ROME, JAN. 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s Jan. 4 address to the Gift of Mary House run by the Missionaries of Charity in the Vatican. The translation from the original Italian was provided by L’Osservatore Romano.
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I have come to pay you a visit at the beginning of the new year while we are still breathing the family atmosphere of Christmas, and I immediately take this opportunity to express to you all my most fervent and cordial good wishes.
I greet with affection those of you present here together with those in the other rooms of this house, which is called “Gift of Mary,” who are watching us and are joining in by means of television link-up.
For many years, when I was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I would spend several hours of the day near your praiseworthy institution, desired by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, and entrusted by him to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
Thus, I was able to appreciate the generous service of Gospel charity which the Missionaries of Charity have been carrying out for almost 20 years now with the help and collaboration of many people of good will.
I am here with you today to renew my gratitude to the sisters, the volunteer workers and the various collaborators.
I am here above all to express my spiritual closeness to you, dear friends, who in this house find a loving welcome, attention, understanding and daily support, both material and spiritual. I am here to tell you that the Pope loves you and is close to you.
I thank the superior of the Missionaries of Charity who is ending her service and has expressed your common sentiments, addressing kind words of welcome to me on behalf of all.
I greet the new superior who is taking on responsibility for the house with that style of docile availability which is typical of the spiritual daughters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
To experience the Virgin’s love
When this house was founded, Blessed Mother Teresa desired to call it “Gift of Mary,” hoping, as it were, that it might always be possible to experience in it the love of the Blessed Virgin.
For anyone who knocks at the door, it is in fact a gift of Mary to feel welcomed by the loving arms of the sisters and volunteers.
The presence of those who are ready to listen to people in difficulty and serve them with that very attitude which impelled Mary to go straightaway to St. Elizabeth is another gift of Mary.
May this style of Gospel love always seal and distinguish your vocation so that, in addition to material aid, you may communicate to all whom you meet daily on your path that same passion for Christ and that shining “smile of God” which enlivened Mother Teresa’s life.
Mother Teresa used to like to say: It is Christmas every time we allow Jesus to love others through us. Christmas is a mystery of love, the mystery of Love.
The Christmas season, re-presenting the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem for our contemplation, shows us the infinite goodness of God who, by making himself a child, desired to satisfy the needs of human poverty and loneliness; he accepted to dwell among us, sharing our daily difficulties; he did not hesitate to bear with us the burden of existence with its effort and anxiety.
He was born for us in order to stay with us and to offer to each one who opens to him the door of his or her heart the gift of his joy, his peace, his love.
Since he was born in a grotto, because there was no room for him elsewhere, Jesus experienced the hardships that many of you yourselves experience.
Christmas helps us understand that God never abandons us and always comes to meet our needs. He protects us and is concerned with each one of us, because every person, especially the lowliest and most defenseless, is precious in the eyes of the Father, rich in tenderness and mercy.
For us and for our salvation he sent into the world his Son, whom we contemplate in the mystery of Christmas as the Emmanuel, God-with-us.
With these sentiments, I renew to you all my most fervent good wishes for the New Year which has just begun, assuring you of my daily remembrance in prayer. And as I invoke the motherly protection of Mary, Mother of Christ and our Mother, I affectionately impart my blessing to you all.[After his Visit the Pope spoke to the male and female religious communities prior to his departure:]
Dear sisters and dear brothers,
I greet you with affection and I thank you for your warm welcome. Please convey my most cordial greeting to Sister Nirmala and assure her of my prayers for you and for the Congregation.
I am happy to meet together the superior-generals of the two male branches of the family founded by Blessed Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers and the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative Brothers.
I also greet with warm cordiality the lay collaborators and guests present here, extending my appreciation to all those who offer their service in this place to ensure that the guests may feel as though they were at home.
All together, you form a chain of Christian charity without which this house, like any voluntary work, could neither exist nor continue to serve so many forms of hardship and need.
I therefore express my gratitude and encouragement to each and every one of you, for I know that all you do here for every brother and sister, you do for Christ himself.
House for the poor beside Peter
The visit I wanted to make today comes in continuation with the numerous visits of my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II. He was very eager to have this house to welcome the poorest of the poor precisely here where the center of the Church is located, beside Peter who served, followed and loved the Lord Jesus.
Our meeting is taking place almost 20 years after the construction and inauguration of this home within the Leonine Walls. Indeed, it was on May 21, 1988, that beloved John Paul II inaugurated this “Gift of Mary.”
How many gestures of sharing, of concrete charity, have been made in these years within these walls! They are a sign and an example for Christian communities so that they may pledge to be communities that are always welcoming and open.
At the beginning of the New Year, the beautiful name of this house, “Gift of Mary,” invites us to make a tireless gift of our lives.
May the Virgin Mary, who offered the whole of herself to the Almighty and was filled with every grace and blessing with the coming of the Son of God, teach us to make our existence a daily gift to God the Father at the service of our brethren as we listen to his Word and his will.
And just as the holy Magi came from afar to adore the Messiah-King, may you too go forth on the highways of the world, dear brothers and sisters, following Mother Teresa’s example, always witnessing joyfully to the love of Jesus, especially for the least and for the poor, and may your blessed foundress accompany and protect you from heaven.
I warmly renew the apostolic blessing to you who are present here, to the guests of the house and to all your collaborators.[Text adapted]