programme: Amoris Laetitia /
Silvio Roggia SDB
Where are our children? (AL 260)
Education is inevitable
The seventh chapter of
Amoris Laetitia is devoted to the family as the primary place for
the education of children. That's where inevitably a person's life
takes shape. So it was for each of us. "Parents always influence
the moral development of their children, for better or for worse.
It follows that they should take up this essential role and carry
it out consciously, enthusiastically, reasonably and appropriately."
As the first subtitle, Pope Francis puts a question that calls to
mind the question addressed to Adam: 'Where are you?' (Gen 3.9).
"Do we seek to understand 'where' our children really are in
their journey? Where is their soul, do we really know? And above all,
do we want to know?" (AL 261)
This shifts the educational commitment from a 'quantitative' approach,
controlling their whereabouts which can become obsessive - ' We cannot
control every situation that a child may experience' - to a 'qualitative
Taking up one of the fundamental principles of Evangelii Gaudium,
Francis repeats forcefully: " 'Time is greater than space' (EG
222). it is more important to start processes than to dominate spaces."
Relying on time means accepting that growth is always a gradual process
that requires patience. It requires the art of knowing how to wait,
and at the same time to be present, stimulate, and also correct, in
good time and in an appropriate manner. The 'how to' spend the time
of education together is structured in a variety of forms, linked
to the unique history of each family. But there is how NOT to do it,
which applies to all: "One of the things children need to learn
from their parents is not to get carried away by anger. A child who
does something wrong must be corrected, but never treated as an enemy
or an object on which to take out one's own frustrations."(AL
The vital dynamism that makes family time a continuous season of growth
is called TRUST.
"A person's affective and ethical development is ultimately grounded
in a particular experience, namely, that his or her parents can be
trusted. This means that parents, as educators, are responsible, by
their affection and example, for instilling in their children trust
and loving respect. When children no longer feel that, for all their
faults, they are important to their parents, or that their parents
are sincerely concerned about them, this causes deep hurt and many
difficulties along their path to maturity.
Freedom is something great
Precisely because it is
our greatest treasure - what makes us the image of God - educating
to freedom is a very noble task. It is very challenging and by its
nature the outcome cannot be predetermined. The logic of cause and
effect does not work in the way it applies to many other human activities.
Anyone who educates a child realizes that they are engaging with a
mystery: the mystery of human life in all its grandeur, which is centred
precisely in freedom.
"Freedom is something magnificent, yet it can also be dissipated
and lost. Moral education has to do with cultivating freedom through
ideas, incentives, practical applications, stimuli, rewards, examples,
models, symbols, reflections, encouragement, dialogue and a constant
rethinking of our way of doing things; all these can help develop
those stable interior principles that lead us spontaneously to do
good. Virtue is a conviction that has become a steadfast inner principle
of operation. The virtuous life thus builds, strengthens and shapes
freedom, lest we become slaves of dehumanizing and antisocial inclinations."
Pope Francis encourages us to do everything possible so that children
perceive what is good for them and do it. (AL 265). We do not convince
others, nor are we convinced ourselves, by force and coercion. that
persuades and convinces. This is in line with Evangelii Gaudium where
it says that attraction is the most effective way to evangelize: "All
[...]have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty
to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming
to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to
share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others
to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church
grows, but "by attraction". (EG 14).
This does not mean that we should let things go and not be firm when
necessary. "It is also essential to help children and adolescents
to realize that misbehaviour has consequences. They need to be encouraged
to put themselves in other people's shoes and to acknowledge the hurt
they have caused. Some punishments - those for aggressive, antisocial
conduct - can partially serve this purpose. It is important to train
children firmly to ask forgiveness and to repair the harm done to
others." (AL 268).
Knowing with wisdom how to balance encouragement and firmness, ensuring
that discipline encourages inner dynamism without killing desire,
is a true art. (AL 270) Education is a work of art as the Pope said
in previous chapters (AL 16).
Personal freedom, however, always remains a mystery. Even when the
parents are holy, humanly mature and blessed with great teaching skills,
what the child chooses to become is never a programmable product.
The attention Pope Francis pays to the St Monicas of today is very
beautiful. He bows down respectfully before so many mothers who suffer
from the abandonment of the faith (at least apparent) by their children:
"I would like to express my particular gratitude to all those
mothers who continue to pray, like Saint Monica, for their children
who have strayed from Christ." (AL 288).
Living beyond the boundaries
of one's own home
"The family is the
primary setting for socialization, since it is where we first learn
to relate to others, to listen and share, to be patient and show respect,
to help one another and live as one. The task of education is to make
us sense that the world and society are also our home; it trains us
how to live together in this greater home. In the family, we learn
closeness, care and respect for others. We break out of our fatal
self-absorption and come to realize that we are living with and alongside
others who are worthy of our concern, our kindness and our affection."
This is a splendid passage. Social life is rooted in the domestic
life of each family as a branch is rooted in the vine. There is nothing
more important to any civilization and nation than the family. The
value of a parliament or any other political or administrative structure
is not comparable to the value of the family, always decisively greater
and more fundamental. Governments that are unable to recognize this
truth of human life and do not act accordingly, end up compromising
and even ruining everything.
The 'social' face of the family refers to many other realities and
issues of great educational importance.
There are three in particular:
process that occurs between parents and children can be helped or
hindered by the increasing sophistication of the communications and
entertainment media. When well used, these media can be helpful for
connecting family members who live apart from one another. Frequent
contacts help to overcome difficulties. Still, it is clear that these
media cannot replace the need for more personal and direct dialogue,
which requires physical presence or at least hearing the voice of
the other person. We know that sometimes they can keep people apart
rather than together, as when at dinnertime everyone is surfing on
a mobile phone, or when one spouse falls asleep waiting for the other
who spends hours playing with an electronic device. This is also something
that families have to discuss and resolve in ways which encourage
interaction without imposing unrealistic prohibitions." (AL 278)
ALLIANCE BETWEEN FAMILIES
AND THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
We know the African proverb:
'It takes a whole village to raise a child'. Pope Francis has quoted
it on more than one occasion. Here he reminds us that it is essential
for a good socialization of children that families and Christian communities
to which they belong create a good synergy, a true alliance - with
the biblical richness of this word. He refers in particular to the
Christian initiation and the 'importance of Catholic schools' (AL
Pope Francis stressed
the importance of 'positive and prudent sex education' (AL 280), all
the more necessary in social settings which do not facilitate healthy
growth in this area so fundamental to life. "It is not helpful
to overwhelm them with data without also helping them to develop a
critical sense in dealing with the onslaught of new ideas and suggestions,
the flood of pornography and the overload of stimuli that can deform
sexuality." (AT 281).
Young people need to realize that they are bombarded by messages that
are not beneficial for their growth towards maturity. They should
be helped to recognize and to seek out positive influences, while
shunning the things that cripple their capacity for love. We also
have to realize that "a new and more appropriate language"
is needed "in introducing children and adolescents to the topic
Francis also warns against "sex education [that] deals primarily
with "protection" through the practice of "safe sex".
Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative
finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be
protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity
in place of acceptance." "The important thing is to teach
them sensitivity to different expressions of love, mutual concern
and care, loving respect and deeply meaningful communication. All
of these prepare them for an integral and generous gift of self that
will be expressed, following a public commitment, in the gift of their
bodies. Sexual union in marriage will thus appear as a sign of an
all-inclusive commitment, enriched by everything that has preceded
it." (AL 283)
Handing on the Faith
If the family is the 'inevitable'
place for education, "the home must continue to be the place
where we learn to appreciate the MEANING and BEAUTY of the faith,
to PRAY and to SERVE our neighbour."(AL 287). These four words,
which I have written in capital letters, are the synthesis of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, made up of four parts: 1. What we
believe - MEANING - 2. What WE are celebrating - BEAUTY - 3. How we
live as disciples of Jesus - SERVE - 4. ... in dialogue with the Lord
- PRAY. Family life embodies the best catechesis there can be.
"Faith is God's gift, received in baptism, and not our own work,
yet parents are the means that God uses for it to grow and develop."
Hence "it is beautiful when mothers teach their little children
to blow a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. How much love there is in
that! At that moment the child's heart becomes a place of prayer."
Handing on the faith presumes that parents themselves genuinely trust
God, seek him and sense their need for him, for only in this way does
"one generation laud your works to another, and declare your
mighty acts" (Ps 144:4) and "fathers make known to children
your faithfulness" (Ps 144 4) (AL 287).
to be opened
? Where are the children?
I will take seriously
the questions of Pope Francis, directed personally to me and to my
family: "We try to understand 'where' the children really are
on their way? Do we know where their soul really is? And above all,
do we want to know? "(AL 261) "Who is capable of taking
young people seriously? Who helps them to prepare seriously for a
great and generous love?" (AL284)
? Transmitting the faith
The evangelizing scope of the family is immense, in and "even
outside of the family circle." (AL 289). The hardships and difficulties
faced nowadays are countless. But this will not stop the missionary
potential of our families. How do we revive the fire of Pentecost
fire that is inside the home, right where I live?
? Romans 12
Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans is a Lectio Divina (ie 'as
God reads') of family and community relationships, when they aim to
raise and educate each other. It has twenty-one verses in all. It
can be used as a mirror to review the progress made so far, and as
a window on the future, to see the path that we intend to go from
13 May: Centenary of the
Apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima
To mark the centenary
of the apparitions to three young shepherds, Pope Francis will travel
to Fatima where probably he will canonize the two younger seers, Jacinta
and Francesco Marto. Why does Our Lady of Fatima seem so important
to him, as indeed it was for his two predecessors? The surprising
events that took place in Fatima in May 1917 took place while the
world was immersed in the twentieth century - a century that was to
see two world wars and genocide on a large scale, the invention of
the atomic bomb and the rapid emergence of technology that would transform
the world and the human race.
The Pope's devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is a sign of the historic
ties of the papacy with the prophecies of Fatima. St John Paul II
visited Fatima three times. In 2000, he beatified Jacinta and Francisco.
He was also responsible for entrusting the Third Millennium to the
Immaculate Heart of Mary at the statue of Our Lady on Sunday 8 October
2000, when more than 1,400 bishops were present for the Mass of the
Jubilee. Pope Benedict XVI also strongly supported Fatima and visited
the shrine in May 2010, when among other things he said: "We
would be mistaken to think that Fatima's prophetic mission is complete.
Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from
the beginning: "Where is your brother Abel [
] Your brother's
blood is crying out to me from the ground!" (Gen 4:9). Mankind
has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed
in bringing it to an end
In sacred Scripture we often find that
God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man
and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: "Do
you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings
which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which
he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?"
(Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).
At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was
most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations,
races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came
from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust
in her the Love of God that burns in her own heart. At that time it
was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread
and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim
Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the
cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate
us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of
the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the
glory of the Most Holy Trinity."
In the famous vision of Pope Leo XIII, Satan said that if he had a
hundred years he would destroy the Church. It is noteworthy that the
date was 13 October 1884. Two dates were significant in the story
of Fatima. The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II took place
on 13 May 1981. Pope Francis entrusted the world to Our Lady of Fatima
on 13 October 2013. The apparitions began on 13 May 1917 and ended
with the miracle of the sun on 13 October of that same year. When
he celebrated the entrustment to Our Lady of Fatima in October 2013,
Pope Francis said: "Her statue has come from Fatima. It helps
us to feel her presence in our midst. This is a reality: Mary always
leads us to Jesus ... In the mercy of God, we know, nothing is impossible!
Even the most intricate knots melt with his grace. And Mary, who with
her 'yes' opened the door to God to untie the knot of the ancient
disobedience, is the mother who patiently and tenderly leads us to
God so that he may untie the knots of our soul with his fatherly mercy."
In his address, the Holy Father stressed that the Virgin Mary leads
Christians to the mercy of God, who can untie "all knotted hearts"
caused by sin. "These knots take away our peace and serenity,"
he said, and he urged the faithful not to give up hope that God can
untie these knots. Mary, he said, "takes us with the hand of
a mother to the embrace of the Father, to the Father of mercy."
MOZAMBIQUE - ADMA ASSEMBLY
Maputo, Mozambique - February 2017 - On 5 February an Assembly of
the Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA) took place in Mozambique.
It was led by Fr Donatien Mambela, Spiritual Assistant of ADMA in
Mozambique, accompanied by the Superior of the Vice-Province of Mozambique,
Fr Marco Biaggi, and his Vicar Fr Francisco Pescador. ADMA is expanding
in the country, with 12 centres and 530 members.
MESSINA (ITALY) - The
Dominic Savio ADMA group starts again.
On 21 March 2017, the ADMA group restarted in the Dominic Savio Community
in Messina. We have a diploma signed by Don Ricaldone (24 May 1933),
two years after the establishment of the new community. Then, about
40 years ago, ADMA ceased activities. Today was a great feast of Mary
Help of Christians. There was a big number of people (including young
people) with many families and a beautiful atmosphere of prayer. The
altar of Mary Help of Christians in our Co-Cathedral is very beautiful
and was restored two years ago. I hope it will always continue Ad
Maiorem Dei Gloriam! (Fr Gianni Russo).
HIALEAH (FLORIDA - UNITED
This is a group that is very much alive and well animated. It has
17 aspirants. It is accompanied with zeal by the parish priest Fr
Manuel Alvarez and Mrs. Maria Acosta. The picture shows the meeting
held on the occasion of the feast of Don Bosco this year with the
presence of Fr Tom Dunne, SDB and Sr Denise Sickinger, FMA.
An answer from Heaven
In May 2016, after two months of medical examinations and analysis
I received the diagnosis: stage 4 uterine carcinoma with metastases
in the lymph nodes, liver and bones, inoperable and treatable only
with chemotherapy. It was like running into a wall, I was terrified,
seized by a thousand fears. Fear of not making it, afraid for my family,
for my husband, for our five children. I could not even pray. But
someone did it for me: I was immediately surrounded by the prayers
and affection of all the families of ADMA (Association of Mary Help
of Christians) and, without exaggeration, of all the great Salesian
Family, a true power of God. They started a novena to Venerable Fr
Giuseppe Quadrio, this great priest who took me under his wing. I
even dreamed one night that he covered me with a golden blanket ...
But back to the novena; it was a huge thrill for me to see so many
families (and many children and young people!) there praying for me.
I felt almost unworthy. And the graces came quickly. I tolerated the
treatment well, despite all the numerous side effects expected. Meanwhile,
I continued to trust with my whole self, offering my illness for the
faith of my children. I repeated frequently: "Lord, if you want
you can heal me." Then after all these months of therapy and
the examinations of a few weeks ago: the cancer lesions had all disappeared,
I was healed! For the doctors, it was almost a miracle. For me and
my husband, at least a great grace received through the intercession
of Fr Quadrio and the faith of many friends but also many strangers
who prayed for me. My heart is full of joy and gratitude, I really
feel part of a great family of families walking together under the
guidance of Jesus and Mary Help of Christians. Yes, dear friends,
I can testify that faith works wonders and I want to thank you all
for the love you have given me, confident that God will return a hundredfold
both here on earth and in Heaven! (Maria Pia Gallo - ADMA - Turin).