SANTA MARIA AUSILIATRICE – The devotion of Salesians  to the Blessed Virgin Mary

We have spoken previously about the intense pastoral work undertaken by the successor of Saint Giovanni Bosco of the Salesian congregation. The education of youth is of primary importance to them, and this is the reason they have numerous schools and parishes. Now we will talk about one of them, Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, which is situated in the Tusculan area in Rome, outside the historical centre of the city. The Parish was erected in 1932 by Pope Pius XI and the architect was Giulio Valotti (1881-1953), who was a Salesian himself.

Father Felice Giraudi, who was also present since the beginning of the project for this church, reminisces about the architect (found in “Giulio Valotti was typically and to an eminent degree the personification of the Salesian Coadjutor, who with certainly heavenly intuition, conceived and created Don Bosco, forming one of the new and inimitable masterpieces of his Congregation. Don Bosco prepared and forged the Coadjutor, almost a priest, without Mass, in piety and apostolate; and, in practical life, a multiform element of every modern activity: humble waiter or administrator or expert accountant, catechist in festive oratorios or architect in the multiple creations of new Institutes; linotypist or publisher; head of art or labor worker of any profession; often player of each instrument or master and director of artistic concerts; the good Samaritan in the infirmaries of the colleges, and in the missions also doctor of medicine and, if necessary, even ready and skilled surgeon … The long enumeration that was made of the works of which Valotti was a designer and often also director of the works, is not in fact the small part of his multifaceted business. But above every title of renown and external merit, the late dear Coadjutor Valotti was and remains for those who knew him the example of the most beautiful virtues of the Religious according to the spirit of Don Bosco.”

The devotion to the Virgin Mary “Help of Christians”, auxiliatrix, is very strong in the Salesian family. Visiting the Basilica in Turin that has the same name of the one we are considering in Rome, Pope Francis in 2015 said: “Let us invoke Mary Help of Christians that she may bless every member of the Salesian Family; may she bless the parents and educators who spend their lives raising young people; may she bless every young person who is found in the works of Don Bosco, especially those dedicated to the poorest, in order that, thanks to well-received and educated youth, the joy of new humanity may be given to the Church and to the world.”

In an article in the Catholic News Agency, the context and the meaning of this devotion in the Salesian family is given: “St. John Bosco (1815 – 1888) was a dynamic priest who founded the Salesian Order in the XIX century in Italy. His many prophetic dreams, beginning at age nine, guided his ministry and gave insights on future events. On May 14, 1862, Don Bosco dreamed about the battles the Church would face in the latter days. In his dream, the  Pope of those days anchors the ‘ship’ of the Church between two pillars, one with a statue of Mary (Auxilium Christianorum or ‘Help of Christians’) and the other with a large Eucharistic Host. St. John Bosco wrote about his congregation, the Salesians:  “The principal objective is to promote veneration of the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to Mary Help of Christians. This title seems to please the august Queen of Heaven very much.” The Salesian Sisters of St John Bosco or Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, are the sister order of the Salesians of Don Bosco. St. John Bosco, himself, on June 9 1868, dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians, the mother church of his congregation at Turin (Italy). The Salesian Fathers and their Sisters have carried the devotion to their numerous establishments.”

The Salesian fathers were instrumental in spreading the devotion to Mary Help of Christians in their parishes, including this parish in Rome. We know that Don Bosco always had the dream to be in Rome with his foundation, and this parish and others are a witness that his dream has certainly been fulfilled. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)