“Invoked under the title of Our Lady of La Salette, Reconciler of Sinners, Mary is the Patroness of the Congregation. The anniversary of her Apparition is celebrated with solemnity by all the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.” (Rule of Life, 2cp)
“Throughout the history of humanity, God will always be the One who is present, near, provident, holy and merciful.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 6.)
LA SALETTE, 1846 - 2016
My Dear Confreres,
Along with the General Council, I am happy to greet each of you on the occasion of the celebration of the 170th Anniversary of the Apparition, which coincides with the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
I know that for this auspicious event the Congregation has been celebrating throughout the year by means of various programs and activities. These have involved not only our communities and the individual members, but also those various ecclesial, missionary, and educational enterprises to which we so generously commit our services.
I complement each and every one for what has been accomplished and for the sense of commitment manifested in all these programs and activities, reviving and strengthening our sense of belonging to the Church and to our Religious family.
Indeed, for 170 years the Beautiful Lady’s message of reconciliation and of mercy has resounded throughout the Church and the world, thanks above all to the witnessing of the shepherds Maximin and Melanie; and that of the Missionaries and Sisters of La Salette who have accepted this heritage; as well as the witnessing of so many faithful laity, men and women who have embraced and appropriated for themselves this charism of the Apparition.
This is truly a significant host of persons who have been touched by the tears of the Virgin, and who have not hesitated, throughout these years, to commit themselves in their journey of personal and community faith, to announcing and spreading the Gospel in light of what has transpired on the Mountain of La Salette September 19, 1846.
These two ecclesial events, in which our Congregation and the whole Church has been involved, should be seen, lived and accepted as:
- A gift and a grace. Once again, God is extending his fatherly hands, rich in mercy, love and forgiveness. He wishes to visit our life and our story, in order to reanimate them and to shake us from the indifference with which at times they have been marked.
- A commitment not to relent, whether in regard to our religious life in community, or in the ministry which the Church has confided to us in so many parts of the world. We must keep in mind that the first way to evangelize, asked of us by the Church, is to be joyful witnesses of a life lived with fidelity and consistent with our religious profession.
- A beneficial stimulus to keep alive the missionary spirit which has characterized our presence in the Church from the start and which was planted in the hearts of so many of our confreres. Without realizing it, these confreres have written many glorious pages in the history of our Congregation. The opening of a La Salette mission in Tanzania (July 17, 2016) is our communal response to the vigil which the Church is maintaining at this particular time on the African continent.
- A challenge and an opportunity for each of us personally to get involved and to face the future with courage. What is the Lord asking of us? What ecclesial and social realities should we favor in order better to serve the world through our charism, and promote the cause of the Gospel? In order for this to be realized, we will certainly need further personal and community discernment carried out in attentive listening to the Word and with assiduous prayer.
- A strong and clear invitation for us to renew ourselves, our communities, and our ministry in the spirit of charity and of mercy, as suggested by Pope Francis in a Jubilee Audience: “Due to changes in our globalized world, certain material and spiritual forms of poverty have multiplied: let us give space, therefore, to the imaginings of charity so as to find new ways of working. In this way, the way of mercy will become more and more concrete. It is necessary, therefore that we remain as vigilant as watchmen….” (June 30, 2016.)
Everything should not end with these jubilee celebrations. Instead, from here we have to give a new religious and apostolic push to our Congregation, taking it toward new horizons so that it may serve more adequately and respond more properly to the needs of the New Evangelization. Again, our Pope, in the “Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee Year”: “How much I desire that the year(s) to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God. May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.” (Misericordiae Vultus #5). This is an invitation for us not to believe that we have already reached our goal, but to move forward and to look with hope at all that which awaits us.
And we La Salette Religious are asked to continue to talk of Mercy and Reconciliation insofar as these reveal an aspect, or better still, the face of Charity, of God himself: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy” (Pope Francis, MV #1) which is love, which is charity. Together, let us ask ourselves: What would we want to see remain or continue from these two ecclesial events in our Province, in our daily religious life and in our ministry? It is my sincere hope that these two events not be limited to a pious memory, duly celebrated but not completely mined. Instead I hope they become a salutary wake-up call to us, for a new beginning in all areas, on the human, spiritual and apostolic levels. There is no time for delay, but it is time to act immediately with courage and determination, giving space, if need be, to our creativity and imagination.
Let us remember that “there is a work of mercy that we Christians alone can and ought to accomplish, and that if we do not do it, no one else can do it in our stead: to speak of Jesus Christ to men and women of our time, especially to the new generation.” (Vita Trentino, n.34, anno 91, p. 3). Is this not the reason for the Crucifix resplendent in light, which is at the center of the Apparition and the message of Mary at La Salette?
In the name of the General Council I wish you all a Happy Patronal Feast Day. May the Weeping Virgin of La Salette, the Inspiration and Patroness of our Congregation bless and protect each of you: our sick and elderly confreres; our youth in formation; the new La Salette community in Rutete (Tanzania); the new members of the International Community at the Shrine; the La Salette Sisters; those that live on the fringes of community and who do not feel integrated and accepted in community; the numerous La Salette Laity, who desire ardently to live their social and religious commitment in the light of our charism; and the many devoted faithful in our parish, school and shrine communities, who do not cease to celebrate and invoke the Beautiful Lady as Reconciler of Sinners.
Fr. Silvano Marisa, MS