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Dear ADMA friends

In the last few weeks, I had the joy of participating in some meetings with provincial delegates, spiritual animators, local assistants of the various groups of the Salesian Family in three different continents: America, Asia and Europe. They were moments of fraternity, formation and communion among us who form the Don Bosco family. We have all truly received a great gift, the Salesian charism which is incarnated in different and creative ways in the different parts of the world. In particular, the Association of Mary Help of Christians is very much alive in these regions; in many places new groups of devotees continue to be formed; others consolidate their activities, spreading the devotion to Mary and to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and putting themselves at the service of the local community in every need. The ADMA is a lay group of our family, founded by Don Bosco, available to all those who wish to live, like Mary, a path of sanctification and apostolate in the characteristic style left to us by Don Bosco.

During these weeks I have been able to get in touch in a simple way with the social, religious and political situation that is experienced in many places in our world, and thus get close to realities that speak of violence, war, injustice, murder, suicide, revenge etc. I have been shocked by these realities that I have experienced. This is why in this month of December, when we celebrate the birth of the King of Peace, it seems appropriate to present you my reflection on the Loretta litany of Mary, Queen of Peace, with an invitation to all to live a Christmas of peace, building PEACE in our families and in our environments.

We know from the prophets in the Sacred Scripture that Jesus is the Messiah, the "Prince of Peace". Psalm 71 tells us that "in his days, justice and the abundance of peace will dawn" (71:7). This is why the liturgy states that Christ's kingdom is "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace". Therefore, the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Messiah, can and must be called ‘Queen of Peace’ and 'Mother of Mercy' too. And since war always causes so much blood and fire, death and orphans, famine and pestilence and, what is worse, hatred and rancour, her heart of mercy cannot fail to be moved when she sees her children as victims of these evils, and she is always ready to pray that they may be filled with the efficacious and unique remedy of peace.

It is the prophet Isaiah, in announcing the coming of the Messiah, who tells us that he will be called "the Prince of Peace, that his dominion will be great and that there will be no end" (9:5-6). Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, in his song announcing the imminent coming of the light from on high, tells us that his mission is to "direct or guide our steps in the way of peace" (Lk 1:79). And St. Paul goes so far as to say: "He is our peace" (Eph 2:14). Now, if Christ is our peace, Mary is the Mother of peace. Her virgin birth was a birth of peace.

St. Paul also presents to us Christ on Calvary "making peace, through the blood of his cross, with all things, both in heaven and on earth" (Col 1:20). Christ is the great peacemaker. The Gospel of John presents us with Mary beneath the cross of Jesus. She was not only the creature most perfectly redeemed by Christ - being without guilt or stain of sin - but when she offered her own sorrows to the Father, together with the blood of her Son, on Calvary, she was associated in a special way with the peace-making mission of Christ.

The Word of God is rich and clearly alludes to the peace brought by the Child Jesus who is born in our midst. But we see that this reality has not yet been fully realised and we are invited to contemplate on it in order to welcome and grow in evangelical attitudes.

In addition to the Holy Scriptures, history reminds us that it was Pope Benedict XV, when Europe was looking red because of World War I, who asked for a new invocation to be introduced into the Litany of Loreto, with the intention that the Blessed Mother through her intercession would put an end to that bloody conflict. Since then, she has been invoked daily by millions of devout believers, 'Queen of Peace'.

And she did so with these words on 5th May 1917, addressing all the bishops of the world: Since all the graces that the Author of all good deigns to bestow on the poor descendants of Adam, through the loving design of His Divine Providence, distributed by the hands of the Blessed Virgin, we desire that to that Great Mother of God, in this hour more terrible than ever, the supplication of her most afflicted children should rise up alive confidently [...] "Arise, so much, in the name of God, for the salvation of his children [. .. ] "Arise therefore to Mary, who is Mother of mercy and Almighty by grace, from all the places of the earth, from the noblest temples to the smallest chapels, from royal palaces to the poorest hovels, wherever there is a faithful soul, from the bloody fields and seas, the pious and devout invocation ["Regina pacis, ora pro nobis"], and may the anguished cry of mothers and wives, the wail of innocent children, the sigh of all well-born hearts reach her. May her sweet and kindly solicitude be moved, and may the peace prayed for be obtained for this troubled world. And may future centuries remember the efficacy of her intercession and the greatness of the benefits obtained through her".

A few days later, on 13th May 1917, the 'Regina pacis' answered the call of Pope Benedict XV and the whole Church and appeared in Fatima to three children playing in the Cova da Iria. "I come from heaven... I have come to ask you to come here for six months in a row, on the 13th, at this very hour.... Do you wish to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of expiation for the sins by which He is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners? Pray the Rosary every day to obtain world peace and an end to war...".

We can truly see once again how Mary listens to the prayers we address to her with a simple and humble heart for the good of her people. In these days, we want to live the birth of Jesus as a prayer that asks and implores the God of Life to bring PEACE into our hearts, to all the people of the world, and that conflicts and tensions disappear to make way for the peaceful will of the Creator. Merry Christmas and PEACE to all.

Renato Valera, President ADMA, Valdocco.

Fr. Alejandro Guevara SDB, World Spiritual Animator, ADMA Valdocco.

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