By Bro. Al Vu, SDB
The promise that Don Bosco made to his boys at the Oratory: “Trust in Mary and you will know what miracles are,” still rings true today. Don Bosco believed that it was impossible to go to Jesus except through the love of Mary. As we commemorate the beginning of the Salesian mission with that encounter of Don Bosco and Bartholomew Garelli, we are reminded that it is Mary who serves as a model, teacher, and guide. Our new saint, Brother Artemide Zatti understood this well.
It was Brother Zatti’s mentor, Father Evasio Garrone, who encouraged him to make a promise to Mary Help of Christians for his healing and to ask her to always remain at his side in the midst of Brother Zatti’s severe illness. Brother Zatti believed that Mary can heal him and he placed complete trust in her by dedicating his entire life to the sick and poor. This led to the motto that became his personal plan of life: I BELIEVED, I PROMISED, I WAS HEALED. He believed because he knew that Mary had been the one helping him in visible ways throughout his life. He promised because it was his desire to help his neighbor in whatever way he could. It would be this promise that he professed and lived each day of his life as a Salesian of Don Bosco. He believed that God listened to his prayer and in turn, healed him and everyone he met.
Brother Zatti’s example inspires us to grow in our love and devotion to Mary. For me personally, growing up, my Marian devotion was instilled in me by my dad. So many things that happened in his life would be attributed to Mary and her constant care for him. I remember around the time of the beatification of Brother Zatti, I shared with my dad Brother Zatti’s story. He was moved by Brother Zatti’s devotion to Our Lady. He encouraged me to strengthen my own devotion to Mary so that I too may be a good Salesian like Brother Zatti.
This past year I had the honor of sharing community with the late Salesian, Brother John Rasor who not only had a profound devotion to Our Lady, but to Brother Zatti as well. Brother John has always been an inspiring witness of Salesian life and that of the vocation of the coadjutor brother. In his last days with us I found myself sitting by his bedside praying the rosary asking Mary to comfort him. In those quiet moments I was reminded by how Brother John, like Brother Zatti, “lived the total donation of himself to God and the consecration of all his strength to the good of his neighbor,” especially the young.
When I had the privilege to go be part of the Canonization of Brother Zatti, I went bringing the memory of Brother John and my dad with me. As I sat in Paul VI Hall and listened to Pope Francis address the Salesian Family, I took to heart his words that he gave to the coadjutor brothers that were gathered, to “be always grateful for the gift of this call, which bears a special witness to consecrated life, and thus offer it to young people as a form of evangelical life at the service of the little ones and the poor.” In those words of encouragement, I felt strengthened to recommit my life as a Salesian brother like that of Brother Zatti and Brother John. Like I had done so often as a child, I prayed for Mary’s intercession to help me to be faithful to my vocation.
It was no surprise that two years ago on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, God called to himself my dad. There are days that I miss my dad, but am comforted by reaching into my pocket and pulling out my rosary. As I pray, I am reminded of the final words that my dad shared with me, “Lean on Mary to help you be a good Salesian.”
Let us all pray that through the intercession of Mary, Our Help and Brother Artemide Zatti, more young people will open their hearts and respond generously to God’s call to Salesian religious life, especially as coadjutor brothers like Brother Zatti and Brother John.
May we lean on Mary to help us to not be distracted by the external things of life, but like her, make space in our hearts to welcome God’s love into our lives. God the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ has already come and wants to come again so that we may remain in His love and that our joy may be complete. May we have the courage to, like Mary, be faithful signs and bearers of God’s love to the world.