Solemnity of the Annunciation at Loreto 2019

Author: Pope Francis

Solemnity of the Annunciation at Loreto 2019

Pope Francis

The path of peace and fraternity

On Monday morning, 25 March [2019], the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Pope visited the Italian town of Loreto, where he celebrated Mass in the Holy House and signed the Apostolic Exhortation "Christus Vivit". The Document, in the form of a letter to young people, is the result of the Synod of Bishops held last October. The following is a translation of the Holy Father's address which he delivered in Italian ouside the Marian shrine, upon conclusion of the Eucharistic Liturgy.

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

And thank you for your warm welcome! Thank you.

The words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary: "Hail, full of grace" (Lk 1:28), resonated in a unique way in this Sanctuary, a privileged place to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Indeed, according to tradition, safeguarded here are the walls which originate in Nazareth, where Our Lady pronounced her ‘yes’, becoming Jesus’ mother. Ever since, what is called the “House of Mary” became a venerated and beloved presence on this hill, the Mother of God has not ceased to obtain spiritual benefits in those who, with faith and devotion, come here to pause in prayer. I come among them today and I thank God for granting me this precisely on the Feast of the Annunciation. I greet the Authorities with gratitude for their welcome and cooperation. I greet Archbishop Fabio Dal Cin, who has become the interpreter of all of your sentiments. With him I greet the other Prelates, priests, consecrated people, with a special thought for the Capuchin Fathers, to whom the custody of this distinguished Shrine, so dear to the Italian people, has been entrusted. These Capuchins are good! Always in the confessional, always, to the point that you enter the Shrine and there is always at least one there, or two or three or four, but always, whether during the day or at day’s end, and this is difficult work. They are good and I thank them especially for this precious ministry of the confessional, continuing throughout the whole day. Thank you! And to all of you, citizens of Loreto and pilgrims who have gathered here, I offer my cordial greeting.

In this oasis of silence and piety, many come from Italy and from every part of the world, to draw strength and hope. I think in particular of young people, families, the sick.

The Holy House is the house of young people, because here the Virgin Mary, the handmaid full of grace, continues to speak to the young generations, accompanying each one in the search for his or her own vocation. For this reason I wished to sign here the Apostolic Exhortation resulting from the Synod dedicated to young people. It is entitled “Christus Vivit — Christ Lives”. In the event of the Annunciation the dynamic of the vocation appears expressed in three moments which articulated the Synod: 1) listening to the Word-plan of God; 2) discernment; 3) decision.

The first moment, that of listening, is manifested by those words of the Angel: “Do not be afraid, Mary ... you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Lk vv. 1:30-31). It is always God who takes the initiative to call us to follow him. It is God who takes the initiative. He always precedes us; he precedes; he leads the way in our life. The call to faith and to a consistent journey of Christian life, or of special consecration, is a discrete but forceful bursting into the life of a young person, in order to offer the gift of His love to him or her. It is important to be ready and willing to listen and welcome the voice of God, which is not recognized amid din and agitation. His plan for our personal and social life is not perceived by remaining on the surface, but by delving to a deeper level where moral and spiritual strengths are at work. It is there that Mary invites young people to delve in and to harmonize with God’s action.

The second moment typical of every vocation is discernment, expressed in Mary’s words: “How can this be?” (v. 34). Mary does not doubt; her question is not a lack of faith, but rather, it expresses her very desire to discover God’s “surprises”. Within, she takes care to grasp all the exigencies of God’s plan for her life, to know it in all its facets, in order to cooperate more responsibly and completely. It is precisely the attitude of a disciple: all human cooperation in God’s gratuitous initiative must inspire an in-depth examination of one’s own capabilities and attitudes, combined with the awareness that it is always God who gives, who acts; thus even the poverty and littleness of those whom the Lord calls to follow him on the way of the Gospel are transformed in the richness of the Lord s manifestation and in the power of the Almighty.

Decision is the third moment which characterizes every Christian vocation, and is made clear by Mary’s response to the Angel: “May it be done to me according to your word’ (v. 38). Her 'yes' to God’s plan of salvation, fulfilled in the Incarnation, is the consignment of her whole life to Him. It is the ‘yes’ of complete trust and total openness to the will of God. Mary is the model of every vocation and the inspiration behind every vocational ministry: young people who are in search of or who question their future, can find in Mary the One who helps them to discern God’s plan for themselves and the strength to adhere to it.

I think of Loreto as a privileged place where young people can come in search of their own vocation, to the school of Mary! A spiritual hub at the service of vocational ministry. Therefore I hope that the “John Paul II Centre may be reintroduced at the service of the Church in Italy and on the international level, in keeping with the indications that came out of the Synod. A place where young people and their educators can feel welcome, accompanied and helped to discern. For this reason I also warmly ask the Capuchin Friars for a further service: the service of extending the hours of the Basilica and the Holy House to be open during the late evening and even the early night when there are groups of young people who come to pray and to discern their vocation. The Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, also due to its geographic position in the centre of the Peninsula, lends itself to becoming, for the Church that is in Italy, the proposed place for a continuation of the world meetings of young people and of the family. Indeed, it is imperative that enthusiasm surrounding the preparation and celebration of these events then corresponds with pastoral implementation, which embodies the richness of the contents, through proposals of in-depth analysis, of prayer and of sharing.

The House of Mary is also the house of the family. In the delicate situation of today’s world, the family based on marriage between a man and a woman takes on an essential importance and mission. It is imperative to rediscover the plan outlined by God for the family, in order to reaffirm its greatness and irreplaceable nature at the service of life and of society. In the house of Nazareth, Mary experienced the range of family relationships as daughter, betrothed, wife and mother. For this reason every family, in its various components, finds welcome here, inspiration to live its own identity. The domestic experience of the Blessed Virgin stands to indicate that family and young people cannot be two parallel sectors of the pastoral ministry of our communities, but must journey strictly united, because very often young people are what a family has imparted to them in the growing up period. This perspective recreates a unitary vocational ministry mindful of expressing the face of Jesus in its many aspects, as priest, as spouse, as pastor. The House of Mary is the house of the sick. Here those who suffer in body and spirit Find welcome, and the Mother brings the Lord’s mercy to everyone, from generation to generation. Illness wounds the family and the sick must be welcomed within the family. Please, let us not fall into that throw-away culture that is proposed by the multitude of ideological colonizations that attack us today. The home and the family are the primary care of the sick, in loving them, encouraging them and caring for them. This is why the Shrine of the Holy House is a symbol of every welcoming home and sanctuary of the sick. From here I send an affectionate thought to them, everyone, everywhere in the world, and I say to them: you are at the centre of Christ’s work because you share, and in a very concrete way, carry the cross behind Him each day. Your suffering can decisively cooperate in the advent of the Kingdom of God.

Dear brothers and sisters! To you and to those who are linked to this Shrine, through Mary, God entrusts a mission in this age of ours: to bring the Gospel of peace and life to our contemporaries, often distracted, captured by earthly interests or immersed in an arid spiritual climate. There is need of simple and wise, humble and courageous, poor and generous people. Thus, people who at the school of Mary, unreservedly welcome the Gospel into their lives. In this way, through the holiness of the People of God, from this place, we will continue to spread throughout Italy, Europe and the world, witnesses to holiness in every state of life, in order to renew the Church and animate society with the leaven of the Kingdom of God.

May the Blessed Virgin help everyone, especially young people, to follow the path of peace and fraternity founded on welcoming and forgiveness, on respect for others and on love which is self-giving. May our Mother, bright star of joy and serenity, give her blessing and the joy of life to families, sanctuaries of love. May Mary, source of all consolation, bring help and comfort to those who are experiencing hardship.

With these intentions, now let us join together to pray the Angelus.

L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
29 March 2019, page 6

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