As familiar as this invocation may be to many of us, perhaps we have more to learn about this central element of La Salette Spiritiuality. The following are reflections from severla authors on this invocation.
1) Fr. Donald Paradis, M.S., in the endnotes, #34, of his English translation of “The Book of the Spiritual Exercises of Our Lady of La Salette” by Fr. Silvain-Marie Giraud, M.S. Fr. Paradis gathers several points of information. He begins by saying:
That Our Lady of La Salette was invoked very early on as the Reconciler of sinners is beyond doubt. Precisely when and under what circumstances – whether the invocation sprang spontaneously from the lips of pilgrims or is to be attributed to prompting of some sort – cannot be determined with any certainty.
1a) “Our Lady of La Salette, Reconciler of sinners, pray without ceasing for us who have recourse to you. – From what lips did this invocation, destined to be repeated so often thereafter everywhere on earth, spring for the first time?
“Who then before all others greeted Mary with the name Reconciler of sinners, a name human misery finds so comforting? Might it have been a sinner trembling beneath the gaze of divine justice and summoning the powerful Virgin to his aid, a soul come back to God after a long history of straying, moved to thank his helping mediatrix, or else some good Christian, some woman of the people on her knees beside the miraculous spring imploring the conversion of a dearly loved one?
“No one knows. Whether it was first a cry of anguish, of gratitude or of supplication, we may be sure that this invocation surfaced from the depths of the human heart.”
Alexandre Ducrot, M.S. (1883-1941), Élévations sur le mystère de La Salette, Grenoble: Abbé L. Comte, 1924 pg. 90.
1b) “The invocation, Virgin Reconciler of sinners, pray for us is of unknown origin, but it is found as early as 1847. The invocation probably came, as a former director of the Shrine at La Salette once observed, from the lips of a priest who had just witnessed the graces of confession that are so abundant on the Holy Mountain. The invocation perhaps originated with Father Perrin, the Pastor at La Salette, who established the confraternity of Our Lady Reconciler of La Salette.”
Fr. Eugene G. Barrette, M.S., A Search Into the Origins and Evolution of the Charism of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, Roma: Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, 1975, pg. 39.
1c) “Adoption of this title may have been brought about by the brothers Perrin [Louis and Jacques-Michel, pastor and associate pastor at La Salette], themselves influenced by St. Alphonsus Liguori’s, The Glories of Mary. The idea that Mary obtains the grace of reconciliation from her Son in behalf of the sinner is, so to speak, the leitmotiv of the first part of this work with which they were familiar.
“In what remains of the Pastor of La Salette‘s correspondence, the term reconciler is found in a letter of September 6, 1848, known to us from an excerpt the Abbé Jacques-Michel Perrin quotes. Among the original documents now extant, the oldest instance of this term occurs in a letter dated January 21, 1849, informing Bishop de Bruillard that the most distinguished personalities, whether churchmen or lay persons, were requesting membership in the Confraternity of Our Lady Reconciler of La Salette”.
Fr. Jean Stern, M.S., La Salette: Documents Authentiques 2, Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1984, pg. 271, note 4.
2) Fr. Jean Jaouen, M.S., in the last chapter of his book, “A Grace Called La Salette: a Story for the World”, concludes by reflecting on the La Salette invocation and he attempts to correct a possible common misunderstanding.
“The Christian instinct chose aright the title it gave to Our Lady of La Salette, ‘Reconciler of Sinners’. It was well aware that the apparition of September 19,1846 had become a visible manifestation of the invisible and ongoing role that Mary plays in heaven - our very reconciliation. Nevertheless, the traditional invocation, Reconciler of sinners, has something misleading about it.
“Pray for us sinners...”
“We could easily fail to grasp the mystery of Our Lady and overlook an essential aspect of Christian belief. Its formulation was influenced by the individualism of the time, and could perhaps be corrected. In any case, it has to be well understood.
“When we recite it, we should add mentally: Reconciler of the sinners that we are, as we say in the Hail Mary. Otherwise, we appear to limit Our Lady's clientele to a single category of Christians, quite distressingly for those who believe they are sinners, and quite smugly for those who do not.
“Does not the collective expression “my people” which she repeatedly uses suggest the unity of Christ's Body? It is worth noting that throughout this long message she never declares having come for sinners only. Her first sentence as well as her last encompasses us all in a like reprimand and a like compassion. "If my people will not submit... You will make this known to all my people."
“Inveterate sinners are certainly the most directly concerned here. However, the solidarity that unites the members of the same Body is so irresistibly suggested that our indifference to sins committed around us should give us pause. It is also quite possible that the ingratitude which gives rise to our small faults is greater than that of the blasphemy of the cart drivers.
“Pray without ceasing...”
“The Virgin's ministry involves us all. Some are more specifically summoned to reconciliation, others to expiation. If all do what they must – that is, what their present gifts empower them to do – then salvation will be assured in collaboration with the Virgin who is mandated to pray without ceasing.
“It is pointless to ask whether the Virgin of La Salette is more properly the Virgin of converts or the model of people dedicated to expiation. In the framework of redemption and the communion of saints she is the Reconciler of her people. Given our solidarity with Adam as well as with Christ, it behooves the Handmaid of the Lord to model her ministry on that of the Master. Necessarily, she sees us in the unity of the human race. (This does not prevent her from seeing each one of us individually, as she saw little Maximin on the road to Corps.)
“As we respond to her we become aware of this oneness and of its endless implications. The most beautiful and the most convincing prayer with which we can "repay" the concern she has had for us is surely this cry of the Church in the Christmas antiphon, Alma Redmptoris Mater: ‘Come to help this people forever falling and forever seeking to rise again. Succurre cadenti surgere qui curat populo.’”
Alma Redemptoris Mater
Attributed to Hermannus Contractus (1013–1054)
Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.
From “A Grace Called La Salette: a Story for the World” by Fr. Jean Jaouen, M.S., translated by Fr. Normand Theroux, M.S., Grassroots Publishing International, Enfield, NH, 1991, pgs. 321-322.