Monday, May 6, 2013

Mary helps us face life: Pope Francis' reflection

Vatican City, 4 May 2013 (VIS) – At 6:00 pm this afternoon, the Holy Father took possession of the Basilica of St. Mary Major with the traditional kiss of the crucifix. It is the second time, since the beginning of his pontificate, that Francis has gone to pray at the oldest Marian shrine in the West, which houses the image of “Salus Populi Romani" (Protectress of the Roman People). On 14 March, the day after his election, the pontiff went to St. Mary Major to place the ministry he had just received under Mary's protection. This time, the first Saturday of May, he wished to pray the glorious mysteries of the Rosary.

On his arrival, the Pope was welcomed by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, archpriest of the basilica, who greeted him with the words: “We want to warmly embrace a request that we know well is frequently on the lips of our Pope: 'pray, pray for me'. We will do so, even in the future, because it is a pastoral line that we want to privilege in this basilica—that of seeking to reawaken the faith in the Christian peoples with a double emphasis: with a Marian touch and united with the Pope—frequently echoing the Holy Father's teaching and words … which will urge us toward religious and human margins where there are so many places to fill and accompany”.”

In his homily, the Pope highlighted three aspects of Mary's maternity: she helps us to grow, to face life, and to be free.

“With his Passion, Death and Resurrection,” the Bishop of Rome said, “Jesus Christ brings us salvation. He gives us the grace and the joy of being God’s children, of calling him truly BY the name of Father. Mary is a mother and a mother worries above all about the health of her children … What does this mean that the Madonna safeguards our health? I am thinking mainly of three aspects: … she helps us to grow, she helps us to face life, and she helps us to be free.”

Mary Helps Us to Grow

A mother helps her children to grow and wants them to grow well. This is why she teaches them not to give in to laziness—which is something that also arises from a certain well-being—not to not to slip into a life of ease that desires nothing beyond material possessions. A mother takes care that her children grow always more, that they grow strong and capable of taking on responsibility, of committing themselves in their lives, and of holding high ideals. … This is exactly what the Madonna does in us. She helps us to grow humanely and in faith, to be strong and not to yield to the temptation of being superficial persons and Christians, but to live responsibly, always reaching higher.”

Mary Helps Us to Face Life

Then a mother thinks of her children's health, also teaching them to face life's difficulties. You can't teach, can't care for one's health by avoiding problems as if life were a highway without obstacles. A mother helps her children to look realistically at life's problems and to not get lost in them but to tackle them with courage; not to be weak and to know how to overcome them with the healthy balance that a mother “feels” between the limits of safety and the areas of risk. … A life without challenges doesn't exists and a boy or a girl who doesn't know how to face them, putting themselves on the line, is a boy or a girl without a backbone! ... Mary lived many difficult times in her life, from the birth of Jesus ... until Calvary. And like a good mother she is close to us so that we never lose courage in the face of life's adversities, in the face of our own weakness, in the face of our sins. She gives us strength, pointing us to the path of her Son. From the cross, indicating John, Jesus tells Mary: 'Woman, here is your son', and to John: 'Here is your mother!' We are all represented in that disciple.”

Mary Helps Us to Be Free

One last aspect … a good mother also helps to make important decisions with freedom. ... But what does freedom mean? Certainly not doing whatever you want ... Freedom does not mean, so to say, throwing whatever we don't like out the window. No, that isn't freedom! Freedom is given to us so that we might know how to make good choices in life! Like a good mother, Mary teaches us to be, like her, capable of making ... important decisions at this time when, so to speak, the 'philosophy of the temporary' rules. It is so difficult to commit ourselves definitively. And she helps us to make definitive choices with that full freedom with which she answered 'yes' to God’s plan for her life.”

“How difficult it is, in our times, to take make definitive decisions! The temporary seduces us. We are victims of a tendency that pushes us towards the ephemeral… Part of it is the fascination of remaining adolescents our entire lives! We must not be afraid of definitive commitments, of commitments that involve and affect our whole lives. In this way life becomes fruitful! And this is freedom: having the courage to make these decisions with greatness.”

“Mary's whole existence is a hymn to life, a love song to life ... The 'Salus Populi Romani' is the mother who gives us health in our growth, gives us health to face and overcome problems, gives us health in making us free to make definitive choices. She is the mother who teaches us to be fruitful, to be open to life … to never lose hope, to give life to others—both physical and spiritual life. This is what we ask of you this evening, O Mary, 'Salus Populi Romani', ... give us the health that only you can give, so that we may always be signs and instruments of life.”

After praying the Rosary, Francis went out of the basilica and addressed the many faithful awaiting him in the piazza saying: “Thank you so much for your presence here at the home of the mother of Rome, of our Mother. Long live the Madonna. She is our Mother. Let us entrust ourselves to her so that she might safeguard us like a good mother. I pray for you but I ask that you pray for me because I need it. Three 'Hail Marys' for me. I wish you a good Sunday tomorrow. Until we meet again. Now I give you the blessing—to all of you and all your families.”

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