On the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of family and marriage for society. He also called the Virgin Mary a model for every vocation.
“It is necessary to rediscover the plan drawn by God for the family, to reaffirm its greatness and irreplaceability in the service of life and society,” the pope said March 25, during a visit to the Shrine of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy.
The Shrine of the Holy House preserves the building where tradition holds the Virgin Mary was born, raised, and greeted by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. Historic documentation shows that the Holy House was brought from Palestine to Italy in the 13th century. The Holy House also holds the statue of Our Lady of Loreto.
The Holy House of Mary is the “home of the family,” Pope Francis said during his visit, noting that “in the delicate situation of today’s world, the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman takes on an importance and an essential mission.”
He said the Holy House is also the home of the young, “because here the Virgin Mary, the young woman full of grace, continues to speak to the new generations, accompanying each one in the search for his vocation.”
“Mary is the model of every vocation and the inspirer of every vocation ministry,” he continued. “Young people who are looking for, or wondering about their future, can find in Mary She who helps them to discern God’s plan for themselves and the strength to adhere to it.”
Mary was a daughter, a betrothed, a bride, and a mother, he noted, and “for this reason, every family, in its different components, finds a refuge here…” in the Holy House.
The pope added that the domestic experience of Mary shows that pastoral care of the family and of young people should not be kept separate, but “must walk closely together,” because young people are highly impacted by their experience of family in their formative years.
During the day-long visit to Loreto, Pope Francis celebrated Mass inside the Holy House, gave a speech and led those present in praying the Angelus.
“The Mother of God does not cease to obtain spiritual benefits in those who, with faith and devotion, come here to pause in prayer,” he said about the Holy House.
After Mass, the pope signed the post-synodal exhortation written following October 2018’s Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment. The document, which is addressed to the young people of the Church, is titled Christus vivit (“Christ lives”) and will be published April 2.
He later greeted the sick and the Capuchin Friars who run the Shrine of the Holy House, thanking them for their devotion to hearing Confessions in the Loreto basilica and for their work at the Loreto St. John Paul II youth center.
He also expressed the desire for John Paul II youth centers to be “relaunched” throughout Italy and around the world and asked the friars to extend the opening hours of the Basilica of the Holy House into the late evening and early night, when groups of young pilgrims are present, so that the place may be available for prayer and vocational discernment.
The pope said: “I think of Loreto as a privileged place where young people can come in search of their vocation, at Mary’s school!”
At the Annunciation, Mary demonstrated the steps one should take to respond to God’s call of vocation: listening to the Word of God, discernment, and decision, he said.
First, Mary listened to the message of the Angel Gabriel. And in response to what the Angel said, she asked, “how can this be?” The pope explained that Mary’s question did not come from a lack of faith, but from a deepening discernment of the Lord’s will and her cooperation in it.
And finally, Mary gives her “yes,” he said, “the ‘yes’ of full trust and total availability to the will of God.”
“There is a need for simple and wise people, humble and courageous, poor and generous. In short, people who, at Mary’s school, welcome the Gospel without reserve in their lives,” Pope Francis said.
“Thus, through the holiness of the people of God, testimonies of holiness in every state of life will continue to spread in Italy, in Europe and in the world, to renew the Church and animate society with the leaven of the Kingdom of God.”