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Maximin Giraud

"Our Lady's Zouave"

Maximin Giraud

Maximin was born on Aug. 27, 1835 in the village of Corps, France. His family was poor and unstable, his father overdrank and his mother died when he was only a year old.  He had a playful and mischievous character though he had a good heart and was unselfish. He received no education up to the age of 11, neither schooling nor catechism. He would run away from church if he was taken there by his father, and only with difficulty did he succeed in learning the Our Father and Hail Mary.


Despite his flaws, on Sep. 19, 1846, Our Lady appeared to Maximin and another young shepherd while they were tending their flock in the mountain. She left each of them with a secret. The apparition came to be known as Our Lady of La Salette and was formally approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1879.


A few years after the apparition in October 1849, his father died and he was sent to the Sisters of Providence Boarding School. Once there, an official inquiry into the apparition was opened. His progress in school was slow, as he constantly had visits from pilgrims. Part of the inquiry included three separate questionings by Saint Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney about the apparitions.

In the beginning of 1851, Maximin entered the minor seminary of Rondeau at Grenoble. It was during this time, under the supervision of the Bishop of Grenoble that he officially recorded the secret given to him by Our Lady of La Salette and it was sent to Bl. Pope Pius IX. On Sep. 19, 1851, the local bishop formally approved public devotion and prayers to Our Lady of La Salette. The following year he was entrusted to the care of Fr. Champon, parish Priest of Seyssins, where he stayed for three years continuing with his studies.

In 1856, Fr. Champon entrusted Maximin to one of his brothers, a Jesuit and philosophy teacher in the seminary at Dax in les Landes. He stayed there for two years until he discerned out of the Priesthood. In 1858, he returned to his hometown where he worked briefly as a tax collector then as a mechanic. Unfulfilled, he moved to Paris, where he wandered from place to place for several months until the Jourdain’s, a family of retired traders, adopted him.

He stayed with them for three years, and went to medical school. Unfortunately, he failed the state medical exam. Disillusioned, his friend, the Marquise de Pignerolles, funded a trip for him to Rome to take his mind off his troubles and discern his next steps in life. Once in Rome, he witnessed the Papal Zouaves throughout the Holy City. The site of the Papal soldiers reinvigorated his love for the Pope and he decided to leave the medical field and enlist in the Zouaves. Unfortunately, he ran out of the money given to him by the Marquise so he couldn't afford his enlistment. However, his other friend, Cardinal Villecourt, under the condition that he did not reveal his identity gave him the 50 francs necessary for his commitment and also sent a letter of recommendation to Papal Zouave Captain Troussures.

On April 24, 1865 Maximin joined the 1st Company of Papal Zouaves under the command of Captain Ferdinand Le Caron de Troussures as a company medic with a 6 month commitment. A few weeks later he was moved to a platoon as a regular private under Lieutenant Arthur Guillemin. His platoon leader described the first time he put on his uniform:


“when he put on his uniform for the first time he experienced a feeling analogous to that which must be experienced by a priest dressed for the altar. He was armed for Jesus Christ, armed to be an honorable and holy victim! To varying degrees, this was the dominant spirit of the battalion… These young men loved the brilliance of their arms in the splendor of the Roman sky; they loved the honor they would do their country; they loved the sound of their bugles mingling with the sound of the bells of the Eternal City, and giving the call to battle the accent of the call to prayer”


After about 10 days his identity was discovered by his Sergeant, Henri Le Chauff de Kerguéne. They became good friends, he kept his identity hidden and looked out for Maximin out of “the love of the good Virgin” Like most of The Zouave’s Maximin displayed great piety. His friend Pvt. Guidecoq, said that “I couldn't prevent him from praying part of the night”

In his first few months Miximin spent his time between military exercises and parade drill and ceremony. However, late that Summer he traveled with a detachment of Papal Zouaves to the mountains to fight off brigands which had been causing havoc in nearby villages. During his service in the Papal Zouaves Maximin was able to finish his memoir on the vision he had of Our Lady of La Salette. Sgt. Kerguéne was able to convince their commander to excuse him from staying at the barracks in the afternoon after training, on the condition that he spends all his free time with the Camaldolese Fathers working on the memoir. While he promised to remain anonymous his identity eventually became well known among the Zouaves.

Many of his comrades tried to get Maximin to reveal more information and secrets about his vision, but he was always able to see through any tricks. Though, he did enjoy talking with his comrades about Our Lady on facts that had already been revealed.

The Freemasons found out about Maximin’s enlistment with the Papal Zouaves and they sent several Carbonari to infiltrate the Pope's army, to find out more about the vision and ruin Maximin’s reputation. Several times they tried to get him drunk so that he would reveal the secrets of the apparition. One time they gave him wine which they had secretly made very strong. They were able to intoxicate him though he did not reveal anything. Angered they defamed him, this caused such a stir that even Bl. Pius IX found out and felt sorry he was tricked. However, he was always protected by Mary, he remained chaste and invulnerable.


Seeking to defame Maximin, the masons have spread calumnious stories about his time in the Papal Zouaves. Including the reason why he didn’t re-enlist after his 6 month commitment. A young Zouave in Maximin’s company was accused of assaulting a superior. Though the Zouave was later acquitted and charged with only drunkenness the masons have perpetuated that the soldier was actually Maximin, and it was through shame that Maximin did not re-enlist. This is completely false, unfortunately some writings on Maximin perpetuate this lie even today.

The real reason that Maximin did not re-enlist was because during 1865 there was no imminent threat from the Kingdom of Italy that they would invade. So when Maximin's enlistment ended in Oct. 1865 he returned to his adoptive family in France and took care of their property near Versailles. He had every intention of returning back to the battalion one day.

He wrote to Sgt. Kerguéne a few months after his commitment and said:


“I'm not bored in France. Far from there. But be good enough to tell the commander that I consider myself on leave and not on permanent leave, that if there comes which is certain a shot, I want my share my faith alone guides me. But, if in defending the Holy Father, the opportunity arises to be useful to my country, I will not fail. Because God and my country, that is my motto. If I can't join the Zouaves, I'm thinking of enlisting in the artillery or the Dragoons. So the commander can claim me whenever he wants!”


He even wrote to the Papal Zouave Battalion Commander, Colonel de Charette on his desire to return one day:


“I always think of going to shoot with you all at the moment of danger, believing that I will be a martyr if I give my life for the Holy Father. Do not forget me, I beg you, near Viot, Bourget, Tarabini, Verdier, all those who still love me a little in the Zouaves. A thousand respectful affectionate regards to my Captain d'Albiousse and to the very excellent Commander Le Caron de Troussures. Your Maximin, who longs for the day to join you”

Unfortunately, over the next 5 years, whenever circumstances arose where Maximin wanted to return to the Papal Zouaves he was either sick or unable to travel. In 1868, he returned to the village of Corps. He refused to marry, he confided to a close friend and said “When one has seen the Blessed Virgin, it is not possible to be attached to anyone on this earth. ” He wanted to practice a trade and attempted to get into the liquor business but it did not work out very well.

In 1870 he was drafted into the French army during the Franco-Prussian war and assigned to Fort Barrau in Grenoble. After the war he returned to Corps with his adoptive family. At the end of 1874 his health started to take a turn for the worse and he made one last pilgrimage to La Salette. On Mar. 1, 1875 he received Last Rites and swallowed the Host with some water from La Salette. His last words were the following:

“I believe in all that is taught by the Holy, Apostolic and Roman Church, in all the dogmas defined by our Holy Father the Pope, the august and infallible Pius IX. I firmly believe, even at the cost of my blood, in the celebrated apparition of the Most Holy Virgin Mary on the holy mountain of La Salette, on September 19, 1846, an apparition which I have defended in speech, writing and suffering. After my death, let no one assert or say that I was ever heard to deny the great event of La Salette; for in lying to the whole world, he would be lying to himself. It is with this spirit, I give my heart to Our Lady of La Salette” He was only 39 years old.

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