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
Don Bosco Salesian Portal is the website of St. John Bosco’s Salesian Family of the eastern United States and Canada. It is meant to be a “clearing house” for all things Salesian according to the “Oratory Criteria” of school, church, home, and playground and the “meeting hub” for all of us in the Family. It is sponsored by the Salesian Family Consulta of St. Philip the Apostle and St. Joseph Provinces. On it, one can find: links to sites providing a plethora of information on Don Bosco, his writings, his charism, mission, and spirituality; links to the Groups, Movements, and Associations comprising his Salesian Family; a calendar of major Church and Family events; an interactive map of our presences here; quick links to numerous Church and Salesian sites and their publications, news, and media – especially as concerns the young and all that affects them and their salvation; a space to interact with other members of the Family through blog posts and our Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and g+ pages; videos pertaining to our charism and mission on our YouTube page; contact information regarding a Salesian Vocation and/or for volunteering with us; links to purchase Salesian items; a central location to find and to share valuable resources; and much more… Please check out our “About” page for information regarding use of the Don Bosco Salesian Portal. Enjoy!
Message on Facebook from Don Angel on his visit to us in North America, September 3-12, 2018 (3-5 in Surrey, 6-7 in Toronto, 8-10 in NY/NJ, 11-12 in Tampa)
Pope Francis’s new Apostolic Exhortation, “Rejoice and Be Glad”, on Holiness
I.- GOD CALLS US TO HOLINESS
It is evident that Pope Francis wants to focus attention in his Exhortation on what is essential in our Christian life, helping us to have a broad outlook, without falling into the temptation of losing sight of the end in view. This is why the Pope tries to help us by addressing to us a call to holiness embodied in the current context, with the risks, challenges and beautiful opportunities that God offers in the journey of life, so that “My joy may be in you” (Jn. 15:11).
1. Sacred Scripture invites us to be holy: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5: 48), and “Be holy, because I [the Lord] am holy” (Lev 11: 44). Holiness is a gift, a mandate and a task. Holiness is for everyone because it corresponds to God’s fundamental plan for us. To become saints is not to become alienated from oneself or to move away from one’s own brothers and sisters, but to live one’s life to the full in an intense (and sometimes difficult) experience of communion.
2. A close-by God who reveals himself in Christ: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15: 5); “I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13: 15). Holiness is not a theory of moral perfection, but a life that conforms to that of Jesus. Some characteristics of the life of Jesus, which are close-by, concrete, beautiful, exciting for everyone, about which people may never think or think very little.
II. A CALL TO HOLINESS FOR EVERYONE
3. Over the centuries, many men and women have lived holiness, but only a few have been declared saints. There are many examples. What is important is to be holy, not to be declared as such. The canonized saints are like the façade of a church; but the church contains many precious treasures inside, which however remain invisible. The Strenna invites us to discover and to develop a thirst and longing for this inner, less visible part.
4. “Next-door holiness” and the universal call to holiness: St Francis de Sales, Don Bosco; the Second Vatican Council; Jan Tyranowski and Karol Wojtyła at the school of Don Bosco.
III. DON BOSCO WANTS HIS YOUNG PEOPLE HAPPY IN THIS WORLD AND IN THE NEXT
5. In the beginning of his Letter from Rome, written on 10th May 1884, Don Bosco wrote to his young people: “I have only one wish, to see you happy both in this world and in the next”.
At the end of his earthly life, these words summed 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 dreamt about by every young person, today, tomorrow, throughout time. Not only that. “In eternity is found that extra that only Jesus and his proposal of happiness, i.e. holiness, can offer”. It is the answer to the deep thirst for “forever” that burns in every young person.
The world, the society of all nations, cannot propose this “forever” and eternal happiness, but only God can. For Don Bosco all this was very clear. His last words to young people were, “Tell my boys that I wait for them all in Paradise”. In this sense, we understand the “Da mihi animas, cetera tolle”.
IV. JESUS IS THE HAPPINESS THAT YOU, DEAR YOUNG PEOPLE, ARE LOOKING FOR
6. This was the great challenge by St John Paul II at the Prayer Vigil of the Fifteenth WYD (2000 Rome, Tor Vergata) 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 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 grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improve yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal”.
V. “I FEEL WITHIN ME A DESIRE AND A NEED OF BECOMING HOLY” (Dominic Savio)
7. Salesian texts on holiness:
→ In the Constitutions of the SDB, FMA, Salesian Cooperators, and many groups of the Salesian Family.
→ Various calls to holiness in the Magisterium of the Congregation (SDB).
Some points on which Salesian spirituality has a lot to say:
Holiness is the flowering of human aspects. Where there is a saint, one can see a true man or woman. (see Fr Rinaldi to the DBV (VDB): be true women, with a touch of femininity, etc.)
Holiness and community: to become holy together.
Saints-with: saints for the young, but above all saints with the young. In a certain sense, it is quite logical that Dominic Savio is the first one who was canonized after Don Bosco, that is to say, the fruits of the holiness of the Salesians are young saints, and the holiness of the young is a signal pointing back to the holiness of the members of the Salesian Family.
Holiness and wounded families; sanctity and personal limits (Francesco Convertini, Ignazio Stuchlý, etc.); holiness stemming from biographical, historical, social limits … There is no personal, biographical or historical condition that can block holiness.
Youth holiness … young saints and the youthfulness of the saints (see no. 214 Instrumentum Laboris of the next Synod).
VI. HOLINESS LIVED IN THE SALESIAN CHARISM
8. The message of sanctity on the way to being recognized helps us to re-read and integrate the Salesian charism.
→ Missionary dimension: missionaries in the strict sense; missionaries who “returned” to their home country (Stuchlý); people who had been proposed to become missionaries, but who chose to stay back (Zeman) …
→ Sanctity of the Salesian bishops
→ Holiness with an explicit Marian flavor (many beautiful figures of FMA, and also T. Zeman, Stuchlý, Lustosa, etc.)
→ Holiness with a foundation charism …
→ Holiness of the Salesian Brothers (Zatti, Srugi, Sandor, etc.)
→ The message of the martyrs in the years before and after the bicentenary (Sandor, Zeman, Fr Rodolfo and Bororo Simao, Comini …)
→ The dimension of self-offering as a victim as incarnation of the “cetera tolle”. Augustus Czartoryski, Andrew Beltrami, Aloysius Variara, Ann Mary Lozano, Laura Vicuña, Alexandrina Maria da Costa, etc. This dimension is expressed in many ways:
physical suffering, forced immobility
separation or removal from community dynamics
lack of understanding by the superiors (Variara, Zeman, Della Torre, etc.)
the impossibility of implementing their own projects due to external constraints (Vicuña, Lozano …,) or health (Zatti, etc.)
a legacy of suffering from one’s family of origin (Laura Vicuña, Braga, Stuchlý, who tragically lost his father, etc.)
the explicit participation in and conformation to the sufferings of Christ (Alexandrina, Vera Grita, etc.)
Salesian holiness and contemplation …
VII. WHAT DOES IT MEAN, “Holiness for you, too!”?
It is a close-by thing, real, concrete, possible. Indeed, it is everyone’s fundamental vocation.
Being holy is not difficult; indeed, it is easy and God awaits us in heaven after our journey of holiness. “Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humor”. (Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 122).
The path of holiness cannot bypass the dimension of the cross, but it is also full of joy: “Here we make holiness consist in being very happy”.
Sanctity does not distance us from our duties, interests, affections, but it integrates them in charity. Holiness is the perfection of charity and it therefore responds to the fundamental human need: to be loved and to love. The more human, the holier because, “life does not have a mission, but is a mission” (Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 27).
Holiness is not an “extra”, an optional and a goal only for some. It is life to the full, according to God’s plan and gift. It is therefore a path of humanization. True spiritual life is the flowering of whatever is 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.” (Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 31)
Holiness is a duty (that is, a vocation, a responsibility, a commitment), but above all it is a gift. Holiness is participation in the life of God, not a perfection that is moralistically understood and presumed to be achieved only with one’s own strength. On the other hand, it is not a goal that is accessible only to the “best”, in the sense of the “best prepared”, either. It is above all welcoming God, drawing on the instruments of the Church, including a solid sacramental life and piety.
Together, it is easier. Holiness and walking together and an experience of communion. This is beautiful and at the same time demanding.
VIII. SOME POSSIBLE INDICATORS OF HOLINESS. Some dynamics to help young people and all of us on this journey
The fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, benevolence, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. Holiness is not quarreling, contention, 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”. (Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 34).
Virtues: not only rejecting evil and attaching oneself to Good, but being passionate about good, doing good well, [doing well] all what is good … “We grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our own mission”. (Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 26).
Communion: holiness is experienced and achieved together. Saints are always together (even integrating the male and female component). Where there is one of them, we always find many others. For example: → Fr Cafasso, Don Bosco, Mother Mazzarello, Rosmini, the Marchesi di Barolo, Fr Guanella, Fr Rua, Sr Maria Romero Meneses, Laura Vicuña, Zeffirino Namuncurá, the young martyrs of Poznań, Bro. Zatti, Czartoryski, Beltrami, Stuchlý, Zeman, Braga …, and many others.
The holiness of daily life makes communion flourish and is a “generator of relationships”.
Creativity and inventiveness of the Spirit. Holiness is never repetitive: the 31 groups of the Salesian Family – and others undergoing recognition – have flourished from Don Bosco, and they have sometimes been able to express very different sensitivities, even if they are converging towards their root. Imitating the saints does not mean copying them.
Ecclesial communion. Nobody is “for Paul, Cephas, Barnabas”, but all “are Christ’s and Christ is God’s”. Being Salesian Family does not mean turning Don Bosco’s message into an absolute, but enhancing it by including it in the fullness of the Church. Some things cannot be asked of Don Bosco, since God has given them to the Church through others. Therefore, those things will be asked of other non-Salesian saints, of other spiritual traditions in the Church. This does not mean being less Salesian, but believers in love with the Church, in the variety of its charisms, and conscious of becoming part of it starting from one’s own specific perspective. Don Bosco himself drew on this plurality and polyphony of holiness that preceded him: Ignatius of Loyola and Philip Neri, for example, and not only Francis de Sales, etc. This approach cutting across various types of holiness is also present in some figures of our holiness: Ignatius Stuchlý was close to the Jesuits; Vandor initially was attracted to the Franciscans. In the prison camp, Vendrame lived an intense experience of fraternity with the Carmelites and was a great devotee of St Therese of Lisieux.
The fame of holiness and of miracles, understood as a persistent echo of the beauty of the life [of a person], of its evangelical fragrance, of the richness of its message. The effects are always much larger compared to the apparent causes. Thus, even in “ordinary next-door holiness”, it is important to value the bonds that generate good relationships and friendships, joy.
IX. PATHS OF HOLINESS TODAY
“We must not put into sanctity more perfection than what is really there” (Adrienne von Speyr). That is, heroic Christian living is not heroism; Christian perfection is not superhero perfectionism.
We know that some are holy, but we never know who is holier than somebody else. God alone knows our hearts. There is a special beauty in everything. There are many paths to get to Heaven. One should not ask of a person what he/she cannot and should not give. To say this is encouraging, healing. Otherwise, many will be convinced that they cannot be saints, because they will never succeed in being so in the manner of some saints proposed to them as models.
So, even “small sizes” (Adrienne von Speyr) can, in their own way, be perfect. That is, holiness is never discouraging. Let us not be afraid of sanctity. “In my Father’s house there are many dwellings”. Paradise is like a garden: there is the humble violet or the sublime lily and the rose.
Every saint is a word of God made flesh. There are no two saints who are equal. Imitating the saints does not mean copying them. Everyone needs one’s own time and has one’s own path.
→ What word of God am I?
→ What does this call me to?
→ What word of God do I understand the young person next to me is? How to help him/her understand and live it?
Holiness is also measured through the category of fruitfulness, but not that of the practical efficiency we are used to today.
Holiness makes one responsible. There is something that only YOU can do. – “Apart from me you can do nothing”.
The experience of a “healthy dependence”. The path of holiness is commitment, but never self-sufficiency. Holiness is lived together and it generates communion. Saints for sure, but saints together! First of all, saints are God’s masterpiece.
Holiness is leaving a mark and experiencing the fruitful dependence on ties with others.
and in Spanish
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.
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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
RELATED DOCUMENTS and PUBLICATIONS
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
AMORIS LAETITIA: SOME CHALLENGES AND PROPOSALS FOR YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE FAMILY SPIRIT by Carmen Peña García
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Click on image to purchase a copy of this book by Don Michal Vojtáš, SDB, SFSDay 2018 Presenter :
WORLD YOUTH DAY 2019 – PANAMA
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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