The family is the place of life
The God of life, through whom 'all things were made', as we profess
every Sunday in the Creed, chose to become incarnate and to become
one of us within the life of a family. The life that is born in
the family has a border and a horizon that goes far beyond the home.
In the fifth chapter of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis says in the
words of the Council:
All should be persuaded that human life and the task of transmitting
it are not realities bound up with this world alone. Hence they
cannot be measured or perceived only in terms of it, but always
have a bearing on the eternal destiny of men. (GS 51, AL 166).
The family is the meeting point of two dimensions on which the whole
mystery of human life depends. The first is horizontal, between
man and woman, made for each other precisely because of the difference
that characterizes us - the call to communion is inscribed in our
bodies. We all have our origin in this sharing. But in generating
life another dimension opens up - one that makes us all children
and binds us, through our parents, to the generations before us,
preparing us to be the same for those who will be born of us. This
is the vertical dimension. These are the two cornerstones of the
architecture of every human society, in every age and in every place.
The mystery of life at the heart of the cross where these dimensions
meet, and that emerges graphically from their meeting is the mystery
of God. Fruitfulness and love are his life within ours.
The gift of the mother and the gift
of the father
The mutual and unconditional gift of life between a man and a woman
makes them mother and father, from the moment of their 'yes'. It
needs complete self-giving to each other in order to 'give life'.
"Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred
It is they who testify to the beauty of life".
During the nine months of pregnancy maternal love 'gives body' to
life in all that the expression means. "Children, once born,
begin to receive, along with nourishment and care, the spiritual
gift of knowing with certainty that they are loved. This love is
shown to them through the gift of their personal name, the sharing
of language, looks of love and the brightness of a smile. [
Such is love, and it contains a spark of God's love!" (AL 172)
Pope Francis points out insistently that the self-giving of the
father 'is as necessary as the mother's care' (AL 175).
God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity
he can be "close to his wife and share everything, joy and
sorrow, hope and hardship. And to be close to his children as they
grow - when they play and when they work, when they are carefree
and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they
are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when
they stray and when they get back on the right path. To be a father
who is always present. (AL 177).
When Pope Benedict gave Africa the gift of the letter which followed
the Synod on the Church in that continent (2009) he used a Latin
word which is very rich in meaning: 'Africae Munus'. Munus means
both a gift and a commitment: it is received, like a talent, to
be used and to bear fruit. Matri-mony comes from that word munus.
The gift of motherhood is so fundamental that it gives its name
to the whole marriage. But no less important is patri-mony, the
'heritage' that is received from parents: life, education, becoming
a person, learning to live and love. They are so essential to each
other that they cannot be separated. The love that gives life in
fact is not only the love shown to the children. It is above all
the love between husband and wife, from the beginning to the end.
We are speaking not simply of the love of father and mother as individuals,
but also of their mutual love, perceived as the source of one's
life and the solid foundation of the family. [
] They show
their children the maternal and paternal face of the Lord. (AL 172).
In his painting of the return of the Prodigal Son (1668) Rembrandt
interpreted splendidly this motherhood and fatherhood of God, of
which the parents are called to be the revelation and incarnation.
The Father welcomes his son with a robust male right hand on his
son's shoulder, to give him strength, and the left hand is the gentle
female hand of a mother, that rests on the heart of the child, to
comfort and heal with her tenderness.
" Let's go back to the text of the parable (Lk. 15.11 to 32),
fixing all our attention on the father. If we have a copy Rembrandt's
paining we can contemplate the father's hands, one after the other.
All are made to be father and mother
We are made in his image and called to become like the Father (sicut
Pater), as we were taught during the Jubilee of mercy. This is the
only way to learn to live fully. We seek to give life in all the
ways we are called to give life. It is interesting that the name
'father' and 'mother' befits both those who have given life to us
and helped us to grow, and also those who have given their lives
for so many other children - children of God - like Teresa of Calcutta
or Don Bosco, Mother Teresa and Father of the Young. This fruitfulness
of love seems to be particularly at risk at the present time. Pope
Francis encourages families to show honour and respect for parents,
and also to have the courage to go further and start a new home.
A society with children who do not honour parents is a society without
It is a society destined to be filled with surly and
greedy young people". There is, however, another side to the
coin. As the word of God tells us, "a man leaves his father
and his mother" (Gen 2:24). [...] Parents must not be abandoned
or ignored, but marriage itself demands that they be "left",
so that the new home will be a true hearth, a place of security,
hope and future plans, and the couple can truly become "one
flesh" (ibid.) [...] Marriage challenges husbands and wives
to find new ways of being sons and daughters. (AL 189/190).
" Mk. 10: 1-16 It would be good to read and meditate together
on all sixteen verses, where Jesus speaks about the gift of love
between man and woman, and the gift of life, of which the children
whom Jesus welcomes and blesses are the embodiment.
The whole of human life derives from this fruitfulness. From being
brothers in the home we learn the brotherhood that unites all peoples.
The elderly are the guardians of the memory from which we learn
the right way to go forward. "A family that remembers has a
future."(AL 193). The family is the most immediate and obvious
incarnation on earth of what it means to 'give life'.
Adoption and foster care are two expressions of the fruitfulness
that maternity and paternity lead to. (cf AL 179/180).
Families should not see themselves as a refuge from society, but
instead go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with
others. In this way, they become a hub for integrating persons into
society and a point of contact between the public and private spheres.
Married couples should have a clear awareness of their social obligations.
We have already seen how Rembrandt's art helps us to understand
how the heart of God loves us. There is another great work of art
created by a young man of twenty-three who carved out of marble
the figure of Mary that even now, five centuries later, continues
to enchant the entire world for its beauty. Michelangelo's Pieta'
depicts the 'expanded' fruitfulness of one who was able to give
her whole self in giving life. Mary is holding Jesus in her arms
after he was taken down from the cross. She is depicted as the mother
of a thirty-year-old but with the same facial features and body
that she had in Bethlehem after giving birth. There beneath the
cross she gives life to the body of Christ of which we all are his
limbs, his true sons and daughters. As Mother, she has gone through
the pains of a difficult birth, after all those years of gestation
from Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth, Jerusalem, that reach their fulfilment
in the terrible hour of the cross. Mary's fruitfulness is unlimited.
It transforms night into day, pain into hope, death into life. Entrusting
ourselves to her and confiding in her, makes fruitful and transforms
the most difficult moments of the lives of our families.
" Jn. 19: 25-42 Try to combine contemplation of the Gospel
text with contemplation of the Pietà that Michelangelo has
placed before our eyes.
We are family! Every home, a school
of Life and Love
The Strenna that the successor of Don Bosco Fr Ángel Fernández
Artime gave the Salesian Family for 2017 is not something new to
be added to the many tasks we already have. It is an invitation
to become courageously what we are by vocation and by the grace
of God, which is part of the most intimate nature of being family,
both in the home and in community.
The history of ADMA in recent years demonstrates the reality of
this truth. When, with the Eucharist and Mary, God becomes 'home',
despite all the limitations and challenges of our time, the family
cannot but become a 'school of life and love'.
Seeds to be opened:
" The intersection of life and
The meeting point between the horizontal axis of husband and wife,
and the vertical axis of parents and children ... at the centre
of this cross is the mystery of life. I will contemplate with gratitude
(whatever the circumstances were) the mystery of my origin as son
I accept with confidence in prayer the gift and responsibility of
communion and fruitfulness to which I am called, according to my
age and my vocation.
" Expanded Fruitfulness
Following the invitation of Pope
Francis I look to the opportunities and appeals calling me to 'give
life', to grow in love, in the environment in which I live: as a
person, as a family, as a community. I give thanks for everything
that helps me to respond generously. I ask for courage to take those
additional steps that are still open and 'waiting' in front of me.
SPIRITUALITY DAYS OF THE SALESIAN
The 35th Spirituality Days of the Salesian Family were celebrated
in Rome from 19 to 22 January. They were attended by about 500 people
from 21 groups of the Salesian Family from different countries of
the world. For ADMA, in addition to the president Tullio Lucca and
the Spiritual Animator Fr Pierluigi Cameroni, there were about 30
members from different regions of Italy, Spain and Brazil.
This year's Strenna We are Family! Every home a school of life and
love guided the reflections, reports, testimonials and the rich
sharing, leading to reflection and discussion on being family and
on what it means to belong to an association, or to be part of a
community based on perennial ties of love
The Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, recalled
the words of Pope Francis in Valdocco in 2015. "You educated
me with love, never lose this way of educating." He insisted
that we continue this educational work "starting with love,
which is part of our heritage. It creates welcome and acceptance,
and leads to keeping doors open, above all the door of our house
or home, and even more, the door of our heart."
Among the various talks, the Salesian reading of Amoris Laetitia
by Fr Andrea Bozzolo SDB, was of particular interest. He urged us
to come together to show a more "familiar" face of the
Church, as the Pope's document states in paragraph 87: "The
Church is a family of families, constantly enriched by the lives
of all those domestic churches. In virtue of the sacrament of matrimony,
every family becomes, in effect, a good for the Church. From this
standpoint, reflecting on the interplay between the family and the
Church will prove a precious gift for the Church in our time. The
Church is good for the family, and the family is good for the Church.
The safeguarding of the Lord's gift in the sacrament of matrimony
is a concern not only of individual families but of the entire Christian
community." This means that on the one hand the Church institution
must appear more like a family, so as to become in the best manner
possible the image of the people of God journeying through history.
On the other hand, families must discover in the Church community
the vital space within which they live their own history, overcoming
that strong temptation to close in on themselves which is part of
The fundamental link between Youth Ministry and Family Ministry
is at the centre of reflection and Salesian ministry thanks to this
year's Strenna. For some time now, in many parts of the Salesian
Family there have been programmes and proposals to accompany families
in meeting today's challenges. Some of these initiatives were presented
during the Spirituality Days. We in ADMA give thanks to the Lord
and to Mary Help of Christians for the journey of renewal we have
undertaken in recent years in accompanying the family through specific
programmes based on the pillars of the Eucharist and Mary. The experience
was presented during the Spirituality Days by Tullio and his wife
Simonetta, and also by newlyweds Clare and David Ricauda, and two
young members of ADMA, Elizabeth and Elena, in the light of the
motto: "Entrust, Confide and Smile".
As ADMA we became more aware during
these days that we are being called by the Church and by the Salesian
Family, to respond to the needs of the family in order to bring
the two pillars, Eucharist and Mary, into the family home and combine
family ministry with youth ministry in the spirit of Don Bosco.
We must act on two levels: strengthening the practice that is already
happening in Turin and spread it gradually to other places, taking
into consideration the situation in each place. We are aware of
the need to monitor different associations taking into account their
history and their devotional traditions as well as the number of
members. The means we have identified are: prayer, developing a
network of personal relationships between groups, families, religious
and priests, preparing helpful material and getting to know the
situation in the different parts of the Salesian Family with which
we want to collaborate. "The union of Family Ministry and Youth
Ministry is more necessary today than ever if we are to bring about
At the end of the Spirituality Days, the Rector Major gave this
invitation to each of the participants and to the whole Salesian
Family in the world: "Let us feel that we have been sent as
Salesian missionaries to all the families of the world."
LOME (TOGO) - MEETING ON STRENNA
We shared the Strenna of the Rector Major and welcomed his guidelines.
We promote the pastoral care of families and, above all, catechesis.
We need, therefore, to raise awareness among parents about the problems
facing our families today and urge them to return to the kind of
family proposed by the Rector Major (Antoine Sassou, ADMA Lome Togo).
A NOVENA TO MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS
FOR FR THOMAS UZHUNNALIL
It is now over 10 months since Fr Thomas Uzhunnalil SDB was kidnapped
in Yemen. From the beginning the Congregation and the Salesian Family
have urged us incessantly to pray for his release. We have supported
this special intention with the novena to Mary Help of Christians
celebrated 15 to 23 January 2017, and on the day of our monthly
commemoration on 24 January, trusting in the intercession of the
Mother of our Saviour. When Don Bosco was in need of some special
grace, he used to say: "If you want to obtain graces through
the Blessed Virgin, make a novena" (MB IX, 289).
The initiative proposed by our Association of Mary Help of Christians
(ADMA) Primary Turin, quickly found the full support of the Rector
Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime. He invited all the
Salesians and members of the Salesian Family to join with faith
"As an Association, we feel particularly committed to praying
for priests, and therefore, we would like to request the intervention
of Mary Immaculate Help of Christians for the prompt release of
Fr Tom" said Mr Tullio Lucca and Fr Pierluigi Cameroni, President
and Spiritual Animator of ADMA. This initiative has had a great
reception all over the Salesian world and also at the ecclesial
level with a number of initiatives that have seen the participation
of many groups. We continue to pray for this intention.
CONGO - PRAYERS FOR THE RELEASE OF
FR TOM UZHUNNALIL
On 24 January members of the Association of Mary Help of Christians
(ADMA) celebrated Mass in Lubumbashi on the day of the monthlly
commemoration of Mary Help of Christians and the Feast of St Francis
de Sales. During the Mass they prayed for the release of Fr Tom
Uzhunnalil and for his health. The ADMA members resolved to continue
to pray for Fr Tom in their families and communities
Venerable in the Salesian family:
Fr Francis Convertini and Fr José Vandor
On 20 January 2017 Pope Francis received
in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato SDB, Prefect of the Congregation
for the Causes of Saints. During the audience, the Holy Father authorized
the Congregation to promulgate the Decrees regarding the heroic
virtues of the Servants of God Francesco Convertini, Salesian missionary
in India, and José Vech Vandor, a Salesian missionary in
Cuba, both priests and professed members of the Society of St Francis
de Sales. The title 'Venerable' is the recognition by the Church
that a Servant of God practised to a heroic degree the theological
virtues of faith, hope and charity towards God and neighbour, and
the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude
and other related virtues.
"They are a new gift to our family and a confirmation of the
holiness that has flourished as a result of the charism given by
God to the Church through our father Don Bosco." So says the
Rector Major of the Salesians, Fr Ángel Fernández
Artime, in a letter to the Salesians and to the leaders of the Salesian
In the letter the Rector Major traces the biographies of the two
venerable Salesians: "The life of Fr Convertini is full of
heroic expressions related to his charity, his penance and his charm
as a man of God who brings 'the water of Jesus who saves'. Thousands
of Baptisms were conferred by him. He divested himself of everything
in order to give to the poor. (...) He always slept on the floor.
He fasted for long periods. (...) Fr Francesco Convertini was undoubtedly
a model of Salesian missionary lifestyle ". Of Fr Vandor the
Rector Major observes, "he was able to understand the Cuban
people, making his own their hopes and fears and expectations. He
was 'a messenger of truth and hope' and a peacemaker (...) and proved
to be a true pastor with the heart of the Good Shepherd and the
style of the Preventive System of St John Bosco."
These two Salesian models are relevant also in this year dedicated,
through the Strenna of the Rector Major, to the family. The pastoral
work of Fr Convertini was characterized by a family ministry marked
by mourning, faith and affection. Fr Vandor was born and raised
in a hardworking Christian family and always paid special attention
These two venerable Salesians are a reminder to the whole Salesian
Family that today the family is the great frontier of our pastoral
and educational mission," said the Rector Major, before concluding:
"I hope you can really draw inspiration from these examples
of Salesian holiness, by becoming familiar with their testimony
and asking through their intercession for the grace of the miracle
that will open the way for their beatification."
The full text of the letter is available on the site sdb.org