Editor: This article was originally presented at the First International Encounter of La Salette Laity, held on the Holy Mountain of La Salette from Sept. 1-10, 2011. It was translated from Portuguese to English by Fr. Norman Butler, M.S. This is the first of three articles.
In the La Salette event, two apparently contradictory questions challenge us human beings: "Do you say your prayers well my children?" and "Have you never seen ruined wheat?” These questions that Mary posed to Maximin and Melanie and that she poses to us today call our attention to two essential realities of human life: our relationship to God, cultivated in prayer, and our relation to the material world with its socio-economic and political dimensions implied in the need for daily bread to sustain the life of every human being.
The two questions Mary poses in her apparition remind us of two fundamental dimensions of Christian spirituality: a) contemplation of the loving presence of the Lord and b) transforming human action based on justice and solidarity. Mary shows us that these are two intertwined realities. The modern mind tends to contrast spirit with matter. In biblical Hebrew there are two complementary expressions: "ruah (the breath of life)” and "shekinah (the loving presence of the Lord)".
The term spirituality comes from 'spirit' and, in a common understanding, 'spirit' is opposed to matter. However in biblical language, 'spirit' is not opposed to matter or the body. It is opposed to the 'flesh' (that is, the fragility which is destined for death); it is opposed to the law (that is, imposition, fear and punishment). So in this semantic context, spirit means life, construction, strength, action and freedom.
Editor: This is the first part of a major presentation given by Fr. Henryk Przeździecki to a group of European La Salette Laity, gathered at the La Salette Shine in Dębowiec, Poland, Sept. 11-15 of 2014.
The Apparition of La Salette is a special event that happened in 1846 but certainly did not happen in a vacuum. The world around effected and was included in the Apparition because they were burning concerns of “her people.”
Since the 1830s, Europe saw a huge growth industry, but suffered from overproduction. It was not possible to sell the products, despite falling prices. Many factories were forced to close. Common laborers in the factories were working 12-16 hours – including children. The quality of life of the workers was scandalous but there were no means of protest.
Just five days after the news of the alleged appearance of Mary on Sept. 19, 1846, on the mountain of La Salette reaches the episcopal palace, Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, quickly sends out a mandate and sternly orders all his priests in clear, canonical words:
"Monsieur le Curé, we forbid under the penalty of suspension incurred ipso facto to declare, to print or publish any new miracle, under any pretense of knowledge that it may be, if not from the authority of the Holy See or ours after an examination which cannot be but exact and severe."
In view of this alleged appearance, Bishop de Bruillard describes the precise conduct for his clergy – absolute silence. Despite this external silence, the event then opens to the bishop, eighty-two years of age, five years of intense work, and almost incessant activity. His Excellency is given the unusual burden of verifying the truth of this “visit from heaven.”
The apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, the first of the modern-day Marian apparitions, has some special qualities. It is the most biblical of Marian apparitions and, being an experience of faith, is centered on Mary’s Son, Jesus. Not only her words but her attitudes are noteworthy and show her interest not only in faith matters but also the concerns of our daily life.
There are three basic elements which stand out in her discourse with the two children that warrant our attention.
From a secular point of view, what could be more impractical than submission to the will of God; more “impractical” than going to Mass, saying one Our Father and one Hail Mary, doing penance and not going to the butcher shop. What could be more impractical than abstaining from taking the name of Christ and making sure to honor him on the Lord's Day?
This view of the Lady's message can also be taken as the discourse of pure praise. It is “impractical” inasmuch as it is pure praise, glory of God. Sunday, prayer, Mass, the Name of Christ – all of these point to the discourse as praise of the Lord himself. There is food for thought in all of this. We see ourselves as advancing in the spiritual life; making efforts at cancelling out or eliminating faults; improving our inner selves with a strong emphasis on spirituality that is psychologically aware.
|Pantocrator, by Arcabas: La Salette
Basilica, France, sanctuary ceiling.
All the light came from the appearance crucifix she wore on her chest. Before speaking, our Weeping Mother appears to Maximin and Melanie showing them her Son on the cross, radiant with the light of the resurrection.
From the front doors of the Basilica on the Holy Mountain in France, you can see clearly the imposing face of Christ in glory, painted onto the ceiling of the sanctuary by the artist, Arcabas. It fills the center of the apse and seems to look directly at us no matter where we move. It is an invitation for us to approach him. But the closer we get, the more his face lengthens and becomes human (due to the proportions of the dome on which it is painted). Of course this is an optical illusion but what a marvelous image for us! It is the experience into which each of us can immerse ourselves when we read the Word of God.
The closer we get to Christ, the less overwhelming and the more human he becomes. That's the One, "her Son," whom Mary came to introduce us to at La Salette. He opens for us the Great News News that his mother speaks of in her message. We know from his incarnation that nothing human is alien to him. His own name, Jesus, means "the Lord saves". and he lives in a free and responsible humans, in passionately loving and foolish people like us.
|Icon of the three phases
of the La Salette
Apparition - seated,
standing, and ascending.
At La Salette, Mary is not only speaking a message, she is also doing some multi-level communication. She is ministering, speaking to people, exhibiting behavior, showing an attitude, manifesting a mood, reaching out, teaching how to give reproach. She is giving us a lesson in proclaiming Christ.
She is also being herself. She is sad, angry and she is not hiding it. She is also revealing Christ's disappointment and displeasure. She is fulfilling a responsibility, answering a call, and through it all, manifesting a deep affection toward her people.
1) In her apparition she is showing involvement, responsibility, empathy, lively interest. We are thus clearly invited to manifest all of these in our own lives, following her witness and conduct.
2) She is manifesting interest in people – "my people" – their concerns and worries, especially over food which is often mentioned in the discourse.
3) She is exhibiting presence to people. She came. She spoke. She chose two small children from among the people.
4) She is communicating broadness of mind and an all-encompassing viewpoint: "You will make this known to all my people". She is manifesting interest in their daily, workaday lives, as well as in their spiritual lives – and showing how the two really blend together.
In the 1980s, when I was growing up in a small town in Ohio, there was a popular song that we all loved. It glorified life in a small town and made us feel that we were something special because we didn’t have all the conveniences of urbanity. We could forget that we had a 45-minute drive to “civilization” and all the fun of life in the city.
We used to play that song, my dad and I, and later my friends and I, over and over, and the melody of it got into my bones. I still live in a small town, though it’s a different small town. I’ll probably raise my children in this small town, and when I think of that song, I smile. I could make it my anthem.
Life is pretty predictable in small towns, and the news spreads fast. If someone dies, the church committee knows before the funeral home. If a neighbor finds out someone hs cancer, the prayer chain goes into full gear by sundown. When there are family battles and babies born, there’s a support crew lined up before the reality sets in at home.
When the Blessed Mother appeared to Melanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud — two uneducated peasant children — in 1846, the word spread quickly.
|(L to R) Pope John Paul II is presented with
the first volume of “La Salette – Documents
Authentiques” with La Salette Frs. Jim
Stajkowski, Lionel LeMay and Jean Stern
My three volume work, “La Salette – Documents Authentiques: Dossier Chronologique Intégral (La Salette – Authentic Documents: A Chronological Integral Record)”, stems from a request made by the La Salette Scholasticate in Ipswich, MA., in the 1960s: namely, to microfilm the principal documents pertaining to the La Salette apparition.
Father Hilaire Orset, M.S., then Provincial of France, turned the task over to me. I began to search systematically through the diocesan archives in Grenoble and soon realized that just picking out the "main" documents wouldn't do. As the famous detectives of literary fame, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, would remind us: we must “consider all the evidence!” My research also took me to other places, like the National Archives in Paris. And so the task of microfilming became a much greater project than originally foreseen.
Named Archivist-historian by Fr. Conrad Blanchet, M.S., in I966, I judged that the time had come to prepare an extensive work on La Salette like the one done by Fr. Rene Laurentin on Lourdes. The first volume was published in 1980 and the final one came out in 1991.
|Photographic plates left in
the Shrine office on the Holy
Mountain of La Salette
But time passed and it was winter time and the new Pilgrim season began with the arrival of our volunteers. It is now possible to review these forty-five small glass photographic plates.
On one particular plate he find one plate of the place where the Beautiful Lady appeared and another of the building of the La Salette basilica.
And among these plates, another surprise – a photo of Maximin and Melanie (below) taken during the period when they were asked to testify at the very site of the apparition. They are pictured standing on a slope of Planeau, in a small ravine where the slopes of Mounts Gargas, Chamoux and Planeau meet.
What a great discovery!
|The newly-discovered historic picture of Maximin (right with his hat)
and Melanie (center) walking in the area near the place where Our
Lady of La Salette appeared to them, on a slope of Planeau, in a small
ravine where the slopes of Mounts Gargas, Chamoux and Planeau meet
|Photo taken of the La Salette Apparition site between
1864 and 1868 (collection of Dardalet family)
Even small donations help us to continue to Make Mary's message known.
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.”