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|   Monthly Message : 24th april 2016      

Mary invites us to understand God's love in prayer

Mary loves us with the love of a Mother who has received from God the task and mission to help us discover God's love in our lives and to be converted to this love. In this Year of Mercy, in a world marked by so much hate and religious indifference, Mary Help of Christians wishes to start a real revolution, the revolution of God's love.
With infinite patience she guides us in this journey of conversion. Unfortunately, often we are lazy and half-hearted children, we are poor in love because if we really had the love of God above all things, we would win any war including the personal war in our hearts. But without this love of God we have neither future nor eternal life. This is why Our Lady invites us to love more and more.
When we look at Jesus crucified and risen we understand God's love for us, the love with which the Father has given us his Son and has raised him from the dead so that we might have eternal life. Taking the Cross in our hands, looking at Jesus who died for us, and fixing our eyes on his holy wounds, we will become more aware of the gift that God has given us. Jesus freely chose death to save us and give us eternal life, where Jesus is leading us through his passion and death and with the light of his resurrection.
Contemplating this love we should feel not only compassion, but true sorrow for our sins. It should reawaken in us a sense of sin and a vigilant and careful moral conscience. Our Lady calls us to understand God's love for us, through a strong desire to go to confession, to make peace with God and to choose a priest as spiritual guide. Confession is a real resurrection with Christ. We die to sin and are raised with Christ and our heart is filled with joy.
All this will arouse in us joy and pride in being Christians, and being true devotees of Mary Help of Christians, as so many of our brothers and sisters testify with the sacrifice of their own lives. So often we hide and we are ashamed to be Christians, while Our Lady helps us to understand that love which renews us in the faith and the courage to bear witness to it. We must pray to understand God's love in prayer. This is the beauty that Our Lady is putting in so many hearts.

Lucca Tullio, President / Fr Pierluigi Cameroni SDB, Spiritual Animator

With Mary and like Mary. Rigenerated in his Mercy
Sr Linda Pocher FMA

8. Mercy is forgiving those who do us harm

Jesus asks us to forgive
To forgive always and to forgive all is one of the duties of a Christian. Jesus taught this explicitly in his sermons, in the parables and especially by the example of his life. This was stated in no uncertain terms to Peter, who, trying to lower the stakes a bit, one day asked him, "Lord, how often must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? "(Mt 18, 21). Jesus himself, to make sure that we never forget the duty to forgive, made the commitment to mutual forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer, where it appears almost as a condition for receiving the Father's forgiveness: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." If, therefore, we do not want to pray "like the pagans, who think they will be heard for their many words" (Mt 6,7), we must take seriously this matter of forgiveness and ask ourselves if we are really willing to forgive those who have done us wrong or harmed us. Don Bosco says that when her children had been arguing throughout the day, Mamma Margaret did not allow them to pray together the Our Father that evening, until they were first reconciled.
Despite the insistence of Jesus and the bright example of so many saints of the past and present, from St Stephen to Cardinal Van Thuan, the forgiveness of the "enemy", whether it is a relative, a neighbour, a foreigner or a stranger, seems to remain one of the hardest points of the teaching of Jesus to accept. Pope Francis writes: "Sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. In some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert." (MV 10) We have all experienced at least once in life, how exhausting it is to live with resentment for a wrong we have suffered, and yet forgiving from the heart seems at first glance like a "strait gate" for which we have no desire or we do not have the strength to go through with it ... why?
First we need to say that, of course, it is difficult to forgive, but with the help of God's grace not only is it possible, but it is also a source of joy and deep peace. God himself guarantees, through the prophet Isaiah: "If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil … then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fail." (Is 58.9 to 11).
Making the commandments of God appear very difficult and hard to put into practice, is part of the tactics of the enemy of our salvation, whose purpose is precisely to separate us from the Father and from our brothers, pushing us to persevere in enmity, hatred and discord. Precisely for this reason, every Christian is called, in this Holy Year of Mercy, to join with renewed enthusiasm in the joyful proclamation of forgiveness. "The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope." (MV10).
The forgiveness we receive from God is necessary but is not enough to heal the world. Our freedom and our lives are so intertwined with each other, that to heal the world once and for all we also need mutual forgiveness! This shows us the great respect God has for his creatures. In particular, in his eyes, our freedom appears as our most valuable asset. This means that salvation is not something that comes upon us like rain from above, but a process that involves us from the depth of our being, where our collaboration is needed and continuously requested. The first step, then, if we are to walk the road of forgiveness is to ask: am I aware that forgiveness is a Christian duty? Do I feel the desire, despite the difficulty, to forgive from the heart? If I do not feel it, do I humbly ask for it, every day, in prayer?

We have all been forgiven!

The second step to be taken if we are to walk the path of forgiveness, is to reflect carefully on the forgiveness we have received. Jesus asks us to be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God, and to be generous with others, knowing that God showers his goodness upon us with immense generosity. Merciful like the Father, therefore, is the "motto" of this Holy Year. In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return … Day after day, touched by his compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others. (MV 14)
We should pay careful attention, then, to the meaning of the word "forgiveness". It is made up of "for" and "give". The forgiveness of sins that we receive from God is therefore the "perfect gift", since it is the gift that God offers Himself to us completely, without reservation. The forgiveness of sins, in fact, is one with the gift of the Holy Spirit, poured into our hearts through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Now, the most important thing that we really have to impress in our heart of hearts, is that no human being can "deserve" this gift: "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man -- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom 5: 6-8). If we are friends of God, if we are his children, if we are disciples and brothers of Jesus, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, if we nourish ourselves every day on the Bread and the Word of life, it is not because we are good ... but because God is really "good and rich in mercy". (Ps 102, 8). It is with good reason that all the great Saints are not afraid to acknowledge that they are great sinners. They are aware that their virtue is the fruit of the Spirit who has worked in them, and that the price of their holiness is the blood shed by Jesus. In fact, every sin of mine, past or future, big or small, conscious or unconscious, makes me an accomplice of the murderers of Jesus, an accomplice of his disciples who betrayed, denied and abandoned him. This means that I can consider spoken to me the words Jesus addressed to the Father from the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
At the foot of the Cross, the Mother receives us as children, re-echoing the forgiveness granted us by the Son (Jn 19: 25-27). She receives and welcomes us as her children, when in reality we are accomplices of the killers of Jesus! If we look at the story of Mary after Easter, we realize that this is not a "figure of speech." After leaving Calvary, Mary returns with John to the Upper Room and remains there in prayer, along with Peter and the others who had disowned and abandoned Jesus, as the Mother of all, awaiting the Spirit (Acts 1:14). Let us pause to contemplate the wound opened in the heart of Mary, to see how deeply she shares the pain of Jesus and his feelings of mercy and compassion for sinners. Mary is the only one who could be said to be really innocent, without sin, weakness or betrayal. No one can accuse her of mortally wounding her Lord! On the contrary, as she did with the apostles she continues to do with us: while we are still in sin, she wraps us in her mantle, takes care of us, so that we can learn forgiveness from her maternal heart. Mary does this because she knows that everything is grace and nothing is our due. The forgiveness that comes from God passes through her without hindrance.
Let us return in memory and in prayer to the experience of forgiveness received throughout our life and express our gratitude to God.

Remove the obstacles to forgiveness

If I have been so loved by God, if Jesus and Mary have forgiven me, what right have I to accuse my brothers, to judge them guilty and to deny them forgiveness? I cannot find any excuse. I must admit that if I am unable to forgive, what prevents me is my "hardness of my heart" ... but the good news is that God wants to and is able to change my heart of stone into a heart of flesh, as long as I give the Holy Spirit permission to work in me with complete freedom. Jesus himself, in his teaching, tells us what obstacles need to be removed, so that the Spirit can mould our hearts, as the potter works his clay. In each of us, alongside the new man reborn in Baptism, there is also the old man, the old Adam or Eve ... a bearded old Pharisee who does not want to be converted, who resists grace. The path to holiness consists precisely in becoming aware of this presence and in ensuring that the old man will die, bit by bit, and leave the entire space for the new.
The first obstacle to forgiveness is the presumption of those who think they are right and stand in judgment on others. The Lord Jesus asks us above all "not to judge and not to condemn." … Human beings, whenever they judge, look no farther than the surface, whereas the Father looks into the very depths of the soul. How much harm words do when they are motivated by feelings of jealousy and envy! To speak ill of others puts them in a bad light, undermines their reputation and leaves them prey to the whims of gossip. To refrain from judgement and condemnation means, in a positive sense, to know how to accept the good in every person and to spare him any suffering that might be caused by our partial judgment and our presumption to know everything about him." (MV 14).
The second obstacle is the conviction that forgiveness has to be "deserved", or even "earned" by our neighbour. To those who think like this Jesus replies, through the Cross, that the logic of merit is not the logic of God! If we recognize in ourselves this obstacle, we should ask God for the grace to understand the root of this conviction. We may find that it is some past wound of the heart, waiting to be healed by God's free and limitless love.
A third obstacle, especially when it happens that that the wrong suffered is especially serious and the wound caused is very deep, can be the fear that forgiveness makes us even more fragile and vulnerable. In this case, it is not a question of denying the pain and suffering but of delivering our poor heart into the hands of Jesus and Mary and asking insistently every day for the grace to share their capacity for forgiveness. Forgiveness, in fact, in the end, is always a "gift from God" and never simply an effort of will, both when we receive it and when we give it to those who have hurt us.
In this world of ours, so marked by violence and hatred, we must believe that mutual forgiveness is the most powerful weapon we have in spreading the peace of God till it reaches the ends of the earth. A small gesture of forgiveness, made in the secret of the home, may have the effect of a pebble thrown into a pond. When it enters the water it does not make much noise, but the ripples grow endlessly and no one can stop them!
In our prayer every day, let ask for one another the grace to discover and remove whatever keeps us from being ready and generous in mutual forgiveness.


The celebration of the feast of St John Bosco was enriched this year by the acceptance of five new members of ADMA. They declared their commitment in the crypt of the beautiful Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, after participating in a formation programme that prepared them well for the occasion.
The Eucharistic celebration was solemnized by the presence of the Provincial from Bombay, Fr Godfrey D'Souza, and the spiritual animator, Fr. Wilfred D'Souza. The candidates' relatives were also present and other ADMA members who renewed their commitment.
New members were given a badge designating their membership, together with the Regulations of the Association.. Their names will now be registered with the Primary ADMA of Turin-Valdocco in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, and they will benefit from the prayers and spiritual benefits of the Association.
Our group is in its eighth year of existence. It meets every first Saturday of the month to reflect on doctrinal, Marian, Salesian and ecclesial issues that help to deepen the Christian life (Fr. Wilfred D'Souza SDB).

The national animator of ADMA, Fr. Manuel da Silva Ximenes, together with the National Council, visited all the communities once a month for their meeting.
At national level we have two meetings a year.
The first, on the occasion of the retreat in preparation for Easter, took place 4-5 March at Laga in St. John Bosco Parish. It was attended by over 150 members.
The second, the National Assembly, will be held in Baucau on 14-15 May to elect a new National Council. The current president has, in fact, been elected to the national parliament.
Thank you for the ADMA monthly message. It is very useful for us in the formation of our members (Fr. Manuel da Silva Ximenes, SDB, National Animator ADMA).

The Assembly of the Southern Province of ADMA was held in Bari, at the Salesian Institute of the Redeemer on Sunday 13 March 2016. The meeting was well prepared by the local group and coordinated by Fr. Angelo Draisci, Provincial Delegate for the Salesian Family, and Ms. Michelina Fares, Coordinator in Puglia. The presence of both the President of the Primary ADMA of Turin, Mr Tullio Lucca, and the world spiritual animator, Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, added to the occasion. The purpose of this meeting was to present the life of the Association, by sharing the lines of renewal that ADMA is implementing, especially after the big event of the Seventh International Congress of Mary Help of Christians, held at Turin and Colle Don Bosco in August of 2015.
The meeting saw the participation of many members, about 150 in all, representing 16 local groups: Campania (Salerno); Puglia (Lecce, Brindisi, Bari, Martina Franca, Molfetta, Cerignola and Foggia) Calabria (Locri). Groups from Naples Vomero, Naples Portici, Potenza, Soverato and Vibo. Members from Taranto were unable to attend.
Mr Tullio Lucca reported on the experience of preparation and celebration of the Congress. He spoke about the role of the laity in the life of the Association and treated the issue of complementarity and co-responsibility that must exist in the Salesian Family and in ADMA, especially in family and youth ministry. He also spoke about the identity and role of the Local Council, a strategic element for the life of the groups, stressing the spirit of communion and service which should enliven the members who make themselves available for this job.
Fr Pierluigi Cameroni presided at the Eucharistic celebration which was a strong moment of thanksgiving for the life of the Association and also a prayer for future blessings. At the end of the Mass the first Provincial Council of ADMA in the South was introduced: Michela Fares, Provincial President; Elisa Giannone, representing Campania - Basilicata; Nadia Romano, representing Calabria and Concetta Picoco, representing Puglia.

On 3 March 2016 Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree of the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Stephen Ferrando, Salesian of Don Bosco, former Bishop of Shillong, founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians.
Stephen Ferrando was born in Rossiglione (Province of Genoa and diocese of Acqui Terme) on 28 September 1895, attended Salesian schools, first at Fossano and then in Turin, and was fascinated by the life of Don Bosco. His studies were forcibly interrupted at the outbreak of World War I, in which he participated as an officer, earning a silver medal. After ordination in 1923, he left for the Salesian missions of North East India, where he became one of the great pioneers of Salesian missionary work in that vast region.
In 1934 Pope Pius XI appointed him Bishop of the Diocese of Krishnagar, but after just a year, he moved to the see of Shillong, which was to become the centre of all his fruitful apostolic and evangelizing action for 35 years.
His apostolate was characterized by the Salesian style: joy, simplicity and direct contact with people. His humility, simplicity and love for the poor led many to repentance and to seek baptism. He rebuilt the great Cathedral and missionary complex. He promoted devotion to Mary Help of Christians and Don Bosco. He wanted the Indians to be the first evangelizers of their land.
From a group of Indian catechists he founded the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians (MSMHC) which became part of the Salesian Family on 27 June 1986.
On 26 June 1969 after taking part in the work of the Council, he resigned from his diocese. When he went to Assam there were 4,000 Catholics. When he left there were 500,000. This great missionary bishop retired to the Salesian house of Quarto (Genoa) in Italy where he died on 20 June 1978.

Missionary Intention
That our oratories and youth centres in Africa and Madagascar may be a real force for missionary work and first evangelization.

Testimony of Salesian Holiness
Among the prayers of Blessed Maria Romero Meneses (1902-1977), Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, we find: "My God, change my heart, make it new, but leave me the memory of my weakness and misery, to keep me humble and deserving of new gifts by your mercy ... Grant me, O God, the grace of being able to console those I meet on the road to Calvary ... Grant me, O God, to be a sign of your goodness and mercy."

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