A Letter from St John Paul II to Mgr Louis Dufaux, Bishop of Grenoble, For the 150th Anniversary* of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette.
“To the Most Reverend Louis Dufaux, Bishop of Grenoble
This year the diocese of Grenoble, the Missionaries of La Salette, and many of the faithful throughout the world, will celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin on this peak of the Alps from which her message has been unceasingly heralded. Such a commemoration has a rich potential of grace, and I want to share in it, in union with the pilgrims who come to venerate the Mother of the Lord under the title of Our Lady Reconciler of sinners.
Mother of the Saviour, Mother of the Church, Mother of all, Mary journeys with each one on the pilgrimage of life. The preparation of the great Jubilee of the Redemption intensifies, and this year, consecrated to the anniversary of the apparition of Mary to Maximin and Melanie, represents a significant step toward it. In this pIace, Mary, a Mother filled with love, manifested her sadness in the face of the moraI evil of humanity. Her tears help us better understand the painful gravity of sin, the denial of God, as well as the passionate fidelity that her Son, the Redeemer, maintains toward her children despite a love wounded and rejected.
The message of La Salette was given to two young shepherds at a time of great suffering. Peoples were scourged by famine, subjected to many injustices. Indifference or hostility toward the gospel message worsened. As she appeared bearing on her breast the likeness of her crucified Son, Our Lady showed herself associated to the work of salvation, experiencing compassion for the trials of her children, suffering when they strayed from the Church of Christ as they forgot or rejected the presence of God in their lives, the blessedness of his Name.
The wide diffusion of the event of La Salette bears convincing attestation that the message of Mary is not contained solely within the suffering expressed by her tears. The Virgin bids us regain spiritual composure. She invites us to penance, to perseverance in prayer, and especially to fidelity in the observance of Sunday. Through the witness of the two children, she asks that her message be made known to all her people. Indeed, the children’s voice was heard. Pilgrims came. There were many conversions. Mary appeared in a light reminiscent of the splendor of a humanity transformed by the Resurrection of Christ: La Salette is a message of hope a hope sustained by the intercession of her who is the Mother of all peoples. Our alienations are not irreparable. The night of sin surrenders to the light of divine mercy. Human suffering properly accepted can contribute to purification and salvation. The arm of the Son of Mary will not weigh upon, not condemn, the people who walk humbly in the pathway of the Lord. Christ will take the outstretched hand into his own, and lead to new life the sinner reconciled by the grace of the Cross.
Mary’s strong and simple words maintain the relevancy of her message in a world still locked in the throes of famine and war, and so many other blights that are the signs, and often the consequences of sin. Today still, She whom “all generations will call blessed” (Luke 1:48) would lead all those who are suffering the trials of these times to the joy born of a peaceful completion of the mission assigned to the people of God.
The Missionaries of La Salette have never ceased plumbing the depths of the message of La Salette. They seek to demonstrate its enduring value for the approaching third millennium. They are especially enjoined to make known to all peoples the summons to renew Christian life. This is the mission which lies at the origin of their founding in the diocese of Grenoble. During this anniversary year, I am inviting them to pursue this mission urgently in the different parts of the world where they preach the gospel. In the same way, I offer all my encouragement to the Sisters of La Salette and the other Institutes whose founding and inspiration come from the La Salette event. In this special year I pray that the Mother of Christ help them achieve the spiritual renewal they desire, and dedicate themselves to the work of evangelization with the missionary dynamism that the Church expects of them.
From this land of Savoie and Dauphine where the Virgin Mary spoke her message a century and a half ago, the same call goes out today to the many pilgrims who come to this Shrine, as well as to the many other La Salette shrines throughout the world. With merely a few years prior to the great Jubilee, I encourage them to bring to the Immaculate Virgin the sorrows and the hopes of our world. May they be witnesses to the reconciliation which is the gift of God, and the fruit of Redemption for individuals, families and nations! May this pilgrimage preserve them from a tepid and indifferent Christian life.
May it remind them to grant a place of pride to the risen Christ in their lives! May they become artisans of the peace promised by the Lord (cf. John 14:27), and remain unfailingly convinced of the inalienable worth of the humblest human person!
Mary is as present to the Church today as she was on the day of the Cross, on the day of the Resurrection, and on the day of Pentecost. At La Salette she clearly spoke the constancy of her prayer for the world: she will never abandon the people created in the image and likeness of God, those to whom it has been given to become children of God (cf. John 1: 12). May she lead to her Son all the nations of the earth!
As I confide to Our Lady Reconciler the diocesan community of Grenoble, The Missionaries of La Salette, as well as the religious men and women who share the same spirituality, I cordially grant to all my Apostolic Blessing.”
(From the Vatican, 6 May 1996.)
For more information from a reliable source on Our Lady’s apparition in La Salette, read, “The Authentic Message of La Salette”.