Welcome from the Salesian Family of Canada and the eastern United States!
THE YOUNG EVANGELIZED AND EVANGELIZING – DON BOSCO’S DREAM OF THE TWO COLUMNS
MARRIED AND SINGLE LAY MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY – THE SALESIAN COOPERATORS
WE ARE ONE FAMILY, ALL BELONGING TO MARY
SALESIANS OF DON BOSCO – PRIESTS AND BROTHERS
AS THE ENTIRE SALESIAN FAMILY, THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS ARE UNITED AROUND THE HOLY FATHER!
THE BASILICA OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS AT VALDOCCO, THE ORATORY OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, IN TORINO, ITALY
CELEBRATING IN MIAMI AS FAMILY UNITED BY DON BOSCO’S SPIRIT
Pope Francis’s new Apostolic Exhortation, “Rejoice and Be Glad”, on Holiness
Download in one packet: SFSDays Talks in English
Home page: http://salesianfamilydays.com/
- Holiness at the school of Don Bosco:
- Valdocco – the land of sanctity:
- Reaching out to the Peripheries – Holiness as a Mission:
- Sainteté à l’école de Don Bosco:
- Valdocco – Chemin de sainteté en compagnie des Saints :
- Sortir en périphérie pour donner ce que tu es – La sainteté en tant que mission:
- La santità alla scuola con don Bosco:
- Pellegrinaggio: Il cammino della santità a Valdocco:
- Uscire, donare quello che siamo. La santità come missione:
- Santidad en la escuela de Don Bosco:
- Valdocco – Camino de santidad en compañía de los santos:
- Salir a las periferias para dar lo que eres – La santidad como misión: :
Commentary of the Rector Major
“So that my joy may be in you” (John 15:11)
HOLINESS FOR YOU TOO
My dear Brothers and Sisters, my dear Salesian Family,
Continuing our century-old tradition, at the beginning of this New Year 2019 I address myself to each one of you, in every part of this “Salesian world” that we constitute as the Salesian Family in more than 140 countries.
I do so while giving a commentary on a subject very familiar to us, with a title taken directly from the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis on the call to holiness in today’s world: Gaudete et Exsultate.
In choosing this subject and this title I want to translate into our own language, in the light of our charismatic sensitivity, the strong appeal to holiness that Pope Francis has addressed to the whole Church. Therefore I want to emphasize those points that are typically “our own” in the context of our Salesian spirituality, shared by all 31 groups of our Salesian Family as the charismatic inheritance received from the Holy Spirit through our beloved Father Don Bosco, who will certainly help us to live with the same deep joy that comes from the Lord: “So that my joy may be in you” (John 15:11).
To whom are these words addressed?
I can assure you that they are addressed to everyone.
To all of you, my dear SDB confreres.
To all of you, sisters and brothers of the various congregations and institutes of consecrated and lay life in our Salesian Family.
To all of you, brothers and sisters of the associations and various groups of the Salesian Family.
To the dads and moms, to the teachers, to the catechists and leaders in all our presences throughout the world.
And to all the teenagers and young people in our great Salesian world.
I accept the invitation addressed by the Pope to the whole Church. His exhortation is not a treatise on holiness, but a call to today’s world, and especially to the Church, to live life as a vocation and as a call to holiness; a holiness incarnated in this present time, today, in the real life of each one, in our current circumstances.
I make my own this always fascinating call to holiness because this “present time” in the Church demands it of us. Like me, all the recent Rectors Major have made very significant contributions concerning Salesian holiness and our holy patrons.
As in previous years, I believe that in addition to being read personally, these ideas may be suitable “guidelines” for the educational and pastoral programs needed in the different contexts and situations of the “Salesian world” in which we are working.
- GOD CALLS EVERYONE TO HOLINESS
I should imagine that not a few people, even among ourselves and certainly among the many young people who heard the Pope’s call, have felt that the word holiness sounds somewhat remote, in many cases very remote and unfamiliar in the language of today’s world. It is quite possible that there are cultural obstacles or interpretations that tend to confuse the path of holiness with a kind of spiritualism that alienates and makes one flee from reality. Or perhaps, at best, the term holiness is understood as a word applied to and applicable only to those who are venerated in the images in our churches.
Therefore, what the Pope is doing is admirable and even “daring” as he presents the perennial relevance of Christian holiness, which is to be seen as a call coming from God himself in his Word, and is proposed as the destination of every person’s journey. God himself “wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence” (GE, 1).
The call to holiness is a familiar part of our Salesian tradition (St. Francis de Sales). The appeal of Pope Francis attracts attention above all on account of the force and determination with which he maintains that holiness is a call addressed to everyone, not just to the few, insofar as it corresponds to God’s fundamental plan for us. It is aimed, therefore, at ordinary people, at those people whom we accompany in their ordinary daily lives, consisting in the simple things typical of ordinary people.
It is not about a holiness for the heroic few or for exceptional people, but about an ordinary way of living an ordinary Christian life: a way of living Christian life incarnated in the present day with the dangers, the challenges, and the opportunities that God offers us on life’s journey.
Sacred Scripture invites us to be holy: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48); and, “Be holy, for I [the Lord] am holy” (Lev 11:44).
There is, then, an explicit invitation to experience and bear witness to the perfection of love, which is identical with holiness. Holiness, in fact, consists in the perfection of love: a love that above all was made flesh in Christ.
In the letter to the Ephesians St. Paul, too, referring to the Father, writes: “He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:4-6). We are no longer servants, therefore, but friends (cf. John 15:15); no longer strangers and sojourners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (cf. Eph 2:19). Therefore each and every one of us is called to holiness: that is, to a life full and fulfilled life according to God’s plan, in complete communion with him and with our brothers and sisters.
It is, therefore, not a question of a perfection reserved to a few, but of a call addressed to everyone.
Something infinitely precious yet not rare, it is rather part of the common vocation of believers. It is the beautiful proposal that God makes to every man and woman.
The call to holiness is not the pursuit of a false spirituality that takes one away from the fullness of life, but the fullness of being human made perfect by grace. “Life to the full,” as Jesus promised.
Not with standardized, trivialized, and rigid characteristics but as a response to the ever-new breath of the Spirit, which creates communion while showing appreciation for differences – indeed, the Spirit “is at the origin of the noble ideals and undertakings which benefit humanity on its journey through history.”
It is not a question of a collection of abstract values subscribed to and shown outward respect, but of a harmony of all those virtues that incarnate the values of life.
It is not merely the ability to reject evil and embrace good, but a constant attitude ready with joy to live the good life well.
It is not a goal that is reached in an instant, but an ongoing journey accompanied by God’s patience and kindness, involving personal freedom and commitment.
It is not an attitude that excludes what is different, but rather a fundamental experiencing of what is true, good, just, and beautiful.
Finally, holiness is living according to the Beatitudes, so as to become salt and light in the world; it is a journey toward being fully human, as is every genuine spiritual experience. Therefore becoming holy does not require cutting ourselves off from our own nature or from our brothers and sisters, but living an intense, courageous human life and an experience (sometimes hard-won) of communion and relationship with others.
“Becoming a saint” is the first and most urgent task for a Christian.
St. Augustine declares, “My life will be true life, all full of You.” It is in him, in God himself, that we find the possibility of the path of holiness in following Christ. The path of holiness is made possible for a Christian by the gift of God in Christ: in him – of whom the saints and especially the Virgin Mary are a marvelous reflection – is revealed simultaneously the fullness of the face of the Father and the true face of man and woman.
In Jesus Christ the face of God and the face of man and woman shine out “together.” In Jesus we meet the man from Galilee and the face of the Father: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the complete and definitive Word of the Father. From the moment of the incarnation, the will of God is met in the person of Christ. He shows us in his life, his words, and his silences, in his choices and his actions, and above all in his passion, death, and resurrection, what God’s plan is for man and woman, what his will is and the way to correspond to it.
This plan of God for each of us today is simply the fullness of Christian life, which is measured according to the extent to which Christ lives within us and to the degree in which, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we model our lives on that of Jesus the Lord. Therefore, it does not mean doing extraordinary things but living in union with the Lord, making ours his actions, thoughts, and behavior. In fact, going to Holy Communion means expressing and bearing witness that we want to take up and make our own the style of life, the way of living, and the very mission of Jesus Christ.
In the Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council firmly proposed the universal call to holiness and declared that no one is excluded: “In the various types and duties of life, one and the same holiness is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father, worshipping God the Father in spirit and in truth. These souls follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ, in order to be made worthy of being partakers in His glory.” (LG, 41)
The “holiness of next-door neighbors” and the universal call to holiness
While still an atheist, Edith Stein wrote about having received a decisive impetus toward conversion from two encounters: one with the wife of a friend killed in war, who having become a widow, in spite of intense sorrow demonstrated the surprising light and strength of faith; the other was in a church (where Edith had gone simply out of artistic interest) when an elderly woman came in with her shopping bags in the middle of a busy day to spend a moment of deep trust and adoration with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Don Bosco had as his mom and first teacher Margaret Occhiena: a simple, uneducated peasant woman with no theological training, but with a wise heart and an obedience based on faith.
St. Therese of Lisieux used to say that as a child she understood little of what the priest was saying, but it was enough for her to look at the face of her papa Louis to understand everything.
None of these lay people – Edith’s friend Anna Reinach, the unknown woman with the shopping bags, Mama Margaret, or papa Louis Martin – ever thought in their lifetimes that they were holy, nor were they aware of the influence they were having on the people around them through their ordinary way of acting.
The presence of these simple and determined people, of these “next-door” saints – as Pope Francis describes them (GE,7) – reminds us that what is important in life is to be holy, not to be declared saints one day. In addition, it helps to reflect that the canonized saints attained first of all the simple holiness of the people of God. All the saints share the same glory in a deep and unswerving communion.
To live holiness, then, is the experience of being preceded and saved, and learning to correspond to this faithful love. It is the responsibility of responding to a great gift.
From this point of view, perhaps one of the most important contributions to Christian spirituality is that made by the bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales, with his efforts to propose holiness for everyone, taking “devotion” out of the cloisters into the world. In his splendid work Introduction to the Devout Life, he writes: “As in the creation God commanded the plants to bring forth their fruits each one according to its kind, so he commands all Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each according to his quality and vocation. Devotion ought, then, to be not only differently exercised by the gentleman, the tradesman, the servant, the prince, the widow, the maid, and the married woman, but its practice should be also adapted to the strength, the employments, and the obligations of each one in particular.… Wherever we are, then, we may and should aspire to a perfect life.”
The history of the Church is strongly marked by many women and men who with their faith, their love, and their lives have been like beacons that have illumined and continue to illumine so many generations throughout time, including the present. They are a living testimony to how the power of the Risen Lord in their lives has reached such a level that like St. Paul they have been able to declare (so many times without using the words): “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). And they have demonstrated this, sometimes through the heroism of their virtues, sometimes though the sacrifice of their lives in martyrdom, and at other times through “a life constantly offered for others even until death” (GE, 5). At the same time there is a holiness without a name, that of those who have not achieved the honors of the altar, whose “lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord” (GE, 3). This is the holiness of our own mom or a grandmother or others close to us; it is the holiness of matrimony, which is a most beautiful path of growth in love; the holiness of fathers who develop, grow to maturity, and give themselves generously to their children, often with unforeseen sacrifices; men and women, the Pope recalls, who work hard to earn bread for their families; the sick who bear their illness patiently and with a spirit of faith, in union with the suffering Jesus; elderly nuns who have given and consumed their lives and never lose their smile or their hope. (cf. GE, 7)
It can be said with certainty that in every epoch of the Church’s history and everywhere in the world there have been and still are saints of all ages and all conditions of life, with very different personal characteristics.
Pope Benedict XVI expressed this very well when speaking about his personal experience. He said: “I should like to add that for me it is not only the great saints whom I love and know well who are ‘signposts,’ but also the simple saints, that is to say, the good people whom I see in my life, who will never be canonized. They are ordinary people, one might say, without visible heroism, but in their everyday goodness I see the truth of the faith.”
Certainly we find all this in the way so many people have incarnated the Christian way in their lives. Some may seem “small” and others “great”; but all have pursued an attractive and fascinating journey.
Pope Benedict concludes with a very valuable expression that in my judgment sums up magnificently the message of this year’s strenna, when he says: “Dear friends, how great and beautiful but also simple is the Christian vocation seen in this light! We are all called to holiness; that is the measure of the Christian life.”
Mary of Nazareth: a unique light on the path of holiness
All these simple and very often anonymous paths of holiness always have a model to look to and on which to reflect. Christian holiness has in Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of the Lord, of the Son of God, the most beautiful and closest model.
Mary is the woman of “Here I am,” of full and total availability to the will of God. Saying: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), Mary is saying that she finds full and deep happiness in everything that “let it be” implies in faith – not only when the Son leaves home and is separated from her because he has to carry out the Father’s mission; but also at the final moment in which Mary experiences the pain of his crucifixion and death, an awful pain for a mother to experience.
In Mary, Mother of the Lord, we can find the richness of a life that has accepted God’s plan at every moment; a life that has been a constant “Here I am” said to God. How fascinating it is, from this angle, to contemplate Mary and meditate on the value of human existence and its full meaning in the perspective of eternity!
The courageous acceptance of God’s mysterious plan leads Mary to become the mother of all believers, the model for each one of us in listening to and welcoming the Word of God and the sure guide toward holiness. And this because she teaches us that only God can make our life great. “Only if God is great is humanity also great. With Mary, we must begin to understand that this is so. We must not drift away from God but make God present; we must ensure that he is great in our lives. Thus we too will become divine; all the splendor of the divine dignity will then be ours.”
For this reason it is impossible to think that the easy path of holiness can be followed by Christians without looking to Mary as their Mother. Looking to her is to learn how to believe, how to hope, how to love. And if we pray like her and with her, we shall certainly experience in our daily journey that consolation that can come only from God. In addition, by invoking her as the Mother of the Son of God we shall open our hearts to the gift of her intercession as Mother of her Son and of her children.
With Salesian sensitivity
Therefore it may be said that if one becomes a saint, one has everything. If one does not become a saint, one loses everything. The goal of holiness and the invitation, almost tender, to achieve it is also the great message of Don Bosco, the pivot on which hinges his whole spiritual proposal and his life witness.
The holiness that Don Bosco proposes is easy and pleasant, but also strong, as he suggests. In Dominic Savio’s declaration: “I want to become a saint, I must become a saint. I can have no peace until I become a saint,” one can hear much – if not everything – of what Don Bosco knew how to convey to him, following the sermon in which Dominic had heard these encouraging words: “It is God’s will that each one should become a saint; it is easy to become a saint; there is a great reward waiting in heaven for those who try to become saint [sic].” Don Bosco himself continued writing that this talk was like a spark that set into a consuming blaze the love of God in Dominic Savio’s heart.
In the wisdom of Don Bosco, who curbed Dominic’s desire for penance and recommended to him instead fidelity in his life of prayer, in his studies, and in duties done well, and diligence in recreation (and we can also say in the whole area of relationships in life), there emerges the awareness, typically Salesian, of the universal call to holiness.
In founding the Society of St. Francis de Sales in the first place, and then the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (together with Mary Domenica Mazzarello, co-foundress), Don Bosco proposed as the object, right up to today, the sanctification of its members.
Father Rua reminded the Salesians of this shortly afterwards when he exhorted them in these words: “This is what our beloved Don Bosco taught us in the first article of the Holy Rule, where it says that the object of our Pious Society is, first, the Christian perfection of its members, and then various works of charity, both spiritual and temporal, on behalf of the young.” Without that the whole apostolic endeavor on behalf of youth would prove sterile. Don Bosco knows perfectly well that the first, most radical, and decisive way to help others is to be saints.
In this “school of new and attractive apostolic spirituality,” Don Bosco interpreted the Gospel with a pedagogical and pastoral originality that “meant a new ‘fusion’ of the common elements of Christian holiness that was well balanced, congenial and regulated; the virtues and the means to holiness had their own proper place, quantity, symmetry and beauty that were characteristic.”
- JESUS IS HAPPINESS
The proposal of holiness is addressed to every Christian because it is the fullness of life and synonymous with happiness, with blessedness. We Christians find happiness when we follow Jesus Christ.
These words are directed toward the young. They are meant for them. But we know very well that “holiness is for you too” concerns everyone: the young, educators, fathers and mothers, consecrated lay people, religious, priests. In short these words of mine are directed toward all and toward each of the members of our Salesian Family, in such a way that we all feel included, and naturally they concern all the People of God.
Very beautiful are the messages that with great conviction, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have sent to young people, and we should not feel detached from them. I shall put together only a small sample of these messages, with one common denominator: in all of them the Popes ask the young to take the chance of accepting Jesus as the guarantee of their happiness.
This was the great challenge that St. John Paul II issued when he told the young people of the world: “It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness [radicalità] that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
Pope Benedict XVI was no less explicit when he told young people: “Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy, has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. . . . Be completely convinced of this: Christ takes from you nothing that is beautiful and great, but brings everything to perfection for the glory of God, the happiness of men and women, and the salvation of the world. . . . Let yourselves be surprised by Christ! Let him have ‘the right of free speech’!”
And Pope Francis told young people that happiness is not negotiable, that they should not allow any reduction in their expectations so that in the end happiness is not ensured in any genuine and serious way, but only as something that can be experienced in “small doses,” that, as so often happens, does not last, and naturally is not true happiness, nor does it bring full human satisfaction: “Your happiness has no price. It cannot be bought; it is not an app that you can download on your phones.”
Don Bosco wanted his boys to be happy in time and in eternity.
At the beginning of his letter from Rome on May 10, 1884, Don Bosco writes to his boys: “I have only one wish: to see you happy both in time and in eternity.”
At the end of his life on earth these words sum up the heart of his message to young people of every age and of the whole world. He wants them to be happy, as a goal that every young person dreams of, today, tomorrow, always. But not just that. “In eternity” is that extra that only Jesus and his proposal of happiness, which is holiness, can offer. It is the answer to the deep thirst for “forever” that burns in the heart of every young person.
The world, the society of all nations, has no way to offer this “forever” or eternal happiness. But God can.
For Don Bosco all this was very clear, and he was able to sow in the hearts of his boys the strong desire to become saints, to live for God, and to reach paradise: “He guided the young along a path of holiness that was simple, serene, and joyful, uniting into a single experience their life in the playground, serious study, and a constant sense of duty.”
III. SAINTS FOR THE YOUNG AND WITH THE YOUNG
The holiness characteristic of the Salesian charism in which there is room for everyone, consecrated people and lay people, has its most specific expression in relation to youth holiness. Father Pascual Chavez, my predecessor, wrote at the beginning of his ministry in the letter “My Dear Salesians, be saints!”: “The youngsters themselves helped Don Bosco to begin, in the context of everyday experience, a new style of holiness tailored to the typical requirements of a boy’s development. In this way they were to some extent both pupils and teachers at the same time. Ours is a holiness both for and with the young; because in the search for holiness, ‘Salesians and youngsters walk side by side’: either we sanctify ourselves with them, walking and learning with them in their company, or we shall not become saints at all.” The genuine Salesian heart of our Family needs to be holy in order to reach the young, while it does not neglect the even more radical duty to make itself holy among the young and together with them.
This desire can be applied to all and to each of the 31 groups that make up our Salesian Family. With a real interest I looked for the references to holiness in the constitutions and regulations of the various congregations in our Family, in the Project of Apostolic Life of the Salesian Cooperators, in the plans, statutes, and regulations (according to their own proper names) of all the groups that belong to our charismatic tree. I can assure you that in one way or another all of them consider holiness as an aim and a purpose for which we have been born as religious institutions, with the intention of achieving it in our lives – therefore a holiness that is proposed to each of the members and which is proposed as the purpose of the apostolate that we direct toward others.
Youth, a time for holiness
Convinced that “holiness is the most attractive face of the Church” (GE, 9), before proposing it to the young we are all called to live it and bear witness to it, in this way becoming a community “that enjoyed favor,” as on various occasions the Acts of the Apostles puts it (cf. GE, 93). Only living in this consistent manner is it possible to accompany the young on the ways of holiness.
If St. Ambrose declared that “every age is ripe for holiness,” so too without doubt is youth! In the holiness of numerous young people the Church recognizes the grace of God, which anticipates and accompanies the life story of each one, the educational value of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, the fruitfulness of journeys shared in faith and charity, the prophetic impact of these “champions” who have often sealed in their blood their being disciples of Christ and missionaries of the Gospel. The language most requested by today’s young people is the witness of an authentic life. For this reason the life of young saints is the real word of the Church; and the invitation to undertake a holy life is the one that is most necessary for today’s young people. An authentic spiritual vitality and a fruitful pedagogy of holiness do not disappoint the deep aspirations of the young: their need for life, for love, for growth, for joy, for freedom, for a future, and also for mercy and reconciliation.
Certainly the proposal has the flavor of a real challenge. If on the one hand it is very attractive, on the other it can give rise to fear and indecision. One must overcome the risk of “settling for a bland and mediocre existence” (GE, 1). It implies conquering the temptation just to “struggle along” since the challenge of holiness is nothing other than everyday life; it is precisely this ordinary existence lived in an extraordinary manner, made beautiful by the grace of God. In fact, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a life lived in joy and love, and this is what holiness consists of. In this regard the example the Pope offers us in the apostolic exhortation of the testimony of the life of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who spent many years in prison, is precious. He refused to waste time waiting for the day he would be set free and made another decision: “I will live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love,” and “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way.” (GE, 17)
Young saints and the youth of the saints
“Jesus invites every disciple to give their entire lives, without expecting any human advantage or benefit. Saints welcome this demanding request and meekly and humbly start following the crucified and risen Christ. The Church gazes at the sky of holiness and sees an increasingly large and bright constellation of young men and women, adolescents and young saints and blesseds who, ever since the time of the first Christian communities, have endured until our time. When the Church invokes them as our patrons, she indicates them to young people as references for their existence.” In various surveys including those in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on the young, the young people themselves recognize that they are “more receptive when faced with a ‘life story’ [compared with] an abstract theological sermon,” and they consider the lives of the saints to be very relevant to them. Therefore it is certainly important to present them in a way that is adapted to their age and condition.
It is also worth remembering that besides the “young saints” we must present to young people the “youth of the saints.” All the saints were in fact once young, and it would be useful to today’s young people to show them how the saints lived when they were young. In this way it would be possible to begin to deal with many youth situations that are neither simple nor easy, in which, however, God is present and active in a mysterious way. Showing that his grace is at work through complex processes in the patient construction of a holiness that matures with the passing of time in many unforeseen ways, can help all young people without exception to cultivate hope for a holiness that is always possible.
The last number of the final document of the Synod declares, in harmony with what we have been saying, that the holiness of the young also forms part of the holiness of the Church because “young people are an integral part of the Church. So is their holiness, therefore, which in recent decades has produced a manifold flowering in all parts of the world: contemplating and meditating during the Synod on the courage of so many young people who have given their lives while remaining faithful to the Gospel has been very moving for us; listening to the testimony of the young people present at the Synod who in the middle of persecutions have chosen to share the passion of the Lord Jesus has been life-giving. Through the holiness of young people the Church can renew its spiritual ardor and its apostolic vigor.”
- WHAT DOES “HOLINESS IS FOR YOU TOO!” MEAN?
Pope Francis says it simply and directly. After saying that to be saints it is not necessary to be bishops, priests, or religious, he adds: “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.” (GE, 14)
This encourages us to put into simple words the challenge facing us – one that is a valuable provocation for every one of us, at all ages and stages of life.
So what is holiness, this holiness that is presented to us as being close and accessible to the young person, to the woman and man of today?
→ It is something close, real, concrete, possible. Indeed it is the fundamental vocation to love as Vatican Council II recognizes (LG, 11); the soul, the essence, of this call to holiness for every person is love completely lived: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16).
→ It is a question of making fruitful the grace of Baptism, without being afraid that God is asking too much of us: “Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation.” (GE, 15) In practical terms it is a question of living in the Spirit, allowing ourselves to be guided in the simplicity of daily life by the Holy Spirit without being afraid to aim high, and letting ourselves be loved and made free by God himself.
Pope Benedict XVI invited young people, all young people, to “open themselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who transforms our lives so that we too may become tiles in the great mosaic of holiness that God is creating in history, so that the face of Christ may shine in its full splendor. We are not afraid to aim high, toward God’s heights, we are not afraid that God is asking too much of us.”
→ It is a question of being glad to be saints because God has dreamed of us in that way
“Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humor. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit.” (GE, 122) When he was a youth, John Bosco founded the Happy Times Association, and Dominic Savio used to say to new arrivals at the Oratory: “Here at the Oratory we make holiness consist in being very cheerful”  (even though we know that Savio’s was not a superficial joy but deep-seated, in his inner life, in a sense of responsibility before life and before God himself).
Don Bosco understood very well and so taught his boys that commitment and joy go hand in hand, and that holiness and joy are an inseparable pair. So his invitation is also a call to the “holiness of joy,” a joy lived out in a holy life. This does not mean ignoring that a commitment to holiness demands courage, since it is, to put it another way, a course that goes “against the current,” a path at times leading to opposition, faced with which at times we have to be “signs of contradiction” like Jesus.
→ It is a question of a journey, that of holiness, which accepts the dimension of the cross
Pope Francis reminds us of the need for inner strength in order to be persevering and constant in doing good; he recalls the need for vigilance: “We need to recognize and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations, and not let them take root” (GE, 114). He encourages evangelical boldness [parrhesia] so as not to allow ourselves to be overcome by fear; above all, he invites us not to leave off our contemplation of the Crucified One, the source of grace and freedom: “If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy” (GE, 151).
Perhaps nowadays reference to the Cross is not so common among us, but certainly also in this we need to change. It is not possible to live a genuine Christian life and follow the path of holiness in daily life while putting the Cross to one side.
Having taken part during the last Synod in the canonization of St. Paul VI, celebrated together with that of six other saints, I find these words of his most appropriate: “What would a Gospel be, that is, a Christianity, without the Cross, without suffering, without the sacrifice of Jesus? It would be a Gospel, a Christianity, without the Redemption, without salvation, which we absolutely need. The Lord saved us with the Cross; he has given us back hope and the right to life with his death. Carrying the Cross! It is a great thing, a great thing, my dear children! It means facing up to life with courage, without weakness and without cowardice; it means transforming into moral energy the inevitable difficulties of our existence; it means knowing how to understand human suffering and finally knowing how to love truly!”
→ It is a question of living holiness so that it does not come between us and our obligations, concerns, or affections but takes them all up in love. Holiness is the perfection of love and therefore responds to the fundamental human need: that of being loved and of loving. The holier a man or woman may be, the more human one is, because “life does not have a mission, but is a mission” (GE, 27).
Holiness, therefore, is a process of becoming more human. “We need a spirit of holiness capable of filling both our solitude and our service, our personal life and our evangelizing efforts, so that every moment can be an expression of self-sacrificing love in the Lord’s eyes. In this way every minute of our lives can be a step along the path to growth in holiness.” (GE, 31)
So holiness coincides with the complete flowering of what is human. It is not proposed as a way of detaching oneself from the human condition and its circumstances, but as one that enables people to experience ever more fully and truly their own humanity and that of their brothers and sisters. In the face of the true saint, one always recognizes clearly the man or women he or she really is with all his or her richness of heart, mind, and will and openness to relationships: “In the saints one thing becomes clear: those who draw near God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them.”
Right now I invite you to remember, when, at the end of the commentary we shall speak about the saints, blesseds, servants of God, and venerables of our Salesian Family, the precious witness that they offer us in their lives.
Don Bosco himself, so fully human, was the first to find, heal, and reconcile the boys who often arrived at the Oratory after going through difficult situations of affective poverty, economic difficulties, being orphaned and abandoned. To these boys he offered all the riches of the family spirit and the Preventive System in a magnificent atmosphere, including the spiritual, which helped heal them. Those wounds were healed thanks to the fatherly approach of Don Bosco himself, the joyful family atmosphere, and the pathway of faith and friendship with Jesus, to whom Don Bosco led his boys.
In Mornese Mother Mazzarello and the first sisters experienced, with the particular sensitivity of women, this encounter with the humanity of those poor babies and girls taken into the first house of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
In this way our history has been repeated in many groups of our Salesian Family, with a feature typically ours, which is also that of the Gospel, that has allowed us to care for and heal the humanity of every person with whom we have come in contact.
→ It is a question of a holiness that is also a “duty” and a gift (that is a vocation, a responsibility, a commitment, and a gift). Holiness is a sharing in the life of God, not a moral perfection that one presumes to attain with only one’s own efforts. In fact a holy life is not principally the fruit of our own effort, our actions. It is God the thrice Holy (cf. Isaiah 6:3) who makes us saints through the action of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the interior strength and will.
Holiness is a commitment and a responsibility. It is something that only you can do: “May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life” (GE 24).
For the consecrated persons of our Salesian Family, this duty becomes indispensable. Paul VI said so in a radical manner: “Religious life must be a holy life, or it has no further reason to exist.”
- SOME POSSIBLE INDICATORS OF HOLINESS
I offer some suggestions that may be suitable for each one personally and for our mission. Allow me to indicate some particular points.
→ Living everyday life as the place to meet God
The heart of the Salesian spirit, which is our distinguishing feature as a charismatic Family, can be identified by the fact that it thinks of life in a positive way and sees it day by day as the place where we meet God. This place is traversed by a rich network of relationships, work, joy, relaxation, family life, the development of one’s personal capabilities, giving, service, etc., all lived in the light of God. This is expressed in simple, practical terms in that very Salesian conviction that comes from Don Bosco himself: to be a saint you have to do well what you have to do.
It is the proposal of the holiness of everyday life. If Teresa of Avila found holiness among the dishes in a kitchen, and Francis de Sales shows that a Christian can live in the world amid life’s chores and preoccupations and be a saint, Don Bosco with the simplicity of joy, with the exact fulfilment to one’s duties, and with a life lived all for the love of God, creates with his boys at Valdocco a real school of holiness.
* Being individuals and communities of prayer
Holiness is the greatest gift that we can offer to the young, and – I add – nowadays adolescents, kids, and their families need the witness of our lives. And, as I have said, this simple holiness will be the most precious gift that we can offer them.
Nevertheless, this path is not possible without cultivating depth in our lives, without a genuine faith, and without prayer as the expression of this faith. Pope Francis declares: “I do not believe in holiness without prayer” (GE 147). And in fact all of this is impossible without intimacy with the Lord Jesus: prayer of thanksgiving, the expression of our gratitude to the transcendent God; prayer of supplication, the expression of a heart that trusts in God; prayer of intercession, the expression of fraternal love; prayer of adoration, the expression of our recognition of God’s transcendence; prayer of meditation on the Word, the expression of a docile and obedient heart; Eucharistic prayer, the summit and source of the path to holiness.
* Developing in our lives the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, charity, joy, peace, patience, benevolence, goodness, fidelity, mildness, faith, rule over oneself, etc. Holiness is not quarrelling, arguing, envy, division, haste. “Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace” (GE, 34).
* Practicing the virtues: not only rejecting evil and pursuing good, but being passionate for good, doing good things well, everything that is good. Prayer and action in the world, service and self-giving, and also times for silence. Family life and a sense of responsibility at work. “Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world, and become a part of our path to holiness. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission” (GE, 26).
So then, following the good life of the Gospel in joyful and constant practice of virtue will truly be a simple way of holiness.
* Bearing witness to communion
The path of holiness is followed together, and the road to holiness is one lived in community and pursued together. The saints are always together, a company. Where there is one of them, others will always be found. Everyday holiness makes communion flourish and fosters “relationships.” We become saints together. It is not possible to be saints alone, and God does not save us alone: “no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual” (GE, 6). Holiness is nourished by relationships, by familiarity, by communion because Christian spirituality is essentially communitarian, ecclesial, profoundly different, and very far from a vision of holiness that is elitist or heroic.
On the contrary, there is no Christian holiness where communion with others is forgotten, where one forgets to seek and to look at the face of the other, where one forgets fraternity and the revolution of tenderness.
* Understanding that everyone’s life is a mission
The Pope clearly asks that the whole of one’s life be understood as a mission. Sometimes, in difficult moments, people ask what is the purpose of their lives, the point of living, the reason for their being in the world, what personal contribution could they make. In all these cases the question being asked is: what is my mission? And in the light of all this, one discovers that “a Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness” (GE, 19), always giving the best of oneself in this commitment.
Some Salesian houses, such as Valdocco, Mornese, Valsalice, Nizza, Ivrea, and San Giovannino from their very beginnings provide proof of a holiness that is a shared experience, that flourishes in friendship, dedication, and service (today we speak about life as “vocation and mission”).
– Seeking the simplicity (which is not facility) of the Beatitudes (cf. GE, 70-91)
In announcing the Beatitudes, Jesus offered us a real path to holiness. “The Beatitudes are like a Christian’s identity card” (GE, 63).
In them a way of life is proposed to us which includes processes that go from poverty of heart, which also means austerity of life, to reacting with humble meekness in a world where quarrels easily arise over the slightest thing; from the courage of allowing ourselves to be “pierced” by other peoples’ sorrow and show them compassion, to seeking justice with a true hunger and thirst, while others share out the spoils obtained by means of injustice, corruption, and the abuse of power.
The Beatitudes lead the Christian to look and to act with mercy, which means helping others and also forgiving them; they encourage him or her to keep a heart that is pure and free from all that taints love for God and neighbor. The proposal of Jesus asks us to sow seeds of peace and justice and build bridges between people. It also asks us to accept the lack of understanding, deceitfulness in those who deal with us, and finally all persecutions, even the subtlest ones that exist today.
– Growing through small gestures (GE, 16). This is another simple indicator, practical and within everyone’s reach. God calls us to holiness through small gestures, through simple things, which we undoubtedly discover in other people and reproduce in ourselves in everyday life; encouraged also by the fact that the path of holiness is neither unique nor the same for everyone.
One follows a path of holiness according to one’s own state as either man or a woman. From this point of view, feminine tenderness and the delicacy of small details and gestures are a magnificent example for all. For this reason Pope Francis says: “I would stress too that the ‘genius of woman’ is seen in feminine styles of holiness, which are an essential means of reflecting God’s holiness in this world,” and “I think too of all those unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of their witness” (GE, 12).
* Everything, except refusing to fly when we were born for the heights!
There are so many small steps that can help us make the journey of holiness, this simple holiness, anonymous but shaping our lives in a beautiful way. As I have said, everything can help us; everything except refusing to fly when we have been born for the heights! Because we are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col 3:12).
What I want to say is expressed magnificently by Mamerto Menapace in a beautiful story, a fine metaphor that speaks of the dilemma between staying on the ground or flying up toward God, toward holiness, toward the heights.
The story goes this way:
Once upon a time, a countryman who was walking along a path in the high mountains found in the rocks close to the summit a strange egg: too big to be a hen’s and too small to be an ostrich’s.
Not knowing what it might be, he decided to take it with him.
Back at home he showed it to his wife. She had a turkey which was sitting on its nest. Seeing that the egg was more or less the size of the others, she put it under the turkey’s tail.
The chicks began to break the shells, and the little one from the egg taken from the mountain did the same. It seemed to be an animal different from the others, but the differences were not sufficient to make it stand out among the rest of the clutch, even though it was a small condor. Although hatched by a turkey, it had another origin.
Given that it had no other model to learn from, the little condor imitated what he saw the turkeys do. He used to follow the large turkey looking for worms, seeds, and scraps. He scratched the earth, and jumping up tried to pluck fruit from the bushes. He lived in the henhouse and was afraid of the dogs that often came to steal food. At night he climbed up the branches of the carob tree afraid of the weasels and other predators. He lived this way imitating what he saw the others do.
At times he felt a little strange, especially when he had the chance to be alone. But that did not happen often. In fact, turkeys do not like solitude, nor that others should be alone. It is a species that likes to move about always in flocks, swelling their chests to make an impression and opening their tails and dragging their wings. In the face of whatever happened, there was always a strong scornful response.
The characteristic of turkeys is this: in spite of being large, they do not fly.
One midday when the clear sky was being crossed by white clouds, the little animal was surprised to see some strange birds flying majestically, almost without moving their wings. He felt a jolt in the core of his being, something like an old call that wished to reawaken him from the core of his being. His eyes, used to looking always at the ground searching for food, were unable to distinguish what was happening in the heights. His heart was awakened with a strong nostalgia: why can’t I fly like that too? His heart was beating quickly and with anxiety.
At that moment a turkey approached him and asked him what he was doing. He laughed when he heard what the condor had to say. He told him that he was a romantic and should stop joking. They were something different. He should return to reality, and he suggested that he would accompany him to a place where he had found a lot of ripe fruit and a large number of worms.
Confused, the poor animal woke from his enchantment and followed his companion, who took him back to the henhouse.
He took up his normal life again, always tormented by a profound dissatisfaction that made him feel strange.
He never discovered his true identity as a condor.
Having become old, one day he died. Yes, unfortunately, he died exactly as he had lived.
And to think that he was born for the heights!
This concerns the way of Christian growth toward holiness: “We are not be afraid to aim high, toward the heights of God; we are not afraid that God will ask too much of us.”
- PATHS OF HOLINESS TODAY IN THE LIGHT OF OUR SALESIAN FAMILY HISTORY
– There are many paths along the road to holiness
We know that some are saints, but we never know who is holier than another. Only God knows our hearts. There is a special beauty in each one. One should not ask of someone what he or she cannot and should not give. Saying this is encouraging, healthy. Otherwise we would convince ourselves that we cannot become saints because we shall never be like the saints who have been proposed to us as models. “There is no need to put into holiness more perfection than is actually there.” That is, Christian heroism is not heroics; Christian perfection is not the perfection of the superhero. “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2). Paradise is like a garden: there is the humble violet or the sublime lily and the rose. No state of life represents an insurmountable obstacle to the fullness of joy and of life.
With Don Bosco we meet not only Dominic Savio, John Massaglia, and Francis Besucco, but also Michael Magone and many other difficult boys whose stories are characterized by deep wounds.
In the first foundations of the Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians are to be found the first real orphanages and people of various kinds who have been victims of injustice and trauma (Charles Braga, Laura Vicuña, et al.).
Then there are those with particular personal wounds: such as Beltrami or Czartoryski, who knew that they would never be able to lead a regular oratorian life because of their illness. Artemides Zatti was rejected from the priesthood, also because of sickness. Francis Convertini showed very modest intellectual gifts, and it was only his outstanding holiness that convinced the superiors to allow him to continue toward the priesthood. Alexandrina Maria da Costa was confined to bed with a progressive paralysis. Nino Baglieri lived through the same situation. Vera Grita, a Salesian mystic, lived a similar Calvary, following a trauma suffered in an accident.
Thus in Don Bosco’s house there is room and welcome for a whole variety of those wounded in all sorts of ways by sorrowful family or personal events; people who, according to the normal criteria of human prudence or efficiency, should never have been accepted; people who at a cursory glance seem to be completely at odds with the joyful and even “robust” vivacity of the Salesian spirit. Yet in the light of faith the facts show that no personal situation constitutes an impediment to holiness.
– Every saint is a word of God incarnated
No two saints are the same. Imitating the saints is not copying them. Each one needs his own times and has his own path because “the paths of holiness are personal.”
The galaxy of holiness is vast and varied: therefore it should not be levelled out into a generic orientation toward good, but should be considered as an inexhaustible source of inspiration and potential development. Living reflections of the Gospel, the saints interpret its most authentic spirit and are a mirror that reflects the face of Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God. They spread abroad the gifts of goodness and beauty, not giving in to the passing and ephemeral fashions of the age, and with the flare of hearts forever young make the miracle of love possible. With the power of grace, the saints change the world, but also the Church, made more evangelical and more credible by their witness.
It is the same Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred authors who animates the saints to give their lives for the Gospel. Their different ways of “incarnating” holiness constitute a sure way of undertaking a living and effective hermeneutic of the Word of God.
– Every saint in our Salesian Family tells us that holiness is possible.
All our saints, blesseds, venerables, and servants of God bring with them a wealth of elements that deserve further consideration and appreciation. It is a matter of contemplating a diamond with multiple facets, some more visible and attractive, others less immediate and “pleasing,” but not for this reason less true and impelling. To know and make known these extraordinary examples of believers leads to an ever more progressive involvement in their journey, a passionate interest in the events of their lives, a joyful sharing in the plans and the hopes that guided their steps.
I offer you some examples.
→ The holiness of the young people “of our own house”
With the witness of Dominic Savio, Laura Vicuña, Ceferino Namuncurá, the five oratory youths of Poznan, Albert Marvelli, and others, there are 46 canonized and beatified young people from the Salesian Family under 29 years of age.
In particular some of the aspects of the witness of St. Dominic Savio deserve to be highlighted:
* A reminder that preventive reality is not only a pedagogical or educational factor, but also a theological one. In his life, as Don Bosco himself testifies, there is a preventive grace at work that can be seen.
* The decisive value represented by the First Communion.
* The fact that he is a sort of leader and teacher in the ways of God (just as Don Bosco saw him even in the Lanzo dream of 1876) is confirmed in the lives of many of our blesseds, venerables, and servants of God who model themselves on Dominic: Laura Vicuña, Ceferino Namuncurá, Joseph Kowalski, Albert Marvelli, Joseph Quadrio, Octavio Ortiz Arrieta.
* The role of Dominic in the founding of the Immaculate Conception Sodality, training ground of the future Salesian Congregation, in conjunction with John Massaglia, a true friend of spiritual things, of whom Don Bosco declared: “If I were to write about the good example and virtues of John Massaglia, I should be largely repeating what I have already written about Dominic, whose faithful follower he was, as long as he lived.”
→ The missionary holiness of the Salesian charism, expressed in a notable number of men and women, consecrated and lay, who evidence the proclamation of the Gospel, the inculturation of the faith, the advancement of women, the defense of the rights of the poor and of indigenous populations, and the foundation of local Churches. Deeply impressive is the fact that a very large proportion of the brothers and sisters of our Salesian Family who are on the way toward recognition of their heroic virtues and their holiness are missionaries: Blessed Maria Romero Meneses, FMA; Blessed Maria Troncatti, FMA; Venerable Vincent Cimatti.
→ The oblative holiness of the “victim,” expressing the deep roots of “Da mihi animas, caetera tolle.” Leading the way in this group is Venerable Father Andrew Beltrami (1870-1897), whose witness provides a pattern for a long list of others living Salesian holiness in this way, starting from the trio Andrew Beltrami, August Czartoryski, and Louis Variara. It continues over time with other great figures such as Blessed Eusebia Palomino, Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa, and Blessed Laura Vicuña, without forgetting the numerous host of martyrs (among whom should be mentioned the 95 martyrs of the Spanish civil war, among whom were many young confreres in formation and young priests).
→ The dimension of the “broken home”: families in which at least one of the parents is absent, or where the presence of the mother and/or the father, for different reasons (physical, psychological, moral, or spiritual), creates problems for the children. Don Bosco, who himself had experienced the early death of his father and had to live away from home following Mama Margaret’s prudent decision, wanted Salesian work to be particularly dedicated to “poor and abandoned youth.”
* Blessed Laura Vicuña, born in Chile in 1891, who had not known her father and whose mother in Argentina began to cohabit with rich landowner Manuel Mora. Laura, suffering from the irregular moral situation of her mom, offered her life for her.
* The Servant of God Charles Braga, born in Valtellina in northern Italy in 1889. While still very young, he was abandoned by his father, and his mom was sent away because, through a mixture of ignorance and gossip, she was considered emotionally unstable. Charles met with great humiliations and several times saw the authentic nature of his Salesian vocation put in doubt, but in this great suffering he was able to bring to maturity a great capacity for reconciliation and to show a deep sense of fatherliness and goodness especially with regard to the parents of confreres.
→ The vocational dimension: in the context of the bicentennial of Don Bosco’s birth, two martyred confreres were beatified, whose lives reflect some constitutive aspects of our charism.
* The figure of Stephen Sandor (1914-1953), beatified in 2013 (his cause was introduced in 2006), recalls the complementarity of the two forms of the single consecrated Salesian vocation: the lay (coadjutor brother) and the priestly. The shining testimony of Stephen Sandor as a Salesian coadjutor brother expresses a clear and determined vocational choice, an exemplary life, an educational expertise, and an apostolic fruitfulness, in which we see a presentation of the vocation and mission of the Salesian coadjutor brother, with a special love for young apprentices and the world of work.
* Titus Zeman (1915-1969), beatified in Bratislava on September 30, 2017 (his cause was introduced in 2010). When the Czechoslovakian Communist regime in April 1950 outlawed religious orders and began to send religious to concentration camps, it became necessary to organize secret journeys to Turin to enable young Salesians to complete their studies. Titus took upon himself this dangerous enterprise and organized two expeditions for about 20 young Salesians. During a third expedition, Father Zeman with the other fugitives was arrested. He endured a severe trial during which he was described as a traitor to the fatherland and a Vatican spy and was condemned to death. He accepted his Calvary with a great spirit of sacrifice and oblation: “Even if I lose my life, I would not consider it wasted, knowing that at least one of those I helped has become a priest in my place.”
→ The dimension of “Salesian paternity and maternity”: after the great example of Don Bosco’s fatherliness, among others we recall St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello, Blessed Michael Rua, Blessed Philip Rinaldi, Blessed Joseph Calasanz, Venerable Mama Margaret, Venerable Vincent Cimatti, Venerable Teresa Valsè Pantellini, Venerable August Arribat, the Servant of God Father Charles Braga, the Servant of God Father Andrew Majcen.
→ The episcopal dimension: in the varied examples of holiness that flourished at Don Bosco’s school, there is a significant number of bishops who in the episcopal ministry incarnated in a special way the pastoral charity typical of the Salesian charism: Louis Versiglia (1873-1930), martyr and saint; Louis Olivares (1873-1943), venerable; Stephen Ferrando (1895-1978), venerable and founder; Octavio Ortiz Arrieta (1878-1958), venerable; August Hlond (1881-1948), venerable, cardinal; Anthony de Almeida Lustosa (1886-1974), servant of God; Orestes Marengo (1906-1998), servant of God.
→ The dimension of “charismatic sonship.” It is also very interesting to notice that we venerate some saints who shared with Don Bosco some stages of their lives, appreciated his holiness and his apostolic and educational fruitfulness, but who then followed their own path with evangelical freedom, becoming founders in their turn, with their own perceptive intuitions, a genuine love for the poor, and unlimited trust in Providence: St. Leonard Murialdo, St. Louis Guanella, and St. Louis Orione.
This reality that I am describing is so beautiful that it fills us with a sense of responsibility and encouragement. It can be seen clearly that we are the depositories of a precious inheritance which deserves to be better known and treasured. The danger is to reduce this heritage of holiness to liturgical celebrations, not fully appreciating its potential in the spiritual, pastoral, ecclesial, educational, cultural, historical, social, and missionary fields. The saints, blesseds, venerables, and servants of God are precious nuggets that have been extracted from the darkness of the mine so that they may shine and reflect in the Church and in the Salesian Family the splendor of truth and of Christ’s love.
→ The pastoral aspect of these people is connected to their effectiveness as successful examples of Christianity lived in the particular socio-cultural and political situations of the world, the Church, and the Salesian Family itself.
→The spiritual aspect involves the invitation to imitate their virtues as a source of inspiration and the quality of our planning for our style of life and our mission. The pastoral and spiritual care involved in a cause is a genuine form of education to holiness, to which, given our charism, we must be particularly sensitive and attentive.
I end this commentary on the strenna with the wealth of up-to-date information from our postulator’s office. It will certainly be of great interest to our Salesian Family and especially to all the groups in this beautiful tree of Salesianity who can see one or other of their members included in one of these canonical processes. As Father Rua wrote, the holiness of us sons and daughters will be a proof of the holiness lived by and handed down to us by Don Bosco himself, the beloved Father of the whole Salesian Family spread around the world.
My dear brothers and sisters, I can confidently state that the greatest and the most pressing need that we have today in our Salesian world is not to do more things, not to plan or re-plan new initiatives, to venture to new presences – but rather to show what our lives personally and collectively communicate, our way of living the Gospel, which develops and expands in time as the continuation of Jesus’ life. What really is at stake is our holiness!
We are saints, as was our Father, the Founder of our beautiful Salesian Family, which today is spread throughout the world!
Pope John Paul II, now a saint, made an enthusiastic appeal to us that, though at the time he was addressing the Salesians, applies to the whole Salesian Family in general and to each of its groups. Let us listen to it once again as a word addressed to each of us and to our own institute. This is what he said:
You want to “propose once again with courage as the principal response to the challenges of the contemporary world ‘tending towards holiness’. In short, it is a matter not so much of taking up new activities and initiatives as of living and bearing witness to the Gospel without any compromises, so as to encourage towards holiness those young people that you meet. Salesians for the third millennium! May you be enthusiastic teachers and guides, saints and formers of saints, as was Don Bosco.”
Let us ask Mary, our Mother and the Help of Christians, that she may grant us the light necessary to see clearly and follow personally with true hearts this path of life. May she give her support to the commitment of each of us and of our whole Salesian Family along the path of Salesian holiness, for the good of those to whom we are sent and for our own benefit.
May she, the Mother, expert in the Spirit, work in us the marvels of grace as she has done in all our saints.
May the Help of Christians accompany and guide us.
I wish you a year full of the fruits of holiness.
Angel Fernandez Artime
 Henceforth GE.
 I express my gratitude to Fr. Pier Luigi Cameroni, postulator general for the causes of saints, and to Lodovica Maria Zanet, expert collaborator of our postulator’s office and renowned lecturer. Thanks to their foresight, I have been able to embellish these pages with material from the postulator’s office which can throw so much light on the subject.
 Pascual Chavez, “Let us draw on the spiritual experience of Don Bosco in order to walk in holiness according to our specific vocation,” AGC 417 (2014); idem, “My dear Salesians, be saints,” AGC 379 (2002); Juan Edmundo Vecchi, “Beatification of Brother Artemides Zatti: a sensational precedent,” AGC 376 (2001); idem, “Sanctity and Martyrdom at the dawn of the third millennium,” AGC 368 (1999); Egidio Viganò, “Don Bosco, saint,” ASC 310 (1983); idem, “Replanning our holiness together,” ASC 303 (1982); Luigi Ricceri, “Don Rua, a call to holiness,” ASC 263 
 John Paul II, encyclical Redemptoris Missio, December 7, 1990, n. 28.
 Confessions, 10,28.
 Introduction to the Devout Life I, 3.
 Benedict XVI, catechesis at the general audience on April 13, 2011 [Teachings VII (2011), 451].
 Ibid., 450.
 Benedict XVI, homily on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, 2005.
 As a continuation of this “Marian journey,” we shall be celebrating in Buenos Aires between November 7 and 10, 2019, the Eighth International Congress of Mary Help of Christians with the theme Mary, the woman who believed.
 Salesian Historical Institute, Fonti Salesiane 1. Don Bosco e la sua opera: Raccolta antologica (Rome: LAS, 2014), Vita del giovanetto Savio Domenico, allievo dell’Oratorio di S. Francesco di Sales, p. 1047. English translation: Salesian Sources 1. Don Bosco and his work: Collected works (Bangalore: Kristu Jyoti, 2017), Life of the young Dominic Savio, pupil at the Oratory of St Francis de Sales, p. 1187. The complete passage I am referring to says: “Another day explanations were being given about the meaning of words. ‘What does Dominic mean?’ he asked. The reply was: ‘Belonging to God.’ ‘There you are,’ he said, ‘you see how right I am in asking you to make me a saint. Even my name says that I belong to God, so I must at all costs become one. I can’t be happy if I do not.’” For an alternative translation, see St. John Bosco, The Life of St. Dominic Savio, trans. Paul Aronica, 3d ed. (New Rochelle: Salesiana, 1996), p. 64.
 Fonti Salesiane, p. 1046. Salesian Sources, p. 1186. Aronica trans., p. 63.
 Cf. SDB Const., 2, 25, 65, 105; FMA Const., 5, 46, 82.
 Michael Rua, “The sanctification of our souls and of those entrusted to us,” letter of the Rector Major to the provincials and directors of America, Valsalice, September 24, 1894.
 John Paul II, address on the occasion of his visit to the Salesian Pontifical University, January 31, 1981, in L’Osservatore Romano, February 8, 1981 (ASC 300 , 58).
 Egidio Viganò, “Rediscovering the spirit of Mornese,” ASC 301 (1981), 25.
 John Paul II, prayer vigil at the 15th WYD, Rome, Tor Vergata, August 19, 2000, n. 5.
 Benedict XVI, address at the welcoming ceremony for young people in Cologne, August 18, 2005.
 Francis, homily at the Mass for the Boys’ and Girls’ Jubilee, Rome, April 24, 2016.
 Fonti Salesiane, p. 444. Cf. Salesian Sources, p. 501.
 Juan Edmundo Vecchi, Andate oltre: Temi di spiritualità giovanile (Turin: Elle Di Ci, 2002).
 Chavez, “My Dear Salesians, be saints,” pp. 21-22.
 De Virginitate, 40.
 15th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “Young people, the faith and vocational discernment,” Instrumentum Laboris (Rome: Vatican Press, 2014), n. 214.
 “Young people, the faith and vocational discernment,” Instrumentum Laboris: Pre-synodal meeting. Final Document (March 19-24, 2018),
 “Young people, the faith and vocational discernment,” Final Document (Rome: Vatican Press, 2018), n. 167.
 Benedict XVI, general audience, April 13, 2011.
 “Happy Times Association”: Fr. Arthur Lenti’s rendition of Società dell’Allegria. Savio: BM 5:228.
 Paul VI, address during the Way of the Cross, March 24, 1967.
 Benedict XVI, encyclical Deus caritas est (2005), n. 42.
 Paul VI, address on June 27, 1965, in Viganò, Replanning our holiness together.
 Mamerto Menapace, Cuentos rodados, Patria Grande (Buenos Aires, 1986).
 Benedict XVI, general audience, April 13, 2011.
 P. Catry, “Le tracce di Dio,” in La missione ecclesiale di Adrienne von Speyr. Atti del 2° Colloquio Internazionale del pensiero cristiano, Jaca Book (= Già e non ancora) (Milano 1986), p. 32, quoted in L. M. Zanet, La santità dimostrabile: Antropologia e prassi della canonizzazione (Bologna Dehoniane, 2016), p. 204.
 John Paul II, apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (2001), n. 31.
 Don Bosco recalls: “I recognised in him a soul where the Holy Spirit reigned supreme, and I marvelled at the way grace had already worked in his young heart and mind.” (Fonti Salesiane, p. 1039. Salesian Sources, p. 1179; Aronica trans., p. 49.)
 Rapture in the life of Dominic Savio is typically connected to the Eucharist and finds its moment of grace on the day of his First Communion, seen as a seed that if it is cultivated becomes the source of a joyful life and of decisive commitments: “It was a wonderful and never-to-be-forgotten day for him; it was a renewal of his life for God, a life that can be taken as an example by anyone. If one got him to talk about his First Communion several years later, his face lit up with joy and happiness as he said: ‘That was the happiest and most wonderful day of my life.’ He made some promises that day which he preserved carefully in a little book, and often re-read them. . . . 1. I will go often to Confession and I will go to Holy Communion as often as I am allowed by my confessor. 2. I will try to keep Sundays and holy days holy. 3. My friends will be Jesus and Mary. 4. Death, but not sin.’ These promises, which he often went over, were the guiding light of his life until he died.” (Fonti Salesiane, p. 1032. Salesian Sources, p. 1171; Aronica trans., p. 34.)
 Fonti Salesiane, p. 1067. Salesian Sources, p. 1210; Aronica trans., p. 110.
 Cf. VC, 62.
 John Paul II, message at the beginning of GC25, in Documents of GC25 (AGC 378), p. 118, n. 143.
HOLINESS LIVED OUT IN THE SALESIAN CHARISM
From now on let our watchword be:
May the holiness of the children be a proof of the holiness of the father (Don Rua)
LIST AT 31 DECEMBER 2018
Our Postulation Office details 168 including Saints, Blesseds, Venerables, Servants of God.
The causes conducted directly by the Postulation Office number 50.
In addition there are 5 other causes entrusted to our Postulation Office.
saint John Bosco, priest (date of canonization: 1 April 1934) – (Italy)
saint Joseph Cafasso, priest (22 June 1947) – (Italy)
saint Mary Domenica Mazzarello, virgin (24 June 1951) – (Italy)
saint Dominic Savio, adolescent (12 June 1954) – (Italy)
saint Leonard Murialdo, priest (3 May 1970) – (Italy)
saint Louis Versiglia, bishop, martyr (1 October 2000) – (Italy – China)
saint Callistus Caravario, priest, martyr (1 October 2000) – (Italy – China)
saint Louis Orione, priest (16 May 2004) – (Italy)
saint Louis Guanella, priest (23 October 2011) – (Italy)
BLESSEDS (one hundred and eighteen)
blessed Michael Rua, priest (date of beatification: 29 October 1972) – (Italy)
blessed Laura Vicuña, adolescent (3 September 1988) – (Chile – Argentina)
blessed Philip Rinaldi, priest (29 April 1990) – (Italy)
blessed Magdalen Morano, virgin (5 November 1994) – (Italy)
blessed Joseph Kowalski, priest, martyr (13 June 1999) – (Poland)
blessed Francis Kęsy, lay man and 4 companions, martyrs (13 June 1999) – (Poland)
blessed Pius IX, pope (3 September 2000) – (Italy)
blessed Joseph Calasanz Marqués, priest, and 31 companions, martyrs (11 March 2001) – (Spain)
blessed Louis Variara, priest (14 April 2002) – (Italy – Colombia)
blessed Artemides Zatti, religious (14 April 2002) – (Italy – Argentina)
blessed Mary Romero Meneses, virgin (14 April 2002) – (Nicaragua – Costa Rica)
blessed Augustus Czartoryski, priest (25 April 2004) – (France – Poland)
blessed Eusebia Palomino Yenes, virgin (25 April 2004) – (Spain)
blessed Alexandrina Mary Da Costa, lay woman (25 April 2004) – (Portugal)
blessed Albert Marvelli, laico (5 September 2004) – (Italy)
blessed Bronislao Markiewicz, priest (19 June 2005) – (Poland)
blessed Henry Sáiz Aparicio, priest, and 62 companions martyrs (28 October 2007) – (Spain)
blessed Zeffirinus Namuncurá, lay man (11 November 2007) – (Argentina)
blessed Mary Troncatti, virgin (24 November 2012) – (Italy – Ecuador)
blessed Stephen Sándor, religious, martyr (19 October 2013) – (Hungary)
blessed Titus Zeman, priest, martyr (30 September 2017) – (Slovacchia).
ven. Andrew Beltrami, priest (date of the Decree super virtutibus: 15 December 1966) – (Italy)
ven. Teresa Valsè Pantellini, virgin (12 July 1982) – (Italy)
ven. Dorothy Chopitea, lay woman (9 June 1983) – (Spain)
ven. Vincent Cimatti, priest (21 December 1991) – (Italy – Japan)
ven. Simon Srugi, religious (2 April 1993) – (Palestine)
ven. Rudolf Komorek, priest (6 April 1995) – (Poland – Brazil)
ven. Louis Olivares, bishop (20 December 2004) – (Italy)
ven. Margaret Occhiena, lay woman (23 October 2006) – (Italy)
ven. Joseph Quadrio, priest (19 December 2009) – (Italy)
ven. Laura Meozzi, virgin (27 June 2011) – (Italy – Poland)
ven. Attilio Giordani, layman (9 October 2013) – (Italy – Brazil)
ven. Joseph Augustus Arribat, priest (8 July 2014) – (France)
ven. Stephen Ferrando, bishop (3 March 2016) – (Italy – India)
ven. Francis Convertini, priest (20 January 2017) – (Italy – India)
ven. Joseph Vandor, priest (20 January – 2017) – (Hungary – Cuba)
ven. Octavius Ortiz Arrieta, bishop (27 February 2017) – (Perù)
ven. Augustus Hlond, cardinal (19 May 2018) – (Poland)
SERVANTS OF GOD (twentyfour)
The examination of the Positio or of the Report in progress
Elias Comini, priest (Italy)
Ignatius Stuchly, priest (Czech Republic)
Anthony De Almeida Lustosa, bishop (Brazil)
Charles Crespi Croci, priest (Italy – Ecuador)
Constantine Vendrame, priest (Italy – India)
John Świerc, priest and 8 companions, martyrs (Poland)
Orestes Marengo, bishop (Italy – India)
Charles Della Torre, priest (Italy – Thailand)
The Decree of the diocesan enquiry is awaited
Anna Maria Lozano, virgin (Colombia)
The Diocesan Enquiry in progress
Matilda Salem, lay woman (Syria)
Andrew Majcen, priest (Slovenia)
Charles Braga, priest (Italy – China – Philippines)
Antonino Baglieri, layman (Italy)
Antonietta Böhm, virgin (Germany – Mexico)
Rudolf Lunkenbein, priest (Germany – Brazil) and Simon Bororo, layman (Brazil), martyrs
and in Spanish
Download: FINAL DOCUMENT OF THE SYNOD ON YOUTH
July 2018: Instrumentum Laboris (Full text of working document to download)
SYNODUS EPISCOPORUM WEBSITE
BISHOPS’ SYNOD 2018 ON THE YOUTH, DISCERNMENT, AND VOCATION
and the World Consulta of the Salesian Family
(ANS – Turin) – The mission of the Church to announce the joy of the Gospel, in relation to the specific mission of the Salesian Family: to announce it to the young people, by helping each of them to do wonders with their own existence. Fr Fabio Attard, Councillor General for the Salesian Youth Ministry, talked about this yesterday, Monday, May 22, at the World Consultative Body of the Salesian Family, which ends today in Turin. Fr Attard intervened, together with Sr Maria Teresa Spiga, a Daughter of Mary Help of Christians and Professor at the “Auxilium” Faculty, on the subject of the next Synod of Bishops: “Youth, faith and discernment”, in particular, by deepening the preparatory document of the Synod.
In his presentation, Fr Attard has explained how the document serves to arouse consultation throughout the Church, rather than to offer answers, and has offered an overview of the path along which the next Synod will be set (October 2018).
Then, recovering the structure of the preparatory document, he illustrated the fundamental social and cultural dynamics of today’s youth world: uncertainty, scientist culture, multicultural and multi-religious societies, desire to participate, search for reference points, hyper-connection …
He then deepened the fundamental steps of the vocational discernment process; he recalled the wisdom of the Eastern Church through the reference to the so-called “three births”: the physical one, that one through the Baptism, and the spiritual one, which opens to the mature exercise of one’s own freedom; and the phases through which it will be accomplished: the identification of a plan of God for each one, the interpretation of God’s messages, and the final decision.
In this sense, he reiterated how important is the personal accompaniment of the young people within the process of discernment, since even if there are decisive moments or meetings and texts and reflections of great value, the discernment takes place through a gradual progress and through an own individual experience.
Finally, he has put forward some indications in order to take seriously the challenge of the pastoral care and the vocational discernment of young people: to walk together with the young people, being among them; to encourage their meeting with responsible communities, by offering them authoritative and of reference figures; to find daily meeting places (parishes, universities, associations, new media), as extraordinary events (World Youth Days, included in this daily report); to care for suitable languages and paths; and, last but not least, to be sure to propose contemplation, prayer, listening activities … and to entrust everything to Mary’s maternal intercession.
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO YOUNG PEOPLE ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE PREPARATORY DOCUMENT
OF THE 15th ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
My Dear Young People,
I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your “compass” on this synodal journey.
I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to “go”, to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.
When God said to Abram, “Go!”, what did he want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abram received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this “new land” for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?
But unfortunately, today, “Go!” also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee their native land. Their cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23).
I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: “Teacher […] where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see” (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.
In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: “Can we change things?” And you shouted: “yes!”. That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, […], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).
A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).
Such is the case, even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to “work with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: “Here I am” (cf. Lk 1:38).
With paternal affection,
Given at the Vatican, 13 January 2017
LINEAMENTA (Working Document)
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15:11). This is God’s plan for all men and women in every age, including all the young men and women of the Third Millennium, without exception.
Proclaiming the joy of the Gospel is the mission entrusted by the Lord to his Church. The Synod on the New Evangelization and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium treated how to accomplish this mission in today’s world. The two synods on the family and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia were, instead, dedicated to helping families find this joy.
In keeping with this mission and introducing a new approach through a Synod with the topic, “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”, the Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today. By listening to young people, the Church will once again hear the Lord speaking in today’s world. As in the days of Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 3:1-21) and Jeremiah (cf. Jer 1:4-10), young people know how to discern the signs of our times, indicated by the Spirit. Listening to their aspirations, the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow.
For each person, the vocation to love takes concrete form in everyday life through a series of choices, which find expression in the states of life (marriage, ordained ministry, consecrated life, etc.), professions, forms of social and civil commitment, lifestyle, the management of time and money, etc. Whether these choices are willfully made or simply accepted, either consciously or unconsciously, no one is excluded from making these choices. The purpose of vocational discernment is to find out how to transform them, in the light of faith, into steps towards the fullness of joy to which everyone is called.
The Church knows the basis of “the strength and beauty of young people, [namely] the ability to rejoice at the beginning of undertakings, to give oneself totally without going back, to pick oneself up and begin again in search of new conquests” (Message of Vatican II to Young People, 8 December 1965). The riches of the Church’s spiritual tradition provide many resources in guiding the formation of conscience and an authentic freedom.
With this in mind, the present Preparatory Document begins the synod’s phase of consultation of the entire People of God. This document — addressed to the synods and councils of patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the episcopal conferences, the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General — concludes with a series of questions. The consultation will also include all young people through a website with questions on their expectations and their lives. The answers to both series of questions will be the basis for drafting the “work-document” or Instrumentum laboris, which will be the reference point in the discussion of the synod fathers.
This Preparatory Document suggests a reflection in three steps, beginning with summarily outlining some of the social and cultural dynamics of the world in which young people grow and make their decisions and proposing that these be read in the light of faith. The document then retraces the fundamental steps of the process of discernment, which the Church feels is the basic means she can offer young people so they can discover, in the light of faith, their vocation. Finally, the document treats key points in a pastoral vocational programme for youth. The document, therefore, is not exhaustive, but serves as a kind of guide to encourage further discussion, whose fruits will be available only at the conclusion of the Synod.
WORLD YOUTH DAY 2019 – PANAMA
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
ON THE OCCASION OF THE NINTH WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES ON THE THEME:
“THE GOSPEL OF THE FAMILY: JOY TO THE WORLD“
VIDEOS AND TEXTS OF CONFERENCES, HOMILIES, PANEL DISCUSSIONS OF WMOF
DON ANGEL’S MESSAGE TO THE SALESIAN FAMILY OF NORTH AMERICA ON SEPTEMBER 8, 2018
My dear Salesian Family of the United States of America,
I greet you with great affection from Vancouver. On this occasion, we are unable to see each other. I promise you that we will have the opportunity to meet. I still, however, want to be present to you through this greeting to tell you, first of all, that it is a great gift to be Salesian Family; that you are also united in communion with all the Salesian Family of the world.
To be Salesian Family is to hold a great responsibility in the Church. We are a huge Religious Family that needs to be alive. We exist not only to think of ourselves but we are truly within this Church and this world a living force that draws near to those furthest away. We are:
- a Salesian Family with open doors, in the universality of our Groups, so that those who are in need feel that the Salesian Family always has someone who will receive, welcome, and listen to them – even if they can’t always fix all their problems.
- a Salesian Family always concerned with and sensitive to the young – boys, girls, teens, and young adults – for they are the reason that the Holy Spirit raised up Don Bosco and why he dreamed of us.
- a Salesian Family that needs to continue to grow in communion among ourselves.
- a Salesian Family that is enthusiastic and hope-filled, contemplating the world as God’s Creation and trusting always that the goodness in human hearts is much greater than the weaknesses.
I am sad that we are unable to get to know each other at this time but I promise you that we will meet each other. Now I send my embrace, my prayer, and blessing to you through the mediation of Mary Help of Christians.
With a big, affectionate hug,
Hasta siempre! Good-bye! Don Angel
Cartoon only (no commentary from Don Angel)
2018 Salesian Family Spirituality Days, January 18-21, Valdocco
SFSDAYS ON ANS
SFSDAYS ON FACEBOOK
SFSDAYS ON YOUTUBE
Don Juan Crespo, SDB: Discernment and Decision-Making
Don Michal Vojtáš, SDB: The Art of Salesian Encounter, Accompaniment, and Discernment Prezi Presentation IT and in PDF Format IT
Pilar and Alberto: Experience in Formation and Accompaniment
Titta and Sebastiano: Accompanied to Accompany
Rector Major Don Angel: Closing Mass of the Days
Don Eusebio Muñoz, SDB: Opening of the Days
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Power Point on Strenna 2018 by Fr. Thomas Dunne, SDB
Suggested Itinerary for Implementing Strenne 2018 and 2017 & building the SF
“Youth and Family Ministry” – Madrid Congress, Nov. 2017 https://www.symfamily17.org
THE FAMILY IN THE CHURCH’S SYNOD: PROSPECTS AND OPPORTUNITIES by Bishop Bruno Forte
YOUTH MINISTRY AND FAMILY: THE JOURNEY OF THE SALESIAN CONGREGATION by Don Fabio Attard, SDB
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Click on image to purchase a copy of this book by Don Michal Vojtáš, SDB, SFSDay 2018 Presenter :
FR. BERGOGLIO’S 1990 RECOLLECTION OF HIS SALESIAN EDUCATION
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 4, 2014
On October 20, 1990, then-Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, wrote a long letter to Salesian Cayetano Bruno, an historian of the Church in Argentina. The letter was written to remember Enrique Pozzoli, a Salesian friend of the family who baptized Jorge Bergoglio on December 25, 1936 and followed his spiritual journey.
Having finished those six typewritten pages, Fr. Bergoglio added an additional five pages where he brings together some “Salesian memories,” in particular those related to 1949, the year in which, at thirteen, he frequented the Wilfrid Baron School of the Holy Angels at Ramos Mejia, in Greater Buenos Aires.
Fr. Bergoglio remembers with gratitude the Salesians’ spirituality and an education that reflected a true and proper “Catholic culture” which prepared him “for life.”
Below is the unabridged text, published last week in L’Osservatore Romano. The original is in Spanish; this ZENIT translation is from the Italian.
I have just finished the report of my memories of Father Enrique Pozzoli. Now I want to complete my promise to write some memories of my contact with the Salesians, just as they were. And I begin with a somewhat Voltaire-like anecdote. In 1976 we transferred the Provincial Curia to San Miguel. New vocations were beginning to arrive and it seemed appropriate that the Provincial be close to the House of Formation. We began to reform the program of studies: 2 years of juniorate (which disappeared), philosophy separated from theology began to be imposed, substituting that “mixture” of philosophy and theology that was called “curriculum” where one began to study Hegel (sic!). Being at San Miguel I saw the neighborhoods without pastoral care; this worried me and we began to follow the children. On Saturday afternoon we taught catechism, then they played, etc. I realized that we Professors had the vow to teach doctrine to children and the ignorant, and I began myself to do so together with the students. The endeavor began growing. Five large churches were built, the children of the area were mobilized in an organized way … and only on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning … Then the accusation came that this was not an apostolate proper of Jesuits; that I Salesianized (sic!) the formation. They accused me of being a pro-Salesian Jesuit, and perhaps this makes my memories somewhat biased … but I remain at peace because my interlocutor at this moment is a pro-Jesuit Salesian, and he will be able to discern things.
It’s not strange that I speak with affection of the Salesians, because my family was nourished spiritually by the Salesians of San Carlos. As a child I learned to go to the procession of Mary Help of Christians, and also to that of Saint Anthony of Mexico Street. When I was at my grandmother’s home, I went to the Oratory of Saint Francis of Sales (following me there was the present Father Alberto Della Torre, chaplain of aviation). It is natural that I am a fan of San Lorenzo (otherwise something would be missing) and up until recently I kept a “History of the San Lorenzo Club” written by P. Mazza (I believe): I gave it to Don Hugo Chantada, Catholic journalist of “La Prensa”, dogged fan of San Lorenzo. Now he has it. As a child I knew the famous Father confessors of San Carlos: Montaldo, Punto, Carlos Scandroglio, Pozzoli. And as a child I had in my hands the “Religious Instruction” of Father Moret. They had taught us to ask for “the blessing of Mary Help of Christians” every time we took leave of a Salesian.
3.[sic] But the most intense experience with the Salesians was in the year 1949, when I frequented as a boarder the sixth grade in the Wilfrid Baron School of the Holy Angels, at Ramos Mejia. Director Father Emilio Cantarutti, Counselor Father Placido Aviles; Catechist, Father Isidoro Holowaty; Prefect, Father Isidro Fueyo. Working in the Administration was the Deputy Mr. Fernandez [sic]. Of the clerics I remember Mr. (Leonardo or Leandro) Cangiani and Ruben Veiga. Among the elderly priests were Fathers Usher, Lambruschini, Cingolani, etc. It is hard for me to make a partial description of different aspects of the School, simply because I have reflected many times on this year of life and, little by little, I have formed a reflection of the whole, which is the one I want to transmit here. I am aware that it will be somewhat intellectualized, perhaps without the freshness of a simple anecdote, but – on the other hand – I know that this vision of the whole and the one I elaborated gradually and is born of my experience is, in my view, objective.
4. School life was a “whole.” I was immersed in a way of life prepared so that there wouldn’t be time to be lazy. The day passed as an arrow without time for one to be bored. I felt myself submerged in a world that, although prepared “artificially” (with pedagogic resources), had nothing artificial about it. The most natural thing was to go to Mass in the morning, as well as having breakfast, studying, going to lessons, playing during recreation, hearing the “Good night” of the Father Director. Each one was made to live different assembled aspects of life, and this created a conscience in me: not only a moral conscience but a sort of human conscience (social, ludic, artistic, etc.) Said differently: the School created, through the awakening of the conscience in the truth of things, a Catholic culture that was not at all “bigoted” or “disoriented.” Study, the social values of living together, the social references to the neediest (I remember having learned there to deprive myself of some things to give to persons who were poorer than me), sport, competence, piety … everything was real, and everything formed habits that, all together, molded a cultural way of being. One lived in this world but open to the transcendence of the other world. It was very easy for me then in secondary school , to do the “transfer” (in the psycho-pedagogic sense) to other realities. And this simply because I lived well the realities lived in the School; without distortions, with realism, with a sense of responsibility and a horizon of transcendence. This Catholic culture is – in my opinion – the best that I received at Ramos Mejia.
5. Everything was done with a meaning. There was nothing “without meaning” (at least in the fundamental order; because accidentally there were gestures of impatience by some educators or little daily injustices, etc.). I learned there, almost unwittingly, to seek the meaning of things. One of the key moments of this learning to seek the meaning of things was the “Good night” that the Father Director generally gave. Sometimes the Father Inspector did it, when he passed through the School. In this connection I still remember, as if it was today, a “Good night” of Monsignor Miguel Raspanti who at that time was Inspector. It was at the beginning of October of ‘49. He had gone to Cordoba because his Mother died on September 29. On his return, he spoke to us of death. Now, when I am almost 54, I recognize that that little evening reflection was the point of reference of my whole subsequent life in regard to the problem of death. That evening, without feeling fear, I felt that I would be dead one day, and it seemed to me the most natural thing. When one or two years later I came to know how Father Isidoro Holowaty died, of how he endured for the sake of mortification so many days of pain in his stomach (he was a nurse) until one Wednesday Father Pozzoli, who had gone there to confess the Salesians, ordered him to see a doctor, well, when I came to know this it seemed to me the most natural thing that a Salesian should die this way, exercising virtue. Another “Good night” that made an impression was one of Father Cantarutti on the need to pray to the most Holy Virgin to understand well one’s own vocation. I remember that that night I prayed intensely as I went to the dormitory (if you must note something because two days later Father Aviles flung a comment to me) … and since that evening I have never fallen asleep without praying. It was a psychological moment adapted to giving a meaning to the day, to things.
6. I learned to study in the School. The hours of study, in silence, created a habit of concentration, of a quite strong control of dispersion. Always with the help of professors, I learned a method of study, mnemonic –technical rules, etc. Sport was an essential aspect of life. One played well and a lot. The values that sport teaches (in addition to health) we already knew. In study as in sport the dimension of competition had a certain importance: we were taught to compete well and to compete as Christians. Over the years I have heard some criticisms of this competitive aspect of life … But, curiously, they were done by Christians “liberated” from this pedagogic aspect but who in daily life slaughtered one another for money or power … and did not compete as Christians.
7. A dimension that grew a lot in the subsequent years to the one spent in the School was my capacity to feel good: and I realized that the base was set the year of boarding school.. They educated my sentiment there. The Salesians have a special ability for this. I am not referring to “sentimentalism” but to “sentiment” as a value of the heart. Not to be afraid and to say to oneself what one is feeling.
8. Education to piety was another key dimension. I virile piety, appropriate to the age. In piety devotion to the Most Holy Virgin merits a special mention. They impressed this on me with fire … and, in as much as I remember, also on my companions. And the recourse to Our Lady is essential for life. It goes from the awareness of having a Mother in heaven that takes care of me to the recitation of the three Hail Marys, or of the Rosary. But the Virgin remained, and could not go out of our heart. We were inculcated also, and it remained impressed , in respect and love for the Pope. Sometimes I have heard criticisms of the “piety” that was inculcated in the School (I heard them years later), but they are always the usual rigmaroles of those who do not want to go to Mass because they were obliged to do so in School, etc. It is an anachronistic criticism because it transfers to the field of the pedagogy of piety a precise problem such as that of adolescent or youthful rebellion.
9. Closely united to love and to devotion to the Most Holy Virgin was love of purity. In this connection (and I believe altogether in Don Bosco’s preventive system) there is a very great misunderstanding. I was taught to love purity without any sort of obsessive teaching. There was not sexual obsession in the School, at least in the year I was there. I found more sexual obsession later in other educators or psychologists that shows ostentatiously a “laissez-passer” in this regard (but which deep down they interpreted behaviors in a Freudian key, which saw sex everywhere).
10. There was also room for hobbies, crafts, personal anxieties. Father Lambruschini taught us to sing, with Father Aviles I learned to build machinery to reproduce documents and to use it; there was a Ukrainian Father (Father Esteban) who wished to teach us to serve the table in the Ukrainian rite — and so many other things (theater, organization of championships, academic ceremonies, taxidermy, etc.) that channeled hobbies and anxieties. We were educated to creativity.
11. How did our educators address crises? They made us feel that we could trust, that they loved us, they were able to listen, they gave us good opportune advice, and they defended us both from rebellion as well as melancholy.
12. All these things configured a Catholic culture. They prepared me well for secondary school and for life. Never (in so far as I remember) was a truth negotiated. The most typical case was that of sin. The sense of sin is part of the Catholic culture … and what I brought from home in that sense was reinforced, took shape. One could then play the rebel, the atheist … but imprinted deep down was the sense of sin: a truth that could not be thrown out, to make everything easier. I speak of Catholic culture because everything we did and learned had, also, a harmonious unity. There was no “partiality,” but one thing referred to another and they completed one another. Unconsciously one felt oneself growing in harmony, something which I certainly could not make explicit at that time, but yes later. And, on the other hand, everything was of a striking realism.
13. I do not wish to fall into the psychology of the former student, a nostalgic, Proust-like attitude, where the memory selects the rosy part of life and denies the more limited or lacking aspects. There were lacks in the School, but the educational structure was not wanting. It is what I just wrote in the preceding paragraphs. There were things in 1949 that are not applicable in 1990 … but I am convinced that the Salesian cultural patrimony of 1949, this pedagogic patrimony, is capable of creating in its pupils a Catholic culture also in 1990, as it was able to create it in 1930.
I say this because towards the end of last year something happened that saddened me. A Salesian Father that I esteem a lot, told me in a conversation that they were thinking of leaving some Schools in the hands of the laity. I asked him if it was because of a lack of vocations. In part, he told me, this was the reason, but because young Salesians do not want to work in the Schools, they do not feel attracted to this apostolate. I told him that the opposite happened with young Jesuits: they want to work in the Schools and they are not entirely conservatives. There is more: in the last 18 years the Argentine Province of the Society opened several Schools, using the form of the parish school. While I was Rector of the Maximo, two Schools were opened in its grounds: one of technical education and another of adult education. And now a third has been opened there in fact … That Father also told me that another area was that of making a gesture of insertion” (sic!) in the neighborhoods, and this is why they left the Schools or some of them. He said that it was a pastoral option. In face of this I could not help but think of the Salesians that I knew in the School, I do not know if they “made gestures of insertion,” but they did spend themselves the whole day and did not even have time to have a little rest, this I do know. If those men that I knew in the School – and I conclude with this reflection – could create a “Catholic culture,” it was because they had faith. They believed in Jesus Christ and – a bit by faith and a bit by nerve – they had the courage to “preach”: with the word, with their life, with their work. They were not ashamed to be humiliated with the language of the cross of Jesus which is shame and folly for others. I ask myself: when a work languishes and loses its flavor and its capacity to leaven the dough, is it not rather because Jesus Christ has been substituted by other options: psychological, sociological, pastoral? I do not want to be simplistic, but I do not cease to be concerned about the fact that – to make radical gestures of social insertion – adherence to the living Jesus Christ is abandoned [in favor of] the consequent insertion in whatever environmental context including the educational, to build a Catholic culture.
LIKE DON BOSCO, WITH THE YOUNG AND FOR THE YOUNG
(OFFICIAL) LETTER OF The Holy Father, Pope Francis
to Reverend Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime Rector Major of the Salesians on the Bicentenary of the birth of St. John Bosco
The memory of St. John Bosco is alive in the Church. He is remembered as the founder of the Salesian Congregation, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, the Association of the Salesian Cooperators, the Association of Mary Help of Christians, and as the father of the present-day Salesian Family. He is likewise remembered in the Church as a holy educator and pastor of the young who opened the way of holiness for young people, offered a method of education that is at the same time a spirituality, and received from the Holy Spirit a charism for modern times. In the Bicentenary of his birth I had the joy of meeting the Salesian Family gathered in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, where lie the Founder’s mortal remains. Through this message I wish to join with you again in thanking God, and at the same time in recalling the essential aspects of Don Bosco’s spiritual and pastoral legacy and urging you to live them courageously.
Italy, Europe and the world have changed considerably in these two centuries, but the soul of the young has not: even today boys and girls are open to life and to the encounter with God and with others, but there are so many of them exposed to discouragement, spiritual anemia and marginalization.
Don Bosco teaches us first of all to not stand idly by, but to put ourselves in the vanguard by offering young people an integral educational experience which, firmly based on the religious dimension, affects the mind, the emotions and the whole person, always considered as someone created and loved by God. This leads to a genuinely human and Christian pedagogy, one that is animated by a concern for prevention and inclusion, especially of the children of the working classes and the marginalized groups of society, and offers them an opportunity for education and learning a trade in order to become good Christians and honest citizens. By working for the moral, civil and cultural education of youth, Don Bosco worked for the good of people and civil society, following his particular view of man that combines happiness, study and prayer, or to put it another way, work, religion and virtue. An integral part of this process is the development of a person’s vocation in order to enable him to assume the concrete way of life in the Church to which the Lord calls him. This wide-ranging and demanding educational vision which Don Bosco condensed in his motto, “Da mihi animas”, accomplished what we today express in the phrase, “educate by evangelizing and evangelize by educating” (Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis [August 15, 1997], n. 147).
A characteristic feature of Don Bosco’s pedagogy is loving kindness, which is to be understood as a love that is manifested and perceived, and reveals itself in caring, affection, understanding and involvement in the life of another person. In the experiential process of education, according to Don Bosco, it is not enough to love, but love needs to be expressed in gestures that are concrete and effective. Thanks to this loving kindness, so many children and adolescents in Salesian settings have experienced an intense and serene emotional growth, which has proved very valuable in the shaping of their personality and in their life’s journey.
Within this framework lie other distinctive traits of Don Bosco’s educational method: a family environment; the presence of the educator as a father, teacher and friend of the young person, which is conveyed by a classical term of Salesian pedagogy: assistance; a climate of joy and celebration; ample space offered for singing, music and the theatre; the importance of the playground, games, sports and outings.
We can summarize the salient aspects of Don Bosco’s personality in the following manner: he lived the total surrender of himself to God in his dedication to the salvation of souls and lived his fidelity to God and to the young in one and the same act of love. These attitudes led him to “go out” and take courageous decisions: the decision to devote himself to poor youth with the aim of giving rise to a vast movement of poor people for poor people; and the decision to extend this service beyond the boundaries of language, race, culture and religion, thanks to his tireless missionary impulse. He realized this project through his style of joyfully accepting and personally caring for each one whom he met and accompanied.
He was able to elicit the cooperation of Saint Mary Domenica Mazzarello and the cooperation of lay people, giving rise to the large tree of the Salesian Family which has received and enhanced his legacy.
In short, Don Bosco lived with a great passion for the salvation of the young, appearing as a credible witness of Jesus Christ and an outstanding herald of his Gospel, in profound communion with the Church, and in particular, with the Pope. He lived in constant prayer and union with God, with a strong and tender devotion to Our Lady, whom he invoked as the Immaculate Virgin and the Help of Christians; he was endowed with mystical experiences and the gift of miracles for the sake of his boys.
Even today the Salesian Family opens out to new frontiers in education and missionary work, pursuing the paths traced out by the new means of social communication and by an intercultural education among peoples of different religions in countries of the developing world or in places marked by migration. The challenges of the Turin of the nineteenth century have assumed global dimensions: the idolatry of money, an inequality that generates violence, an ideological colonization and cultural challenges related to urban contexts. Some aspects are more directly connected with the world of the young, such as the spread of the Internet, and therefore they pose a challenge to you, sons and daughters of Don Bosco, called as you are to work and to keep in mind, together with the hurts, also the resources that the Holy Spirit inspires in crisis situations.
As a Salesian Family you are called to let the creativity typical of your charism flourish once more in and beyond your educational institutions, as you take your place with apostolic dedication among young people, especially those on the peripheries. “Youth ministry, as traditionally organized, has also suffered the impact of social changes. Young people often fail to find responses to their concerns, needs, problems and hurts in the usual structures. As adults, we find it hard to listen patiently to them, to appreciate their concerns and demands, and to speak to them in a language they can understand” (Apost. Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 105). Let us ensure that, as educators and as a community, we accompany them on their journey so that they feel the joy of bringing Jesus to every street, to every square, to every corner of the earth (cf. ibid., 106).
May Don Bosco help you to not disappoint the deep aspirations of the young: their need for life, openness, joy, freedom, and the future; their desire to collaborate in building up a more just and fraternal world, in fostering the development of all peoples, in safeguarding nature and the living environment. Following his example, you will help them to experience that only in the life of grace, i.e., in friendship with Christ, does one fully attain the most authentic ideals. You will have the joy of accompanying them in their search for a synthesis of faith, culture and life at moments when they take weighty decisions or attempt to interpret a reality that is complex.
In particular, I want to point out two tasks that arise today from a discernment of the youth reality: the first is that of educating, in accordance with a Christian anthropology, to the language of the new means of social communication and of the social networks, that deeply shape the cultural and value systems of the young, and therefore their outlook on the reality of man and religion; the second is that of promoting forms of social volunteering, and not resigning yourselves to the ideologies that place the market and production above the dignity of the person and the value of work.
To be educators who evangelize is a gift of nature and grace, but it is also the result of formation, study, reflection, prayer and asceticism. Don Bosco used to say to young people: “For you I study, for you I work, for you I live, for you I am ready even to give my life” (Salesian Constitutions, art. 14).
Today more than ever, in the face of what Pope Benedict XVI often referred to as an “educational emergency” (cf. Letter to the diocese and the city of Rome on the urgent task of educating young people, 21 January 2008), I invite the Salesian Family to promote an effective educational alliance between different religious and secular agencies so as to move forward with the diversity of your charisms at the service of youth in the different continents. In particular, I remind you of the imperative need to involve the families of young people. There can indeed be no effective youth ministry without a good family ministry.
The Salesian is an educator who, in the midst of his many relationships and commitments, always lets the first proclamation resound, the good news that directly or indirectly can never be absent: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you, and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you “(Apost. Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 164). To be faithful disciples of Don Bosco requires you to renew the choice of catechesis that was his lifelong commitment, understanding it today within the mission of a new evangelization (cf. ibid., 160-175). This evangelizing catechesis deserves pride of place in Salesian institutions, and must be made with theological and pedagogical competence and the educator’s transparent witness. It requires a process that involves listening to the Word of God, frequenting the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist, and a filial relationship with the Virgin Mary.
Dear Salesian Brothers and Sisters, Don Bosco testifies that Christianity is the source of happiness, because it is the Gospel of love. It is from this source, and in your Salesian educational practice as well, that joy and celebration find their consistency and continuity. “We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization”(Apost. Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 8).
The Church has great expectations concerning the care of the young; great too is the charism that the Holy Spirit bestowed on St. John Bosco, a charism that has been carried forward by the Salesian Family with a passionate dedication to the youth of all continents and a flowering of numerous priestly, religious and lay vocations. I therefore cordially encourage you to take up the legacy of your founder and father with the Gospel radicalism that he made his own in his thinking, speaking and acting, with a proper competence and a generous spirit of service, like Don Bosco, with the young and for the young.
From the Vatican, 24 June 2015 Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist
This text and the Italian, French, and Spanish versions can be found under the “Salesian Spirituality” sub-category of “Formation Materials” on the “Pastoral Resources” page and the video of his informal talk in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, having put aside this formal address, here – or unedited versions from the Holy Father’s arrival at Valdocco on our “Videos” or YouTube pages.
ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS
to the Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of Turin June 21, 2015
Dear Salesian Family, I have thought a lot about what to say to you and I wrote what I wanted to say but that is too formal. I am giving it to the Rector Major so that you may all read and know the text. This Rector Major whom I came to know in a confessional… but not that I confessed to him or he to me, but during a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lujan. He had just arrived in Argentina in the month of October. A friend from the Salesian Province was with where he saw a pilgrimage of young people arriving, reaching a million within 48 hours. When a penitent left my confessional, they came near and said to me: “the new Provincial”. And I said to him: “Ah, this is the one who comes to command us.” Then began our good relations, even in bad moments… we lived some very gad moments together but what always struck me was is sense of service and his humility. I remember one time when we had to take care of something in a parish… and he signed off on everything.
Then he came here, to your General Council, at peace, tranquil, to return to Spain afterwards [for he had finished his term as Provincial in Argentina[… and, instead, they made a trap for him… but together with the Holy Spirit.
But I would like to tell you about my experience with the Salesians. My family was very much attached to the Salesians. When my father arrived in Argentina he went to the Salesians in the Italian church, the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in the parish of San Carlo. He knew many of them and he soon became a big fan of a soccer team that had been founded by a Salesian! 500 meters away from the Basilica of San Carlo, that Salesian founded a soccer team that wore the colors of Mary: blue and pink. But with street kids, eh?! Immediately. To me, they are the best team in Argentina, so many champions… Then he met my mother, who lived a short distance away and they were married by a priest who was close to and followed both my father and me all my life. He was a Salesian missionary in Patagonia, born in Lodi, a good man and a great confessor of the Salesian family. I used to go to confession to him. He was the one who baptized me and he helped my vocation. He helped me when the time came for me to enter the seminary of the Society of Jesus.
I am so grateful to the Salesian family. After giving birth for the fifth time, my mother remained paralyzed for a year and she sent us older ones to Salesian schools. I did the last year of elementary school there and it was there I learned to love Our Lady. The Salesians taught me to value beauty and work. This is your charism. With love they formed the affective dimension of our lives and helped us to mature in our own affectivity.
I remember the Salesian confessors, who were compassionate and great. There were always many of them in the basilica. Then my father died, and then this priest died, but I still used to go to Mary Help of Christians every May 24th. I used to bring flowers and pray to the Virgin Mary. It’s something that I learned from you. But there is always one thing that makes me think: affectivity. I believe that Don Bosco was able to educate the young in affectivity, because he had a mother who had done the same for him. She was a good mother, kind and strong. With great love she educated his heart. You cannot understand Don Bosco without Mamma Margaret. It is not possible.
I wonder when it comes to educating the young now if the Salesians, the SDB and the FMA of today, and the whole Salesian Family, when it comes to speaking of educating a young girl, if they show her how Mamma Margaret did so – how she formed the heart of her son. This is what I wanted to emphasize.
And there’s something else. At that time, in the late nineteenth century, this region of Italy was “mangiapreti” (priest-eating, literally!), anticlerical and Masonic, even demonic! Turin was one of the places with demonic activity, but how many saints have come from here! Count them yourselves! The Lord gave a mission to the families that were born here. Today many things have improved. There is the computer, and so many other things … But the situation of youth is more or less the same. What did Don Bosco do? He worked with the young people who were there on the streets, with no job and no school to go to. He risked his ministry. That is why so many spoke ill of him. He risked the ministry there, “These are second-class youngsters” they told him. “You cannot do anything with them …”. Today the situation is that here in Italy 40% of young people under the age of twenty-five are unemployed. They neither study nor work. You Salesians are facing the same challenge that Don Bosco faced, to care for these boys and girls. And what did Don Bosco do? He introduced sports, because sports develop one’s social skills. They bring a healthy competitive spirit and teach the beauty of working together. And then education. Don Bosco didn’t talk of great things, no, but with small schools where they learned a trade. In these Salesian schools, which were both classroom and workshop, the young people learned a trade. But are the Salesians capable of teaching the skills needed to meet the urgent situations of today? Really, I do not know, I am asking the question. I do not know, can they learn in six months to be an electrician or a plumber – because there is always a broken tap to be repaired. Education, but education that responds to the crisis. We should not think that these young people on the street today – I am thinking of my homeland – can go straight into high school. We must give them something that will help them to find work, even a small job … I think these young people on the street today need emergency education. A short course leading to a practical trade and then we’ll see. That 40% need something. It is up to Salesian creativity to take up this challenge.
And bring them to live their life with joy – to that Salesian joy, which is another thing I learned, and I will never forget. It is the joy that comes from all that the Lord has given us, which is beautiful. Give them motivation and education. Let us give young people on the street something to eat – in truth, one cannot praise God on an empty stomach. But we must also advance them, and how? With creativity. Education that is suited to the crisis. This is what I feel I have to tell you. What did Don Lorenzo Mazza do when he founded the soccer team in 19098? Sports. He gave a bit of mysticism to those street boys. They will be drug runners, they will become dependent, or many will kill themselves… but finding joy in something could help them go forward. This is what I want to say to you.
This is time of great crisis and a time contrary to the Church. But Don Bosco was not ashamed to speak of his three great loves: Mary, the Eucharist and the Pope. These were his three loves. He was not ashamed of Our Lady. Why should he ever be ashamed of his mother … Nowadays, there are many… I remember something that hurt me very much. In the 80s, I went to Belgium to meet with some benefactors of the Catholic University in Cordoba. Afterwards, I was invited to supper at a wedding of two professors, both practicing Catholics, with four little children. While at table, they began to speak of theology, Christology, and the situation of the Church. At a certain point they said, “Today, the Blessed Mother doesn’t go, thanks be to God that we have gotten past that phase.” They were good people… but even today – not among you – but elsewhere you find people who may not be ashamed but who do not speak of Our Lady with love as Don Bosco did. Don Bosco’ first love was Our Lady. He entrusted himself to God while he prayed to Our Lady, and he dared so much. His second love was for the Eucharist. The liturgy, when celebrated by the Salesian Family in a devout manner and with explanation, will help the young enter into the Eucharistic mystery. You also have Adoration frequently – this is a good thing which even the Pope does frequently – because Don Bosco loved the Church, Our Lady, and his mother.
And to you, consecrated women, the mystery of woman in the Church. Love for the Pope is not love only for a particular person, but love for Peter as head of the Church, as a representative of the bridegroom of the Church. But behind that love for the Pope there is love for the Church. I don’t know how Don Bosco managed to hide or explain certain scandals, but I do know that he made people love the Church. Think about these connections: the Church as mother; Mary, our mother; and Mamma Margherita, a mother. You form girls to become mothers; help them raise their children to be sons and daughters in love with the Virgin Mary and the Church. Sometimes people ask me: Don’t we not need to make some major decisions regarding women in the Church? Sure. But do you think that appointing someone as head of a department is a major decision? Women in the Church have the same job, so to speak, that Our Lady had with the Apostles on the morning of Pentecost. It is impossible to conceive of the Apostles without Mary: that is how Jesus wanted it. Do not forget the three great loves. Do not be ashamed to speak of Our Lady, to celebrate Holy Mass well, and do not be ashamed of Holy Mother Church. The poor Church is under attack every day … And learn the role of women in the Church. The three great loves of Don Bosco always lead us down the same path. Then trust in God. As I said, Don Bosco always prayed to Mary Help of Christians and then went ahead. He did not spend too much time making calculations.
I thank God for my Salesian experience of which I spoke, of that school that one year and that was it. I did the rest of my studies in public school. And my family – so attached to the Salesians and to Mary Help of Christians. I used to ask the Salesians to “Give me the Blessing of Mary Help of Christians.” I thank God for this experience for they helped me to grow without fear and without obsessions, to move forward in joy, in prayer. Your charism is of the utmost relevance today. Look at the streets, see the young people there, and take risky decisions. Do not be afraid. Do as he did.
Thank you so much for what you do in the Church and for the Church. Thank you so much for living the missionary nature of your Family, sending missionaries, the many Salesians hidden in Africa … I think of the early days in Patagonia, when the Sisters went there with the habit of that time – how did those women manage on horseback? – And they evangelized Patagonia. And I think of the Salesian martyrs of Patagonia … not that I have an obsession for Patagonia… But Don Bosco dreamed of it! And he sent you there. Those first Salesians did so much good. Perhaps the Rector Major will remember when he came to us to ask about a place to hold a beatification when all the Bishops were gathered for the permanent Commission in Aparecida. A good proposal was made to hold it in Buenos Aires so that all the Past Pupils could be present – but I opposed it, if you recall… it was a field! The Salesians are very concrete in dealing with things… but something is missing. The Salesians are practical, they see the problem, think it over, and then take it in hand. Finally I said, “as Archbishop, I would not give the permission”… I will say one thing still about this missionary spirit: one of the regions of Patagonia has been abandoned by priests. There, in that place, there are no Salesians. For 15 years the evangelicals came. They were a religious people but who are very isolated. They wanted to hear the Word of God and used to go see this pastor. They were converted, more or less. A certain lady – the Salesians were not here but had made many missions there – received the new parish priest badly when he came back. She accused him of having abandoned them. Finally, he let a little time pass and then the priest asked forgiveness. As he was leaving, the lady called him back. She showed him a statue of Mary Help of Christians: “I and an evangelical now, but I will not let go of her. I had hid the statue lest the pastor see her.” … This is your missionary spirit. Thank you very much for what you do in the whole Church.
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