For Don Bosco, Mary Help of Christians was a living presence in his own life, in the Oratory, and in the life of the poor boys who attended it. Mary is actively present in the history of the Church, of humanity, and of our Community. She is a maternal presence and mediatrix of grace for her children and a Mother who continues to fight against the evil that surrounds and menaces us. When Don Bosco used to propose to people to “make a novena,” he did so convinced of the motherliness and mediation of Mary.
He did not doubt that Mary would again manifest herself in many ways so as to give help to all who invoke her with faith and with love. He used to say: “If you wish to obtain graces from the Blessed Virgin, make a novena” (The Biographical Memoirs of St. John Bosco, vol. IX, p. 139) – i.e., intensify your prayers to Her.
Today, we, too, begin the novena to Mary Help of Christians that was so dear to Don Bosco and to the entire Salesian Family. We wish to ask Mary with faith to intercede with the Lord for the personal conversion of each and every one of us, Her Daughters, so that we might: live this Year of Mercy with the conviction that it is a year of grace from the Lord and an opportunity to draw ever closer to the center of the Mystery of God and of our Faith; receive mercy and show mercy so as to change our hearts and our Communities into places that are more merciful, and not so cold, possessing the warmth of love and of solidarity among ourselves and towards our brothers and sisters who are most in need, especially the young.
Let us recall what Don Bosco asked of those who wanted to obtain a special grace from Mary Help of Christians: a strong faith in God, united to the conviction that He knows what is best for us, and the willingness to accept as His Will - whether permitting or ordaining - whatever might come. Beyond this, Don Bosco insisted on the necessity of a heart disposed to live the novena with faith. He invited these individuals to approach the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist; to rekindle their faith in Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and in the maternal mediation of Mary Help of Christians; and to make an offering to works dedicated to the education of the young. As for us, we will not make a material offering, but, rather, a renewal of the offering of our life for the salvation of the young.
We are invited to pray daily the traditional novena proposed by Don Bosco and to take up again one element of the journey that we lived this year on every 24th of the month to deepen our understanding of the Prayer of Entrustment to Mary Help of Christians. In this way, we can prepare our heart to receive the graces we need for personal and Community conversion and to renew our entrustment to Mary Help of Christians on May 24 in a most solemn way. Each Community is invited to celebrate this moment together in the way that is most suited to its concrete reality.
Proposal for the Novena to Mary Help of Christians
Day 1: «O Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, we entrust ourselves to you that we may live in total availability to God for the redemption of the world»
In our daily life, there are so many opportunities – both big and small – to fill up in our flesh, “for His Body, which is the Church, those things that are lacking to the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24). But at times, they risk being wasted for the Lord does not find us ready to welcome into our hands even one lone thorn from His crown. There are moments when we imagine ourselves capable of dying as martyrs for the Faith, but then we do not even succeed in accepting something unforeseen that upsets our plans…
Practice: I entrust myself to Mary to become like Her: available and ready to welcome God’s Will with love and without losing my patience.
Day 2: «You who are the Mother and Help of the Church, protect our Holy Father, Pope Francis, all Bishops, Priests, and Religious»
The second paragraph of the Act of Entrustment invites us to recognize in Mary, “Mother of Jesus and Our Mother,” the “Mother and Help of the Church”. It is She, in fact, who in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) gave a body of flesh to the Son of God and who will collaborate with the Holy Spirit until the end of time so that the Body of Christ, the Church, will be continually regenerated in the love of the Father. (I Peter 1:3) St. Paul teaches us that there are many members in this Body. (I Cor. 12:12) Mary is called to care for each and every one of them through her powerful intercession and her luminous example of a life totally given to God and for others.
Practice: With Mary, let us meditate on these words of Jesus: «By this all will know that you are my Disciples, if you have love one for another» (Jn. 13:35) by thinking about them in reference to the Sisters of my Community or Province and to all our brothers and sisters in the Faith who are in the parish, city, and Diocese in which we live.
Day 3: «Open the hearts of the young to the Lord's call and help them to follow Him with courage and fidelity»
We are invited to help the young to be "happy in time and in eternity," accompanying them in the discovery of their own vocation. If all are called, vocational discernment cannot be a privilege reserved to the “good kids.” Certainly, the journey must be different for each person, since for each one the point of arrival as well as the point of departure will be different, but, this notwithstanding, each young person has the right to hear it said to him or her that he or she is loved by God in a unique and personal way and that, as in every loving relationship, God desires that His love be returned.
The young will be able to believe in the love of Jesus if we love them as He loves them, with no strings attached, and if we share with them the experience of our encounter with God (Acts of General Chapter XXIII).
Practice: With Mary and the Community we can ask ourselves if our Community is a vocational one that fosters the vocation culture through an educative presence which promotes discernment and the accompaniment of the young.
Day 4: «Watch over our Institute, the entire Salesian Family, our relatives and benefactors, our Past Pupils, and all the young people entrusted to our care»
We are a Family born from God's heart and entrusted to Mary from the very first moment of its birth, when Don Bosco had his dream at age 9. It is always moving to remember that first dream which is the foundation of the apostolic life of our Father; in it, all the words and gestures have a prophetic dimension. Mary is presented there as Mother and Teacher but also as protectress of his entire work.
We FMA belong to this Family: “Our Institute is a living part of the Salesian Family… In this Family we share the spiritual heritage of the Founder, and, as in Mornese, we offer the unique contribution of our vocation.” (Constitutions, Article 3).
Practice: We entrust ourselves today to Mary not only as an Institute but also as a Salesian Family and we pray for all the Groups of the Family so that they might experience that it is Mary "who has done everything" in Don Bosco's work and also in our life.
Day 5: «Mother and Model of the Church, teach us to live like you, in patient charity, joyful humility, and purity of heart»
Mary's patient charity, joyful humility, and purity of heart are not merits of her personal actions but are the fruit of her intimate and indissoluble communion with Jesus: her love for us is a participation in the infinite love of Jesus for us; her humility is conformed to Jesus’ humility; her purity is the radiation of God's presence in her - a presence which pervades and possesses her entirely. For this reason, Mary is so filled with joy that it spills over: she is the “House of God-with-us”! To be the House of God among men: this is precisely what God expects from his Church and from each one of us!
Practice: With Mary I will go to make a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to listen to Him and to thank Him, to let myself take on His mercy and His sentiments and to learn the secret of an authentic encounter with my Sisters, with the members of the educating community, and with all those whom I will meet today. (see Constitutions, Article 40)
Day 6: «that we may be signs of your presence in the world»
To be the living presence of Mary in the world is also what Don Bosco wanted from the FMA. When pointing out this desire of the Founder, Don Rua used to love to repeat: “You must become her reflection. She is the Help of the Christian people, and you, Her Daughters, must prepare to become helpers of souls on the way to Paradise.” This implies that we must learn, at the school of Mary, “her dispositions of faith, hope, and charity, and her perfect union with Christ… [and open] our hearts to the joyous humility of her Magnificat.” (Constitutions, Article 4)
Practice: Today I will take a little time to meditate on one of the Marian articles of our Constitutions and ask Her for the grace to feel her presence in my life and to help me to go out of myself to carry Christ to others.
Day 7: «O Mary Help of Christians, make us faithful to our vocation and give us the certainty of your protection in every circumstance of life and at the moment of death»
The Act of Entrustment sums up in a few lines the wisdom of the life of the Founders and suggests that we entrust to the maternal intercession of Mary this important task of maturing in our fidelity to the gift of the vocation that we have received. The Blessed Mother herself, in the Dream of the Two Columns, tells Don Bosco and his young people: “If you will be devoted sons to me, I will be a Loving Mother to you.” With these simple words, Mary assures us that we will experience the «certainty of her protection in every circumstance of life and at the moment of death» in the measure in which we entrust ourselves to her, not only in words, but «in deed and in truth». (I Jn. 3:18)
Practice: In the morning I will entrust to Mary, in an explicit way, all the encounters and the tasks of the day, asking for the grace to be guided in everything by her. In the evening, during the examination of conscience, I will ask myself: what would Mary have done in my place… with that person… in that situation…?
Day 8: «Help us overcome every form of evil and sin»
In the battle against sin, Mary is our first Ally. The incessant invitation which Pope Francis makes to us to value the mercy of God follows the same path: by renewing daily the handing over of our fragility, of our weaknesses, and of our ugly habits to God's mercy, little by little, but in reality, we are freed, healed, and sanctified, by His Love. God, in fact - the Holy Father loves to repeat - never tires of pardoning us. The problem is that we tire of asking for forgiveness. He never tires of forgiving, but at times we tire of asking for forgiveness.
God wants to make us ever more like Mary! The greater our desire to be pardoned, the greater will be the fruits of his mercy!
Practice: Together with Mary, I will prepare myself to live the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a humble attitude of faith so as to accept my poverty peacefully and to fulfill with greater commitment and hard work the journey of freedom from sin and of welcoming and receiving the Mercy of the Father.
Day 9: «so that with you and like you, we may glorify the Lord now and forever. Amen»
God chose Mary, the humble maiden of Nazareth, to accomplish His salvation. He wanted to bend down to her and ask her consent. We know that this logic continues. God continues to choose the little ones to accomplish great things; he chose little John Bosco, the little shepherd boy of Becchi; he chose the uneducated farm girl of Mornese, Mary Mazzarello; and today he chooses you, me, and all of us to continue this story of salvation. Such is the logic which upsets human plans. In the Magnificat, Mary praises the fidelity and the love of God. He is remembered for the promise He made to Abraham and to his descendents forever - a promise which came true in Jesus.
Practice: Let us sing the Magificat with Mary, glorifying the Lord for the wonders that He has accomplished in us and in all Humanity.
 Three sets of a Pater, Ave, and Gloria daily to the Blessed Sacrament, with “Blessed and Praised every moment be the Most Holy and Divine Sacrament” after each set; then, three Salve Regina to Mary Help of Christians, with the invocation “Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us” following each one. (This set of prayers can be concluded with the Memorare)
 On the 24th, a little introduction to the Prayer of Entrustment can be added in which are underlined the desire and the commitment to renew our entrustment to Her. Or, the prayer of the Rosary can be made solemn, or another type of celebration can be held in which, at another point in the day, a symbolic gesture can be united to the praying of the Act of Entrustment. For example: a picture of Mary Help of Christians may be placed near the altar and each Sister can place at its feet a card with her name or the name of a young person written on it for whom we wish to pray… after having finished the placing of the cards, the Entrustment can be recited. Or, the Community can gather around a picture or statue of Mary of particular significance in the House: each Sister can bring with her a flower to offer to Our Lady. After the offering of the flowers, the Entrustment is prayed. According to the possibilities of each Work, the young and/or the educating Community may be invited to be involved in the celebration.