Spirituality and Charism
Editor: Originally given as a homily on Sept. 16, 1998, Fr. Cassista offers this prayerful reflection.

We are invited to prepare well for the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette.

A simple village, a simple life

Untitled-1View of hamlet of La Salette-Fallavaux, 
by E. Dardalet
On this day, …the village of La Salette was its normal self. Life was simple. The village was practically unknown to the rest of the world, even to France. The village was an insignificant place – a village of little importance.

The Mountain of La Salette was also as it had always been quiet, awesome and majestic in its beauty, yet unseen and unknown to most people. The only signs of life, the only sounds which could be heard on the Mountain on that day, September 16, 1846, were the sounds of children, shepherds at play and at work, watching over the flocks confided to their care. The small bells tied to the necks of cows and sheep could be heard faintly, here and there on the Mountain.


Let us go to that Mountain


In spirit today, let us go to that Mountain. What do we experience? The Mountain resembles a desert. It is quiet and silent. The silence is almost deafening. The grass on the mountainside is brown, burned by the summer sun.

Untitled-1Many years ago, there appeared to two ignorant mountain children, a vision filled at once with heavenly glory and the most poignant human sorrow. The two innocent children saw the Mother of God, surrounded by radiant light, her eyes were bathed in tears. They heard from her lips a message from God: words of reproof and warning, yet full of encouragement; words that chided people for their lack of submission to God and God’s law of love.

A Woman in Tears, Calling for Submission

She pleaded and almost bargained for her people’s obedience with promises of good things to come if they were converted. Her words dealt with their submission to God, as opposed to humanity’s ruling or misruling of themselves, and seems to be a message for our own day as well.

"If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let go the arm of my Son. It is so strong and so heavy that I can no longer withhold it." And there follows the tender recalling of Mary's own efforts on behalf of the offenders who are also her children: "How long a time do I suffer for you. If I would not have my Son abandon you, I am compelled to pray to him without ceasing." She add, with the pain that would be despair were she not our Mother, "And as for you, you take no heed of it... However much you pray, however much you do, you will never recompense the pain I have taken for you".

Editor: Fr. Ferec’s article, Reflections on our Spirituality (Dec., 1966), was 

Untitled-1Our Lady, wrapt in a circle of light, speaks to the two children

originally published in the La Salette publication, Reconciliare, just after the conclusion of Vatican II. We have divided his lengthy presentation into five articles: 1) Our La Salette Spirituality, 2) Mary, Mediator and Reconciler, 3) La Salettes – Reconcilers Par Excellence, 4) Our La Salette Charism, and 5) A Pep-Talk for La Salettes.

…the master-theme which undergirds a spirituality must serve as the polarizing factor which unifies and correlates all other mysteries essential to that spirituality. One can readily notice that the several mysteries evoked by the Apparition of La Salette spontaneously polarize around the major theme of Reconciliation.

For instance, what mysterious motive compels the Virgin Reconciler to “pray without ceasing” and to spare no effort in the fulfillment of her errand of compassion? Here is why: Mother of God and of all people, she cannot abide a mortal division between the Firstborn of her divine maternity and the offspring she bore in the realm of grace. Nor can the Queen of heaven bear to watch her People destroy themselves through their obstinate revolt.

Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).

Untitled-1This cry of the great Apostle to the Gentiles was heard again at La Salette. The Mother of God returned to earth and chose a pulpit in the splendid French Alps. In the hope of being heard, she was crying, urging us in similar words to “Be reconciled with God." This is the summary of her apparition, the meaning behind her tears and the mystery of her heavenly appearance. Doesn’t her message not deserve to be greeted with similar respect, attention and recognition as do the words of St. Paul?

Mary is truly an ambassador, a Reconciler of her people. She gave her Son as a gift to us, just as the Father similarly gave his only Son as our only reconciliation. She therefore has a unique place in the work of Redemption.


Mary, the Mother of Jesus

If it is true, according to the first letter of Timothy, "For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all" (1 Tim 2:5), it is also true that there is only one Mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mother, from whom Jesus received his body and blood by the action of the Holy Spirit…

Editor: This part of the presentation was given at the La Salette Lay Summit held in Attleboro, MA from July 15-17, 2016.

Pilgrimage is rooted deep in the human experience. We go back to places that have had deep meaning for us or, more broadly, places that have deep meaning for us as a people.


Memorial Events or Places Draw Us

Untitled-1Pilgrims swarmed to the site of
the La Salette Apparition soon
after the heavenly event.
If you have ever been to Gettysburg or the Vietnam War Memorial, you can’t help but be moved. I certainly did not participate in the Battle of Gettysburg and by the grace of God, I did not go to war in Vietnam. Yet as Americans these places are deemed as significant, in a way holy, and somehow as an American, I am transported into those realities of long ago.

Many of you were not in New York City for September 11, 2001, but if you go to the Memorial, it’s very moving. When Pope Francis visited New York City in April, 2008, he stopped to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, one of the sites of the 9/11 attacks.

Even if we have not personally participated in the actual events, they are made present to us by their existence and often we feel compelled to visit them.

Editor: Fr. Ferec’s article, Reflections on our Spirituality (Dec., 1966), was originally published in the La Salette publication, Reconciliare, just after the conclusion of Vatican II. We have divided his lengthy presentation into five articles: 1) Our La Salette Spirituality, 2) Mary, Mediator and Reconciler, 3) La Salettes – Reconcilers Par Excellence, 4) Our La Salette Charism, and 5) A Pep-Talk for La Salettes.

Untitled-1The Weeping Mother of La Salette, Notre-Dame de La Salette, Montreal, CanadaLa Salette is essentially the live performance of a heart-broken Mother who tries, by her suffering and prayers, to shield her earthly children against the wrath of her heavenly Son. With that purpose in mind, she comes to plead with them to change their ways. In this context the most fitting title is precisely the one which Church authorities conferred upon her, once the anonymous people had mysteriously coined it: that of Our Lady, Reconciler.

To La Salette belongs much of the credit for having put that title into universal use; in so doing, it brought into the limelight one of Mary's functions which even the most ancient of Marian theologians had once acclaimed. Indeed, the Greek Fathers of the Church invoked Mary as our “Paraclete” or Advocate. Down through the ages, the Church continued to a knowledge Mary's role as it encouraged us to repeat: “Pray for us sinners”…

Although universally accepted by tradition, the Mediation of the Blessed Virgin is not a defined doctrine of faith. But it constitutes a practical application of another truth which definitely is to be (believed): the doctrine on the Communion of saints. This is rightfully the context into which the Virgin Reconciler's intercession should be inserted.

We are all part of Christ’s Mystical Body

Mary, model for us on the pilgrimage of faith: Mary, continued presence as mother. Let us look… at Mary and her own mission, which continues today.

Untitled-1Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), Marriage at CanaAs Redemptoris Mater, #21 reminds us, Mary’s own sense of mission began to be felt at Cana. There we see Mary’s solicitude, her coming to people in the wide variety of their wants and needs. This solicitude has certainly been manifested during the last century and a half in her apparitions, especially at La Salette, where her caring wrung tears from her heart.

Mary’s mission has a twofold movement. She comes to the aid of human needs, but this means that she brings those needs within the radius of Christ’s salvific power, as she shows at Cana. At La Salette this is seen in the image of the two children, representing our brokenness and neediness, being drawn into the radiance that streamed from the crucifix, the ultimate symbol of Christ’s saving love.

“Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her son and humankind in the reality of their wants, needs, and sufferings... Her mediation is in the nature of intercession: Mary intercedes for humankind” (Redemptoris Mater, #21), a truth echoing Mary’s own words at La Salette, “How long a time have I suffered for you.”

Lumen Gentium, #62 described this same reality: “Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving role, but by her manifold acts of intercession continues to win for us gifts of eternal salvation.” This mediation, this mission, this divine pastoral, we might say, continues in the history of the Church and the world.

The La Salette Shrine on the Holy Mountain in France is a source of spirituality for us all. This place can speak to us in numerous ways. Having spent many years of my life serving at the Shrine, I cannot promise to be exhaustive or even objective. I simply love this holy ground!

First, this is a very special place:

Untitled-1General view of ShrinePerhaps it is not completely unknown to us. Maybe some of us have been here before! Possibly we are familiar with a part of its history. Its stunning photos may already live in our imagination. But it exists in space and time, in the concreteness of experience. To pass from the imaginary to the real can prove quite beneficial.

I once made a visit to Rome to meet someone who had come to visit for his first time. He never stopped telling me how disappointed he was. He had constructed in his imagination a “mythical Rome.” Instead he found another kind of distinctive beauty.

Second, it is nature’s massive beauty:

We are in the mountain heights. Of course we may think of the mountains in our Judeo-Christian biblical tradition – perhaps Mount Sinai or the Mount of the Transfiguration. They symbolize our connecting with God who lives “on the heights”, apart from ordinary life. Perhaps many of us, conditioned by rampant urbanization, have lost a sense of the wonders of nature, the power of a sunset over high Alpine peaks, the clouds surrounding us at midday.

What are some facts about the Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette and where you serve?

Untitled-1Our founding date was December 6, 1965. We are a Marian congregation and our spirituality is reconciliation. There are presently 267 sisters in our community worldwide. We serve in 11 countries: France, Brazil, Madagascar, Philippines, USA, Poland, Angola, Myanmar, Italy, Canada, Algeria.

We answer to the call of Christ to live a life of community, prayer, and apostolate. By our entire life, we give witness to the call of Christ, the Reconciler, as ambassadors of this mission of reconciliation. Our General House is in Gières in the Diocese of Grenoble.

The picture above: From left to right, Sr. General with her Council: Sr. Gloria (Angola), General Councilor; Sr. Estelle (France), Assistant General; Sr. Elisabeth (France), re-elected General Superior; Sr. Sonia (Philippines), General Councilor; Sr. Jeanne Odette (Madagascar), General Councilor.

How and where were you founded?

Our beginnings are rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette to two children, Maximin and Mélanie, on September 19,1846 in the Alps near the city of Grenoble, in southeastern France.

The historical circumstances in which Our Lady appeared to Maximin and Melanie on September 19,1846, in the high mountains of the French Alps, in the parish of La Salette, are all so weird and peculiar and therefore covered with so much complexity, that I don't believe that any investigator would suspect that this is an event which would cause such excitement and commotion.
The news of the Apparition quickly spread through the region of Corps, throughout France, throughout the neighboring countries and then to the five continents. There are several angles from which we can address this, depending upon our starting point.

A Revolution of Ideas

We begin with the fact that the Apparition occurred in a time characterized by political, economic and social upheaval. In fact, the age had arrived at the saturation point, given the anachronism of the socio-political and economic system of the bourgeoisie that dominated. The three-fold division of society into clergy, nobility and people, with great privileges for the first two classes, had given way, due to the recent French Revolution, to an unexpected turn. It created a people aware of the "dignity of the human person", a subject endowed not only with duties but also with rights, to which the Revolution itself laid claim.

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Do you pray well my children?

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

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.”