Mary, Mediator and Reconciler

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

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Mary’s Mission to Us

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.

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The Holy Mountain

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.

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La Salette Sisters Renewed

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.

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La Salette – Hope for All

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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The Cross and La Salette Spirituality

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.

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Our La Salette Spirituality

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…

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Reconciliation and Atonement

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.

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Francis Crowns Weeping Mother

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):


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La Salette and Conversion

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.

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