Buenos Aires - Basilica of Mary Help of Christians Sunday, November 10, 2019
I'd like to start with a Hail Mary. We are here in the house of our Mother, experiencing an authentic Marian pilgrimage and, as a sign of how much we love her Son and how much we love God, together we say: "Hail Mary". They asked me to conclude these days. I would like to offer you a summary of what I think should be considered in our Marian journey as a Salesian Family. I would like to do it in a simple way and touching on aspects of our daily life.
CHAPTER 1: My first contact with the Virgin
I'll start by talking about myself. I was wondering over these days: how was my Marian devotion born? I ask you all the same question, so that you too can think of how your love for Mary was born.
Let me tell you my story: I was born in a small fishing village and my first contacts with the faith and with the Virgin were my grandmother and my mother. My grandmother Carmen was born ten years after Don Bosco died, that is, in the very century of Don Bosco and she lived for many years. She was an illiterate woman, she could not read, she could not write but she had a great devotion to the Virgin. She went to hear Mass in Latin; who knows what she understood... well, she understood the love of the Virgin. I remember her house, where I slept, and remember this great painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel redeeming the souls of purgatory and I remember my grandmother and my mother reciting the rosary. I have in mind the scene of my father with my uncle at sea, and in the evenings and winter nights, my grandmother and my mother praying the rosary. I didn't understand much, but I still retain their witness. To pray for those who were at sea and whose distant lights we saw. A few words, little theology, but I learned that the Virgin in my family was important!
CHAPTER 2: The origins of my Salesian Marian devotion.
I was a student in a Salesian school and I discovered how beautiful the love of the Virgin was through beautiful images of Mary Help of Christians that I saw in the Salesian house. There, they taught me the three Hail Marys and to visit the Blessed Sacrament. We also celebrated the feast of Mary Help of Christians. This makes me think: we, the educators of the faith, must be wary of our iconoclastic style, keep a close eye on our modernism which maintains that images are useless or that a prayer to Mary Help of Christians is in vain. Be careful, because we do not offer anything if we cannot overcome this. And I say this without wanting to enter into an ideological war, but I speak from experience where they taught me to love Mary through the beauty of a statue, a Hail Mary and a feast.
CHAPTER 3 : The presence of Mary in my life.
Young people often ask me to tell them about special experiences I have had and in which I have felt the strength of the Virgin. I feel like disappointing them, but I have to say: "None!" I have not had any apparitions or things of this kind, except a certainty that I want to share and that is a certainty of the Christian life, of the Christian life in daily life. It is the certainty that in my life Mary Help of Christians, the Mother, is always present. I have experienced what it means to feel guided and to feel the grace that comes to me from the prayers of others, and hence I understand Pope Francis very much when he asks us to pray for him. I am certain that the Blessed Mother holds my hand and accompanies and guides me every day. But this is played out in the personal sphere. That is why each of us has his/her own experience, because each of us could say how Jesus and Mary are present in his/her life and how they manifest themselves. I am certain that the Blessed Mother continues to do extraordinary things.
CHAPTER 4: To say Mary for us, the Salesian Family, is to say Don Bosco.
First scene: in the Memoirs of the Oratory Don Bosco left us the dream he had at the age of 9 that deeply impressed him. How many times have we seen this and remember the phrase: "I will give you a teacher." And Don Bosco tells us that he kept this very much in his heart.
Let's see the second scene of this chapter: a 72-year-old Don Bosco who goes to bless and consecrate the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Rome on 17 May 1887, 7 months before his death, and where he celebrates his last Eucharist. At the altar of Mary Help of Christians, it is 6:30 in the morning. Don Bosco is old, his voice feeble, barely able to celebrate Mass; he pauses, delays. After many interruptions, the Eucharist is over and, in the sacristy, he was asked what was wrong, whether he felt sick. Don Bosco, an elderly man, crying with deep emotion, says: "it is now that I have understood everything, that she has done everything over these years." This is the synthesis of Don Bosco's life and his Marian life. But there are 62 years between that day and his dream at nine years of age; 62 years of Don Bosco journeying, deciding, asking for help, asking his Mother. In these 62 years Don Bosco had the certainty that his Mother had always accompanied him.
CHAPTER 5: The presence of his mother at the oratory.
The other day, one of our confreres used an expression with which I totally agree, namely that Mamma Margaret is the founder of the oratory. I would say that she is the founder along with her son. Mamma Margaret was the founder with her son of the Valdocco Oratory. Don Bosco took her with him and they began to live in that house and to welcome boys. Did Don Bosco have a plan? No, his was a plan of the heart: he lived with his mother and wanted to welcome the boys and give them the warmth of a house. Have you ever considered that Don Bosco had always wanted to keep the figure of a mother with him in the oratory? A PHYSICAL figure. So we remember Mamma Margaret as the mother of the oratory, the mother of Michael Rua, the mother of Gastaldi, with whom he had dialogues and meetings and many other moments of a mother who was part of the life of the oratory. Don Bosco knew that his boys needed the love of a mother because they didn't have one.
Don Bosco sensed that he had to make his boys understand that the other mother, the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of Heaven, would always take them by the hand, would love them, would guide them.
Don Bosco, who made sure that his boys would maintain a "revitalized" heart. The Mother is the one to whom he goes and through Mary he brought his children very close to the encounter with Jesus. He followed a whole spiritual pedagogy. It is Don Bosco who does all this... devotion to Our Lady of Consolation, devotion to the Immaculate Mary, devotion to the Help of Christians. We can't say that Don Bosco ever failed to encourage his boys to love Mary, not for a single day. It seems to me that this is another great lesson. Earlier, I said: "Beware of the iconoclastic current that says: let's end this nonsense." This nonsense has marked my life, this nonsense has marked the life of many of my confreres. Every day a word about Mary.
CHAPTER 6: Be careful not to misunderstand devotion.
Let me explain myself better with regard to this iconoclastic current of thinking, it's enough to say that devotion is silly, that it's something for the elderly only, to stigmatize something that is very profound. Let me explain myself better: I'm addressing my grandmother (who will ask why I'm talking about her so much today