On May 4, 2013, after reciting the Rosary at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Pope Francis offered a meditation in which he reflected on the meaning of the Marian title Salus Populi Romani, Protrectress (Literally, “Health”) of the Roman People, that is associated with this Basilica. What follows is Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Marie Kolbe Zamora’s translation of a major excerpt of that reflection. Click here for the original document. This is a lesson on discernment.
“Mary safeguards our health. But what does this mean? Three things come to mind: she helps us to grow, to face life, and to be free.”
Growing in Life
“A good mother helps her children grow and wants them to grow well. For this reason she educates them not to give in to laziness, a laziness that, in the end, can be the fruit of a certain level of well-being. She educates them not to settle for a comfortable life that contents itself with only having material things. A mother cares for her children that they might always grow more, that they might grow strong and become capable of taking responsibility and of committing themselves to great ideals in life . . . “
Facing the Difficulties of Life
“A mother also cares for the health of her children by educating them to face the difficulties of life. She fails to properly educate them and care for their health by teaching them to avoid problems, as though life were a highway without obstacles. A mother helps her children to realistically see the problems of life without losing themselves in these problems; she teaches her children to face problems with courage, to not be weak so as to know how to overcome them. A good mother teaches her children to take on a healthy equilibrium between being secure, on the one hand, and knowing how to take risks on the other. This is what a mother knows how to do!
A mother does not take her children only along secure paths because if she did, her children would never grow; neither does she lead them solely along risky paths because these are dangerous. A mother knows how to balance everything. No life is without its challenges and a young man or a young woman who does not know how to face them, putting themselves “into play”, so to speak, lacks backbone!!”
Educating for Freedom
“What does freedom mean? It certainly does not mean doing everything one wants, letting one-self be dominated by our passions, passing from one experience to the next without discernment, following the fashions of the day. Freedom does not mean throwing everything out the window that one does not like. No, this is not freedom! We have been given freedom so that we might know how to choose the good in life! Mary, as a good mother, knows how to educate us to be capable of making definitive choices in this day and age in which the philosophy of the “provisional” or the “tentative” has the upper hand.”
Responsibility for our choices and Commitment
“How difficult it is in our day for us to make definitive decisions. We are seduced by the temporary, we are victims of a tendency that pushes us to wish for everything to be provisional, as though we wish to remain adolescents all our lives!! May we not be afraid to make definitive commitments, commitments that implicate our entire life! Only in this way will our lives be fruitful! And THIS is freedom: to have the courage to make these kinds of decisions with greatness!”
“Mary’s entire existence was a hymn to life, a hymn of her love for life: she conceived Jesus in the flesh and accompanied the Church at her birth on Calvary and in the Cenacle”. With these words Pope Francis concluded his meditation on the Basilica of Mary Major. “Mary, Protectress of the Roman People, is that mother who gives us strength; strength as we grow and as we face and overcome problems; strength as we face and overcome problems; the kind of strength that renders us FREE to make definitive commitments. She is that mother who teaches us to be fruitful, to be open to life, and to always be full of goodness, joy and hope; to give life as a gift to others – physical life and spiritual life.”
“It is this that we ask for this evening, O Mary, Protrectress of the Roman People, for the people of Rome, for all of us. Give us your health and strength that only you can give that we might always be signs and instruments of and for life.”
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