Le blog de la Bergerie
La Salette is an amazing place, a very impressive geographical site, high in altitude, in the Southern French Alps, where you feel "above" everything else!
It is also a holy site, where grace abounds. And it keeps attracting visitors, many of them, and with diverse reasons for coming. We went in the off season, with a group from the diocese of Annecy in Haute-Savoie, of which my parish: la paroisse du Bienheureux Ponce en Haut-Giffre is a member). It is much, much busier in the Summer, I was told! And there are more children and youth then too. But when we were there, there were a lot of middle age people with a few visitors from other countries (such as Italy and the UK) and many of them came as part of group. I remember a group of bikers too.
The sanctuary is surrounded by mountains and reinforces the feeling of being isolated, and it is completely deserted except for the sanctuary itself: the basilica and the hotel and a couple of buildings, all stuck together on a sort of promontory. The physical location just grabbs you from the very beginning since the only way to get up there is via a very winding road, with many hairpins turns, with numerous steep and impressive views, which for myself was quite a challenge right there! So I sat in the middle seat in the bus and refused to look outside. My granddaughter was very cheerful and looking out the windows constantly (like everyone else!) and saying how beautiful it was, and also patting my arm regularly, saying “pauvre Mamé, tout va bien, ne t’en fait pas!”… I remember thinking that I was glad I did not drive myself which is one more reason why we came as part of a pilgrimage so we could be with professional bus drivers. Later that evening, in the dining room, as I was thanking our driver, he said it was quite a road, especially since he had never been here before, since it was his first time!
So I thanked God even more profusely!
But it is a beautiful spot and a holy one since the Marian apparition to two young shepherds on September 1846. The "Beautiful Lady", Mary, gave them a message of conversion needed for all the people.
See below for more information on La Salette. You can read more La Salette official site, in French, or here in English xxx.
Back to our pilgrimage there a few years ago. It felt like such an amazing treat for me to be there with my granddaughter! We were busy and enjoying our during the whole 3 days and two nights of our stay. There is the large basilica, and there are also many chapels inside. There is a blessed spring and a large library with a good children books section and namy toys, a souvenir shop and various dining rooms and conference rooms, and a large projection room where you can see a movie about the history of the apparitions and the development of the sanctuary. We participated in everything we could, including the large outdoor procession to the Spring at night. In daytime, we also walked around a lot and I took photos, we enjoyed the dining room where you always sit wherever there is a spot available, which is a good way to talk with new people each time. My granddaughter was the youngest child in our party from the diocese of Annecy. There were not that many youths, since it was an October pilgrimage, meaning the low season, and therefore she was cherished and complimented by all the adults. One of them said she was like a ray of sunshine (which she remembers, to this day!).
In the last couple of years of his life, as I was talking about this and that with my father, as we so often did (as he enjoyed so much talking, teaching, debating, instructing the ignorants!... and I greatly appreciated it, having a little bit of that streak in me too...) but let's go back to what happened in that particular discussion: I mentioned La Salette as a place I would love to check out one day and suddenly my father told me a piece of information which I was not aware of. He said that I had already gone to La Salette once when I was very young, like a todler, and I had gone there alone with my mother, because he was working. Then he insisted to change the conversation to something else. Since I do not remember at all this very first visit, I wondered about it often and how come I was only hearing about it 60 years later, how come it was never mentioned before... The only explanation I can see is that my "faith antennas" (as I call them) were just not turned on yet, I had pushed them too much to the back of my mind... There are consequences to everything we do. But thanks to the grace of God, I experienced an amazing conversion about 25 years ago, and my faith antennas are much busier these days. But what my father told me once in passing actually explains why I have this special fondness for "La Salette". Nowadays, since my return to the faith I am always attracted to pilgrimages sites, to visits to Holy Sites, to pious processions because I know how much they help me grow in faith, and love of neighbor, and keep developping a much better grasp of the Christian virtues and the economy of salvation.
As I mentioned above on this page, the fact that I was there with my granddaughter (who was given at birth the first name of my father!) felt exquisitely special. During those 3 days, we prayed again and again for all our family and friends, alive or departed, in France and in the US, and for peace and love and faith in the world. Bonding with a young child, reinforcing the family ties, building special loving and fun memories, living each day as an adventure (and faith is the greatest of all the great adventures!) is essential happiness and joy all wrapped up in one gift!