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Where tears flowed from heaven

Inspired by Our Lady of La Salette’s maternal care, we can help reconcile the Church’s lost children.

Statue in Corps, Isère, France depicting Our Lady of La Salette crying. (Image: Fr.Latreille/Wikipedia)

At the end of a serpentine road that clings to the hillside it twists along, perched on a slab of land that juts out from the mountain, pilgrims will find the austere Basilica of Our Lady of La Salette. Found high among the French Alps, nine miles from the nearest village, the location is an unlikely spot for a structure of its size.  Its raison d’être?  The church is a monument to the place where tears flowed from heaven.

On September 19, 1846, two French peasant children, Mélanie Clavet and Maximim Girard, alleged to have seen a “beautiful lady” sitting on a boulder and crying inconsolably.  The children were wary to investigate the scene further until the woman beckoned them nearer and told them to have no fear.  After conversing with the lady, the children learned the reason for her tears.  Much of her family had estranged themselves from her son through blasphemy and the neglect of the Lord’s day.

The crying woman expressed to the children her deep concern for the sparse attendance at Mass.  Work and other activities crowded the Sunday calendar, leaving churches empty.  Perhaps even worse, instead of raising their lips and minds to God, those who skipped Mass uttered the Lord’s name chiefly in blasphemous ways.  These twin neglects created a distance within her cosmic family that divided the Church in heaven from the Church on earth.  Before departing, the woman expressed her hope that greater awareness of her concern would once again fill the churches.

Like many Marian apparitions, Mary did not introduce herself by name to the visionaries.  The context and the purpose of her message made her identity plain.

Today marks the 175th anniversary of the apparition at La Salette.  While overshadowed by later more popular apparitions of Lourdes and Fatima, there is hardly a more relevant message for our Church today.  For the first time on record, Gallup reported earlier this year that US church membership fell below half of the adult population.  Results show that the decline was steepest among Catholics.  According to one measure, Catholic participation in religious services (in-person or online) fell more steeply than Protestants during the pandemic.  The number of Catholics attending weekly Mass has yet to reach levels seen in 2019.

Pandemic-inspired church closures aside, former Catholics are abandoning the faith in large numbers.  Evidence suggests that ex-Catholics make up a large percentage of the “nones,” an expanding group that identifies with no religious affiliation. This website has commented recently here and elsewhere on the rise of this segment within the Catholic population.  New evidence suggests that the phenomenon is not limited to younger generations.  Older individuals are leaving the Church as well.

Lengthy church closures may well have exasperated the trend.  As Russell Shaw highlighted earlier this year, the pandemic has already accelerated a hollowing out of the American Catholic Church.

The “beautiful lady” on the French mountain encouraged her young audience to spread her message of concern throughout the countryside.  The faithfulness of the two children to what they had witnessed sparked a religious enthusiasm in the place where news of the apparition had spread.  Perhaps even more than before, 175 years after the apparition, that same message must re-echo throughout this country and beyond.

Much of the “new evangelization” will involve the reversion of former Catholics or uncatechized children of Catholic parents. If you know someone who has strayed from the faith, or never received a proper introduction, consider raising the prospect of their returning to Mass. Merely mentioning that you attend Mass yourself can generate an idea that might blossom into action.

On this anniversary, let us entrust our prayers for the many Catholic absentees to Our Lady of La Salette. Inspired by her maternal care, we can help reconcile the Church’s lost children.

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About Fr. Thomas More Garrett, OP 4 Articles
Fr. Thomas More Garrett, OP, is a Dominican priest at Providence College, where he serves as associate vice president and associate general counsel. He also teaches courses on law and business.


  1. I have been saying a beautiful prayer in Polish to Our Lady of La Salette for a number of years now – I found it in my sister’s prayer book after she died 5 years ago – she was a Sister of St Joseph i(Australia) her whole life was dedicated to education and she did it with joy and generosity – I think a big problem today in Australia is That Catholic education is more about being successful and making lots of money- I also worked in a Catholic school for a few years and I was i disheartened at the lack of teaching the faith and I believe that the decline in our faith is due to Catholic education forgetting its true purpose .

  2. The image of Our Lady of La Salette epitomizes the state Heaven’s response to our six decades of ecclesiastical self-deconstruction. Perhaps a bit more of the evangelization which worked and a bit less of the new and “improved”? Perhaps a bit less of abstract expressionist conciliarism and its poetics and a bit more of solid, Divine Revelation based, reality based catechesis?
    In the end, authentic adults — and healthy children growing to maturity — want the truth even when it pinches, not romper room cozies from men in pointed hats.
    Real food — the Bread of Life, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Crucified Redeemer — not sweets.
    Jesus Christ, not Marx, Darwin and Freud [or is it Jung now?].

    • I thought so too. This anodyne article would have been far more effective if it dealt with this, especially since financial corruption, sexual perversion, and doctrinal denial in the Vatican are so blatant that only the willfully blind do not see them.

    • Well, there’s the catch. A comment on the Maria Valtorta [alleged] revelations observed, With all these revelations who needs the Church? Melanie Calvat, one of La Salette’s visionaries said, “Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist”. Our ‘catch’ 22 is that in order for private revelation to be true it must be true. There’s no way of proving that, which is why the Church never accepts private revelations from visionaries as equivalent to Gospel truth [which is why the blood on the corporal believed a miracle was not included as causal, or even mentioned in the rationale for institution of Corpus Christi]. That includes all including Lourde and Fatima. We are permitted to venerate, give our human approval, although we are not obliged to believe. As we are instead obliged to believe public revelation, God’s inspired prophesy witnessing to Christ and completed in Christ’s self revelation. Although, insofar as true, they [private revelation] can be true. Insofar as rationale credibility, if the private visions occur as allegedly revealed we have greater rationale to offer credence. For example, Lucia, a saint, although being a saint doesn’t prove the revelations, similar to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska’s Diary, nor are we required to believe Faustina’s image of divine mercy – foresaw the final battle with Satan during end times to be centered on the family. That evil would emanate from highest ecclesial authority [Cardinal Carlo Caffarra thought this true and attested to by Lucia in private letters to him]. As for the first there’s real evidence, insofar as the second there’s indication.

  3. I was hoping what fr. peter stravinskas stated would be the main point of this article. What Our Lady of La Salette said strikes of great importance. The only thing I remember when reading about the apparitions is that Our Lady said, “Rome will lose the Faith,” “Rome would become the seat of the anti-Christ,” and that “Rome would be destroyed.” Some years ago, this would have been hard to imagine. But today, with the mess in the Church, it seems it’s happening. Traditionalist Catholics have used the words of Our Lady of La Salette as a defense for their defense of protecting all the Truth taught by the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. We’ve got to admit that men in the Church have taken us on a wrong fatal path in many aspects. Our Lady of La Salette Ora Pro Nobis!

  4. Of our present moment, what to believe and what not to believe? How about the near anagram “HOAC” rather than hoa“x”? As in algebra, “X” is the unknown…

    Lay participants and bishops, together, in the partly amnesiac Synodal process, might provide value-added by attending to this anagram of sorts…HOAC, as in not [!] “leaving one’s own [so-called] cultural and religious categories”: namely, the “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.”

    Reading between the lines, is one generous interpretation of synodality to see it as an effort to energize/consolidate the global Catholic population before we drift even further and irreversibly into the neo-Marxist basket of the New World Order? A good move, if done right…

    But, the problem, it seems, is that even if such a gathering were to result under the “blowing of the Holy Spirit,” then after “walking together,” would we still find ourselves holding hands in the dark—facing a Church sucked hollow at the center? The sound of an uncertain trumpet? Different “continental” banners including all sorts of “resolutions” but, for example, not excluding such as the rainbow flag?

    From less ambiguous times: “Christ is in us through his Spirit, whom HE gives to us and through whom HE acts within us in such a way that all divine activity of the Holy Spirit within our souls must ALSO be attributed to Christ” (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, On the Mystical Body of Christ, June 29, 1943).

    So, Synodality, but clearly anchored sacramentally—-in the Eucharist and Eucharistic coherence?

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