Mary, under the title "Help of Christians," was St. John Bosco's staunch friend, advocate, protector, and helper. In the 1860s he built a church in her honor at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, the Salesian motherhouse in Turin.In subsequent years the church--now a basilica--has been the focus of a great festival of devotion every year on the May 24, with tens of thousands of pilgrims converging from all over Italy and much of Europe to honor the Virgin Mary, to celebrate the sacraments, and after dark to process thru Turin's streets.
Today ANS reports on the homily preached by the Salesian Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chavez, at the principal Mass in the basilica:
The maternal presence of Mary is a great gift
(ANS – Turin) – The maternal presence of Mary is a great gift for “all the foundations which, spread around the world, carry out the mission of making present, visible, and effective the anticipatory love of God through education, evangelization, human development, social commitment.” This is the message which the Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chavez, gave at Mass in the basilica of Mary Help of Christians before the solemn annual procession through the streets of Turin in honor of Don Bosco’s Madonna.
The basilica in Valdocco, which Don Bosco wanted to be a sign of gratitude to the Madonna—whom he considered the real Founder of the Congregation and of the whole Salesian Family—once again this year was the goal of many pilgrimages. The rector of the basilica, Fr. Franco Lotto, and his co-workers welcomed many of the faithful in the days leading up to May 24 as they paid homage to Don Bosco’s Madonna. The principal Mass was attended by the Salesian Youth Movement and by the Salesian Family.
In his homily, quoting the latest book by Benedict XVI, the Rector Major recalled that the Salesian apostolic mission “flows from the exercise of the sovereignty of the Risen Lord, who has given to us as our mission territory the world, the whole world, and not just that of the young. It is this mission, which Don Bosco began to develop here at Valdocco, that is at the heart of the Church and places us totally at the service of its mission.”
The sovereignty of the Risen Lord becomes the criterion by which we can understand history and creation, Fr. Chavez said. Commenting on the “Arab spring,” which exploded at the end of January thanks to the protagonism of the young, and its still uncertain outcome after four months, and the natural and nuclear disasters in Japan, Don Bosco’s ninth successor recalled that “our life, understood as witness and mission, ought to lead to hope, to the safeguarding of creation, to the renewal of the world, to peace, and to reconciliation and freedom.”
Later he remarked: “The hoped-for changes, the aspirations and the ideals of the men and women of our times, can be neither delayed nor betrayed by those who at all costs want to retain power or to impose new regimes under the pretext of establishing stability in society.”
In times like the present, which are not easy, Mary guides and protects. Don Bosco was firmly convinced that Mary was at his side and that she guided and inspired his life. “To Mary we turn as ‘a people on the march,’ as Christians who every day face life’s battles trying to understand our lives according to the heart of God,” Fr. Chavez said.
He then mentioned four approaches typical of Mary that the faithful are called to imitate: a life of faith, concern for those in need, fidelity under trial, and joy at the marvels which the Father accomplishes.
The passage from the Gospel about the marriage feast at Cana, read at the Mass, teaches us to share the worries of others, to be attentive to their needs, to discover the presence of Jesus, and to turn to him as believers and as credible witnesses to what we believe. “The greatness of Mary, according the evangelist, lay above all in her ability to notice, in addition to the problem of the young couple, the presence of Jesus and to point toward him: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”
“All of us, dear brothers and sisters, who have received the gift of an education full of values that are authentically human and Christian are called to be this new wine—people capable of spreading the good which we have experienced and which has shaped our lives, capable of showing the faith which enlightens our hearts. In this way we shall be, if we imitate in our lives “the way in which Mary was and lived.”
The full text of the homily in Italian is available on sdb.org.