The Holy See
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Vatican Basilica
Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Gathered here in this Basilica which constitutes the heart of Catholicism we are solemnly concluding the celebrations of the First Centenary of the World Confederation of Past Pupils of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.

On behalf of the Holy Father, who would have been very glad to meet you but unfortunately this proved impossible I offer a cordial welcome to all of you, starting with Mrs Carolina Fiorica, your President, and with the Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians who have accompanied you.

His Holiness is with us in spirit and assures you of his prayers for every one of you, your activities, your plans and the hopes of your Confederation which is a vigorous "branch" of the great, extended Salesian family. He imparts his Blessing to each and every one while he thanks you for the sentiments of devotion and fidelity which you have desired to express to him also on this occasion.

We are meeting here, gathered round the altar, to present to the Lord, through the hands of Mary we are celebrating Holy Mass in honour of Mary Help of Christians your thanksgiving for the fruits of good that have matured over the past 100 years. At the same time, looking courageously to the future, you offer her the resolutions that inspire you as you carry out your numerous activities, based on the educational inheritance of St John Bosco and St Maria Domenica Mazzarello, to embody them in a common horizon of work in our own time.

A hundred years of fervent, generous activity are already a felicitous achievement! Rightly, therefore, you have wished to solemnize this happy event with suitable spiritual and commemorative initiatives to give a new impetus to your commitment to take part in the Salesian mission in the world. I too share in your joy and in your prayers of thanksgiving and praise. I do so with the words of the Psalm that has just been proclaimed: "Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord".

Yes! Dear brothers and sisters, let us praise God for the good he has lavished upon various parts of the world through your praiseworthy Confederation. And let us ask him to continue to help you with the power of his Spirit, so that you may put enthusiastically into practice the slogan you have repeated throughout your centenary year: "Hands in the World and Roots in the Heart". Together we shall seek to examine certain aspects of this theme, letting ourselves be guided by the word of God that has been proclaimed.

Hands in the World and Roots in the Heart. The hands are your hands that reach out to embrace and serve those in need especially children and young people who are hungry, abused, defenceless; hands that are clasped in an uninterrupted chain of solidarity and love in defence of rights.

They are hands governed by a heart that is anchored to the roots of Salesian-Mornesian spirituality, ready to welcome others with reassuring open-mindedness.

It is a heart that has chosen moderation and simplicity as its lifestyle, a heart that lives united with God and passes on to others joy, the fruit of his presence within us, a heart that can share the lovingness of the heavenly Father with anyone, as Jesus made us experience it.

This programme of life comes to us today illuminated by the Gospel passage from John which we have just heard and which is well known to all: the Wedding at Cana.

The public life of Jesus according to St John begins with a celebration, a wedding, to which he goes with his disciples and at which his Mother is also present. As you know, everything was going according to plan until the wine ran out. Mary was the one who realized this in time and foresaw the ensuing embarassment. How could the problem that had arisen be solved without clouding the joy of the newly married couple?

The Virgin turns to Jesus, making him aware of the situation. She does not reply to his mysterious answer: "my hour has not yet come", but instead says to the servants: "Do whatever he tells you". And, at Jesus' request, the servants fill to the brim with water the six stone jars used for purification by the Jews and the water turns into wine, to the amazement of one and all, especially of the steward of the feast who knows where that wine came from. Thus the feast is saved and everyone congratulates the bridegroom on having kept the good wine until the end, contrary to the customary practice.

We can learn so many lessons from this Gospel passage, rich in symbolism and closely linked especially with the reference to the "hour" to the Paschal mystery, that is, the fulfilment of Jesus' saving mission with which Mary's mission as Mother is closely associated from the outset. If we pause to contemplate the Virgin, we are struck by the delicacy of her motherly heart, which is immediately aware of the embarassment the lack of wine would cause and she intervenes even before she is asked. She takes the initiative in order to help the bridal couple, interceding with her divine Son and using her power as his Mother. Jesus works the miracle, but he does so thanks to and, we may say, through Mary.

We understand better the profound meaning of this "first sign" this is what the Evangelist calls it if we consider the scene on Calvary where the dying Christ was to purify humanity's heart with his Blood.

The wine of joy recalls the Blood of Christ and his boundless love for humanity. Water, wine and blood are particularly meaningful elements that indicate the mystery of salvation. Our poverty, human reality all too often fraught with difficulties and apprehensions, is transformed into the wine of the fullness of life through the redemptive Blood of Jesus. If we die with Christ St Paul says we will reign with him.

Our hands are truly open to the world only when our heart is immersed in the Heart of Christ and allows itself to be purified and renewed by his Blood.

At Cana, as on Golgotha, Mary, Jesus' Mother, is beside him, silent and ready to intercede for us. Don Bosco taught us to see her as a sublime model to inspire our action with humility, with unreserved willingness to do the will of God and readiness to serve our neighbour with dedication, detached from every personal selfish interest.

This is an effective way of taking part in the Salesian mission, so clearly expressed in the multiform activities of the two educational congregations that flowed from the priestly heart of Don Bosco the Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians with Maria Domenica Mazzarello's crucial collaboration. Continue, then, to be inspired by the values that the Founders of our spiritual family embodied with heroic zeal.

Strive in particular to spread and to witness to the Gospel in accordance with the charism that distinguishes us, by sharing and by giving priority to the commitment to educating youth. The need for training the young, which cannot be postponed, demands priority attention, through the appropriate methods and with the enlightened and generous dedication that was a feature of Don Bosco and of St Maria Domenica Mazzarello.

Young people today are prey to challenges that were unknown in other times, such as drugs, violence, terrorism, the immorality of many of the means of social communication. These are fields of the apostolate that must involve former students in accordance with their own qualifications and the situations of need that arise in the different regions of the earth.

In this way, like Don Bosco and his first sons and daughters, you too will fulfil your personal mission through the educational commitment lived zealously and with an apostolic heart, and at the same time you will be able to propose holiness as a practical goal of his pedagogy, as was done so admirably by St Dominic Savio, Bl. Laura Vicuņa and many other men and women, priests, brothers, women religious and lay people who incarnated the Salesian charism consistently.

Trained in the school of preventive love by Don Bosco, may you feel as indeed you are an integral part of the great Salesian Family. Membership in it fundamentally associates former students in a vital communion that must be expressed by sharing apostolic objectives and goals, joining forces, as the Statutes of your Confederation say for "the promotion and education of women, the defence of life and of the family", in order to "foster a constructive protagonism of youth through the promotion of initiatives and activities for young people, especially those who live in situations of hardship" (n. 4.1).

Communion never diminishes the identity of individuals or of groups but enhances the most genuine expression of the authenticity of their origins and mission.

Identity is therefore measured by communion which makes it grow through rich exchanges and co-responsibility. Authentic communion originates in charity and, if it is to be fruitful, must always be based on it.

Pope Benedict XVI writes in his most recent Encyclical Caritas in Veritate: "Because it is a gift received by everyone, charity in truth is a force that builds community, it brings all people together without imposing barriers or limits. The human community that we build by ourselves can never, purely by its own strength, be a fully fraternal community, nor can it overcome every division and become a truly universal community. The unity of the human race, a fraternal communion transcending every barrier, is called into being by the word of God-who-is-Love" (n. 34). Dear Past Pupils, I would like to end by inviting you to focus your gaze on Mary, learning from her always to listen to and be attentive to the needs of others, ready to collaborate with the Lord for the good of souls. From Mary let us also learn how to entrust ourselves to Christ in every situation, enlivened by Gospel hope.

Having hope means becoming aware of our own problems and difficulties, the causes of our hardships. It means understanding that all this does not constitute the definitive word that subjects humanity to the final surrender, but that Someone exists our Redeemer who is capable of illuminating the blind alleys and no-through-roads of our daily existence.

It will not be our weaknesses that prevail but the one who wins is God who triumphs with the omnipotence of his merciful love. Enlivened by this sure hope, you too, dear friends, after Mary's example, will become "mediators" and instruments in the hands of the Lord in order to contribute to transforming "the water" of human and spiritual poverty that is present in the world, into the "wine" of new humanity, of the civilization of love.

This is what Don Bosco did, this is what Mother Mazzarello did and so many other men and women, disciples of theirs, some of whom we venerate today as Saints and Blesseds. May these family saints of ours intercede for us from Heaven and may they sustain all the members of your Confederation so that you may continue your daily journey with "Hands in the World and Roots in the Heart". Amen!