Spirituality and Charism
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At La Salette, Mary said: "Do not be afraid."

Untitled 1When the two shepherd children of La Salette, Maximin and Melanie, first saw "the Beautiful Lady" of the Apparition. a great fear came upon them. The little girl dropped her pastoral staff in sudden awe and wonderment, and the boy spoke encouragement to her that he little felt himself.

It was the old dread of the unknown that so often paralyzes the human heart and robs it of strength and happiness. It was only when Our Blessed Mother arose and spoke those comforting words, "Come near, my children, be not afraid!", it was only then that their courage came, warming back to their hearts, and they had strength to draw close to her – so close they tell us afterwards, that a third person could not have passed between them and the radiant Visitor from heaven.

They felt a great peace in their hearts, a strange and wondrous happiness that held them ecstatically unconscious of the passing of time, as they stood there eating the words of the queenly Messenger. Fear melted from their hearts just as the cold chill of winter is dispelled by the searching rays of the June day sun – and a great calm and peace flooded their souls.

The Dark Shadow of Fear

How often is not this experience of the children at La Salette repeated in the life of every person! So many times the human heart is chilled, with cold fear of impending evil. The shadow of a future cross casts its gloom across our pathway and darkens prematurely the happiness of our soul.

Untitled 1St. Don Bosco (1815-1888) in Torino, Italy in 1880The . . . canonization of Don Bosco adds one more name to the list of saints who have been devout clients of our Lady of La Salette and champions of her cause from the earliest days. Instinctively, his saintly soul welcomed this message from heaven and made it a favorite theme of his sermons and conferences, besides an inspiration for his own personal sanctity.

The Challenges of Don Bosco’s Early Ministry

In 1846, Father John Bosco was a young priest, thirty years of age, just inaugurating his wondrous work among the youth in the vicinity of Turin, Italy. Harassed by difficulties on all sides that would have discouraged a less valiant heart, he went about seeking a kindly refuge for his small flock. Unsympathetic neighbors finding his troop of youngsters too noisy and lively for their own comfort, chased him from one shelter to another, until at last he was able to establish himself permanently in Turin at a place since become famous under the name of the Oratory.

He Discovered La Salette

It was in such circumstances that the news of the wondrous Apparition of Mary at La Salette came to the ears of Don Bosco. In Italy, as in France, the daily newspapers carried long articles describing the great event, and the name of La Salette was on everyone's lips. The saintly soul of Don Bosco sensed immediately what an incomparable grace heaven had accorded the world in the blessed apparition, and he lost no time in acquainting his little community with all the details.

Untitled 1Fr. Francis Lanoue, M.S. (1909-1965), author of this article
In the Province of Verona, in sunny Italy, lies a district known to the inhabitants by the musical name of Valpolicella. Most dear to the people of this locality is the little Sanctuary of Fumane, dedicated to Our Lady of La Salette. From this chapel there sets out every year the local "Pilgrimage of Mary," a procession in which crowds of people make a tour of all the neighboring parishes, carrying in triumph the statue of the Madonna of La Salette.

The Cure of a Young Boy, Giuletto Savoia

The devotion of the countryside to Our Lady is well known, but in 1949 saw it rise to new heights because of a wondrous cure wrought through her intercession. In the main parish of the district, the Vicariate Church of St. Floriana, a young boy at the point of death was completely cured through his faith and the faith of his family in Our Lady of La Salette.

It is a touching story, best told in the words of the pastor of the parish, Father Narciso Contri. Father Contri writes, "This young boy, Giuletto Savoia, was a pious lad, fourteen years of age. About eight forty-five on the evening of August 26th, 1949, as he was riding on his bicycle, he crashed head-on into a young student from Castelrotto. He was thrown to the ground and hit his head on a stone with such violence that it was thought that he was killed.

He was unconscious and kept vomiting continually so that it was believed a cerebral hemorrhage had occurred. He was rushed to the hospital where he was placed on the critical list, and it was declared that he could be saved only by a miracle. In his delirious state he kept repeating over and over, 'Our Lady of La Salette, pray for me.'

He was given the Last Rites of the Church (now referred to as the Anointing of the Sick), and his sister, seeing that all human hope was gone, made a promise to Our Lady of La Salette, that if he were spared she would have her gold watch made into a votive offering. His mother, certain of being heard, offered her gold wedding ring.

On his way to see the Madonna of La Salette

Editor's Note: This article on La Salette which appeared in The Commonweal magazine on Oct. 26, 1934, contains a translation of an old document treasured in the archives of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and is reprinted here by permission of Michael Williams, past editor of The Commonweal.
Untitled 1Church of Notre Dame de Sainte-Croix in Le Mans, France

In these troubled times when the world is eagerly receptive to every proposed remedy for its economic disease save the one true remedy, the following account may further realization of the necessity of the true remedy. Idle hands and knees must become uplifted hands and bended knees, if they are again to know the sweet joys of honest labor.

Mary’s Preference for Poor Children

Anyone who thinks at all about the Holy Family of Nazareth will readily understand why the Queen of Heaven selected the children of the poor as the recipients of her visits to Guadeloupe, to Lourdes and to La Salette. The last was recorded by Maximin Giraud on December 8, 1863, when he paid a visit to Notre Dame de Sainte-Croix, Le Mans, France, cradle of the Congregation of Holy Cross, whose present mother house is at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

His narrative has a needed message not only for the children of Holy Cross but for all who love Our Lady and Saint Joseph and who believe they can and will help us in our unhappy country's need. For this reason, the faded French document has been brought forth from the archives and translated. (The text of the document runs as follows):

Maximin again recites the Event of La Salette

Maximin Giraud, having come to Notre Dame de Sainte-Croix, in Le Mans, for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin, was invited into the reception room of the Father Superior (Reverend Basil Moreau), where he found assembled the Council of the Association of St. Joseph. He recounted that at the age of eleven he had gone from the town of Corps to take care of the herd of a friend of his father whose shepherd was sick.

Untitled 1La Salette Basilica in France surrounded by Alpine mountain grandeur
The Apparition of Our Lady of LaSalette on Sept. 19. 1846 was one of the first major modern Vatican approved Apparitions. Mary’s message carries profound implications for developing an integral ecological response, based in a spirituality of the interrelationship of all creation (See Laudato Si, chapter 6).

A Weeping Mother, Caring for all God’s Creatures


When Mary visited ‘her people’ on the mountain of La Salette, she opened up the beauty of nature, human and cosmic, and its power to reveal the love of God. Her visitation highlighted the beauty of the magnificent mountains of the area, daily ‘wreathed in smoke’ by their creator. She brought her mother-care for all to two, young, seemingly insignificant children, who were entrusted with the tender, shepherding care of the flocks owned by others, now to be given a greater mission.

In solidarity with the poor, she wore the dress of a peasant woman – festooned with roses, matching the beautiful, variegated floral host of the surrounding fields. She gleamed with the reflected ‘sunlight’ of God’s glory. At the spot where she appeared, a flow of healing water was released (even to this day) from a previously dried up stream bed, and she highlighted the pregnant God-promise of the bounty of nourishing earth-gifts. The place and context of La Salette itself speaks of the glories of the God of creative love. ‘On that mountain’ (Isaiah 25:6-7) all God’s gifts come together to delight the eye and soothe the weary, overburdened soul, drawing us closer to the Divine Artist, revealed in such created beauty (See Laudato Si, chapter 2).


The Power of Tears to Change Hearts

However, even in her revelation of the wonders that surrounded God’s people, Mary notes, through the gift of human tears, that the power of sin has dulled our senses, and blinded our sight, to such beauty, and allowed a growing historical ‘indifference’ to our responsibility for and stewardship of this bounty to creep into our behaviors.

Soon, on the first Sunday of Advent of 2016, the great Jubilee of Mercy will come to an end. Although we can always do more, great things happened this year in the name of Christ and his Church of Mercy.

 

The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

Untitled 1Over this past year, more people have been involved in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and giving drink to the thirsty. It was being done quite openly in the name of Jesus Christ. People with marital problems, addiction problems, or those mourning a loss, have all had hands held and stories heard. We all know that when we are hurting, and someone reaches out to us with care the God who seems far away suddenly draws close.

As Joshua reminds us: “I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go” (I Joshua 1:9).

 

Be Reconciled and Begin Anew

One thing we La Salettes pride ourselves in is our love for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. La Salette priests are known as good confessors. At the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette Shrine in Attleboro, MA, more than 1,000 confessions are heard each week. And each week people leave the Reconciliation Chapel, convinced of God's love for them. They find the strength to begin again.

Untitled 1Marian devotion has been part of Catholic tradition as far back as A.D. 36 when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to St. James on a 6-foot pillar of jasper in Saragossa, Spain — while she was still living in Ephesus. Her purpose was to encourage him on his mission and she asked that he build a church in her honor. She promised her assistance to those who would call on her.

Since then, numerous Marian apparitions have been witnessed worldwide in which Mary often asks the faithful to pray the holy rosary. In addition to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Oct. 7, Pope Leo XIII officially dedicated the month of October to the Holy Rosary in 1883, saying, "It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God" ("On Devotion of the Rosary").

 

A Scripture-Based Prayer

The rosary is a Scripture-based prayer which guides the faithful in meditating on the life of Christ through the joyful, luminous, glorious and sorrowful mysteries. The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, who celebrate the 170th anniversary of her apparition this year, pray the rosary every day, including the rosary of the Seven Dolors, or Sorrows, on Saturday.

Editor: This article was originally written in our newly-begun publication, “Reconciliare: a La Salette Intracommunity Review”, published in Rome, after Vatican II. Fr. Stern is himself a convert from Judeism.

Untitled-1Fr. Jean Stern, M.S.Everyone knows that the place now held by apparitions in Catholic piety constitutes one of the major obstacles to closer relations with our Protestant brethren. Dr. Künneth, Secretary of the World Lutheran Federation at Geneva, whose conference given at the Marian Congress in Lisbon included many sympathetic viewpoints still did not hesitate to express serious reservations relative to piety as manifested at Lourdes and Fatima.

 

Catholics and Our Separated Brethren

 

Every Catholic anxious for the progress of ecumenism will necessarily be perturbed by this state of affairs. Some will probably go as far as to hope for the outright suppression of all forms of piety related to apparitions. In fact, some will say: La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima, etc., are not part of Revelation; shouldn't we choose to remove these obstacles from the road to unity, a road already long and strewn with difficulties for our separated brethren? The Church, after all, never considered apparitions as bolted to the foundations of faith properly so-called.

Editor: The following statement, crafted in a consensus process, was released at the end of the Nonviolence and Just Peace conference in Rome, April 2016. We invite individuals and organizations to endorse this statement using the form below. More than 1,100 individuals and organizations have endorsed it as of September 12, 2016.

Untitled-1As Christians committed to a more just and peaceful world, we are called to take a clear stand for creative and active nonviolence and against all forms of violence. With this conviction, and in recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, people from many countries gathered at the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International on April 11-13, 2016 in Rome.

Our assembly, people of God from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania included lay people, theologians, members of religious congregations, priests, and bishops. Many of us live in communities experiencing violence and oppression. All of us are practitioners of justice and peace. We are grateful for the message to our conference from Pope Francis: “your thoughts on revitalizing the tools of nonviolence, and of active nonviolence in particular, will be a needed and positive contribution”.

 

Looking at our world today

 

We live in a time of tremendous suffering, widespread trauma and fear linked to militarization, economic injustice, climate change, and a myriad of other specific forms of violence. In this context of normalized and systemic violence, those of us who stand in the Christian tradition are called to recognize the centrality of active nonviolence to the vision and message of Jesus; to the life and practice of the Catholic Church; and to our long-term vocation of healing and reconciling both people and the planet.

Editor: Fr. Ferec’s article, Reflections on our Spirituality (Dec., 1966), was originally published in the La Salette publication, Reconciliare, just after the conclusion of Vatican II. We have divided his lengthy presentation into five articles: 1) Our La Salette Spirituality, 2) Mary, Mediator and Reconciler, 3) La Salettes – Reconcilers Par Excellence, 4) Our La Salette Charism, and 5) A Pep-Talk for La Salettes.

 

Untitled-1Priest speaks with pilgrims in the early years of the Shrine at the Holy MountainWhat rating does our ministry of reconciliation deserve? An “A” for a service that is constantly improving? An “E” for effort? What mark does one put down for the missionary who is only going through the motions, marking time, rendering a spineless service, a non-zeal that only serves to emasculate one's spirituality?

There are times when the generous performance of routine apostolic chores creates the impression that a big step forward has been taken when actually we have gone two steps backward: because the wasted efforts amounted to what St. Augustine called “giant steps in the wrong direction”.

 

We are Troops in Ministry-Readiness

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”

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