VATICAN CITY - When a mother has a birthday, children send their greetings and love, so make sure to do the same thing on the feast of the Nativity of Mary, Pope Francis said.
The liturgical feast day Monday "would be her birthday. And what do you do when your mom has a birthday? You send her greetings and best wishes," the pope said, after praying the Angelus with people gathered Sunday in St. Peter's Square.
The pope asked people to say "a Hail Mary from the heart" and to not forget to tell her "Happy Birthday!"
Mary has three very important lessons for today's Christians, the pope said in a written message to Cuban bishops marking Sept. 8 as the feast of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba.
He said Mary teaches people to experience the joy of Christ and share it with others; to never let adversity beat you down; and always help those in need with love and mercy, he said.
The pope said people should imitate how Mary responded to God's call with her same joy, haste and perseverance, the pope said.
"Every time I read sacred Scripture, in the verses that talk about Our Lady, three verbs catch my attention," the pope said.
The three kinds of action -- be joyful, help without hesitation and persevere, should be "put into practice" by all Catholics, he added.
Whoever discovers Jesus will be "filled with an inner joy so great that nothing and no one can take it away," he said.
With Christ in their lives, people find the strength and hope "not to be sad and discouraged, thinking problems have no solution."
For the second action, people should always rise "in haste," just like Mary, to help others in need, he said.
"Victory is to those who repeatedly rise up, without getting discouraged. If we imitate Mary, we cannot sit with our arms crossed, just complaining or perhaps avoiding any effort so that others do what is our responsibility," he said.
Making a difference and helping others does not have to be done on a grand scale, he said, but entails doing everyday things "with tenderness and mercy."
"The third verb is to persevere," the pope said.
Mary relied on God and his goodness for the strength and courage needed to stay by Christ's side no matter what and to encourage his disciples to do the same.
"In this world in which long-lasting values are rejected and everything is changing, in which the disposable triumphs, in which it seems people are afraid of life's commitments, the Virgin encourages us to be men and women who are constant in their good works, who keep their word, who are always faithful," the pope said.
Cuban bishops visited the Vatican in late August for the installation of their gift, a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, which was placed in the Vatican Gardens.