Rome (Italy). With Circular No. 1019, the Mother General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sr. Chiara Cazzuola, from Mornese where, with the Sisters of the Council, she lived the Spiritual Exercises, shares with all the FMA a reflection on holiness, in continuity with the itinerary towards 5 August, the solemn date of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the FMA Institute.
“Right here, in the company of Mother Mazzarello, I reread and contemplate with the joy of my heart and with infinite gratitude, the richness of the charism that has flourished all over the world and I wonder what the secret of such fruitfulness is.” She continues, “I seem to hear the serene and decisive voice of Mother Mazzarello, “Courage, then! Make yourself a saint, but one of those humble saints, cheerful with everyone, and full of charity … ” (L 26,10).
Starting from the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate of Pope Francis, Mother proposes the idea of an ordinary holiness, as a gift from God to be lived in daily life, a holiness that “values and exalts everything that humanizes the person”.
She then deepens the concept of holiness in Salesian spirituality “felt as a common vocation, a call for all, shared in a particular way with young people,” offering some indications for living an ordinary holiness:
For Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, the air of God and the air of family that one breathes in the Houses are “conditions for a journey of human maturation and holiness”; “joy, study, piety” are the ingredients proposed by Don Bosco in response to the desire for holiness of the young Domenico Savio. “Holiness is all here!” Fr. John Cagliero observes that Don Bosco’s holiness is not so much linked to the ‘holy’ aspect of the priest as to the gradual order that his work acquires, given that “God’s works are ordinarily accomplished little by little”.
For Fr. Michael Rua, rather than meditate on ascetic treatises, it was enough to observe Don Bosco even in his smallest actions, since his continuous union with God was evident. Furthermore, from the number of young boys who “launched themselves on the path of holiness that was heroic, “one can see how Don Bosco’s holiness was “effective, contagious, and fascinating”. In the circular letter of 1884, the Saint exhorts the FMA to live faithfully the commitments of their consecration to the Lord and to the young people, recalling them, “with witty and refined realism”, to the commitment of following Christ without half measures, “do you perhaps want to go to Heaven in a carriage?”.
The testimony of St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello also speaks of the holiness of everyday life, reminding that “it is possible to live it and to make it shine in our life, in our communities.” Through the quotations of various Letters, Mother Chiara highlights some recurring motives: “holiness is a call to be taken seriously because time passes quickly”, “holiness passes through the straight path of fidelity to the Rule” and “becomes a natural connection to eternity”.
Simple and profound faith in God and the climate of welcome and frank humanity of relationships are also characteristics of the environments animated by Mother Mazzarello, who involves the boarders and the sisters in her own path of holiness “more by example and by actions than with words.” A fruit of the “spirit of Mornese” experienced by the first missionaries in America is the young Laura Vicuña, who in Junín de los Andes, in the Argentine pampas, “lived the commandment of love to the point of giving her life, making an extraordinary spiritual journey in a very short period of time”.
Holiness as a priority commitment
In harmony with the reflection on holiness, Mother Chiara recalls the exhortations of the Popes to the FMA, taken from the Appendix to the FMA Constitutions, from which she draws and shares “some important and vital lines.” The words of Saint Paul VI to the FMA present at the special audience of 15 July 1972, which identifies holiness, assured by the primacy of the interior life, as the reason for the fruitfulness of the past and the means for the vitality of the future. The message of St. John Paul II at the audience granted to the participants in GC XXI on 8 November 2002, indicates holiness to the FMA as an “essential and priority task,” as the “best contribution to the new evangelization” and “guarantee of an authentically evangelical service in favor of the neediest”.
In concluding, she recalls the recent recommendations of Pope Francis in his encounter with the participants at GC XXIV in the Generalate on 22 October 2021, in which he reiterated “the importance of believing that the current situation can help us to transform today into a Kairos, a favorable time to go to the charismatic roots, to focus on the essential, rediscovering the beauty of consecrated life, its charge of holiness which becomes witness”.
“Following in the footsteps of Don Bosco and Mother Mary Mazzarello means understanding and living at all costs the reality of the ‘grace’ gift of God that was the first and most important concern of our Founders,” observes Mother Chiara, who sees “in the supernatural sense of hope and joy, which leads to a healthy and constructive optimism despite the difficulties of life,” the virtues with which the Holy Founders helped young people to strive for holiness.
A holiness that shines beyond time
On the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute, lived “as a time of gratitude; a time to recognize that we are truly living a fruitful season as Church, because in faith we recognize the Providence of God that accompanies us and the active and foreseeing presence of Mary Help of Christians.” Thus, Mother encourages every FMA to cultivate and renew every day “personally and as a community, to the point of making it a daily experience that radiates and contagions,” the certainty that gives strength and joy on the journey:
“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rm 5:5).
Referring to art. 60 of the FMA Constitutions, she urges us not to forget that this hope is founded “on the experience of many sisters, who lived intensely, worked with missionary passion, enriched the charismatic heritage of the Institute with their fidelity and now, immersed in joy of the Easter of Jesus, they continue to support us with their intercession and their help”.
To them, who live the fullness of joy and holiness, especially those already Blessed and whose Cause of Beatification has already begun, Mother urges us to have recourse to them with greater certainty and constancy. “We can do more to make them known, to invite others to turn to them for their intercessions, to make them work in Paradise too!”.
At the conclusion of the Circular, Mother Chiara Cazzuola entrusts to Mary, Mother and inspirer of the Institute, “the priority commitment to walk the path of holiness together with the laity, young people, families, the Salesian Family, and with every person the Lord entrusts to us”.