Rome, Italy, February 2, 2018.
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
“The feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus is also the feast of His Mother”
Dear Priests, Brothers, Seminarians and Novices:
The mystery of the Presentation of the Lord also leads us to direct our gaze upon His Most Holy Mother, who carries Him in arms and in the haven of Her most tender heart, that He may be presented in the temple forty days after His birth.
In this way, the Blessed Virgin also becomes the figure of all the mothers–including our beloved mothers– who, throughout history, continue to offer their sons and daughters to our Heavenly Father, associating them in the one oblation of Christ, the cause and model of every consecration in the Church.
This mystery in the life of Christ speaks to us about our consecrated vocation, how it is a supreme heavenly favor, an eternal and utterly merciful choice on the part of God the Father. It also speaks of the divine choice of our mothers, precisely to be the mothers of consecrated souls, whether priests, brothers, missionaries or monks.
Consequently, this letter is also directed in some way to them: your mothers; and I ask you, please send it to them if it seems opportune.
First of all, I desire with all my heart to direct a very particular thank you to all of the mothers of our beloved Institute’s priests, brothers, novices, monks and seminarians. I thank each one of you for being a providential instrument in our completion of the Divine Will of God, and for the unconditional companionship that you all offer us with your constant prayers and service. This clearly tells us of your boundless love.
Special and heart-felt gratitude is also raised to Our Lord for all of the mothers who have already parted for heaven, from where they now contemplate fully the Priestly splendor of Christ, in which we –their sons– participate. To all of them –among whom is found my own dear mother– who in a unique and mysterious way continue to intercede for us all the more efficaciously from heaven: infinite thanks!
Likewise, I would like to take advantage of this feast day, which is also “the feast of the Mother”, to dedicate some simple words in expression of the lasting affection and sense of homage that we children owe to our mothers.
The mother, in a special way, is everything for a person (and I believe that religious live this reality in a fuller and more beautiful sense than other children), because for the most part, all that a person is, their manner of being, of thinking, of believing, all that one holds to be good, is owed principally to their mother. Who would doubt how decisive the contribution of our mothers has been for our lives! That is why I dare to say that, among human relationships, there is nothing equal to this. As St. John Paul II taught, “Although both of them together [man and woman] are parents of their child, the woman’s motherhood constitutes a special “part” in this shared parenthood”.
Each time a child is born, a mother is also born, and the relationship that is established between the two is unique, most intimate, unrepeatable and eternal.
No other relationship that could exist in the future, no matter how deep it may be, nor the most torturous circumstances, nor the most humiliating human weaknesses, nor death itself is able to eradicate the sacred bond between mother and child. For a child, his mother will always be his mother, and for a mother, her son will always be her son.
The mother is, in some way, our Providence on earth for the first years of our lives, our firmest support in the years following childhood, our most dear and loyal friend in our youth, and our most inseparable and unconditional companion for life (even when she is no longer physically with us). A good mother is a blessing from God and the greatest possible consolation that could be given us in this valley of tears. She shows us the road when we stray. She lifts us when we fall. She encourages us when we are down. She sweetens life on earth, and, wondrously, turns thorns into roses. God communicates the consolation of love, through the mothers’ souls, to the world. Consequently, the love of a mother is unrestrained. She can renounce her own interests generously and suffer with a smile on her lips because she loves; she is capable of renouncing, for love of her child, all the earthly grandeur. She dedicates her life to fight for her children and rejoices in seeing them happy.
That is why, for a child, there is no better place in the world, for however beautiful it may be, than this: the heart of his mother. There is no creature in this life to which we are more united than to the heart and soul of our mother. It is said that the Heart of the Virgin and the Heart of Our Lord beat in unison, and one author says that this happens for every mother; with the difference being that in this analogy the mother always carries the rhythm of the heartbeat, thus she always knows or can suspect what is happening in the heart of her son. Who hasn’t experienced this? Thus the Hebrew women counsel each other about the decision to have a child as something of vital importance: “it is deciding forever that your heart will walk outside of your body”. The proverb says: “He who takes a child by the hand, definitively takes the heart of the mother”.
It happens with good mothers, as with the saints, that the work which they accomplish with us is so great that in the end we can only praise God for the gift of His having given them to us, because she has been and is and will continue to be the image of the providence and love of God on earth, even when she is no longer here with us.
The mother is the heart of the family. It is the mother who in a certain way creates and constitutes the home and protects its unity. Who has not witnessed this? Around her, all is ordered and unified, all is harmonized and unfolds. That is why, when a mother leaves, no one is left the same. She knits the bonds between everyone, sends the children to their father, and the father to their children. The mother is, in a particular way, the one who listens, counsels, uplifts, pardons, reconciles, and gives each one their place. She spreads the ointment of love and tenderness upon all family relations. She forever worries over each one and does not rest until all are satisfied.
How many of us can say of our mothers –whom God has entrusted to us– that they have been and are a precious gift by which we are given to see how full of love God’s Providence is! They, setting “good example as their first mission”, through their maternal fiat (‘Let it be done to me’)” taught us that there is no greater happiness than to do the Will of God. And under the shelter of the sanctuary of their hearts, they taught us what is the noblest, purest and fullest: the generous gift of self, without condition, without concern for time, the unlimited surrender to the forgetfulness of oneself out of love. Thus, our mothers will always be the always the most luminous entry that God has made in the book of our lives, and the most tender caress by which we perceived the paternal gentleness of God.
Therefore, anyone of us, where ever we might be, in order to caress our good mothers from our hearts, can say with St. John of God: “God has deposited the treasure of his love on earth in three vessels: in the Eucharist, in Confession and in the heart of my mother.”
In front of such an excellent gift, all that is left to do is to praise and burst forth in thanksgiving to God, who has been pleased to give us our mothers as the most tangible proof of the richness of His kindness.
We recognize, with gratitude and to our soul’s consolation, that we shall always have the heart of our mothers beating in our own bodies, and that where ever we go, we shall not cease to experience that wave of love and sweetness which maternal eyes so often cast upon their children. Thanks to our mothers, we shall always find in a corner of our hearts that ray of hope that inspires us, that consoles us, that encourages us to sacrificial love, just as their love is. And so, our gratitude for our mothers shall always be eternal.
Together with this thankfulness, I also desire to make an invitation: It regards the “40 Hours Project”.
St. Angela Merici used to say that “mothers, even if they have a thousand, carry each and every one fixed in their hearts, and because of the strength of their love they do not forget any of them” .
For this reason, I know already that they are going to accept this proposal.
The 40 Hours Project began in 1881 when in Lu Monferrato –a town in Italy which has today 1500 inhabitants- a group of mothers, moved by this authentic love of which we have spoken, and with a great spirit of Christian faith, decided to gather in Adoration of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, asking God for priestly vocations and vocations to the consecrated life, and on the first Sunday of every month they received Communion, offering this for the same intention. Certainly, Our Lord heard and fulfilled the prayers commended by those fervent and loving mothers, to the extent that from that tiny town emerged 323 vocations, missionaries in 36 countries (all persevering by the grace of God).
Inspired by the great example of the faith and love of these mothers, a group of ‘our mothers’ has taken up this same initiative, which I would like to extend to all of our mothers today.
For 40 consecutive hours, on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of each month, they unite in offering an hour of prayer, preferably in the presence
of the Blessed Sacrament, for the increase, perseverance and holiness of priestly and religious vocations for our Institute.
St. Louis Marie Grignon d’Montort affirmed that “when we pray in common, the prayer of each one belongs to us all and these make but one great prayer together” and “somebody who says his Rosary alone only gains the merit of one Rosary, but if he says it together with thirty other people he gains the merit of thirty Rosaries”.
It seems to me that the same which is said of the Rosary can also be said of Eucharistic Adoration, hence, I invite all our mothers to unite in prayer for us, your sons, the sons of the Family of the Incarnate Word.
Accordingly, we have created a webpage, www.40horas.org, where you can register in order to pray at the hour which is most convenient for your schedule on the designated days. The page is available in the six principal languages of our religious, and it is our intention that it may be available in other languages in the future (This page will be a way of knowing how many mothers, in different parts of the world, join this project to pray for vocations).
I understand that many of our mothers are already elderly, or they work or do not have a Church nearby, or they bear in their bodies the precious cross of an illness which keeps them bedridden. This invitation is also for them! These mothers can offer an hour of work, the rosaries that they pray in silence while the rest of the family sleeps, and their bodily or spiritual sufferings, for their beloved sons of the Incarnate Word who are dispersed across the five continents.
And in order to make this proposal even more inclusive and extensive, I would like to personally address all of the sisters “Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará”, all women in our Third Order and in our families, all our sisters, to all “mothers at heart” who have adopted us as their children and who are numerous in our missions, and ultimately, to all women, in a special way those who desire that God bless their family with a vocation to the priesthood or to the consecrated life. May they unite themselves to this magnificent project in faith and charity, knowing that God will repay them one hundredfold.
Now that as a Religious Family we are present in places where internet access is still something “uncommon”, and since on the other hand we know that many women would like to join this project, we have thought it most convenient that the religious who come from these places or missions could themselves “register” at the aforementioned webpage on their behalf, in such a way that the greatest number possible may join this holy endeavor, imploring the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into his harvest, and that He grant the grace of perseverance and holiness of life to those who are already found working so that He may reign.
We are over 800 members in the Institute of the Incarnate Word: what an enormous consolation it would be to know that more than 800 souls, who with the unlimited generosity and love which characterize the maternal heart, are imploring such excellent graces from heaven, collaborating in an almost imperceptible way –an attitude typical of mothers- in the exhilarating adventure of bringing the love of Christ to countless souls.
“Jesus always had his divine Mother with him: they never separated from each other”.
May we never be lack mothers who accompany their sons in arduous and constant prayer, and who bring such consolation to this life.
To the Most Holy Virgin Mary, who has come to be our Light at the cost of the great sacrifice of her Son and the maternal sacrifice of her heart, I entrust all of you, your mothers, and also the fruit of this noble initiative.
In Christ, the Incarnate Word,
Fr. Gustavo Nieto, IVE
Cf. St. John Paul II,
Message for the I World Day for Consecrated Life, (06/01/1997).
St. John Paul II,
Mulieris Dignitatem, 31.
Cf. Fr. Carlos Buela, IVE,
Homily “La Madre”,
St. John Paul II,
To the religious at Rome, (02/02/1990).
Cf. St. John Paul II,
Mulieris Dignitatem, 18.
Cf. Fr. Carlos Buela, Homily,
John Paul II,
Mulieris Dignitatem, 30.
Cf. St. Luis Orione, Scritti
46, 136; Carta a una señorita en vísperas del casamiento,
St. John Paul II,
Mulieris Dignitatem, 19.
Liturgy of the hours,
From the spiritual testimony of St. Angela Merici, virgin, 2nd
reading, January 27th.
The Secret of the Rosary,
46th Rose, p. 96.
Mk 10: 30.
Mt 9: 38.
Directory of Spirituality,
225; op. cit. 1 Cor 15: 25.
St. Peter Julian
Eymard, Obras Eucarísticas,
4ª Serie, Ejercicios Espirituales a las vírgenes de la
Tercera Orden de María, 3er día. [Editor’s translation]