Our Weeping Mother and the Twelve Steps

This year I marked 47 years as a La Salette Missionary. That means I have spent the greater part of my life as a member of this Congregation dedicated to the Apparition and the Message of the Beautiful Lady here at La Salette. Now I find myself living in the very place where the Apparition occurred and the Message was given. That fact feels like a great grace and a great challenge.
Untitled 1Fr. Joseph Bachand, M.S., presently Superior of the La Salette Community at the Holy Mountain in France

Looking at our life with new eyes

As I reflect on the years and the many assignments I have had, it occurs to me that each ministry entrusted to me provided the perspective or lens through which all past assignments would be viewed. I believe this is true for all of us: our present situation in life demands that we look at all that went before with “eyes” made more aware by the new situation. So I look back at all that has transpired in ministry with a greater understanding of conversion, reconciliation and relationship with God that Our Blessed Lady recommends.

Called to Minister as Spiritual Director

With that in mind, one period of my history stands out as instrumental in my own formation as a reconciler. I was blessed to spend four years (1998-2002), with the permission of my superiors, at a treatment center for priests and religious. I held the position of Director of Spirituality for the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, but worked more specifically with the men, individually and in groups.

Most of the residents at the Institute were struggling with an addiction of some sort, or were diagnosed with some psychological disorder. In other words, they were wounded, and were finding it very difficult to cope with life in a healthy way.

One could say this was a matter for psychology, but the clinic was a Catholic Institute, and I learned much about how our Church, in its teachings and spirituality, has much to offer a healthy psychology. The psychologists with whom I worked brought their own faith to this place of healing.

The Twelve Steps

Many of the men who found healing, did so with the help of “Twelve-Step” programs. Although begun in the United States specifically to aid those suffering from alcoholism, there are twelve-step programs for all kinds of addictive behavior, and it has become international in its scope. One of the program’s basic teachings is that one must have a solid spiritual life in order to sustain a life of healthy sobriety. When someone is caught in addiction, they say, “the spiritual life is the first thing to go, and the last thing to be restored.”
Untitled 2St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland

As I grew familiar with the twelve steps, I became convinced that they fit in very well with our faith. But the genius of the program is that it is adapted for practical life; one is not called to agree to a theory, but to concrete practices. For me, these days, I see the genius of La Salette and the Beautiful Lady’s message in much the same way. The first few steps of the twelve-step program say that “we” had come to realize that our lives were unmanageable; that the only way out of this “swamp” was with the help of a Higher Power (God). So “we made a conscious decision to turn our lives and will over to this Higher Power.”

Our Lady of La Salette and the Twelve Steps

Briefly, I believe Our Lady was saying to the people of 1846: your lives have become unmanageable. Look at the situation you’re in! This is going to continue unless you recognize the way to healthy living. That is by submitting your lives to God, which is both good AND possible! The twelve steps also address the need for reconciliation, prayer and a mission of “making known the good news” of sobriety - all of which are in the message of La Salette.

Like the twelve-step program, the message of La Salette is practical – it does not concern itself with theology or ideas. Our Lady said: pray, go to Mass on Sunday, and observe Lent. She also, by extension, said not to work seven days a week, and not to use her Son’s name when swearing. This is concrete, practical advice. AND it is hopeful. I think that’s the great virtue of both La Salette and the twelve-step program: they both offer hope to a world lost and struggling to finds its way. This is the way, they proclaim. Try it; it just might work!
Untitled 3The entire Pastoral Team on the Holy Mountain in France; Fr. Joe Bachand, M.S. is third from the right.

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