saw events and the world’s changing works; and God, changeless in His glory, looked at the Blessed Virgin who stooped down to speak to two points [her and Maximin]… There are people who would prefer that the Blessed Virgin had not spoken so much. Every word is developed, and future action takes place in the moment, and thousands upon thousands more things are seen than heard by the ear. ” (Le Hidec, p. 142)
It is mad… For the cinema grows from year to year until the sensational publication of 1879, when this Secret will be manipulated by all sorts of people, who will find in it an opportunity to make a case against Rome, to doom the cardinals and bishops to hell, often in order to settle personal scores. Following the example of Mélanie, moreover.
In fact, Mélanie yields to prophetic delirium, taken from the Old Testament then from Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. She furiously spits out her personal hatreds, which she nurtures; she is fierce against those many priests and bishops who rebuffed her – the bad priests because they were bad, the good ones because they found the Secret revolting ! Whence “ the priests are a cesspool of iniquity ”.
Likewise, her political ideas are dictated by her passions : Msgr. Ginoulhiac was favourable to Napoleon III, he chased her out of Corenc, therefore she is opposed to Napoleon III ! who was “ a two-faced being ! ” But she did not reveal that before Napoleon III was known ! Had she been very intelligent, or very inspired, she could have said that from December 2, 1851 !
She lies and pre-dates the oracles with which she fills out her Secret. Beware ! All her dates are thought to be prophetic, but they are post eventum prophecies, for the phrase which authorises publication “ in 1858 ” is added after the event ! in 1870 or 1878, after Lourdes, in order to draw attention to herself. There is no doubt that such post eventum prophecies were customary among the Jewish prophets : for example, Daniel begins by recounting a past history, in a prophetic mode, in order to capture his reader’s attention, but when he comes to the actual event, he continues his prophecies by announcing the future.
She too continues, but by announcing and piling up catastrophes, one lot more disastrous than the next. It is neither Catholic nor worthy of the Blessed Virgin, as all good souls have understood : the saints, Saint Pius X, Cardinal de Cabrières who remained absolutely calm throughout this brawl and practised the discernment of spirits. Here are the last pages of the masterly letter by this cardinal whose testimony in favour of the Apparition of La Salette we have already quoted dated July 1, 1915 :
THE COUNTERFEIT VERSION OF OUR LADY'S SECRET
“ It is this secret, already several times printed, distributed, commented on and recommended by various authors, both ecclesiastical and lay, that Mr. Mariavé has thought fit to give to the public, presenting it as ‘ The Gospel of the Virgin Mary ’, to accompany and complement the Gospel of Jesus Christ !
“ In order to answer your question Monseigneur, I have just read the two pamphlets concerning which you desire to know my opinion. It is absolutely unfavourable. The authors of previous publications, to do with this secret, were condemned, if not because of the secret itself, at least because of the scope and the consequences they gave it. A similar fate awaits this present publication.
“ I. – It seems, in fact, that we do not have here the secret handed by the Bishop of Grenoble’s envoys to HH Pope Pius IX in 1851. In its present form, it was written by Mélanie Calvat, but on various occasions and in successive fragments, and seems rather to be the result of a personal composition than an exact repetition of the original text given to Pius IX, and which is said to be no longer in the Vatican.
“ II. – As it stands, this secret has no value other than as Mélanie Calvat’s personal statement, supported by the signature of two bishops from around Naples. Mélanie seems to have been sincerely pious, but she may have been deluded, and it seems that her ‘ mission', instead of extending to our period, ended with the Church’s recognition of the reality of the Apparition.
“ III. – What is certain, according to a well informed author, is that the first versions of the secret were less developed than the last; it is probable, therefore, that under the influence of the setting in which her life ended, Mélanie amplified the first form of the writing she had had sent to the Pope; for certain, we do not have here an official copy of the secret handed to Pius IX. Only the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office could, with the Pope’s consent, seek out the original and so determine, against the original contents, its true authority.
“ IV. – The nature of this secret, as we read it today, is so strange, arranged in such a confused manner, containing particular allusions to politics, it seems to favour, in such a very precise way, the errors of the ancient millenarists – in that it announces a renovation to be accomplished in time and on earth, unlike the teaching of the true religion about the general resurrection at the end of the world, and about the eternal happiness of the elect – that one necessarily hesitates to ascribe it a heavenly origin. Finally, and more especially, the commentator has taken such liberty in evaluating and judging the Catholic hierarchy, in all its degrees, that one wonders what basis there is for the severity of his words, which would not be out of place in the pages of a newspaper most hostile to the Christian faith. One also wonders how he allies the true piety he professes with the harshness he displays towards persons worthy of every respect.
“ What aggravates the rashness of these judgements is that they are, on several occasions, given in a form that is both mocking and insulting, which is belied by the character and dignity of the persons the author sees fit to denounce.
“ The holy pope Pius IX, venerable cardinals such as Msgr. Perraud, Msgr. Luçon and Msgr. Sevin, bishops like Msgr. Maurin of Grenoble, and all his predecessors down to Msgr. Ginoulhiac, of such learned memory : all are included in the hurtful reproaches, which the commentator dares to attribute in the first place to the Most Blessed Virgin Herself !
“ And all this is written and published, offered and distributed for those who would like to find in these pages food for their curiosity. Would they learn charity and love by learning to despise the legitimate authority of the priesthood ? For, the remarkable thing is that this Christian, this Catholic, seems to savour a sort of enjoyment in scourging the leaders of holy Church, those whom he mocks in calling them “ our princes ” […].
“ … You will not, therefore be surprised, Monseigneur, if I condemn these two pamphlets by Dr. Mariavé, if I rebuke their spirit and their character, and if I advise the faithful not to read them.
“ With my affectionate respect,
A., cardinal de Cabrières
Bishop of Montpellier. (Le Hidec, Les secrets de La Salette, p. 164-167)
This definitive judgement was corroborated a few months later by Rome through the publication of a decree which forbade Catholics to deal with the question.
What remained of the great Secret ? Only what Pius IX had read of it, which was not revealed, the contents of which can only be guessed from what the Pope let escape and from the three words Mélanie quoted from it : grave crises and grave chastisements for States as well as for the Church. But there is nothing that would yield to the morbid curiosity nurtured by integrist and anticlerical circles alike, curiously associated here ! That is why Rome wisely put a Secret published in disobedience on the Index, for it was but a distortion of the authentic one. At the same time, Rome did not wish to effect a separation between the true and the false secret. Why ?
We add this, which throws open the debate again :
Just as the Jewish people remain with the Scriptures, awaiting the Messiah, testifying to their veracity, even in impiety, so Mélanie had to remain, until her death in 1904, to give witness from the outside, in infidelity, to the Old and New Testament… and to the Secret still unveiled. But it will have to be unveiled one day, perhaps in the fairly near future, for we now have the wherewithal to enter a new era, namely the newness of the Immaculate Conception which must regenerate all things. In fact, She who showed Herself at La Salette as Handmaid is the same who is now to reveal Herself as Universal Mother, Mediatrix and Queen, obliging the men of the Church to recognise the all-powerfulness of Her Immaculate Heart.