The first proclamation
In and among families, the Gospel
message should always resound; the core of that message, the kerygma,
is what is "most beautiful, most excellent, most appealing
and at the same time most necessary". (LA 58). This is how
Pope Francis begins the third chapter of Amoris Laetitia. The truth
that is "the most beautiful, most excellent, most appealing
and at the same time most necessary"(EG 35) in proclaiming
the Gospel is what is at the heart of our faith, what started it
all after the resurrection. It is firmly anchored on one of the
main points of Evangelii Gaudium, from which the quotation shown
here is taken. At the beginning, there were still no great treatises,
no Catholic universities or theological libraries. There was a small
group of disciples together with Mary and the twelve apostles, and
they by their proclamation, which was both essential and irrepressible,
transformed the world more than any other movement of thought, ideology
So what then is this concentration of beauty and grandeur so attractive
and necessary for the family that Francis wants to propose in the
third chapter of Amoris Laetitia, after hitting us in the previous
chapter with the 'sorrowful mysteries' that afflict many families
today? The kerygma is the gaze of Jesus on the family.
When Jesus was presented with the question on marriage, asking his
opinion on what is sufficient as a motive for 'writing a certificate
of divorce' and putting away one's wife, 'as Moses commanded us'
(note the hypocrisy in the way the question is put) he asks everyone
to start again from the beginning, from what God wanted of us, the
'kerygma' of our genesis. "Moses allowed you to divorce your
wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19, 8). (LA
It can be enlightening to go back to the text of Matthew (19. 1-15)
and to the text of Genesis (1,26 / 2,18-25) to which the Gospel
If we look at the great mystery of love between man and woman through
the eyes of Jesus, everything becomes a gift. "Marriage is
a gift of the Lord" (AL 61) in everything that characterizes
it. The 'gift' is 'free, total, faithful, and fruitful'. This is
the heart, which is the principle of conjugal love and family life.
It is also the 'kerygma' of the love of God in Jesus, he became
'Son of Man' through the action of the Spirit in the womb of Mary:
free, total, faithful and fruitful for the whole of her life for
all of us. Between God's love for humanity, made flesh in the love
of Christ for his Church of which the cross is the fulfilment, and
the love between man and woman, there is a similarity, a closeness,
so great that it is difficult to express except by using the same
word that is used for the Eucharist. It is a sacrament.
Married love is a sacrament of the love of the Trinity. In the human
family gathered as one by Christ, the "image and likeness"
of the Holy Trinity (cf. Gen 1:26) - the mystery from which all
true love flows - has been restored. (AL 71). The sacrament of marriage
is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward
sign of a commitment. The sacrament is a gift given for the sanctification
and salvation of the spouses, since "their mutual belonging
is a real representation, through the sacramental sign, of the same
relationship between Christ and the Church. The married couple are
therefore a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place
on the cross" (AL 72, the quote is from John Paul II, Familiaris
Under this divine gaze everything becomes a gift, with a fertility
and beauty that goes far beyond what we could imagine by ourselves.
First among the gifts is the 'one flesh', becoming one flesh. Sexual
union, lovingly experienced and sanctified by the sacrament, is
in turn a path of growth in the life of grace for the couple. It
is the "nuptial mystery". The meaning and value of their
physical union is expressed in the words of consent, in which they
accepted and offered themselves each to the other, in order to share
their lives completely. (AL 74). Every moment of their living together
becomes gift, including the most normal and hidden events of domestic
life. On this point Pope Francis makes a beautiful reference to
what Paul VI, now Blessed, said in Nazareth in 1964. 'Nazareth teaches
us the meaning of family life, its loving communion, its simple
and austere beauty, its sacred and inviolable character. May it
teach how sweet and irreplaceable is its training, how fundamental
and incomparable its role in the social order' (Paul VI, Address
in Nazareth, 5 January 1964) (AL 66).
Inseparable from this embrace of divine human love is the gift of
children. The child who is born "does not come from outside
as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs
from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfilment".
[CCC 2366] He or she does not appear at the end of a process, but
is present from the beginning of love as an essential feature, one
that cannot be denied without disfiguring that love itself. (AL
80). It follows that education is an integral part of the gift that
the parents are called to make of themselves to their children.
And here Francis uses strong words: "I feel it important to
reiterate that the overall education of children is a "most
serious duty" and at the same time a "primary right"
of parents. This is not just a task or a burden, but an essential
and inalienable right that parents are called to defend and of which
no one may claim to deprive them. The State offers educational programmes
in a subsidiary way, supporting the parents in their inalienable
role; parents themselves enjoy the right to choose freely the kind
of education - accessible and of good quality - which they wish
to give their children in accordance with their convictions."
Conceived full of grace
One day when I was a child I went
to catechism class in early December during the novena in honour
of the Immaculate Conception, and the parish priest came out with
a word that I just did not understand. The word was 'Protoevangelium'.
It sounded more like a pharmaceutical product than something belonging
to the church. In Lourdes on 25 March 1858 Mary said to Bernadette
(speaking in her local dialect) 'Que soy era Immaculada Counceptiou'.
Bernadette went running to the priest's house repeating those words
she did not understand, so as not to forget them.
The 'kerygma' of the Gospel on the family and of the Gospel which
is itself the family of the world, is already contained here in
this 'protos', in this first good news that is not made of any word.
It was something that nobody noticed at the time, but it has changed
the whole of history - the conception of Mary, nine months before
her birth. Every time we say the Hail Mary we cast our anchor on
this beginning of everything, Kerygma and kairos of our lives from
here to eternity.
Let us meditate quietly on these verses of Luke 1, 26-38. There
we see clearly how God conceives us, how he want us to be, how he
dreams that our life will become. He wants us full of grace (which
is the Gospel translation of the word 'immaculate'). This is not
a utopia, because our mother is immaculate, from beginning to end,
and she was given to us at the foot of the cross that we might also
be able to become like her. But that Hail Mary is the sacrament,
the visible sign of another conception that took place at that moment
in Nazareth. It is there that 'the Word was made flesh'. In fact,
we celebrate the Annunciation on 25 March, exactly nine months before
Christmas. In fact, it was the same day of the year that was chosen
for the dialogue with Bernadette, with that name she did not know
the meaning of. This is a detail, a small 'Kerygma' that cannot
go unnoticed by those who love the Blessed Virgin, our Mother.
"I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary
of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is
a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is
rejected and destroyed. So great is the value of a human life, and
so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in
the mother's womb, that no alleged right to one's own body can justify
a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and
which can never be considered the "property" of another
human being." (AL 83).
The conception of the Salesian Family
At noon on 8 December the Hail Mary
is recited throughout the whole Salesian Family. It is the anniversary
of our conception which took place, according to Don Bosco, on 8
December 1841 in the sacristy of the church of St Francis of Assisi,
a few hundred metres from the city hall of Turin. Before he said
Mass that day he saw a young migrant who was curled up in the church
to shelter from the cold. Don Bosco saved him from being maltreated
by the sacristan. After Mass he began a conversation dialogue with
him that is recorded in his memoirs and is recognized as the 'protos'.
The first step of his mission was a simple Hail Mary said with all
his heart. Looking back at the end of his life he could say that
everything started with that Hail Mary.
Another fact, where the history of the Church and Salesian history
are in unison, serves as further proof that that day marks the conception
of our family. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed
on 8 December 1854 (3 years and 3 months before those words that
Bernadette did not understand, even though they were spoken in her
The event was celebrated at Valdocco. Dominic Savio was one of the
boys at the Oratory. In the months that followed he founded a sodality
dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, completely of his own initiative.
Its purpose was to make friends with the newcomers to the Oratory
and in that way to help Don Bosco in his mission. On 9 December
1859 Don Bosco told some of his older boys that he wanted to start
the Salesian Congregation. Of the nineteen who said 'yes', seventeen
were from the sodality founded by Dominic Savio a few years earlier.
Seeds to be opened
" How do I see the 'great mystery'
of my life, and especially that of my family? Am I able to see signs
of the greatness and beauty of love, from which everything is born
and to which everything is directed?
" What value has the HAIL MARY in my prayer? Do I succeed in
joining my life to that of Jesus by looking to his mother and my
mother, entrusting every step to her? When I think of Don Bosco's
faith, does my own filial trust in Mary Help of Christians grow?
" The love between Christ and the Church, of which marriage
is called to be a sacrament/visible sign, has its fullness on the
cross. When I contemplate the Cross and Mary at the foot of it,
do my sufferings and the difficulties I encounter appear in a different
light: instead of being obstacles do they become opportunities for
an even greater love?
" Immaculate Conception: with Mary do I sing the Magnificat
for all the beginnings to which I owe my life: my conception, birth
and baptism ... up to what started me on my way to membership of
the Salesian Family?
León (Spain) - Zonal Meetings
Assemblies of the local Councils of ADMA of the León area
took place on 10 September in Santiago de Compostela and on 24 September
in León. The President of the area, Marta Celada Domíngez,
presided at both meetings and they were coordinated by the zonal
animator, Fr Eleuterio Lobato.
After the greeting we had a few moments of prayer to our Mother
Mary Help of Christians. Then we worked according to the agenda
sent by the President. We reviewed the past year and we prepared
the programme for the year 2016-2017, according to the guidelines
and commitments set by the Primary and the programming activities
of the Province of St James the Greater. We considered the Strenna
of the Rector Major, Fr Angel Fernandez Artime, for 2017: "We
are a family! Every home a school of life and love" and the
interventions by Fr Pierluigi Cameroni, Sister Maria Luisa Miranda
FMA and Mr Tullio Lucca to the school of Delegates held in El Escorial
(Madrid) last July.
After the working session, we celebrated the Eucharist in honour
of Mary Help of Christians, at which the Delegate Fr Eleuterio presided.
He encouraged us to be instruments of Mary Help of Christians in
these difficult times for the Church and for young people. We ended
each of the meetings with a fraternal gathering, sharing the table
with the gifts of the Lord (Fr Arcadio Cuadrado).
Fifth ADMA Congress of Central America
The Fifth Congress of the Devotees of Mary Help of Christians in
Central America took place from 28 September to 1 October in Nicaragua.
The motto was "Mary, Mother and Teacher of the family".
The meeting, which was attended by 120 members, took place at the
Calasanz School in Managua. It opened with a ceremony presided over
by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Managua.
Among those present were Fr Pierluigi Cameroni, World Spiritual
Animator of ADMA, Fr Alejandro Hernandez, Mrs Margarita Ramirez,
National President of ADMA of Nicaragua, and representatives of
the Salesian Family.
The main objective was to present the renewal of the Association
of Mary Help of Christians with a privileged attention to the family,
in the light of the journey of ADMA in recent years and in harmony
with the journey of the Church and the Salesian Family.
The working groups shared experiences and reflections starting from
the contributions given by Fr Pierluigi Cameroni and related to
the reading of the Identity Card of the Salesian Family from the
perspective of a member of ADMA, the identity and the role of the
local council and the renewal of ADMA through the family, with the
presentation of the experience gained in recent years in the ADMA
Primary Centre in Turin.
On Saturday 1 October, the participants shared a special day in
the city of Granada celebrating the Eucharist in the Church of Mary
Help of Christians and visiting the birthplace of Blessed Maria
Romero Menenses. "ADMA's commitment to evangelization must
be renewed through the family, by becoming signs of the joy of being
children of God," Fr Pierluigi said during his homily, reminding
members of the task of evangelization in the Salesian spirit of
At the conclusion of the Congress, the Provincial Fr Hernandez emphasized
the role of ADMA in the Salesian Family, inviting all members to
take care of their Salesian and Marian formation. He emphasized
the commitment and responsibility of the laity in animating and
promoting the Association. From this perspective, the presence of
some young people from Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala was a great
sign of hope.
Cordoba (Argentina) - Second National
Congress of Mary Help of Christians
The Second National Congress of Mary Help of Christians took place
from 8 to 10 October 2016 in the Pius X College in Cordoba. The
theme was "Mary our Help, Show us Jesus." It was attended
by 230 people from the various groups of the Salesian Family.
There were three key ideas: Eucharist, Mercy and Family. These in
turn will be translated into corresponding actions: giving, mission
and proclamation. This choice is based on the Jubilee of Mercy and
on the Ninth National Eucharistic Congress, and was inspired also
by the Synods on the family and the International Congress of Mary
celebrated last year in Turin.
During the congress four topics were presented:
1. "The Virgin in the history of Argentina", in homage
to the country on the occasion of the celebration of the bicentenary
of its independence. The theme was presented by Fr Gabriel Romero
SDB, Provincial of Northern Argentina (ARN) and Myriam Giuliano.
2. "Salesian spirituality is a Eucharistic spirituality of
giving", by Fr Vicente Roberto Ricchetti, SDB.
3. "Mary, Mother and Teacher of our mission" by Sister
Dora Maria de la Paz Aguirre and Sister Silvia Adriana Gomez, FMA.
4. "The family called to show Jesus", by Maria Ines Escribana
Archbishop Carlos Josév Ñáñez of Cordoba,
presided at the Eucharist on Sunday 9 October.
Turin - ADMA Primary - Marian Jubilee
Year of Mercy
On Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 October 2016 about 150 members of ADMA
Families from Turin came to Rome to attend the Marian Jubilee Year
of Holy Mercy. In an atmosphere of great faith and joy of belonging
to the Church it was nice to renew our faith at the tombs of the
Apostles Peter and Paul and venerate the tombs of the martyrs in
the Catacombs of St. Callistus. The highlight was the participation
in the Holy Mass presided over by the Pope in St Peter's Square
with thousands of pilgrims. In his homily Pope Francis drew on the
Word of God for that Sunday and pointed to an aspect characteristic
of the Association of Mary Help of Christians, that of thanksgiving:
"On this Jubilee Day we are given a model, in fact, the model,
to look to: Mary, our Mother. After the message of the Angel she
let flow from her heart a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God:
"My soul magnifies the Lord ...." We ask Our Lady to help
us understand that everything is a gift of God, and to know how
to give thanks: then, I assure you, our joy will be full. Only those
who know how to give thanks, experience the fullness of joy."
At the Angelus, greeting the pilgrims who had come for the Marian
Jubilee, the Pope said: "With you I would like to repeat the
words that St John Paul II spoke on 8 October 2000, the Jubilee
Act of Entrustment to Mary: "O Mother we want to entrust to
you the future that awaits us. Humanity can make this world a garden,
or reduce it to a pile of rubble." At this crossroads, may
Our Lady help us to choose life, accepting and practising the gospel
of Christ the Saviour.
Bilbao (Spain) - Start of the new
year for the Association
Everything has its end and its beginning. There is a time to finish
a course and there is a time to start a new one. The official inauguration
of the year for ADMA in Northern Spain was in Deusto on 22 October
2016. The Provincial Fr Juan Carlos Pérez Godoy had promised
a few months earlier to be present, and he was with us throughout
the morning, sharing our family lunch and our time of celebration
The day began with the Eucharist, at which the Provincial presided.
He left us three words to remember: knowledge, devotion and imitation.
As a response by the participants sixteen lighted lamps were presented
at the Mass (one per association) as a sign of our vigilance in
the presence of the Lord and Our Lady in our lives.
The animator of the Northern Zone, Fr Arcadio Cuadrado, completed
the morning with a report on the activities of the past year and
a reflection on the sense of belonging to the Association. Dialogue
on this point continued both in groups and in the community sharing.
About 120 people from all the associations of the Northern Zone
were in attendance and they will bring back to their centres the
concerns and desires of this day which was lived with fervour and
commitment (Arcadio Cuadrado).
Belo Horizonte (Brazil) - First ADMA
On 22 October 2016, thanks to the determination of Fr Didimo Pereira
do Amaral and Fr Jurandyr Azevedo Araujo, after more than a year
of preparation through monthly meetings, with hours of formation,
times of prayer and Eucharist, and fraternal meetings, the first
ADMA group was started in the Parish of Cristo Luz dos Povos, in
Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil. After a spiritual retreat, six candidates
expressed their commitment and adherence to ADMA during a celebration
in the Comunidada Imaculada Conceição. The Provincial,
Fr Orestes Carlinhos Fistarol, presided at the Mass, concelebrated
by Fr Jurandyr Azevedo Araujo. He gave each new member a badge and
a copy of the Regulations. These are the names of the first members
of this new group: Neusa dos Reis da Silva; Noscia Maria Gomes de
Oliveira; Antônio de Oliveira Filho; Maria Aparecida Mota;
Maria Madalena da Silva Amaral and Otto Ribeiro da Silva.
Sicily - Meeting of Local Councils
On 22 and 23 October, the ADMA groups of Sicily witnessed significant
moments in their history with the visit of the President, Tullio
Lucca, and the Spiritual Animator, Fr Pierluigi Cameroni, from ADMA
Primary. The meetings were intended especially for members of local
Councils but were open to all members. They took place in S. Gregorio
(Catania) and Alcamo (Trapani). There were about 200 participants
representing nearly thirty groups on the island.
Mr Tullio Lucca shared some of the lines of animation of the Association,
emphasizing the role of local councils and presenting the programme
for ADMA Families. There was an interesting sharing of the life
of the various groups followed by a message from the Provincial
Fr Giuseppe Ruta. The presence of a large number of ADMA youth from
the Parish of SS. Peter and Paul in Messina, was a sign of hope
for the future.
These meetings awakened in all the participants the joy of belonging
to ADMA and the desire to renew their commitment as members. The
Regional President, Joseph Auteri, wrote: "We are so many stars
scattered over Sicily; with our devotion to Mary Help of Christians
we form a constellation to Mary. Thanks to all the ADMA centres.
Thanks to Fr Cameroni and Tullio Lucca."
The ADMA group from the parish of Mary Help of Christians at Comayagüela
in Tegucigalpa (Honduras), during a celebration with Fr Giuseppe
Leo, their Spiritual Animator. It is a group of young people and
adults united in love for Mary Help of Christians.
That in the Southern Cone region we may recognize in the popular
piety of the parishes where we are working the evangelizing force
that comes from the Holy Spirit, that we may be closer to the ordinary
people and the poor .
Witness of holiness
Shortly before his death Blessed Louis Variara (1875-1923), apostle
of the lepers and founder of the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts
of Jesus and Mary, wrote to his spiritual daughters: "Let us
sanctify the moments of life that still remain to us, because the
harvest will last forever. Ah, how much I enjoy thinking about heaven!
Then we will all be eternally happy. For now we live united in spirit:
obedient, humble, pure, mortified, but only in order to love ...
I do not leave you orphans, because my prayers for you are unceasing
in the desire to see all of you holy."