Francis Takes Possession of Basilica of St. Mary Major

Invokes Maternal Protection of the Blessed Mother on Rome and the World

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On Saturday evening, Pope Francis officially took possession of the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. The Basilica, which is the oldest Marian Shrine in the West, was the Holy Father’s second visit. The day after his election, Pope Francis visited St. Mary Major to place his papacy under the Blessed Mother’s protection.

After reciting the Glorious mysteries of the Rosary during his visit, the Holy Father offered a meditation to all those present, contemplating on the importance of seeking the maternal guidance of the Virgin Mary.

Referring to the title Marian icon housed in the Basilica, Pope Francis said that in invoking the Blessed Mother as the Salus Populi Romani (Health of the Roman People”, we are “asking for all of us, for Rome, for the world that she might give us health.”

“Mary is mother, and a mother concerns herself above all with the health of her children, she knows how to care for it with great and tender love,” the Pope said. “Our Lady protects our health. What does it mean to say that the Our Lady protects our health? I think above all of 3 aspects: she helps us to grow, face life, to be free.

The Holy Father explained that a mother helps her children to by educating them not to fall into laziness, as well as in not settling “into a comfortable life that contents itself only with having things.”

“The mother cares for the children so that they grow more, they grow strong, able to take responsibility, to commit themselves in life, to pursue grand ideals,” the Pope said.  

“Our Lady does the same thing in us, she helps us to grow as human beings and in the faith, to be strong and not to give in to the temptation to be human and Christian in a superficial way, but to live with responsibility, to aim ever higher.”

Continuing to draw from the example of the care of a mother towards her children, Pope Francis said that a mother does not care for the health of her children when allowing them avoid life’s problems, as if “life were a highway without obstacles.”

The mother helps her children to look upon life’s problems with realism and to not get lost in them, but to face them with courage, not to be weak, and to know how to overcome them with a sane balance that a mother “senses” between areas of safety and those of risk,” the Pope said.

“A life without challenges does not exist, and a boy or girl who does not know how to deal with them is a boy or girl without a spine!”

Contemplating on the final aspect, the Holy Father stated that a good mother, like the Virgin Mary, helps her children in making decisions freely. Freedom, he continued, is not the choice of doing whatever one wants, but is “given to us so that we know how to make good choices in life.”

“Mary,” the Pope said, “like a good mother, teaches us to be, like her, capable of making definitive decisions, definitive decisions in this moment in which their reigns, so to say, the philosophy of the provisional. It is so difficult to commit oneself definitively in life. And she helps us to make definitive decisions with that complete freedom with which she answered “yes” to God’s plan for her life.

Citing the difficulties of making definitive decisions, saying that we are the vicitims of a tendency that drives us toward the temporary, Pope Francis stated that in today’s age it is fashionable to remain an adolescent.”

“Let us not be afraid of definitive commitments, of commitments that involve and interest our whole life! In this way life will be fruitful! And this is freedom: to have the courage to make these decisions with greatness,” the Pope said.

The Holy Father concluded his meditation entrusting the faithful, the people of Rome and the entire world to the maternal protection of the Blessed Mother. Pope Francis asked the Virgin Mary to “grant us the health that She alone can give us, to be always signs and instruments of life.”

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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