Editor: This article was written in French by Fr. Pierre Liaud, M.S. (1865-1930), first published in 1897 in his book, "The Mystical Flowers of the Mountain of La Salette (Les Fleurs Mystiques de la Sainte Montagne de La Salette)". This article has been edited and expanded.

Untitled 1Fr. Pierre Liaud, M.S. (1865-1930) with his students
The mother of God chose two herders who were watching their cows on the Mountain of La Salette to be the fortunate witnesses of her merciful apparition. These children belonged to extremely poor families. They were young and they gained their daily bread in humble service. Both were profoundly ignorant of the things of God, as well as of human affairs. They did not possess that knowledge which children of their age commonly have.

In the Apparition of La Salette and later, the Blessed Virgin, however, perhaps in order to bring out the power of her Son, preferred them to all those whom riches and education and virtue and talents seemed to have prepared to receive her confidences and to communicate her august message to the world….

“Shepherd my people, Israel”

In the scriptures we hear about God’s preference in choosing shepherd to speak to God’s people. When the voice of the Lord God made itself heard by Moses in the burning bush, the future liberator of the people of Israel was shepherding his father-in-law's flock (Exodus 3:1-17).

Prayer is seeking the face of God.

Untitled 1The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”

This is what prayer is – the loving dialogue, the back and forth, the give and take of the child of God in conversation with the Father.

It is important for you to speak to God naturally and honestly, as your friend and father, talking from your heart to his heart.

The Five Movements of Lectio Divina

I also want to recommend one of the most ancient forms of Christian prayer — lectio divina, the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture as a dialogue with God. If prayer is conversation, then we need to listen to God as much as we talk to him. “When you read the Bible, God speaks to you,” St. Augustine said. “When you pray, you speak to God.”

Lectio divina turns our reading of the Scriptures into a private audience with the living God, who comes to us lovingly and speaks with us in the pages of the sacred texts. There are different approaches to lectio divina. I follow a kind of classical method, which involves five “movements” — reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation and action.

You can use this approach with any biblical text. But I recommend that, for your daily practice of lectio divina, you pray united to the Church’s liturgy, using the Gospel reading for each day.

Full Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on the Death Penalty, March 19, 2017

Untitled 1“God proved his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

On the third Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of John tells us how the Samaritan woman – having found in Jesus the “living water” she had longed for – left her jar of water by the well (John 4:28). Like this woman, the stubborn Israelites in the first reading, who are dying of thirst in the desert, have been led to a rock (Exodus 17:6).

Perhaps we can think of this rock as Christ himself, stricken and afflicted on the cross but gushing forth with life-giving water, making it possible for God’s people to cross over the barren desert of hatred, sin and death into the promised land of fullness of life.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ – let us not allow our wells to be poisoned by bitter water; let us uphold the sanctity of life and make a stand against death penalty.

We are not deaf to the cries of the victims of heinous crimes. The victims and their victimizers are both our brothers and sisters. The victim and the oppressor are both children of God. To the guilty we offer a challenge to repent and repair the harm of their sins. To the grieving victims, we offer our love, our compassion, our hope.

On the day the death penalty law was repealed by the Philippine Congress on June 24, 2006, the lights were turned on in the colosseum in Rome. History tells us how many people – among them, countless Christian martyrs – were publicly executed in that infamous arena.

We need to understand that our Christian formation will take our whole lifetime. This should come as no surprise to us, since our ultimate goal in life is none other than for each one of us to be “alter Christus,” another Christ. And can anyone dare to say that he is Christ-like enough?

Untitled 1This is what God wants us to be, since we have been created in his image and likeness. And Christ who, as the second person of the Blessed Trinity and the perfect self-image of God, is the pattern of our humanity as well as our savior and restorer of our God-like image after we spoiled our original creation through our sin.

Learning to know Christ better

We need to go to Christ. For his part, Christ is doing everything to bring us back to God from whom we come and to whom we belong. We need to spend time to know Christ better so as to love and serve him as is proper to us, being children of God.

We can be sure that that time spent with him will certainly be no waste of time. In fact, it will be the best way we can spend our time, because we would be with someone who really matters in our life.

Life and Learning Go Together

The duty to take care of formation is coterminous with life itself, which will always give us lessons. And that’s because the basics and essentials, the absolute, old and the permanent truths, which we may already know, will always have to cope and somehow need to get enriched by the incidentals in life, by the relative, innovative and changing things.

Untitled 1Consideration of racism is grounded in fundamental scriptural beliefs: equal dignity of all people, created in God’s image; and Christ’s redemption of all. The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells this out:

The equality of (people) rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: “Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design”(1).

The Moral Judgment on Racism

Moral judgments on racism, based on equality, are consistent: “any theory or form whatsoever of racism and racial discrimination is morally unacceptable”;(2) and “racism is not merely one sin among many, it is a radical evil dividing the human family...”(3).

Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story – one of his three “great parables”(4) – to answer “Who is my neighbor?” His response addresses entrenched divisions between Jew and Samaritan and sets the stage for the unity of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). This unity admits “no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex...”(5).

The Many Faces of Racism

Catholic teaching “emphasizes not only the individual conscience, but also the political, legal and economic structures...”(6). Racism is about people and about group behaviors and societal organization. Individual racism includes conscious acts, spontaneous attitudes, “the tendency to stereotype and marginalize,”(7) indifference, and “the triumph of private concern over public responsibility...”(8).

Untitled 1Original pencil drawing of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) by Peter Cataloni, hanging in home of La Salette Missionaries, Attleboro, MA
In this globally-connected world, it doesn’t seem that one person can do much to change the course of history, of countries, of cities or even of families. Our challenges are many and it’s often difficult to know where to begin.

In 1979 when Mother Teresa of Calcutta was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, many saw this as an affront to those with political power and expertise who were working hard at solving the world’s challenges to maintain or attain peace in many troubled lands.

A Simple Plan

In response to those who protested her canonization, officially proclaiming her a saint (one who now lives with God), Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of the Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency AsiaNews, said: “She didn’t have a plan to conquer the world. Her idea was to be obedient to God.”

It seems that, in comparison to the multi-national efforts at achieving world peace, Mother Teresa’s efforts were quite insignificant. Yet, in her own words, she explains in her elegant simplicity:
“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one.

“You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.’ So you begin... I begin.

“I picked up one person (because he was terminally ill and alone) – maybe if I didn't pick up that one person I wouldn't have picked up all the others. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less.

“Same thing for you. Same thing in your family. Same thing in the church where you go. Just begin... one, one, one.”

I Am God’s Pencil

Her approach is deceptively simple and yet quite challenging. In describing her motivation to serve the lost people of society, she explains that she simply did this for Christ: “I am nothing. He is all. I do nothing on my own. He does it. This is what I am, God's pencil. A tiny bit of pencil with which (God) writes what he likes.”

(Scriptures from the Fourth Sunday of Lent:
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-14)

Untitled 1If you have ever been questioned by people who don’t want to believe you, you have a good idea of what the man born blind went through. And so you also know what the two children who saw Our Lady of La Salette experienced.

They were first subjected to interrogation by the mayor, who did not want his town associated with anything like an apparition, and was by no means disposed to believe in it himself. He even tried to bribe Mélanie, whose family was desperately poor, to deny what she had seen and heard.

After all, who could reasonably be expected to believe that the Blessed Virgin could come to this remote place, and to such persons as these? But, as we read in the first reading, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”

Even the clergy were naturally skeptical. The last thing they wanted was to have a fraud perpetrated in the name of Our Lady. They, too, questioned the children, trying to trip them up; but, unlike the mayor, they came away convinced of two things at least: these children were not lying, nor were they remotely capable of making up such a story and such a message.

Editor: The following is taken from the prepared Catechesis Instruction for the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress held in Cebu, Philippines. Question-and-answer format and reflection questions are added.

Why do Asians and others have a great love for Mary?

Untitled 1Theotokos (God-bearer) of Vladimir; Phoitio: Ajvol/wikipedia, 12th century
“Asian Christians have a great love and affection for Mary, revering her as their own Mother and the Mother of Christ”. Thus did Saint John Paul II recall a statement made by the Synod Fathers at their Special Assembly for Asia in 1998. . .

She is the model of the Church in its mission of evangelization because of how she closely cooperated in the saving work of her Son (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2; citing Jn 10:16) and because she exemplifies the missionary journey that the Church has taken and continues to take.

Why is Mary so special?

As Mary was first recipient of the Good News at the Annunciation before she brought the same Good News to Elizabeth at her Visitation and to the rest of the world at the Nativity of her Son, so is the Church also called first to be an evangelized and an evangelizing community (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi,15 & 22).

At the foot of the Cross, Christ entrusted the Church and its mission to the care of his Mother: “Woman, here is your son” (Jn 19:26-27). “Mary is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization.” (Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 284).

Stores are currently packed with chocolate confections shaped liked bunnies, butterflies, eggs, lambs and every other image related to Easter. Something similar occurs on the eve of Valentine’s Day, when chocolate creations similarly invade the marketplace.

But did you know that those sweets you savor with such relish are the products of child labor, of youths working under conditions akin to slavery?

Chocolate and Child Labor

Untitled 1While there are important ways to keep the Good News fresh and effective, priests must turn to their mother, Mary, Pope Francis underscored during the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica this Holy Thursday morning.

He began his Holy Thursday homily reminding his brother priests that everything he proclaims, and all priests proclaim, is good news, and that, “Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person.”

In the Little Things

“When he preaches – briefly, if possible! –, he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer.”

“As we all know,” the Argentine Pontiff continued, “it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time…

Message of Joy

While recognizing that the phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel,” Francis clarified that those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel, he stated, is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy.

The good news, Francis highlighted, is not a thing, but a mission, and is born of Anointing.

“Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary. The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat. It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother.” …

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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.”