Let’s begin with his devotion to Saint Joseph as there’s quite a list of things that connect Pope Francis to this saint. Among them the choice of the date for the beginning of his pontificate the 19th of March, Saint Joseph’s feast day, and the choice of the nard flower symbolic of this saint on his coat of arms.
Then in July 2013 his decision to consecrate Vatican City State not just to Saint Michael, as had been previously planned, but to Saint Joseph as well. And on a more personal note his admission to cherishing a wooden statue representing a dormant Saint Joseph, dressed in gold trimmed dark green and red garments according to Hispanic iconography, by which he places prayer requests. Simply because as he mentioned when he confided to us this personal gesture: “ He’s a carpenter and he gets the job done, even though he sometimes makes you wait”.
As for what links Pope Francis to Saint Joseph, International Labour Day and workers why not shine the spotlight on his words the 1st of May 2013, so the very first year of his pontificate, during his weekly general audience.
Words which focus precisely on work and the figure of Saint Joseph. In a special way on the role played by Joseph as the legal father who teaches his son his skills as a carpenter in the workshop in Nazareth on a daily basis and shares with him, the efforts, the commitment, the satisfactions and problems that come with the job.
On this occasion Pope Francis goes on to remind us of the dignity and importance of work. The Book of Genesis, he says, tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work: “Work is part of God’s loving plan, we are called to cultivate and care for all the goods of creation and in this way participate in the work of creation! Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person…it gives you the ability to maintain yourself, your family, to contribute to the growth of your nation. And here I think of the difficulties which, in various countries, today afflicts the world of work and business; I think of how many, and not just young people, are unemployed, many times due to a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice. I wish to extend an invitation to solidarity to everyone, and I would like to encourage those in public office to make every effort to give new impetus to employment, this means caring for the dignity of the person, but above all I’d like to say do not lose hope; St. Joseph also experienced moments of difficulty, but he never lost faith and was able to overcome them, in the certainty that God never abandons us. And then I would like to speak especially to you young people: be committed to your daily duties, your study, your work, to relationships of friendship, to helping towards others; your future also depends on how you live these precious years of your life. Do not be afraid of commitment, of sacrifice and do not look with fear towards the future; keep your hope alive: there is always a light on the horizon”.
But while Pope Francis on this occasion shares with us words of encouragement as we’ve just noticed he also chooses to highlight some of the evils of society in the area of work and denounces once again, the practice some companies have of adopting policies that favor profit over human dignity or even human life. And then uses an image to express how fundamental work is to the dignity of the person:”… work to use an image ‘anoints’ with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God who has worked and still works, who also acts”.
One last word perhaps: let’s hope the prayer requests that Pope Francis places by the reclining and dormant figure of Saint Joseph are eventually answered…As he once assured us, they always are!
WE ARE FAMILY AND MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS IS OUR ATTENTIVE AND CONSOLING MOTHER. SHE TOOK DON BOSCO BY THE HAND AND TAKES OURS ALSO TO GUIDE US ALONG THE PATHS OF THIS WORLD.
Just the other day I was speaking with a young wife who is going through difficult times. We were speaking about faith and she said to me: “Certainly, I have faith, Father. I intend upon living with and by faith, and I can assure you that every morning when I wake up the first thing I do when I put my feet on the floor is to say my prayer to Mary Help of Christians.” As you can imagine, my thoughts flew immediately to Don Bosco and the absolute trust he had in Mary Help of Christians. It was Don Bosco himself who said many times: “It is imposible to go to Jesus except through the love of Mary,” and also: “Mary has always been my guide. Whoever places his trust in her will never feel let down.”
Almost in jest I once said: “If I ever come to know that one of you has prayed well, but in vain, I am going to write a letter immediately to St. Bernard telling him he was wrong when he said: ‘Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary! That it is a thing unheard of that anyone ever sought your protection or implored your help and was left forsaken.’ But you can be sure that I will never have to write any letter to St. Bernard!” I imagine that for this young bride, and for many others who have absolute confidence in our Heavenly Mother, the feeling is the same; that is to say: trust in Mary Help of Christians is a guarantee that no one will ever be unheard or forsaken.
All this speaks to me of something much more than just a pious thought from Don Bosco. To contemplate, as I have done many times, on the simple devotion of thousands and thousands of people to Mary, the Mother of the Lord, in the numerous and different shrines around the world, truly moves me and I cannot remain indifferent. Furthermore, seeing how significant Mary Help of Christians is in our “Salesian world”, in Valdocco, in the Basilica, touches my heart deeply. My imagination takes off when I think of Don Bosco walking through these very places, through this courtyard – even if the stones were different ones – and helping his boys and his young men and the first Salesians “fall in love” with his same strong and affectionate love for our Heavenly Mother.
I hear him tell me that if we are to walk a sure path as Salesian educators, we cannot do so without helping the hearts of our boys and girls beat strongly for our Blessed Mother. Without this, our education of “good Christians” lacks an absolute essential.
I can assure you that as I travel around the world, I continue to see authentic miracles each and every day which are the fruit of Salesian education – of our Preventive Sytem – which is an act of entrustment to a presence that makes reasonable the demand to make God the meaning in one’s life and feel the true affection of educators who seek only the good of these children, teens, and young adults, preparing them for life and helping them grow.
Don Bosco’s Virgin is represented with a huge mantle – a mantle which is a shelter, a refuge, a place of protection – in many of his dreams.
In his first dream, Mary “took me by the hand in her goodness.” Don Bosco would never let go of that hand. In this way, the extraordinary would blossom in the midst of the ordinary because this is true faith. We can say: “Where Don Bosco is, there is Mary.” Hers is a concrete presence.
Just like Don Bosco tried to explain to the Sisters gathered in Nizza: “’I only want to tell you that the Virgin Mary loves you very much – very, very much. And… you know, she is here in your midst!’
Then Don Bonetti, seeing him moved, interrupted him, and began to say, solely for the sake of distracting him: ‘Yes, it is so… It is so! Don Bosco wants to say that the Virgin Mother is your Mother and that she looks upon you and protects you’.
‘No! No!’ the Saint resumed speaking, ‘I want to tell you that the Virgin Mother is truly here, in this House; that she is happy with you and that, if you persevere with the spirit you have now, that this is what the Virgin Mary wants’…
The good Father was even more moved than before, and Don Bonetti again began to speak: ‘Yes, it is so… it is so! Don Bosco wants to tell you that if you will always be good, the Blessed Mother will be happy with you.’
‘But no, but no’, Don Bosco tried to explain, exerting himself to control his emotions. ‘I want to say that the Virgin Mary is truly here, here right in your midst! The Virgin Mother walks in this House and covers it with Her Mantle’.” (Biographical Memoirs, vol. XVII, p. 513)
When it is like this, when one sees that so much life exists in our Salesian Houses around the world and the good that is being done, one can only say: “She has done everything and… Trust in Mary Help of Christians and you will see what Miracles are.” May our Blessed Mother continue to shower you with the love that only mothers know how to give.”
Provincial Circular : LKC/JA/04/2017
My dear Confreres,
Cordial greetings to you of the Celebration of Hope: Happy Easter!
I take this opportunity to wish all our confreres, collaborators and beneficiaries of our various presences in Sri Lanka, A Very Happy Sinhala-Tamil New Year’s Day!AluthAvurudda! (Sinhala)PuththaanduNalvazhththukkal! (Tamil) It’s a time of gratitude, joy and great hope reminding us that God keeps blessing us as we are all the Children of the One and Same God, as even Pope Francis while washing the feet and speaking of the refugees reiterates the same theme shattering all kinds of discrimination. Easter too is a time bringing hope amidst all our emptiness and hopelessness.
God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should repent and change His mind. He has said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it? (Numbers 23, 19) God always keeps His Promises. The truth is that only the world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and the advertisements tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. It doesn’t take long before we have been fooled enough to know that the world’s promises are full of emptiness. But, God is different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, on Easter, He gave us emptiness that is full of promises.
Let us take some time to think about the promises of Easter and reflect to react hopefully. There are three of them. Each promise is marked by something empty: An empty cross, an empty tomb, and the empty burial clothes. It is the very fact that each of these is empty that assures us that God’s promises are real. Because they couldn’t hold Jesus, because he couldn’t be contained by the cross, the tomb, or even his burial clothes, we can be sure of the fullness of God’s promises in our lives.
The evidence of the Risen Christ that the women saw was an empty tomb. But, “How can there be evidence of the glory of God in emptiness?” Well, the empty tomb is merely a giant fingerprint that the hand of God has touched this place. The empty tomb is not the reality; the reality is the power of God that makes possible the empty tomb.
The “reality” is the power of God that took the sting out of death and robbed the grave of its victory. The empty tomb is where Jesus battled death and death came up empty handed. On this glorious Easter morning, the empty tomb was just a place which Jesus used for a dressing room to pull off death and put on life; where he pulled off mortality and put on immortality; where he pulled off humanity and put on divinity; the empty tomb is where Jesus pulled off pain and put on power; where he pulled off degradation and put on glory.
The Message of the Empty Tomb is a message of hope for those of us living empty lives, those of us who have run out of answers from everywhere else; those of us who are desperately in need of a living hope. The empty tomb lets us know that the emptiness we experience in our lives is not our reality, that there is power beyond what we see in the emptiness. On that first Easter morning, the women were invited into the empty tomb to “come and see” beyond the emptiness, to see by faith the glory and evidence of a resurrected life.
The Easter Call to a life of hope in Families and Communities reminds us of the young people who can be signs of hope in times of hopelessness. The Church is moving forward giving more importance to the role of young people in the Families and the Church, in the Society and the World at large through a Synod to be held in 2018 with the topic, “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”. The Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today. By listening to young people, the Church will once again hear the Lord speaking in today’s world. As in the days of Samuel (cf. 1 Samuel 3, 1-21) and Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 1, 4-10), young people know how to discern the signs of our times, indicated by the Spirit. Listening to their aspirations, the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow.
Even as Salesians we need to listen to the young people in our settings to bring the Missionary zeal of Don Bosco and his spirit of predilection of the Young to a full limelight,active and alive in our own times. God Bless You!