THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION THROUGH THE LENS OF THE APPARITION AT LA SALETTE
Reflection by Isabel M. Dion
La Salette Lay Associate
Our Lady of Hope Province
La Salette Lay Associate
Our Lady of Hope Province
When our Lady appeared to two illiterate and very poor children on the mountain of a little village called La Salette, [September 19, 1846] one of her messages was that "during Lent, people go to the meat market like dogs.” Those were very tough words. Our Lady was using
an expression that Mark and Matthew use in their gospels. Remember the woman, a Greek, Syrophoenician by birth, whose daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit?
Jesus was in Greek territory when the woman approached and begged Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus’ response was to feed the children first before giving the bread to the dogs. For the Greeks, a dog was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a person who was daring and shameless. Our Lady of La Salette used the same word to jolt us - to call the attention of those who do not honor the value of Lent as a time of abstaining from the desires of the flesh which only satisfies itself. It is a kind of self-centeredness - a navel gazing attitude. She calls her people to turn away from such an attitude and to direct themselves to her Son—her Son who gave All that he was for the salvation of humanity.
Our Lady of La Salette speaks for Jesus, her Son
In her message to the children at La Salette the Blessed Virgin Mary, mentioned “My Son” six
times. Again she wants her people—us— to pay attention to her Son. Hence, Our Lady of La
Salette wants us to remember that Lent is a call to CONVERSION that leads to the journey of Reconciliation.
Conversion comes from the Greek word, “metanonia,which means a change of mind and heart? This conversion is not a onetime event. It is a daily process of dying to self and rising above self-centeredness. Thus, we need the sacrament of reconciliation in which Conversion and Reconciliation are celebrated.
Her Son, Jesus Christ, front and center
At La Salette: She wore a crucifix with the instruments of the crucifixion prominently displayed on her breast. These speak to us that her message is centered on Christ. She came to speak in the
name of her SON to call Her people to live God’s original plan. What is this original plan? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (374) tells us that humans were created good; they had a
perfect relationship with God; with themselves; and with all creation.”
Incidentally, the La Salette mountain where she chose to appear is symbolic of the perfection of creation because it is so beautiful, so pristine, so serene. It tells us of the mountain where her
SON often went to pray and commune with His Father. On this mountain she calls us to return to God’s plan for the first humans who possessed a state of “original justice and holiness.”
(CCC, 375) that was unfortunately disrupted because they disobeyed God’s covenant with them. That disobedience is what we call original sin which we all inherited.
God never abandons His children
But God did not abandon us. In fact in the book of Genesis 3:15 God said: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your
head, while you strike at their heel.” This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium ("first gospel"). Christian tradition views this as the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer. It is a battle between the serpent and the Woman whose descendants will win the final victory.
The reality described in the passage in the Book of Gen. 3: ended in the final victory of her Son through His death and resurrection. At our baptism, God gave us back sanctifying grace - that covenantal love of God to us. We have become deeper partakers of the divine life; we have become children of God at a new level. God has restored our relationship with Him as well as our relationship with others and creation. This covenantal love requires fidelity of us just as God has promised God’s faithfulness forever to us. However, human as we are, we are prone to breaking that fidelity.
Hence, our Lady came to that beautiful mountain of La Salette, with tears in her eyes to call us again to renew that covenantal love. Her tears speak of her suffering with her Son which the large crucifix that she carries on her breast indicates. Her loving words, “Come near, my children, do not be afraid. I have great news to tell you” are a tender and loving invitation of a concerned Mother. She makes us feel welcome and comfortable to attract us to listen to what she will tell us. She tells the children, Melanie and Maximin, that if her people will not submit (listen) she will be forced to let go the arm of her Son..it is so heavy that she can’t hold it up anymore. This message is addressed to us as well. She proceeds to tell the children and us what makes her Son’s arms and hers so heavy and why she weeps.
Why she weeps
What makes her Son’s arm and hers so heavy and why does she weep? There are two things:1) I gave you six days to work. I have kept the seventh for myself.” Our Lady of course is quoting Gen.2:2. She told this to Melanie and Maximin on Sept. 19, 1846. People during that time worked seven days in factories or on the farm. Our Lady said that only a few old people went to church during winter time and if they had nothing to do they went to church (Mass) only to mock at religion. The same message still resonates with us today. Sunday, the Lord’s day is no longer observed by a lot of people as a HOLY day of remembering, celebrating, and partaking in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Moreover it is a day of praising and thanking God for His great love for us by giving us His Son Jesus and for the many blessings we have received. For some of us, Sunday is no longer a day of taking time for God but is a day of taking time for football, baseball, soccer, for the mall, for sleeping-in and the like. We hear some comments that going to mass is just to fulfill an obligation… perhaps we can say that this too is one way of mocking at religion?
2) The second is, “Those who drive the carts cannot swear without introducing the name of my Son.” We hear and read this disrespect of her Son’s name day in and out. Today is no different than during the year 1846. Mary sings in her Magnificat that her Son’s name is holy. (Lk. 1: 49) “The Lord’s name is holy. For this reason man must not abuse it. He must keep it in mind, in silent, loving adoration. He will not introduce it in his speech except to bless, praise and glorify it.”(CCC 2143)
Mary’s Mission – Hold up the Arm of her Son
In the basilica museum at the La Salette mountain, there is a painting that depicts Mary’s hands supporting Jesus’ arms stretched out on the cross. This is of course reminiscent of the time when Aaron and Ur held up the arms of Moses so that the Israelites could defeat the Amelikites. [Exodus 17; 8 – 16] There are two things that speak to me about this image: First, Mary draws our attention to the saving arms of her Son. Her Son’s arms on the cross tell us of his redemptive love for all of humanity; Second, Mary tells us that she is a partner of Jesus in this redemptive love; she is the co-redemptrix; she is Jesus’ partner in the reconciliation of the world. It is in this light that a woman in the village of La Salette, after having heard and listened to the children’s convincing story and message of the Beautiful Lady, exclaimed that she was the Blessed Virgin Mary and called her “Reconciler of sinners.”
Along with these two things that made our Lady weep (still weeps) at La Salette was her concern for the children dying in the arms of their mother. She felt that because she held the dead body of her own Son in her arms. Today, many children are dying all over the world because of poverty and, SAD TO SAY, because of abortion.
Last week I saw a picture of a mother carrying her very young baby in her arms. The caption of the picture was this: A baby badly beaten because she was born a girl. I could not help but cry and I am pretty sure that our Mother weeps over this thing happening in the world today. The powerless are most often the victims of violence. Let us pray for these young victims and for the perpetrators of such violence.
Mary’s concern about prayer
She asked Melanie and Maximin: “Do you pray well my children?” They honestly responded, “Not very well, Madame.”
“Ah, my children you must say them well at night and in the morning, even if you say only an Our Father and a Hail Mary. When you can do better, say more.”
Mary reminds us through Melanie and Maximin, the importance of prayer. Let us first define in a simple way what prayer is. Prayer is a gift of God to us. It is our connection with God…our pathway to knowing God in a deeper way. Prayer is a way of deepening our relationship with God. In prayer we talk to God and God talks to us and we listen. Prayer is acknowledging that God created us in his own image. We are therefore dependent on him for our existence. Hence, Our Lady of La Salette exhorts us to pray. To not pray is a sin. What is sin? It is breaking our relationship with oneself, with others and with God
Not to pray then is to deny that gift of being created by him as well as denying that relationship with him. It is a sin of pride. Not to pray every day is a sin because we are saying that we do not need God. Our Lady at La Salette gives us a formula for maintaining our relationship with God. She directs us to the beautiful and perfect prayer- the Our Father. It is the prayer that comes from the lips of her Son. It is the prayer that contains all what the gospels teach us to maintain that love relationship with God. She also gives us the prayer addressed to her – the Hail Mary.
Mary calls us to Conversion
The neglect and disrespect for the Seventh Day, disrespect for Her Son’s holy name and along with her concern for the treatment of the powerless (children and others) and the neglect of prayer cause her to weep. So our Mother at La Salette, calls her people to conversion and to reconciliation with God. If we respond to this call, she promises God’s goodness and blessings. She says: “If they are converted the rocks and the stones will turn into a heap of wheat…and the potatoes will be self-sown”. If we are converted, our hearts of rocks and stones will turn into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26)…Furthermore, God’s abundant blessings will be given to us. She says: “The potatoes will be self sown," which means that peace, harmony, and love of one another and of God will ensue as the fruit of our conversion. Our Lady’s message is truly one of Hope and of Love.
The sacrament of Reconciliation
Reconciliation is the core of Christ’s mission – the good news of liberation as we hear in these stories: The prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep, and the Samaritan Woman, to name just a few. In these stories Jesus takes the initiative to call sinners back to God. He takes the first step to reach out to them. He offers the gifts of forgiveness and reconciliation to those who have gone astray. Forgiveness and reconciliation begin with God. The core of God’s forgiveness is always hope, love, mercy and compassion. God is happy to welcome sinners.
Now please allow me to present the similarities between the message of our
Lady of La Salette and our journey to the sacrament of reconciliation.
At La Salette: Following the path of her Son, she chose the mountain to talk about her message of conversion to two poor, uneducated and humble children. Her Son went to the desert to be confronted by the devil. Our Lady instructed the children with words and symbols.
Christ responds with words and symbols to the devil’s tempting message. At the end, Christ came out victorious.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is our mountain too. It is also filled with words and symbols. For some of us it takes some time to climb that mountain. Like Christ we will come out victorious as well..
This sacrament is experienced through the lens of Mary’s Message at La Salette. It is a journey to the mountain of Love. This journey to the sacrament of reconciliation has steps that we follow. Our Lady at La Salette shows us the steps to take on the journey to the sacrament of Reconciliation in her message through her words and symbols.