In his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis expounds that the call to holiness is for everybody. We don’t need to strive to be holy. We just have to live our ordinary lives by having God as the reference point.
According to Pope Francis, there are two subtle enemies of holiness: Gnosticism and Pelagianism.
The identity card of a Christian is Jesus’s sermon about the beatitudes. Pope Francis explains each beatitude in detail. For him, holiness is just to practice Jesus’s teachings about the beatitudes.
Pope Francis also stresses the importance of discernment. How can a human being know the ultimate truth, that is if something comes from the Holy Spirit or from the spirit of the world or from the devil? The ability of discernment is a God’s gift. If we turn to God, we will be able to discern reality as it is.
Every year, late in August, in Calascibetta, a town in the center of Sicily, there is the procession in honor of La Madonna della Catena (Our Lady of the Chain).
The statue of the Virgin Mary with Child Jesus, who hold a chain in their hands, is carried in procession. The women that follow it are dressed in black and bear heavy chains on their feet. Why do they drag those heavy chains?
To solve the mystery we need to go back to the year 1392. Sicily was under Spanish rule. The king was Martin the Younger and under his reign three criminals had been sentenced to death. The place of the execution was the Piazza Marina (Marina Square) in Palermo. At that time, capital punishments were carried out publicly.
The square was crowded with people. As usual, there were also street vendors who sold carobs, licorice, and the like. When everything was ready for the execution, a violent storm broke out. People left the square and the execution was postponed to the following day.
The guards and the criminals took refuge in the church of La Madonna del Porto (Our Lady of the Port). The violence of the storm didn’t allow them to leave the place. Therefore, they chained the condemned men to the altar and waited for the storm to end.
There was an image of Our Lady above the altar. The chained men looked up at it and begged the Virgin Mary to help them. Suddenly, the chains broke, the guards fell into a deep sleep, and the doors of the church opened wide.
The criminals went out but the next day they were caught to be taken again to the scaffold. Meanwhile, the news of the miracle of the breaking of the chains had reached the ears of King Martin who granted the pardon to the three men.
From that day on the devotion to the Our Lady of the Chain is widespread in Sicily. People consider her the protector of prisoners and immigrants.