Here below is a translation of a letter that the Holy Father sent to Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez of Santiago de Cuba, President of the Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (C.O.C.C.), on the occasion of the Nativity of Mary, feast of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Patroness of Cuba, observed on September 8.
THE HOLY FATHER’S LETTER
To His Excellency Monsignor Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez
Metropolitan Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba
President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba
Vatican, September 8, 2014
A few days ago, the venerated image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre was placed in the Vatican Gardens. Her presence is an evocative reminder of the affection and vitality of the Church that pilgrims in those luminous lands of the Caribbean that, for more than four centuries, has addressed the Mother of God with that beautiful title. From the mountains of El Cobre, and now from the See of Peter, that small and blessed figure of Mary enlarges the soul of those who invoke her with devotion, as she leads us to Jesus, her divine Son.
Today, in which the feast is celebrated of Mary Most Holy, the Mambisa Virgin, I unite myself to all Cubans who fixed their eyes on her Immaculate Heart, to ask for favors, to entrust their dear ones and imitate her in her humility and dedication to Christ, of whom she was the first and best of his disciples.
Every time I read the Sacred Scriptures, my attention is caught by three verbs in the passages that speak of Our Lady. I would like to reflect on them, to invite the pastors and faithful of Cuba to put them into practice.
The first is to rejoice. It was the first word that the Archangel Gabriel addressed to the Virgin: ”Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). The life of one who has discovered Jesus is filled with such inner joy that nothing and no one can take away from him. Christ gives his own the necessary strength not to be sad or anxious, thinking that problems have no solution. Leaning on this truth, a Christian has no doubt that what is done with love engenders serene joy, sister of hope which breaks the barrier of fear and opens the doors to a promising future. “I am the Virgin of Charity,” is what the three Johns read in the small board that floated in the Bay of Nipe. How nice it would be if all Cubans, especially the young people, could say the same: “I am a man of charity”: I live to truly love, and thus not be trapped in the harmful trap of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. What joy is felt by one who loves genuinely with daily deeds, and is not one of those who abound in empty words, which are gone with the wind.
The second verb is to arise, Saint Luke says that, with Jesus in her womb, Mary arose and went in haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth, who was to be a mother in her old age (cf. Luke 1:39-45). She did God’s will, putting herself at the disposition of one in need. She did not think of herself, she surmounted the adversities and gave herself to others. The victory is of those who rise over and over again, without being discouraged. If we imitate Mary, we cannot remain listless, just lamenting ourselves, or perhaps letting the burden slip from our hands so that others will do what is our responsibility. It is not about doing great things, but about doing things with tenderness and mercy. Mary was always with her people in favour of the little ones. She knew loneliness, poverty and exile, and learned to create fraternity and to make any place where good germinated her home. We pray that she may give us the soul of one who is poor, who has no pride, a pure heart that sees God in the face of the underprivileged, a strong patience that does not draw back in face of life’s difficulties.
The third verb is to persevere. Mary, who had experienced God’s goodness, proclaimed the great things He did for her (cf. Luke 1:46-55). She did not rely on her own strength, but on God, whose love is without end. So she stayed with her Son, whom all had abandoned; she prayed with the Apostles and other disciples without losing heart, so that they would not grow discouraged (cf. Acts 1:14). We are also called to remain in God’s love and to go on loving others. In this world, in which imperishable values are disdained and everything is changeable, in which using and discarding triumph, in which it seems that there is fear of life commitments, the Virgin encourages us to be men and women who are constant in doing good, who keep their word, who are always faithful. And we do this because we trust God and put Him at the center of our life and of that of those whom we love.
To be joyful and to share this joy with those around us. To lift our heart and not to succumb in face of adversities, to remain on the path of goodness, tirelessly helping those who are oppressed by sorrows and afflictions: these are the important lessons that the Virgin of Charity of Cobre teaches us, useful to today and for tomorrow. I place in her maternal hands the pastors, religious communities and faithful of Cuba, that she may encourage their evangelizing commitment and their will to make love the foundation of the society. In this way there will be no lack of joy to live, will to serve and perseverance in good works.
I ask the children of the Church in Cuba, please, to pray for me as I need it.
May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin take care of you always.
FRANCIS PP.[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]