Spirituality and Charism

Untitled-1The Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, on September 19, 1846, carries with it the signs of the Cross of Our Lord. In this particular event, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appears as the Mother of Sorrows at the foot of the Cross of her Son, the Cross that she carries on her breast. She weeps because of her people who continue to crucify Jesus.

 

Challenging Times vs. Hardened Hearts

 

The people of La Salette lived in a human situation of misery because of the famine that brought death to many persons in the region. It was also a deplorable situation from the moral and religious point of view, because indifference, unbelief and blasphemy were widespread and deeply rooted in the life of the people.

Mary’s tears, her lamentations and the Cross she carried on her breast, reveal the pains that she suffered because of her children who had strayed from the ways of the Lord. Her incessant call that her people live the spirit of Lenten conversion is a sign of her compassion for them. Our Lady, patient and merciful awaits the return of her children to the house of the Father.

 

The Way of the Cross became a road to Resurrection

 

Her call was listened to and aroused the reconciliation of the people with their God. Prayer, the practice of Christian life and penance, as a way to conversion, brought a new life to the people of La Salette. The cross of the people, by the grace of God, became a road to the Resurrection.

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.

Every religious Congregation owes its uniqueness to the initial charism… Religious life happens to be one of the most dynamic expressions… of charismatic action. Along with its special assignment, or “mission”, in the world, every Congregation receives at its inception made-to-measure knacks for putting muscle and bone on the Mystical Body. As Father Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., has remarked, a religious community is a charism that has jelled; it is a gift of the Spirit but alive and pulsating; the Church shapes it into an institution and mandates it into service.

 

A Marian Spirituality, Rooted in an Apparition

 

Untitled-1The Weeping Mother of La Salette, displayed in the Rectory of Paroisse Notre Dame de La Salette, Montreal, CanadaWhat particular charism should we La Salettes be externalizing? We are a Marian Congregation, consecrated to the Blessed Virgin… A soul without the Blessed Virgin is like a home without a mother. We ourselves have no cause to blush if we have received our spirituality from Mary's hands. Indeed, who else but her gave (humankind) the one gift that really mattered – its Savior?

If you wish to control the genuineness of a Marian spirituality, check on its Christ-centeredness. We are one of the very few Congregations stemming directly from an apparition of the Blessed Virgin. This historical occurrence not only precipitated our existence, it also shaped our spirituality. We must therefore work from the event of La Salette in our effort to pinpoint the major traits of our spirituality.

1) We are Heaven's Signal Corps: One would have to be incurably naive to believe that the Apparition is a new source for our faith. There is none other but the revealed Word of God. Apparitions belong to heaven's signal corps: they are only means. They do not smuggle in new dogmas… Apparitions add nothing substantive to Revelation's accumulated lore…

2) We make her message known: We must always, and everywhere, “make it known” simply by narrating the event! That much is the letter of the thing; but La Salette is above all a spirit; and the soul of it is the Gospel itself… Few books are more “salettine” than Fr. Silvain-Marie Giraud's, Priest and Victim, and yet the fact of La Salette hardly figures in it; but the spirit of La Salette radiates throughout, inspiring every page…

Editor: Fr. Yves Ferec’s original article, Reflections on our Spirituality (Dec., 1966), was originally published in the La Salette publication, Reconciliare, just after the conclusion of Vatican II. He was a noted author and theologian of his time. This is but a small segment of his extensive article.

Untitled-1Fr. Silvain-Marie Giraud, M.S. (1830-1885), noted Retreat Master, Preacher, Spiritual Director, and early leader within the La Salette MissionariesThe Word “reconciliation”... so highly prized in our La Salette spirituality, expresses very clearly that Christ's mission was to re-establish a broken friendship between estranged beings: God, who has never stopped offering his Love to humanity versus obstinate humanity who goes on refusing it. Sin is the rejection of love. At La Salette, the Virgin Reconciler strives to rekindle love's embers in the heart of her people…

 

Reconciliation is Central

 

Our La Salette founding fathers unanimously acknowledged the importance of the mystery of Reconciliation but they disagreed on the mode of its pastoral implementation. Two schools of thought collided.

One of them thought La Salette should be contemplative, with emphasis on the vocation to “victimhood”. This position was advocated primarily by Fr. Silvain-Marie Giraud, M.S. But a majority of the La Salettes favored an apostolic and missionary orientation. Father Giraud's attempt to merge both currents in a tandem Congregation – half contemplative, half not – was defeated. We should add that the Bishop was also partial to the missionary orientation of his new Institute. It was generally felt among the pioneer group that Our Lady's injunction would be carried out more faithfully in this manner…

 

Called to Reconcile with and Pray for Others 

The text of the (pre-Vatican II) Constitutions of the La Salette Missionaries enunciates a twofold purpose and leaves both elements on an equal plane: we pledge ourselves to reconcile sinners, but, with no less determination, we promise to ferret out and nurture volunteers willing to atone for others.

When each of us receives good news – whether it be about ourselves, our family or relatives, our even our Church community – we need to stop and enjoy the moment, drinking it in and rejoicing about the reason to celebrate!

Untitled-1from La Salette Chapel in Hartford, CT, USAWe as La Salettes and those connected with us around the world – our La Salette Laity, our parishioners and shrine visitors, benefactors and friends – have something very good about which we should rejoice: the brief ceremony after Pope Francis’ General Audience on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 in which he will officially crown the Statue of Our Lady of La Salette in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

In order to understand the importance and meaning of this event, we will review elements of this custom and ceremony through the ages.

 

Crowning of Mary in Christian History

For those not familiar with the significance of the crowning of the statue of Our Lady, let’s look back into Christian history to explore how this practice began.

Certainly many of us may be familiar with (or have heard about) the “May Crowning” of Mary. The practice of crowning a statue of Mary began in the Eastern churches, where they developed a ceremony adding flowers or other ornamentation to an icon of Mary. Note that, according to the Council of Trent (1545-1563):

 

Wheat, potatoes, grapes – the Beautiful Lady speaks in concrete terms about the need for our conversion.

Their Concrete Life

 

Untitled-1A photograph of Maximin and Melanie, witnesses to the La Salette ApparitionThe Virgin of La Salette, in her call to conversion, evokes vital responses: to approach, see, hear, respond, and move on in mission... These five attitudes open for us an understanding of what happened on September 19, 1846. This happened at La Salette, on the high mountains, pastures where their hard life is marked by simplicity and modesty of means; they are people struggling to survive.

In this context and in this environment, they meet a Beautiful Lady who speaks about her Son. The Beautiful Lady thereafter speaks directly to the hearts of the lives of two children and will therefore be part of the memory of the two little shepherds. Her consideration of the concrete life of peasants and especially of the experience of Melanie and Maximin creates a close bond between her and them.

Despite their initial surprise at her splendid appearance, the Beautiful Lady was now an acquaintance for them, speaking about familiar topics in their own dialect.

 

A Mother Who Teaches

 

1) Approach – “Come Near”: This is where Mary’s pedagogy at La Salette manifests itself. She invites the children to “come near”. She invites a closeness in order to begin a true and sincere dialogue.

Editor: The La Salette Apparition happened so many years ago yet many miracles have been attributed to faith in Our Lady of La Salette. In a reprint of an article first published in November of 1940, Fr. Clement Merrigan, M.S., writes about an authentic cure – happening soon after the Apparition – in which water from the La Salette Spring in France is connected with a miraculous cure.

The Language of God
 
Untitled-1This ex voto painting depicts the cure of a young girl through the intercession of Our Lady of La Salette on October 2, 1866 Monsignor Rousselot, Canon and Honorary Vicar-General of the Diocese of Grenoble, says: "Miracles were performed after the event at La Salette, with the usage of the water from the La Salette Spring." He also says: "The truth of a miracle proves the truth of a cause: the miracle is the language of God." That language was used in describing Marie-Antoinette Bollenat's cure, soon after the Apparition.

Miss Bollenat's cure was pronounced a miracle, on March 4,1849, by Mellon Jolly, the Archbishop of Sens… let us look at some of the evidence which was presented.

A Very Sick Child
 
(We now consider) the canonical decision of the Venerable Archbishop of Sens with the report which was made by Doctor Gagniard, a member of the Medical Faculty of Paris. The Doctor attended Miss Bollenat from 1830 to 1847.

When Miss Bollenat was a child of 12, she was thrown on the ground and severely beaten by a woman, who at the same time violently pressed her knee against the child's chest and epigastrium. From then on, Marie-Antoinette suffered from stomach trouble, and until 1843 rarely ceased vomiting.

Untitled-1View of the west end of Shuswap Lake, British Columbia, Canada. Recently, the Belgian population was faced with hardly an ordinary question, “What should we eat?” Steak, poultry, mussels and waffles had disappeared from the shelves of grocery stores and supermarkets due to poisoning of the food chain. People were threatened by cancer because of the contamination of animal feed with dioxin. The bottom line of the story suggests: make sure the food chain remains clean and uncontaminated.

In similar fashion, contemporary religious life is built on elements of a spiritual food chain which feed on each other – for better or for worse. There exist essentially three elements in this spiritual food chain: restructuring, refounding and commitment.

1) Restructuring

This corresponds to the practical need of administrative liposuction and organizational trimming. It also holds the unspecified promise of renewal and new life. However, we need to take a closer look to see and understand that restructuring will be meaningful only if it is motivated by the deeper and more comprehensive challenge of refounding.

Untitled-1Do other apparitions of Our Blessed Lady, as recorded in the annals of her heavenly favors, match or rival the varied charm, the wealth of meaning and the poignant appeal contained in the merciful Vision of La Salette? It is from all viewpoints a masterpiece of exquisite design and harmony. It blends stern austerity with lavish display; it joins artless utterance with moving drama, it reveals depths of mystery through the finest veil of symbols.

 

From Heaven to Earth


When we consider the main phases of this miracle of motherly love, we are impressed by several features which, at first glance, may prove disconcerting. Yet, in each apparent confusion of traits there is a hidden alliance of elements, a delicate balance of parts and a merging of singular aims. Mary at La Salette strove to accommodate herself to our earthly condition, stooping gently to our lowly state. She executed a premeditated scheme, pondered her course and measured the appropriateness of her words and actions. Every detail of the apparition was perfectly adapted to the purpose she had in view and in exact conformity with the mystery of her tears.

 

Setting the Scene


The very lay of the land where the apparition was staged by the Mother of God is indicative of her forethought. The place chosen is the sublime amphitheater of the Alps in Dauphiny, France. The nature of the country, its difficulty of access, scarcity of vegetation, changing climate, retreat and solitude, withdrew the locality from the prying curiosity of worldly tourists and made it a shrine for the select few, the penitent and contemplative souls.

Introduction: This article, based on the information aptly gathered in 1952 by Bro. Hubert Raymond, M.S., was probably an assignment from the “La Salette Learning Circle”, a group of La Salette Scholastics who took extra courses in La Salette Studies from our La Salette Professors in our Major Seminary in Attleboro, MA.
Untitled-1(l to r) Frs. Robert Vachon, M.S.
and Hubert Raymond, M.S.

This brief history of the La Salette Brothers (referred to initially as “Coadjutor Brothers”) was first presented on the 100th anniversary honoring those several diocesan priests who, at the invitation of Bp. Philippe de Bruillard, founder of the [diocesan] Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, came to serve at the Mountain of La Salette in France in 1852. Thanks to Fr. Robert Vachon, M.S. and the gift of his papers to our Province Archives, we have copies of many old and valued articles on “things La Salette”.

1858: The First Rule of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette
 

There have not always been Coadjutor (or Lay) Brothers in our Congregation. In fact, our very first Constitutions – those that Mgr. Ginouilhac approved in 1858 – exclude Coadjutor Brothers in the following description:

Untitled-1The compassion of God entered our world in response to the cry of his people who were enslaved in Egypt. God saw their pain. He came to free them, to led them to a land of peace, liberty and dignity. Great is our God. He frees his people and proclaims the Good News to us.

 

The book of Exodus reminds us of the call and commission of Moses…

 

But the Lord said: I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them up from that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey… 


Now indeed the outcry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

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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.”