(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday visited the patriarchal basilica of Saint
Mary Major where he led the recitation of the Rosary.
Please find Vatican Radio's translation of his reflection.
Dear brothers and sisters!
This evening we are here before Mary. We have prayed to her, to maternally take us more and more in union with her Son Jesus; we have brought her our joys and our sorrows, our hopes and our difficulties; we have invoked her with the lovely name “Salus Populi Romani” (“protectress of the Roman people”) asking for all of us, for Rome, for the world that she keep us in good health. Yes, because Mary gives us health, she is our saving grace.
With his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ brings us salvation, the grace and the joy of being God’s children and the possibility of calling him with the name of the Father. Mary is a mother, a mother who takes care above all of the health of her children and knows how to heal them with her great and tender love. The Madonna is the custodian of our health. What does this mean? My thoughts go, above all, to three aspects: she helps us in our growth, she helps us to face life, she teaches us to be free.
1. A mother helps her children to grow and it is her wish that they grow well; this is why she teaches them to not yield to laziness – which is something that derives also from certain wellbeing -, she teaches them not to adapt themselves to a life of ease that desires nothing beyond material possessions. A mother takes care that her children’s growth is not stunted, that they grow strong and capable of taking responsibilities upon themselves, that they take on commitments in life and lean towards great ideals. The Gospel of Luke says that in the family of Nazareth Jesus “grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him”(Luke 2,40). This is exactly what the Madonna does with us, she helps us to grow humanely and in faith, to be strong and not to yield to the temptation of being men and Christians in a superficial way, but to live with responsibility, reaching upwards all the time.
2. And then, a mother thinks of the health of her children, teaching them to face the difficulties of life. One does not educate, one does not look after someone’s health avoiding problems, as if life was a highway without obstacles. A mother helps her children to look to the problems in life with realism, not to lose oneself in them but to tackle them with courage, not to be weak, to know how to overcome them, in a healthy balance that a mother can “feel” is to be found in between the areas of safety and of risk. A life without challenges does not exist and a boy or a girl who does not know how to face challenges and put himself or herself on the line, has no backbone! Let us remember the parable of the Good Samaritan: Jesus does not commend the behavior of the priest or of the Levite, who avoid assisting the traveler who had been beaten, robbed and left half dead along the road, but that of the Samaritan who saw the situation of the man and tackled it in a concrete manner. Mary lived many difficult times in her life, from the birth of Jesus, when “there was no room for him in the inn” (Luke 2,7), up until the Calvary: (John 19,25). And like a good mother she is close to us so that we never lose courage before the adversities of life, before our own weaknesses, before our sins: she gives us strength, she points to the path of her Son. From the cross, indicating John, Jesus tells Mary: “Woman, here is your son,” and to John: “Here is your mother!” (John 19,26-27). We are all represented by that disciple: the Lord entrusts us to the loving hands and to the tenderness of the Mother, so that we can rely on her support when we face and overcome the difficulties of our human and Christian journey.
3. One last aspect: a good mother not only accompanies her children during their growth, not avoiding the problems and the challenges of life; a good mother also helps to take important decisions with freedom. But what does freedom mean? Certainly not doing all that one wants, letting oneself be dominated by passions, passing from one experience to the next without discernment, following the trends of the moment; freedom does not mean, so to say, throwing all that one does not like from the window. Freedom is given to us so that we make good choices in life! As a good mother, Mary teaches us to be, like she is, capable of making important decisions with the same full freedom with which she answered “yes” to God’s plan for her life (Luke 1,38).
Dear brothers and sisters, how difficult it is in our time to take important decisions! The ephemeral seduces us. We are victims of a tendency that pushes us towards the ephemeral… as if we wished to remain adolescents throughout our lives! We must not be afraid of definitive commitments, of commitments that involve and have an effect on our whole lives. In this way our lives will be fruitful!
The whole existence of Mary is a hymn to life, a hymn to love and to life: she generated Jesus the man and she accompanied the birth of the Church on Mount Calvary and in the Cenacle. The “Salus Populi Romani” is the mother that looks after our growth, she helps us face and overcome problems, she gives us freedom when we make important decisions; she is the mother who teaches us to be fruitful of good, joy, hope, to give life to others, both physical and spiritual life.
This is what we are asking of you this evening, Oh Mary, Salus Populi Romani, for the people of Rome, for all of us: give us the grace that only you can give, so that we may always be signs and tools of life.