Rome, May 20, 2018
Feast of Pentecost
It is with much joy that I present to you the text of the decisions elaborated and approved by the General Chapter 2018, which was held in the city of Las Termas del Rio Hondo (Santiago del Estero, Argentina) from the 10th of April to the 4th of May this year, with the participation of 39 chapter delegates (Fr. Bachand was absent because of illness), 3 translators and 2 secretaries.
These decisions are the results of the attentive listening to the various reports presented to the Assembly (of the General, General Treasurer, Provinces and Regions), as well as the look turned toward the future of our Congregation in the light of the theme: “In the grace of La Salette, for a reconciled world” which has become the dominant theme of the Chapter assembly.
The Chapter wanted to give importance to some principal lines of action that would help the new General Council in the animation of the Congregation in the next six years:
I wish that these documents do not become dead letters, but that they help all and every one to “rethink” and to “re-read” our own religious life above all in the light of “Christ, the rule of our life”, (Const. #7) and therefore of the charism of Reconciliation, which waters its roots in the message of the Beautiful Lady.
I enjoin the Provincial and Regional Superiors to distribute, as soon as possible, to every religious the text of the decisions and to organize, wherever possible, community meetings in order to help in the understanding and assimilation of the contents of the same.
The words and wishes of Pope Francis during the homily of February 2, 2018 to religious gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica: “You, consecrated persons, are the eternal dawn of the Church! My desire is for you to relive today this meeting with Jesus, walking together towards Him: and this will give light to your eyes and strength in your steps”, I address to myself and to each of you, that they may stimulate us to live our religious life in the joyful fidelity in the following of Christ and in the generous spirit of service to the people of God entrusted to our pastoral care.
Fr. Silvano Marisa, M.S.
Decision n. 1
PREPARING THE 175th ANNIVERSARY OF THE APPARITION OF OUR LADY OF LA SALETTE
Affirming the importance of the 175th anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady for the whole Congregation, to make the event and message of Our Lady of La Salette better known;
The General Council assure a thorough preparation of the 175th Anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette at every level (personal, community and congregational) so that it will become a true source of grace for a spiritual, charismatic, pastoral, and vocational renewal for every La salette and the people they serve.
MEANS TO ACCOMPLISH THIS MAY INCLUDE:
Decision n. 2
«OPTIONAL MEMORIAL» OF OUR LADY OF LA SALETTE
Whereas the celebration of the «optional Memorial» of Our Lady of La Salette:
The General Chapter decides that, before the end of 2019 – if it has not already done so – each Province/Region, will contact their Conference of Bishops (or local Ecclesiastical Provinces or local dioceses) requesting that:
Decision n. 3
INTERNATIONAL LA SALETTE COMMUNITY (FRANCE)
All the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are aware of the beneficial service that the International Community renders to the La Salette Shrine in France.
The General Chapter decides that:
Decision n. 4
A YEAR OF VOCATION IN THE CONGREGATION
The accompaniment of young people is a sign of the vitality that the Spirit sends out in the Church and in our Congregation. Our Rule of Life (I, 39 and II, 61) and the recent decisions of the 2015 Council of the Congregation in Luanda recall that an authentic baptismal witness is a call to follow Christ in the community of disciples. The Church itself, guided by the magisterium of Pope Francis, is experiencing a new synodal approach precisely in view of making young people themselves active protagonists in faith and in vocational discernment.
‘’Vocation culture’’ is very important. Rather, it supposes ecclesial synodality, because the call to the consecrated life is first a gift to the Church, and the whole Church is involved in the variety of its institutions and charisms. In this perspective, La Salette Laity who collaborate in our mission play a distinct role, not only in practical ways by helping in our works, but also by enabling the people of God to respond with joy to what God asks of them through the La Salette event and the presence of the Congregation. For these reasons:
In order to make youth and vocation ministry a priority for all levels of the Congregation and to actively respond at these various levels to the upcoming synod’s suggestions, the General Chapter asks the General Council to proclaim a Year of Vocations from September 19, 2019 to September 19, 2020 and to propose concrete initiatives.
Decision n. 5
VOCATION PROMOTION AND FORMATION PROGRAMS IN OUR NEW MISSIONS
The General Chapter asks the General Council to explore with local communities of Haiti, Tanzania and Mozambique, in concert with their Provinces, the possibility of starting a recruitment program for La Salette vocations in these newly established missions with a view to the possible opening of formation houses and formation programs during its term.
Decision n. 6
RATIO FORMATIONIS GENERALIS
The General Chapter Accepts ‘’ad experimentum’’, until the next General Chapter (2024) the Ratio Formationis Generalis – PREPARING TO SERVE IN RECONCILIATION. And proposes the General Council, together with the International Formation Commission, to requires the Provinces and Regions to review their Formation programs, following the directives presented in point IV, # 3, of the said Ratio.
Decision n. 7
FORMATION OF FORMATORS
This postulatum motivates each Province/Region to address the formation of all formators and assist them in ‘’special preparation’’ (cf RL 54 cp), to accompany candidates in their discernment with preparedness and competency.
The General Chapter asks the General Council to organize a workshop for formators at the congregational level on the theme of formation of formators during its mandate.
Decision n. 8
To live their La Salette identity (Religious Life Community) in a prophetic manner, and in light of the theme of the General Chapter and RoL #1,
The General Chapter asks the General Council to urge Provincials and Regional Superiors of the Congregation in their ministry of animation to help their religious and seminarians:
Decision n. 9
COMMUNITY LIFE AND MISSION
To be a prophetic sign for the modern world we need to live in community, walking together with relationships marked by truth, trust and cordiality. Therefore,
The General Chapter asks the General Council:
Decision n. 10
INTERCULTURAL WAY OF LIFE AS BLESSING
The Chapter recognizes intercultural communities as a blessing, and that God is Father of us all. Therefore, the General Chapter:
1- invites all members of the Congregation to embrace the intercultural way of life as an urgent call, in all the works of the Congregation;
2- encourages all the Provinces and Regions to seek the experience of life shared in the wealth of diverse cultures;
3- proposes English and French as the most practical languages for communication in the Congregation, and invites the Provinces and Regions to offer their members the possibility of learning one of these languages.
Decision n. 11
The General Chapter recommends:
Decision n. 12
WORKING TOGETHER AS LA SALETTE MISSIONARIES BY CONTINENT
a) - in recent years there have been experiences of collaboration, proposed and coordinated by the Superior General and his Council, such as the new missions in TANZANIA and MOZAMBIQUE, which have met with success;
b) - in recent years, there has been in the Provinces and Regions direct collaboration defined by interprovincial agreements approved by the General Council, for mutual assistance in mission or formation, etc., with personnel from different continents, cultures and languages;
The General Chapter decides that:
1º) - The General Council will accompany and encourage all efforts at collaboration among Provinces/Regions, whether by continents or at the interprovincial level beyond continents.
2º) - At each Council of the Congregation, a day will be set aside for Provincial/Regional Superiors to meet by continents, with the coordination of the Superior General or General Councilors, to evaluate actions already in place, and to plan other initiatives to be worked out according to needs and possibilities.
3º) - Provincial and Regional Superiors may have meetings and/or dialogue, through initiatives in the area of formation or mission, taking advantage of modern means of communication.
) - FOLLOWING UP on these meetings, if the Provincial/Regional Superiors or the Superior General consider it necessary, they can convoke a meeting of the Superiors concerned and their respective Councils, setting a clear date, venue and agenda for the meeting.
Decision n. 13
COLLABORATION WITH LA SALETTE SISTERS
With respect and joy the General Chapter welcomes the joint declaration by the General Councils of the Missionaries and the Sisters of La Salette for mutual relations and cooperation, and in particular at the Shrine of La Salette.
Recognizing the independence of both,
The General Chapter recommends to the General Council:
Decision n. 14
«LA SALETTE LAITY» AND OTHER LAY MOVEMENTS
The General Chapter rejoices with «La Salette Laity» who have expressed a genuine desire to share and live with us the same charism of reconciliation, and rejoices with other lay movements inspired by the charism of La Salette.
With a view to the appropriate development of both our Congregation and lay movements sharing the La Salette charism, the General Chapter recommends to the General Council:
1 –to task our Theological Commission with preparing texts to serve as formation material to help both the «La Salette Laity» and other lay groups inspired by the charism of La Salette;
2 To appoint a La Salette Missionary who will accompany the International Coordination of «La Salette Laity», preferably a member of the General Council;
3 To organize international meetings of «La Salette Laity» at the Shrine of La Salette, France, every six years.
Decision n. 15
JUSTICE & PEACE
• Inspired by the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette who looked upon the suffering of humanity,
• Taking into account the real and intolerable situation of migrants and refugees and those who live in different situations of poverty, who knock at the doors, first of our consciences, and then of our communities,
• In the light of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, who reminded Maximin of the words of his father, “Here, my child, eat some bread while we still have it this year; because I don’t know who will eat any next year if the wheat keeps up like that”.
The General Chapter, desiring «in the grace of La Salette» to be in a concrete way «Prophets for a reconciled world,» encourages the new General Administration, in collaboration with the provinces and regions, to:
1) Create opportunities in our communities and places we work to discuss, share and evaluate pastoral activities in the light of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.
2) Respond to this urgency with appropriate action.
3) Urge the International Commission for Justice and Peace to draw up a plan to create a new Solidarity Fund which will support social projects (MS) approved by the JPIC Commission (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation), according to specific criteria.
Decision n. 16
Having in mind the report of the Superior General to the general chapter 2018, number 8 (Finances and the Administration of Goods) and the Vatican orientation regarding ecclesiastical goods, and for the good of the congregation;
The General Chapter oblige that the General council with the help of the Finance Commission:
• Create a General Administrative-Economic Program, to be accompanied by a manual with clear criteria proposed and shared by the provinces and regions.
• The manual will help the provincial, regional and local treasurers to better administer the goods of the Congregation.
Decision n. 17
• To be the prophets in the administration of temporal goods and in the spirit of Rule of Life concerning finance,
• to better know the financial situation of the Provinces and Regions, by meeting the financial commission and local treasurers,
• to give suggestions and recommendations on various financial issues of the Provinces and Regions,
• to share the situation of the Provinces and Regions with the Finance Commission of the Congregation,
• to accompany Provinces and Regions in the awareness of managing temporal goods,
• to help Provinces and Regions in the use of the Congregational accounting system,
The General Chapter recommends that the General Council, once in a mandate, sends the General Treasurer to visit the
Brother, Sister, Mother
(Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Genesis 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13—15:1; Mark 3:20-35)
We have a strange Gospel today. Jesus’ relatives thought he was out of his mind. The Scribes said he was possessed. Jesus responded with a mysterious saying about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Then his relatives showed up to ‘seize’ him—accompanied by his mother!
This is the context in which Jesus utters a seemingly dismissive saying about his mother: “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
The answer actually echoes Luke’s account of the Annunciation, where Mary says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Whoever does the will of God is Jesus’ brother, sister, mother. This is high praise.
Our reading from Genesis also dovetails with this idea. As early as 100 A.D., Church authors began to compare Eve and Mary, noting the fruits of the disobedience of the one and the obedience of the other. As Jesus was the new Adam, they saw Mary as the new Eve. This parallels Romans 5:12-19, where St. Paul contrasts Adam and Jesus.
When Mary at La Salette calls her people to submit, she is inviting us to be like her. It was through her humble submission that she received the privilege of being the mother of the Savior. Can we not humble ourselves before the Lord, trusting in his grace and favor? Can we not accept the sufferings we experience in our ‘earthly dwelling, a tent’ while hoping for ‘a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven’?
But there is more here than the matter of submission and acceptance. Jesus calls ‘brother, sister, and mother’ those who do the will of God who is his Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” as St. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:15.
God seeks a relationship with us. The Beautiful Lady weeps because her people have not responded, have not recognized and desired the wonder of intimacy with God.
Mystics and saints may have found the words to express this experience, but it is accessible to all those who do the will of God. We have Jesus’ word for that.
(Corpus Christi: Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-26)
Two words stand out in today’s readings: blood and covenant.
A covenant is an agreement or treaty, in which the rights and responsibilities of the parties are stated clearly. It is something like a contract or a business arrangement.
It is much more than a contract, however, precisely because, in the Bible at least, it concerns first and foremost a relationship. The people of Israel understood what that implied, and said, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” Their relationship with the God who had delivered them from slavery meant everything to them.
The covenant between God and Israel is summed up in the words, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”
“My people:” these words occur once at the beginning and twice at the end of Mary’s discourse at La Salette. She expresses herself in this way because she has a special place in the covenant, assigned to her at the foot of the cross. The people for whom her Son shed his blood are her people, too.
His covenant-blood is, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, more effective than the blood of any of the prescribed animal sacrifices. It is shed ‘for many,’ for the multitudes that will come to find salvation in him and celebrate that gift in the Eucharist.
“In the summer, only a few elderly women go to Mass. The rest work on Sundays all summer long.” At some point in their history her people had ceased to appreciate the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. Instead of being the sign of the Covenant, the Mass had become an unwanted obligation, a burden to be cast off. The gift was no longer being celebrated.
Anyone who thinks that Mary came to La Salette only to demand obedience to obligations is missing the point completely. Her message is aimed at restoring an awareness of the covenant between her Son and her people, and an appreciation of the immense worth of that relationship.
Taking her words to heart, we can pray with the psalmist, “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?”
Fear of the Lord
(Trinity Sunday: Deuteronomy 4:32-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.”
If we could imagine the Blessed Virgin in heaven meditating on the Scriptures, we might think that these verses from today’s Responsorial Psalm made her decide to come to La Salette. She wanted her people to be preserved from the impending famine and delivered from the death of small children.
But there was a problem: her people were not among those who feared God. “Fear of the Lord,” is a recurring theme (about 750 times) in the Bible. It does not mean being afraid of God but being in absolute awe of him. (If you were being introduced to a famous person whom you greatly respected, wouldn’t want to avoid anything that might give offense?)
Mary told the children, “Don’t be afraid.” That did not keep her from trying to restore proper fear of the Lord among her people.
Clearly, like the generations after Moses, they had forgotten all the wonders God worked for them. They were baptized, as Jesus commanded, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but their adoption as children of God had lost its meaning. It did not make them disciples.
They did not put their trust in God or hope for his kindness. They showed little respect for their Savior, using his name to vent their anger. They rejected the gift of the Sabbath rest. They refused God the worship that was his due. They did not fear him.
Still, they were living in fear, not of God but of a bleak future. The Beautiful Lady even accentuated this by prophesying the failure of the wheat crop, the potatoes, the grapes, even the walnuts.
But she didn’t stop there. A brighter future was possible, if only they could understand that the relationship between God and us is essential, not optional.
Her message is like that of Moses: “You must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life...."
All Things to All
(Pentecost: Acts 2:1-11; Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:26-27, 16:12-15)
Our title today is taken from 1 Corinthians 9:22, where St. Paul writes, “I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” But, compared to the Holy Spirit, St. Paul’s claim is empty.
After the second reading there is a ‘sequence,’ the poem Veni Sancte Spiritus. Here the Spirit is described as “source of all our store,” meaning that all spiritual gifts come from him. In one verse, he is “grateful coolness in the heat;” later, we pray that he will “melt the frozen, warm the chill.” In other words, the Spirit comes always with the gift that is needed.
In our readings we see this in the multiplicity of languages in Acts, in St. Paul’s famous fruits of the Spirit, and in Jesus’ promise that the Spirit of truth will guide us to all truth. Truth is unchanging, but its expression needs to correspond to the context in which it is spoken: language, culture, etc. We need the Spirit to accomplish that.
Mary came to La Salette to speak truth. Today I am inclined to think of the brilliant light in which she first appeared—which Maximin and Mélanie compared to the sun—as the fire of the Spirit, preparing her for what she was about to do and say.
Without using St. Paul’s words, she spoke, in two languages, of the works of the flesh (many forms of selfishness, distance from God) and demonstrated the fruits of the spirit in her demeanor and speech.
She used the gifts at her disposal: tears, beauty, costume, compassion, pleading (not afraid to describe herself as our advocate), honesty (not hesitating even to inspire feelings of guilt).
All this and more, to all her people, to speak the truth that they need to hear: that they are still loved by the God and Savior whom they have forgotten. Another quotation from St. Paul is appropriate here: “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is why Our Lady of La Salette wears the Crucifix prominently on her breast.
Can we be all to all? Like Mary, can we speak the truth to our world? In what language (words and action)? The Spirit places gifts at our disposal. Let’s use them!
(Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:15-26; 1 John 4:11-16; John 17:11-19)
Why does God choose a particular person for a particular purpose? The Bible doesn’t say that Ruth, or Moses, or David, or even Mary was better than anyone else. They were God’s chosen instruments, prepared by him for a special role.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see the same reality of choice, as “the lot fell upon Matthias” to make him a “witness to the resurrection.” The time had come to replace Judas. The disciples reduced the number of candidates to two, and then God chose between them.
Maximin and Mélanie were the chosen witnesses of Our Lady of La Salette. Why them? We can (and do) speculate, but the most honest answer is the simplest: we don’t really know. The La Salette Missionaries and the La Salette Sisters, as well as the many lay people devoted to our Weeping Mother are her chosen witnesses today. Why us? Again, we just don’t know.
Often the words, “Why me?” are used when something bad happens to us. But we might well ask the same question when something great and wonderful happens, and in particular when we recognize that God is calling us for a special purpose.
Many people can explain what first attracted them to another person, or to a religious order, or to a certain career or ministry. It is a different matter when we look at it from the point of view of being chosen. Why did that person, that vocation, that career or ministry choose me? In other words, what was/is God’s purpose for my life?
We do know this much, however. It isn’t because we are better than anyone else. Mary’s choice, like God’s choice, is a mystery—not to be solved, but to be lived.
Jesus had chosen his Apostles, and three years later, at the Last Supper he prayed to his Father to protect them, to “consecrate them in the truth.” After all, they were to be his faithful witnesses.
Therein lies the challenge, to live what we are called to be, focused on the what and the how and the where, much more than on the why.
Who Started it?
(Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 10:25-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17)
People in conflict, whether individuals or nations, children or adults, tend to blame each other for starting the quarrel. Even at La Salette, Mary literally tells her people, “If the harvest is ruined, it is only on account of yourselves.”
The same may occur in a positive context. It is gracious to give credit to others for their part in our success. In Acts, the Apostles never take the credit for their accomplishments. As in today’s reading, they acknowledge that the Holy Spirit takes the initiative, in spectacular ways and with extraordinary gifts, such as the gift of tongues.
Notice, however, that the new disciples are doing two things: speaking in tongues, and glorifying God. Which of these is more important?
In writing to the Corinthians St. Paul addresses a controversy surrounding the gifts, and famously concludes: “If there are tongues, they will cease... So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Which brings us to the Gospel and the second reading, both from John, where love is mentioned a total of eighteen times. We are “beloved,” and God is love. John’s “Let us love one another,” finds even stronger expression in the Gospel: “This I command you: love one another.”
The last words of last week’s Gospel were, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” The very next verse is the first statement of Jesus today: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” There is a connection, then, between glorifying God and abiding in the Lord’s love.
Mary appeared at a time of crisis in the life of her people. She chided them—lovingly—and then—lovingly—pointed them to the way of hope and peace. She is in turn much loved, but directs our love to her Son. Her message is echoed in the new translation of the Missal, in one of the forms of dismissal at the end of Mass: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
That includes love. John writes, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us.” He sustains our love. He will see it through. Because he started it!