I sought inspiration from the Apostle Paul to address you on this third Sunday of Advent: Dear Brothers Saletines, the light of the one who arrives at Christmas already stands out among us.
Salette in her reconciling message points the way forward. May we, La Salette Laity, be salt and light in the world (Mt 5, 13-14).
A Merry Christmas to all of you and the year 2018 is full of blessings and accomplishments for all of us.
International Coordinator of the La Salette Laity
New Year 2018
“She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the place where travelers lodge.” (Lk 2:7)
Once again the celebration of Christmas offers the opportunity to me and the members of the General Council to extend to all of you—our young people in formation, our active religious, our elders, those who are sick or in difficulty, no matter where you are—best wishes for the holy feast of Christmas. We would like to assure you of our closeness and our gratitude for what you are and what you do in your various community and apostolic situations around the world. May Emmanuel—God with us—fill everyone with his presence and his grace.
This event of God among men—at the heart of the Christian message—means that the God of the Bible is faithful to his promises and that he never disappoints us, because he loves with a special love the creature that comes forth from his own hands. This is also the experience that the people of Israel had in their long and difficult journey to the Promised Land. The assurance of God given to Moses on Mount Horeb, “I will be with you (Ex 3:12),” will mark the history of the people of the Covenant in good times and in bad, as it marks our own. This promise will be realized in the birth of the Savior in the stable at Bethlehem, thereby filling the need for the infinite present in the heart of every person.
His coming among us will be marked by the refusal of comfortable lodging suited for the particular experience Mary and Joseph were going through, and by a more squalid indifference on the part of the inhabitants of Bethlehem.
The world we live in does not seem to be so different from that described in the Gospels. In fact, caught up in the whirl of its problems and unaware of the passing of God on the streets of its life, it seems to care little about Him. Yet God has never stopped thinking of human beings and loving them in their fragility and littleness to the very point of becoming like one of them in the person of Emmanuel.
This year Christmas marks an important step in the journey of our Congregation in that the following day is the opening of the first La Salette mission in the country of Mozambique. As with every new birth, I hope that this one too will be for us all a bearer of life and joy.
I offer up sincere prayers that this most recent mission commitment, which opens new apostolic horizons for the Congregation, may be experienced as a gift and as a time of grace reserved in a special way for us, as well as for all those Laity who desire to be nurtured by the same spirituality which is drawn from the Apparition of the Beautiful Lady at La Salette.
Furthermore, I hope that this becomes an incentive for every individual religious, for every community, and for our young people in formation, to rediscover the beauty of the call to La Salette religious life and, without any reservation and with renewed enthusiasm, to put all one’s human and spiritual capacities at the service of reconciliation in the Church and in the world today and especially where “the cry of the poor” is more obvious and insistent.
May this Christmas bring a breath of fresh air into the heart of each one of us and into our communities—a breath of fresh air that has the flavor of a shared religious and missionary ideal, of sincere solidarity, of effective collaboration, of mutual respect, of brotherly love and of forgiveness received and offered with joy.
I want to extend this wish to all those who under various titles collaborate with us in our houses and in the apostolate, as well as to our benefactors, to the Sisters of La Salette and to the La Salette Laity, who, sustained and encouraged by the words of the Beautiful Lady, commit themselves to announce the Good News with enthusiasm wherever they live.
Once again, and in the name of the General Council, best wishes for a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year—during which we will celebrate the 32nd General Chapter of our Congregation!
Fr. Silvano Marisa MS
What to Wear?
(The Holy Family: Genesis 15:1-6 & 21:1-3; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:22-40)
Pilgrims to La Salette often ask about the meaning of the roses, chains, crucifix and, especially, the hammer and pincers which the Beautiful Lady added to the otherwise simple costume of the women from around Corps. Since she herself offered no explanation, and even though there exists a certain tradition concerning these details, any reasonable interpretation is possible.
These elements, however, do not concern the essence of the Apparition. Let us take a closer look at this woman, dressed in “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Yes, this is Our Lady and our Mother, in whom we find the virtues recommended by St. Paul to the Colossians.
The gentleness of her voice reassured Maximin and Mélanie and calmed their fears. Her kindness is evident in all she does and says—even changing from French to the local dialect when she observed that the children didn’t understand. Her message, even in its more demanding parts, is imbued with the compassion that moved her to come to us, to reconcile us with her Son. In all humility, Mary wept in the presence of two young strangers. “And you yourself a sword will pierce,” as Simeon had told her.
These are also the qualities of the Christian family, in both senses of the term: the Christian home, and the universal Church. St. Paul further writes: “… bearing with one another and forgiving one another… And over all these put on love.”
Is this really possible? Of course. Still, examples of it seem relatively rare. We see so many conflicts, so much hate. Forgiveness is proving to be more and more difficult, even among Christians.
Christian love is not automatic. “Christian” refers to faith in Jesus. In Genesis we read, “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.” Just as faith was the foundation of the edifice of Abram’s descendance, so is it also for the Christian family. But it needs to be deep and solid.
Many persons who dedicated themselves to Our Lady of La Salette, wear a cross with the hammer and pincers. But we should also imitate her way of dealing with the two children she had chosen; like her, we need to put on “heartfelt compassion, kindness….”
(Epiphany: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2:1-12)
For Christians, the word Epiphany has a limited, specific meaning. If you look it up in a dictionary of Ancient Greek, you might be surprised to see how many meanings it has. Examples include: what something looks like; when something or someone comes into view; what is visible on the surface; the sensation created by someone. In short, something or someone is seen or noticed.
The Magi created a sensation when they arrived in Jerusalem. Before that, they saw a star come into view. They received an epiphany and then became one themselves when they appeared on the scene.
Another translation of the Greek word is simply Appearance, interchangeable with Apparition.
At La Salette, the bright globe of light the children first noticed revealed within itself a woman seated, her face in her hands, weeping. Thus begins the story of her epiphany, her Apparition. Mélanie and Maximin described what they saw. This created a sensation. We could paraphrase the words of the Gospel and say: The mayor was greatly troubled, and all the region around La Salette with him. And, like Herod, local authorities tried to hush everything up.
Epiphanies are not restricted to visual phenomena, however. Just as we say, “I see,” meaning “I understand,” there is more to an epiphany than meets the eye.
This is why we devote more attention to the message of the Beautiful Lady than to her appearance; why we study the history of the event, before and after September 19, 1846; why the lives of the two children matter; and why the Apparition is still an epiphany today.
Isaiah, as a prophet, experienced many epiphanies. St. Paul experienced one, on the Road to Damascus. As a result, both proclaimed the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation: “Nations shall walk by your light;” “The Gentiles are coheirs… copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
The Magi represented the Nations. They walked by the light of a star which changed their lives.
As long as La Salette remains an epiphany, it will have the power to change lives.
(Fourth Sunday of Advent: 2 Samuel 7:1-16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38)
The motto of the Society of Jesus is: Ad majorem Dei gloriam—For the Greater Glory of God. Today’s reading from St. Paul expresses, in a long sentence, the same sentiment: “To him who can strengthen you… be glory forever and ever.”
God’s glory is infinite. We cannot possibly add to it. We can, however, seek to reflect his glory more and more in our lives. It is a matter of service, whether great or small, according to our call and our abilities.
A famous biography of St. Teresa of Calcutta described her as having done Something Beautiful for God. King David had the same idea, but it was not his vocation. Still, he was rewarded for his desire to serve, and the promise made to him was fulfilled in Jesus, through the words of an Angel: “Of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Not all of us can glorify God as we might wish. The choice is not ours to make. Mary surely never expected to be the mother of the Messiah. But she did not refuse God’s call, and lived her vocation according to the gifts she had received. In fact, immediately after the Annunciation, she left home to help her cousin. In this and throughout her life the Lord was glorified (“magnified”) in her.
Mélanie never expected to encounter the Blessed Virgin and to be given a message for all her people. The time came, later, when she would gladly have served God as a religious Sister, but it was not to be. Instead, she faced many trials, and the Lord was glorified through her fidelity.
We cannot take the credit, however, when God is glorified in our lives. In one of the Prefaces at Mass we recognize this explicitly: “Although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation.”
Sometimes, all we can do is to acknowledge his glory, and to proclaim it as, for example, we do in today’s Psalm: “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord!”
In this context, we can understand the message of La Salette as an echo of Psalm 34:4, as though Mary were urging us: “Glorify the Lord with me, together let us praise his Name.”
(Third Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 61:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8,19-28)
In her Magnificat (today’s Responsorial Psalm), Mary joyfully identified herself as God’s servant. This means she understood her role in God’s plan. John the Baptist identified himself as a Voice. He, too, knew his role, his place.
The Beautiful Lady of La Salette did not identify herself in this way, but she did indicate her role: “I am here to tell you great news.” She identified herself, therefore, as God’s Messenger.
Isaiah describes himself in similar terms. He is sent by God to bring tidings, to proclaim, to announce.
What we do, however, does not define us completely. When St. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to rejoice, to pray, to refrain from evil, there is an underlying reality that explains the doing, the role, the behavior. They are disciples of Jesus Christ, and therefore they live in a certain way.
That is Mary’s message at La Salette. The difference is that St. Paul was encouraging Christians who were aware of their identity, while Our Lady was speaking to those who had lost that sense of Christian identity, whose behavior contradicted it in many ways.
Conversion, a turning back, a return to a Christian way of life, might restore that identity. Mary promises that if her people are converted, their fields will again produce abundantly. In a mirror-image way, this would fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: “As the earth brings forth its plants…, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.”
What all plants do, regardless of species, is to grow and produce fruit. That is the way God made them, and so they do God’s work. What true disciples of Christ do is to grow in their faith and produce fruits of righteousness, made holy and preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord. This is what God calls us to, it is his work and, as St. Paul writes, he will also accomplish it.
There should therefore be no difference between who we are and what we do. A poet named G.M. Hopkins wrote that everything in the universe cries out: “What I do is me: for that I came.” This applies to John the Baptist, to Mary and—why not?—to us.