By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major on the occasion of the translation of the Icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” – Salvation of the Roman People. The Icon was returned to its home in the Borghese Chapel in the Basilica after it was restored by the Vatican Museums.
The image of Mary Salus Populi Romani is an object of particular devotion for people of Rome, and for Pope Francis as well, who routinely comes to the Basilica to venerate the Icon, especially before and after his Apostolic journeys throughout the world.
Mary our Mother
In his homily during the Mass, the Pope focused especially on the idea of Mary as Mother. “The presence of the Mother makes this temple a family home for us children,” he said. And so we are able to recognize the Church as “our home, the home where we find rest, consolation, protection, refuge.”
Pope Francis recalled that our ancestors have taught us, in the difficult moments of life, to always turn to Mary, to gather together “under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God.” Mary, he said, “guards our faith, protects relationships, saves us in stormy weather, and preserves us from evil.” When Mary our Mother is in the home, “the devil does not enter.”
Mary answers promptly
When we pray to Mary, the Pope continued, a traditional prayer says, “despise not our petitions.” Mary never despises our petitions, but always answers them promptly – just as, she promptly went to Elizabeth in her time of need, as we hear in the Gospels.
We also pray that Mary might free us from danger. “The Lord Himself knows that we need shelter and protection in the midst” of the many dangers we face in life, the Pope said. It is precisely for this reason, he continued, that from the Cross Jesus entrusted St John, the beloved disciple; and all His future disciples to His blessed Mother.
Taking Mary into our homes
Like St John, the Pope said, we too must “take Mary into our own homes,” inviting her “into our homes, our hearts, our lives.” Christians cannot be “neutral or detached” from Mary, our Mother, he said, or we will lose our identity as children.
And so, the Pope said, “let us make the Mother the guest of our daily life, the constant presence in our home, our safe haven.”