ROME — After praying the Rosary May 4, Pope Francis reflected on how Mary “gives us health” by helping Christians mature in their faith and not remain “teenagers for life.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, how hard it is, in our time, to make the ultimate decisions. The temporary seduces us. We are victims of a trend that pushes us to the temporary ... as if we want to stay teenagers for life. We should not be afraid of the agreed commitments, commitments that involve and affect the whole life. In this way, our lives will be fruitful,” the Pope said.
The occasion for his reflection was a trip he made to take possession of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one of the five major basilicas of Rome that every pope oversees. Pope Francis symbolically took possession of the basilica by kissing the crucifix.
His visit began at 6pm with a brief visit to the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani (Saving Health of the Roman People), where he prayed in silence for a few minutes.
The Holy Father was then greeted by the archpriest of the basilica, Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, and then prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary with the faithful. Following the Marian prayer, the Holy Father offered a meditation on how Mary is “our health” and “gives us health.”
“Tonight, we are here in front of Mary. We prayed under her maternal guidance, that she lead us to be more and more united to her Son, Jesus; we have brought our joys and our sorrows, our hopes and our difficulties. We invoked (her) with the grand title of Salus Populi Romani, asking for all of us, for Rome, for the world, to give us health,” the Pope began.
He then reflected on the meaning of Mary maintaining “our health,” saying, “I think mainly of three aspects: She helps us to grow, to face life and to be free.”
“A mother helps children grow,” Pope Francis said, “which is why she trains them not to give in to laziness … not to recline in a comfortable life, which is content to just have things.
“Our Lady does just that with us, helps us to grow humanly and in faith, to be strong and not give in to the temptation of being human and Christian in a superficial way, but to live with responsibility, to strive higher and higher,” he pointed out.
And when children meet obstacles, the Pope explained, their mother helps them “be realistic about the problems of life and not to get lost in them, but confront them with courage, not to be weak and to know how to overcome, in a healthy balance, that a mother ‘feels’ between the areas of safety and risk.”
“Mary experienced many difficult moments in her life,” he recalled, from “the birth of Jesus, when ‘there was no place for them to stay,’ up to Calvary.
“And, like a good mother, she is close to us, because we never lose courage in the face of adversity in life, in front of our weakness, in front of our sins; she gives us strength, shows us the way of her Son.”
The final way that Mary keeps her children’s health is by showing them how to make important decisions with full freedom, as she did when she “answered Yes to God’s plan for her life,” the Pope said.
“But what is freedom? It is certainly not doing everything you want, being dominated by passions, moving from one experience to another without discernment, following the fashions of the time,” he counseled.
“Freedom,” the Pope stated, “is given to us because we make good choices in life.”
Through her motherhood, he said, Mary “teaches us to be fruitful, to be open to life and to be more fruitful in goodness, joy, hope and to give physical and spiritual life to others.”
Pope Francis concluded by praying, “We ask you tonight, O Mary, Salus Populi Romani, for the people of Rome, for all of us: Give us health that only you can give us, to always be signs and instruments of life.”