"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).
What a picture these words of our Blessed Mother at La Salette bring to mind as we reflect on their meaning! The heavens seem to open for a brief moment to our wondering gaze and we witness the blessed work of Mary’s ongoing intercession before the throne of God...
These words of the Blessed Mother – “I shall be forced to let go the arm of my Son” – besides recalling to us that profoundly Catholic doctrine of Mary's part in the great work of Divine Redemption, also bring to mind a sorry picture of humanity's baseless ingratitude to God.
Sin and Punishment Versus Love and Mercy
On the one hand, we can envision a sinful world, unmindful of God, given over to all manner of crime and self-indulgence; and, on the other hand, an outraged God, with patience, mercy and long-suffering exhausted, raising the …arm of justice over the head of guilty humanity. Yet the Psalmist reminds us: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger; he has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve” (Psalm 103:8-10).
At La Salette, the Sinless Virgin pledges to hold back "the arm of my Son!" How sad is our state when Jesus, the meekest of all, the Good Shepherd – the one who would not “crush the broken reed nor quench the smoking flax,” (Isaiah 42:3 and Matthew 12:20) – raises at last the hand of justice against his creatures, made in his own image and likeness. How sad that the one who “came not for the just, but for sinners,” (Luke 5:32), who “had compassion on the multitude,” (Matthew 14:14) finds his patience almost exhausted.
Editor: This is the introduction by Fr. Flavio Gillio, M.S., to the new book to be published soon, “Food for the Journey; the Biblical Roots of the La Salette Message, Volume One”, by Fr. Normand Theroux, M.S. This book is a welcome addition to our library of materials on the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette., and will be available in a paper version, in digital form and also as an audio book, all sold online on Amazon.com and other outlets.
I have never personally met Fr. Normand Theroux, M.S. and yet we have become good friends. Whenever I have a chance to visit his gravesite in the small cemetery the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Enfield, New Hampshire, we spend a little time together and we peacefully converse. Yes, I guess we have become good friends. After all, we both share the same passion for the Scripture, we both studied in Rome at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and, more importantly, we have both being seduced by the same “Beautiful Lady”!
I have, therefore, welcomed with joy the invitation to write an introduction to this volume, Food for the Journey; the Biblical Roots of the La Salette Message, Volume One. Fr. Theroux’s own title for this collection evokes one of the most used biblical metaphors to unfold the hidden meaning of our own lives – that of a journey or pilgrimage.
This year I marked 47 years as a La Salette Missionary. That means I have spent the greater part of my life as a member of this Congregation dedicated to the Apparition and the Message of the Beautiful Lady here at La Salette. Now I find myself living in the very place where the Apparition occurred and the Message was given. That fact feels like a great grace and a great challenge.
Fr. Joseph Bachand, M.S., presently Superior of the La Salette Community at the Holy Mountain in France
Looking at our life with new eyes
As I reflect on the years and the many assignments I have had, it occurs to me that each ministry entrusted to me provided the perspective or lens through which all past assignments would be viewed. I believe this is true for all of us: our present situation in life demands that we look at all that went before with “eyes” made more aware by the new situation. So I look back at all that has transpired in ministry with a greater understanding of conversion, reconciliation and relationship with God that Our Blessed Lady recommends.
Called to Minister as Spiritual Director
With that in mind, one period of my history stands out as instrumental in my own formation as a reconciler. I was blessed to spend four years (1998-2002), with the permission of my superiors, at a treatment center for priests and religious. I held the position of Director of Spirituality for the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, but worked more specifically with the men, individually and in groups.
The representation of the ethnicity of Jesus by cultures
…The month of September has always had a Marian flavor for the Church. In fact, the liturgy urges us to celebrate various feasts of Mary: her Nativity – September 8th, the Holy Name of Mary – September 12th, and Our Lady of Sorrows – September 15th. These are worldwide liturgical memorials that speak to us of the nearness of Mary in the life of every human being, and of her total involvement in the sufferings of Christ for the salvation of humankind. To these we must add, since 1846, the Feast of the Apparition at La Salette on September 19th.
Our Faith is Centered on Christ
This month is also important for each one of us in that we are invited at this time to return regularly to the roots of our spirituality, which is fundamentally Christo-centric – “Christ is the rule of our life” (Rule of Life, #7).
Yet we are also exquisitely Marian, because our life, ministry and rule of life are inspired by the message of Mary in her apparition at La Salette and by her faithful example throughout her life dedicated to the person and to the work of her Son:
“Our life of religious consecration finds its inspiration in Mary, ‘whose life is a model for all’ and whose unceasing intercession supports our efforts. Conscious of the challenge which the Apparition of the Lord's Handmaid continues to put before us, we resolve to devote ourselves entirely, as she herself did, to the person and work of her Son” (Rule of Life, #13).