Torreciudad (September 4, 1999)
On the occasion of the Eleventh Marian Family congress at the Shrine of Our Lady of Torreciudad, Spain.
1. Holy Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah. These words show our Lady undertaking a pilgrimage to the home of her cousin Elizabeth. Our Holy Father John Paul II has emphasized that Mary’s entire life was a “pilgrimage of faith,” which only ended when she was glorified bodily in heaven. We too are on the way towards our definitive dwelling place, heaven, which we will reach if we are faithful here on earth to our Christian vocation.
Every pilgrimage to a shrine is an eloquent symbol of the faith that unites us to Christ. As we join together today at Torreciudad for this Marian Family Congress, we anticipate in some way the happiness that awaits us after our passage through this world: our encounter forever with the Blessed Trinity, with our Lady, the angels and the saints. In the prayer composed by the Pope for this final year of preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, we ask: “Grant that all your children as they journey towards you, our ultimate goal, may experience the loving protection of Mary, icon of fair love, chosen by you to be the Mother of Christ and of the Church.” We pray with the confidence of children invoking a Father who is all-powerful and merciful.
As the text of the second reading proclaims, the effusion of the Holy Spirit in Baptism makes us truly sons and daughters of God, who can exclaim Abba, Father. Grafted into Jesus Christ, we share in the divine filiation of the Word, who is our elder Brother, since he took on our human nature in the most pure womb of Mary. Being children of God in Christ brings with it inseparably the reality of being, like Jesus, sons and daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Eleventh Marian Family Congress is taking place during the celebrations commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of this Shrine of Our Lady of the Angels, which owes its existence to Blessed Josemaría. In the 25 years that have transpired, an immense number of pilgrims have heard here our Lady’s call, Come to me, following in the footsteps of the pilgrims who journeyed to this Marian shrine over the course of almost a thousand years.
2. The statue of Our Lady of Torreciudad represents our Lady as a throne for the Word incarnate. She is the Seat of Wisdom, the throne of grace and of glory.
Adeamus cum fiducia ad thronum gratiæ, ut misericordiam consequamur! These words were a motive of grateful meditation for Blessed Josemaría, who repeated from his heart: “Adeamus cum fiducia ad thronum gloriæ ut misericordiam consequamur!” Let us go then to the throne of grace, of glory, to receive mercy. Pope John Paul II recommends to us that, in a special way, we go this year to the mercy of God the Father. And this will be easy for us, if we have recourse to the Queen and Mother of mercy, who encourage us: I am the mother of fairest love, of fear, and of wisdom, and of holy hope; in me, every grace of the way and of truth; in me is every hope of life and of virtue.
In the apostolic letter preparing for the Jubilee, the Pope exhorts us to undertake “a journey of authentic conversion.” As a preparation, he invites each of us to “a renewed appreciation and more intense celebration of the sacrament of penance.” This was the type of divine prodigy that Blessed Josemaría hoped for here at Torreciudad. On one occasion, he wrote: “I look for an outpouring of spiritual fruit that our Lord will grant to those who come to visit his Blessed Mother before this small statue, so venerated for centuries. Therefore I would like to have many confessionals, so that the people can purify themselves in the holy sacrament of penance, and, with their souls renewed, strengthen or renew their Christian life.”
We have gathered here, in this solemn celebration of Holy Mass, to show our gratitude to the Most Holy Trinity. The Eucharist is an act of thanksgiving. Today there also arises from our heart thanksgiving to God the Father, so rich in mercy. Over the course of twenty-five years his forgiveness has been poured out abundantly at this shrine, with a multitude of men and women experiencing the joy of returning to God. Among these souls each and every one of us is included. We have to recognize that perhaps, without abandoning our Lord altogether, we have distanced ourselves from God at times by our lack of love. That is why we frequently go to the sacrament of Forgiveness.
When pride or self-love, vainglory or envy, threaten to submerge us in loneliness and resentment, darkening our mind and heart, let us ask our Lady to enkindle light in our soul. Let us go confidently to the Throne of grace, to Mary!
When sensuality and a disordered hunger for material goods try to blind our eyes, may our Lady clean the house of our soul. Let us go confidently to the Throne of grace, to Mary!
When we resign ourselves to our own defects and miseries and our struggle to be saints grows lukewarm, hiding behind the excuse of a sad mediocrity, may our Mother seek us out and guide us. Let us go confidently to the Throne of grace, to Mary!
3. While entrusting to the Church the Bull convoking the Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Pope stressed that “we cannot go alone to meet the Father. We have to go in the company of all those who form part of ‘God’s family.’”
Pope John Paul II, as early as the beginning of his pontificate, prayed that our Lady “who is the mother of the Church, also be the mother of the ‘church of the home.’ Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family truly become a “little church” in which the mystery of Christ’s Church is mirrored and given new life.”
The Pope explains that the Jubilee also offers an opportunity to meditate upon “the problems connected with respect for women’s rights and the promotion of the family and marriage.” Today in the presence of Our Lady of Torreciudad, we have recourse with filial urgency to her powerful intercession for all the intentions of the Holy Father. But in this Marian Family Congress, it is only logical that we place at our Lady’s feet the intentions more closely tied to the family and to marriage: both for our own families and for those throughout the world, who so often are in need of help.
We Christians have an important role to play in today’s world, seeking the sanctity that Blessed Josemaría set forth when he spoke of Christian families as homes “full of light and joy.” Every one of your families should be, with the grace of God and your own efforts, a reference point, a focus of light for many other families and for the whole of society. Certainly obstacles are not lacking. It is true that the family is suffering strong attacks. But we have in our favor the divine plan, which wants to make use of Christian homes as an efficacious source of regeneration for mankind and for society.
Therefore don’t give in to discouragement. Don’t think that your efforts here are insignificant. Confront the challenge with generosity. Fight with initiative on those fronts where the future of the family is at stake. Make use of the means of communication that today’s civilization offers to spread your ideals. Participate with courage and optimism in initiatives that take up this challenge with a Christian spirit. Encourage unity with other families, for example through associations that give strength to voices which alone will not be heard. Finally, don’t fail to make use of any honorable means to ensure that those in government and the legislature recognize in practice the central role of the family in society, that they respect and protect it. And all of this, why? For love of God? Yes, certainly and in first place. But also for love of men and women, our equals. Convince them that happiness on this earth can only found when one strives to make one’s own conduct conform to God’s plans. If we want families to be a focus of peace, harmony, and joy, let us help make them truly Christian families.
4. I referred earlier to the spiritual fruit which Blessed Josemaría hoped for from Torreciudad: in the first place, personal conversions, sealed with the sacrament of Reconciliation; and, as an immediate consequence, peace for families and homes, through the peace and joy of Christ.
Thus, Opus Dei’s Founder said, Christian spouses “receive with gratitude the children that heaven sends them, using married love in a noble way, which makes them participate in the creative power of God.” Don’t fear the children that God wants to send you! Cooperate generously and responsibly with the Creator in the transmission of human life! Then, as Blessed Josemaría assured, “God will not fail in those homes, when he honors them by choosing souls who can dedicate themselves with a personal and free dedication to divine concerns.”
Also go to our Lady for help in your family’s concerns. Every Christian family has to be an image of the one in Nazareth. Thus, even in the midst of the trials you may have to undergo, you will find joy and peace in your homes. If you abandon yourselves trustingly in Mary, she will see to it that your home is always a loving refuge for every member of the family, where there reigns an atmosphere of generous self-giving to others, which forges the soul for great human and divine ideals.
If selfishness ever threatens the unity of your family or tries to introduce into your heart feelings that could sully the fair love of which Mary is mother, adeamus cum fiducia...! Turn immediately to the throne of grace and of glory, to obtain mercy!
If weariness or routine creeps into your life, perhaps with the passage of years, and tries to weaken your joyful solicitude for your family; or if a human outlook makes it difficult for you to understand the honor that God bestows when He chooses for himself one of your sons or daughters, call on Mary forcefully, to obtain mercy!
Be certain you will receive that mercy, because never was it known that any who has fled to our Lady’s maternal protection has ever been turned away. Come to me, she urges with motherly concern. Fill yourselves with my fruit. And the greatest of these, which includes all the others, is Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb, whom we will receive in the Holy Eucharist in a few moments.
The Blessed Virgin Mary brings us to God. We have come to her shrine of Torreciudad, and she invites us to adore the Blessed Trinity in the Eucharist Sacrifice we are about to offer, as well as in our whole life. Amen.