Homily of Cardinal Angelo Sodano,
Dean of the College of Cardinals,
In the Holy Mass celebrated for the Institute of the Incarnate Word
On the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Lujan
(Thursday, May 8, 2014, Montefiascone, Viterbo, Italy)
Brothers and sisters in the Lord, my first words wish to express a cordial greeting to all of you united in this beautiful cathedral of Montefiascone on the feast of Our Lady of Lujan.
First of all, I want to greet the pastor and bishop of this beloved community, Bishop Lino Fumagalli, together with his collaborating priests.
A fraternal greeting arrives to all of you, dear brothers and sisters of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, who today celebrate the feast of the holy Patroness of your worthy Institute, and desire to entrust yourselves to the maternal protection of Mary on the tenth anniversary of the canonical elevation of your religious family, which took place on a day precisely like today, the 8th of May in 2004.
Truly the Blessed Virgin Mary has always been a star that has guided the path of your Institute during these years, and therefore, it is right that in this feast so proper to the nation of Argentina, we give thanks to the Lord together for the gifts He has granted to us through the intercession of His Most Holy Mother.
Today in Italy Mary is also celebrated under the characteristic title of Our Lady of Pompeii, and of Our Lady of the Victories.
The titles change with how we want to honor her whom the Lord has given us as a Mother, but in reality, she is always the same. It is the reality of Mary present in the life of the Church, and therefore, in the life of every Christian who venerates her as Mother.
1) Our Lady of Lujan
For you, dear religious of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, the title of Our Lady of Lujan is very beloved. It is a title that reminds you of the mysterious presence of Mary in the history of your nation. Every Marian shrine is linked to some extraordinary event, an apparition, or a miraculous intervention of Mary. In Saint Mary Major in Rome, the exceptional case of “the snow in August” is remembered, which marked the place where the Mother of Jesus wanted to be honored. In Loreto, the extraordinary arrival of the Holy House of Nazareth is remembered. In Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe we remember the diverse apparitions of Mary. In the case of Lujan we remember the extraordinary act of the oxen that were pulling the cart with the image of Mary that came from Brazil. In Lujan they halted their course without wanting to continue, indicating Mary’s choice to the faithful in this way.
The largest Shrine in honor of Mary then arose in this place, a center of Marian piety for all of Argentina. Among the hundreds of churches and chapels dedicated to the Mother of God, the Shrine of Lujan thus became a true center of Marian piety throughout the nation. Today from Italy we want to unite ourselves to our brothers and sisters from Argentina in order to sing the glories of Mary with them and commend ourselves to her maternal protection.
Recently some theologians have questioned the reason why the number of apparitions and manifestations of Mary have increased in these last centuries. The answer seems to be this: because religious indifference has grown, because men are tempted to forget the Christian sense of life; and Mary, as a mother, has received from God precisely this mission: that of calling her children so they return to the Lord. The more evil increases in the world, the more the Mother wants to intervene in order to attain the salvation of her children.
In this sense, two theologians, Fathers Roggio and Perrella, have recently written a beautiful book, “Apparizioni e Mariofanie” (“Apparitions and Mariofanies”) with the publisher San Paul (Milan, 2012). “When evil grows in the world-conclude these theologians-the loving presence of Mary grows in order to call her children to travel the road of good.”
2) The message of the feast
Brother and sisters in the Lord, even the readings at Holy Mass want to help us understand the mystery of the presence of Mary in the life of the church well!
In the first reading we have listened to the prophet Isaiah who, already more than 700 years before Christ, was speaking of the radiant hope of the coming of the Savior so as to save the people of Israel. Under this point of view, in the course of the centuries, the Church has always associated the Redeemer with his Holy Mother, invoking her as “Our Hope” in the well known prayer “Salve Regina”.
In the second reading, the Apostle Paul has invited us to give thanks to the Father who is in heaven for all of the gifts he has given us, and among these gifts, the Church has always placed in a particular place the gift of Mary as spiritual Mother of Christians and powerful mediator of grace.
Lastly, in the Gospel, the Apostle Saint John reminds us of the testament of Jesus on the cross when he entrusted Mary to us saying, “Woman, behold your son.” That son was not only the Apostle John. It was each one of us who was entrusted to his Mother. Since then every Christian has always entrusted himself to her with a profound spirit of faith. Thus should it be, in a particular way, for all of you, dear religious of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, who have always united the love of Mary to the love of Jesus.
3) The hour of gratitude
Dear religious of the IVE, in this beautiful Marian feast, you also want to give thanks to the Lord through Mary, His Mother, for the divine assistance to your religious family, remembering the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute and the ten years of its canonical elevation.
With you many of your friends who have come today to this Cathedral raise to the Lord the song “Te Deum”. United to you is the bishop of this beloved Diocese of Viterbo-Montefiascone, who with love has received you here. Many priests and faithful, religious brothers and sisters who work here in the vineyard of the Lord have united themselves to you. To them I also wanted to unite myself, who from the first years of the foundation of the Institute have always followed your path though the commission of the great Pope John Paul II, now your protector in heaven.
Brothers and sisters in the Lord, we then celebrate this beautiful festivity of Our Lady of Lujan with great joy! In our prayers we particularly remember Pope Francis, a great devotee of Mary, who has made pilgrimages to the feet if the Mother of God in the Shrine of Lujan so many times. We also remember all the religious of the IVE who work to extend the Reign of God in different parts of the world. To Holy Mary we will confide all of the esteemed religious “Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara” who work in many fields of apostolate.
We will leave here with a renewed commitment to continue faithfully serving the Lord and to keep on working for the spread of His Kingdom. Amen.