Don Bosco

Fidelity to the Spirit of Don Bosco in the "magisterium" of the FMA Institute, from the beginning to the threshold of the council

Fidelity to the Spirit of Don Bosco in the "magisterium" of the FMA Institute, from the beginning to the threshold of the council

Cettina Cacciato, fma

This contribution highlights some aspects of the spirit of Don Bosco that the Superior General of the FMA Institute highlighted in the Circular Letters. It is not a historical analysis, nor a theological synthesis of the various elements that emerged, the contribution simply intends to give a voice to the references to the most recurrent spirit of Don Bosco in the Circulars and, as a whole, to express some aspects characterizing the "boschiana" spirituality. [1]

Ordinary Magisterium: Circular Letters

Although I can document the theme with various sources that constitute the Magisterium of the FMA Institute , [2] I have taken into consideration, as I have not yet explored from this perspective, the Circular Letters sent by the Superior General since the death of the Confederate Maria Domenica Mazzarello (1881), called "first Daughter of Mary Help of Christians and of Don Bosco", [3] until her Canonization (1951). The Circular Letters are presented following a historical line according to the years of government of the Superior General. [4]

The Circular Letters of the first thirty years of the Institute do not have a constant periodicity, [5] nor a numbering before November 24th 1914, the year in preparation for the centenary of Don Bosco's birth, with Circular No. 1. [6] They are considered a privileged vehicle of spiritual and Salesian values, therefore of a formative nature. The content, in fact, throughout the month was to be the subject of the weekly lectures of the directors and to support the concern to give form to the "daughter of D. Bosco and of Mary Help of Christians", [7] of configuring her to the model of religious whom she wanted the Founder . 

The intuition of the Confounder: Don Bosco is a saint

The FMA Institute has continuously referred to the spirit of Don Bosco as a guarantee of vitality and continuity of its mission and I like to refer to this widely documented reference [8] as a continuation of the intuition of Maria Domenica Mazzarello that, on the occasion of his first meeting with Don Bosco in Mornese, he openly proclaims his spiritual resonance: Don Bosco is a saint and I feel it . [9]


(January 22, 1882 - June 24, 1924)

The first Circular Letters are a sharing of simple spiritual orientations that flow spontaneously from the heart of the Superior General as "as Don Bosco used to do" [11] at the beginning of a new year with the delivery of the traditional Strenna. Mother Caterina Daghero knows Don Bosco personally, with whom she collaborated for seven years, [12] she is tenderly fond of him and referring to him in the Circular Letters attributes him the title of "beloved and holy founder", of "venerated dear Father" of which recognizes the tireless industriousness that must also characterize his daughters. [13] In a Circular Letterof 1894 appears for the first time the spirit expression of Don Bosco, [14] a spirit that must continue to live in the life of the Daughter of Mary Help of Christians. 

1. Daughters of Don Bosco and of Mary Help of Christians

The FMA have Don Bosco as their father and Mary Help of Christians as their mother [15] and this makes them members of a noble family whose dignity they always show themselves to be. In fact, in the Circular Letters the exhortation of the Superior to give "honor to Don Bosco and to the Congregation" [16] with holiness of life is frequent . This type of exhortation is often concluded as a wish that what is proposed in the Circular Letter should be accepted and practiced, recalling the examples of Father Don Bosco who constantly watches over his daughters from heaven, and smiles seeing them "worthy of him and the uniform they wear . " [17] The FMA in living the practices of piety and in carrying out the assigned occupations [18]must be certain of Don Bosco's help that "from heaven visibly protects" his daughters and assists them together with Maria SS. Help of Christians . [19] 

If for the FMA the religious habit is a continuous reminder of the promise made to the Lord, on the day of religious profession, to observe the Rule of Don Bosco, what distinguishes it and makes it "true daughter of Don Bosco" [20] is charity is having good manners with everyone. "Sweet and patient charity", "indefatigable zeal" are the expression of that "character that the venerable founder wanted to impress in all that is his and Mary Help of Christians". [21]

The observance of the Rule, a sign of fidelity to Don Bosco           

To preserve "the spirit of the venerated Founder" [22] it is fundamental to observe the Rule that in addition to making the FMA true Daughters of Don Bosco guarantees them eternal salvation. [23] This constant exhortation is based on the historical fact that the first Constitutions of the FMA were written by Don Bosco himself and are, in the collective consciousness of the sisters, their identity card, the spiritual heritage of the Founder.

Concern over observance as fidelity to the spirit of Don Bosco emerges in more apprehensive tones after the revision of the Constitutions of 1905, from which we have the new "Constitutions of the Institute of the daughters of Mary, Helping women founded by Don Bosco". [24] In presenting her, the Superior said that they came from the Holy See and that Don Bosco "kept every wish of the Supreme Pontiff by command" . [25]

2. Charity, the essential nucleus of the spirit of Don Bosco

In the first FMA the awareness that charity is the heart of the Founder's spirituality is clear. Don Bosco "always recommended by his example and with words" [26] the charity to be lived among the sisters and with the youth. It is that pastoral charity that Don Bosco learns from Jesus the good shepherd, who has his roots in sacred scripture, [27] and who makes the apostolate fruitful, in fact: "only with supernatural means can one make one's mission eminently educational" . [28]

Charity of a thousand shades: "Salesian track to heaven" [29]

Charity is among the most recurrent virtues in the Circular Letters , also as a term is present several times in the same Circular. [30]   "The practice of charity and tireless zeal" [31] demonstrates the spirit of the ever-loved Father who, by dealing with all kinds of people, "knew how to be always so amiable and courteous that everyone reported the most welcome impressions". [32] Together with "patience, zeal and spirit of sacrifice, diligent vigilance and firmness" [33]charity is the fundamental condition for succeeding in the practice of the preventive system, which requires real work on oneself. Every FMA has the duty to apply the "preventive method", the "Salesian method" according to the teachings of Don Bosco, [34] and the Superior General urges several times to study it personally. [35] The FMA, exercising charity in thoughts and words, will show, in particular to the young, the "paternal stamp" [36] that is in them.

Charity is also the foundation of the family spirit, [37] as well as of the Salesian spirit. [38]   Together with joy and holy joy, [39] charity is the indispensable condition for a fruitful educational and vocational mission. [40]   History shows that charity is open to all and is attentive to all [41] ... to the children of the recalled under arms, [42] to wounded soldiers: it is a charity marked by a healthy historical realism.

The 'boschian' formative elements that are recurrent in the Circulars of the 43 years of C. Daghero's government are summarized in the first Circular Letter of those who succeed her, mother Luisa Vaschetti, who writes: "... she inculcated very often to cultivate in us and around us the spirit of the venerable Father and Founder, portraying especially the sweetness, serenity and affability of manners ". [43]


(24 September 1924 - 24 October 1943)

Many references to Don Bosco [44] are in continuity with those of the previous Circular Letters but it appears more intentional and explicit attention to Don Bosco's educational system, [45] to missions, [46] to catechesis, [47] also to reason for the beatification of the Founder, an event that challenges the imitation of his virtues and also illuminates with a new light the life of Maria Domenica Mazzarello called by Don Bosco to work in conformity with his spirit. [48] 

 1. "Sanctify us to sanctify"

In the imminence of the opening of the holy year of 1925 the Superior comments on the invitation addressed by Pope Pius XI to Christianity: sanctify ourselves to sanctify the small world around us . [49] Holiness of life is the result of a duty well done in the awareness of fulfilling the will of God, [50] a topic that was then taken up again as the beatification of Don Bosco approached.

"Do Don Bosco"

The Circular of June 24, 1929 [51] is all a praise of thanks to God because "the Founder and Father has risen to the throne of the blessed", with joy the Superior urges "to make D. Bosco", the watchword on the occasion of his beatification . But, to "make Don Bosco", to become a saint like him, "we must remain very close to our Lord" in the occupations and concerns of the day. [52] In the eyes of many of our contemporaries perhaps the 'boschian' spirituality may appear to be undemanding and of low thickness. In fact, it requires strength and inner balance, the ability to live contemplation in action to make work and daily encounters the place of communion with God; [53]requires training to preserve the equality of humor and the "brio of the soul, even in the attempatelle", [54] and commits to bring the plate of good wax to the table. It is the mystique of daily life for everyone, including girls, made up of attitudes and gestures that vivify and fertilize homes, making them open to young people. [55]  

In fidelity to Don Bosco's educational spirit is the guarantee of holiness [56]

Characterizing the spirituality of the FMA is the educational spirituality, [57] towards whose full assumption by the FMA much contributes the magisterium of Don Filippo Rinaldi. [58] Mother L. Vaschetti states: "We women will not reach the perfection of our state if we do not fully achieve the spirit of our Institute ..." that is to be fully "educators of girls". [59] Now, the spirit of the Institute is that "of which Don Bosco lived and exercised the virtues" and to understand it one must penetrate the greatness of his apostolic heart, [60] tireless heart in the work of salvation of souls . The da mihi animas coetera tolleit is the motto that occurs frequently in Salesian works and which gives them their characteristic style. [61]

It is, therefore, in the constant commitment of "sanctification of youth, through his Christian education" [62] that he deserves the "noble title of educators" [63] and realizes the sanctity of the FMA, according to the examples of Don Bosco and the Servant of God Maria Mazzarello. [64] 

In the care for missions and catechesis

Attention to the missions, "inheritance assigned to us by our father Don Bosco", [65] returns more alive in the government of mother Vaschetti, both from personal experience [66] and from solicitude of the Holy See. [67]   Mother Vaschetti often pleads the cause of the missions. [68] It wants the missionaries to be well educated in Christian doctrine and able to attract girls "to listen willingly to the explanation of the catechism" [69] and to do as Don Bosco that "with a skill all its own and always based of sacrifice ” [70] made catechesis attractive. In the jubilee year of Don Bosco's first dream [71] it is frequent in Circular Lettersthe encouragement to intensify the study of catechism. For this reason the Superior does not fail to invite the sisters to a serious check on the catechesis "to see if we live according to the spirit wanted by Don Bosco and traced in the dream". [72]  The principle and the end of Don Bosco's educational action is catechetical instruction. His work began with a lesson in catechism and from us, says the Superior, St. John Bosco wants catechetical teaching to be "a formative teaching". [73]

As the Canonization approaches, the Circular Letters insist on imitating the Founder in the passion for the salvation of souls and make explicit the elements characterizing Salesian religious life. [74] 


(October 24, 1943 - November 24, 1957) [75] 

During the 14 years of Mother Linda Lucotti's government, several anniversaries are celebrated, including the centenary of the establishment of Don Bosco in Valdocco. [76]   Thus the Superior comments on the event: "What did Don Bosco bring to the Pinardi home on 12 April 1846? ... he brought his multiform spirit, made up of very precious elements "including two virtues, the" light of purity and heroic poverty ", both a source of apostolic fruitfulness together with a spirit of mortification, detachment and temperance. [77]

In a subsequent Circular Letter the Superior writes: "the girls who attend our oratory find what the boys of Don Bosco found at the Pinardi shed, that is honest and pleasant recreation ... A solid religious and moral education, and the warmth of a heart throbbing with charity? " [78]

The Oratory, particularly in the post-war period, is recommended as an opportunity for the reconstruction of the social and religious fabric. As evidence of this, and also of the strength that an educational environment has on the formation of young people, the testimony of an ex-student of the first years of Don Bosco's oratory is transcribed: of the spirit ”. [79]

The Circular Letter of 24 October 1944 commemorates the 80th anniversary of the first meeting in Mornese between Maria Mazzarello and Don Bosco. [80] The emphasis of the memory of that meeting, and certainly the preparation for the canonization of Maria Mazzarello, have consolidated a way of recalling two models of holiness: Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello. [81]   Don Bosco is a saint, and is "intimately convinced that there is nothing better than the will of the Lord" and to conform to it, for this reason "in practicing it put every study". [82]

"And with Don Bosco Santo," writes the Superior, "we will also have a Holy Mother, the one to mold ourselves into; we will have safe driving and the way of religious perfection. Our Blessed has always had as a persistent torment that of imitating Don Bosco. The expression that used to repeat to the sisters is known: 'we live in the presence of God and of Don Bosco'. Well, Don Bosco was canonized in the Holy Year of the Redemption extended to all Christianity, and our Blessed Mother will be canonized in this holy year extended to all of Christendom (June 24, 1951). Therefore also in this supreme glory the Lord orders that Mother Mazzarello imitated Don Bosco ". [83]

If the celebration of the centenary holidays was postponed due to the First World War, [84] the one towards the bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth finds us instead gathered in the World Congress, as the Salesian Family to celebrate Don Bosco, a teacher of spiritual life who reminds every FMA to be the living monument of its gratitude to the Help of Christians and its grace extended over time (cf FMA Constitutions 4). "Living this identity of ours is the best preparation and the most beautiful gift we can give Don Bosco on the way to the bicentenary of his birth". [85]

[1] With reference to the spirituality of Don Bosco, says Giuseppe Buccellato, one should start talking about "boschiana" spirituality, also to account for the original synthesis made by the saint and not only for the fact that in many dictionaries of spirituality the item 'Salesian spirituality' refers to Saint F. of Sales and Saint MF of Chantal, cf Buccellato Giuseppe, to the roots of the spirituality of Saint John Bosco. The influence of some saints in the spiritual and apostolic life of the founder of the Salesians , Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013; Semeraro Cosimo, Presentation, in ivi, 5.

[2] Reference to the contribution of Ruffinatto Piera, Fidelity to the "spirit of Don Bosco" interpretative key of the educational methodology of the FMA, in Ruffinatto P. - Sëide M., The art of educating in the style of the preventive system. Insights and perspectives, Rome, LAS 2008.

[3] Circular Letter 24 April 1923.

[4] It is impossible for me, here, to report all the historical, cultural and spiritual coordinates of the long period under consideration, therefore I refer to the other contributions of the present Congress.

[5] The monthly frequency, with the date of the 24th, as it is still today, is to be connected to a proposal presented in the VII General Chapter of the FMA Institute.

[6] In the Circular Letter of 24 November 1914, one of the many written in the year commemorating the centenary of the birth of Don Bosco, the Superior General urges the FMA to give consolation to the Holy Father Benedict XV by faithfully following the path that traced the Founder and commemorating as fervently as possible on the 24th of each month in honor of Mary Most Holy Help of Christians.

[7] Circular Letter of March 1889; Circular Letter of 6 January 1904.

[8] Cf Ruffinatto Piera, Fidelity to the "spirit of Don Bosco" interpretative key of the educational methodology of the FMA, in Ruffinatto P. - Sëide M., The art of educating in the style of the preventive system. Insights and perspectives, Rome, LAS 2008, 19.

[9] Maccono Ferdinando, Santa Maria D. Mazzarello, confounder and first general superior of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians . Vol. I, Turin, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians 1960, 149. The episode is also referred to in the Circular Letter of 24 October 1944.

[10] With the Circular dated November 24th 1914, as was the custom at the Salesians, the General Vicar writes the thoughts of the Superior General and of the other Councilors.  

[11] Circular Letter 22 January 1882.

[12] Cf Cavaglià Piera, a courageous trainer in a time of turning points. Mother Caterina Daghero (1856-1924), Cumiana, 8 October 2006, in (19 August 2010), Bancadati Istituto FMA.

[13] Cf Circular Letter 6 January 1885; Circular Letter 24 January 1917; Circular Letter 24 January 1945.

[14] Cf Circular Letter 6 January 1894.

[15] The Circular dated 29 January 1914 and the following, 17 February 1914, 4 April 1914, 24 May 1914, 24 November 1914, recall the approach of the two centenarians: the birth of Don Bosco and the Marian title of Auxilium christianorum .

[16] Circular Letter 6 January 1891.

[17] Circular Letter 6 January 1892.

[18] Cf Circular Letter 6 January 1898.

[19] Circular Letter March 1889.

[20] L. cit

[21] Circular Letter 17 February 1914.

[22] Circular Letter 1 March 1917.

[23] As Don Bosco guarantees, cf Letter to the Circular 18 December 1888.

[24] Circular Letter 15 October 1906.

[25] L. cit. 

[26] Circular Letter 6 January 1891.

[27] Circular Letter 24 May 1918, explicit reference to the brochure on the Preventive System. 

[28] Circular Letter March 24, 1923

[29] The expression is taken from the Circulars of the Superior Luisa Vaschetti, cf Circular Letter 24 May 1932.

[30] Circular Letter 24 May 1918; Circular Letter 24 July 1918; Circular Letter 24 July 1919.

[31] Circular Letter 17 February 1914; Circular Letter 24 December 1914; Circular Letter 24 May 1918.

[32] Circular Letter 6 January 1904.

[33] Circular Letter 24 May 1918.

[34] L. cit . The topic is deepened by Ruffinatto P., Fidelity to the "spirit of Don Bosco", op.cit.

[35] CfEpiphany Circular Letter 1908; Circular Letter 17 February 1914; Circular Letter 24 November 1914.

[36] Circular Letter 17 February 1914; Circular Letter   24 December 1914.

[37] Cf Circular Letter 24 July 1916;  Circular Letter 24 October 1916, Circular Letter 24 January 1917.

[38] Circular Letter 9 January 1902; Circular Letter 24 July 1921.

[39] L. cit ; also Circular Letter March 24, 1920; Circular Letter March 24, 1921 ; Turin Circular Letter June 24, 1930.

[40] Circular Letter 24 January 1920; Circular Letter December 24, 1922; Circular Letter February 24, 1923. It is a recurring theme also in the Circulars of the following superior, cf Letter to Circular December 24, 1944; Circular Letter 24 October 1946.

[41] Cf Loparco Grazia - Spiga Maria Teresa (the care of), Le Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice in Italy (1872-2010). Help in education. Documentation and studies , Rome, LAS 2011.

[42] Circular Letter 24 July 1916; Circular Letter February 24, 1919 .

[43] Circular Letter 24 September 1924.

[44] L. cit . Even the Magisterium of the superior Luisa Vaschetti is marked by recommendations to be faithful to the spirit of Don Bosco. 

[45] Cf Circular Letter 24 September 1926. The Strenna of 1929, edited by Don Rinaldi, presents the educational vocation of Don Bosco as a form of his holiness and has a significant impact on the maturation of the educational spirituality of the FMA. "... religious perfection in the FMA Institute depends entirely on the educational spirit that animates it" (Rinaldi Filippo, Don Bosco Model of Educator and Master of Religious Life for the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Strenna for 1929, 100-101).

[46] 1925-26, besides being the jubilee year of the Salesian missions, is the golden jubilee of the Constitutions of the FMA Institute, "of the first written rules delivered by Don Bosco to M. Mazzarello" ( Circular Letter June 24, 1925); "The spirit of the rule, that is, of our Constitutions, is found in the life of the venerable founder ... and in that of Mother Mazzarello because he copied Don Bosco to the letter" ( Circular Letter November 24, 1925).   

[47] The Circulars of the first months of government contain exhortations to prepare well three great family jubilees that will be celebrated the following year, 1925: "that of the Church, of Don Bosco's first dream, of the consecration of the Institute to the sacred heart of Jesus, of the Salesian missions "(see Circular Letter 24 November 1924, Circular Letter 24 December 1924).

[48] In the Circular Letter of 24 November 1925 it is said that Maria Mazzarello, faced with some opposition to what was established, simply replied: "this is what Don Bosco wants and so we must do". In this regard also the Circulars of the Superior C. Daghero: cf Circular Letter 15 November 1909: whose "religious spirit was fully informed to the spirit of the venerable founder"; Circular Letter June 24, 1911: "who made every sacrifice to practice his spirit and imitate its virtue"; Circular Letter May 24, 1916: "that well understood the spirit of the venerable founder".

[49] Cf Circular Letter 24 November 1924.

[50] Cf Circular Letter 24 October 1928.

[51] Cf also Circular Letter 24 May 1929.

[52] Circular Letter 24 October 1929. The Circular contains some verses in rhyme written by Fr Francesia on "Fare don Bosco".

[53] Circular Letter April 24, 1930. The Circular Letter January 24, 1931 has a recommendation from Don Rinaldi made to the directives: "To read and to read the soul of the apostolate of the Chautard ... because this book clearly shows the practice of union with God, in the same way exercised by Blessed Don Bosco ".

[54] Circular Letter 21 November 1932.

[55] Cf Circular Letter 24 December 1926.

[56] Circular Letter 24 January 1929; cf also Circular Letter 24 May 1937.

[57] Circular Letter June 24, 1929. Aspect deepened by Ruffinatto P., Fidelity to the "spirit of Don Bosco", op. cit

[58] Don Filippo Rinaldi holds some Conferences on the educational method of Don Bosco at the FMA. Elected Rector Major will take up the subject several times (cf Letter to the Circular October 24, 1926). 

[59] Circular Letter 24 January 1929.

[60] Cf Circular Letter 24 May 1929.

[61] The statement is from Pope Pius XI and is mentioned in the Circular Letter 24 May 1929. The Superior has at heart the Salesian formation of the FMA which takes place through the reading of the two volumes of Don Bosco's life and studying his educational method . 

[62] Circular Letter 24 September 1925.

[63] Circular Letter 24 July 1927

[64] Circular Letter 24 September 1925; Circular Letter 24 October 1928.

[65] Cf Circular Letter 24 May 1913.

[66] Still a novice, she was a member of the group of missionaries leaving for Argentina in 1883 (cf. Circular Letter of 24 June 1917). Before leaving, he received from Don Bosco the rosary and the exhortation to have the crucifix as a faithful companion. He remained on a mission for 20 years, until 1903 when he was called to be the private secretary of Superior General C. Daghero.

[67] in January 1924 Pius XI wished that a missionary exhibition be prepared in the Vatican prepared with the contribution of the various religious Congregations, cf Letter to the Circular January 24, 1924; Circular Letter 24 November 1924.

[68] Circular Letter 24 May 1925.

[69] Circular Letter 24 May 1924; cf also Circular Letter 24 October 1926; Circular Letter 24 February 1928.

[70] L. cit.

[71] Circular Letter 24 November 1924; Circular Letter 24 December 1924; Circular Letter 24 February 1925.

[72] Circular Letter 24 November 1924.

[73] Circular Letter 24 December 1939.

[74] Cf Circular Letter March 24, 1933.

[75] I take into consideration the Circulars written up to June 24, 1951, the year of the canonization of Maria D. Mazzarello. For the knowledge of the thought and spirituality of mother Linda Lucotti see: Collino Maria (edited by), Parole di sorsi di vita. Circulars of Mother Ermelinda Lucotti 4 to FMA Superior General , Rome, FMA 1999.

[76] Cf Circular Letter of 24 February 1946.

[77] Mortification ... is the ABC of spiritual life ( l.cit).

[78] Circular Letter 24 April 1946. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Basilica of M. Ausiliatrice there is a revival of enthusiasm and zeal for the festive oratory. Mother C. Daghero considered the oratory a relational and educational style: What is the Oratory? The secret of flowering consists in the good manners of the sisters towards the young girls; welcome them and treat them indistinctly with kindness, try to keep them pleasantly occupied, take an interest in their true good, advise them and always help them maternally ... Read the chap. 2nd of the manual. Let us remember that Ven.le Padre used to repeat: "to regenerate a city or a country there is nothing better than to start the festive oratory" ( Circular Letter of 24 October 1917).

[79] Cf Circular Letter 24 January 1948, testimony documented in MB XI, 936. 

[80] The Circular Letter summarizes the episode and refers to the reading of MB VII, 760.

[81] Circular Letter 24 December 1944; cf also Circular Letter March 24, 1946; Circular Letter 24 May 1948.

[82] Circular Letter 24 February 1946.

[83] Circular Letter 24 April 1951; cf also Circular Letter 24 July 1945.

[84] Cf Circular Letter 24 January 1915.

[85] Reungoat Yvonne, Circular Letter 13 July 2012 n. 942.