programme: Amoris Laetitia /
Silvio Roggia SDB
of family and marriage
Spirituality born of family
The last chapter of Amoris Laetitia aims very high, but does not present
the family with a level of holiness that is unreachable. In fact,
the communion of family love is by its nature open to the greatness,
height, beauty and depth of God's own life.
This is not something new from Pope Francis. He begins by saying "Several
decades ago, in speaking of the lay apostolate, the Second Vatican
Council emphasized the spirituality born of family life. The Council
stated that lay spirituality "will take its particular character
from the circumstances of
married and family life" (AL
313). Notice what he says: spirituality born of family life. This
means that it is not something added from the outside, nor is it something
achieved by great effort, other than that of ordinary daily life in
"The Lord's presence dwells in real and concrete families, with
all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes. Living in
a family makes it hard for us to feign or lie; we cannot hide behind
a mask. If that authenticity is inspired by love, then the Lord reigns
there, with his joy and his peace. The spirituality of family love
is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. In that variety
of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, God has his dwelling
I am familiar with a wonderful experience of community life among
a group of three families in Tuscany. They have a single bank account,
where all revenue is shared, and each family uses it freely according
to need, so great is their mutual trust. They have a great acceptance
of life, of their many children and of those they have adopted. But
the thing that is closest to spirituality born of the family is the
principle of self-promotion: if it is well lived the family experience
already has what it needs to continue to grow.
This does not mean closing the door on all the wealth that comes from
ecclesial life and from so many other experiences of solidarity and
communion. But it is good to recognize that family love is a source
that continues to give life from within, because it is inhabited by
God. "The Trinity is present in the temple of marital communion.
Just as God dwells in the praises of his people (cf. Ps 22:3), so
he dwells deep within the marital love that gives him glory."
(AL 314). Francis is not afraid to use the loftiest words to describe
the Church's spiritual journey down through the centuries, the same
words that are used for the highest form of holiness and communion
In the light of Easter
We know very well that the mystery of the Lord's passion, death and
resurrection is the foundation of our whole faith. It is the "fullness
of time" that gives meaning and direction to the life of the
universe and to every human existence, from Adam to the end of the
world. This same Paschal experience embraces the life of the family,
in a way that could not be more concrete.
"If a family is centred on Christ, he will unify and illumine
its entire life. Moments of pain and difficulty will be experienced
in union with the Lord's cross, and his closeness will make it possible
to surmount them. In the darkest hours of a family's life, union with
Jesus in his abandonment can help avoid a breakup. Gradually, "with
the grace of the Holy Spirit, [the spouses] grow in holiness through
married life, also by sharing in the mystery of Christ's cross, which
transforms difficulties and sufferings into an offering of love".
[Final Report, 2015, 87] (AL 317).
But the Paschal Mystery does not stop at Golgotha. The darkness all
over the earth lasts only three hours, just enough to prepare the
way for the sun of the day without sunset on the day of Resurrection.
It is wonderful to hear from the Pope - and here he quotes John Paul
II - that from now on life in the Spirit (= spirituality) lived by
married couples and their families is a sharing in the joy of the
new life of the Risen Lord.
"Moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality
can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection.
Married couples shape with different daily gestures a "God-enlightened
space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord."
[Vita consecrata, 42] (AL 317).
So too regarding sexuality. We do not have time here to examine the
'theology of the body', which is perhaps the greatest gift St John
Paul II left to the Church and the world. Those who have the chance
to do so will discover how great and beautiful the love mystery is
in the mutual gift of their bodies between man and woman: it is truly
communion in the free, total, faithful, fruitful love of Christ. It
is a foretaste of the joy of Paradise. Christopher West is one of
the best interpreters and promoters of John Paul II's theology of
the body. He rightly points out how this intuition is already present
in poetry, songs, and art. True love between man and woman is very
close to paradise ... the distance is as short as possible. Among
other things, he quotes the words of Almost Paradise by Mike Reno
and Ann Wilson: 'We're knocking on heaven's door. How could we ask
for more? I swear that I can see forever in your eyes Paradise ...
Obviously, there is nothing automatic or taken for granted once and
for all, as if it were a wedding present. As with every disciple of
the Lord, life in the Spirit grows as we open our hearts to his presence,
and this is done first of all with that fundamental path of faith
in which we all grew up: family prayer.
"Family prayer is a special way of expressing and strengthening
this paschal faith. A few minutes can be found each day to come together
before the living God, to tell him our worries, to ask for the needs
of our family, to pray for someone experiencing difficulty, to ask
for help in showing love, to give thanks for life and for its blessings,
and to ask Our Lady to protect us beneath her maternal mantle. With
a few simple words, this moment of prayer can do immense good for
our families." (AL 318)
Love that is exclusive and free
The concluding part of Amoris Laetitia opens a window on the paradox
of married love. It is close to the gospel, precisely because it is
always paradoxical: 'Whoever wants to save his life will lose it;
But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Mt 16:25).
Where is the paradox of the joy of love between spouses? On the one
hand, it is said with clarity that fidelity to the end is an "interior
requirement of the covenant of conjugal love" (FC 11) and is
simply indispensable. Francis reiterates this by quoting John Paul
II's words in Cordoba, Argentina (4/8/1987): "a person who cannot
choose to love for ever can hardly love for even a single day."
(AL 319). On the other hand, it is equally clear that this love forever
will always be limited, not only because of our weaknesses, but by
its very nature:
"There comes a point where a couple's love attains the height
of its freedom and becomes the basis of a healthy autonomy. This happens
when each spouse realizes that the other is not his or her own, but
has a much more important master, the one Lord. No one but God can
presume to take over the deepest and most personal core of the loved
one; he alone can be the ultimate centre of their life. At the same
time, the principle of spiritual realism requires that one spouse
not presume that the other can completely satisfy his or her needs.
The spiritual journey of each - as Dietrich Bonhoeffer nicely put
it - needs to help them to a certain "disillusionment" with
regard to the other, to stop expecting from that person something
which is proper to the love of God alone. This demands an interior
divestment. The space which each of the spouses makes exclusively
for their personal relationship with God not only helps heal the hurts
of life in common, but also enables the spouses to find in the love
of God the deepest source of meaning in their own lives. Each day
we have to invoke the help of the Holy Spirit to make this interior
freedom possible." (AL 320).
This journey into the mystery of love and joy could not end in a more
beautiful way: love in the end is God Himself, it is his name, his
mystery. It all depends on letting ourselves be touched and enveloped
by his presence that transforms every human experience into something
divine, all the more so since this experience is what he has set as
the foundation of every life. "It is a profound spiritual experience
to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ
in them." (AL 323) This is what makes family life fruitful and
a source of new life in all its relationships and in all directions.
"All family life
is a "shepherding" in mercy. Each of us, by our love and
care, leaves a mark on the life of others; with Paul, we can say:
"You are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts
not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God" (2 Cor 3:2-3).
Each of us is a "fisher of men" (Lk 5:10) who in Jesus'
name "casts the nets" (cf. Lk 5:5) to others, or a farmer
who tills the fresh soil of those whom he or she loves, seeking to
bring out the best in them." (AL 322). Marital fruitfulness involves
helping others, for "to love anybody is to expect from him something
which can neither be defined nor foreseen; it is at the same time
in some way to make it possible for him to fulfil this expectation.
This is itself a way to worship God, who has sown so much good in
others in the hope that we will help make it grow." (AL322)
Prayer to the Holy Family
As a conclusion of this
journey to the joy of love which we have made with Pope Francis over
the past few months, we join in his prayer to Jesus, Mary and Joseph
- the three 'presences' on his simple pontifical coat of arms. We
may get the 'temptation' to memorize it and pray it every day ...
let's try it right away!
to the Holy Family
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love;
to you we turn with trust.
Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience
violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.
Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God's plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer.
Cochabamba (Bolivia) -
National Congress of Mary Help of Christians
From 28 April to 1 May at the Don Bosco Fátima Centre in Cochabamba,
the National Congress of Mary Help of Christians in Bolivia took place,
with the aim of promoting devotion to Mary Help of Christians, especially
among families and young people. More than 200 members from different
groups in the country participated. The meeting was coordinated by
the National President Ms. Patty Reyes and the spiritual animator
Fr Severino Laredo.
Talks were given by the World President, Mr Tullio Lucca, and the
World Spiritual Animator, Fr Pierluigi Cameroni. They presented the
new lines of the Association, in relation to membership of the Salesian
Family, and accompanying families and young people. Another vital
aspect presented which is vital to the life of the groups is the identity
and role of the local council: if the council works properly, ADMA
works well. The profile of the people who should be part of a council
is as follows: men and women of faith, communion, human relationships,
available for apostolate among the members and capable of reaching
out to others. The experiences of ADMA Youth of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba
were very interesting.
The Salesian Provincial, Fr Javier Ortiz, was present throughout.
He stressed that a new vision of ADMA was emerging at this meeting,
a call to involve families and to be open to the new generations,
to trust them and to bring the preventive system of Don Bosco to the
family. It was good to share the Marian and Apostolic dimensions of
the Salesian charism with the other groups of the Salesian Family.
One of the most interesting aspects was the presence and participation
of other members of the Salesian Family.
The participants were very pleased with the shared charismatic experience
and showed interest in the proposed themes. The presence of President
Tullio was significant. He gave his testimony as a committed lay person,
husband and father of a family, reminding us that ADMA is a lay association.
After each talk, there was intense group work from which the lines
of guidance and commitment for ADMA in Bolivia emerged. The participants
welcomed the indications offered in the various talks and expressed
the desire to start the new Vision for the Association in Bolivia.
In the concluding Eucharist at which the Provincial presided, over
40 new aspirants joined the Association, showing the vitality and
the future of ADMA in Bolivia.
Bolivia - Meeting with
the Priests of the Quinquennium
From 26 to 28 April 2017, there was a meeting in Cochabamba of 11
Salesians in the first five years of priesthood. On the final day
the World President of ADMA, Tullio Lucca and the Spiritual Animator,
Fr Pierluigi Cameroni SDB, were present. They presented the themes:
"Spirituality of the Association of Mary Help of Christians"
and "The causes of holiness in the Salesian Family". The
meeting helped us to get to know the new approaches of ADMA and to
share a rich moment of Salesian fraternity, greatly appreciated by
the young Salesian priests.
Turin - Primary ADMA -
Retreat for ADMA Youth
Over 40 young people from high school and university shared two days
of spiritual retreat at the beginning of May. The key words were Joy,
Sharing, Friendship and Faith - simple words, but together they describe
a unique experience. With the help of two priests, a nun, three couples
and many other people, we rediscovered the importance of putting on
the Christian armour to face the adventures of life, confident, trusting
Sao Paulo (Brazil) - Provincial
On 6 May 2017, about 200 members of the Association of Mary Help of
Christians met in the Parish of Our Lady of Fatima and Santo Amaro
in Guarujá -SP for the provincial meeting of ADMA.
With the help of the Parish Priest, Fr. André Torres, the participants
reflected on the theme of the meeting which was "With Mary, We
are Family!" re-echoing the Rector Major's Strenna. The Eucharistic
celebration was presided over by the Provincial, Fr Edson Donizetti
Castilho, and concelebrated by Fr Narciso Ferreira, the provincial
spiritual animator of ADMA, and Fr André Torres.
During the meeting, the election of the Provincial Council of ADMA
took place, the realization of a dream of the ADMA groups in the Province.
The following were elected: Tania Maria de Campos, coordinator; Dineia
Custódio da Silva, formator; Lucia Helena Chahin, responsible
for finance; Valderez Gonsalez, in charge of communication; Marli
Cezario Israele, secretary.
After the election of the provincial council, it was announced that
the venue of the next provincial meeting, to be held in 2018, will
be the city of Lorena. The meeting ended with Adoration of the Blessed
Congo-Pilgrimage of Mary
Help of Christians
In Lubumbashi on 21 May 2017, the Association of Mary Help of Christians
promoted a pilgrimage with prayer, meditation on the Rosary mysteries,
and Mass at which the Provincial Fr Jean Claude presided. We prayed
for peace in the world, in our families, in our country. We thank
all Christians in the Marian city and all those who participated in
the realization of this Marian Day in our Province. Let us imitate
Mary Help of Christians in all that we do. (Fr Albert Kabuge).
On Sunday 21 May 2017, the ADMA Group of the Sacred Heart in Brindisi,
renewed its commitment to the Association and accepted the entry of
two new members. This event took place in an atmosphere of Marian
prayer deeply felt by the ADMA Group and the entire Parish Community.
The Eucharist was celebrated by Fr Giorgio Micaletto, the Spiritual
Animator. He expressed in particular the joy of belonging to the Association
(with 35 to 40 members). He invited the whole Parish Community and
others to consider the possibility of being part of ADMA.
Leon, Guanajuato (Mexico)
- Provincial Meeting
On 19, 20 and 21 May, the Provincial Meeting of the Association of
Devotees of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA) took place at the House
of Don Bosco in León, with the participation of more than 150
representatives of local groups from the cities of Tijuana, Mexicali,
Chihuahua, Nuevo Laredo, Guadalupe, San Luis Potosí, Irapuato,
Leon, Guadalajara, Colima and Sahuayo.
With this meeting, new efforts were launched to strengthen and enrich
the work of this group of the Salesian Family, in line with the worldwide
promotion that aims to grow numerically, with the participation of
young people and families. Among the topics of reflection proposed
to the participants was the conference of Fr José Luis Plascencia
SDB. His topic was "With Mary we can see a new Pentecost".
Particular attention was paid to the election of the new provincial
council. President: Joaquín Salas, de Guadalajara, Jalisco;
Vice-President: Alfredo Estrada, Ciudad Guadalupe, Nuevo León.
Treasurer: María del Carmen Quintanar, Mexicali, Baja California.
Secretary: Irma Aurora Hinojosa, Mexicali, Baja California. Representative
for the Northeast Zone: Margarita Fierro, Chihuahua, Chihuahua. Representative
for the Northeast Zone: María Eugenia Chávez, Ciudad
Guadalupe, Nuevo León. Representative for the Centre-West Zone:
María Guadalupe Saavedra, Irapuato, Guanajuato.
The meeting ended on Sunday 21st after the Mass at the Shrine of St
John Bosco. Fr Francisco José Enríquez Zulaica SDB,
Delegate for ADMA, presided.
Turin - World Consultative
Body of the Salesian Family
This year, to highlight the centenary of the founding of the Institute
of the Don Bosco Volunteers, the meeting of the Salesian Family World
Consultative Body took place in Turin precisely on the days of the
Feast of Mary Help of Christians. The meeting - besides constituting
a unique moment for knowledge, fraternity and shared spirituality
among the various leaders of the different groups - dealt with specific
issues of common interest, such as the forthcoming Synod of Bishops
on "Young People, Faith and vocational discernment"; the
development of a collective web site; the evaluation of the Salesian
Family Spirituality Days; the progress of the causes of beatification
and canonization in the Salesian Family; and communications of projects
and proposals of mutual interest. ADMA was represented by President
Tullio Lucca, to whom the Rector Major expressed heartfelt thanks
and good wishes as he draws near the end of his term of office, and
the Spiritual Animator, Fr Pierluigi Cameroni.
On 20 June 2017 Fr Roberto
celebrates 25 years of priesthood! Thank you for your precious pastoral
and educational service to our ADMA Association.