programme: Amoris Laetitia /
Silvio Roggia SDB
Proclaiming the Gospel
of the family today
This is the subtitle that
Pope Francis has chosen to present 'certain pastoral perspectives',
in the sixth chapter of Amoris Laetitia. He says 'of the family' and
not 'to the family'. With clarity and force the family is presented
as the main pastoral agent of what concerns the family. The family
is itself the Gospel, the good news, the primary missionary force
for the Church and for the world.
The Synod Fathers emphasized that Christian families, by the grace
of the sacrament of matrimony, are the principal agents of the family
apostolate, above all through "their joy-filled witness as domestic
churches". Consequently, "it is important that people experience
the Gospel of the family as a joy that 'fills hearts and lives', because
in Christ we have been 'set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness
and loneliness' (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). As in the parable of the sower
(cf. Mt 13:3-9), we are called to help sow seeds; the rest is God's
work. (AL 200 - Relatio Synodi 2014, 31)
This represents a Copernican
revolution in the life of Christian communities: the family is no
longer to be seen as 'the problem' to be cared for by experts who
know what is best for it. The family is the 'main agent' and its gospel
is first of all the joy in which Pope Francis recognizes the essence
of the new life brought by Jesus: Evangelii GAUDIUM, Amoris LAETITIA.
This is not only to recognize that the family is to be consulted for
advice on some few specific issues. The Church is a family, and by
its nature is made up of families: the parish is a 'family of families'
The Gospel of the family responds to the deepest expectations of the
human person: a response to each one's dignity and fulfilment in reciprocity,
communion and fruitfulness. (AL 201).
A Gospel so rich is meant to be proclaimed, or better still, to be
sown. We are called to cooperate in planting, with unfailing hope,
knowing that 'the rest is God's work'. This is a request for 'missionary
conversion' (AL 201) to all the Church, making the most of what already
exists within the family.
John Paul II, to whom Pope Francis refers, sees in the daily lives
of the spouses the sacramental signs of the great mystery of love
that is embodied in them. Man and woman are the ministers of the sacrament
of marriage not only during the hour before the altar on their wedding
In the baptized, words and signs become an eloquent language of faith.
The body, created with a God-given meaning, "becomes the language
of the ministers of the sacrament, aware that in the conjugal pact
there is expressed and realized the mystery that has its origin in
God himself" (AL 213 - John Paul II, Catechesis on 27 June 1984).
The procreative meaning of sexuality, the language of the body, and
the signs of love shown throughout married life, all become an "uninterrupted
continuity of liturgical language" and "conjugal life becomes
in a certain sense liturgical". (AL 215 - John Paul II, Catechesis
4 July 4, 1984).
This mystery, ministry and service sees the couple as the only agents
in a 'judgment' on which literally their life depends - theirs and
that of their children, who are also the life and future of the church
and the world. No one can replace them in this which is by far the
most important task in the world. The Pope reaffirms this in the words
of the Council:
"[The couple] will make decisions by common counsel and effort.
Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and
that of their children, those already born and those which the future
may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material
and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state
in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family
group, of temporal society and of the Church herself. The parents
themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in
the sight of God. (Gaudium et Spes, 50 - AL 222)
Ò We return to one of the texts used in the marriage celebration:
Chapter 5 of the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians. The quality of
the love between the spouses is by nature and vocation a mirror of
quality of love between Christ and us his body, his Church. This is
the Gospel OF THE family.
Gospel on a journey
The beauty and richness
of the love of spouses, parents and children needs time to unfold,
bud, bloom, and bear fruit. One of the basic principles of people's
lives and of society expressed in Evangelii Gaudium is that "time
is greater than space" (EG 222). This could not be more true
than in the life of the family.
Learning to love someone does not happen automatically, nor can it
be taught in a workshop just prior to the celebration of marriage.
For every couple, marriage preparation begins at birth. (AL 208)
In this respect, the family is gospel. In fact, the four Gospels are
an experience of pilgrimage. In an original manner and each with its
own unique character, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John tell of the pilgrimage
that leads from Nazareth to the Passion and Death of Jesus, to reach
the boundaries of the world and of history. The family is a pilgrimage
of salvation. Each step and stage has a gift to offer.
Hope is the leaven that, in those first years of engagement and marriage,
makes it possible to look beyond arguments, conflicts and problems
and to see things in a broader perspective. It harnesses our uncertainties
and concerns so that growth can take place. (AL 219).
It is a journey that is not without toil and at the same time stimulates
and requires steps of maturation. Pope Francis summarizes them in
7 steps and 7 skills, which are like the pattern of growth from A
to Z, because 'the joy of love' is the fruit that follows planting
and patient care of the tree of life, within the family.
This process occurs in various stages that call for generosity and
sacrifice. The first powerful feelings of attraction give way to the
realization that the other is now a part of my life. The pleasure
of belonging to one another leads to seeing life as a common project,
putting the other's happiness ahead of my own, and realizing with
joy that this marriage enriches society. As love matures, it also
learns to "negotiate". (AL 220)
Pope Francis is quick to add that negotiating is not intended as a
defence of selfish interests, wanting things always to your own advantage.
What he means is an exercise of mutual love, an interplay of give
and take, for the good of the family. At each new stage of married
life, there is a need to sit down and renegotiate agreements, so that
there will be no winners and losers, but rather two winners. In the
home, decisions cannot be made unilaterally, since each spouse shares
responsibility for the family; yet each home is unique and each marriage
will find an arrangement that works best." (AL 220).
With a phrase that could not be richer in its simplicity, he indicates
the point of arrival, the mature fruit of the journey:
The greatest mission of two people in love is to help one another
become, respectively, more a man and more a woman. (AL 221)
In keeping with the pilgrimage of the gospel the journey will necessarily
have times of crisis. Amoris Laetitia teaches us to welcome these
difficult times as a time of grace, inviting families who are further
along on the path to be the first to support and encourage those who
are in difficulty.
The life of every family is marked by all kinds of crises, yet these
are also part of its dramatic beauty. Couples should be helped to
realize that surmounting a crisis need not weaken their relationship;
instead, it can improve, settle and mature the wine of their union.
Life together should not diminish but increase their contentment;
every new step along the way can help couples find new ways to happiness.
Each crisis becomes an apprenticeship in growing closer together or
learning a little more about what it means to be married. There is
no need for couples to resign themselves to an inevitable downward
spiral or a tolerable mediocrity. On the contrary, when marriage is
seen as a challenge that involves overcoming obstacles, each crisis
becomes an opportunity to let the wine of their relationship age and
improve. Couples will gain from receiving help in facing crises, meeting
challenges and acknowledging them as part of family life. Experienced
and trained couples should be open to offering guidance, so the couples
will not be unnerved by these crises or tempted to hasty decisions.
Each crisis has a lesson to teach us; we need to learn how to listen
for it with the ear of the heart. (AL 232)
What Pope Francis offers as an example of 'accompaniment' is very
close to what the ADMA families, from Primary ADMA in Valdocco, are
now experiencing. It becomes a strong encouragement and a new missionary
stimulus to multiply this experience of Church and of Salesian Family
started by Mary, which has as its agents the families themselves:
Young couples need to be encouraged to be essentially open to the
great gift of children. Emphasis should also be given to the importance
of family spirituality, prayer and participation in the Sunday Eucharist,
and couples encouraged to meet regularly to promote growth in their
spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. (AL
Emmaus: the Easter experience of the 'Gospel on a journey" and
accompaniment transforming the crisis into the beginning of new life.
Seeds to be opened:
" The Family as the
Changing perspective (Copernican revolution!) requires effort and
time. I will try to look at the family (mine and ours) with this new
vision to which the Pope invites us: family as Gospel and as mission,
an agent of pastoral care. How can I take a few steps forward to be
more in tune with the vocation / mission of the family as it is presented
" Family on a journey
We are all on the pilgrimage
to Emmaus as individuals and as families. There are steps forward
that I can take and there are some steps that I can help others to
take, especially where there is a crisis that makes the journey more
difficult. I trust that with hope and generosity I will allow the
Lord to inspire those concrete steps that charity suggests.
PRIMARY ADMA - FIRST STEPS
IN THE FAMILY
Can the joy of love, which Pope Francis invites us to study in the
apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia", become a reality?
We believe that the answer to this question, which corresponds to
the deepest and truest desires in the hearts of every married couple,
is YES: of course, it is possible, but you have to learn how to achieve
it. Just as children when they are born cannot walk or talk, so also
the bride and groom have to learn the secrets of how to be happily
married. They must know the grammar of relationship, of affection,
of being a man and woman with their differences and their complementarity.
The newlyweds must be trained and accompanied to be able to savour
the beauty of marriage, and to live the grace that operates 24 hours
out of 24. This grace helps them to overcome the inevitable hardships,
to understand the importance of not isolating themselves and of building
networks of relationships. It enables them to savour the joy of dialogue
and forgiveness, to live with trust in the One who knows how to point
the way for every family, and to be open to the gift of life and the
joy of parenthood.
"First Steps in the family" is a programme designed for
young couples in the early years of marriage or as they prepare for
marriage (but it is not a prenuptial course). It is for couples who
wish to learn, to share experiences, and to build relationships. In
this programme, young people are accompanied by older married couples
who are already journeying in ADMA and by priests who are experts
on Family. Together they help them to deepen the gifts they have received
or will receive in the sacrament of marriage. The sacrament is alive
and effective and it actually works in their lives. The response to
this proposal was really beautiful: more than thirty couples were
present at the first meeting and they participated with great attention
and interest. We entrust their journey gratefully to Jesus and Mary.
We are confident that Jesus and Mary will support them and we are
certain that in the end all these young couples will experience joy.
The first meeting of "First Steps in the family" took place
in the Institute of the Sacred Heart in Turin on 14 January. It is
a programme for young couples organized by primary ADMA in collaboration
with the Salesian Youth Ministry team in Piedmont and Valle D'Aosta.
With a talk by Fr Andrea Bozzolo, 60 young people were accompanied
by five couples from ADMA families and helped to learn the grammar
of relationship, of affection, of being a man and woman with their
differences and their complementarity.
Our Toronto ADMA group had another year filled with grace and blessings
under the guidance and intercession of Mary, Help of Christians. On
January 24th we renewed our commitment to our Blessed Mother and her
Association by reciting our solemn promise during the celebration
of mass in honour of St. Francis de Sales. We celebrated afterwards
with a reception and socializing. Our time together was filled with
great joy and unity as we shared in the blessings of the day.
We continue to meet on a monthly basis and hold three retreats each
year under the guidance of our spiritual animator, Fr. John Puntino,
SDB. Our meetings consist of the recitation of the rosary, spiritual
learning and formation and scripture reading with faith sharing. We
conclude our meetings with the Blessing of Mary, Help of Christians.
It is encouraging and rewarding to see how the spirit of our group
is growing under the protective guidance of our Blessed Mother. Fr.
John reviews all material that we study at our meetings, shares his
spiritual maturity and insight with us and guides us in our faith
formation. We are very grateful for all his love and support
Since our group has chosen to study material that promotes greater
self-awareness, this year we continued on this journey by studying
different traits and qualities that make up a healthy spirituality.
As we become more aware of our areas of weakness we cannot help but
come to a deeper understanding and acceptance of Jesus' great mercy
and love, and in so doing, help us to more readily share His love
and mercy with others. And, of course, we do all this through the
intercession and guidance of our Blessed Mother, Mary, Help of Christians.
May we continue to grow in love for God and one another and may Our
Blessed Mother direct and sanctify us as we continue on our journey
here on earth. (Margaret Pupulin - President, ADMA Toronto)
PUGLIA - REGIONAL ASSEMBLY
In conjunction with the celebrations planned for the Venerable Father
Francis Convertini, the ADMA groups of Puglia celebrated their regional
assembly in Cisternino on Sunday 12 February. There were over 130
participants accompanied by the Provincial President Michelina Fares,
and our spiritual animator Fr Angelo Draisci. The presence of the
world animator, Fr Pierluigi Cameroni, was an opportunity to present
the spiritual profile of Fr Convertini, and also the programme of
ADMA on family ministry in harmony with the Rector Major's Strenna.
In the afternoon, the President officially conferred on the groups
the Diploma of Affiliation to Primary ADMA and the Decree of erection
of the Salesian Southern Province of "Blessed Michael Rua",
as a token of communion and the desire for renewal of the Association.
(Michela e Dino Fares).
The ADMA group of Cruzeiro
(Brazil) is happy to receive the Diploma of Affiliation to Primary
On 18 April we will commemorate
the 148th anniversary of the foundation of the Association of Mary
Help of Christians.
Mons. Ortiz Arrieta declared
ANS - Vatican City) - On 27 February 2017, the Holy Father Pope Francis
authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate
the following decree: - The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Ottavio
Ortiz Arrieta, Salesian of Don Bosco, Bishop of Chachapoyas; born
19 April 1878 and died on 1 March 1958;
He was born in Lima on 19 April 1878. In December 1893, he entered
the vocational school opened by the Salesians for very needy young
people as a trainee carpenter. Later he changed and became a student.
He made his novitiate in Callao and in 1902 he made his perpetual
profession in the hands of Fr Paolo Albera, the extraordinary visitor.
He continued in the same house as an assistant, teacher, student of
philosophy and then theology. In 1906 he was sent to found a new professional
school in the city of Piura. On 27 January 1907, he was ordained priest.
After his time in Piura, Fr Ortiz was called to direct the works of
Cuzco and Callao.
Here he devoted himself to working with young people. On 21 November
1921, he was appointed bishop of the remote diocese of Chachapoyas
in the Northern Andes. He was ordained bishop in the Temple of Mary
Help of Christians in Lima on 11 June 1922. The town of Chachapoyas
is 2300 metres above sea-level. The diocese at that time had a territory
of 95,200 square km and a population of 250,000. After a journey that
lasted one month, the new Bishop reached his episcopal see which had
been vacant for five years. His life was a continuous journey: for
long days on horseback, on foot, on mountain range, in the forests,
and on the rivers. He climbed up the icy peaks and went down into
the torrid valleys.
From the beginning, he organized missions and spiritual exercises
for the people and for priests. He extended this intensive programme
which varied from year to year, to all the centres of his diocese.
Catechesis and preaching, care of priests and seminarians and promoting
vocations were the simple and practical work of all his 37 years as
bishop. He always retained the Salesian style: loving, warm, habitually
cheerful, and close to the people. Young people used to fill the halls
of his old episcopal palace. With a passion for the catechism in his
heart, he taught it as often as time permitted. He was a born organizer.
He carried out eight pastoral visits, celebrated three diocesan synods
and organized a successful Eucharistic Congress. He reorganized the
parish archives; started associations and confraternities and published
When the Archdiocese of Lima became vacant, the Apostolic Nuncio on
behalf of the Pope offered it to him. Monsignor Ortiz thanked him
but declined the offer, saying that he was "married" to
his diocese, and he wanted to stay among his people until death. He
died in Chachapoyas on 1 March 1958, aged 79.