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It was 1846 and France was suffering tremendous social and political upheaval. Catholic churches had been abandoned and sacraments neglected. But away from the cities, in a high meadow along the French Alps, two cattle herders reverently knelt beside the Virgin Mary.

Eleven-year-old Maximin Giraud and fourteen-year-old Melanie Mathieu, employed separately by local farmers, met to graze livestock at a pasture in the small village of La Salette, France. This Saturday afternoon, as their cattle grazed in a nearby field, the two children shared bread and cheese alongside a peaceful ravine and then dozed off into a short slumber. They awoke after an hour and were hastily gathering their knapsacks when Melanie noticed a light near the ravine.

"Come quickly!, See the light down there!" Melanie called out to Maximin. Both beheld a luminous sphere, radiating like the noon sun, curiously unfolding before their eyes. Gradually they made out a woman seated with her face in her hands, weeping. She gracefully arose and crossed her arms on her breast, her head somewhat inclined.

The children were drawn immediately to the woman's tears that adorned her face like perfectly cut diamonds glimmering in the sun's light. Her dynamic features were framed delicately in a white satin headdress, on which. rested a crown of roses: a bouquet of all shades of reds and pinks. A crucifix with pincers on one end and a hammer on the opposite end hung over her satin shawl, which was lined with more roses. The Madonna wore a long ivory dress embroidered in precious pearls and a yellow apron tied neatly to her waist. Wearing pearl slippers that peeked out from underneath her satin robe, she balanced herself atop a bouquet of roses.

"Come to me, my children," she tenderly addressed the two who stood  afar, motionless. "Be not afraid. I am here to tell you something of the greatest importance."

As soon as they were within touching distance of her, she began to speak with the urgency of an ending world. "If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son's arm. It is so heavy, so pressing that I can no longer restrain it." She told the children that her Son was especially concerned that people were not keeping holy the seventh day, and that religion had lost its place in their country.

"You will make this known to all my people," she repeated to them.

This they did, unintentionally, through five years of exhaustive interrogation by the Bishop of La Salette, who had commissioned several committees to research the apparition. As the children repeated their story time and time again in perfect consistency people could not help but be convinced that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to the two. Churches began to fill throughout neighboring villages and the Catholic faith resumed some of its deserved respect. On the first anniversary of the apparition nearly 60,000 people prayed together on the mountain of the Marian site.

A little more than five years after Mary's first and only appearance at La Salette, the apparition was officially approved by the Church, and nearly thirty years after that the basilica erected in the name of Our Lady of La Salette was completed and consecrated. Maximin and Melanie were not canonized by the Church, but throughout their lives they continued to serve as witnesses to Our Lady and to transmit her message.

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