Hic Domus Mea, inde Gloria Mea – (Here is my house, from here comes my glory)
Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” 2 Sam 7:18.
There is a time in the history of Israel, when David its king had achieved a great deal in establishing a beautiful cedar mansion for himself, even though it was constructed through the input of Hiram. Comparing with it the shack of a tent that housed the Ark of the Covenant, David then began to have thoughts of wanting to build a decent house for the one who chose him as king.
A similar thing happened to Don Bosco, the saint of Turin. Seeing how the Madonna was accompanying him and his nascent works, Don Bosco, like King David, began to have thoughts of doing something good for The Help of Christians. In 1862, Don Bosco said to Fr. Cagliero – one of his oratory boys who later become cardinal Cagliero: “Our Lady wants us to honour her with the title of Mary Help of Christians. The times are so sad that we need the Holy Virgin to help us preserve and defend the Christian faith.”
In 1864, the saint had a dream in which Our Lady pointed to a specific spot and said: “Hic domus mea, inde gloria mea.” (Here is my house, from here comes my glory). In his mind Don Bosco could clearly see the house. At that exact spot Don Bosco would later build a Shrine to the Madonna, a work that was completed in 1868.
I share the sentiments of King David and of my father Don Bosco in the beginning of my participation in the life of the Shrine community, a servant of God’s servants. As a “proud” son of Don Bosco I wish to mark my gratitude to God for this great gift: that I should serve in the beautiful house of our Lady, where I was ordained priest in May 2007. I thank God for making me a witness of the Glory of the Mother of His Son, the Help of Christians, which flows from her beautiful Shrine in Upper Hill. It is the Lord himself in His mercy that has brought us this far, unworthy as we may be. Praised be His holy name.
The Shrine of Mary at Don Bosco Upper Hill
Our Shrine, the living monument of Mary Help of Christians in Eastern Africa, was completed in 1994. It was blessed on 24th July, 1994 by his eminence Maurice Cardinal Otunga, archbishop of Nairobi, in the presence of the then Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr. Egidio Viganὸ. Since then it has served as a place of devotion to Mary Help of Christians and propagation of faith.
The pastoral guidelines of the Archdiocese would require that an arrangement be made to allow administration of the sacraments in a place of prayer that is not a parish. The renewed guidelines of 2013 stipulate: “Any religious congregation interested in operating a shrine, retreat centre or a chapel must get permission from the Local Ordinary. They should not administer sacraments without permission.”
Further, the guidelines state that “with regard to the Archdiocese, it is recommended that there be a clear understanding that religious institutes coming to the Archdiocese discuss their ministry and find out how they can respond to her priorities as stipulated below:
• Catechetical formation and on-going formation
• Children and youth; nurturing their faith and proper guidance for holistic formation
• School apostolate
• Family life; nurturing marriage relationship and parental responsibility
• Enlivening liturgical activities especially Eucharistic celebrations and administration of the sacraments
• Apostolate to the special needs…”
All the above pastoral priorities having been present in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians from the beginning, in keeping with the pastoral guidelines, a parish was established, to allow the celebration of the sacraments of the Church and Sunday masses in the shrine. It can be said that a parish exists in the Shrine of Mary help of Christians, Upper Hill.
As a house of prayer, devotion and pilgrimage, the Shrine is well situated and designed. We have the joy of rolling out programs that will help our faithful Christians to deepen their devotion to Mother Mary, Help of Christians. We will offer ample opportunities for pilgrims to come to Mary, in groups or as families, to enjoy the fruits of Mary’s intercession for Christian peoples as was the experience of the early Christians: “All these with one accord devoted to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus.” (Acts 1:14)
As a Shrine established by the Salesians of Don Bosco, it is also a place where the faithful will come to know Don Bosco, the saint of the young, in a much deeper way. Young people have an opportunity to meet their saint, who accompanies them on their daily journey to the heavenly city. Don Bosco is a saint of the universal Church. His help for the Church Militant is always available for whoever invokes his intercession.
Don Bosco wanted that every Salesian presence be a parish that evangelizes the young (that is, in a world of too much “bad news”, the young can find the Good News here), home that welcomes youngsters, a playground where friends come to meet each other, and a school that prepares youngsters for life. The young people have in the Shrine of Mary help of Christians all this and more.
We thank God for the gift of the Parish in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. It is an added advantage for the Christian community who frequent the Shrine. Without the parish, we would not administer sacraments or hold worship on Sundays and holy days of obligation with ease. We thank God for this.
With regard to the parish, the General Directory for Catechesis paragraph 257 has this to say: “The parish is, without doubt, the most important locus in which the Christian community is formed and expressed. This is called to be a fraternal and welcoming family where the Christians become aware of being the people of God. In the parish, all human differences melt away and are absorbed into the universality of the Church. The parish is also the usual place in which the faith is born and in which it grows. It constitutes, therefore, a very adequate community space for the realization of the ministry of the Word at once as teaching, education and life experience.” This, dear brothers and sisters, is a summary that should provide and inform the reason for us to exist as a parish in the Shrine of Mary help of Christians. The following elements stand out that call for our attention:
• Formation of a Christian community
• Developing fraternity and welcoming each other as “people of God”
• Creating a family where human differences have no room
• Encouraging sense of belonging to the universal church; we are not an entity on our own
• Propagation of the Catholic faith and growth of the same (finding strength in full Sacramental life of the church)
• A community where the Word and life experiences are shared.
We have enough lines of action to help us grow as a community that finds help and consolation in Mary Help of Christians, and has St. John Bosco as a sure intercessor. God is generous to us; let us respond to his love with a sincere devotion to Mother Mary and St. John Bosco. Let us draw heavily from the Marian and Eucharistic spirituality after the example of St. John Bosco. With these, we are assured of heaven.
God bless our parish, our groups, ministries and Small Christian Communities. God bless our friends, benefactors and visitors. May all feel welcome and drawn to the house of Our Lady’s glory.
Fr. Abel Njeru, SDB Shrine Director/Parish Priest