The Shrine Park of Our Lady of La Salette
(sourced from a historical pamphlet, and 100th Anniversary Booklet )
RC Parish of Saint Mary, Beausejour, MB:
The Shrine Park is a beautiful attraction in Beausejour. The Shrine pathways have been modified so as to encourage everyone to enjoy the Three Stages of the Apparition which ascent to the top of the hill. The more gradual incline of the hill path allows for greater access by patrons with mobility issues. The Shrine Park also features life-sized animal figures for children of all ages to enjoy; a meandering path along the Stations of the Cross; an outdoor worship space, and a family picnic area. Everyone of all ages and beliefs are welcome to enjoy our facilities.
Why a National Shrine in Beausejour?
Father Peter Jaworski, the Saint Mary parish priest from 1941-1955, belonged to the Order of the La Salette Fathers and inaugurated the shrine on September 24th, 1950. It has since been the site of many pilgrimages over the years. He preached on missions at different parishes through the United States, and brought back the money to our parish. Father Jaworski fell grievously ill while away on one of these missions, and he begged the Blessed Virgin Mary to make him well again. In return, he promised to build a shrine in her honour in Beausejour. He came home and asked the mainly local farmers to bring him fill, stones, and whatever was needed to build up a hill, because it was a flat piece of ground. They hauled by truck, trailers, horses, wheelbarrows, and shovels. He involved Frank Wojcik who knew about building and brick laying and with many willing volunteers the construction began…
The La Salette Fathers once administrated the parish of Saint Mary. It was after the second church had burned (now where the Foot of the Cross-to the west of the current church and the third (current) building is now in place) , that Father Jaworski, decided that he would have a shrine built to honour Mary. Appropriately, the shrine was dedicated to Our Lady of La Salette, France. Not unlike the alpine town of La Salette, France, Beausejour is a small, rural town in the midst of acres of farmland. Though historical details are different then 1846 France, the needs and problems are the same. Sunday worship, cussing, bad crops, and the need for conversion and reconciliation are part of most rural communities. Thus, Beausejour is a most appropriate setting.
As a parish dedicated to Saint Mary, it is the desire of the local parishioners to maintain and support this beautiful shrine and to share its message of universal significance with all those whom they meet.
Mary Appears in La Salette. Why?
The apparition itself provides an answer to this question. Mary’s intervention, her words, and the choice of the witnesses, the circumstances of time and place support and heighten the significance of the event.
Mary’s intervention pertains to the specific mission she received from her Son at the foot of the cross, a mission she exercises fully since her Assumption. She has been assigned to “pray without ceasing to her Son” for us. Thus, any of apparition and/or authentic sign focuses on the heart of Christ’s message: A Father’s love that leads us to conversion and gives us the necessary grace to do so. Drawing from the heart of the Gospel, the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette is a universal call to us for conversion and penance.
LEARNING THE SIGNS:
THE LIGHT that surrounded her was not meant to astound us but in the tradition of the Church it has become a sign of the resurrection. Mary, risen in glory, dwells in the glory of her Son. While she spoke to the children, the light enveloped them also.
MARY WEEPS over her Son Jesus who is unrecognized and rejected by people. She weeps over us “poor sinners”. She weeps over the misfortunes that overwhelm us and spur us into rebellion instead of leading us toward God. She weeps over the little heed we pay to her intercession.
To love is to grant someone the power to make us suffer. The tears of Mary are signs of her powerlessness in the face of our freedom, when we refuse the salvation that is offered to us. They are likewise the signs of her love, that last resource of a mother who is now reduced to tear in an attempt to reach unfeeling hearts. In this way she reveals the tenderness of God.
MARY IS CLOTHED LIKE THE WOMEN OF THAT LOCALITY. The two children are not surprised at this. She wears a dress that extends to her ankles, a long apron, a shawl crossed on her breast, a bonnet that covers the hair, and wide-buckled shoes. Mary, “God’s homemaker” assigned to the well being of the Church. Mary as mother serving her children.
THE LARGE CRUCIFIX. During the apparition Maximin and Melanie focused on the bright source of light that surrounded the large crucifix that Mary bore. The Crucified Savior within the light of the Resurrection is the heart of the message of La Salette. We are reminded that the mysteries of the cross are at the heart of resurrection- that to die is to live. To die to self, is to live in Christ. To suffer through the cross is to bask in the light.
On THE CROSSBEAM OF THE CRUCIFIX, the children notice the hammer and the tongs. They look at the chain and all the roses that outline the shawl, that crown the Lady’s forehead and run along the edges of her shoes. Mary displays these symbols without explanation. We are left to interpret them and they are a challenge to reflection and the searching of Scriptures and tradition. They recall the Passion, the mysteries of the Rosary, sin and reparation, the chains of injustice and the roses of love…. It is anyone’s choice. Some prefer to reflect on the apparition within its historical framework the dawning of the industrial era, the struggle between capitalism and communism, the emergence of materialism, the clash between clericalism and socialism, and militant atheism. In any of these, the cross of Christ alone gives meaning to any endeavor and any search, to any commitment, the respect of the human person, to love. The cross remains the soul of these symbols.
While the lady speaks, Melanie and Maximin are standing close. To be close, to follow closely means to pursue with her paths of God. Along the beautiful Lady’s winding and rising path they planted a way of the cross, the pattern of all Christian living, the only road, and one that leads from tear to the resurrection. This path is also an opening: At the foot of the ravine where Mary began her climb, there is no sense of space, of perspective. At the peak of her climb, horizons near and far open wide before her.
In the light of the resurrection, Mary reaches the end of her walk and rises slowly above the ground. She gazes heavenward, then toward the earth and slowly “melts” within her “dwelling-light”. As at Emmaus before the breaking of bread: “They recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.” (Luke 24:31). “It must have been a great saint,” said Melanie. Maximin answered, “If we had known that it was a great saint we would have asked her to take us with her!”
THE LAST SIGN: the apparition did not distract the children from their normal lives. They quickly returned to their daily routine. But from now on this “daily routine” is already transfigured and will be increasingly so as they respond to the grace that has been given them. “After? We fetched our little sacks, then we led our cows to browse in the fields. We were very happy and we talked about all that we had seen!”
On September 19, 1846, on a clear autumn day, the Virgin Mother of God appeared to two children, aged 11 and 14, on a mountain near the town of La Salette, France in the French Alps. Surrounded by light, and herself like a luminous body, Mary appeared weeping, seated on a stone., her elbow resting on her knees, her face in her hands in the attitude of a woman weighted down with grief.
Then as the children remained motionless, their eyes riveted on the apparition, the Lady crossed her arms, concealing her hands in the ample sleeves of her dress. Advancing a little towards the shepherds, she said, “Come near my children, be not afraid. I am here to tell you great news.”
Tears fell down her cheeks all the while she spoke. With rapt attention the children listened to the Beautiful Lady. “If my people refuse to submit, I shall be forced to let go the arm of my Son. It is so strong and so heavy; I can no longer uphold it.
“How long a time I have suffered for you! If I want my Son not to abandon you, I must plead with him without ceasing. And as for you, you pay no heed! However much you pray, however much you do, you will never be able to repay the pains I have taken for you.
I gave you six days to work; I kept the seventh for myself, and they will not give it to me. This is what makes the arm of my Son so heavy. And then, those who drive the carts cannot swear without bringing in my Son’s name. These are the two things, which make the arm of my Son so heavy.
If the harvest is ruined, it is only on account of yourselves. I let you know last year with the potatoes. You paid no heed. Instead, when you found the potatoes spoiled, you swore, and brought in my Son’s name. They are going to continue to spoil, and by Christmas this year there will be none left.”
The Lady then confided a separate secret to each of the children. Having entrusted the secrets she continued “If you are converted, rocks and stones will turn into heaps of wheat, and potatoes will be self-sown in the fields.”
Then she asked: “Do you say your prayers well, my children?” “Hardly ever, Madame.”
“Ah, My children, you must say them well, at night and in the morning, if you were to say only an Our Father and a Hail Mary, when you can’t do better. When you can do better, say more.
In the summer, only a few somewhat elderly women go to Mass. The rest work on Sundays all summer long. In the winter, when they don’t know what to do, they go to Mass only to make fun of religion. In Lent they go the butcher shop as dos do….”
“Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people.”
It is important that you and I are reminded from time to time of the need for prayer and personal conversion, whatever that consists of in each of our lives. We are reminded from this story of the need for daily prayer and for worship at least once a week, whereby we set aside time for our God in thanksgiving.
May we continue to give thanks to our God and to be mindful of our need for conversion, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.
The Meaning of the Message
An apparition does not form part of the deposit of Faith. Rather it is a supernatural sign needing to be discerned. We are free to accept or reject it but in any case what is needed is sufficient information on which to base a sound judgment and an enlightened faith. Source: lasalette.org Please read more of the interpretation from a cultural and historical and biblical perspective.