programme: Amoris Laetitia
The joy of love in the light of the Word
Silvio Roggia, SDB
Pope Francis is a prophet
of joy. His smile is contagious. He is never forgetful of the tragedies
that afflict the world. He is always close to those who are rejected
and forgotten, and he always reaches out to those on the margins.
Francis knows that love conquers and the hope that springs from faith
is greater than all our weakness and misery.
With this look of mercy, hope and joy, Pope Francis has led the Church
and the world to look to the primary source of human love, which is
the family. We want to be guided by his eyes to help us to discover
step by step throughout these months the joy of love: in our families,
in the family of the Church, in the Salesian Family and in the whole
human family of which we are all part, and which today needs more
than ever new eyes to rediscover the path of love and joy.
There are two other looks which are precious to us, so much so that
we are unable to depart from them, like the child who feels secure
only when he knows he is under the gaze of his father and mother.
They are the eyes of Mary Help of Christians and the eyes of Don Bosco.
As we make our way through Amoris Laetitia chapter by chapter, month
by month, the Help of Christians and Don Bosco will help us to see
how we can take concrete steps to grow as children in love and joy
with our hearts in tune with the Pope's heart. We are encouraged in
this journey by the Strenna for 2017 given by the Rector Major to
the entire Salesian Family: "WE ARE FAMILY! Every home is a school
of Life and Love."
Start from the beginning
The starting point of Amoris Laetitia is the 'principle' with which
the Bible begins, and which is cited by John as the first word of
his gospel. Francis invites us to direct our gaze there because this
was the direction in which Jesus invited his disciples to look in
order to comprehend the beauty of marriage, going beyond even the
Law of Moses.
They embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ
himself: "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning
made them male and female?" (Mt 19:4). We hear an echo of the
command found in the Book of Genesis: "Therefore a man shall
leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall
become one flesh (Gen 2:24)". (AL 9)
The family is really the
beginning of everything because it is the closest thing there is on
earth to the life of God, from which everything originates and where
everything will find its fulfilment.
The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living
reflection. Saint John Paul II shed light on this when he said, "Our
God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for he has
within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family,
which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit."
The family is thus not unrelated to God's very being. (AL 11)
We have already seen that Pope Francis is an expert on family life
from what he has written and the way he was able to guide the family
of the Church, especially on the occasion of the two synods dedicated
to the family. He never fails to point out that the Church is by its
nature the Virgin, Bride and Mother, who responds without reserve
to Christ, corresponding fully to his perfect sacrifice, and becoming
fruitful for the salvation of all. The Church is in this sense like
a 'holy door' through which we enter the mystery of God, just as in
the plan of creation we enter life through a bride and mother made
fruitful by the love of a father. In fact, we are all children of
a mother and spouse, even when the beginning of life is not under
the light of the sun but under the shadow of heavy clouds.
Francis knew admirably
how to guide his sons and daughters, putting himself as one of the
flock, sometimes behind, sometimes in front, carrying the torch that
allows us all to make the journey together. Synod, sun-odos: on the
road together. Even before he says it in the chapters of the apostolic
exhortation, he made us see that in practice it is possible to be
guided by love and ensure that differences do not become division,
but opportunities to grow and come together in even greater communion.
In the light of the Word
If the Word of God is the starting principle it does not mean that
we can forget it as we proceed on our journey. We look to Mary. For
her too, in the beginning was the Word: Ave. In the original Greek
it is very close to 'joy of love'. It is an imperative (Kaire): 'Hail,
full of grace'. From then on, the Word will be the whole of her life.
It will be part of her flesh, until she, who is a creature like us,
is transfigured and resurrected like her Son.
This journey of the Word from the first joyful mystery to the fifth
glorious mystery has become for millions of families in history their
domestic Bible, as they contemplate the history of our salvation around
the kitchen table of, with the eyes of Mary, taking her into our own
home just as John did from Good Friday onwards.
It is touching to see that Mary is the mother of the family well beyond
the confines of churches and even beyond Catholic homes. In Africa
and Asia there are millions of non-Christian believers who honour
Mary - also through the rosary! - with great respect and reverence,
beginning with Muslims. Mary occupies a prominent place in the Qur'an
(34 times she is referred to). It even speaks of her assumption into
The rosary helps us to make the mysteries of salvation our own. They
show how the mercy of God has come close to every person. Mary's presence
ensures that the mysteries of every man and every woman, of every
home, are brought close to God's mercy. While we pass the rosary beads
though our fingers she guides 'our feet into the way of peace' as
Zechariah said when Mary visited his family. This is what happens
when we pray the rosary together, especially in the evening after
a wearying day.
Pope Francis wanted the three days of 'Marian Jubilee' during the
Year of Mercy, to begin on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The
rosary has been prayed for about 800 years. It is like a great river
of mercy in the history of the church in which all, saints and sinners
alike, feel at home, always welcomed, always loved by 'her eyes of
mysteries of the rosary in the Salesian Family of Don Bosco
The rosary was the first
word of God that Margaret taught John and his brothers. It was a small
hidden seed which would nurture many other mysteries of salvation.
It is enough to zoom in on two or three details of the history of
the Salesian Family to realize this.
On 8 October 1848, just two years after the beginning of the Oratory
at Valdocco, in his brother Joseph's house at the Becchi, Don Bosco
dedicated a small room on the ground floor which he had converted
into a chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary. For over twenty years it
was to be the goal of the memorable autumn walks with the boys and
the band of the oratory. There in 1852 Michael Rua received the clerical
habit. And it was there, on 2 October 1854, that Dominic Savio met
Don Bosco for the first time.
These were quiet beginnings but what grace, what abundance of life
and holiness has grown from those 'Salesian joyful mysteries', held
together by the prayer of the rosary and limitless trust in Mary.
Don Bosco inherited from Mamma Margaret, as Dominic Savio and Michael
Rua inherited from Don Bosco: a family school of evangelization and
That was a long time ago. Thank God today we are able to access the
Word of God in a way that is immediate and yet so profound which was
never possible before in human history: everything is just a click
away. The scriptural text is available in all languages, with the
best commentaries and the exegesis most appropriate to our level of
understanding. The Word illuminates the journey of faith of many families
and each family has its own way of receiving it.
The form may change, but the essence is the same: the principle and
the foundation of family life is the Lord, through dialogue with him
in prayer, contemplation of the mysteries of our salvation in the
text of the scriptures and through the recitation of the rosary. This
is what we mean by building on the rock.
There is a popular saying in the English-speaking world: 'The family
that prays together stays together'. This is the anchor of the family
unit that goes straight to the centre in the mystery of the Trinity,
as Pope Francis says in the early paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia. This
is the first and ultimate source of communion, of which the union
of man and woman in conjugal love is the closest image.
Mary is our teacher - the one who teach us to pray, to know and live
the mystery of the 'Word made flesh' in a form accessible to all.
Don Bosco is a very credible witness, along with all the other saints,
each in their own unique way, that if we go to Jesus through Mary
we can never go wrong, and it bears fruit beyond all expectation.
Seeds ... to be opened
" I will become familiar
with the letter that the Pope wrote to me. I will not let myself be
frightened by the number of pages. It is neither difficult nor too
long (just read a bit at a time, as he suggests ...). Having a free
heart makes a difference immediately, just as the good soil of the
Gospel parable is different from the stony path.
" Trusting the wise eyes of Pope Francis, I will make an effort
to look at the principle: the love to which I am called as a son or
daughter and as a member of my family, whatever my condition and situation,
has its deepest roots in the fact that we are made in the image of
God, which is the family, which is the COMMUNION from which everything
is born and to which all life is directed.
" Praying with the word, contemplating the mysteries of God and
the mystery of my life through the recitation of the Rosary is the
way to build our house on the rock. I entrust to Mary the beginning
of the new working year, or academic or pastoral year ... letting
myself be guided by her on a daily basis to ensure the proper time
to give my heart the life-breath of prayer. I ask her to help me to
be a Christian with this kind of fidelity.
" 'The family that prays together stays together.' What does
it mean for me to take this call seriously ... to pray together? Perhaps
others in the home are better prepared to believe it and more wiling
to pray together than I might have imagined.
PHILIPPINES NORTH - NEW
On 26 June 2016 during their regular meeting, the members of the National
Council of ADMA from the Northern Philippines met Fr Remo Bati, SDB,
and Sr Christine Maguyon, FMA, newly appointed spiritual animators.
Fr Bati is currently the Rector of the National Shrine of Mary Help
of Christians in Paranaque City. Sr Christine Maguyon is currently
director of the Mary Help of Christians communities of the Technical
Institute in Pampanga.
As stated in the ADMA Rules in Article 13, the spiritual animators
are appointed by the Provincial of the Salesians or of the Daughters
of Mary Help of Christians. They have the task of promoting formation
in Salesian spirituality in communion with the local Church and with
the Association worldwide.
ADMA in the Philippines is very grateful and thankful to have had
Fr Nestor Impelido, SDB, and Sr Ma. Asela Chavez, FMA, as their animators
for several years. Their spiritual guidance has supported and directed
every member in the ADMA mission to spread the devotion to Mary Help
of Christians and love for the Eucharist. We pray that the Lord and
Mary Help of Christians may continue to guide them and assist them
in their new roles and commitments. (Maria Junifer Maliglig, National
We would like to share a few moments of grace, of spirituality and
of fraternal communion that we had in our parish during the months
of May and June. On 31 May, at the end of the Marian month, the ADMA
members renewed their commitment during a Mass celebrated by the parish
priest and Spiritual Animator Fr Italo Sammarro, while five new members
were enrolled in the Association (Consiglia Polito) .
SPAIN - COURSE FOR DELEGATES
The 11th course for SDB and FMA Delegates in Spain and Portugal took
place from 27 to 30 July 2016 at El Escorial (Madrid). The goal was
to "grow together as evangelizers". More than 160 people
took part under the guidance of Fr Luis Fernandez, the National Delegate
for the Cooperators and Past Pupils. There were over 50 participants
from ADMA led by the National Delegate Fr Joan Faner. The new National
Coordinator Sig.na Laura Barneto was among those present. The days
were very intense and rich in content and moments of fraternity. They
highlighted the charismatic strength of the Salesian Family in its
various expressions. The initial intervention by Fr José Nuñez
recalled some priorities and strategies for the animation of the groups
of the Salesian Family in the light of the exhortation of Pope Francis
Evangelii Gaudium. Work was then divided according to the different
groups. Sr Maria Luisa Miranda, FMA Councillor for the Salesian Family,
pointed out some priorities for ADMA in order to respond to our tired
society that is searching. She mentioned care of the interior life
as the main resource and mercy as a way of life. She also said that
popular religiosity can be a privileged instrument of mission. It
has a priority place in the family and in the mission of ADMA.
The President, Signor
Lucca Tullio, and Fr Pierluigi Cameroni, animator of ADMA Primary
attended and shared experiences, good practices and above all the
desire to grow more in communion and collaboration, enhancing the
responsibility of the laity in the animation of the Association. Fr
Pierluigi presented the Salesian Family as a charismatic reality and
called for the regulations to be valued. He presented the letters
written in 1988 by Fr Egidio Viganò which constitute a great
theological and spiritual heritage for ADMA. Signor Tullio shared
practices and reflections from ADMA Primary. He referred to the identity
and role of the Local Council, and to the privileged attention to
be given to the family.
Turin - ADMA youth at
WYD in Krakow this year was an experience of church, a sharing of
faith, and a journey undertaken together. A group of 20 young people,
members of ADMA in Turin-Valdocco, along with 450 of our peers in
the Salesian Youth Movement of Piedmont, undertook together a stage
of our spiritual journey, to be really, as Pope Francis said, young
people with their boots on, not "couch potatoes", so as
to become sowers of hope theourh the joyful witness of a faith that
is expressed in self-giving and is at the service of others, without
being afraid to dream big but being able to trust and share and smile.
PRIMARY ADMA - RETREAT
FOR ADMA FAMILIES - PRACHARBON 2016
From 31 July to 20 August, in three turns of one week each, 400 people
attended a retreat organized in the Alpine House of Pracharbon (Valle
This might not seem newsworthy since there are many who choose the
summer to spend time in contact with nature recharging their spiritual
batteries. What makes this retreat unique and modern in this period
after the two synods on the family, is the fact that the participants
were about ninety couples with their children, from those just a few
months old to those who are already of age.
The formula is simple: the older children take care of the little
ones with a very well organized school-camp programme, 'giving back'
to their parents a little of the time that has been dedicated to them.
In this way parents can spend these days in prayer and intimacy with
God, recharge their faith, hope and love as spouses and parents, and
resume family life with renewed 'joy of love'.
It is hard to communicate in words the beauty and warmth of the family
atmosphere that prevailed. Everybody cared for everybody else. The
same tenderness and affection that were shown to the children is what
was shown to the Lord and to Mary in prayer and in friendship that
united all. Amoris Laetitia is like the GPS that guided the week.
There were plenty of times of silence - Thursday was a full desert-day.
Silence alternates with intense moments of discussion and sharing
where the Word shed light on life and life gives practical and unique
intensity to the Word of God, of a kind that can be experienced or
created only in a family.
These are ordinary families, not an elite. Through the good work of
primary ADMA in Turin Valdocco, the Association of Mary Help of Christians
has been bringing together a large group of young families for the
past ten years. Of those who were married during this period, none
have been separated. .Most of the couples have three or four children,
some of them even six.
What are the pillars that give such rich consistency to the faith
journey and to conjugal love? They are those that Don Bosco dreamt:
the Eucharist through which we remain firmly anchored to the presence
of the Lord as the one rock on which the house is built; and Mary
on whom every family relies confidently at every moment of life, joyful
or painful. Nothing could be more fundamental to Christian life and
nothing more splendidly fruitful.
For me this has been an experience of God in others. The example of
those fathers and mothers so in love with God and Mary, with their
spouse and children, giving of themselves wholeheartedly and with
passion, is itself a PROPHECY (also in the sense of reproach) for
me a Salesian religious and priest. It destroys all my excuses and
postponements! (Fr Silvio Roggia SDB).
CAPACI (PALERMO) - IT
ALL STARTED WITH A DREAM!
In 1991, a lady from Capaci called Agnese Puccio had a dream ... just
like the one John Bosco had at the age of nine. She saw a huge field
... with young people ... and Mary Help of Christians who invited
her to teach catechism to those young people. Agnese began to read
to find out something about Don Bosco and Mary Help of Christians.
From Turin she received a beautiful large poster of the Help of Christians
which she got framed and she got a place of honour for it in the parish
Church. Then she heard about ADMA. The Parish Priest Father Philip
encouraged her to start with a small group to pray the Rosary, to
do good works with the elderly, and to study in order to become a
catechist ... the dream began to become a reality in the local church
A few years later, when the group was already established, the Parish
Priest asked a Salesian Sister from the FMA house in Palermo to come
for the monthly meetings. The Sister who began this mission was Sister
Francesca Vicari who carried out the formation and other initiatives.
Later Sister Maria Ausilia Consiglio gave a generous contribution
both for the education of the faith and for the co-ordination of catechesis,
placing herself at the service of the children and young people of
the town. At the end of 2012, Sister Ausilia proposed something different:
catechesis in preparation for the sacraments is not enough, something
else is needed in the summer to occupy the young people in their free
time. Don Bosco used to say: "summer is the devil's harvest!"
In 2013 ADMA agreed to run a Course for Leaders with two months of
preparation, hard work and considerable sacrifice, with meetings and
workshops ... Two hundred children took part that year with more than
fifty leaders. The presence of Mary was tangible. The final gathering
took place in the square with an exhibition of works in the presence
of civil and religious authorities, parents and friends. They were
asked to repeat the experience every year, because it was considered
very significant, and beneficial for the growth of the young people!
For four years now we have been working to give the town a testimony
of generous service. In fact, the number enrolled this year came to
nearly 400 young people with 80 leaders. The dream has borne fruit!
(Sister Maria Ausilia Consiglio).
That the 147th Salesian missionary expedition may promote the missionary
spirit and enthusiasm for vocations throughout the Salesian Society.
Testimony of Salesian
The Servant of God Fr Carlo Braga (1889-1971) was a missionary in
China and the Philippines. In 1964 he wrote to a lady friend: "I
should I have the holiness necessary to represent the long-suffering
mercy and goodness of the Divine Saviour. I should sacrifice myself
unto death for the people God has sent me. I understand why blood
and the complete sacrifice of ourselves is needed to save, redeem,
build and renew. I would like to ask you to help me in this ministry
with special acts to make our redemption fruitful and apply the holy
Blood of Jesus! Alone I am not enough. I am but a drop in an ocean
that is lost and abandoned. I need to feel supported by heroic and
generous people. "