From the title of this article, you may suspect that there may be, literally, another La Salette Apparition besides the one that happened on Sept. 19, 1846. No, that’s not the case. Let me explain.
Gatherings of La Salette Laity
During this year, the La Salette Missionaries are hosting two gatherings of laity who are connected to or ministry with La Salettes around the world. The first was held in June in the Atlanta, GA, area, entitled the “La Salette Lay Ministry Summit.” About 2,000 people were involved with this wonderful four day gathering, with keynotes for each day, prayer and learning/sharing sessions provided. This Summit was designed to gather laity and La Salettes from around the United States to hear about the La Salette message and learn how to “do ministry” using the La Salette charism of reconciliation as their guide.
The second meeting of La Salette Laity was an international one held on the Holy Mountain of La Salette on Sept. 1-10, 2011. Its purpose was similar to the Atlanta meeting but with an extended experience, and an opportunity to meet at the very sight of the Apparition. Each area where La Salettes minister (12 in number) will be represented by at least two laypersons and an accompanying La Salette. The representatives from the United States are: Ellen Herrell from St. Ann’s Parish in Marietta, GA; Isabel Dion (with her husband, Paul, a La Salette alumnus) from St. Christopher’s Parish in Moreno Valley, CA; and myself, Fr. Ron Gagne, M.S., from Attleboro, MA. We spent ten very full days together on the Holy Mountain.
Some of the purposes of this international gathering were:
1. Share the experience of being a saletine lay person in each country
2. Deepen an understanding of La Salette and its charism
3. Promote an experiential intercultural sharing – les soirées (evening socials)
4. Identify differences (language) affecting the sharing and the contacts
5. Identify what can give continuity and express unity
6. Plan moments for spirituality, using a variety of spaces (the mountain, the facsimile, the shrine, the cross on Planeau, the town of Corps, the Pra home, Maximin's tomb) and various times of day (morning, afternoon, evening).
Part of the preparation for our ten days at La Salette included: 1) praying a special La Salette Novena (9 days); 2) reading and reflecting on two orientation documents:
• the first, an essay, I Will Speak to Her Heart, by Fr. Marcel Schlewer, M.S., an extensive meditation on the message of La Salette;
• the second, reflections on the Laity’s Mission both from the Church and from the message of La Salette, based on John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici;
• the third, each delegation will give a fifteen-minute presentation which will include a contemporary visual of Our Lady of La Salette appearing in your own country as well as the text of conversation between Mary and the two children, referring to contemporary situational problems being wrestled with by our citizens; this is a chance to “inculturate” Mary’s message in this day and in our own country.
If Mary Appeared Today…
Our group from the U.S. met in Atlanta to discuss the content of our presentation: that is, Ellen Herrell with Isabel Dion and myself.
The visual to the right expresses some of what we wanted to say about what Our Lady would say if she appeared today to two children.
The place: we chose an apparition sight that was recognizable as in the U.S., with both a city and a nature feel. We used a picture of Central Park in New York City, showing the lush nature as well as skyscrapers in the distance.
The content of the picture: we included Mary and the two children as they would be dressed at the original event so that they would be easily recognizable to anyone familiar with the Apparition. The children, again, are poor, perhaps migrants.
However, we included some contemporary and cultural elements: 1) backpack: since the children we school age, we included a school backpack;
2) Eye of God: since we live in the Americas, where others settled first, we included an “eye of God (Ojo De Dios)” which is a simple or complex weaving made across two or more sticks and is thought to have originated with the Huichol Indians of Jalisco, Mexico. Wikipedia explains that “When a child is born, the central eye is woven by the father, then one eye is added for every year of the child's life until the child reaches the age of five.”
3) multi-cultural La Salette Cross: this is made up of the faces of people of many cultures who live in our land.
What Would Mary Say Today?
In our discussion we also talked about what topics would be touched upon if Mary appeared in our country today. The following is our “new text” of the La Salette Apparition with topic headings, somewhat parallel to the original content of the Apparition, which we presented and discussed with everyone:
Welcome: The Beautiful Lady began by saying: “Welcome, my children, come closer to me. I have great news for you and all my people.” The children, at first frightened, proceeded to stand right in front of her. While she spoke to them, her eyes were filled with tears.
Ecology: She said: “In this beautiful place, in the midst of my own people, I want to remind you of my Son’s message. He wants you to care for this planet and all its needs. This earth is his gift and should be treated with loving care. The threats which put my people in danger – droughts and floods – are due to their lack of attention. Its fragile life is in danger but you need to warn them. My Son’s wish is for all to live in peace on this, God’s good earth.”
Love: Then she gently asked Maximin and Melanie: “How well do you love each other, my children, and those outside your usual group of friends?” The children weren’t sure what to say, so she continued: “You must share the love of my Son with your friends and family. They are my Son’s special gift to you.”
Relationships (at school and home): As the children listened, she continued: “You must also reach out to those outside of your usual friends, those people different from yourselves. You must be welcoming to those who speak a different language than you do. In school and at home, you must be aware of bullying and try to stop it. Include others in your life, especially those who have difficulty fitting in, for all of them are my children and I am concerned about them.”
Conversion (growing in faith): With a hopeful tone, she continued: “If my people change their ways, then peace will spring up in more places. This will make me and my Son very happy.”
Prayer: As the children continued to listen to the Beautiful Lady, she asked: “Do you say your prayers well, my children?” They answered: “Not really, Mam!” She responded: “You should say your prayers daily, speaking often to our heavenly Father and to me, your heavenly Mother.”
Mass: Then she asked: “Do you go to church often?” They said: “When we’re not travelling to the beach, we try to go regularly.” She was concerned and asked: “And, when you go to Mass, do you pay attention, praying, singing and listening to the story of God’s love in the scriptures?” Maximin answered, “We try to do that, Mam.”
Other supports to faith: The Lady continued: “You should do that and other things, like making Lent special by what you do or what you give up. Your faith in God needs to be fed regularly.”
Helping your family: She asked the children: “How do you help your family?” The children didn’t understand, so she asked the boy: “Maximin, your dad recently lost his job. How are you helping your parents around the house?” He answered: “I try to do my chores before I go out with my friends. I do my best, most of the time.” Melanie added: “Since I have a large family, I try to be a good daughter and sister and do my fair share.” The Lady encouraged: “Good, my children, keep up the good work! My Son and I was very pleased with you.”
The Mission: Then, while turning to walk away, the Beautiful Lady said: “My good children, you must share my words and love with all my people. Again, tell everyone what I have told you.” With that, she walked away slowly and finally disappeared into light. The children were sad at her departure and wondered who this Beautiful Lady was.
A La Salette Mission Ever-New
Ellen Herrel, Isabel and Paul Dion and myself are grateful for having had the opportunity to be at La Salette, the place where the blessed event happened. We are also thankful for the opportunity to meet so many others from around the world – to share with them this beautiful opportunity to delve into the message and contemporary meaning of the La Salette event as lived out by the La Salette Missionaries and all those who know and/or minister with them around the world.
May we all continue to be led by the reconciling spirit of Our Lady and our faith in her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who reconciled us by his death and rising. May we do well as we continue to make her message known to all her people.