St. Mary Mazzarello
May 13, 2017
1 Cor 1: 26-31
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.
“Consider your call, brothers and sisters. . . . God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world…” (1 Cor 1: 26-28).
Those words to St. Paul, chosen particularly for today’s feast of St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello, apply also to the Church’s 2 newest saints. Earlier this morning at Fatima, Pope Francis canonized Francisco and Jacinta Marto, 2 of the 3 shepherd children to whom our Lady appeared 100 years ago today.
Francisco was 10 when he died 2 years later, and Jacinta was 9 when she
died 3 years later. And they “bumped
off” Dominic Savio as the youngest canonized non-martyrs; Dominic had reached
the ripe age of almost 15.
Jacinta Marto, Lucia dos Santos, and Francisco Marto,
the 3 children to whom our Lady appeared at Fatima in 1917.
If you’re disappointed that in the Salesian world the feast of St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello pulls rank over the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, take heart from this:
After Don Bosco built a magnificent new church at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in the 1860s, dedicated not to the Oratory’s patron saint, Francis, but to Mary, the Help of Christians, he set about building a different kind of monument in honor of our Lady. He called this monument a “living” one because it was made up of live human beings who were to glorify Mary by doing her work on earth for the salvation of the young, especially girls. That living monument is the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, better known as the Salesian Sisters. And St. Mary Domenica was the Daughters’ cofoundress, with Don Bosco.
You may have read the little bio of St. Mary was in our “Crux” insert in last week’s bulletin. So no need for me to repeat that.
Like Don Bosco, Mary came from a simple, hardworking peasant family—nothing powerful or well-born or noble in either of them, except what came from the power and nobility of God’s grace. Mary didn’t even learn to read and write until late in life.
But Mary learned to love God and serve her neighbor from her parents and extended family, from the people of her humble parish in her remote village in the hills of Piedmont, and from the spiritual guide to whom she entrusted her soul, the parish’s assistant pastor, Fr. Dominic Pestarino.
That was the 1st key to Mary’s holiness. 2d, she became an apostle. She and some of the other girls and young women of the village looked after the younger girls while their parents were working in the fields. They taught them catechism and basic skills like sewing and cooking. This was the group of young women whom Fr. Pestarino introduced to Don Bosco in 1864 and who, a few years later, became the 1st Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (1872).
3d, Mary Domenica reluctantly accepted the office of superior, and she humble and lovingly guided the others as her daughters in their own spiritual growth, their devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, to Mary Help of Christians, and to Don Bosco their father, and to the service of the girls and young women who became their apostolate in Piedmont, then Argentina, and now all over the world—even, all too briefly, at the Newman Center of Champaign. They are now the largest religious congregation of women in the Church.
What God did in the short life of Mary Mazzarello—she was only 44 when she died—and is doing thru this beautiful living monument to Mary Help of Christians is possible because St. Mary was open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, offered thru her parish priest and Don Bosco, because she became an apostle leading others to Jesus, and because she loved the Eucharist and our Blessed Mother and practiced humility and charity toward her sisters as well as the young. These are virtues all of us can practice in our own vocations, and so grow in holiness ourselves.
Statues of Mother Mazzarello and Don Bosco
at the Sisters' Generalate in Rome.