By Fr Damian Polly
It never ceases to shock and upset me how often the Most Holy Name of Jesus is used as a terrible swear word by so many people in this country and abroad. The name of our most loving Saviour who died for us, the name before which every knee in heaven and on earth must bend, is so casually used as a blasphemous curse.
Whenever Our Lady appears she always has a serious message to convey and as our most loving mother, she calls us her children to turn or return to God. When she appeared in La Salette in France on the 19th September, 1846, part of the serious message she came with was the great offence that is caused to God by the use of Jesus’s most holy name as a swear word and how God’s people had abandoned going to mass, and were not keeping Sunday as a holy day dedicated to Him.
Our Lady appeared to two young children, Maximin Guiraud (age 11) and Melanie Calvat (age 14). Both were tending sheep at the time. Both were uneducated and could hardly recite the Our Father and Hail Mary. At the moment of the apparition, the children saw a brilliant light, brighter than the sun. As they approached, they noticed a “Beautiful Lady” seated on a rock and crying, with her face in her hands. In tears, she stood and spoke to them in their local French dialect. She said, “Come to me, my children. Do not be afraid. I am here to tell something of the greatest importance.” She continued, “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. I have appointed you six days for working. The seventh I have reserved for myself. And no one will give it to me. The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son’s name. These are the two things which weigh down the arm of my Son so much. Only a few rather old women go to Mass in the Summer. All the rest work every Sunday throughout the Summer.”
After the apparition, the two children reported it to the parish priest and an investigation by the church and government officials began. The two visionaries continually confirmed all that they reported was true, even under the threat of imprisonment. The case was then submitted to Bishop Bruillard of Grenoble, who initiated a thorough investigation of the apparition. Meanwhile, miraculous cures started to happen at the apparition site but the greatest miracle was truly spiritual: the local people started to attend Mass faithfully and confess regularly, they stopped working on Sundays, and they returned to living a pious and devotional life.
Five years later, on September 19, 1851, Bishop Bruillard approved the apparition. A real conversion of the people had taken place. Since then, great saints including St. John Bosco and St. John Vianney have been devoted to Our Lady of La Salette. Saint Pope John Paul II wrote: “La Salette is a message of hope, for our hope is nourished by the intercession of her who is the Mother of mankind.”
The most striking aspect of this apparition for me is that Our Lady appeared weeping bitterly, clearly showing the distress that so many people’s lack of faith and abuse of her Son’s holy name causes her. The tears of Mary at La Salette recall those she shed on Mount Calvary and are a sign of her unceasing tenderness in our regard: they teach us the gravity of our refusals and indifference, and the urgency of our conversion. The tears of the Mother of God and our Mother show us the importance we must attach to her message.
Our Lady doesn’t want us to just hear her message but most importantly, to act on it. Whenever I hear Jesus’s holy name used as a swear word I immediately counter it by saying in my mind ‘holy is your name Lord’ and if the opportunity presents itself, I gently try to help the person swearing to understand the seriousness of the misuse of our Lord’s name. We can all try to do the same and we can all try to put the focus of Sunday back on God by keeping it as a day dedicated to him and not just another work day.