Reflection: What is LaSalette About?
by Father Don Thomas
LaSalette is all about Reconciliation with God. LaSalette is the name of a small village, buried in the Alps of southeastern France, near Grenoble. On the 19 th of September in 1846, 158 years ago, the Virgin Mary appeared to two young children. The little boy was Maximin Giraud, age 11, and Melanie Mathieu, age 14. They had just finished their lunch and had gone to check on the cows, and as they were returning to the place where they had eaten their lunch, they saw a most brilliant light, more brilliant than the sun. As the light unfolded, in the middle of the light was a most “beautiful lady”, seated on a large rock, and she was weeping. They were soon to find out that she was saddened by the sins of the world. Now unfolds the story of Our Lady of LaSalette. Prior to delving into the message of LaSalette, allow me to digress and express some thoughts about apparitions. I find this to be very important, as through the years many people have had questions or doubts about all apparitions, and perhaps we have not done enough to enable many to understand just where and how apparitions fit into the exercise of our faith.
Let it be clear that it is not necessary to believe in any of the apparitions, such as Lourdes, LaSalette, Fatima,.Guadalupe and others in order to be saved. There is nothing at all wrong about questioning. or investigating apparitions, but on the other hand, it is not unreasonable to expect people to study the messages and check out the miracles that prompt Church Authorities to conclude that, subsequent to serious investigation, all signs would indicate that it was the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes, or Maximin and Melanie at LaSalette or to the three children at Fatima in Portugal.
Apparitions fall into the category of special graces from Almighty God, and they are called Charismatic gifts. Unlike sanctifying grace, which is more permanent rather than transitional, a charismatic gift is a grace that is given to one or more people, not so much for themselves but for others. A clear example of this would be a Missionary wanting to minister in China and he wakes up in the morning and all of a sudden he realizes he can speak Chinese. This is a grace or gift that is given to him, not so much for himself but for others God wants him to serve. That is how it is with all the apparitions. They are graces given to one or a number of people, not so much for themselves but for others.
The visionaries are included but they are not the principal beneficiaries of the grace. They are challenged to heed the message in the same way as others. If the visionary were not to heed the message, it would have no effect on the validity of the message or apparition. It is usually after years of serious and intensive examination of the visionaries, the message, the reported miracles which only God can perform—it is only then that the church will grant Papal Approbation, saying in effect, as stated above, that all signs would indicate that it was Mary who appeared to this individual or individuals. The apparition at LaSalette, like Lourdes, Fatima and others, has been approved by Rome, and the message has touched the lives of millions in the past century and a half.
After six years of intense and deep scrutiny, there was a group of Diocesan Priests who became the first Missionaries of Our Lady of LaSalette at the hands of the Bishop of Grenoble. That is how the LaSalette Religious Community was founded in 1858, with two LaSalettes coming to America in 1892 and the Bishop of Hartford gave them a house where they began a glorious history here in the States and continue to do so. On a lighter note, we can see what LaSalette is all about from the story told of the golfer who was getting ready to tee off, when all of a sudden a grasshopper landed right next to his ball. When the golfer swung, he missed the ball and drove the grasshopper about 50 feet in the air and the grasshopper was unconscious when he landed. Again, the golfer is ready to swing, and another grasshopper lands right next to the ball, and the same thing happens. Once again, the golfer misses the ball and he drives the 2 nd grasshopper about fifty feet in the air. He lands right next to the other grasshopper and both of them are unconscious. After about two minutes, both wake up and look at each other, and one grasshopper says to the other grasshopper: “Gee whiz, we better get on the ball before he knocks our brains out”
And way back in 1846, Mary appeared at LaSalette in France, pleading for the. people to get back to God, to "get on the ball” before it was too late. Millions of people have heard of LaSalette, but, sad to say, other millions have not. It is really a shame because even though Mary appeared 158 years ago, her message is just as relevant today as it was in 1846. In those days, France was a Catholic country, and Mary was weeping at LaSalette because so many people were missing Mass on Sunday, preferring to work out in the fields instead of keeping the Lord's Day holy.
Doesn't that sound familiar today with what has happened to Sunday? Open malls, football games, race tracks, casinos, dance halls and video game stores—all affecting Church attendance, for Catholics and Non-Catholics alike. For many, it is no longer the Lord's Day, but their day. Why wouldn't Mary weep? Then, Mary pointed to the lack of faith during Lent, as she complained that people were going to the markets for meat during Lent when they should be fasting and abstaining from meat. Another fault of the day, and surely a fault in our society in our day, was the profanation of the Lord's Holy Name. It is even worse today, because while she was pointing out that the men could not drive the carts and wagons without cursing and taking God's name in vain, nowadays, it is much worse as we now have to include men, women and young boys and girls who can't ride their cars, trucks, boats and bicycles without abusing the Holy Name of Jesus Christ, Mary's Son.
Again, why would she not weep? What disappointment! Then as we consider how modestly Mary was dressed in her apparition at LaSalette, what copious tears she would shed today in light of the sinful and immodest abuses that characterize our movies, our TV, our magazines and our men's and women's dress! How could anyone say that the message of LaSalette is not relevant today? It is even more relevant than it was in 1846. Even though her Son has made it so clear that the pure of heart shall see God and get to heaven, still her message is rejected today by so many. Just as the culture of death seems to be replacing the culture of life, so also the culture of satanic evil and sin seem to be more attractive to millions than does the culture of Christ's appeal. Maximin and Melanie said that the “beautiful Lady” was brighter than the sun, but the brightest thing about her was the crucifix she wore on her breast.
Mary did not say anything about the crucifix, but the children said that most brilliant of all was the body of Christ on the cross. They also noticed that on either side of the corpus, there was a hammer and pliers. Spiritual writers point out that they obviously are related to the passion and death of Christ. The hammer was used to drive the nails in, and the pliers were used to pull the nails out when they took Christ's body from the cross.
Symbolically, the hammer stands for sin, which really caused the death of Jesus, and the pliers stands for penance or reparation. In short, the hammer is a reminder of when we are bad, and the pliers .... when we are good. The LaSalette Crucifix is the characteristic mark of the Missionaries of Our Lady of LaSalette. There is a beautiful Shrine Church in the Alps above the village of LaSalette. The General Headquarters of the Congregation are in Rome, Italy. The LaSalette Missionaries have one province here in the States—the Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas. Other LaSalette Missionaries are in South America, In Argentina and Brazil, in India, Angola, the Philippines, Madagascar, Poland, England, Hawaii, Italy, France, Canada and Spain.
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