As he welcomed everyone, he noted that Our Lady's Feast Day would be in a few days, September 19. The Mass he presided over fell on the eve of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. He told parishioners the two events were closely connected. Bishop Pelletier who serves in the Diocese of Morondava, Madagascar, has been in the United States in recent weeks, but will soon return to his home diocese.
The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette is the religious order that once staffed St. Joseph's. Two La Salette priests, Fr. John Hughes and Fr. Laurie Leger still work at the parish.
The apparition of La Salette, from which this order originated, happened on the evening of Sept. 19, 1846, on a mountain in the French Alps. Our Blessed Mother appeared, dressed in white, wearing a gold apron. Around her neck was a bright crucifix. She was also crying. Pictures and statue of Our Lady of La Salette often show her in a seated position, with her face in her hands.
Explaining how the two feasts were aligned, Bishop Pelletier said that we are all sinners and Our Lady, when she appeared, was calling us to conversion.
Our Lady of La Salette appeared to two children, Maximin and Melanie. At first glance, they were blinded by the bright light, said Bishop Pelletier. This was coming from the cross she wore around her neck. He said it was so bright that the children initially feared the sun was going to fall upon the mountain. Only after Our Lady told them not to be afraid did they realize the light was corning from the cross she wore around her neck.
"Our Lady of La Salette projected the glorious Cross of Jesus," he said, adding that La Salette really is a call to contemplate, "to fix our gaze on the Cross of Jesus."
Bishop Pelletier explained that 2,000 years ago, in Jerusalem, it was considered extremely shameful to be put to death upon a cross. "There couldn't be anything worse," he said, summing up the popular sentiment of that time. He said the Jews of that day considered it so scandalous that it took several centuries even for the followers of Christ to view the Cross as something that was glorious, representing victory. “In our own lives”, he went on to say, “we often view the Cross the same way, since we don't like to embrace suffering. "We run away from the Cross," he said.
Bishop Pelletier then spoke of St. John the Evangelist, who stood with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross. Even though she is now in heaven with her Son, Bishop Pelletier explained that she is still suffering, and she will do so until all of her children on earth are safely home as well. This is something she also spoke about at La Salette, when she explained to the Melanie and Maximin that she has undergone so much for “her people” that no amount of prayer could ever repay her pains, Bishop Pelletier said.
"She is suffering in heaven," he noted. "Mary continues to intercede for us… She continues by her intercession for all to obtain for us the gifts of eternal salvation. She not only watches over all of us, but tirelessly intercedes for the welfare of all her children," he added.
Bishop Pelletier then challenged the people at St. Joseph Parish to live out their faith more fully. "You cannot remain indifferent when Jesus says, 'Behold your mother,'" he said, referring to the words spoken by Christ as he was dying on the Cross.
"How many of you have taken Mary into your home?" he asked. "What does it mean to take Mary into your home?" He urged people not to turn away from God when they encounter difficulties. "We have to do God's will," he said. "During the terrible darkness that often invades our lives, we must look at the light that comes from the Cross."
(Reprinted from The Catholic Free Press; article, “La Salette bishop urges people top take Mary in to their home”, by Patricia O’Connell, CFP Correspondent, September, 2014)
(from left) St Joseph Church, Fitchburg, MA, in 1911 and early interior of the church