Pilgrims process around the Apparition site on the Holy MountainEditor: This article was originally given on the occasion of Profession of Vows of several La Salette Seminarians, perhaps in the 1950s.
On the solemn occasion of our First Religious Profession when we initially pronounced our simple vows at the hands of Very Reverend Father General’s delegate and in the very presence·of·our Eucharistic Lord, we formally became members of the La Salette family.
Early in life we received the call from on high to become the favored sons of our·Weeping Mother. It is a wondrous favor we at times do not sufficiently appreciate. We must have a legitimate sense of pride in being sons of Mary of La Salette and in having been chosen among a million other possible candidates for the spreading of her tearful message is woefully lacking.
We are not always loyal to the ideals of La Salette and perhaps undeservedly criticize our members and our slow development.
The La Salette “Esprit de Corps”
A strong “esprit de corps” – a spirit of solidarity – is needed if we are successfully to popularize Mary's message. We are all – from the humblest professed religious lay-brother to the Superior General himself – members of a large religious family canonically approved by the Church and frequently blessed by its spiritual head, the Pope of Rome, the Vicar of Christ on earth.
"A meeting in order to deepen our faith as persons and to strengthen more definitely our mission as La Salette Laity for a reconciled world."
It is through this short phrase that I would like to briefly describe what has been lived through the second meeting of the La Salette Laity which took place at La Salette Shrine in France in October 2016.
Everything that was part of the studies, reflections and actions, as well as every human relation and expression of community which we were able to feel in our hearts, as well as in the silence and spirituality emanating from the Holy Mountain of La Salette always reveals a strong presence, full of tenderness of Mary, the Mother of Reconciliation. Absolutely everything has contributed to the accomplishment of the 2nd International Encounter of La Salette Laity and to the attainment of its objectives.
Many years ago, I participated in an Enneagram Basics weekend in Dayton, Ohio. I was intrigued by the Enneagram System and, for me, this experience of self-discovery was the beginning of a grace-filled journey.
In the following months, I participated in three other weekends entitled Enneagram and Spirituality. Ever since, I have greatly enjoyed reading and studying the system and its implications in human life, in relationships, and especially in spirituality.
At our Retreat Center in Attleboro, I have conducted workshops myself in the hope of helping others derive as much benefit from the Enneagram and in the hope of sharing my own discovery and growth with others. The Enneagram has proven to be a true gift from God to me.
An Enneagram View of Life
The Enneagram teaches that much of what we are is due to our very early childhood education and, in large part, to our own early conscious and unconscious choices of behavior with which we were secure and by which we protected ourselves from the outer "threatening" world. This system helped me discover very concrete things about myself:
When 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.
St. 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.
Fr. 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.
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.
Church 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.
La 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
Over 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.
Marian 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.