Rome (Italy). In the Message of Christmas Greetings, the Mother General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sr. Chiara Cazzuola, draws on the origins of the FMA Institute:
“… Come quickly!”. Fr. Costamagna writes from Mornese to Fr. Cagliero. “Here in the house everything walks by itself and flows like oil; so great is the warmth of the love of God that took place in the holy Christmas feasts” (Cronistoria, II pg. 162).
I want to reach you not only virtually, but above all with my heart and prayer. Yes, let’s go to Mornese as a stop on the journey to Bethlehem, which is already close. We are living this important moment on the journey of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute by appropriating a little of that fervent love of Mother Mazzarello, of our first sisters, and of the first girls. Let’s take some of that young and courageous energy. In Mornese everything was young and newly blossomed, which transformed emotions, relationships, prayer, and activity into vitality. Love, that was certainly not naïve and sweet, but adoring and humble in the face of the unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation. Mother and all of them will be able to consume the foot of the beautiful statue of the Child Jesus with kisses, which is now preserved in Nizza. But this tenderness is not sterile devotional sentimentality; it is faith, it is gratitude for the gift of salvation that this Child brings to the world by offering Himself in obedience to the Father. It is a renewed commitment to follow.
Mother Mazzarello wrote to Sr. Adele David, Animator of the Bordighera house, on 27 December 1879:
“I received your letter. Thank you for the wishes and prayers for me which I appreciate with all my heart. May Jesus repay you with many wounds of love. In return, I have prayed to this loving Baby Jesus for you. Are you happy? I mentioned each one by name. I said: Sr. David, Sr. Carlotta, Sr. Giuseppina, and Sr. Marietta. I told Him to give you His humility, self-detachment, love of suffering, and that prompt, blind, submissive obedience He had to His Eternal Father, to St. Joseph, and to Mary and which He practiced up to His death on the Cross. I told Him to give you charity and total detachment from all that is not God, to give you patience and perfect resignation to God’s will” (L 33).
May Mother Mazzarello’s best wishes in the stop in Mornese on the way to Bethlehem, encourage us to assume in life and in the mission the traits that are increasingly similar to Jesus and make us more aware of the event we are about to celebrate.
In Luke’s Gospel we find the key to enter the mystery of Christmas (cf. Lk 2:12):
“This is the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
With this Gospel Word we pause together in front of the grotto.
The Sign is a child! No one is weaker, more fragile than a newborn, in need of help, yet it is all vitality, energy, future, and potential. It is absolutely ‘new’, pristine. A child always arouses wonder, surprises us. This Son also reveals to us the choice of God to incarnate Himself in an extremely poor environment, in a provisional situation of absolute precariousness, in a socially insignificant context, as if to express the new creation that is accomplished in Him with the absolute simplicity of His birth.
The Shepherds of Bethlehem are the first to hurry to the grotto. The Savior identifies with them and wants them at His straw cradle. He will not arouse particular questions in them because they are used to cribs and perhaps even to see babies inside them. They are men used to taking care of the flock, to be with the sheep, to defend them from wolves, and to lay down their lives for them. They are the icon of what this Child will be, the Good Shepherd, the model of our Salesian spirituality in pastoral action.
To return from Bethlehem, from Mornese, full of the grace and joy of the mystery of the Incarnation that we wish to translate into a serene, self-giving, supportive fraternity, and a shared and fruitful mission, we must ask Jesus what Mother Mazzarello indicates to us, what the Shepherds teach, and Pope Francis suggests to us.
When he came to visit us at GC XXIV, he told us that Re-awakening the original freshness of the vocational fruitfulness of the Institute is a key perspective for responding to the needs of today’s world, which needs to discover in consecrated life the proclamation of what the Father, through the Son in the Spirit, accomplishes with His love, His goodness, His beauty. This does not mean denying the frailties and hardships present in each person and in the communities, but believing that this situation can help us transform today into a Kairos, into a favorable time to welcome the essential. It is a challenge that invites us to renew our ‘yes’ to God in this time, as women and as communities that allow themselves to be challenged by the Lord and by reality to become a prophecy of the Gospel and witness of Christ, of His lifestyle.
Soon our homes will resound with songs, greetings, and prayers.
‘Do not be afraid’, the angel says, because Today a Child was born for you, the Savior. Today, the Christmas Liturgy insistently repeats. Today is our today because God is with us.
With these sentiments, I wish you a serene holy Christmas, in the joy of the contemplation of this great mystery, and in giving thanks to the Father for His infinite mercy towards a world that yearns for hope and peace.
Rome, 24 December 2021
Suor Chiara Cazzuola
Superior General of the FMA Institute