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MARY AND JESUS, TWO SPECIAL FRIENDS: WALKING WITH TWO PILLARS

ADMA Formative Programme 2022-2023

In the year 2022-2023, we would like to go back to the roots of the Association: The devotion of Don Bosco to Mary Help of Christians found in the Association a simple and practical expression for the defence of the faith in popular circles. Don Bosco reminds us that “We Christians must be united in these difficult times. Being among many who are doing good is a source of animation to us, without our being aware of the fact” (MB 7,602) (Art. 1 of the ADMA regulations).

We wish, then, to propose an itinerary of faith which can lead us to an encounter with Jesus through the mediation of our Heavenly Mother and this itinerary of faith can propel us towards our apostolic activity.

This traditional path of growth in the faith, as we cherish, is inculcated in us through the deepest sources of Christian, Salesian and Marian spirituality. It is new because each associate and each group in the world will live it according to their own life experience. It is enlivened as each associate adapting it to their individual reality. We shall keep inspiring one another for a year in the spiritual journey of Christian life, founded on two pillars, Jesus and Mary, being guided by the Word of God, by Don Bosco and by St Francis de Sales. Let us draw our inspiration from the Regulations of the ADMA, the Charter of Charismatic Identity of the Salesian Family, the Magisterium of the Pope and the teaching of the Rector Major.

The aim of the programme is to deepen our life of faith and progress in our personal relationship with Jesus and Mary.



THE STAGES OF THE JOURNEY

1. Feeling loved by God

Our faith becomes life when we deeply experience the love of God.

The Word of God announces to us that “God is Love” (1 Jn 4: 7-16), that Jesus wants to enter into deep communion with each one of us: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (Jn 15:9-11); “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10: 7-15).

We will be invited to meditate on the Word in order to fully cherish God’s tender and boundless love for each one of us. From this experience of feeling loved just as we are, is born the sincere desire to respond to God. We can then understand better St. Francis de Sales when he says, “First of all seek to please God: He is the centre of my soul and the immovable pole around which all my desires and all my movements revolve.”

We will thus be helped to turn our gaze towards Him every day, to feel His love and to give it, in turn, to our brothers and sisters.


2. “I stand at the door and knock” prayer

Having grown in our awareness of being profoundly loved, we will focus on our relationship with the Lord, in prayer, with the help of Mary.

Only in the experience of silent listening will we vitally understand Jesus when he says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20) and “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and dwell with him” (Jn 14: 23) and discover the secret of the wise virgins (Mt 25:1-13).

The secret of life, says St. Francis de Sales, is “to go from the inside out: I have never been able to approve the method of those who, in order to reform man, begin from the outside, from the appearance, the clothes, the hair. It seems to me, on the contrary, that one must begin from within.... He who has Jesus in his heart, has him immediately afterwards in all outward actions.”

Prayer shall be the center of our lives which would lead us to all our practical suggestions.


3. Children are created in the image of God. Trust in God.

Surrendering to the Holy Spirit, through the hands of Mary, leads us to grow in trust in God. We will contemplate the mystery of God who is not afraid to trust in a human person.

We will deepen the knowledge how the mystery of the incarnation (Lk 2) fits into a wider project of love that preludes the cross: “I come to do your will, O God (Hebrews 10: 5-10).”

Jesus’ only desire is to make it clear by his life that all existence is explained by love, a love so compelling that it led St. Paul to say “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This life I live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). In this profound mystery of love, we are invited to become truly aware of our creatureliness. As St. Francis de Sales suggests,


“we must be what we are and be it well, to do honour to the Creator, whose handiwork we are.”

4. There is no greater love: the Eucharist

Eucharist is the source and summit of true life that is love and bread of life: Love one another as I have loved you. Do this in memory of me. Let us contemplate the gift that Jesus offers us as the premise and foundation of our adherence to love for Him and for our brothers and sisters. Let us dwell on the Washing of the Feet to understand how Eucharistic life inspires us to fully dedicate ourselves each day in the concrete service of others.

St. Francis de Sales too insists on our day to day service: “Think of doing our things well today and when tomorrow comes, then we will think about it.”

In the light of the mystery of the Eucharist, we will understand the importance of the present moment. In fact, the Eucharist is a real encounter with the Risen Lord in the Word and in the Eucharistic Bread. It assures us of His presence in our daily lives, helps us conform to Him, shows us His deep love for others and gives us true joy.


5. Mary, the bride in the Holy Spirit, teaches us to do everything out of love

The Holy Spirit enlightens and guides us in our life of faith. We will go to the source of the “yes” of Mary, bride in the Spirit. In the light of the Word, we will discover how Mary’s Fiat can be renewed in our lives.

With Mary, mother and teacher, our life recovers its full meaning and is transformed into Magnificat. In this way, love takes on the features of full freedom. St. Francis de Sales says: “Nothing by force, everything by love.” Here is the general rule of our obedience: YOU MUST DO EVERYTHING FOR LOVE AND NOTHING BY FORCE.... I leave you with the spirit of freedom, that which excludes constraint, scruple and restlessness.” As we read in the ADMA Regulations: “Mary is a living presence among us and continues in the history of the Church and of humanity her maternal mission as mediatrix of grace for her children.”


6. The primacy of grace: joy, gift of the Holy Spirit (the theological virtue)

The action of the Holy Spirit generates joy in us. It is the outcome of the working of the Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. We will rediscover the theological virtues by meditating on the hymn of charity (1 Cor 13:1-13) and other Pauline letters. We will deeply understand the foundation of Salesian joy: “Go ahead with joy and an open heart as much as you can; and if you do not always go with joy, go always with courage and confidence” (St Francis de Sales). This is the Cheerfulness Don Bosco inspired Dominic Savio to follow, “We make holiness consist in always being cheerful.” By following Don Bosco's path of entrustment to Mary Help of Christians, we can concretely become a sign of God’s and Mary’s love, capable of spreading joy and love among people.


7. Grace presupposes nature: the exercise of the virtues

We are called to foster the action of the Holy Spirit through the virtues. In particular, humility and meekness, traits of Jesus’ character, will help us (Mt 11:25-30).

As St. Francis de Sales says:


“Bear with gentleness the little injustices, the small inconveniences, the losses of little importance that happen every day. These small occasions, lived with love, will earn you God’s heart and make it all your own.”

We will better understand how the development of virtues can help us grow in peace and love: patience, meekness, humility, poverty of spirit and avoiding backbiting and judgement will make us experience true communion. Not just loving others but making others feel loved by loving kindness, tireless work, temperance and Salesian optimism.

Let us remember the three words of Pope Francis: please, Sorry, thank you.


8. The blessed relationship - combating the most common temptations and the sacrament of reconciliation

The closer we come to the light, the more we learn to see our limitation and understand His mercy. God’s love never abandons us, even when we fall into the most common temptations. It is a love that envelops us in the blessed relationship that we experience in the sacrament of reconciliation.


Let us meditate on the parable of the Merciful Father (Lk 15:11-32). We will then be accompanied by St. Francis de Sales who reminds us that “Every day we must begin our spiritual progress. While reflecting on it, we will not be surprised to find weaknesses in ourselves. There is nothing that is already perfect. We must begin again and with a good heart.” The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not a time of judgement but an opportunity to experience the merciful and blessed embrace of the Father who grants us healing from our sins and the strength to begin again.


9. In the school of Mary’s holiness: Fiat, Stabat and Magnificat

If we allow ourselves to be conquered by God’s love, we understand more and more the importance of holy attitudes which shine in Mary with her attitudes: fiat, stabat and magnificat. By looking at Mary’s life in Luke’s Gospel, we can see her human and spiritual journey which is also our journey. “Nothing to ask, nothing to refuse. Remain in the arms of providence, without falling into any desire other than longing for what God wants of us.

We will take Mary into our home to make her the cradle of life and love, of faith and of hope by cultivating attitudes of welcoming, hospitality, listening, concrete help and generous availability.


10. Union with God in daily life

At the culmination of our journey, we will finally be invited to seek union with God in daily life, assuming His Will: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). We will be able to experience this communion by remaining in Jesus: “I am the Vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:5).

We will follow the example of Don Bosco for whom action and prayer became one: “Don Bosco identified to the utmost perfection his external activity, indefatigable, absorbing, vast responsibilities with an interior life that began with a sense of the presence of God and which, little by little, became actual, persistent and alive so as to be perfect union with God". This spirituality becomes Apostolic Charity in ‘Da mihi animas, cetera tolle’. It is the spirituality of the Grace of Unity that helps us to work in harmony of thought, feeling and will with God. Our vertical relationship with God thus inspires our horizontal relationship with our neighbors.

Thus described, we will offer insights and suggestions for the different ages and situations of life: family, youth, adults. We will emphasise prayer, listening to the Holy Spirit and sharing. The suggestion is to live the journey not just intellectually, but also personally and existentially. At the same time, we will take care of the community dimension. The search for a personal relationship with the Lord always leads to communion with others and with the Church. At each session, an appropriate space for silence and a question for sharing in the group will be proposed. Furthermore, to ensure that the fruits of the session can leave their mark on our lives, we will make a concrete life commitment every month.







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