Friday, 31 March 2017

Don Bosco's Mary, Help of Christians

I was rummaging through some old stuff when I stumbled upon this extra colored print of the painting of Mary, Help of Christians that stands right at the altar of the Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice in Don Bosco Valdocco in Turin, Italy.

I had another copy of this print but after a few years inside a picture frame, it faded. I was glad I found this extra print. These prints I bought from the bookstore next to the Basilica in Turin.

So I brought it to the local shop that laminated photographs and had it encased in a sealed, sturdy, plastic lamination to prevent it from losing its grandiose colors. After all, the painter who created this masterpiece over three years had wanted everyone to see Don Bosco's dream in a resplendent presentation and in a spectacle of colors.

This was the description of the painting according to the Don Bosco website:

"The Virgin standing out in a sea of light and majesty, surrounded by a horde of angels paying homage as if to their queen. With her right hand, she holds the sceptre, the symbol of her power, and with the left, the child with its arms open wide, offering its grace and mercy to those appealing to the majesty of his mother.

Around and below them are the Apostles and the Evangelists in a state of s
weet ecstasy, almost exclaiming: ‘Regina Apostolorum, ora pro nobis’, they contemplate the Holy Virgin in amazement. At the bottom of the picture, there is the city of Turin with the sanctuary of Valdocco in close up and with Superga in the background. The picture’s greatest value is the religious ideal that makes a pious impression on whoever admire it."

This painting, as commissioned by Saint John Bosco himself from the Italian painter Lorenzone as he saw in his dream, now sits at the main altar of the Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice, which was consecrated in 1868, and is the Mother Church of the Salesian Family from which every year missionaries leave for the farthest ends of the world.

This painting was granted a canonical coronation by Pope Leo XIII on May 17, 1903, that officially conferred on it the title of 'Mary, Help of Christians'.

Having been educated in Salesian schools since I was 6, I was very familiar with this picture. The image was everywhere at school and on estampitas given to us. This vision of Mary holding Jesus and a scepter, and standing on a white cloud and surrounded by angels, Apostles and Evangelists, and looking down on a big church, which I thought was St. Peter's Basilica when I was young, fascinated me. I only learned that the 'big church' was the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians when I read about the painting.

And when I had the chance to travel to Italy years ago, I made sure I visited our Salesian Mother Church in Turin. I thought, since I was already in the country, why not travel north to Turin for a couple of days? 

And on that morning when I sat in front of the altar of the Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice (Basilica of Mary Help of Christians) in the Don Bosco Valdocco area of Turin, praying in silence and in awe, I could not believe where I was and the surreal vision that was before me.

From my memory of this painting during my schools days at Don Bosco in Victorias, to my pilgrimage to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, and then back home, bringing with me this colored print of the painting, I traced the path of countless Salesian missionaries who traveled from this Church and into the hearts of young boys, bringing faith, education and virtues of a Bosconian.

Mabuhay to all Bosconians all over the world!

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