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Françoise Mélanie Calvat called Mathieu (7 November 1831 Corps, Isère, France - 15 December 1904 Altamura, Italy) was a French Roman-catholic nun and Marian visionary. As a religious, she was called Sister Mary of the Cross.
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Early age 
Calvat was from Corps en Isère. She was the fourth of ten children to Pierre Calvat, a stonemason and sawyer by trade who did not hesitate to take whatever job he could find because of the large family he had to support, and Julie Barnaud, his wife. The family's poverty was so complete that the young were sometimes dispatched to beg on the street.
At a very young age Calvat was hired out to tend the neighbors' cows. From the spring to the fall of 1846 she worked for Jean-Baptiste Pra at Les Ablandins, one of the hamlets of the village of La Salette. She only spoke the regional Occitan dialect and fragmented French. She had neither schooling nor religious instruction and could neither read or write.
On September 19, 1846, it is related that Calvat and Maximin Giraud saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary in the mountains of La Salette, France. The apparition transmitted a public message to them, and a personal message to Calvat. 2012 
The bishop of Grenoble, Philibert de Bruillard, named several commissions to examine the facts. In December 1846, the first commissions were established. One was formed of professors from the major seminary of Grenoble and the other from titulary canons. The latter commission concluded that a more extensive examination was necessary before formulating a judgment. A new inquiry was held from July to September 1847, by two members of the commission, Canon Orcel, the superior of the major seminary, and Canon Rousselot..
A conference on the matter at the bishop's residence took place in November–December 1847. Sixteen members - the vicars general of the diocese, the parish priests of Grenoble and the titulary canons - assembled in the presence of the bishop. The majority concluded to the authenticity of the apparition, after the examination of the report from Rousselot and Urcel. Also, the Bishop of Sens had very carefully examined three cures attributed to Our Lady of La Salette that had occurred in the city of Avallon. The local bishop, Mgr. Mellon Jolly, recognized on 4 May 1849, one of the three cures, which had occurred on 21 November 1847, as miraculous.
Since 1847 Mgr. de Bruillard was convinced of the reality of the apparition. The next year he authorized the publication of the Rousselot report, which affirmed the reality of the apparition. In his letter of approbation, printed as a type of preface, the bishop of Grenoble declared that he shared the opinion of the majority of the commission which adopted the conclusions of the report.
However, Louis Jacques Maurice de Bonald, the Cardinal Archbishop of Lyon, on whom Grenoble depended, suspected a subterfuge. The Cardinal demanded that the children tell him their secret, saying that he had a mandate from the Pope. The children finally acceded to this demand. Calvat, however, insisted that her text be carried directly to the Pope. It was under these conditions that the Bishop of Grenoble sent two representatives to Rome. The text of the two private secrets were handed to Pope Pius IX on 18 July 1851.
The procedure was favourable, because the mandate of Mgr. de Bruillard, adjusted according to observations of Luigi Lambruschini, Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites at Rome, was signed on 18 September 1851, and was published the following 10 November 1851. In it, the bishop of Grenoble promulgated this judgement:
- We judge that the apparition of the Holy Virgin to the two shepherds, September 19, 1846 ... in the parish of La Salette ... carries within it all the characteristics of truth, and that the faithful have reason to believe it indubitable and certain.
The motives of the decision, which rested on the work of Rousselot and that of the commission of 1847, were the impossibility of explaining the events in human manner, the miracles and cures, the spiritual fruits of the apparition, notably conversions and finally the right expectations and desires of large crowds of priests and faithful.
Later, 16 November 1851, the Bishop of Grenoble published a statement that the mission of the shepherd children had ended and that the matter was now in the hands of the Church. The bishop made it clear that the approval of the church was only for the original revelation of 1846 and not for any subsequent claims.
La Salette immediately stirred up a great fervour in French society, it also provoked enormous discussions. The little visionaries were somewhat disturbed by the perpetual interrogations, the threats, sometimes violent from political and ecclesiastical opponents, and also the assaults of fervour. Calvat especially was venerated in the manner of a saint, not unlike what happened to Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who, without doubting, defended herself against this. This harmed the equilibrium of the two visionaries. Calvat had difficulty living a stable religious life. Maximin, who once entered the seminary, also had difficulties living a normal life.
Religious life 
After the apparition in 1846, Calvat was placed as a boarder in the Sisters of Providence Convent in Corenc close to Grenoble, where an inquiry concerning the apparition took place. She entered religion at the age of twenty. In 1850 she became a postulant with this order and in October 1851 she took the veil. While at Corenc she was known to sit down surrounded by enthralled listeners, as she related stories of her childhood.
In May 1853, Bishop de Bruillard died and was replaced. In early 1854 his replacement refused to grant permission for her to be professed, because he found that she was not spiritually mature enough. Calvat claimed that the real reason for the refusal was that the bishop was aiming to gain the favour of the emperor Napoleon III of France.
Following the bishop’s refusal to permit her to be professed, Calvat was officially allowed to move to a Convent of the Sisters of Charity. This Order was dedicated to hard practical work in helping the poor, and Calvat met brisk common sense, not flattery or adulation. Calvat continued to speak about the apparitions, and a masonic plot to destroy catholic France. But after three weeks she was made to returned to Corps en Isère for further education.
Napoleon III was ruling republican France but royalists were working for the restoration of a king of a catholic country. This political controversy dominated conversation throughout France, with the French church trying to maintain neutrality. Calvat made this difficult for the hierarchy, by continuing to repeat the words of the Virgin Mary and opposing freemasonry. The bishop, aware of Melanie’s fervid and outspoken royalist sympathies, was worried that she would become involved and thereby implicate the cult of Our Lady of La Salette in politics.
Calvat agreed to the suggestion of an English visiting priest, and was allowed to move to the Carmel at Darlington in England, where she arrived in 1855. This removed her from the French political controversies, so the bishop was pleased to agree to this move. She took temporary vows there in 1856. In 1858 Calvat wrote again to the Pope to transmit that part of the secret she was authorized to reveal in that year. While at Darlington she spoke of a variety of strange events and miracles. The local bishop forbade her to speak publicly about these prophecies. In 1860, she was released from her vow of cloister at the Carmel by the Pope in order to further accomplish her mission and return to mainland Europe.
She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Compassion in Marseille. A sister, Marie, was appointed as her companion. After a stay in their convent of Cephalonia, Greece were she and Sister Marie went to open an orphanage, and a short sojourn at the Carmelite convent of Marseille, she returned to the Sisters of Compassion for a brief time. In October 1864 she was admitted as a novice on condition she kept her identity secret. But she was recognised and her identity was no longer secret. In early 1867 she was officially released from the order and she and her companion then went, following a short stay at Corps and La Salette, to live at Castellamare near Naples in Italy, where she was welcomed by the local bishop. She resided there seventeen years, writing down her secret, including the rule for a future religious foundation.
Meanwhile, religious orders were being formed at La Salette, under the auspices of the local bishop, of Grenoble. These were to provide for the pilgrims and spread the message of the vision. Calvat claimed she had been authorized by apparition to provide the names of these orders, their rules and their habits. The one for men was to be entitled Order of the Apostles of the Last Days, the one for the women Order of the Mother of God. When the bishop refused her demands, she appealed to the Pope and was granted an interview. Calvat was received by Pope Leo XIII in a private audience on 3 December 1878.
In 1873 Calvat wrote her personal message down again, with the imprimatur of Sisto Riario Sforza, Cardinal Archbishop of Naples, and with the approbation of Pope Pius IX. The message was officially published by Calvat herself on 15 November 1879 and received the imprimatur of Mgr. Salvatore Luigi Zola, bishop of Lecce near Naples, who had protected and assisted Calvat in his diocese, under the title Apparition of the Blessed Virgin on the Mountain of La Salette.
As a consequence of this publication, a historical dispute on the extent of the secret begun, which lasts until today.
In 1880 the bishop of Troyes denounced the Lecce-imprimatured book to the Congregation of the Holy Office, and in turn Prospero Caterini, Cardinal Secretary of the Congregation of the Holy Office, publicly wrote back to him, the Bishop of Castellamare and the other members of the hierarchy that:
- The Holy Office is displeased by the publication of this book. Its express will is that every copy which has been put into circulation be withdrawn, as far as is possible, from the hands of the faithful.
Calvat moved to Cannes in the south of France, from where she travelled to Chalon-sur-Saône, seeking to found a community with the sponsorship of the Canon de Brandt of Amiens. Eventually she entered into litigation with Bishop Perraud, the ordinary of Autun over an inheritance given to support this foundation.
Following a few months in the Piedmont region, she was invited by the abbé Gilbert Combe, pastor of Diou, a priest much taken up with politico-religious prophecies, to settle in the Allier region. She there finished a contrived autobiography.
In 1901 Gilbert Combe published his version of Melanie's prohibited secret under the title The Great Coup and Its Probable Dates, which was anti-Bonaparte and pro-Bourbon. It was reprinted ne varietur at Lyon in 1904, a few months before Calvat's death. It too was put on the Index.
She visited the mountain at La Salette a final time on September 18–19, 1902. She then returned to Altamura, near Bari in southern Italy and died there on December 14, 1904. Her remains are buried under a marble column with a bas-relief depicting the Virgin Mary welcoming the shepherdess of La Salette into heaven.
Again in 1906 another of Combe's publications titled The Secret of Melanie and the Actual Crisis was again placed on the Index.
These actions of the Church caused a great deal of confusion in Catholic minds, so that it was compelled to clarify that the original message from 1846 remained approved, and it was only the latter messages, and particularly the 1872-1873 edition saying Rome will lose the faith, and become the seat of the Antichrist that was banned.
Once again, during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XV, the Church was compelled to address the issue. Benedict XV issued an admonitum or formal papal warning recognizing the many different versions of the secret in all its diverse forms and forbidding the faithful or the clergy to investigate or discuss them without permission from their bishops. The admonitum further affirmed that the Church's prohibition issued under Pope Leo XIII remained binding.
Since the Second Vatican Council, the rules regarding the discussion of visions have been relaxed and the Index abolished. Her book was republished, and discussion once again took place.
Text of the secret given to Mélanie Calvat 
The secret given to Mélanie has been gradually divulged to the public. Mélanie wrote five editions of her secret. In its totality, it consists of three elements.
The first element is the written down account of the private message given to Mélanie. This account was written down in a shortened version in 1851, and was developed further during the years by Mélanie.
The second element is the rule of the religious order, that was dictated by the Virgin Mary to Mélanie. This rule was only mentioned in later editions of the secret.
A third element are the moral confidences related by Mélanie to Gilbert Combe concerning the end of the world, thus further developing and explaining the secret.
- Bert and Costa (2010: 18).
- Clugnet, Léon. "La Salette." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 29 Dec.
- Apparitions of the Modern Era, Univ.of Dayton
- St. John, Bernard, The Blessed Virgin the Nineteenth Century: Apparitions, Revelations, Graces,p.188, Burns & Oates, London, 1903
- Rousselot, Pierre Joseph, La verité sur l'événement de La Salette du 19 September 1846 ou rapport à Mgr l'évêque de Grenoblesur l'apparition de la Sainte Vierge à deux petits bergers sur la montagne de La Salette, canton de Corps (Isère), Baratier, Grenoble, 1848 (fr)
- Rousselot, Pierre Joseph, Nouveaux documents, Baratier, Grenoble, 1850 (fr)
- Rousselot, Pierre Joseph, Un nouveau Sanctuaire à Marie, ou Conclusion de l'affaire de La Salette, Baratier, Grenoble, 1853 (fr)
- Calvat, Mélanie, L'Apparition de la Très-Sainte Vierge sur la montagne de la Salette, le 19 septembre 1846, publiée par la bergère de la Salette avec permission de l'ordinaire, 1st edition, G. Spacciante, Lecce, 1879 (fr) html
- Calvat, Mélanie, L'Apparition de la Très-Sainte Vierge sur la montagne de la Salette, le 19 septembre 1846, publiée par la bergère de la Salette avec permission de l'ordinaire, 2nd edition, G. Spacciante, Lecce, 1885 (fr) html
- Combe, Gilbert Joseph Emile, Le grand coup avec sa date probable, c'est-à-dire le grand châtiment du monde et le triomphe universel de l'Eglise; étude sur le secret de la Salette, augmentée de la brochure de Mélanie et autres pièces justificatives, ..., ..., 1901 (fr)
- Calvat, Mélanie & Bloy, Léon, Vie de Mélanie, Bergère de la Salette, écrite par elle-mêle en 1900, son enfance (1831–1846), 1st edition, Mercure de France, Paris, 1918 (fr) pdf
- Calvat, Mélanie, L'Apparition de la Très-Sainte Vierge sur la montagne de la Salette, le 19 septembre 1846, publiée par la bergère de la Salette avec permission de l'ordinaire, 3rd edition, Stéphane Guillard, Lyon, 1904 (fr) html
- Combe, Gilbert Joseph Émile, Le Secret de Mélanie, bergère de la Salette, et la crise actuelle, Jonquières et Dati, Rome, 1907 (fr)
- Gouin, Paul, L'Ordre de la Mère de Dieu, pro manuscripto, Imprimerie Coconier, Sablé, 1941 (fr)
- Calvat, Mélanie & Bloy, Léon, Vie de Mélanie, Bergère de la Salette, écrite par elle-mêle en 1900, son enfance (1831–1846), repring, Mercure de France, Paris, 1954 (fr) pdf
- Calvat, Mélanie, L'Apparition de la Très-Sainte Vierge sur la montagne de la Salette, le 19 septembre 1846, publiée par la bergère de la Salette avec permission de l'ordinaire, reprint, Librairie Téqui, Saint-Céneré, S.D. (fr) html
- Gouin, Paul, Sœur Marie de la Croix. Bergère de la Salette. Née Mélanie Calvat. Tertiaire de St Dominique. Victime de Jésus, Éditions Saint-Michel, Saint-Céneré, 1969 (fr)
- Gouin, Paul, Sister Mary of the Cross. Shepherdess of La Salette. Melanie Calvat, The 101 Foundation, Asbury-NJ, 1968 (en)
- Laurentin, René & Corteville M.S., Michel, Découverte du secret de la Salette, Fayard, Paris, 2002, ISBN 2-213-61283-8 (fr)
- Bert, Michael and James Costa. 2010. "Linguistic borders, language revitalisation and the imagining of new regional entities", Borders and Identities (Newcastle upon Tyne, 8–9 January 2010), 18.
See also 
- Text of secret in English and original French with photos.
- La Salette at www.christ-roi.net (French).
- The story of Our Lady of La Salette as a comic strip.
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