In the scriptures we can learn much from even the very brief passages. Here we have St. Paul’s description of “The Paradox of the Cross”:
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1: 22-25).
This reading brings us up sharply against the fact that human beings, no less in Paul's time than in our own, will do just about anything, seek just about any escape route, to avoid looking at the raw reality of Jesus Christ crucified.
Our Religious Call to an Intercultural Way of Life
Editor: This article was recently written by our La Salette Superior General and, although addressed to La Salette Religious, applies well to our common baptismal call to all God’s people that “all may be one” (John 17:21); edited for length.
Pilgrims to Holy Mountain in 1898
Something significant has been happening right before our eyes: many religious communities in the first world, including our own, have become or are in the process of becoming international, as more and more of their members come from various parts of their respective congregations. To keep this unfolding phenomenon from giving rise to needless crises, fears or preoccupations, we must see it with the eyes of faith. Then, what we see is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
New Horizons for Us to Discover
The challenge facing all these communities, as well as our own, is how to prepare to boldly welcome new horizons for our future religious life, both in community living and in ministry. We will need to be open to new experiences of genuine communion, unimaginable not that long ago. Our world is rapidly evolving and, at this point, it is sick of exaggerated personalism and deeply wounded by never-ending divisions.
There are certainly many wonderful mysteries involved with the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, including the countless miraculous cures of many people in the first years after the apparition. So many lives have been changed for the better and these miracles continue in the hearts and lives of Mary’s people all over the world.
Editor: At the time in which this article was originally written (1937), Blessed Peter Julian Eymard was not yet canonized; Pope John XXIII canonized him on December 9, 1962. John St. Paul II named Eymard “Apostle of the Eucharist”.
Pilgrims visit the La Salette Shrine in France
The feast was over on the Holy Mountain of La Salette. The evening Angelus wafted a muffled curfew across the fog-bound hills. A stray group of pilgrims lingered around the facsimile at the Miraculous Fountain to sip a last limpid draught and breath a fond goodnight to the Weeping Mother. From my crowded quarters of the Shrine Hotel, dim lights cast a ruddy glow through the keen Alpine air. It was the one calm moment of the Apparition Anniversary, September 19, which I had the privilege of celebrating at the Shrine itself.
The throng and flurry of that day had vanished and it was a refreshing tonic to idle the late hour away on the terrace of the Basilica, recalling the various emotions of the feast and grasping the full significance of the event commemorated.
A Very Busy La Salette Feast
Over 8,000 pilgrims had visited the La Salette Shrine on the Holy Mountain in France that day, in proof of the undying appeal of the Apparition. From the first gleam of tapers for the early Masses until the last flicker of the lantern procession at night, the program of religious activity kept everyone alert and interested. There were the endless rounds of Masses for different groups of pilgrims, Pontifical High Mass with sermon, the traditional recital of the story in the ravine of the Sezia, Stations of the Cross and open-air Benediction in the afternoon, and at night closing exercises.
Another Way of Looking at the La Salette Apparition
Mary seated, weeping, Chapel of Reconciliation, Holy Mountain, France"The Apparition of our Mother on the mountain of La Salette is not the publication of a new doctrine, but of a new grace. It is a revelation of the love and pity which reigns in heaven for us.” (Most Rev. William Ullathorne, Bishop of Birmingham, England, 1806-1889)
“It is impossible to have a true devotion to Our Lady of La Salette and be a lukewarm Catholic.” (Cardinal Clement Villecourt, 1787 - 1867)
The Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette on September 19, 1846, is not, and never will be an article of faith. The truth of it, however, is in the words of Bishop Philibert de Bruillard in his Pastoral Letter, "indubitable and certain."
An Invitation to “Come Nearer, My Children”
But if this be so, here are at once several considerations calculated to enkindle in our hearts a love for the beautiful devotion of which the Apparition is the origin and object. For, since the devotion to Our Lady of La Salette is founded on the various proofs which establish the supernatural truth of the Event, the same arguments which authenticate the Apparition as a fact, likewise testify that the naturally consequent devotion is also the work of grace, and seem, moreover, to reflect its excellency.
"Although security in Latin America is still precarious, the first signs of peace are beginning to be registered": this is what emerges from the data in the Global Peace Index 2017 report, received and analyzed by Agenzia Fides.
The Global Peace Index is the world’s leading measure of global "peacefulness", produced since 2007 by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), based in New York, ranks 163 countries covering 99.7% of the world’s population. From data analyzed by Fides it emerges that six of the nine regions where the world is divided have improved their peace index.
Slowly, Peace Seems to be Emerging
Among them, South America emerges as the fourth most peaceful region in the world. Among the eight Latin countries that have improved their levels of peace, Chile is ranked 24th in the world, followed by Costa Rica, 34th, and Uruguay, 35th.
On the other side of the list is Colombia, which remains the least secure in Latin America, ranking 146th in the world, ahead of Venezuela (143th) and Mexico (142th).
Once again the celebration of the New Year of Our Lord 2018 offers the opportunity for me to pray that Emmanuel — God with us — fills everyone with his presence and his grace.
“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14)
This event of God among us — at the heart of the Christian message — means that the God of the Bible is faithful to his promises and that he never disappoints us, because he loves with a special love the creature that comes forth from his own hands. This is also the experience that the people of Israel had in their long and difficult journey to the Promised Land.
The assurance of God given to Moses on Mount Horeb, “I will be with you (Ex 3:12),” will mark the history of the people of the Covenant in good times and in bad, as it marks our own. This promise will be realized in the birth of the Savior in the stable at Bethlehem, thereby filling the need for the infinite present in the heart of every person.
His coming among us will be marked by the refusal of comfortable lodging suited for the particular experience Mary and Joseph were going through, and by a more squalid indifference on the part of the inhabitants of Bethlehem.
The Apparition of La Salette has relics of its own – the Miraculous Fountain whose healing waters have been begotten of Mary's tears and the stone upon which Our Weeping Mother, that same Blessed Virgin, sat revealed in grief. We have seen the wonders of the Sign. Let us now consider that rough throne or rustic bench that we prefer to call an Altar of Sacrifice.
The La Salette stone in its reliquary (archival drawing)
Historical facts and things symbolic reverently cling to that rock – no longer cold or ordinary, but a precious treasure, preserved in a gilt reliquary. That stone that the "Beautiful Lady" was seated upon at the beginning of the celestial vision is a true relic, left behind as a definite and tangible reminder of the great event.
For years it has been treasured in an ornamental repository, an ex-veto offering on the part of a grateful woman for a cure. Like the stars, stones have a language of their own; they are often mentioned in Scripture and in heavenly matters. And that bit of rock of the Holy Mountain has lessons and reflections – a world of spiritual and practical symbolism.
A Reminder of the Apparition
Let us pay veneration and respect to this monument of Our Lady's beneficence, to this hollowed object of devotion and confidence. Let us listen to its historical narrative and its useful significance under the patronage of her – whom we revere and love – sitting and weeping upon that stony rock, in a sense the altar of sacrifice of Mary's prayers and tears to appease her Divine Son against her poor and needy people.
Before September 19th, 1846, this stone was merely a rough and unformed seat near the dried-up stream. It was used as a resting-place by the tired shepherds. It was a handy bench by the spring. And for years it had undoubtedly played faithful sentinel to the fitful mountain source.
Volumes have been written on the famous apparition of La Salette. All its details have passed through the crucible of criticism – a scrutiny that has revealed the triumph of divine logic and the approbation of ecclesiastical authority. Yet there is a theme that has not been very much touched upon; there is a book that hasn't as yet been published.
Editor: This talk was given as part of an eight-day retreat given on the Holy Mountain of La Salette by Bishop Jean Guy Rakotondravahatra, M.S. (1934-1996), Bishop of Ihosy, Madagascar, pages 39-41.
The Christian people, in an inspired intuition of piety, spontaneously invoked Our Lady of La Salette under the title, “Reconciler of sinners”. Official church documents make no mention of it among the titles it attributes to Mary. Let us, however, listen to what Vatican Council II teaches:
Bishop Jean Guy Rakotondravahatra, M.S. (1934-1996)
“The Father of mercies willed that the consent of the predestined mother should precede the Incarnation, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life. This contrast was verified in outstanding fashion by the Mother of Jesus. She gave to the world that very Life which renews all things, and she was enriched by God with gifts befitting such a role... By thus consenting to the divine utterance, Mary, a daughter of Adam, became the mother of Jesus. Embracing God’s saving will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son. In subordination to him and along with him, by the grace of Almighty God she served the mystery of redemption” (Lumen Gentium, #56 emphasis added).
To be sure, Christ alone is Savior, Christ alone is Mediator between God and humanity, and it is Christ who, by his blood, accomplished the work of reconciliation. St. Paul in Ephesians 2:13-17 says that Christ, by means of the cross, is our peace, our reconciliation. But another text of the same St. Paul says:
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God” (Colossians 1:24-25).