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: ASSOCIATION OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS
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Monthly Message : 24th May 2017
urges us to bear witness to her presence
Our devotion to Mary Help of Christians,
which we emphasize particularly in this month with the novena and the
feast in her honour, commits us to witness her maternal presence to
all those who are far from God or who are experiencing difficult trials
such as war, illness or injustice. Through prayer and example, we are
called to approach the hearts of those who are far from God and his
grace. Mary Help of Christians is with us and intercedes for each of
us, so that with love and courage we can witness the faith, and encourage
people to look to her and consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart.
She sends us in order that, like small lights in the world guided by
her maternal love, we may shine clearly with full splendour. Prayer
will help us, because prayer saves us and saves the world. She exhorts
us not to be afraid to tell the truth, and not to be afraid to change
ourselves and the world by spreading love, making her Son known and
loved, so that love may reign in our lives: a love that is living, a
love that attracts and a love that gives life. It is up to us to acknowledge
it, live it and spread it.
The aspect that characterizes our association is the popular dimension
of the Salesian charism, which finds a typical expression in popular
piety. The term "popular piety" designates those diverse cultic
expressions of a private or community nature which, in the context of
the Christian faith, are inspired predominantly not by the Sacred Liturgy
but by forms deriving from a particular nation or people or from their
Popular piety has rightly been regarded as "a treasure of the people
of God" and "manifests a thirst for God known only to the
poor and to the humble, rendering them capable of a generosity and of
sacrifice to the point of heroism in testifying to the faith while displaying
an acute sense of the profound attributes of God: paternity, providence,
and his constant loving presence. It also generates interior attitudes
otherwise rarely seen to the same degree: patience, an awareness of
the Cross in every-day life, detachment, openness to others and devotion".
(Directory of Popular Piety No. 9). In the Salesian tradition, it is
good to remember the practice of having statues of Mary Help of Christians
in homes and in neighbourhoods, as a reminder of the presence of Mary
and stirring up a spontaneous movement of faith, prayer, and charity.
Another growing reality in our Association is the message of thanks
for graces obtained through the intercession of the Help of Christians,
and of the saints, blessed, venerable and servants of God of the Salesian
Family. This is a practical way of living the Communion of Saints, experiencing
the closeness, intercession, and the help of so many brothers and sisters
who support us and accompany us in the trials and struggles of life.
We are in the month of Our Lady. We gather in many parts of the world
to honour Our Lady under the title Help of Christians. We express our
thanks to her for the way she is renewing our Association and we commit
ourselves to making our ADMA groups grow in number and in quality.
Tullio, President / Fr Pierluigi Cameroni SDB, Spiritual Animator
programme: Amoris Laetitia /
Silvio Roggia SDB
discerning and integrating fragility
Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia
is perhaps the chapter that has led to most discussion because it
focuses on the 'fragility' that is part of human love in family life.
Pope Francis invites us to look at our fragility with the eyes of
"I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated
situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay
people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always
encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but
they will surely receive some light to help them better understand
their situation and discover a path to personal growth. I also encourage
the Church's pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity,
with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of
view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their
proper place in the Church." [Relatio Synodi 2014, 24] (AL 312).
Attention to those who are fragile and wounded is not an exception
to the rule, to be hidden in a small footnote. On the contrary, Francis's
example and words from the first day of his election to this day are
asking us to start right there, precisely with those who are finding
Here I would like to reiterate something I sought to make clear to
the whole Church, lest we take the wrong path: "There are two
ways of thinking which recur throughout the Church's history: casting
off and reinstating. The Church's way, from the time of the Council
of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and
reinstatement. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for
ever; it is to pour out the balm of God's mercy on all those who ask
for it with a sincere heart. For true charity is always unmerited,
unconditional and gratuitous." [Relatio Synodi 2014, 25] (AL
This is the wavelength of Chapter VIII: full acceptance of the novelty
of the Gospel teaching on the family, continuing to make it shine
out and to proclaim it joyfully to all; and one- to-one closeness
to those who are struggling and finding obstacles on their path, without
excluding anyone. The season of Easter is in perfect harmony with
this way of understanding and acting. On the one hand, we have the
highest point of all that the Father, Son and Spirit do and offer
for our salvation: the passion, death and resurrection; Eucharist;
Pentecost and so on. On the other hand, this immensity of life is
entrusted to the testimony of frail people like us: Peter who disowned
the Lord and the others who fled from Gethsemane; The first Christian
community rich in faith but also with problems, not just the external
ones associated with persecution but also the problems and fragility
of believers, as can well be seen in the Acts of the Apostles and
The light of the fullest
In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis has insisted on the right of all
to receive the light of the Gospel in its appealing beauty, giving
priority to the essentials, without filters and without burdening
the proclamation with too many things that end up obscuring rather
than favouring the acceptance of the good seed (see EG 34-39).
Amoris Laetitia as a whole is a gospel, good news expressed in our
time about the beauty and grandeur of the love between man and woman
from whom the family is born, fruit of faith in Jesus, our way, truth
and life. In Him we become truly human and truly the children of the
"Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ
and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a
woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive
love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission
of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the
grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society."
And here the Pope uses the educational system of Don Bosco: to prevent
or anticipate as much as possible. If we are committed with all our
strength to let this light shine, offering it to those who are growing
up and preparing for married life, we are laying the foundations so
that the joy of love becomes a lifelong project. And if we are generously
investing the energies of Christian communities in order to 'consolidate
marriages', many fragile situations will find the help that will turn
a moment of crisis into a growth opportunity.
"In no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal
of marriage, God's plan in all its grandeur: "Young people who
are baptized should be encouraged to understand that the sacrament
of marriage can enrich their prospects of love and that they can be
sustained by the grace of Christ in the sacrament and by the possibility
of participating fully in the life of the Church." [Relatio Synodi
2014, 26] A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue
reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to
the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people
themselves. To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations
never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing
less than what Jesus offers to the human being. Today, more important
than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen
marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown." (AL 307).
The law of gradualness
One of the best descriptions of Don Bosco was that of Pius XI, who
had known him personally when he was still a young priest, and who
was later the Pope who proclaimed him a saint on Easter Sunday 1934.
What is the work of Don Bosco? "Don Bosco's work is to make saints,"
Pius XI loved to say. In fact, the founder of ADMA never failed to
propose holiness to all. He was never satisfied with easy cheap goals
for his young people. But he did not stay in the pulpit waiting for
those who were already perfectly "in the grace of God" to
come to hear his sermons. He started in the prisons of Turin and planted
his tent on the outskirts of Valdocco in order to give a home to thousands
of children who were discarded by society. Valdocco at that time was
the equivalent of the poorest and most dangerous slums of today's
I believe here is the secret and strength of what the Pope is asking
of us in this chapter. Never lose sight of heaven, without hiding
in a corner of this earth, even if we are close to the people God
loves most, precisely because they are in greater difficulty. There
is a wonderful article of the Salesian Constitutions of Don Bosco,
where it says: "Imitating God's patience, we encounter the young
at their present stage of freedom. We then accompany them, so that
they may develop solid convictions and gradually assume responsibility
for the delicate process of their growth as human beings and as men
of faith." (art. 38).
Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called "law of gradualness"
in the knowledge that the human being "knows, loves and accomplishes
moral good by different stages of growth". [Familiaris consortio,
34] This is not a "gradualness of law" but rather a gradualness
in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who
are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out
the objective demands of the law. For the law is itself a gift of
God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception;
it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human
being "advances gradually with the progressive integration of
the gifts of God and the demands of God's definitive and absolute
love in his or her entire personal and social life". [Ibid.,
9: 90] (AL 295)
Does this not describe the real life of every family? Parents definitely
want the best for their children. The way to go forward together to
the goal, however, is not smooth and does not correspond to the good
desires in people's hearts and the good intentions they share. There
are difficulties, limitations, and sometimes very heavy external conditioning.
And then there are all the fragilities and mistakes of personal life.
This was also the case with the new 'family' that accompanied Jesus
in the years of his public life: despite the fact that the Twelve
had listened to the gospel directly from the Master's lips, they denied
and betrayed him.
"It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help
each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial
community and thus to experience being touched by an "unmerited,
unconditional and gratuitous" mercy. No one can be condemned
for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not
speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever
situation they find themselves. Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective
sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose
something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no
way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something
which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17). Such a person needs
to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.
Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the
life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another
way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment
of the parish priest, may suggest." (AL 297).
I cannot help but look again at Don Bosco, to see how Pope Francis
wants us to behave towards those who are going through situations
of fragility without losing sight of the renewing power of the gospel.
Just a stone's throw from the house where he grew up in Becchi - in
a family sorely tested by his father's premature death and many forms
of poverty - there is a statue of young John Bosco walking on a tightrope.
The artist had a brilliant insight: the string is taut not because
it is tied to two trees, but because there is a group of angels playing
tug-of-war with a group of boys. It is on this tension between heaven
and earth that John Bosco walks straight towards those boys with his
heart in heaven
"The Church has the mission of proclaiming God's mercy, the pulsating
heart of the Gospel, through which it must reach the heart and mind
of every person. The Bride of Christ makes its own the way of behaving
of the Son of God, reaching out to everyone and excluding nobody.
[Misericordiae Vultus, 12]. The Church knows that Jesus is a Shepherd
of one hundred sheep, not ninety-nine. He wants them all "(AL
Pastoral ministry of merciful
Pope Francis suggests that not everyone is enthusiastic about the
approach he offers to the fragility of marriage and family life.
"I understand those who prefer a more rigid pastoral care that
will not give rise to any confusion. But I sincerely believe that
Jesus wants a Church attentive to the good that the Spirit pours out
in the midst of fragility: a Mother who, at the very moment in which
she explicitly expresses her objective teaching, does not give up
on the good she can do, even if she runs the risk of getting dirty
with the mud of the road. [EG 45]" (AL 308).
There is no room here to enter the lively dialogue that Amoris Laetitia
has given rise to, especially on the possibility of access to the
Eucharist by those who live in situations that do not conform to Christian
marriage. There is a delightful intervention by Cardinal Francesco
Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative
Texts, which I think may be enlightening for those who want to know
and reflect further on this issue. It is accessible through this link:
Seeds to be opened
Zacchaeus and the sycamore tree, and the first stone
It may be enlightening to accompany the reflection on Chapter VIII
of Amoris Laetitia by meditating on two gospel passages that show
Jesus' thinking and the pastoral line he took in two situations of
fragility, which were very irregular and contrary to the standard
of the mosaic law as it was lived at his time.
Luke: 19,1-10 Zacchaeus, come down immediately, today I want to stop
at your house.
John 8.1-11 Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go,
and from now on, sin no more.
The 24th of the month:
a profound Marian sign that makes us a family
The Salesian Luis Valpuesta,
of venerable memory, was a man who was passionate about providing
good literature for the young by means of small simple leaflets. Guided
by his evangelical zeal, he used to distribute many leaflets. One
of them had the title: "To say 24 is to say Mary Help of Christians".
The 24th is more than a simple number. The celebration of the 24th
is a sign of the profound Marian dimension of the Salesian Family.
It generates joy, trust, apostolic dynamism and makes it a family.
The General Regulations of the Salesians of Don Bosco explicitly point
to this unifying sign when they speak of dialogue with the Lord.
The monthly commemoration of Mary Help of Christians did not start
by chance. This gesture inspired by Marian popular piety sprouted
from a living community that experienced daily the maternal protection
of Mary Help of Christians. That community was the Salesian house
in Montevideo (Uruguay) and from here the practice passed to the whole
world. Fr Paolo Albera of the Superior Council visited the Salesian
Houses of America on behalf of the Rector Major, Blessed Michele Rua.
When Fr Albera arrived in Montevideo in 1899, he met the pleasant
surprise of the celebration of the 24th of each month in honour of
Mary Help of Christians. When he reported this to Turin, Don Rua wasted
no time in introducing this commemoration in the Basilica of Mary
Help of Christians in Valdocco and recommending it to all Salesian
When Fr Pablo Albera became the successor of Don Bosco, he recommended
the spread of this Marian practice to all Salesian houses. He did
so in a few heartfelt well-chosen words, full of affection for Our
Lady and also rich in ecclesial and Salesian spirit. Fr Albera said:
"This is something which is of great interest to me, that all
possible solemnity be given to the commemoration of the 24th of each
month as is already the case at the Shrine of the Powerful Help of
Christians in Valdocco, to pray fervently for the intentions of the
Holy Father and for the good of our Society."
The celebration of the 24th of the month is still very much alive.
Everywhere there are manifestations of gratitude, trust, and passionate
love for Mary Help of Christians. The celebrations on the 24th of
each month are a replica of 24 May, the feast of Mary Help of Christians.
At the end of his "Letter from Rome" (1884), Don Bosco says
that this feast is the prelude of the feast we will celebrate together
In the celebrations of the 24th there is always the blessing composed
by Don Bosco and the song "Rendidos a tus plantas", and
we gather around the Mother of God. These are celebrations that revive
the "Da mihi animas". They are open out-going celebrations.
Celebrating Mary our Help must make us aware that we too must be "Helpers".
It would do very little good if we stayed praying in the Church and
did not go out to the margins. We know that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
of Buenos Aires, today Pope Francis, was the first to arrive every
24th of the month at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in the
Almagro district, and he used to pray there for a long time at the
Shrine of Our Lady. It is true "To say 24 is to say Mary Help
of Christians". (Miguel Aragón Ramírez, SDB).
Philippines - ADMA Meeting
with the Spiritual Animator
On Saturday 1 April 2017, on the occasion of the visit of Fr Pierluigi
Cameroni, Spiritual Animator, a meeting was held in Manila for ADMA
members of the metropolitan area. Members of the Northern Philippines
Provincial Council took part as well as a significant number of young
people from the ADMA group of San Idelfonso in Makati. Fr Cameroni
had come to the Philippines in connection with the cause of the Servant
of God, Fr Carlo Braga. At the meeting, he presented the main lines
of ADMA and invited the members to continue the ongoing journey with
special attention to families and young people. The President of the
group, Maria Junifer, and the provincial spiritual animator, Fr Remo
Bati, welcomed the participants. In the afternoon, Fr Pierluigi presided
over the Eucharist in the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians
in Paranaque, and on Sunday 2 April in the parish church of S. Idelfonso,
where there is a fervent group of ADMA Youth animated by the parish
priest Fr Antony Malavino. In all these meetings, the popular dimension
of ADMA was felt through a widespread devotion to Our Lady with the
spread of statues of Mary Help of Christians in families for the daily
recitation of the Rosary, with simple catechesis and with Marian animation
of groups of young people, boys and girls. In the late morning of
Sunday there was a meeting with the Provincial Council of ADMA chaired
by Ms Maria Junifer Maliglig, where they shared experiences and guidelines.
There was a call for the renewal of ADMA with attention to accompanying
families, the growth of the identity and responsibility of lay people,
and the enhancement of popular religiosity.
ADMA PRIMARY - FIRST STEPS
IN FAMILY LIFE
Forty couples participated, in a climate of joy, at the first meeting
of "First steps in Family Life", organized by ADMA and the
Youth Ministry Team of the Salesian District of Piedmont and Valle
d'Aosta for young couples in the first years of marriage or couples
who have already set the date (although it is not a pre-marriage course).
The proposal is one of the initiatives of the Salesian Family in response
to the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia and the Strenna of the
Rector Major, to promote ministry towards families especially in the
early years of family life.
As babies when they are born they cannot walk or talk, so also married
couples need to learn the secrets to be happy in married life from
the grammar of relationship, affection, being man and woman with their
differences and complementarities. Young married couples need to be
formed and accompanied to enjoy the grace of 24-hour marriage and
helped to live it to the full and overcome the inevitable challenges.
They easily understand the importance of not isolating themselves,
but of building networks of relationships, of the joy of dialogue
and forgiveness. Gradually they discover the beauty of living in trust,
open to the gift of life and the joy of becoming parents.
The course was also an opportunity to experience communion and complementarity
between the states of life. In fact the team that accompanied the
young couples with a great spirit of communion was composed of married
couples, sisters and priests.
They had a chance to deepen their understanding of the beauty and
richness of the Sacrament of marriage, the cornerstone of married
life, the secret of forgiveness, the importance of prayer and spiritual
direction - and the joy of being parents. But above all, they gained
the awareness that in marriage it is necessary to put Jesus in the
centre, to learn to say "thank you", "sorry" and
"please" and that they win when both win.
Everything was done in the Salesian style and in the family spirit
to offer not only a formation opportunity, but also an opportunity
to share experiences and form relationships between couples. The round
of meetings ended with a retreat at Muzzano on 1-2 April, during which
the couples studied aspects of the spirituality of married life, helped
by a talk from the Provincial, Fr Enrico Stasi.
With gratitude we entrust these and all young couples to Jesus and
Mary, we pray that they will support them, certain that in the end
the smile will accompany them on their journey.
East Timor - Lenten Retreat
The Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA) of Timor Leste met
on 31 March - 1 April 2017 at the Community of San Domenico di Lospalos
for the Lenten retreat at national level. The participants came from
different houses: Fatumaca, Venilale, Baucau, Dili, Maliana (Kailako),
Laga, Quelicai, Vemasse, Bucoli, Fuiloro and Lospalos, for a total
of 305 participants. They included the national president Maria Fatima
Belo and the whole council, together with the National Spiritual Animator
Fr Manuel da Silva Ximenes, SDB. Fr. Rolando Fernandez, a 34-year-old
Philippines missionary in Timor-Leste, was the preacher of the retreat
on the theme: "Communion in Christ? Living like Him!"
Japan - The First Spiritual Retreat of ADMA
During the wonderful spring period near Kawaguchi Lake, at the foot
of Mount Fuji, the first spiritual retreat took place with 40 members
from two Japanese ADMA groups (Tokyo started in 2010 and Hamamatsu
in 2012). The retreat was led by the spiritual animator Fr Angel Yamanouchi
and the Provincial, Fr Mario. Two Salesians helped by hearing confessions
in other languages (Fr Dong Tan Hien in Vietnamese and Fr Ambrosio
da Silva in Portuguese and English). There was also Sister Teresita
Matsumoto, FMA animator.
During the retreat, we welcomed 23 new members of the Hamamatsu group:
9 Brazilians, 7 Japanese, 5 Peruvians and 2 Filipinos. We are also
pleased with the presence of many candidates from different nationalities
interested in becoming members of ADMA.
The enrolment of the 23 new members was introduced with the prayer
of the Rosary animated by the Tokyo group in three languages (Japanese,
Portuguese and Spanish) with a brief meditations by Fr Angel on Mary,
model of the Christian disciple. The time for confessions followed.
In the spiritual climate of Pentecost, the 23 new members pronounced
the commitment formula and the Eucharistic blessing confirmed their
decision to give witness, as members of ADMA and as disciples of Jesus,
in Japanese society. A fraternal meal followed. (Fr. Mario Yamanouchi
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ADMA HEADQUARTERS, Torino-Valdocco,
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THE President OF ADMA: Signor Tullio LUCCA |E-mail: Tullio.Lucca@gmail.com
Spiritual Animator of ADMA:
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