Something That Makes Our Blessed Mother Cry

On September 19, 1846, a “Beautiful Lady,” suffused with light so as to seem herself to be made of light, appeared to two cowherds, Maximin Giraud, a boy aged eleven, and Melanie Mathieu, a girl aged fourteen. They were looking for stray cattle in La Salette, a remote region of the French Alps. Crowned with roses and a diadem of light, the Lady emerged from a “globe of fire” dressed in the garb of the local women. From a golden chain about her neck hung a large crucifix with hammers and pincers affixed near both nailed hands of Jesus. Mary was seated and weeping, her head in her hands (

In this supernatural apparition – fully approved by the Vatican as authentic – here are the crucial words Our Lady spoke through tears, in a voice like heavenly music, to Melanie and Maximin:     

Come to me, my children. Do not be afraid. I am here to tell you something of the greatest  importance. 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.

How long I have suffered for you! . . .

I have appointed for you six days for working. The seventh I have reserved for myself. And no one will give it to me. . . .

If the harvest is spoiled it is your fault. I warned you last year by means of the potatoes. You paid no heed. Quite the reverse, when you discovered that the potatoes had rotted, you swore, you abused my Son’s name. They will continue to rot and by Christmas this year there will be none left.

If you have grain, . . . any part of it that springs up will crumble into dust when you thresh it. A great famine is coming. But before that happens, the children under seven years of age will be seized with trembling and die in their parents’ arms. The grownups will pay for their sins by hunger. . . .  

Only a few rather old women go to Mass in the summer. All the rest work every Sunday throughout the summer. And in winter, when they don’t know what to do with themselves, they go to Mass only to poke fun at religion (

Although a miraculous spring welled up from a rock at the site of the Blessed Virgin’s visitation, producing many cures, a great famine which killed a million or more people occurred the year following the apparition, as predicted, in France and across Europe, along with a severe cholera epidemic in France.

Our Lady of La Salette rebukes two egregious affronts to God, both even more widely committed in our time: taking His Sacred Name in vain and breaking His Holy Sabbath rest. I will consider here just the Third Commandment regarding the Sabbath, as dictated by Yahweh to Moses: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work; . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11. This and other biblical citations are from the RSVCE).

At La Salette, God’s heart-broken Mother states strikingly, urgently, the gravity of this command and the calamitous consequences of its transgression.

In this age when all ten commandments are so pervasively and wantonly violated, none has been disobeyed with greater facility – so casually, one might say – than the solemn command to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

One would not expect those who utterly ignore and flaunt God’s moral laws to pay any attention to His injunction to observe the Sabbath. It is, however, the indifference to this primal mandate of those of us today who profess to follow God’s laws that, I believe, most saddens, distresses, our Mother.

For it is quite apparent that many (most?) of us who profess the Catholic faith often fail without a second thought strictly to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest and spiritual renewal. We may fulfill the paramount Sunday obligation to attend Mass, pray, acknowledge the Church’s doctrinal and moral teachings, and contribute to the support of our parish. Yet on Sunday, we may cut the grass, do laundry, paint a room, clean out the garage, pay the bills, wash the car, fix a leaky faucet, and cruise the outlets for bargains. We routinely break a Divine law that, in truth, precedes God’s other commands against killing, adultery, and theft – which we commonly, I think, regard as more weightily binding. Sacred Scripture, however, manifestly confronts such selective morality: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10).

Perhaps we have come to rationalize our Sunday chores not as “servile labor,” to use the traditional term for illicit work on Sunday, but as domestic functions enjoyably pursued in the “recreational” spirit of the day. But that is certainly not the way the suffering Lady of La Salette – who “appointed for [us] six days for working” – sees it.

It is, of course, true that some people must work on Sundays to earn their livelihood, and there are emergencies to attend to and other necessary tasks: “Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it (Second Edition, 2185).The Catechism,however, carefully conditions this permission against abuse: “The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses [from work] do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health” (2185).

Very importantly, it is not just that the Third Commandment forbids unnecessary labor; it enjoins as well “the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body,” made possible by the cessation of work (Catechism, 2185).

There are ways, however, in which the enjoyments and rest Sunday affords might be inappropriately or inordinately engaged in. Surely, we might on Sundays watch and participate in sports and other entertainments, take excursions and attend social events, for example. At what point and in what way, however, might these enjoyments preempt or detract from the devotional spirit of the Lord’s Day? Does that second televised football game replace a family rosary? Might an apparently innocuous movie that, however, extols purely secular values or subtly denigrates Christion ones replace a quietly reflective reading of the Holy Bible?

Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). And so, we should not contort our Sabbaths into austere days of mortification or our Father’s loving provision for our wellbeing into punishing trials; but neither should we give our Sundays over to excessive or predominantly profane, if not vulgar, indulgences.

Our Blessed Mother came to a tiny French village high in the Alps nearly two centuries ago to tell us – in tears, then and now – “something of the greatest  importance”: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Let us heed, take to heart, God’s Mother’s fervent plea to obey His Third Commandment so that she might stay her Son’s heavy arm from a conclusive chastisement of this grievous sin . . . in these decisive times.

“As we keep or break the Sabbath Day, we nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope by which man rises.”  Abraham Lincoln

Photo by Zvonimir Atletic on Shutterstock

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Alfred Hanley, Ph.D., is retired as Professor/Department Chair of Humanities from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He has written several works of religious and literary commentary, poetry, and fiction - including his just published Fatima - God’s Mother’s Landmark Prophecy: Forespoken at Quito, Spoken Again in Mary’s Last Five Apparitions at Akita, Betania, Cuapa, Kibeho, San Nicolas (Kindle Direct Publishing, 2024). Hanley and his wife Loretta have raised six children, five wed and one a Catholic priest, who to date have blessed them with twenty grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

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