MARY PREPARES HEARTS FOR CONVERSION
Pope John Paul II
Given at the Shrine of the Sorrowful Virgin, Slovakia July 1, 1995 Pope Pius XI proclaimed the Sorrowful Virgin of Sastin patroness of Slovakia in 1927.

1. "You are the gracious Mother—the compassionate patroness, pray always for our nation to your divine Son" (JKS 394).

These are the words with which the pilgrims who come to Sastin from all over Slovakia greet the Mother of God, patroness of the nation.

The Polish pilgrims greet her at Czestochowa with similar words: "You are the glory of our nation!"

Dear brothers and sisters, Sastin is the national shrine of Slovakia, and the Pope too, as a pilgrim, makes his way to this basilica at the beginning of his Apostolic Visit.

The walls of this church remind us of all the generations of pilgrims who have come here from every part of your country. These walls preserve the memory of everything which makes up their lives: happiness, but also sadness and suffering, which have not been lacking in your history, as in the history of every individual and nation on earth. It is good for people to have someone with whom to share their joys and sorrows. It is good that, in the great Slovak family, there is a Mother on whom you can rely, and to whom you can entrust your sufferings and hopes. Here you honour her as the Sorrowful Mother, the Mother of Seven Sorrows, the Mother whose heart, at the foot of the Cross, was pierced by the seven swords of suffering, as tradition brings out so clearly.

It is providential that this is the Marian shrine of your people, the sanctuary to which all Slovakia comes on pilgrimage. Here your fellow citizens have sought strength and comfort for their difficult existence, especially during those times most profoundly marked by suffering.

2. Today's liturgy allows us to associate the shrine of Sastin with the Upper Room in Jerusalem. The Upper Room was the place where the Lord Jesus instituted the Eucharist. It was also the place where, after the Lord's Ascension into heaven, the Apostles remained in prayer together with Mary, the Mother of Christ. Thus today's liturgy wishes to tell us that here, in this place, Mary is praying with us. Not only is it we who entrust to her our prayers and petitions, our acts of thanksgiving and reparation, but above all it is she herself who prays with us, even as she prayed with the Apostles while they awaited Pentecost. And that prayerful expectation was crowned by the descent of the Holy Spirit, who came to rest on the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room and transformed their hearts. Thus transformed, they were changed from frightened men into courageous witnesses, ready to carry out the task entrusted to them by Christ. On the very day of Pentecost they began their apostolic mission, starting in Jerusalem.

What does all this mean for us gathered here, for you who have come to Sastin from different parts of Slovakia? Mary welcomes us here in the same communion of prayer which she shared with the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, and in this communion she prays with us for the "metanoia" of our hearts. Marian shrines are in fact places of spiritual transformation, places of conversion. Experience shows that they are places where people more frequently return to the sacrament of Reconciliation, in order to begin a new life in the house of their Mother, in order to set out once more renewed in spirit.

Today, as the Pastor of the whole Church, I would like to thank in a special way the Sorrowful Mother of Sastin for this transformation of people's hearts. And at the same time, conscious of the new situation and of the new spiritual needs of all who live in this land, I wish to ask Our Lady, in this shrine, to remain ever ready as a Mother to prepare people's hearts for conversion. I ask her to watch over the whole spiritual life of Slovakia. In a special way, I entrust to her the younger generation, all who are suffering, and all who are searching. To her I entrust your whole nation, which only a short time ago crossed the threshold of that independence to which you had aspired for so long. As an independent nation, you can sing with even greater joy at the threshold of the Marian shrine of Sastin: "You are the gracious Mother—the compassionate patroness, pray always for our nation to your divine Son" (JKS 394).

3. In many places of the world, on many days of the year, the passage from the Gospel of St. John which describes Mary at the foot of the Cross is proclaimed. Such places are, above all, Marian shrines, where this Gospel always comes alive with fresh vigour.

When from the Cross Jesus saw his Mother and the disciple beside her, he said to his Mother: "'Woman, behold your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (Jn 19:26-27).

Christ taught us to speak to God just as he himself did, by calling him "Father". In this way we turn to the Invisible One who is in heaven and yet embraces the whole of creation: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name". This prayer was taught to us by Christ, the Only-begotten Son of the heavenly Father, himself true God. And he has summed up in this prayer the most important things which we can and must express to our heavenly Father.

In the same way Christ himself, as true man, has taught us to speak to his earthly Mother in the words which found their definitive confirmation at the moment of his death on the Cross: "Woman, behold your son!" Mary receives these words from the mind and heart of the crucified Jesus. These words refer directly to the Apostle standing there with her, at the foot of the Cross, John the Evangelist. To him Christ says: "Behold your mother." But those words also have a wider meaning. At the hour of his death, Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary, reveals the truth about his Mother's motherhood of all humanity. The Apostle John stands beneath the Cross as a representative of each of us. And in the words which Christ says to John we can discover the same truth about Mary's motherhood as it was communicated to him. From that moment we can say to her: "My Mother" and "our Mother". "My Mother", when we speak as individuals; "our Mother", when we speak as a community. Whole nations can call her Mother, as you do, entrusting to her "every one of your days".

4. The final words of today's Gospel confirm this. "The disciple took her to his own home" to be his own Mother (cf. Jn 19:27). Mary will live with him, as a mother with her son. This detail, noted in the Gospel of St. John, is also significant for you who call Mary "Mother!" She wishes you to welcome her into your homes; into every Slovak home, into your entire life as a nation. What, indeed, does this shrine of Sastin mean if not that Mary, the Mother of all Slovaks, dwells in this particular house, where all the sons and daughters of your nation feel that they are in their Mother's house?

Here Mary, the Mother of Christ, wants "to be a Mother for you"; she wants you to be especially honest and straightforward with her. Here is her dwelling, and because the home of the Mother of God is found in your land of Slovakia, none of you is without a home. Everyone can come here and feel at home in his Mother's house.

Today, by visiting the shrine of Sastin, the Pope wishes in a special way to thank the Mother of God for this family home, in which all the inhabitants of Slovakia, all the faithful, whatever their ethnic origin, can feel at home and entrust themselves to the love of a Mother who is always here waiting for them, to listen, to understand and to console.

Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, our Mother, pray for us!


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
12 July 1995, p. 9

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