Editor: This article was originally presented at the First International Encounter of La Salette Laity, held on the Holy Mountain of La Salette from Sept. 1-10, 2011. It was translated from Portuguese to English by Fr. Norman Butler, M.S. This is the second of three articles.
La Salette and its Symbols
La Salette is an event and a message full of symbols.
The globe of light that surrounds Mary and the children;
The tears that constantly flow from the eyes of the Beautiful Lady and vanish as they fall into the intense light radiating from the crucifix she wears;
The chains that form a border to her shawl, symbols of oppression and of rejection of the fraternity and solidarity offered by her Son Jesus.
There are roses that accompany the chains of her shawl, and surround her head and her shoes, symbols of love, of new life so that creation no longer needs to suffer birth pangs but can become a paradise of brothers and sisters.
She is dressed like the country women of that area who struggle to feed their families in times of scarcity.
The fountain of water has never ceased to flow since that day of the apparition, reminding us of the "living spring that rises up for eternal life".
The mountain is a symbol of human limitations and of God's presence.
There are three phases of the apparition:
In the first phase, Mary is found seated on a stone and weeping. She is the compassionate mother. Like a mother who has no more to say, she sweeps.
In a second phase, Mary is standing and conversing intimately with the two children. She continues to cry. She says that her own people are insensitive to the tragic realities of the period, "and (they) take no account of it". Her people are indifferent to God's loving presence in their lives, they "swear throwing in my son's name." She proposes a radical change of life: "if they are converted, rocks and stones will turn into heaps of wheat and potatoes will be self-sown in the fields." She is saying that a different world is possible.
In a third and final phase, Mary floats into the air and vanishes in the light, returning to heaven, that definitive place of light for reconciled and reconciling human existence.
The event and the message of La Salette, rich in symbols that go beyond rational analysis and introduce us into the mystery beyond appearances. This grace-filled event helps us identify what is essential in our daily life: God is a loving presence in our midst and always at our side, taking us as we are, as the event at Coin reminds us.
A Marian Spirituality
Mary at La Salette invites us to develop a spirituality attentive to the signs of the times so that in those signs we can enter into the mystery of unconditional Love. This is no easy task in our post-modern culture where almost everything is taken to be relative and society discards things without thinking.
We can notice the following elements of Mary’s spirituality:
a) Value beauty (Maximin and Melanie call her “the Beautiful Lady:) and silence, contemplation and adoration.
b) Recover in our celebrations and preaching the value of symbols that bear within them rich spiritual significance.
c) Challenge the trivialization of life and death, the loss of the gospel values of justice and solidarity, fraternity and peace.
The La Salette event with its rich symbols is a bearer of a solid spirituality centered on Christ present in the life of all who travel their land of Coin or, in biblical terms, travel the road to Emmaus.
This spirituality should guide the life and mission of all La Salette religious and all La Salette Laity. This spirituality requires constant deepening and updating so as to respond to the signs of the times. From this rich spiritual itinerary born of the apparition, we can bring out the best of the old and the new.