The rapid exhaustion in a few months of the booklet Start Afresh from Don Bosco (ACSSA Rome, 2006), which contained the text of the meditations of the Spiritual Exercises preached to the Salesians of the New York province in the summer of 2004 - and before, partially, to the directors of the two Mexican provinces and confreres of the Peruvian one - it is at the origin of this edition in Italian, requested also by many other students and readers of the English text.
To overcome the residual hesitation to offer such a publication to a significantly different audience than it was intended for, and in a context no longer of Spiritual Exercises, was the fact that just as the English edition was coming out, the Rector Major sent everyone Salesians the letter of convocation of the General Chapter "Da mihi animas, cetera tolle. Charismatic identity and apostolic passion", which took up the title of our preaching in the subtitle "Starting afresh from Don Bosco to awaken the heart of every Salesian". In it Fr Pascual Chàvez indicated as the fundamental objective of the 26th General Chapter (2008) the strengthening of our charismatic identity with the "return" to Don Bosco through a serious deepening of the knowledge of his person, of his pedagogy and his spiritual experience. It was exactly the goal of our preaching in America, deliberately modulated on the revisitation of the historical-biographical events of Don Bosco and his heart as a founder, in function of an actuality left to the free initiative of the individual provinces.
In the present edition, intended for a public resident in the geographical and socio-cultural area most familiar to me, I have, however, proceeded to lightly retouch the English (and Spanish) "originals" of
the first seven historical-spiritual meditations (in order to present them in more key education and meditation), to a greater elaboration of the three most current concluding conferences with the addition of a new one, and to a very brief conclusion. I have not reported the brief theological and spiritual considerations of opening the individual days of the Exercises, the final homily and the appendix, published instead in English. However, I tried to keep the tone confidential, simple, "spoken", not a scientific essay.
With a few meditations-instructions, dictated on a particular occasion and with specific purposes, it is not expected neither to give an exhaustive answer to the invitation of the Rector Major, nor to present in the round the personality of Don Bosco, which, as it is now known omnibus lippis et tonsoribus, it is so multi-faceted that it certainly cannot be "compressed" in a simple course of Spiritual Exercises. The personality of the Turin educator saint, consisting of normal and exceptional reality, alive and charismatic, characterized by his own daily "style" of life and action, with real, ideal, hypothetical and virtual projects, with particular relationships with the world of the supernatural , needs much more space to be "understood and understood" in its entirety. Who wanted to do it,
"Starting afresh from Don Bosco" - and not just "coming back!" - means to resume the journey not of a person of the past, but of a person who still breaks into our lives, who has the ability to give meaning to our "present" and a "future" to our "past". It is necessary to "rediscover" this Don Bosco, covered as it is, inevitably, from the dust of history, it is necessary to "re-understand" it in his age and "reinterpret it" in the light of the current one, without arbitrary interpretations, without disparate dissociations and without useless formal respect synthetic formulas consecrated by time, to which it is almost never traced.
The reflections offered here intend to put themselves in this historical-interpretative perspective, supported also by the recent invitation of Pope Benedict XVI who wished to expressly mention Don Bosco among the "outstanding models of social charity for all men of good will",
"true bearers of light within history, "because rich" in faith, hope and love "(Deus caritas est, n. 40) .1
Rome, 9 January 2007
Since this is a series of meditations with purely spiritual purposes, I have not decided to indicate the sources of the citations each time, so as not to weigh down the reading. However Don Bosco's texts are almost all taken from the critical editions of his works edited by the Salesian Historical Institute; in particular his correspondence, until 1875, published by the undersigned (vols. 1-4, Rome LAS, 1991-2003), the Memoirs of the Oratory edited by Antonio Ferreira da Silva (Rome, LAS 1991) and Don Bosco educator . Writings and testimonies, collected by Pietro Braido (Rome, LAS 1997 ') and partly building on the magazine "Ricerche Storiche Salesiane".
"I take this opportunity to encourage you to have more and more Don Bosco as a reference for spiritual and pastoral renewal
in the Provinces" (Fr Pascual Chavez)
Dear friends, I am sure that you immediately understood how the title chosen for our meditations these days directly recalls that of the Instruction of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life of May 2002: Starting afresh from Christ. A renewed commitment to consecrated life in the third millennium, a title that was already at the top of the third chapter of the apostolic letter Novo Millennio ineunte of 6 January 2001.
In Education (n. 21) we read: "Yes, we must start from Christ, because from him the first disciples in Galilee left; from him, throughout the history of the Church, men and women of every condition and culture who, consecrated by the Spirit by virtue of the call, for him they left family and country and they followed Him unconditionally, making themselves available for the announcement of the Kingdom and to do good to all (cf Acts 10.38) ".
But the same Instruction states that it is a matter of grasping "a new opportunity to confront oneself with the sources of one's own charisms and constitutional texts, always open to new and more demanding interpretations". This is what we will try to do, and the first source of our charism is Don Bosco himself. Like St. Paul who says "Be imitators of me as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11: 1), Don Bosco repeats to us: "Be imitators of me as I was of Christ".
Therefore the main object of our reflections will be the figure of Don Bosco, a figure that we will try to meet to grasp not so much the external action, which we all already know, as the
conditions, the motivations, the spirit that led him to make certain choices, to work in a certain way, to write certain things, to reach a certain form of sanctity that is his, different, in some way, from that of other saints.
The need for fidelity to Don Bosco, which requires the reditus ad fontes and the profound knowledge of the same saint, without thereby closing himself to an accommodated renovatio, have been emphasized by all the Major Rectors who succeeded Don Bosco, even before the Second Vatican Council . It would not be difficult to document it. In the post Council period many official documents of the Congregation also appeared (think of Article 21 of the Constitutions) and authoritative interventions were not lacking. I quote the recent one of the Rector Major Fr. CMvez:
] All this makes Don Bosco a fascinating man and in our case a father to love, a model to imitate, but also a saint to invoke. We realize that the more the distance from the Founder increases, the more real is the risk of talking about Don Bosco based on "commonplaces", anecdotes, without a true knowledge of our charism. Hence the urgency to know him through reading and studying; to love him emotionally and effectively as a father and teacher for his spiritual heritage; to imitate him by trying to configure ourselves to him, making the Rule of Life our personal project. This is the meaning of the return to Don Bosco, to which I have invited myself and the whole Congregation since my first "good night", through the study and love they seek to understand, to illuminate our lives and current challenges.
The thought of the Rector Major, who recently asked that some texts published by the Salesian Historical Institute be translated into the main languages, is not too far from the considerations of a superior of another era, Don Francesco Bodrato (first inspector in Argentina, 1823-1880 ), who on March 5, 1877 wrote in a letter to his novices:
"But who is Don Bosco? What do I really tell you, as I have learned and heard from others. Don Bosco is our beloved and tender father. We all say that we are his children. Don Bosco is a man "Providential or the man of the providence of the times. This is what the true scholars say. Don Bosco is the man of philanthropy. This is what philosophers say. And I say, after admitting we mean everything they say, which "Don Bosco is truly that friend whom Holy Scripture describes as a great treasure. We have found this true friend and this great treasure. Mary gave us the light to be able to know him and the Lord allows us to possess him." So woe to those who lose it.If you knew my dear brothers how many people there are who envy our fate [...] And if you agree with me to believe Don Bosco the true friend of Sacred Scripture then you must look to possess it always and take care to copy it in yourself "(F. BODRATO, Epistolario, edited by B. Casali. Rome, LAS 1995, p . 132).
Più chiaro di così? Ora se le Costituzioni indicano all'art. 9 i tre obiettivi degli Esercizi Spirituali (ascolto della parola di Dio; discernimento della sua volontà; purificazione del nostro cuore) noi li raggiungeremo soprattutto attraverso la nostra "speciale" guida, che risponde al nome di "don Bosco".
His "old papers" that we will sometimes read together can, indeed, must support and inspire our reflection. I speak of "Don Bosco's papers" because I would especially like to put you in direct contact with him, father and teacher of our Christian, Salesian, priestly vocation. Therefore, on purpose, I will not resort to the rich magisterium of the Major Rectors, nor to that of the last General Chapters, nor to that of the Constitutions, nor to other Salesian spirituality texts. We will concentrate directly on Don Bosco. Precisely because I believe that we need to proceed to a realistic knowledge of the historical character, rather than to resort to the interpretations of others, to those that often project on him the
dreams and projects of the interpreters, maybe even authoritative. We must necessarily acknowledge that, without forgetting and depreciating the hagiographic treasure that a healthy tradition has left us, erudite research has made (and must do) steps forward, without thereby feeling guilty, without dismaying anyone, without being accused of profaning some sancta sanctorum. This is why I will try not to give space to oleographic and apologetic descriptions, in which love for Don Bosco and exaltation take over to the detriment of the person's truth. It is my intention to give up the easy rhetoric to stick to an apparently more modest but extremely realistic figure, the one that appears to us from the sources at our disposal, philologically examined.
As a scholar of history I will try to locate myself on the historical side, to help correctly interpret the data of the past because, once understood in their meaning, they can motivate, found and illuminate your orientations for the future. This is not in the past, perhaps glorious, that Salesian history presents to us; it is not in the regret of ancient time (that of discipline and regular observance), but in that charismatic fidelity that requires, in our pastoral projects, to look with realism and lucidity at the cultural, social and ecclesial changes in progress, to assume positively some values of the current culture (freedom, democracy, autonomy, tolerance, solidarity ...) and to oppose with clarity the counter-values (individualism, ethical relativism, market absolutization, wild secularization,
It remains true, however, that if at the end of the conversations you will have better understood who Don Bosco was in his time, what the permanent values of his spirit and charisma were, you will have the possibility of imitating him, even if necessarily in your own way, for the youth you are in contact with. If I can express a wish, it would be what at the end of the week each of you could say: "I understood better what Don Bosco was and what he wanted; now together with my brothers I commit myself to creating the Salesian I am (Operaci sequitur esse, he said the classical philosophy that we have all studied), that is, to actualize Don Bosco's utopia: that of a better world in which young people find themselves "at home" ".
All I will say is, of course, my reading
of the sources, of the ones I will use, not of all of them: it would not be possible. Even the final conferences - in a key way, in some way provocative - are very personal suggestions, with which I invite you to confront.
I will, however, simply give you pieces of a toy, but the whole toy you will have to mount; I will give you the tiles of a mosaic, but each of you will have to build the artistic composition. Which evidently lifts me a little from my responsibilities and adds some to your shoulders. We must not forget that the Constitutions written by Don Bosco and approved by the Holy See in 1874, if they were "poor" in comparison with those renewed by us a hundred years later, theologically much richer and more founded, have however made the Congregation "great" and produced a school of holiness, thanks to courageous institutional plans and the willingness to carry them out by enthusiastic and passionate people.
However, I will try to get rid of the temptation to say everything: if I say it, what is the Lord doing to us? The preacher must start the dialogue ... but God continues it. The preacher suggests some themes for reflection, but his role must always remain in the background and must be played with a discreet presence.
What are our moods right now? Perhaps our heart is dry; perhaps our spirit is worried; perhaps it is psychologically and spiritually empty. Perhaps we do not feel too available, perhaps we are convinced that the preacher will tire us, perhaps ... We must then remember that God is stronger than us; he is accustomed to those of hard cervix. He is able to give birth to Abraham's children from stones.
We read in the Gospel of Lk 5: 15-16: "His fame spread even more; numerous crowds came to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But Jesus withdrew to solitary places to pray". And similarly in Mc (1.35-36): "In the morning he got up when it was still dark and left the house he retired to a deserted place and there he prayed. But Simone and those who were with him went on his
trail, the they found and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you." "But Jesus - he will observe Jn 6.15 again - knowing that they were going to come and do it
re, he retired again to the mountain all alone ". Jesus does not waste time, he occupies it differently. Just when the crowd is crowded, when miracles for us would not only be useful but necessary, it is found elsewhere. sometimes praying is more profitable than various other "signs", although important.
There is a moment in the year to stop and grow. Card. C. Maria Martini of Milan, who on the fourth page of the volume cover of Rediscovering Yourself, invited us to "free ourselves from the slavery of everyday life, from the things that oppress us every day".
Writing Don Luigi Lasagna to Don Bosco on September 3, 1877, he reminded him of "the delightful time [of the exercises] when [the Salesians] raised from the annual labors gathered affectionately cheerful around her on the mountain climbers of Lanzo, to restore her saints' advice and in his love their zeal and among those fresh and very pure auras restore strength and vigor to the lost forces ".
Spiritual Exercises: time in listening, meditation, contemplation, prayer, review of life, specific and concrete intentions to free oneself from disordered affections, to seek and find the will of God. Spiritual exercises: time not to meet the things of God, but for meet the God of things who comes to meet us. Let us remember the wisdom and truth of the famous proverb: "God comes to visit us, but most of the time he does not find us at home".
Let us not be discouraged if we feel distracted. The pitfall of sloth and worldly dissipation has already been felt by the desert fathers; Soren Kierkegaard two centuries ago complained that the theology students of his time did not know how to stay a quarter of an hour in their own room. It is however true that we Salesians, in general, are distracted, immersed in the terrible cogwheel of daily life, so we never find the time for a more prolonged contemplation break, and to entertain ourselves calmly with Jesus to see Him, listen to Him and speak to Him in deep intimacy.
Our Spiritual Exercises should be a meeting with the eyes of Don Bosco with the same enthusiasm that we had the wonderful day
of the first profession, the wonderful day of priestly ordination. May they be a golden opportunity not to be missed, a true Kairòs. Let's take advantage of it perhaps to thoroughly review our Personal Life Project within the educational and pastoral life of our community (PEPS) and the organic one of our community
From this moment we are intensifying prayer. May the Virgin Mary help us. May the Holy Spirit be the true protagonist who inspires our mind and opens our hearts to dialogue with the Father and with the
"Two things alone count: Christ and history" (Father Giulio Bevílacqua, "teacher" of Paul VI)
At the Palermo ecclesial conference of a dozen weapons ago (1995), the Italian church was asked to "stay inside history" with love for its own time, for the nation, for the civilization to which it belonged, to appreciate that "history of freedom "that went on in it, despite a thousand contradictions and it was asked to do so by not weakening the identity, but on the contrary starting from it and by virtue of it, that is to say in force of the mission of salvation that God in Christ and in the Spirit develops over time through the Church.
The same applies to the Salesian congregation. It is important to underline the risk that we are currently facing in some way to cut the umbilical cord that keeps us united to the founder, to break the living bond with him, to lose our identity and, with it, our right to citizenship "in history ". Especially since in that hermeneutics of Salesian sources and at the same time of the "signs of the times" which are the renewed Constitutions, we find a beautiful surprise: the name of Don Bosco appears directly some forty times. And even where the name is not indicated, the reference to his thought, to his praxis, to his writings is constant. And to think that in the nineteenth century the Holy See obliged us not to mention the founder's name and writings in the Constitutions!
In this first conference we place ourselves in the perspective of the "history of religious life", of the "history of the Church", where, as Salesians, we have our precise and recognized position.
We are at the dawn of a new historical era. Very showy phenomena, which we all know well, seem to make the traditional model of Christian life and consecrated life, as well as their theological explanation, culturally anachronistic. We are at a decisive crossroads, for which symbols of the past are questioned: dress, practices of piety, iconography, explanations, motivations, activities, objectives, methods ...
The dawn of Vatican II has not yet become an open day for the universal Church itself. It is in crisis in its relationship with the world, is fatigued, because it has come out of a certain regime of Christianity and must establish a new, unprecedented relationship with the world. In the face of a "new renaissance", of an era of "post-Christianity", of a "fourth man" (after the Greek-Latin, Middle Ages, modern), we are looking for a new theological vision, since the Church, which for many centuries has enjoyed hegemony ("we cannot but say we are Christians," Benedetto Croce said), now passes into the hands of many other instruments of this Christian "socialization", which were often works, schools, hospitals, the press ... The Church has identified itself for centuries with the commitment to Christianize structures; today instead the pluralist, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, personalist culture does not facilitate those models of education that involved action on a homogeneous mass. Today the Church finds it difficult to define itself in relation to externals, to the distant, to the new political, economic, cultural, mass communication institutions, all or almost de-Christianized; moreover, it is not easy to search for how to adequately respond to the new specific religious needs of today's man, needs that are difficult to define but widespread (sects, astrology, new age ...). But on this point it remains for me to refer to the immense bibliography on the Church as such and to the particular churches. personalist does not facilitate those models of education that involved action on a homogeneous mass. Today the Church finds it difficult to define itself in relation to externals, to the distant, to the new political, economic, cultural, mass communication institutions, all or almost de-Christianized; moreover, it is not easy to search for how to adequately respond to the new specific religious needs of today's man, needs that are difficult to define but widespread (sects, astrology, new age ...). But on this point it remains for me to refer to the immense bibliography on the Church as such and to the particular churches. personalist does not facilitate those models of education that involved action on a homogeneous mass. Today the Church finds it difficult to define itself in relation to externals, to the distant, to the new political, economic, cultural, mass communication institutions, all or almost de-Christianized; moreover, it is not easy to search for how to adequately respond to the new specific religious needs of today's man, needs that are difficult to define but widespread (sects, astrology, new age ...). But on this point it remains for me to refer to the immense bibliography on the Church as such and to the particular churches. economic, cultural, mass communication, all or almost de-Christianized; moreover, it is not easy to search for how to adequately respond to the new specific religious needs of today's man, needs that are difficult to define but widespread (sects, astrology, new age ...). But on this point it remains for me to refer to the immense bibliography on the Church as such and to the particular churches. economic, cultural, mass communication, all or almost de-Christianized; moreover, it is not easy to search for how to adequately respond to the new specific religious needs of today's man, needs that are difficult to define but widespread (sects, astrology, new age ...). But on this point it remains for me to refer to the immense bibliography on the Church as such and to the particular churches.
Re-founding the "minority" phenomenon of consecrated life, ideas are more important than numbers
Consecrated life is also going through a critical moment in so many ways, including the questioning of
its classical foundations, such as vows and community life . There are those who speak for a long time expressis verbis of a true "re-foundation" of it.
Within the Church (or perhaps, better, of some particular Church) a progressive marginalization of the religious is taking place: they
seem to count less than what the numbers might suggest
. Pastoral plans, diocesan synods, the ordinary macrostructures of the Church to the maximum grant the consecrated life a reference
to otherworldly values. The services of the Religious are not always integral
, we thank them and nothing more. Even the committed lay people, the volunteers, sometimes seem to be wary of religious institutions; movements and
associations encompass rather than being influenced by the religious; not to mention that new perspectives are born in the Church, new doctrinal presuppositions, new methods, new languages, new operators are rediscovered ...
But perhaps we should also ask ourselves if the religious still feel at ease in the charismatic and prophetic inheritance
, if they know how to "do other" and "in different ways", perhaps less gratifying
, if by chance they have not always remained the same, without even realizing - which is worse - of the changes that have occurred
. They, as a whole, feel the need to
continuously justify the reason for their consecration in continuous conferences, congresses, meetings by categories with books, magazines ... How to pos
are they in fact "consecrating themselves" definitively to a service or to a work that is always contingent? They legitimately ask themselves if the usefulness of a service is lacking, the charisma is still active; they legitimately ask themselves if the charisma that is guilty unrequited can fail in time.
It is a fact that the model of consecrated life inherited from the past seems to have come to an end, and if it often does not say much or nothing to
"who is outside", many times it does not even succeed in expressing the
meaning for the Church today, " for those who are inside ", given that where people from the religious willingly take services and performances (often
better than elsewhere) from them then they do not find the reasons to live and go looking for them elsewhere. It is a question of rediscovering one's significant role for the cause of the Gospel and of the salvation of today's man. However it should not be forgotten that the Consecrated Life was and rhyme
nor always a minority phenomenon: 0.12% of the baptized, 3 out of 4 are women; 1423 are the female Institutes, against the 250 male. Among the religious 82.2% are secular (women 72.5 men 27.5) and 17.8% clerics; and all this on a total of about one billion Catholics in the world. Nevertheless, consecrated life still occupies very large religious and even social spaces. The number is obviously not everything. Therefore it can be argued that there is something great in it, a guiding thread: it is God who realizes the project of his Kingdom and of the Lordship of his Son in an original and often unexpected way.
It can be instructive to take a look at the history of consecrated life, that is to say the "glorious history to remember", also in view of the "great history to be built" (Vita Consecrata n. 20). Some recent studies have subdivided it as follows:
Sec. TV-VI It was of the fathers of the church: fuga mundi
The official epiphany of consecrated life is found in the desert, where the monks discover and testify to the absoluteness of God and of Christ his Son, and the only model for the Christian; in the desert the fight of Christ continues against the spirit of evil, the mysterium iniquitatis. The Church is enriched by combating the power of evil and evil at its roots. It is in the individual monks of the desert that one fights and wins with Christ; it is in the individual hermits that the level of world salvation is raised. The Christian novelty does not therefore end in the visible, the verifiable. The most, the most important, is invisible, it is life hidden with Christ in God, it is mysterium fidei.
6th-12th centuries Monasticism era:
new ideal monastery - separated (not too much) from the world
In a situation of dramatic human and civil involution St. Benedict spreads the humanizing power of the Gospel and lays the foundations of medieval civilization and Europe, of which he was rightly declared a patron. He invites the wandering populations of his
time to build something by stopping (stabilitas); urges young people to lay down their robes and weapons in order to break up the land, to make themselves useful to themselves and to others (labora); invites everyone to gather around the altar to become brothers in prayer (now); and so it changed the course of history.
XI-XII century Foundation of the chivalrous orders
In the difficult situation of the holy places in the XI-XII centuries particular religious-military institutions arise (Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, The Knights Templar, The Teutonic Knights), recognized by the pontiffs as real religious orders, with a lot of votes and rules, which are committed above all in the defense of the holy places, in hospitality and in the defense of pilgrims in the Middle East. Once their institutional mission is over, they are part of their European priorities, taking on charitable activities and efforts to spread the faith, becoming over the centuries the object of repeated and even prestigious awards from pontiffs and sovereigns.
Sec. XIII-XV Age of beggars:
in the city to ask for bread, to pray, to serve the poor, to study
In a new bourgeois world intent on multiplying riches, St. Francis (and the Mendicants) reminds that everything is ultimately a gift of God, that the true wealth of man is God. And to the Church that came out strong and powerful from the Gregorian reform he says that prestige and human wealth are not enough, but that evangelical humility is needed. This is why it builds fraternity as the essence of the Church. And so it happened that around the "weak" values for the world (the vows) the renewal of the Church and society of the time took place.
It is not out of place to recall here that in 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council forbade new religious foundations with new rules. What's the reason? Discomfort of conservatives in front of their multiplication? Jealousy of the secular clergy against the monks who competed with the parishes? That decree meant only one thing: from then on the charisma of a founder would not have been given to anyone, and, if it
had been, no one would have been allowed to carry it out. What to think? Today we would laugh and I believe that even the Holy Spirit had to smile in the sky. And indeed after that decree the prophetic charisms began to rain and prosper: Franciscans, but also Dominicans, Carmelites, Servants of Mary, Augustinians ...
16th century It was of the apostolic orders: educated, zealous, missionary friars, involved in society and with high ideals of holiness
It is the epoch of the exaltation of the "dignitas" and the "virtus" of the Renaissance man and of the harsh Lutheran reaction, which instead underlines the sole forces of faith. For St. Ignatius - one for all is given only a man, supported by grace, the co-protagonist of that divine mission, which is precisely the divine-human work of the salvation of the world, the most exalting of enterprises. With St. Ignatius the consecrated life deeply touches history, immerses itself totally in it, so as to re-orient it towards God, so that everything may shine "to its greater glory". With him, with his Ratio studiorum, there was a further leap in the history of the Church and, once again, in the history of culture and civilization.
The time of St. Ignatius is also that of the Council of Trent, in which everything was ready but the right man was missing. Here it is: a libertine in his youth, but for some time he had put judgment, Paolo II Farnese, the pope of the Catholic Reformation. It was then necessary to complete a Council: and here is a boy of 23 arms, Carlo Borromeo, deacon, cardinal for family merit, nephew of a pope. He takes the Council by the neck and makes it go well. And so Europe has not collapsed under the terrible shoulder of Lutheranism.
Sec. XIX-XX Era of teachers, hospital congregations (particular ministries)
To the suffering present in Christian society, often concerned more with political aspects and jurisdictional balances than with the enormous poverty of the abandoned masses, with the French revolution that had destroyed the Consecrated Life , answer the hundreds of new modern congregations with hospitals, schools, the educ
of the people, assistance to the elderly, formation of the clergy, attention to the least. It was the prophecy of the indissoluble unity of the love of God and love of neighbor and was a stimulus for the leading organs of the states to put these needs on the agenda. Society will no longer be what it was before, if the poor are considered one of the essential dimensions of any policy worthy of the name.
To remain in the Salesian sphere, against the anticlerical ministers of the Kingdom of Sardinia first and of the Kingdom of Italy afterwards, against all the laws of suppression of congregations and religious institutes, against the norms of forfeiture of ecclesiastical goods comes the Salesian congregation, which makes from model to many others and develops, from nothing, in an impressive manner. He will know a South American cardinal with full knowledge of the facts: "If Latin America is Catholic, it is largely due to the Salesians".
Without saying that in Turin and Piedmont in the process of strong dechristianization, about fifty saints worked, often founders, already arrived, or about to arrive on the altars.
Therefore it is God who holds the ranks of consecrated life, even if it is weighed down by the betrayals of the charisms received from the founders, by the counter-witness of the members due to blindness, ignorance, weakness, useless defense of a status quo, perhaps in good faith, in the name of loyalty to the past. One fact remains that it is not enough to have merits behind us: the justification of our being and our work is here today or not at all. We must know how to respond to facts like the one that says: "First there was Christ, then, unfortunately, the Church came", which applied to us would sound: "first there was Don Bosco, then, unfortunately, the Salesians".
It is therefore necessary to realize the modalities of these historical "passages" of the Consecrated Life from one form to another. The following phases have been identified:
• emergency: substantial changes in society and in the Church cause new movements and the foundation of new religious communities; some aspects of these new communities become
eminent and merge into a new image of consecrated life, different from the previous ones, welcomed by some, and considered not "true" by others;
• of growth and success: the new communities are expanding and the old ones are modeling themselves on the new ones, achieving success too. The positive image attracts many people, it becomes mature and then dominant, and so it continues;
• of decline: the dominant image is exposed to profound questions, that Consecrated Life does not seem to fit the aspirations of the time anymore; communities lose their raison d'être, fall into laxity, disintegrate. Some communities disappear, others are reduced to a few subjects;
• of hairpin bends: a relatively short period of revitalization follows, in which new movements and new communities arise, capable of responding to new needs of the Church and the world. Variations of the dominant image of Consecrated Life emerge and one of them is selected to become the dominant one;
• growth and success of the new image: once it has emerged, it grows and influences all the others.
The cycle then repeats until the next bend. Today we should deduce that we are at the end of an era, that we are on a bend in history (one of the very few in 2000 years) and that a different Consecrated Life will emerge in the future.
"What will be of consecrated life and of the Church itself in the secularized and post modern Western society?" they asked themselves at the 2003 conference in Italy entitled "La Vita consecrated 40 years after the Second Vatican Council". The answer was: "Only the Lord knows", but the invitation to passive resignation but to trust in the Lord and to the active and intelligent commitment of the religious was not followed. In this search Consecrated Life is "in good company" since in the rapid and relentless cultural change of today all societies, social, political, party, ecclesial institutions (and therefore also consecrated life) rediscover the crisis of their own figure traditional; all, if they want a future,
In the area of consecrated life, meanwhile, we can glimpse tendencies; that of:
• an ever greater incarnation: the Spirit that transcends the world is incarnated in a life that embraces the world. What the religious are, will be indicated by what they do, not excluding the testimony of their religious consecration not supported by demanding works on the apostolic level. They will reveal the mystery of the incarnation more than the past. This will remain true even if the many "classic" apostolic works will be increasingly ensured by the State;
• an overcoming of the dualism of the ancient culture: body and soul, manual and intellectual work, current world and the future, sacred and profane, lay life and consecrated life (which is no longer the only "way to perfection"). The laity is called by baptismal vocation to holiness and many competences that were previously considered exclusive to Religious Institutes, today the Church entrusts them to the laity, as has been said, with the consequence that many religious risk feeling "displaced";
• a stronger inculturation: the charisma must be re-read starting from the particular circumstances, which if they require unity of some principles, perhaps legitimize a pluralism in the form of living it; Is it totally utopian to think of a renewal of a whole religious congregation, but not in the same way? maybe you can walk at different speeds; perhaps one can live the charism in different ways within the same congregation, because everyone has the right to serve the Lord "according to their possibilities". Personal projects, provincial projects may not all be the same;
• a testimony of poverty and an insertion among the poor: there is not a single way to live poverty and to be solicitous towards the poor, but there is a privileged way of doing it, that of not being poor for strength, but out of love, by free choice, in counter-tendency with the world.
In the history of the Church one of the most qualified interpretative signs of the way of salvation drawn by Christ, after the apostles and
martyrs, are the founders. They had such a perception of the mystery of Christ that they became a safe way for others. Don Bosco therefore offered us a reading of the Gospel guaranteed in the objectives, in the style, in the spirit. We, Salesians of Don Bosco, are a charism of the Spirit in the Church at the service of the world. We believe it by faith. Just read the first three art. and the 12th of the Constitutions.
Don Bosco felt neither the only nor the maximum trustee of Christ. Among other things, we all know that the most important elements, the ontological ones, of consecrated life, are the same for all Christians and religious: baptism, new life in Christ, sequela Christi. But the original crystallization of the same elements is different. For all Christians, following is, so to speak, the background of a life dedicated to work, to the professions, to the family; for us it is in the foreground, it is the unique and ultimate norm. We read the Perfectae Caritatis: "being the fundamental rule of consecrated life, following Christ as taught in the Gospel, this norm must be considered by all religious institutes as their supreme rule". Which echoes the art. 196 of our Constitutions.
It has been said that the life of St. Francis of Assisi is a rule for reading the Scriptures. We can also say this without fear for Don Bosco: the life of Don Bosco is a rule to read the Scriptures and to actualize in a typical way the following of Christ. Especially since Don Bosco is a saint who has had dozens of imitators. He himself was defined as "The Saint Vincent de Paul of the XDC century, the" new Saint Philip Neri "and there are dozens of Italian and foreign cities that have given the name" Don Bosco "to one of their fellow citizens who was inspired by the his apostolic action to the saint of Valdocco.
The renewed Constitutions were afraid to use the term "mystery": they preferred the term "project", but the reality of fe
de is all there. Mystery: something that concerns God and is supported by God. And this must be said in the face of so many anthropological turning points with their ambiguity, perhaps facing certain damagingly pessimistic attitudes in some countries or just as damagingly optimistic in others.
Certainly at the origin there was a project by Don Bosco: "These rules have been practiced since 1844," he wrote. And that project
had a total response from him: "I promised God that since the last breath of my life it would have been for my poor young people". Totality of its offer: in extension and depth. Moreover we know that the human project is elaborated, in those who believe, as an expression of Christ's project of salvation, in the effort to translate the voldness of the Lord, manifested in the Gospel, according to the three classic elements: the founder, the circumstances, the legislation ecclesiastical.
* * *
It is a great responsibility. We pay attention: we can resist the Spirit (Acts 7.51), we can grieve the Spirit (Eph 4:30), we can extinguish the Spirit (1 Thess 5,19). The signs of the times are full of ambiguity, which only docility to the Holy Spirit can overcome: "veritas liberavit vos" (Jn 8:32).
Paradoxically, at the beginning of the XXI century we are still at the beginning: we almost have to create from scratch. Who knows that we should not again make a beautiful copy of the Constitutions of which Don Bosco spoke to Don Giulio Barberis in 1865! Our past mission has been cleared, for the simple fact that times have changed. It begins again with the awareness of the beginning, but always in the context of faith, hope, charity and the timeless values of the Preventive System.
The various clerics of Don Bosco's time saw that things did not go perfectly, nor did they want Consecrated Life; but they were enchanted, enthusiastic about Don Bosco and his courageous activity at the service of the young. Let's take notice: Don Bosco sends some of the best to America and just as he does not yet know if the congregation will survive in Italy.
112 February 1876 told the Directors: "There was no change in the congregation that was not preceded by the order of the Lord". Evidently the orders of the Lord are manifested through various mediations to be interpreted. We understand then that historians will be needed for our "starting from Don Bosco", but it will take the joint effort of theologians, educators, pastoralists, organizers and above all "spiritual men" sensitive to the things of God and the things of men that God loves.
Essentially a man of action,
Don Bosco "lived as if he saw the invisible" (art. 21, Heb 11:27)
"The saints do not make history" shortly before he died at the end of the last century, the novelist Alberto Moravia wrote. It doesn't really seem, given that Don Bosco, for example, an authentic icon of subalpine sanctity, has marked his century with himself, has been and continues to be the subject of books, studies, essays, films, fiction, musicals and of him men and women are interested, exponents of the high clergy and simple priests, lay people of all professions (writers, professors, politicians, journalists ...), admirers and denigrators.
Obviously I must take your knowledge of Don Bosco's life for granted; but as an introduction to this second meditation we retrace together in rapid succession his biographical story:
• country boy, young student, seminarian,
• priest, priest educator of above all abandoned children, priest of the people,
• rural and urban preacher, religious writer and catechist, apologist, controversialist and educational narrator for the youth and the people,
• publisher, promoter of printers, publishers and bookstores,
• founder of newspapers and periodicals: an activity that was then extended for young students to literary series for the school and in pleasant and theatrical readings,
• founder of welfare and educational works: speakers, hospices, colleges, schools (Sunday, evening, daytime, for craftsmen), small seminars, churches for young people and for the people,
• organizer of initiatives for emigrants and for foreign missions , of religious, cultural, recreational and social youth companies and associations,
• promoter of an educational-family system on which he wrote and theorized,
• founder, to guarantee the continuity of his work, of two religious families (SDB FMA) and two bodies related to them: the work of Mary Help of Christians for adult vocations and the Cooperators,
• political-religious mediator between state and church, researcher of the most varied social relations: popes, papal curia, bishops, priests, lay people of all social backgrounds and all political tendencies,
• man capable of mobilizing and aggregating according to historical conditions -cultural and economic conjunctures of the time: the paternalistic social structure of the ancien regime of the Sardinian kingdom, the liberal political order of the Italian kingdom of Italy open to the decentralization of charity and philanthropy, the availability of resources for charity, the consistent consents of authorities and faithful, despite partial opposition from the ecclesiastical world,
• educator who sensed the presence of a strong sensitivity in the "civil", in the "political", in the most warned classes of society, in public opinion, as well as in the ecclesial ", to the problem of the moral and social regeneration of society, to the problem of the education of youth,
• a saint (today on the altars) initiator of an authentic "school of holiness".
Don Bosco's "success" is universally recognized, even if the secret of this "success" is found in one of the various facets of his complex personality: a brilliant and very capable entrepreneur of educational works, a far-sighted organizer of national and international companies, very fine educator, great master of youthful holiness, perhaps a lover of magical powers ... and we could continue with the long sequence of titles with which he was defined
for the centenary of his death. But perhaps we are not far from the truth if we discover this "secret" simply in a few, but rooted intuitions and convictions, which we indicate here.
Very high consideration
of the person destined by divine vocation to salvation
Don Bosco placed God above everything, saw in man the image of God, and considered the young (and the people) as creatures to be nourished with food of the religious and moral principles of Christianity. His anthropological vision was that of the Bible and of the Fathers: man is the masterpiece of the Universe, image of God, comes from God and is destined for God.
The Pascalian conception of man as "a being who thinks" was not enough: it was a definition that was too static, unacceptable, non-stimulating. Not even that of Duns Scotus man as "the solitude of being" was enough: perhaps a true definition, certainly more realistic than the other, but always insufficient and not inviting to action. Imagine then if he could accept the Sartrea definition that "the others are hell" and the like.
Moved by theological charity - or pastoral charity as we have been saying for some decades - convinced of the porro unum est necessarium, he gave all of himself to this unum. If he had an obsession, it was that of the souls to be saved (and of the sin to be avoided). From mílii animas, coetera tolle was his motto from the beginning to the end of life. For him it was not a simple slogan, but a perennial aspiration, a constant invocation, a continuous prayer; it was not an abstract principle, but a living, continuous, effective presence. "The glory of God and the salvation of souls" was the passion of Don Bosco and the expression constitutes the most adequate synthesis of the being "of Don Bosco and of his" work "grasped in all its dimensions of assistance, education, pastoral care , spiritual. Absolute primacy certainly belonged to the first element of the formula, while the second was finalized to it. Promoting the glory of God and the salvation of souls is tantamount to conforming one's own will to that of God, which wants so much the good that is He Himself, or His glory, as the good of man, which is the salvation of His soul.
But this soul, on earth, Don Bosco did not consider her as living "out of the body", so that one should be interested "before" the soul and "then", if anything, "of the body"; no, Don Bosco did not consider first the Christian and then the man, but both together, the indivisible person of the young person. To the God-who-saves the whole man, Don Bosco lent his arm, his mind, his heart as an apostle. The glory of God, the heavenly will to save souls constituted the fundamental option to which he addressed actions, attitudes, relationships, all his physical, psychic, moral energies, all his economic resources.
At the center of his spirituality was knowing, loving and serving God for his own salvation, through the realization of a personal vocation: dedication to the young, especially the poorest and most abandoned, depending on their integral salvation, on the model of Christ the Savior, at the school of Mary Most Holy, Mother and Teacher.
How significant is the following confidence of Saint Don Orione to his clerics in 1934 (the boy Orion had lived three years with Don Bosco):
"Now I will tell you the reason, the reason, the cause for which Don Bosco made himself a saint. Don Bosco became a saint because he nourished his life of God, because he nourished our life of God. At his school I learned that this saint he did not fill our heads with nonsense, or anything else, but nourished us with God, and nourished himself with God, with the spirit of God. Just as the mother nourishes herself to nourish her own child, so Don Bosco nourished himself with God, to also nourish God with us. For this reason, those who knew the Saint, and who had the distinguished grace of growing close to him, of hearing his word, of approaching him, of living in some way the life of the saint, reported from that contact something that is not earthly, that is not human, something that nourished his life as a saint, and he then turned to heaven, everything turned to God,and from everything he drew reason to raise our souls towards the sky, to direct our steps towards the sky ".
In Don Bosco the culture of strong values (the Christian, priestly, religious, educational, missionary vocation ...) did not set itself as an alternative to moderate empiricism. Certainly he did not run away, but neither did he linger. He did not cut the bridges with the reality that surrounded him, indeed he built new ones, so as to be able to bring
souls to God. Rosmini wrote that charity, to be complete, must be exercised on a physical, spiritual and intellectual level. Don Bosco did it, without writing it.
Transforming values into social facts, into concrete gestures: this is the difficulty. Don Bosco succeeded. Not only did he fly high in the defense of strong values, but he also knew how to translate them into social facts, into concrete gestures, without falling back into the spiritual, the ecclesial, the liturgical, understood as a space exempt from the problems of the world and of life. The Spirit in him became concrete life.
Strengthened by his vocation as a priest educator, he cultivated a daily life that was not an absence of horizons, but an embodied dimension of value and the ideal, that is, an identity that was consolidated and built; a newspaper that was not a protective niche and a rejection of open confrontation, but a sincere confrontation with a wider and more diversified reality; a newspaper that was not a narrow world of few needs to satisfy or a place of almost mechanical repetition of traditional attitudes, but acceptance of every tension, of demanding sacrifice, of risk, of renouncing immediate pleasure, of struggle.
I limit myself to some of the endless quotes I could bring about it. The first is very old, from 1853: a letter written by Don Bosco to the 31-year-old Don Vittorio Alasonatti, a priest in his own country (Avigliana near Turin): "My good friend, if you want to follow the voice of God, silence the voice for now of nature and affections. God is waiting for it here, I cannot assure you of anything other than work, but I am the guarantor that it will have a great reward in heaven. Take courage, imitate the example of the apostles, and come where the Lord calls him [ ...] I do not have the authority to say: Sequere me, but I have to remind you that God needs you to come and serve him in Turin, for the benefit of these hundreds of boys, who are waiting for them to break the bread of life and that of the soul ".
The second is 30 years later, by card. Vicar of Rome, Lucido Maria Parocchi who asked himself in 1884:
The world now wants nothing else and knows, except material things; nothing wants to know about spiritual things. It ignores the beauties of faith, it disregards the greatness of religion, it repudiates the hopes of a future life, it denies the same God. This century includes only the means of charity and not the end and the principle. He knows how to do the analysis of this virtue but does not know how to compose the synthesis. Animalis homo percipit quae sunt spiritus Dei: so says St. Paul. To tell the men of this century: "It is necessary to save the souls that are lost, it is necessary to instruct those who ignore the principles of religion, it is necessary to give alms for the sake of that God, who will one day reward the generous" men of this century do not understand. We must therefore adapt to the century, which flies, flies. God is made known to pagans by natural law; he makes himself known to the Jews through the Bible, to the schismatic Greeks through the great traditions of the fathers; to the Protestants through the Gospel: to the present century with charity "(BS 1884, n. 6, pp. 89-90).
The same year, pointing to the features of the Salesian, the first beatified cooperator, the Spanish bishop, Msgr. Marcelo Spinola, did nothing but trace the spiritual profile of Don Bosco and indicate that the Salesian religious and social work was proof that the love of God was inseparable from love for man.
"The Salesian is not the Jesuit, a soldier, so to speak, of the sacred squadron, or of the chosen militia, which the church reserves for its most threatening enemies, and above all against this modern world, so full of pride [...] he is not the Capuchin friar, the most popular friar among all the friars, with his austerities and rigors, with his contempt for earthly goods and that frightening interior and exterior nakedness, he is not the son of Benedict who lives in solitary places and life passes between study, the song of divine praises
and the cultivation of the land is not the disciple of San Giuseppe Calasanzio, a high-ranking benefactor, worthy of the church and society, but consecrated to one single task [...]. The Salesian is the man of self-denial and humility [...] who does good by believing that he is doing nothing, that he sacrifices himself without realizing it, and even more so by ignoring it and that the last hour is considered the last of the Church's servants. He goes where they send him, takes things and accepts them as they are and builds his nest both among the flourishing branches of a leafy tree and indifferently on the most prominent stone of a rough and bare rock. Its characteristic virtues are to never complain, even if everything goes against it and never to fall, hoping always in Providence. The Salesian has something of the energy, of the activity, extension and height of objectives and the undeniable firmness of the Jesuit; it has something of the popularity of the Capuchin, it has something of the monk's recollection and work habits, finally he has something of all the known institutes, despite being a new type. Will we have the audacity to say that Don Bosco worked by his own inspiration, without God having taken part in his thoughts and his deeds? "(M. SPINOLA Y MAESTRE, Don Bosco y su obra, Barcelona 1884, pp. 83 -90).
Card. of Turin, Ottaviano Alimonda, when in the trigesima speech, March 1, 1888, he affirmed that if the Gospel deified the world and the laws of nature with the "divine charity", in the same way "with the divine charity" Don Bosco " the nineteenth century was deified ": the charity that bends over the neighbor, who believes that the goodness of God is greater than the wickedness of man.
Several newspapers also recognized him in the liberal camp at the time of Don Bosco's death. The "Corriere della sera" of Milan wrote. "Discordant, indeed distant from him in terms of political opinions, we cannot but admire his work. Thus in the liberal field we could count so many men who, like Don Bosco, had the organizing mind truly superior and supported by that strength of will, from that perseverance, which leads to the most wonderful achievements ".
Clear priestly identity:
"pontiff and minister, teacher and preacher, father and brother" An
indispensable condition for doing what Don Bosco did was a clear priestly identity. In him we can say that the
tempra of the educator has refined the zeal of the apostle and the suitor of the needs of others even material, in the sense that forced him to a severe self-control, expressing an identity woven of firmness and tenderness, of natural resources and solid principles Religious. Don Bosco inserted himself realistically into the world of men by way of human sensitivity and priestly participation, in an alternation of almost biblical outbursts, of concrete, sometimes daring decisions, of insistent prayers addressed to men of public power or to the hearts of benefactors generous. Always driven by superior courage of faith, in often difficult circumstances.
The literary history of "Don Bosco the priest at the altar, in the confessional, in the courtyard with the young, in Turin in Florence, in the house of the poor and in the palace of the king and ministers" that Don Bosco would have addressed to Don Bosco was reconstructed by Don Desramaut. Minister Ricasoli; but if the expression were also, as it seems, a later and not very hypothetical Verba of Don Bosco, this does not take away the basic truth, that is, that Don Bosco has always lived, everywhere and with enthusiasm his educational priesthood, without any concealment or formal notice. As a priest he felt deeply and continuously involved as a "sign and instrument" of salvation in the drama of redemption. His declaration to the minister does not only correspond to his intimate conviction: he fully defines his way of being, of feeling, of acting. Don Bosco is a full-time priest, even when he sleeps and dreams. Priest when he celebrates and when he confesses, but also when he is in the yard with his boys or in the room to attend to the very nourishing correspondence, to correct hundreds of pages of print drafts or to write some of his numerous pamphlets. He is a priest when he gives missions to the people from the pulpit, but he is also when he travels on the train, when he sits in a box with the coach of the stagecoach or when he sits at the table of one of his rich benefactor.
Don Bosco has no time to delay in making great theoretical considerations: he preaches with the writings, with the word, with his cassock the truth of Christ, exhorting without human respect, intervening directly even where he seemed to compromise, in the eyes of some , priestly dignity, so that the innocence of young people was not robbed of sacrosanct rights, because "the low
populace", the non-evangelized peoples could know the truths of faith and be saved. He also has the certainty that his congregation is loved by God, which is why his confidence in him is not providential. He acts as if everything depended on him and hopes as if everything depended on God, convinced of the truth of the proverb: help that heaven helps you.
Like Don Primo Mazzo-lari, he also a servant of the Gospel, he nourished a profound conviction: "Any faith whatsoever is not enough: we must work with Christ, according to his spirit, not according to ours. To have him with us, not hostage, or prisoner, but guide. Engage the Christ and engage with Christ: compromise with him and compromise him ". Don Bosco wrote to a priest on October 25, 1878: "Do not talk of exempting yourself from the parish. Is there a need to work? I will die in the field of labor, sicut bonus miles Christi. Am I good for little? Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat. Are they thorns? With the thorns changed into flowers the Angels will weave a crown of heaven for her. Are times difficult? They were always like this, but God never missed his help. Christus heri et hodie ". The Christ of "today, yesterday and forever" (Heb 13,
Faced with the difficulties of an economic nature and the organization of the works, faced with attacks and persecutions by enemies of the faith and the anticlerical press, in the aftermath of the collapse of what he had built with so much effort and sacrifice, Don Bosco never left himself to break down. He read everything and taught to read everything with the eyes of faith, trying to grasp in it the message of God, or the positive aspect and effect, considering it as a means to revive faith, as a cross that leads to glory, as an opportunity propitious to intensify the love of God and confidence in Him, who is a father and does not abandon the children who procure his interests and consecrate themselves to his service.
Just three years after his inauguration in the Pinardi house, Don Bosco was described as "a zealous priest anxious for the good of souls", "consecrated entirely to the pitiful office of wresting from vice, idleness, and ignorance" a large number of children of the degraded outskirts of Turin (L'Armonia, 2 April 1849). The humble pre
you, equipped with no other wealth than an immense charity "," pontiff and minister, teacher and preacher, father and brother "of the young (Giornale della società di Educazione e d'Eduzione, maggic 1849) later became universally known as the holy priest, all dedicated to the salvation of the young; in very different contexts, many others will have no qualms about pleading with him, who, supported by the miraculous intercession of Mary Help of Christians, propitiated them spiritual and material graces.
The extreme variety of the recipients and the esteem shown by them - in beautiful and very moving letters - also invite us to reflect on Don Bosco's attraction to his person, his work and what he represented.
As early as three centuries before, Pascal had sensed and practiced, in the libertine Paris of the time, the art d'agrée and the art de persuader, that is to say the art of knowing how to be accepted in society, in order to open a gap to men and women of different ethical-religious beliefs. For the order of the spirit, to know man is not enough the esprit de géométrie, the esprit de finesse is needed. The other must be approached with empathetic effort, becoming a confident, discreet and sincere interlocutor. The other then appears as a sort of interpersonal complementarity, almost a dimidium animae meae of Horatian memory, since an osmosis of ideas, orientations of life and feelings takes place between the two.
A likeable, attractive personality, full of intense affection, always controlled and yet expressed, communicated, visible, Don Bosco was loved by his boys: "no father receives more caresses from his children, all are in his clothes, everyone wants to talk to him, everyone kisses his hand "writes a newspaper in the newspaper Msgr. Gastaldi in 1849. It is his fascination and the profound father-child relationship that makes it possible for the first young oratorians to remain with him in times of suppression of religious works and then constitute the first nucleus of the congregation. It is its charm that arouses enthusiasm and admiration in all categories of people almost everywhere, in Valdocco as in Italy, in France as in Spain, in Latin America as elsewhere. And it is known how this charm continued for decades, becoming little
tente generator of fertility and vocational fidelity. How can we not remember that kindness is one of the three pillars of Don Bosco's Preventive System and that the Salesians are so called because of the "sweetness and kindness" of the saint whose name they bear?
We listen to a former student of the first Oratory, 45 years old, who became a military man and teacher in the army, so he writes to his former Director of Valdocco with whom he had met a little earlier: "Beloved my Don Bosco, it seems that he is right to complain about me, yes but believe also that I always loved him, I will love him. I find in her every comfort and I admire her deeds from afar, but I spoke or allowed to hear her speak ill, I always defended him. I see in her that I would turn my soul to each verse, I remained confused, ecstatic, thrilled in his reasoning, they were strong and heartfelt: he gave me a sense of bewilderment and made me to the point of being dazzled by the fact that he always loves me gingerly, Yes, dear Don Bosco. of the Saints [...] no one knows more than you and knows my heart and can decide. I therefore conclude, you advise me, you love me,forgive me and commend me to God, to Jesus, to Mary Most Holy H, I send you a kiss of the heart and give you the profession of faith that I love you ".
And just as touching is the lament of Countess Luisa Nerli with the cav. Federico Oreglia - Don Bosco's secular right-hand man - for not having been able to meet Don Bosco on his trip to Florence (18 December 1865): "Don Bosco did not see him [...] I was in the midst of my pain, nor could I go out. Don Bosco went, turned in many public places and private houses where he was taken, and unfortunately no one thought of me and so I did not see him ... I may not have deserved this consolation, and I will repeat my usual resignation, resignation. Give him my regards, kiss his hand for me and ask for his blessing for my little family ".
No less revealing of the fascination of Don Bosco (and the environment of Valdocco) is the voice of the same cav. Oreglia after he left him to become a Jesuit (1869). He wrote to him: "I start from the Oratory, where for nine years I have enjoyed all his affection and confidence, so he can be persuaded that I feel all the bitterness of this detachment" (MB IX 716). And to his three companions of the first hour (don Michele Rua, don Celestino Durando and don Giovanni Battista Lemoyne) he reiterated that "if some reason may have caused this step
for me, certainly, sensitive and painful, he is to be deduced solely from my sins which, without perhaps, made me unworthy to continue to be part of this new phalanx of Jesus Christ, who, by his mercy, rather than abandoning me to myself wanted to me to breathe the need for my stricter life and to take away those dangers that the prevention of myself would make me perhaps insurmountable in a congregation informed of such sweetness as to make each bond as easy and as light as it could be "(MB IX 717).
And in turn from Brazil the great missionary Fr Lasagna wrote in 1883: "The esteem and enthusiasm of those people (from Rio de Janeiro) for Don Bosco is so great, that it is enough for them to see that one is his son so that he should be a saint and a talent! ".
Operational genius, communication and tireless industriousness To the
historical analysis it results as Don Bosco succeeded in coordinating around his essential human vocation ("saving" the young, promoting their firm integration in society), a set of local activities and initiatives, national and international such as to polarize around the isolated youth center of Valdocco thousands of young people, to win over to it the consent and support of the ecclesiastical fabric and civil society with a very wide radius, in Italy and abroad.
Communicator born, through the network of correspondence (very wide, even if the number of 250 daily letters seems to be part of the myth), of the numerous lotteries, of the notable personal knowledge, of the rich press on his own and others, of the continuous initiatives that Valdocco took off (foundation of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Missions, Cooperators, Salesian Bulletin ...) - but with clearly distinguishable goals - succeeded in making society and the church perceive the need and urgency of solicitude for what will be called in our days the "young planet".
Not only that, but it demonstrated its feasibility through its ability to convey around its real or virtual project a long series of ecclesiastics and lay people, rich in money and power, popes and kings, poor and wealthy, of fallen noblewomen and career men. It was a profitable strategy for him. Just think of it
to the widespread use of Catholic Readings and to the organization of lotteries as early as the fifties which involved collaborators at the Oratory, associated with the conferences of San Vincenzo or the Catholic Readings themselves, men and women invited to contribute as "promoters" in the pounding sale of tickets that are involved as protagonists in the same religious animation activities. Of course, in the foreground among them, the Cooperators called to be present and active next to him or directly in the church and in society with a Salesian spirit, consistent with the Gospel and the mission of the Church. He did it with great skill, genius and inventiveness and, sometimes, in a decidedly reckless manner; in order to succeed he had to resort to strong moral virtues, of relationship, of adaptation, tolerance of frustrations: but he was convinced that certain addresses that the society of the time was taking were not straw fires, but real "signs of the time". More than looking for security, he tried to respond to the spirit.
All this required that frantic activism and that prodigious work that perhaps constitutes the aspect of Don Bosco best known and commented: an indefatigable manual, intellectual, apostolic, priestly activity, as requested by the zeal for souls of priests and by the needs of the times to the new religious congregations. Suffice it to recall here that an exceptional witness was impressed in 1883, such as the future Pope Pius XI: "Here is a life that was a real and great martyrdom: a colossal life of work, which gave the impression of oppression even to see it, the Servant of God: a life of unaltered, inexhaustible patience, of true charity, so that he always has a rest of his own person, of his mind, of his heart for the last comer and in whatever time he had arrived and after any work; a true continuous martyrdom in the hardships of life "(December 3, 1933).
Don Bosco's feverish activity, however, would remain an enigma and his apostolic fruitfulness would lack a sufficient reason without the presence, felt to be alive and active, of God, without the awareness of a heavenly mission, which he could not elude.
His encounter with the Lord is so totalitarian and totalizing that he declares it and bears witness to it with all his life. It is his being familiar to God, being always "in audience" with him, it is the spiritual tension in which he lives, which explains his talk with all naturalness of God and of the soul in every environment and in every circumstance, that its making one feel the presence of God usually outside of oneself, that invites his correspondents to prayer for their own salvation and that of others, to resignation to the will of God, to uninterrupted asceticism, to trust in the eternal prize. From his way of being and working he was perceived as a man who conversed with God, a "monument of faith", a "Sacrament of faith", an expert on God, able to put into view the mystery that held his life,
However, it should be noted that Don Bosco does not give us descriptions of his inner evolutions, he is very shy in revealing his mental and spiritual background, he is very reserved in expressing his profound intimacy. It does not leave us particular introspections of its spirit, it does not write spiritual diaries, it does not give interpretations; he prefers to convey a spirit by describing the external events of his life or by having the biographies of his young people and his memoirs. In the same thousands of pages of his private letters, where it would be taken for granted that it is easy for him to reveal his inner feelings to us, he is extremely shy to do so; in them he expresses himself as any other priest would do, almost with detachment, naturally, hiding the sanctity that is in him behind the thick curtain of common thoughts. And if a few months after meeting the Marchioness Giulia Barolo found in Don Bosco "that air of concentration and simplicity typical of holy souls" and Fr Rua, who lived alongside him for almost 40 years, confessed to being more impressed by the to observe it even in the smallest actions that do not read or meditate on any devout book, other eminent figures, even of prelates, did not realize it, so much was its trait "ordinary"; not for nothing the Salesians of the second generation recognized in Don Bosco greater holiness than in Don Rua, since the former would also have renounced the appearance of holiness. who lived alongside him for almost 40 years, he confessed to being more impressed by observing him even in smaller actions than reading or meditating any devoted book, other eminent figures, even of prelates, did not realize it, he was so "ordinary" "his trait; not for nothing the Salesians of the second generation recognized in Don Bosco greater holiness than in Don Rua, since the former would also have renounced the appearance of holiness. who lived alongside him for almost 40 years, he confessed to being more impressed by observing him even in smaller actions than reading or meditating any devoted book, other eminent figures, even of prelates, did not realize it, he was so "ordinary" "his trait; not for nothing the Salesians of the second generation recognized in Don Bosco greater holiness than in Don Rua, since the former would also have renounced the appearance of holiness.
"Don Bosco with God" is the title of the famous volume, published several times, that Don Ceria published on the occasion of his beatification. In it
the author already in the first pages tries to reveal the hidden face of Don Bosco's holiness in the "spirit of prayer and union with God" and affirms that "a very scarce fruit would withdraw from its admirable life, who ran too much behind the biographical facts without penetrate the intimate and habitual motives properly ". Many other scholars have subsequently joined Don Ceria. However, it should be honestly stated that the first to induce this "misrepresentation" was Don Bosco himself with his repeated choices of life and action. The tireless activity that characterized all his priestly life did not leave him much room for the formal practices of piety suggested or requested of a priest of the time; he asked and obtained a dispensation from the recitation of the breviary which took a long time; in the Constitutions he reduced to few the common practices of piety and mental prayer was reduced to half an hour, which could also be suppressed in the case of concomitant sacred ministry; on his deathbed he recommended work, not prayer. Moreover he left no pity formulas, he did not codify particular exercises of piety. We can then well understand the famous objection raised during his beatification process: when did Don Bosco pray?
But to Don Bosco (and to the Salesians) the prayers of the good Christian, easy, simple, made with perseverance, sufficed; they had to intervene throughout the day as an elevation of the soul to God, as a petition, as food, almost in ascetic function. Personal sanctification would be achieved through religious and apostolic dedication - beneficial, educational, pastoral - to young people, offering it to God. Therefore a work founded on faith and permeated with charity, which moves us to love God and love our neighbor, because and as God loves it. It is the so-called "ecstasy of action", in which activity and prayer, interior life and charity coexist in harmonious synthesis.
* * *
Don Bosco's spirituality, like any spirituality, consists in the exercise of faith, hope and charity. Love of God and tireless work in this life, paradise in the other, are therefore the heart of his operational spirituality.
It is therefore not a coincidence that the noun that is most frequently found, eg in the III volume of Don Bosco's epistolary, he is God-God (414 times in 451 letters), bearing in mind also that this is a epistolary "all concreteness and realism", interested and polarized on problems of ordinary and daily administration that beset Who is writing. Surprises continue when we move on to more complex verbal merits. At the top of the table we find the verb to do with 945 occurrences. Even considering that this is a polysemic verb, how can we not think that it is "significant" in Don Bosco's menswear? But even more surprising is that in the second place of the verbs we place pray with well around 343 occurrences, which, added to the 201 of the corresponding noun, brings the number to 544, a hundred more than the letters themselves. It could therefore be concluded that ten centuries after St. Benedict, Don Bosco, universally recognized as a man of action for education, temperament and free choice, reproposes in his correspondence, turning it upside down, what, in a totally different context, was the motto of the founder of religious life in the West: ora et labora. Logically not just any "work", but "for the glory of God and the salvation of souls" which therefore could become "prayer" itself: quis laborat, orat. This is perhaps why "for us there is no doubt: the true saint of modern Italy is Don Bosco", according to the Lutheran pastor Walter Nigg. This is perhaps why the theologian MD Chenu 0.P., still about twenty years ago,
"It will normally be necessary to overcome future difficulties, taking lessons from the past" (Memoirs of the Oratory)
There are those who say that the experience includes only what happens; others that only embraces what is conscious of; still others maintain that human experience always presupposes language. Therefore various interpretative levels are given. We for some meditation will dwell on an experience in a non-scientific way, in the manner of a certain philosophy of common sense, for which experience means some elements, such as context, perspective, perception, value, desire, decision and habit, to be put in relation to each other. It is valid for Sacred Scripture, for literature, for theater, for history and therefore also for the "beautiful story of young Don Bosco". A complete rereading of his life cannot be ignored, rather it must be done sub lumi-ne humanae experientíae, and not only sub lumine evangelii.
Don Bosco presented to the young the "lives" of his children as models proportioned to them, but he did the same with his own personal experience, pointing in some way to himself as a paradigm for all Salesians. He had received the Pope's explicit invitation to write the story of his vocation: "The good that will come to your children you cannot fully understand". And here Don Bosco left us the "Memoirs of the Oratory", a book that is both a re-enactment, an apologetic and theological demonstration, a paradigmatic and programmatic proposal for the Salesians. In other words: not so much an historical autobiography as an edifying and pedagogical document: "Normally it will be necessary to overcome the difficulties it was
don Pietro Braido defined them as "Memories of the future". In them - written at the age of 60 - three particular realities interfere: those really happened in the past, those of the present that give meaning and interpret the past, the future ones that will have to be built on the experience of the past and the present.
All this, if from the historical point of view, makes the analysis of the famous text very difficult, from the point of view instead of the ideal interpretation of the facts of the "formative-pastoral project", of the social, religious, educational and moral convictions that don Bosco wanted to convey it is a great, unexpected advantage. We must be grateful to him for having revealed his mentality, the spiritual traits most in accord with his inner world, his dreams (already realized).
On the basis of these "Memories" we want to analyze together what kind of boy and youth was Giovanni Bosco. His childhood and youth are significant for us and he himself understood that they were at the time he wrote them down, corrected them and kept them up to date. If Pope John XXIII writing his diary he did it to grasp all the messages that the Lord sent him through his Word, the inner inspirations, the events of life and so being ready to answer him, Don Bosco did the same for the benefit of his children . And so all the characters, all the events of his childhood and youth, under his pen, become "significant" and acquire an educational-spiritual dimension.
The family We
all know it: fatherless at two years old, with his mother Margherita who also covers the role of father. From her, Don Bosco learns above all the "meaning of life" derived from Christian faith and practice. He tells that his mother taught him in religion, taught him prayers (recited in common with the brothers), prepared him for the first confession and assisted him in the important moment of the first communion. How not to recognize immediately
How much will these infantile "experiences" (family that lives by faith in all its expressions, including charity, trust in Providence ...) become fundamental within its educational model? Especially since one could compare his personal experience with both positive and negative models of father-mother relationship, parents-children presented in his future educational publications. Therefore for Don Bosco a Christian family constitutes an ideal situation of development of authentic Christian youth humanity.
The parish community
"In the beginning was the mother," wrote Don Bosco's Danish biographer Jens in 1129. J. Joergensen. They have repeated it and many will repeat it, even more so when mother Margherita was to be canonized. But perhaps it should be completed as follows: In the beginning it was the mother within the Christian community of the township (Morialdo) and of the parish (Castelnuovo, Buttigliera). From these Giovannino acquired some strong elements of his "spirituality": habit of prayer, of duty, of sacrifice, together with a little study (don Lacqua); in these he made his first confession (age of reason), his first communion (age of discretion) and learned the catechism of the time. All this shaped his personality and laid the elementary bases of his intense activity as a religious-popular writer and educator.
The places of work and study
The symbolic role entrusted by Don Bosco to his mother can therefore also be transferred to the country, to the parish environment and to the characters operating in it.
The native country was the site of its first modest literacy, consisting above all in the ability to read. The commitment to study increased after the meeting with don Calosso, chaplain of Morialdo (1829-1830), with whom he agreed on a life as a student-worker: a student in the priest's house and on the return journey, a worker in the rest of the time. This combination will also continue
later, when he attended the schools of both Castelnuovo (while he was staying and working at a tailor who made him very advantageous proposals, rejected to follow his vocation) and Chieri (while he was staying with a bartender-pastry chef who also made him advantageous offers of work) , always rejected). Don Bosco will record it in the "Memoirs of the Oratory" with clear educational intentions, at the cost of dilating the extent and quality of the different jobs done temporarily, but not continued. However, the fact remains that he prepared himself distantly for his priesthood, which he saw as a desire, an aspiration, a dream.
As for the encounter with the humble chaplain of Morialdo, Don Bosco, in his deeply emotional and meaningful memories, infuses many elements of the spirituality of the Christian educator priest. Here is a part of the dialogue:
Q. Why would you want to study?
R. To embrace the ecclesiastical state
Q. And why would you want to embrace this state?
R. To approach me, to speak, to teach many of my companions in religion, who are not bad, but become such, because no one cares for them.
We know how Don Calosso offers to help him in the realization of his vocation, he starts him to study Latin, and later he also hosts it. Above all he is a spiritual father and Don Bosco confesses: "Every word, every thought, every action promptly manifested itself". And we also know that soon this "stable guide" such a "friend of the soul" comes to die, so that Don Bosco is again alone in the choice of the state of life.
But there is another important aspect of Giovannino's life: that of the party, of joy, of free time, not at all in contrast with the realistic and Christian mentality of the child, of the mother, of the Christian community in which one finds to grow. And then here is the game, the recreational activities, the acrobatics of the saltimbanco, mixed with religious expressions that will prelude to the next "Society
of joy "and the ample space assigned to leisure time in the spirituality of its preventive system. The lawns of the Becchi anticipate the Oratory of Valdocco. Not only that; Don Bosco seems to celebrate and propose a style of family life, more than perhaps describe exactly an objective situation (to be resized): he intends to highlight the story of a boy who builds his personal "vocation" on the basis of natural gifts, favored by the wisdom of his mother, peasant yes, but neither anxious nor protective.
Therefore Don Bosco lived his childhood and youth with great enthusiasm, in fullness and of this inner richness he infected all the companions who were near him. He wrote: "Everyone wanted me as a judge or as a friend. For my part, I did good to those I could, but hurt no one." And again: "From these rallies were excluded all those who had blasphemed, made bad speeches, or refused to take part in religious practices".
From the wide and lively narration of his feats among his companions, under the loving eyes of his mother - there was also the adventure of falling from the tree of the brood with consequences for the health that John hid from his mother and did not put in writing in the " Memories "- it is clear that he deeply loved life, even on the external level; he was not in difficulty with his body, with his spirit, despite the difficult family situation in which he found himself: without a father, with a half brother older than him and not too available to his studies (but who could be era in those living conditions?), forced, like many others of his age, to look for work outside the home. His was a style of growth in grace: happy to live as it was, precisely because he accepted the situation in which providence had set him. How different from today's kids, often unhappy with their bodies, in search of unattainable perfection modulated on television and film models.
School, college, educators From
11831 to 1835 Don Bosco attended the Chieri school of grammar, humanity and rhetoric. He is 16-19 years old. It is the time of cultural maturation, of the explosion of youthful sociality with a marked apostolic dimension and of the definitive vocational choice. Some traits of his (spiritual) future spirituality are already clearly distinguished.
First of all the trinomial: study, piety and joy, which will return in the following years with slightly different terminologies in so many letters (the famous three S: health, study, holiness, and the like). Then the attention to the acquisition of a science that it will consider important in the future organization of the colleges and necessary for the regular courses of philosophy-theology in view of the priesthood, without forgetting that it constitutes the privileged means for the care of ecclesiastical vocations. Finally the study: one of the main duties of a young person.
The desire for study was one of the dominant passions of all of Don Bosco's youth; it could perhaps be argued that the passion for study was the way through which the Lord made him grow, he guarded it and accompanied it to realize his vocation. Giovanni also dedicates a part of the night to it, so as to ruin his health. The outcome, however, was that the companions began to appeal to him so that he could, like he said, scholastic charity: that is, he would pass them homework (but then he did not do it anymore because he was forbidden); however, he was immediately available to put his skills at their disposal.
When he writes his "Memoirs" Don Bosco is already the founder and trainer of educators, so he does not fail to make judgments about teachers and educators of his college, emphasizing their qualities and limits. Of the prof. Banaudi praises the educational method that heralds what he himself will then do with his young people at Valdocco; of the canon Maloria, he appreciates the qualities of spiritual director in function of help against the bad companions; and also in this case "anticipates" his future experiences and teachings.
He had also appreciated the pastoral work in the parish of other priests in his own country, but he had complained that he had failed to "contract with them any familiarity" so, crying, he had said in his heart that if he had become a priest he would have done otherwise. The dialogue of Giovanni Bosco with the cleric Cafasso on the door of the church is also known: - "My dear friend [...] the performances of the priests are the functions of the church [...]. R. - It is true what you say, but there is time for everything: time to go to church, and time to recreate ourselves ".
Don Bosco in the life of the college, regulated according to precise norms, discovers the religious and moral foundation of life, the value of Christian religious education and practice, the concern for order, discipline and guaranteed morality (from the "prefect of the studies "), inner formation through the" congregation ", spiritual direction, sacramental practice, the mitigation of the seriousness of duty with the human character of interpersonal relationships between students and teachers and between students themselves, the use of prizes and the moderation of punishments: all elements that will flow into his future "experience" as an educator.
Joy" Many chapters of the "Memoirs of the Oratory" are dedicated to it. The Society had a pre-eminent moral and religious value: it was very similar to a "religious company" and at the same time to an "academy of culture". In the "company" stood the young Luigi Comollo, the "devotee" whom Don Bosco later found in the seminary; also the Jew (later converted) Jonah, with whom Don Bosco will spend a lot of time in joy, playing the piano, reading, listening to stories (another method of approach, not inconsiderable in the future "pastoral spirituality" of Don Bosco).
The many pages of the "Memoirs" dedicated to the playful and joyful aspects of student life (games, spells, races ...) recall what he writes with emphasis in the various historical notes he compiled in earlier times or contemporary to the "Memoirs": in all these games and entertainments of the highest taste (and he makes the list) Giovanni Bosco "if he was not famous, was certainly not mediocre". Almost certainly here too he wanted to
indicate a style, or better, a spirit characterizing an unprecedented educational action.
Relations with comrades
If it is true, as it is true that man is a relationship, that human relationships constitute the being of a person, we can ask ourselves how Giovanni behaved with his companions.
First of all it must be said that Don Bosco does not abandon himself to chance in weaving his relationships, but chooses them carefully. What sets it apart is precisely the inner lucidity with which it moves among people. Some say yes; to others of no, because, after evaluating them, he discovered that the former are constructive and the latter make him a slave. When he later wrote about boys of good, ordinary, difficult nature and indicated how to behave with them, he had in mind his youthful experience: "In these first four classes I had to learn to deal with my companions on my own. I had done three categories of companions: good, indifferent, bad, the latter avoiding them absolutely always barely known, with the indifferent restraining myself for courtesy and for need,
Don Bosco also matures through his relationships, such as those with the young Braje, Comollo, Garigliano, with whom he shares recreation and school duties. He emphasizes how these friendships have been the support of his youth. Moreover he was very faithful to his friendships: Don Cafasso died and his successor at the Convitto, the theologian Golzio, from 1873 he confessed to his seminary companion, Don Giacomelli. For Don Bosco friendship is not an accident, a case, an emotional pastime, but one of the fundamental perspectives on which he builds his life and on which he will build that of his boys. He will say of Comollo: "I always had him as a close friend, and I can say that from him I began to learn to live as a Christian. I put full confidence in him and he in me".
Giovanni Bosco in Chieri realizes that to grow, you need friends, not just educators and experts. He will remember it all his life as an educator. Above all, mature, spiritual friendship. There are
many expressions in this regard: "We went to confession together, to communicate, to make meditation, spiritual reading, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, to serve Mass". This level of confidence is difficult, even for religious: but it is a goal to be achieved. Don Bosco considered it essential.
In Don Bosco's youth there is an extraordinary concern to communicate joy. Knowing that all young people are hungry for life, Don Bosco senses that to approach young people and become their friend it is necessary to take on this hunger for life that is manifested in joy. But what kind of joy? The regulation of the "society of cheerfulness" tells us.
It is first of all a deliberate joy, that is not casual, which does not show up by mistake from some situation, but from a life project. He writes: "It is a strict obligation for everyone to look for those books, to introduce those discourses and games that can contribute to being happy". Don Bosco will always remain so. "It was incredible, Don Cerruti will say, the industries that Don Bosco put in place to keep us happy and he invented so many that his colleagues, alas too serious, considered him crazy."
A joy to defend: Don Bosco senses that cheerfulness has enemies to place immediately at the door: "Everything that caused melancholy, especially things contrary to the law of the Lord, was forbidden". A cheerless and dangerous cheer, as he also had the opportunity to have at the invitation of some "bad" companions, but which he consistently refused. Here is the association between sin and sadness, between happiness and grace, characteristics of his preventive system. If we do not understand this, we cannot understand the reasons for so much insistence in all its pedagogy on happiness. It is always a joy that comes from the heart a friend of the Lord: a joy that serves to evangelize the young, that is, to announce that God is our happiness.
A joy made also of commitment. Thus stated the second article of the Regulation: "Accuracy in fulfilling one's school duties and religious duties". It is the announcement of the pedagogy
of the duty that Don Bosco will use throughout his life. It is enough to read the three biographies of the Valdocco boys written by him. An eyewitness confirms this: "it was not realized that Don Bosco was a saint, he was so simple in doing all things well. Only those who know the effort that must be used to do all the little things well every day, know that to achieve with fullness we must really be saints ".
Finally an evangelizing joy. If it is true that this joy springs from a heart in love with God, it is equally true that it must be kept and spread among the brothers. During the week the "society of joy" gathered in the house of one of the partners to talk about religion. Here is another "beginning" of the Oratory. The joy of which Don Bosco speaks is the joy of the one who believes. For this reason those who approached him were fascinated: "I would be willing - the saint Don Orione will say - to do anything to return to live a few hours with Don Bosco, as it happened to me in my youth".
"It all started with a dream" reads many of Don Bosco's biographies and the statement can be accepted on one condition: that Don Bosco only as an adult, and not before, understood that everything "started with a dream". What does it mean? One thing: that Don Bosco repeatedly experienced anxiety in his life, the doubt of his vocational choice. It was uncertain whether to enter the seminary or become a friar; whether to become a diocesan priest or religious priest; whether to be a priest at home or a missionary; whether to live the life of the parish priest or to devote himself to another priestly apostolate. However in 1835, at the time of the choice, the decision takes place through a "pedagogical" process which he then advises the young: reflection, request for advice to a wise person, intense prayer and therefore docile listening to the advice received from the priest-counselor. Let's see some details.
The choice is always suffering. There is not too much to deceive. Don Bosco wrote to 19 weapons: "My way of living, certain habits of my heart [pride] and the absolute lack of the virtues necessary for this state [the ecclesiastical state] made that deliberation doubtful and very difficult". The dream of the nine years, repeatedly renewed in an ever clearer way, invited
him to the option for the ecclesiastical state, to which he felt a propensity. But the choice remained difficult.
The choice comes from a comparison. Choosing is confronting: first of all with a spiritual guide. Don Bosco misses it: "oh if I had had a guide who had taken care of my vocation! It would have been a great treasure for me, but I missed this treasure. I had a good confessor, who thought of making me a Christian, but of vocation never wanted to meddle ".
The choice is a comparison with God. The fundamental choices of life are not made in front of men, but before God. Don Bosco thought about it alone, read some books and decided for the Franciscan priestly life. He examined the reformed convent: he was accepted and everything was ready to enter the convent of Peace in Chieri, when a dream about the Franciscan life cast doubt on the choice he was about to make. He then made a new attempt to approach a confessor, but without result; until he appealed to the uncle of Comollo, provost of Cimano, who advised him to enter the seminary. The choice of the state of life is a very serious thing. A typical and very strong expression of Don Bosco testifies to this, often repeated also in the following decades: "I was convinced that the choice of the state of life depended on the
The choice is also a comparison with the others. The experience of the group helps. Giovanni had 25 classmates, three of whom became doctors, one merchant and twenty-one priests. One may wonder how much Don Bosco's decision about his comrades influenced, given his undoubted character of a leader among them; but we can also ask how much they influenced Don Bosco's decision. Without then saying the opinion of comrade Comollo, with whom he undertook a novena because the Lord inspired him in the choice of the state. Undoubtedly there is this goes and comes between Don Bosco and his friends; it is evident that the choice of one is already a "communication" that helps others to choose; but also not choosing one is already a choice that will block others.
Choice implies true conversion. The spirit masters say that in the lives of saints one normally meets a chia fact
mato "second conversion". They give themselves to the Lord, perhaps with generosity, until a certain season. Then, suddenly, there is an increase in spiritual life, as if an extra gear were engaged. Don Bosco had this moment at 20, when he decided to dress the ecclesiastical habit; it was to a conversion to his Lord in greater fullness. He writes: "After that day I had to take care of myself; I had dressed the ecclesiastical habit, the life held until then had to be radically reformed; in previous years I had not been a villain, but a dissipated, boastful, busy in games, games , jumps, playthings and other similar things that brightened momentarily, but that did not satisfy the heart ".
Don Bosco, who had also been an excellent young man, judges his past life severely, so once he has decided to enter the seminary, he fixes a precise direction to his will to live and places limits on the types of youth experiences: "For the future I will never again take part in public shows on fairs [...] I will never again play the game of bussolotti, of magician [...]. I consider these things all contrary to gravity and to the ecclesiastical spirit" . Don Bosco will indeed remake some of these experiences for his young people, because he will understand the sense and purpose of evangelization: only that he will no longer do them for personal taste. The reversal of direction is marked by the austere presence of conversion, of breaking with a certain world to marry another. "
The direction of his life is also indicated by a careful vigilance on the freedom of the heart: "Since in the past I have served the world with profane readings, so for the future I will try to serve God by giving me readings of religious things. I will fight with all my strengths everything, every thought, every discourse, words and works contrary to the virtue of chastity. On the contrary I will practice all those things, even very small ones, and which can contribute to preserving this virtue ".
Finally, conversion is marked by an inner immersion in the climate of faith. Don Bosco, who had been somewhat dispelled and in love with the classics and poetry, now intends to immerse himself in a spiritual culture. If in the past he had been useful to the small and large of his country and to his fellow students with profane readings, now for the future he intended to serve God by giving himself to readings of religious things: "In addition to the ordinary practices of piety, I will never omit to do a little meditation every day and a little spiritual reading ". Once enriched by this experience, Don Bosco plans to express it every day outwardly. Here is the seventh and final purpose after the dressing and before entering the seminary: "Every day an example or some advantageous maxim for the souls of others.
* * *
Reading as a watermark this story of Don Bosco's youth - as narrated by himself "looking back" decades later - the outlines of the mature man, of the future educator, are already discovered. At the age of twenty Don Bosco is already a made man. In him there is extreme continuity between these experiences and what he will live later. He will never defeat his youth, because it is grace, it is full of graces. Don Bosco teaches us to take young age seriously. Being young is not a biological or chronological accident; it is being able to have a grace. It is up to the educators to ensure that the young respond to this grace with listening, commitment and fidelity.
"I know who I have trusted" (2 Tim 1:12)
We have seen Don Bosco's childhood, childhood and youth. We have presented the experiences that have contributed to offer significant dimensions and elements of what was to be his future spiritual pedagogy. In the same logic we now follow Don Bosco a cleric in the seminary of Chieri and a priest in the ecclesiastical boarding school of Turin (1835-1844). This is just as much and perhaps even more important than the previous two. We will then add some spiritual ideas taken from Don Bosco's letters to Salesian clerics and to seminarians in general.
I125 October Don Bosco makes the dressing and his life changes radically, anticipating the "habits" of a cleric of different style, bearer of renewed ecclesiastical and apostolic spirituality. Don Bosco, a model student in the schools of Chieri, will be a model seminarian in theology (and then an irreproachable priest at the "Convitto" and beneficial at the time of the Pinardi house).
That of the seminar is a very important period of his life. His personal spirituality is understood and profiled precisely in the years of ecclesiastical formation, obviously matured in the following years in the forge of action and in the multiplicity of personal relationships. From the experience of the seminar Don Bosco will take inspiration and content that will substantially accompany his future educational action.
With the dressing, another "Don Bosco" was born, very different from the previous one. His mother's "memorizing" speech also helped him: "1. It is not the habit that honors your state, but virtue. Be careful not to dishonor it: rather leave it alone. 2. Always devotion to the Madonna, be all of the Madonna".
Entering the seminary of Chieri, he began his life there with spiritual exercises and then he gave himself body and soul to prepare himself intellectually and spiritually for his priesthood. Here it is then all included in the life of the seminary.
A privileged place for him are the practices of piety: every morning mass, meditation and the third part of the rosary; at the table, edifying reading. Confession was mandatory every fortnight. However, holy communion could only be done on Sundays or in another special solemnity; sometimes it was done throughout the week, but with some subterfuge not forbidden by the superiors. In this way Don Bosco can frequently receive holy communion, which he calls "the most effective food of my vocation".
In the "Memoirs of the Oratory" he wrote about the beginning of his studies in philosophy (1836):
"I began to read De imitatione Christi of which I read some head around the Holy Sacrament. Considering carefully the sublimity of thoughts, and the way clear and at the same time orderly and eloquent with which these great truths were exposed, I began to say to myself. The author of this book was a learned man. Continuing others and then other times to read that golden operetta, I did not delay to to realize, that only one versicle of it contained so much doctrine and morality, how much I would not have found in the big volumes of the ancient classics ".
As is known, the Imitation of Christ is a collection of reflections and instructions of a religious nature, expressed in sentences mixed with spiritual elevations to lead to the perfection of charity through a devotional and ascetic itinerary of conversion. The fundamental idea is the imitation of Christ, but an imitation where the focus is above all on the example of the Jesus of the Gospel. Thirteen years later, in 1849, Don Bosco will make it as a synthesis in The Key to the Kingdom, almost painting his own self-portrait:
"The model that every Christian must copy is Jesus Christ. No one can boast of belonging to the GC if he does not work to imitate him. Therefore, in the life and actions of a Christian, we must find the life and actions of Jesus himself. The Christian must pray , as he prayed to GC over the mountain with recollection, humility, confidence, the Christian must be accessible, as was Jesus Christ, to the poor, the ignorant, the children [...] The Christian must deal with his neighbor, as he treated JC with his followers: therefore his entertainment must be uplifting, charitable, full of gravity, of sweetness, of simplicity. The Christian must be humble, since he was GC [...] The true Christian considers himself as the lesser of the others and as a servant of all, the Christian must obey as he obeyed GC [...] The true Christian obeys his parents, his masters, his superiors ... The true Christian in eating and drinking must be like Jesus Christ, at the wedding of Canaan of Galilee and Bethany [... ] The good Christian must then be with his friends, since he was GC with St. John and St. Lazarus [...] The true Christian must suffer privation and poverty with resignation as GC suffered them [...] He knows tolerate the contradictions and calumnies [...] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] So that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: It is not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".his parents, to his masters, to his superiors ... The true Christian in eating and drinking must be like GC, at the wedding of Cana in Galilee and Bethany [...] The good Christian must then be with his friends, since he was GC with St. John and St. Lazarus [...] The true Christian must suffer privation and poverty with resignation as GC suffered them [...] He knows how to tolerate contradictions and calumnies [ ...] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] Di so that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: It is not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".his parents, to his masters, to his superiors ... The true Christian in eating and drinking must be like GC, at the wedding of Cana in Galilee and Bethany [...] The good Christian must then be with his friends, since he was GC with St. John and St. Lazarus [...] The true Christian must suffer privation and poverty with resignation as GC suffered them [...] He knows how to tolerate contradictions and calumnies [ ...] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] Di so that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: It is not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".] The true Christian in eating and drinking must be like GC, at the wedding of Cana in Galilee and Bethany [...] The good Christian must then be with his friends, since he was GC with St. John and St. Lazarus [ ...] The true Christian must suffer privation and poverty with resignation as GC suffered them [...] He knows how to tolerate contradictions and slanders [...] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] So that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: I am not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".] The true Christian in eating and drinking must be like GC, at the wedding of Cana in Galilee and Bethany [...] The good Christian must then be with his friends, since he was GC with St. John and St. Lazarus [ ...] The true Christian must suffer privation and poverty with resignation as GC suffered them [...] He knows how to tolerate contradictions and slanders [...] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] So that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: I am not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".] The good Christian must then be with his friends, since he was GC with St. John and St. Lazarus [...] The true Christian must suffer privation and poverty with resignation as GC suffered them [...] He knows tolerate the contradictions and calumnies [...] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] So that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: It is not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".] The good Christian must then be with his friends, since he was GC with St. John and St. Lazarus [...] The true Christian must suffer privation and poverty with resignation as GC suffered them [...] He knows tolerate the contradictions and calumnies [...] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] So that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: It is not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] So that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: It is not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".] The true Christian must be ready to tolerate the pains of spirit [...] The good Christian must be willing to patiently welcome every persecution, every illness and even death, as he did GC [...] So that the true Christian must say with the apostle St. Paul: It is not I who live, but it is Jesus Christ who lives in me ".
Don Bosco non si pone il problema della possibilità di cesura o di contrasto fra il Gesù della storia ed il Cristo della fede. Semplicemente invita il cristiano ad "imitare" l'unico "modello" conosciuto di Gesù, quello evangelico, assumendo, come suo discepolo, una condotta impregnata del suo Spirito e sorretta dalle sue grandi intenzioni di Salvatore.
Giovanni Bosco entertained good relations with the Superiors, who used him very kindly, even if many times he would have liked to talk, ask for advice or dissolved doubts and could not. The future memorialist cannot help but underline the distance between superiors and clerics. Positively, he is impressed by Don Borel, of whom he admires the hilarious air, the joking words, but always seasoned with moral thoughts, the excellent preparation and thanks to the mass, the demeanor and fervor in celebrating it, and then the popularity, the vivacity, the clarity and fire of charity of his words. An exact image of what he wants to be himself.
He chose as companions the clerics of mirrored virtue, noting also how "not a few young people, regardless of their vocation, go to the seminary without having the spirit or will of the good seminarian". He considered them dangerous. However, cheerful, sociable, good to everyone, he offered everyone his humble services: sewing shoes, sticking buttons ... so everyone wanted him. And once again he maintained a profound and spiritual friendship with Comollo. Of him, although he has reservations about certain forms of penance, he nevertheless shares the convictions concerning the duties of the good seminarian and the spiritual responsibilities of the future priest: they will be part of the "spiritual pedagogy" of which he will be the proponent in the future.
Holidays could be dangerous for a cleric. Here then Don Bosco read, write, study, work in the fields, do the usual time, teach the catechism to children and adults. "I have also begun to make sermons and speeches with the permission and assistance of my provost. I do not know what the result was. On all sides it was applauded, until I was disillusioned ... Merciful God has arranged for me to have that lesson ".
He studied seriously, day and night. Don Bosco was not joking; it really did not waste a minute of time: dozens of volumes were read, above all of the history of the Church and of the saints. He went to school but deepened on his own. For morality he studied probabilisticism; in ecclesiology the anti-infallibility theses; in pastoral practice rigorism and in law moderate pro-local and jurisdictional ideas. He cultivated secular culture: he knew Latin and Italian classics, but he also appreciated the beauty of ecclesiastical writers. In the last year he asked to be excused from the 4th with the permission to give exams: he threw himself dead to study in the holidays and was promoted. Final judgment: "zealous and successful cleric".
Many other things we can read in his "Memoirs" and in the
"Biographical Memoirs" on Giovanni Bosco a seminarian in Chieri. We are almost certain that it was difficult for him to live there, given his extroverted temperament, his desires which certainly contrasted with the type of regulation, of studies, of monotonous life in progress, of a system more "repressive" than "preventive". For this reason it is surprising that when leaving the seminar it expresses itself in terms of pain for the separation from that place. However, there were two main acquisitions of the seminar: science education and the ecclesiastical spirit.
At the Convitto he "learned to be a priest", wrote Don Bosco. First of all there is the moral theological conception of "benignism" (that of St. Alphonsus), which stood between the strict Giansenisno and a certain widespread lax reaction. However, a morality remained based rather on the law than on conscience, for which the conflict between law and freedom was easy. Among the theological sciences he preferred sacred history and ecclesiastical, apologetic and edifying history, a story that interpreted human events in a theological, providentialist, hagiographic and moralistic key.
At the boarding school the figure and teaching of Don Cafasso strengthened elements proper to his spirituality: Christian hope, the sense of duty as a coherent religious lifestyle, the importance of sacramental practice in pastoral action, fidelity to the Church and to the Pope, the pastoral orientation in favor of abandoned youth, the thought of the Novissimi, the exercise of the Good Death.
During those studies Don Bosco then practiced preparing "meditations" and "instructions" for spiritual exercises and popular missions. His style is flat and humble, very basic in linguistic structures, without creative fantasy; elementary as long as you want, in theological and spiritual contents, but very practical in the objectives to be achieved.
Like his other "student" companions, he is also, under the guidance of Don Cafasso, pastoral experiences in the city. Catechesis touches both prisoners (including religious assistance until a death row inmate sent to Valdocco) and immigrants to the
Church of St. Francis of Assisi. From the first matures the idea that it is better to "prevent" than "repress", from the second it starts its Work: "This society was at the beginning a simple catechism".
On the occasion of the spiritual exercises, in preparation for the priestly ordination of Saturday 5 June 1841, Don Bosco took certain resolutions, perhaps the same as those suggested by the preachers to all the students. However, Don Bosco transcribed them in his last Memories-Spiritual Testament (from the 1980s); therefore they have been present to his spirit throughout his life, until the end. They are preceded by what he considers the final synthesis of the exercises themselves: "The priest does not only go to heaven, he does not go only to hell. If he does well, he will go to heaven with the souls he saved with his good example; if he gives scandal he will go to perdition with the damned souls for his scandal ". But here are the intentions:
"1 ° Never take walks if not for serious needs: visits to the sick, etc. 2. Strictly occupy time well.
3rd Suffer, do, humble oneself in everything and always, when it comes to saving souls. 4 ° The charity and the sweetness of St. Francis de Sales guide me in everything. 5 ° I will always show myself happy with the food that will be prepared for me, as long as it is not harmful to health.
6 ° I will drink water and only as a remedy: that is to say only when and how much will be required by health.
7th Work is a powerful weapon against the enemies of the soul, so I will not give the body more than five hours of sleep each night. During the day, especially after lunch, I will not take any rest. I will make a few exceptions in cases of illness.
8th Every day I will give some time to meditation, to spiritual reading. During the day I will make a brief visit or at least a prayer to the Blessed Sacrament. I will do at least a quarter of an hour of preparation, and another quarter of an hour of thanksgiving to the Holy Mass.
9th I will never make conversations with women outside the case to hear them in confession or some other spiritual necessity ".
These are texts that should be compared to the "Confidential memories of the Directors" and the memories to the missionaries (of which we will say).
Don Bosco spiritual director of the clerics
At this point it may be interesting to devote our attention also to the way in which Don Bosco, once he became a priest-educator-formator, dealt with the young aspirants to the priesthood, with the seminarians; I use the letters he wrote to them.
First of all, he shows himself as a friend and father, and therefore willing to do everything possible to help everyone realize the vocation to which he has been called. His commitment is maximum so that they may persevere in their vocation and thereby, through Don Bosco's mentality, reach eternal salvation. Don Bosco's paternity is entirely spiritual, made up of unlimited confidence, affection and mutual prayer. It is clearly perceived already from the form with which he begins his letters: "Dearest son, my beloved son, always dear in the Lord". All this sublimates the truly spiritual dimension of Don Bosco's relationships, whose familiarity and friendship are not born only from human sympathy, but have their root in Christ. Likewise, one could say for the conclusion: "Let us love one another in the Lord,
with the help of God, I want to secure the way to Heaven ".
But also the salvation of the souls of others Don Bosco shares with the clerics: "You, my dear Sparrows, have always been the delight of my heart, and now I love you even more, because you have totally dedicated yourselves to the Missions, which is what say: you have abandoned everything to consecrate yourself to the gain of the souls [...] Courage, then, or my dear Sparrows, prepare to be a good priest, a Salesian saint, I will pray a lot for you, but do not forget this friend of the soul".
To another cleric he writes: "I do not doubt that you will always be the ch. Peretto, that friend of Don Bosco who wanted to help me earn many souls to the Lord. Now you have thrown yourself into the enterprise. Therefore I
bless the Lord who keeps you in good will to be good, virtuous and save your soul. I will not fail to love you and pray for you. I am happy with your conduct. Go on, write to me often. But you believe that we work for Heaven on earth. "
There is therefore a profound bond of spiritual fatherhood between Don Bosco and the clerics, which tends, as a fundamental objective, to their total and spiritual happiness, that is, to the salvation of the soul. This also applies to the young people who don Bosco does not know: "We do not know each other in the face of men, but we understand each other in the service of the Lord. That Lord who called you to be a Salesian, but a fervent and exemplary Salesian, helps you to earn many souls for Heaven ".
But profoundly spiritual values pass through human mediation, through a sincere, intimate relationship, made of given and received confidence. Don Bosco strongly insists on sincerity and openness of heart as indispensable conditions not only for friendship, but above all for a profound spiritual dialogue. To a cleric who had expressed his vocation doubts, he replied: "We will talk to each other as soon as possible. In Lanzo we will be able to open our hearts sincerely". And to another he writes: "If you say with your words what you have in your heart, you will have in me a friend, who will do all the good he can". The cleric Giovanni Cimano asks for a total openness of heart: "Always aim that you are with a friend, who wants nothing else but your spiritual and temporal good. We will achieve this by
Being a friend of Don Bosco is synonymous with being confident, expressing your feelings, intentions and projects as a starting point for a spiritual orientation that leads to earthly and spiritual happiness, as we read in the letter to Giovanni Garino: "As I told you already another time, I need unlimited confidence from you, which you will certainly grant me, if you think of the solicitude used and which I will use more and more in the future in all that can contribute to the good of your soul and also to your temporal well-being ".
One of the aspects on which Don Bosco insists when he writes to clerics is perseverance in vocation. Many of his letters are answered
it is precisely to problems, doubts, situations advanced by clerics about their vocation. Don Bosco himself often takes the initiative to write to encourage and stimulate, especially in times of difficulty. Don Bosco, inviting him to tranquility, explains the reasons for these inner struggles to the cleric Sonetti who has internal problems and guarantees him his support united to prayer: "Do not give yourself the least concern about what you write. The devil sees that you want to escape him definitely from the hands, so he tries to deceive you. Follow my advice and go ahead with tranquility. Meanwhile you can let the melancholy pass by singing this song of St. Paul [...] ".
To another cleric who had already advised himself personally and who was not satisfied, for whom he went in search of other councilors, he wrote: "I renew what I already told you of presence. Go ahead in the ecclesiastical state to which God is calling you. remember that by multiplying the councilors, you multiply your troubles ".
Don Bosco is committed to removing and simplifying the small or large problems that can block the total gift of life for the salvation of souls. His word is always encouraging and stimulating: "Come on, do not fear anything". He then aims at the goal: "Are you always good, or my Calcagno? I hope so. But do not look back. Let us contemplate the Heaven that awaits us. There we have a great prize prepared. Work, earn souls and save yours" . He intervenes in the opportune moment, always with delicacy, but also with firmness, respecting the pace of maturation of each and his freedom, without replacing himself in personal decision. When one then decides, Don Bosco is happy. "Your letter takes a thorn from my heart, which has prevented me from doing you the good I could not do you so far.
Don Bosco's solicitude and action for perseverance in the vocation of clerics is not limited to simple answers to problems, to illuminating doubts or encouraging enthusiasm, but also involves
a doctrinal orientation and formation, in which, in a direct and precise way, he poses the emphasis on the weak point suggests the adequate remedy and pushes to acquire certain virtues according to the individuals and the cases. Above all it insists on chastity, obedience, humility, work, witness of life, fear of God and health. It would be said that these aspects are not only adequate for perseverance in the vocation, but essential elements of Salesian and priestly religious life. Let us dwell only for a moment on some, chastity and obedience in particular.
L 'umiltà, le tre pietre la carita preziose con cui è la castita on exposure to the sound of al of priesthood, to adorn the deve la sua anima. Scrivendo al chierico Paris gli propose a la pràtica della suddetta three virtfi come condizione del spiritual progress a la crescita net cammino della santità: "If you want to go forward in the path of God's commands to go and how some time ago you began. What if you want to save your precious pearl of art; with the humility of friendship, he said, appoint, with charity, and self-control. in this thou shalt be a holy convocation, by which the narrower part will be this friendship. "
What are the means to cultivate the virtue of chastity? Don Bosco presents the sobriety in food, the observance of the prescribed fasting, rest and early morning lifting, commitment to study, escape from idleness, sign of the cross, ejaculation, prayer, vigilance, escape of occasions. Simple and practical means, but which Don Bosco considers valid if done well with perseverance: "These diabolical disturbances will be dispelled with the sign of the Holy Cross, with Jesus Mary Mercy, with the Living Jesus and above all by despising them and with vigilate et orate and with flight of idleness and of every next occasion ".
Don Bosco considers chastity as a virtue, a habitual state, absolutely necessary to enter the priesthood, a condition over which he does not compromise. To a cleric who, close to ordination, shows him his difficulties in this virtue, replies: "I received your letter. I commend the frankness and I thank the Lord of good will that inspires them. Second, also, the notices of the confessor; this is your audit, "Me Audit, GC Says in the Gospel. Work to match the impulses of the divine grace that beats them to the heart. Who knows that the Lord does not call her to a sublime degree of virtue. But let us not delude ourselves: if he does not report the complete victory of that inconvenience , do not go ahead or try to enter the sacred orders if
not at least after a year in which there have been no relapses. "Then follow the usual means: prayer, escape from idleness and occasions, frequency of the sacraments, devotion to Mary and St. Louis, reading of good books. Some time afterwards, a cleric has the same problems: perhaps Don Bosco knows him better or perhaps not very much, the fact is that he reduces the trial time and the tone is different: "To answer directly to his most precious letter I need to know the time from which there were no more relapses. My feeling "coram Domino" would be that they did not take orders until at least six months of trial have passed. I do not intend, however, to prohibit him from following the opinion of people who have encouraged him to go ahead ".
In this second case the tone is vague and less cordial, without ceasing to be delicate and more reserved and laconic. He confines himself to expressing his opinion alone with great humility, without taking a stand and leaving room for the individual's freedom of conscience.
Obedience is one of the virtues on which Don Bosco insists most. He presents it as the basis and support of every virtue, a means to obtain peace of heart, to overcome scruples and a necessary condition to be admitted to Orders. It does not speak of obedience in a generic and abstract way, but in relation to individuals. So he wrote to Luigi Calcagno: "Work, gain souls and save yours. Sobriety and obedience are everything to you". To another, while recommending that he be a model Salesian, he presents obedience as the first virtue for him: "You only provide to be a model Salesian. Obedience is the basis and support of every virtue". Don Bosco demands from the clerics a humble, prompt and unlimited obedience, without criticism and murmuring. The cleric Guidazio also adds his own experience:
"You will always be restless and I will say unhappy so much that you will not put into practice the promised obedience and you will abandon yourselves entirely to the direction of your superiors. Until now the devil has cruelly tormented you by pushing you to do the opposite. "There is no reason for us to dispense with the vows. Should these exist, I should write to the Holy See to which they are reserved. But coram Domino, I would advise you to consider the abneget semetipsum, and remember that vir obediens loquetur victoriam."
experience. The devil would like to deceive you and me; he succeeded in part against you; against me in your regard has failed completely. Have full confidence in me as I have had it in you; not of words but of facts, of effective will, of humble, prompt, unlimited obedience. These are the things that will make your spiritual and temporal happiness and will bring to me true consolations ".
* * *
Let's stop here. This is what Don Bosco suggested to his young clerics. Today we have new criteria for admission to the vows, which take into account the progress of the human sciences, theological reflection, the conditions of life of the priest in today's society, the experiences of many other congregations. But I believe that they do not differ much in essential things from the thought of Don Bosco. It would be enough to read the articles about the vow of obedience and chastity in our renewed Constitutions, about the confidence with the spiritual director, with the confessor. We'll talk about it.
"We should speak little of Don Bosco and much like Don Bosco" (Don Giuseppe Quadrio, SDB, servant of God)
After finishing his studies, Don Bosco immediately went into action. In the short space of two years he has already made the decisive choice, the one that will accompany him throughout his life: to dedicate himself body and soul to the education of young people.
In the autumn of 1844, in fact - after having left the ecclesiastical boarding school - he was hired as a chaplain at the Ospedaletto of S. Filomena that the Marchesa Barolo would open only in the following summer for sick girls and boys. In the meantime, he continues to work with young people - who had already started at the boarding school - at the "Rifugio" of Barolo, where he collaborates with other chaplains who work for girls at risk or who are already victims of violence.
At the "Refuge" the Oratory of St. Francis of Sales was born - by the saint to whom a room dedicated to the chapel of the future Ospedaletto was dedicated - which after 15 years would have given the name to the Salesian society. The affinity with the saint of Geneva, known in the seminary in Chieri, is consolidated here and will contribute to delineate the future Salesian spirituality, made of apostolic charity as an end, of meekness as a method and of ardent zeal as the soul of everything.
Even before November 1846 - when Don Bosco moved definitively to Valdocco with his mother, after having overcome an illness that had brought him to the edge of the grave - we find ourselves in front of a priest of the diocese of Turin who, in some way, has made a choice of consecrated life: it accepts a radical poverty
, rejecting various offers of pastoral work, legitimately paid, within ecclesiastical structures, to count only on charity; cultivates a chastity above all suspicion, considering that he works with difficult young people, sometimes victims of ambiguous or negative experiences between companions and with adults; he professes obedience to his bishop, on whom he depends in every way and finally lives an ardent charity towards the young, for whom he feels called to give his life.
In that November 1846, then, with his mother Margherita, he began an adventure that ended at dawn on January 31, 1888. An Oratory will soon be built, made of prayer and play, then gradually a pensioner, a hospice, a complex work of various humanistic schools and different laboratories, with the highest concentration of young people in Italy (about 800 minors), limited by the poverty of means and scarcity of people, but unlimited in the dreams and projects of its founder.
In a fragment of his "history of the soul", Don Bosco confessed (1854) the secret objective of his work: "When I gave myself to this part of the sacred ministry I intended to consecrate my every effort to the greater glory of God and to the advantage of souls, intent on working to make good citizens in this land, so that one day they would be worthy inhabitants of heaven. God help me to be able to continue until the last breath of my life.
A very straightforward and essential text of the early 1950s - Regulation plan for the male Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in Turin in the Valdocco region (which Don Bosco never published) - takes us back to the real origins of the first oratory , that is to say devoid of those superstructures, interpretations and commentaries to which the subsequent texts are loaded, prepared by him himself for publicizing, ad intra and ad extra of the Salesian society. Precisely in so far as it expresses its intentions and the initiative that it intends to promote, at the elementary, primeval stage, without all the subsequent concretizations, it lends itself better to indicate the richness of the virtualities and of the pedagogical propensity.
"To the children, who were driven together into one. Joan. Ch. 11 v. 52.
The words of the holy Gospel that make us known to be the divine Savior who came from heaven to earth to gather together all the children of God, dispersed in the various parts of the earth, seem to be literally applicable to the youth of our days. This portion, the most diluted and the most precious of the human society, on which the hopes of a happy future are based, is not in itself perverse in nature. Without the neglect of the parents, idleness, the clash of the sad companions, to whom they are especially subject in the festive days, it is very easy to insinuate into their tender hearts the principles of order, morality, respect, religion; because if it happens sometimes that they are already broken at that age, they are rather out of consideration, than out of malice consumed. These young people really need a beneficial hand, to take care of them, cultivate them, guide them to virtue, distance them from vice. The difficulty consists in finding ways to gather them, to be able to speak, to moralize them. This was the mission of the son of God; this can only make his holy religion. But this religion which is eternal and unchanging in itself, which was and will always be the teacher of men in every age, contains a law so perfect, that it knows how to bend to the events of the times, and adapt itself to the different nature of all men " . this can only make his holy religion. But this religion which is eternal and unchanging in itself, which was and will always be the teacher of men in every age, contains a law so perfect, that it knows how to bend to the events of the times, and adapt itself to the different nature of all men " . this can only make his holy religion. But this religion which is eternal and unchanging in itself, which was and will always be the teacher of men in every age, contains a law so perfect, that it knows how to bend to the events of the times, and adapt itself to the different nature of all men " .
The debut of the document and other central steps immediately indicate that at the basis of the choice to make Oratorio there is first of all the salvific will of God, expressed in the incarnation of the Son, sent precisely to gather men, around him, in unity, "the children of God", dispersed in the meanders of error and false paths of salvation. The Church is called to respond over time to this divine mission of salvation, which is made possible by a double series of reasons: one of a theological nature (offered by the solidity and flexibility of religion) and one of a pedagogical nature, consisting of the fundamental educability of youth subject. The oratory is part of the economy of salvation, it is a human response to a divine vocation and not so much a
Thus Don Bosco, at the age of 40, has already become aware that God has called him and calls him to this mission for the young and, albeit gradually, he is convinced that the purpose of his life is found in the Oratory.
Exemplary in this regard is the outline that traces of St. Vincent de Paul in an operetta of the early years of his priestly apostolate
(1849) which referred to what we said about the "Imitation of Christ": "To complete his In his portrait, it is enough to add that he had proposed Jesus Christ as a model: he drew all his morality in the gospel, all his civilization, all his politics ... he once said, "I do not find what I like except in Jesus Christ "[...] Persuaded [Vincenzo] that the disciple is not perfect if he does not resemble his master [...] he set out to have him constantly before his eyes [...] We must resolve to imitate GC and follow him in suffering, otherwise we would never come to share in its glory.He wants to enjoy with Christ must suffer with Christ. "
St. Vincent de Paul was, without a doubt, a figure of great significance for Don Bosco: not only on the theoretical level, but in the daily practice and in the realization of the priestly ideal: a model of priest, tireless in apostolic activities towards all the various forms of poverty and abandonment, "the father of the poor for the readiness, the extension and perseverance of his charity, but also for the sentiments of tenderness and humility with which he accompanied her". St. Vincent then - comments Don Bosco - "became animated on the example of St. Francis de Sales, whose extreme gentleness struck him at the first good detention he had with him, and finally by force of vigilance he became so sweet and so affable, that he would be was in this genre the first man of his century,
But immediately in Don Bosco's "plan", next to the religious dimension, he sees another; the social one: "the insinuation into their tender hearts of the principles of order, morality and respect". Not for nothing a few years earlier, in a circular letter de 11851, Don Bosco had written: "So while there are those who commendably strive to spread the scientific light, to advance the arts, to prosper industries and to educate the well-off in the colleges and high schools, in the modest Oratory of San Francesco di Sales the religious and civil education is largely divided to those who, although they were less favored by fortune, also have the strength and the desire to be useful to themselves, to their families and to the country ".
The same ideas had, moreover, expressed at the time of the "flying" Oratory (March 13, 1846), to the highest authority in Turin, the city vicar Michele Benso di Cavour: "The teaching [of the Catechism] is practically reduced to this: 1. Love at work.
Attendance at the Holy Sacraments. 3. Respect to every superiority. 4. Escape from the bad companions ". The response of the father of the famous Count Weaver of the Italian unity Camillo Benso could only be positive:" No dub [b] I can have the advantage of a Catechism [...] and I will gladly receive Mr. Bosco priest ".
"The difficulty consists in finding a way to gather them, to be able to speak, to moralize them"
Thus writes Don Bosco and the statement is very understandable. But alongside this difficulty, there were others, such as the "objective" lack of economic resources and environments, but also the "subjective" ones of drawing up a regulation that would reduce the "unity of spirit and discipline" different educational styles. We read in the document, already quoted, of 1851:
and I have always given up on the innumerable difficulties that you had to overcome. Now and in order to preserve unity of spirit and conformity of discipline, and to satisfy several authoritative people, who advise me to this, I have decided to do this work anyway to succeed ".
In the quotation we immediately grasp the "criticism" of the situation in Turin in those forties: the parish model inherited from a country culture, in use at the time, was no longer able to "gather" the urban youth masses, residents mostly in the suburbs of the city, in a state of abandonment in some material cases, more often moral and religious.
A new pastoral strategy was therefore required, an unprecedented training proposal in response to a radical transformation of the urban situation in Turin, which in ten years (18381848) had seen its population increase by around 17% (from 117,000 to 136,000 ); and even more in percentage both the houses (2600/3200) and the families (26,000 / 33,000); not to mention a set of floating population that gravitated around the city (military, students, seasonal workers ...). Of the total no more than 110% spoke and understood the Italian language correctly; young people between the ages of 10 and 20 were 20% (22,000), always growing over the years, above all for their use as low-cost labor in the textile and construction sector.
The response of the Christian city community in general was dogmatic, when it was not a pure condemnation of immigration itself seen as an escape from the country in search of dangerous novelties, with the consequent loss of the previous systems of reference and therefore also of the practice of faith. The rejection of the city prevailed, seen as a place of evil, which destroyed the values of Catholic culture, prevented those simple but very cultivated and useful personal relationships in the countries of origin.
Don Bosco does not disarm, but reacts to this "reading" of the situation. Economic development does not in itself consider it a receptacle of vice, a school of perdition. Popular education - anxiously awaited by liberals but arousing the apprehension of conservative circles - does not see it as an evil to be exorcised, but as a resource to be valued for the human and Christian formation of young people.
It should be pointed out, however, that it is not so much the incipient liberal tendencies of the time that animate his apostolic zeal and his spirit of "missionary of young people without parish", as the motivations proper to the Catholic charitable tradition, inspired by the Gospel, solicit material need and spiritual of the poor, of the orphans, of the abandoned. Don Bosco is the son of his time and is affected by this profound evangelical inspiration. Once it is acknowledged that the "organized" ecclesiastical structures do not stand up to confrontation with social imbalances and cultural changes, it tries new ways, opens new fronts for young people uprooted from their natural habitat and, in agreement
with the ecclesiastical authorities, looks forward to new ones and more courageous educational horizons.
This evolution was determined by the needs of the situation. The cultural poverty of young people causes the opening of a Sunday primary school, then evening, then daytime, especially for those who cannot attend the public school. Followed by other schools, various laboratories and this step towards the complex "annexed house" at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales. This makes its way: from a mere meeting place of the feast days for catechism and games in the first years of the fourth decade of the century (1841-1846), starting from 1847 it becomes a place of global formation; then for a certain number of young people with no means of subsistence it is transformed into a "hospice" or home, where a more complete program is developed, made up of the possibility of the sacraments, of elementary religious instruction (formative readings) of entertainment, (game tools, sports, excursions), interests (songs, music), religious and civil holidays, gifts (some gifts, a piece of bread ...). At the same time, an intense activity in the field of religious and apologetic printing is taking off with the widespread publication of Catholic readings (1853ss) of a widely popular nature. From 11555 to 1870 a further decisive turning point emerged in Don Bosco's welfare and educational enterprises. With the gradual transformation of the Oratory of Valdocco into a boarding school for both artisans (1852-1862) and students (1855-1859), a large strand of activity took shape, which will push the original work of the oratory to the second place. always "primary" but only on the ideal level. Other structures have been added to the church courtyard: classrooms and laboratories, to offer the possibility of learning a trade avoiding frequenting too often immoral and always dangerous city factories for young people already burdened with a difficult past. And then gradually other other Salesian houses, other boarding schools and other small seminaries entrusted to the by-now are founded. Salesian society. They are the colleges of Mirabello (1863) and of Lanzo (1864) and then of Liguria (1870-1871). And the phenomenon of so-called "collegialization" (hospices, colleges for students, interned with schools other small seminars entrusted to the sort now. Salesian society. They are the colleges of Mirabello (1863) and of Lanzo (1864) and then of Liguria (1870-1871). And the phenomenon of so-called "collegialization" (hospices, colleges for students, interned with schools other small seminars entrusted to the sort now. Salesian society. They are the colleges of Mirabello (1863) and of Lanzo (1864) and then of Liguria (1870-1871). And the phenomenon of so-called "collegialization" (hospices, colleges for students, interned with schools
for artisans, later retirees, schools for the outdoors) who at least for a century will absorb the greater (and better) energies of the Salesian Society and give a "new face", a second typical version to its "Preventive System". Finally a new extraordinary opening, not foreseen in the first Constitutions approved by the Holy See in 1874, was the missionary initiative (from 1875), introduced in Argentina, with a first interest for emigrants.
But already with the first Oratory (Pinardi house) there are some important insights that will later be acquired in their deepest value. In fact, the Oratory of this phase, even if provisionally organized and entrusted in many respects to a certain pedagogical episodicity, sees however already present, in a nutshell, the germinal elements of the more complex humanistic-Christian synthesis that Don Bosco will later outline. That is to say:
• A flexible structure - as he thinks of the Oratory (not necessarily parochial or inter-parochial) - which ranks among the Church, urban society and youth groups. Exactly the "bridge" desired by Pope John Paul II.
• Respect and enhancement of the popular environment.
• Religion as the foundation of education according to the teaching of Catholic pedagogy transmitted from the Convitto environment.
• The dynamic interweaving of religious formation and human development, between catechism and education: or even convergence between education and education in the faith (faith-life integration).
• The belief that education is the essential tool to illuminate the mind.
• Education, as well as catechesis, which develops in all expressions compatible with the narrowness of time and resources: literacy of those who have never been able to enjoy any form of school education, job placement, assistance along the week, development of association and mutualist activities (Mutual aid company, Conferences of St. Vincent).
• Full employment and promotion of free time.
• Loving kindness as an educational style and, more generally, as a Christian lifestyle.
Given the principle that Don Bosco's welfare and educational initiatives in favor of young people follow one another on a practical level with a certain "occasionality", his "answers" to problems are not given on the basis of an organic and implemented "program" based on a prior and comprehensive view of the social and religious framework of the 1800s. He later encounters particular problems, to which he gives equally immediate and localized answers. Only gradually the various youth conditions will lead him to propose the "youth problem" altogether.
Similarly to the typology of the "works" that developed at Valdocco (and elsewhere), the bands of young people educated there (and elsewhere) must be borne in mind during Don Bosco's life. In this regard, however, we must rely on empirical inductions.
To constitute the first oratorian world - festive oratory: school of catechesis, recreation garden - both ex-corrigendi (probably a very limited number) and, in greater numbers, young immigrants (culturally and linguistically extraneous to the religious world of Turin) seem to contribute and generally young people without strong ties to their respective parishes. The Oratory is set up as a literacy center, especially for immigrants or otherwise abandoned, especially on non-working days. Except for the first eventuality, it is the normal situation of all subsequent speakers (with annexed Sunday and evening or even day schools, mutual aid societies, workers' societies, associations of various species).
Apparently socially and culturally but perhaps to a higher step, students and craftsmen far from the "homeland" have been welcomed since 1847 in the oratory and in the "annexed house", who go to the city to learn a trade or perform studies that enable them to use. Valdocco thus becomes a gathering center for young people to be placed at work or eager to attend city schools; further open to other possibilities for assistance, professional and cultural training, education.
A certain number of young people belonging to this category or in particular difficulties or with some greater
financial resources and who request it are also offered the opportunity to learn the trade in laboratories organized within the hospice or to complete their studies in schools that have become colleges. This population normally falls under the regulation in the two different social categories: the "poor class" and the "middle class".
Particular needs also favor the establishment of schools (elementary, technical, humanistic, professional, agricultural), externalized, colleges also for middle-high classes where it is a question of opposing similar lay or Protestant initiatives or of ensuring a fully Catholic education according to fundamental canons of the preventive system (for example, in Italy: Lanzo, Varazze, Alassio, Este; in Uruguay: Villa Colón).
A category in itself is made up of those young people among the "poorest and most unsafe" who find themselves in mission places, lacking the light of faith, immersed in the darkness of idolatry, considered, according to nineteenth-century forms, the undisputed domain of the devil. It is the maximum of poverty, it was also the children of "chiefs" or of the same "chief of chiefs" as Cefirino Namuncurà. Of course, Salesian missionary action will not stop with young people, but it will try to involve the whole world around them, nor will it limit itself to strictly pastoral action, but it will concern itself with all aspects of their life, civil, cultural and social. Don Bosco himself specifies this in his letter of November 1, 1886: the Salesians intend to bring "religion and civilization among those peoples and nations that the
Finally, young people who show a propensity for the ecclesiastical or religious state are privileged without distinction of classes. For Don Bosco they are the most precious gift that could be given to the Church and to civil society itself.
Evidently, even if we limit the analysis to nineteenth-century Italy, in fact and programmatically, "poor and abandoned youth", even in a particularly serious and extensive dimension, remain unconnected to Don Bosco's action. The limited forces available, as well as legitimate educational choices, hindered larger and heterogeneous commitments.
Among the human situations, sometimes even tragic, of which Don Bosco did not concern himself, at least directly, we can mention: the emerging range of young people, increasingly engaged in nascent industry, to be assisted, protected, trained socially and unionized; the real world of juvenile delinquency that exists in Turin, as it appears from historical reconstructions; the works for the recovery of juvenile delinquents or those close to delinquency, with some of which, moreover, entered into more or less clear negotiations; the immense continent of poverty and misery not only in the cities, but also, and often even more, in the countryside; the vast archipelago of illiteracy; the world of unemployment and the mentally and physically disabled.
* * *
It is significant that the proclaimed preference for the poorest is considered compatible not only on a practical level, but also on a regulatory level, with the massive destination of schools and colleges for the "middle class". Don Bosco does not refuse for any kind of people, even if he tends to deal with the poor class and the middle class like those who need help and assistance. However, the "straight lines" to be paid did not allow large openings towards the real poor or the middle-poor, except for limited groups of children supported by public or private charity.
But, ultimately, in the face of an increasingly threatening and uneducating society, it seems that Don Bosco increasingly considers all youth, in itself fragile, often "abandoned" (neglected, underestimated by their parents) and "needing more help" danger ". The boys as such end up being considered all "at risk", without distinction of social classes, economic and cultural levels.
The same evolutionary dynamism means that a particular educational method, proposed and adopted for the education and re-education of the most diverse groups (young oratorians, public school students, collegiate students, seminars, corrigendum, even prisoners), will become a "system "advertised and presented as a universal method of youth education. But we will be able to reflect on it again.
"The purpose of this Society is the spiritual good of the members through the exercise of charity towards the neighbor and especially towards the poor youth" (Don Bosco)
If there are seasons of Don Bosco's life, they are well known from his childhood, youth and the first apostolic experiences, all of which are often presented in a playful perspective: saltimbanco on the lawns of the Becchi, an unsurpassable athlete in the college of Chieri, magician over the years del Convitto, idol of the youth of the first Oratory. But this does not seem the ideal way to reach the best knowledge of the hardness of that long and arduous journey that led him to be the founder, from the demanding spirituality, of two religious Institutes (SDB, FMA), of an Association of lay people (Cooperators ) and at the same time manager, from the surprising activity, of innumerable youth institutions.
The choice of young people, from Don Bosco carried out in his early thirties (1844-1846), in order to become the "mission" of the Salesians, needed the necessary humus of consecration. Only that practically not long after (1855) the story of his "Memoirs of the Oratory" is feline and at that point many books, booklets, films about Don Bosco often stop ... And the other 30 years? Perhaps they were less "intriguing" than the first 40, but certainly they are essential to know "all of Don Bosco" and not just "a part", the apparently
more heroic one. Also because without this "according to Don Bosco", the Don Bosco founder, so to speak, even the first would not have left such a profound trace in history.
Don Bosco has never written a treatise on the theology of religious life: and how could he do so without having any experience and study in this regard? But in this regard, his writings are not lacking and we use them as a basis for our meditation. Purposefully, as always, we stick to Don Bosco alone: I leave to you the necessary update explicitly requested by the numerous and rich documents issued by the Holy See and the congregation.
In the first article of his Constitutions for Salesians, Don Bosco underlines the inseparable weaving of consecration and mission: "The purpose of this Society is the spiritual good of the members through the exercise of charity towards the neighbor and especially towards the poor youth" .
The idea of the Salesian at the same time "consecrated to the young" and "religious" - well before it became the subject of ample debate in the Special General Chapter (1971) - had been clearly indicated by the Historical Outline on the Congregation of St. Francis de Sales, presented by Don Bosco in March 1874 to the Roman authorities involved in the approval of the Constitutions. The Salesian Congregation intended to welcome, obviously to "form them religiously", the individuals of moderate life, who wanted to dedicate themselves to the good of the youth, especially the poorest and most unsafe children. Consequently, beginning with the novitiate, the "classic" spiritual practices (prayers, meditations, ascetic and moral lectures) were complemented by what Don Bosco defined "
The Salesians are therefore consecrated to God for the young; their life, given to God, comes from spending them for others. Just as Don Bosco did, who was a priest (of God) of young people, a priest for the youngsters favored by God, a God who assumed the face of the young and
planned the day, the commitments, the appointments, the hours of rest, life, the possibility of leaving our skin too.
A Christmas circular 1883 constitutes, if one wishes, a further and clear doctrinal compendium on religious life characterized by the interpenetration of the two "consecrations", to God and to the young: "We are made religious not to enjoy, but to suffer, and procure ourselves merits for the other life, we have consecrated ourselves to God not to command, but to obey, not to attach ourselves to creatures, but to practice charity towards our neighbor moved by the love of God alone ".
Fidelity to the double dimension of Salesian existence originates from the original "vocational choice". Don Bosco underlines three fundamental features of it: a reassuring response to the concrete call of God to "salvation", a free and generous interior impulse of active charity towards the neighbor, especially the young, a legitimate desire for self-realization, for one's own potential of nature and grace.
In the pages of the Introduction to the Constitutions, the first aspect is emphasized above all, with the arrival at an almost moral obligation to accept the vocation as a "special grace". It "removes from the dangers of the world", where "everything is placed in malice"; it offers tranquility of navigation "in the midst of the stormy fairs" of life; it is "the ark of Noah" which frees from the three ways in which "the enemy of the human genus exercises his malice against men", that is, the "concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life". And if to accept the vocation it seems for Don Bosco to entail a considerable degree of obligation, in the practice and in the daily indications it tends to be considerably reduced: God "
But then there is also the typically Salesian side of free choice, suggested by fraternal charity. The countless speeches to young people
and Salesians in formation, dedicated to the theme of vocation, combine both "salvation", their own and that of others. Don Bosco, however, warns against any pressure: "It is never the case to suggest" be priests or not to be ", but it is necessary" to instruct them "". On the contrary, he recommends: "Let us therefore investigate those who have a propensity for the congregation, but let no one ever go in it". However, the search for a happy state of life, where there is peace, security, culture, professional qualification, fraternal coexistence, and joy, is no stranger.
For coadjutor candidates it goes further. After presenting them with the Salesian religious vocation to "anyone who wants to save his soul", he added: "Always trusting in Divine Providence, compassionate mother, I can assure you that we will lack nothing of what is necessary to us either time of health neither in time of illness, nor in time of youth nor in time of old age ". And he continued describing the ample possibilities of good and the prestige acquired by lay Salesians who went to America, who "had nothing in particular at the Oratory".
There are practically no significant studies on Don Bosco as "consecrated", since he "entered into religion", professed vows (before the crucifix), lived them "as a religious" and as such made a common life with the Salesians, he shared with them the experience of the life of piety and charity, he inserted himself as "consecrated" in the social and ecclesial fabric. Yet in presenting the religious life to his "children", Don Bosco allows us to glimpse, implicitly and explicitly, the strong convictions of his spirit, that is the greater glory of God and, to promote it, the salvation of souls, or, to say it in others words, imitating, reproducing Jesus Christ the Savior in his assembly facere et docere and then following him in his "mysteries" until his death.
We'll talk about it right away. Here it is sufficient to recall that the main purpose of Salesian religious consecration is the souls to be conquered by Christ, through his own action and that this "mission" cannot be fully carried out by the Salesian who does not feel perfection, personal holiness as the supreme assonance of his own life.
It should be added that the Heavenly Father, Christ Master, the Virgin Mary, "mother and support of our Congregation", have been heard and indicated by Don Bosco as the protagonists of his story and of the congregation he founded: "God compassionate and his Mother came to our aid in our needs, especially when we needed to provide for our poor and abandoned youngsters, and even more so when they were in danger of their souls ".
But already at the conclusion of a circular to the Salesian community of August 15, 1869 - so as soon as the Congregation was approved by the Holy See - he wrote: "My dear children, we have a great undertaking, many souls await salvation from us; among these souls the first must be ours, and then that of our members and those of any faithful Christian who happens to us to be able to bring some advantage God is with us The grace of NSGC is always with us and grant us the spirit of fervor and the precious gift of perseverance in society. Amen ".
At his death Don Bosco transmitted to his own, as a testament, precisely the certainty of the unfailing "presence" of Jesus in the congregation: "Your first Rector is dead. But your true superior, Christ Jesus will not die. He will always be our teacher , our guide, our model, but you believe that in his own time he will be our judge and rewarder of our loyalty in his service ".
As can be seen, Don Bosco does not place himself too far from the pastoral program aimed at personal sanctification, suggested by Pope John Paul II in his Instruction "Starting afresh from Christ" in 2002.
Already at the origin of the "religious" choice, Don Bosco gave great importance to his "functional" aspect, also emphasized, according to him, by Pius IX: without votes there would be no opportune links between members and between superiors and inferiors. But the evangelical and theological references concerning the "consecration" and imitation of Christ, which are found in his writings, would have been remarkable and essential.
The vows, however, break the "chains" that make slaves of the "century" (sensual satisfactions, serious embarrassment of temporal things, one's own will); secondly, they bind closely "with the supreme head of the Church and consequently with God himself", detaching from earthly things; consequently, they create a strong community compactness.
The "consecration" of the vows, then, entails at the root enrichments at the level of grace: "the merit of our works is greatly increased", "the baptismal innocence restores us", "it is as if martyrdom were suffered", "because what in the vows lacks intensity is supplied by the duration ". Hence the final consideration: "In all our offices, in all our work, pain or sorrow, let us never forget that since we are consecrated to God, for him alone we must toil and only wait for him to pay our wages".
Obedience, virtue and vow requires the unconditional submission to the will of God. It, inspired by St. Paul (Phil 2: 3) must be according to the example of the Savior, who practiced it even in the most difficult things, until to the death of the cross, and, if so much the glory of God wanted, we must also obey until giving life ". But, as he asks for "great confidence with the superior", he also has a great potential for operations. Individual egoism "yields to the search for the" common good "of the Congregation, retaining the honor of everyone's honor, cultivating and maintaining a vigorous body spirit.
Don Bosco does not finish inculcating and praising the obedience that passes from pure friendship and family practice to a true religious oblation. In this perspective, he emphatically states, citing St. Jerome, St. Bonaventure, St. Gregory: "In the vow of obedience lies the complex of all virtues": "all religious perfection consists in the practice of obedience"; "obedience leads to the possession of all other virtues and preserves them". In the first eighty weapons Don Bosco complained of a certain decline in obedience, declaring "intolerable" that there were those who "without saying anything does not [cease] the thing he was in charge" because this would have produced "immense damage to the congregation". And in response to those who said that compliance with the rules costed effort, he observed:
Paradise in a carriage? We have made ourselves religious not in order to enjoy, but to suffer and gain merit for the other life; we have consecrated ourselves to God not to command, but to obey; not to attach ourselves to creatures, but to practice charity towards our neighbor, for the love of God; not to make us a comfortable life, but to be poor with Jesus Christ, to suffer with Jesus Christ on earth to make us worthy of his glory in heaven ".
As for poverty, it is significant that the first General Chapter (1877) arrived at the partial publication of the Acts with at the center the theme of the economy, that is of saving, of austerity. It is known, moreover, that in the coat of arms of the Congregation, Don Bosco wanted to include not the proposed motto "work and prayer", but "work and temperance".
The constitutional text, however, presents poverty, virtue and vow, rather from the perspective of common life, while referring to "detachment from every earthly good". Even the circular on poverty, sent to the Salesians as soon as the final approval is given, is woven only of practical norms, of invitations to the economy and to savings, made necessary by the many expenses for new building works and raising of all kinds of edibles " , with some final mitigation.
At the base there is, as always, a strong appeal to the Gospel. In the Congregation the Salesian religious is "considered literally as one who no longer possesses, having become poor to become rich like Jesus Christ. He followed the example of the Savior, who was born in poverty, lived in the deprivation of all things, and died naked in cross".
But the reasons for it are not lacking. The congregation and its works live on charity and the Salesians have decided, also institutionally, to live by it, without counting on secure assets of entry, foundations, incomes or similar. "We live on the charity of our benefactors", from which certain consequences flow: "Let us consider as a principle that we never vary in not preserving any property of stable things except for the houses and the adjacencies that are necessary for the health of the confreres or of the wholesomeness of the pupils: the preservation of fruit-bearing buildings is an injury that is
done to the divine providence which, in a marvelous and prodigious way, I said constantly came to our aid ".
The Salesian then "with poverty frees himself from the grave obstacles of temporal things", making his action looser and more effective, especially since Don Bosco actually intends it austere, without half measures or compromise: "all that exceeds food and clothing for we are superfluous, it is contrary to the religious vocation ".
As for chastity, even more than for obedience and poverty, Don Bosco refers more often to it as a virtue than to a vow. Conferences and speeches given to Salesians are largely similar, if not identical, when it comes to novices, young professed or young people in general. To the Salesians, however, he points out the delicacy of their mission among the young, greater if they come from morally degraded environments.
In the Introduction to the Constitutions there is an abundance of encomiums in virtue and warnings about dangers, in part already present in the Constitutions themselves. It also indicates therapies, analogous to those suggested to all, without distinction: avoiding familiarity with people of another sex, not contracting particular friendships with young people, curbing the senses of the body, special temperance in eating and drinking, etc.
In conferences reserved for Salesians, he speaks of "negative and positive means" in terms similar to those used for young people. The starting point is, in his opinion, the "escape" method. "I always recommend being among young people, I say to run away from them. Let's be clear, you have to be with them, in their midst, but never alone, alone, never with one more than with another. Let's say frankly: the ruin of religious congregations involved in youth education must be attributed to this ". And here is the paradox of Salesian chastity: to the most generous affective involvement, to "loving kindness" must be combined with the most radical detachment, to emotional vulnerability the rigor of self-discipline must be combined. But Don Bosco's insistence is above all on "
Don Bosco's battle on the face of morality is tireless and does not cease to require the most varied precautions in behavior, words, books, prints, decorations, theatrical representations. "Never, not even the smallest neo transpires of us", insisted Don Bosco during the second General Chapter (1880).
Linked to substantially common places and structures, the religious community (which is immersed in the community of children) as such lives above all on inner bonds between members who share identical ideals, profess the same vows, maintain special relationships with superiors by virtue of "religious" obedience, they have their own moments of reflection and religious formation and few particular times of prayer. The Delegations of the General Chapters subsequently provided a formal outline of the specific physiognomy, but the "spirit", defined in its essence in the Constitutions, had to hover over everything and in everything: "All the congregates hold common life only by fraternal charity and from the simple vows that bind them to form a single heart and a
Hierarchical relationships came after and as a natural consequence: obedience is also charity. In the second General Chapter (1880) Don Bosco reiterated the need to counter infiltrations of severity especially in schools and to promote the spirit of charity and sweetness of St. Francis de Sales, whom he considered to be in decline especially in schools: poorly viewed pupils , "not well treated", neglected, expelled from the classroom. This gave rise to disagreements between the teacher and the superior, if he tried to mitigate repressive interventions. He concluded: "I commend myself so much that this true spirit of sweetness and charity is exercised by you and everything is done to propagate it in the members of your houses and especially among the professors.
It is known as the voices coming from Argentina in the mid-
eighties about the excessive severity and discipline tending to supplant Salesian loving kindness and about lacerations between confreres of the same house, Don Bosco immediately wrote to three local superiors, Don Cagliero, Don Costamagna and Don Tomatis, so that they would all recall the complete practice of the Preventive System and the preservation of the traditions of Valdocco.
In the last Memoirs-spiritual Testament Don Bosco dedicated a chapter to the concept familiar to him of cor unum et anima una. It triggered the immediate denunciation of the most destructive evil, "the worst plague", that is, criticism, murmuring, impatience; and the consequent therapy: "the union between director and subjects, the agreement between them", the "council" and mutual aid, loyalty to the respective office. Obviously a lot also depended on how the superior came about, as noted to the inspectors in the fourth General Chapter (1886): "Don Bosco recommends that he always go in the name of the Superior and make the rules be observed not by virtue of the I want, but by virtue of the duty imposed by the rules. The ego spoils everything ".
On the Constitutions as a code, which everyone, superiors and subjects, must equally observe with a religious spirit, Don Bosco insists in the public conference of February 1876. It was no longer time to "go ahead with a traditional and almost patriarchal government"; it was necessary to follow the rules, recently approved, to know them, study them, practice them. There would have been two gains: a "collective and not just individual" job and a government of the paternal director "as we wish". Therefore, as emerges from an intervention at the second General Chapter (1880), the observance had to involve the Salesian community at the various hierarchical levels: it is necessary that it "begin with those who make up the Superior Chapter, so that this may extend to the directors, the prefects ,
The key to everything is the figure of the director, a desirable "clone" of Don Bosco, director of the Valdocco oratory. The various "conferences", the regulations, the deliberations of the General Chapters, the directives and observations given in the official and private visits of Don Bosco and Fr Rua are destined to the director and his duties. "The Director is the Superior of each house
. He takes care of all the spiritual, scholastic and material advancement of the house entrusted to him, and will be held for this purpose to the rules established in chapter X of our Constitutions".
The memories that Don Bosco left to the "director of a house with his brothers" in the aforementioned Memorie-Testamento have a more accentuated spiritual zeal. An entire paragraph, subdivided into 10 points, is dedicated to him, as well as another whole paragraph, always divided into 10 points, concerns the "confreres living in the same house". I leave you the meditation on them.
The solidity and fruitfulness of community life, "religious" and "educational", according to Don Bosco, had to find particular support in two practices, entrusted above all to the responsibility of the director: the statements and the conferences.
The constitutional text on the subject of accounting had undergone a laborious transformation: from too invasive to definitive forms in harmony with canonical practice. The text approved in 1874 arrived at an intermediate formula: "Everyone has great confidence in his superior; it will therefore be of great benefit to the members to render an account of the external life to the superior primaries of the Congregation. Each one is manifested with simplicity and promptness the external faults committed against the rules, and also its profit in the virtues, so that it may receive advice and comfort, and, if it does, also the convenient admonitions ".
In the second General Chapter (1880) a session was entirely occupied by a reflection of Don Bosco on the unity of direction necessary for a rapidly expanding Congregation, as a guarantee of unity of spirit and action. The synergy of superiors and subjects was needed. The directors and inspectors "consider themselves as one family and as having only one business to strive together to make it fit". "Each partner keeps the director as a loving father or an older brother, who is the director's place to help them unleash their offices well. They do not hide from them, neither good nor bad, but they appear as they are".
A passionate warning is addressed, once again in
the Spiritual Memo Testament, to the director: "Never forget the monthly statement as much as possible, and on that occasion each director becomes his friend, his brother, the father of his give everybody time and freedom to make their reflections, express their needs and their intentions, and he, for his part, opens his heart to everyone without ever making anyone grudge, not even remembering past faults except to give them paternal notices, or charitable duty to the negligent party ".
Don Bosco's insistence on the so-called "monthly conferences" is parallel. The theme is present in the first General Chapter (1877): "The indentors in chapter, invite the same masters to explain what their experience has suggested and at the time report. To this end no less than three conferences are held year with the same teachers ". And even more in the second General Chapter (1880): "These conferences [for confreres every 15 days] are like a second section of the union so that the confreres and director can be one body and one soul". Instead, in the documents published in 1882, and exactly in the Regulations for the director, a meager article was included which prescribed: "Make at least three conferences a year with all the teaching and assistant staff.
The Salesian religious community is neither a monastery nor a convent, nor a residence, nor an operational center; it is instead a community-family both under the pedagogical profile (educational community) and as cohabitation of "consecrated persons" (religious house). One lives there and works "at home" with the utmost dedication, since everything belongs to everyone, operators and recipients. In this perspective the community becomes capable of continuous innovation and regeneration. It renews itself, adapting to new worlds and extremely differentiated environments and expanding; it is regenerated through the acquisition of new collaborators. The concern for the expansion of the work in both directions is a further characteristic feature of the Salesian profile.
The search for "vocations" is then the task of everyone, individuals and communities, and Don Bosco invited everyone to use all the resources of the preventive system: sacraments, prayer, kindness, familiarity. In the second General Chapter, faced with certain difficulties, he proposed the two classic remedies: "And first of all I see it necessary that
we treat each other with much charity and sweetness and use the same treatment with all the partners. "And again: always speak well of the priests, constantly drive away the bad companions, keep away bad books, from the masters, from the overseers, from the directors even from the pulpit speak with vocation frequency and make it clear how this point is like the main wheel on which life depends, to let our "libretti" read, the life for example of Savio Domenico, Magone, "work us a lot", as they appear everywhere the Salesians: they do not only preach and confess, but "they teach, catechisms, sermons, they are everywhere, they do everything".
In the Spiritual Testament Memoirs the theme of vocations returns with insistence and explicitly as an proprium of the congregation: "God called the poor Salesian congregation to promote ecclesiastical vocations among poor and low-status youth. Families in general are too mixed in spirit of the world, from which unfortunately their children are very often imbued with, thus making them lose the principle of vocation that God has placed in their heart ". And almost summarizing it Don Bosco writes: "Let us remember that we give a great treasure to the Church when we procure a good vocation: that this vocation or this priest goes to a diocese, missions or a religious house does not matter. It is always a great treasure that is given to the Church of GC ".
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We stop here, even though we are well aware that we should add various chapters, including that on the "religious" Salesian in the Church and "free citizen" in civil society. However, it remains clear that the "religious" spirituality of the Salesian is characterized by its merging with the "youth mission". In him to the traditional classical virtues of the homo Dei are added those required by his condition of homo hominum, better, of homo juvenum. We should always keep it in mind, it is a question of our Salesian identity, jeopardized by the easy standardization with different spiritualities of other institutes, some of which are uncertain and confused. In the consecrated life one must aim at the communion of the different charisms, at the public texts
witness of their Communion, but not to their overlap or uniformity to some predetermined common standard. The documents of the Magisterium are obviously for all Religious Families, but each of them has and must maintain the decisive elements of its charismatic, prophetic and institutional specificity. Penalty, perhaps downwards, of the original "being and working" of Don Bosco (and of many other founders).
"The greatest undertaking of our Congregation is that of Patagonia" (Don Bosco)
The Salesian Congregation stems from the "missionary" spirit of Don Bosco, who, still a diocesan priest, prefers the search for those who are "distant" and "outside" to structured pastoral care. His "internal youth mission" actually becomes the ideal platform for "foreign missions". The missionary turning point takes place, as we know, rather late, in 1875, when the "Congregation of Oratories", now definitively approved, becomes in some way also "Institute for foreign missions" and the Salesian missus ad iuvenes becomes missus ad gentes .
Pastoral impatience does not allow Don Bosco to stop at the goals he has achieved and leads him to give, with new goals, an increased dynamism to his religious society. "Speaking of the great need one has for missionaries and for so many millions of men who are still to be converted - the reporter records on May 20, 1875, the subject fell especially on Asia (...) China alone ) has almost 500 million souls, almost 200 million the Indies. We already believe in Europe here who knows what. Well, the only Chinese empire has one and a half times more inhabitants than the whole of Europe. speak of Piedmont, count and study its history and observe all its progress and regressions, and Piedmont is nothing but a grain in the middle of a lake. "And the atom of our oratory here in Valdocco? - resumed smiling Mr. D. Bosco - ep
also he gives us so much to do and from this corner we think of sending here, there ".
Furthermore, there was in Don Bosco the will to free himself from too many localistic and legalistic, civil and canonical ties, so much so that to those who feared that, with his spreading overseas, he would end up impoverishing Italy, he replied: "They do not see that here the priests suspend them, in order to confess them they must move heaven and earth, I send for the faculty of preaching and not the damage that is very limited, I must look for a ground where I can work more easily ". In this context, the American initiative is combined with the simultaneous expansion of the work in France.
For Latin America he puts men of great value at the head of the company: the undisputed leader Don Giovanni Cagliero (later bishop, cardinal), the modest but tenacious and indefatigable Don Francesco Bodrato, the creative and active Don Luigi Lasagna (bishop, died tragically at the age of 45 in a train accident in 1895, of which three volumes of letters were recently published), Don Giacomo Costamagna (later apostolic vicar and bishop in Ecuador), don Giuseppe Vespignani, a distinguished personality in the American Salesian world and at the Internal Directorate General of the Congregation.
From the historical point of view they are the ones who carry out the actual work in the field: that is the installation and the immediate management of the works, the educational action, the evangelization. But Don Bosco is constantly present at every step. He initially gives and continues to give missions, despite the many limitations due to the scarcity of means and personnel, the necessary support, working intensely to arouse vocations, to provide the indispensable personnel, to solicit charity. To individuals and collectively sends letters of spiritual animation. It privileges the first responsible of the works (inspectors, directors), but does not neglect the individuals. He also reserves for himself the arduous task of keeping alive, in his and against the ecclesiastical and civil authorities, on both sides of the ocean, the missionary reality in progress. He also goes so far as to give it the legal foundation with the pontifical institution - however imperfect and unfinished the first Vicariate and the first Apostolic Prefecture in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
Once the two fields of work (pastoral and educational) in Argentina were accepted in a very short time - while negotiations for other geographical areas had been longer and more inconclusive - Don Bosco soon included the term "missions" in the speech. The circular of February 5, 1875 to the Salesians asks them individually for availability: "Among the many proposals that were made for the opening of a mission in foreign countries, it seemed preferable to accept that of the Argentine Republic. There beyond the already civilized part there they still have endless extensions of surface inhabited by savage peoples, among which the zeal of the Salesians with the grace of the Lord can be exercised [...] Or being prepared to prepare the personnel to be sent to do this first experiment,
The reason for the "missions" becomes the dominant theme of propaganda, starting with the speeches between Salesians at Valdocco up to private correspondence. At the end of August, in a plea to the prefect of the Propaganda Fide Congregation, he presented the management of the college of St. Nicolas as something "especially in favor of the Missions". Therefore, assuming that it was the first time that the Salesian Congregation opened "houses in foreign missions", he asked "all those favors, spiritual graces and privileges that the Holy See grants to religious who go to foreign missions" and "those subsidies in money, in especially Spanish books, or for church or school use ".
In his farewell address November 11, 1875, Don Bosco took as his theme the words of the Gospel: "Ite in mundum universum, docete omnes gentes, praedicate evangelium meum omasi Homepage and states:" With these words the divine Savior gave a command; a council, a command to go to missions to preach his Gospel ". He continues: "in order to obey this precept, this Mission was devised preferring it to others conceived and proposed, both in China and in India, in Australia, and in America itself. In this way, we are the beginning of a great work; not that yes
have pretensions or that with this it is believed to convert the whole universe in a few days, no; but who knows that it is not this departure and this little like a seed from which a great plant has to rise [...] I hope so ". At this point he proclaims them missi from the Church and from his Head:" Yes, you go ahead , go and announce the gospel and administer the sacraments in those regions, but remember that the Church is one, both in Europe and in America. Providence that governs us here governs you there. Jesus Christ is the savior of the souls who are here as of those who are there. "Finally, he addresses the departing ones, revealing an interesting detail about the famous" Memories "reserved for them:" To everyone in particular I have already spoken aloud to you in particular that the heart inspired me and that I believed it was more useful for them;
This missio is renewed in the expeditions of the following years.
Leaving Turin, each missionary brought the "Memories" with him. This brief document, the farewell speeches and other subsequent texts can offer the features of an eminently Catholic and Salesian spirituality. It is a complex missionary spirituality, in which the needs and qualities of missi ad iuvenes and those of missi ad gentes are intertwined.
The Da mihi animas, translated as "Seek Souls, but Not Money, Honors, or Dignity", is the head of the "Memories". The Salesian mission is born and is implemented in vital continuity with "the precept of the divine Savior to go and preach his Gospel". The Pope is the link between them; this is why "as soon as we began to talk about these missions the mind of the High Hierarch immediately questioned and all things were done with full intelligence of His Holiness; and then that our missionaries before leaving went to revere the Holy Father and to take his apostolic blessing ". It is catholicity wholly consistent with Salesian sensitivity: "My heart also enjoys great consolation in seeing the kingdom of Jesus Christ propagate, seeing our congregation firmed up,
no in the great edifice of the Church ". In the quoted speech of November 1875, Don Bosco described the hunger for spiritual assistance of priests, widespread in Argentina, and the attraction towards the religion of Jesus Christ of the" great hordes of savages ":" Their customs are not ferocious ", if they hear" preach the religion of Jesus Christ they surrender easily ".
In summary form, the 20 "Memories" reconfirm in missionaries the fundamental traits of Salesian "spirituality". They are required, with a doubled commitment, to those who are supposed to work in particularly difficult environments from multiple points of view: religious, moral, social, cultural, political.
"Morality" is placed in the foreground. At least four of the twenty memories are referred to: "2. Use charity and great courtesy with all, but flee conversation and familiarity with people of another sex or suspicion. 3. Do not visit unless for reasons of charity and necessity. 4. Never accept lunch invitations except for very serious reasons. In these cases, try to be in two. [...] 9. Escape idleness and questions. Great sobriety in food, drink and rest ".
The particular deference to every civil and ecclesiastical authority is then appropriately recommended in foreign countries: "6. Pay respect to all civil, religious, municipal and governmental authorities. 7. Meeting with an authoritative person on the way, take care to greet him obsequiously. 8. Do the same to the ecclesiastical or aggregate persons of religious institutes [...] 10. Love, fear, respect the other religious orders and always speak well of them.This is the means of making everyone esteem and promote the good of the congregation ".
Among the peoples in full development, but together raised by immigration and besieged by the "savages", the command of the poverty of the operators at the service of the indigent becomes urgent. So here are three other "Memories": "5. Take special care of the sick, of children, of the old and of the poor, and you will gain God's blessing and the kindness of men [...] 11. Take care of health. Work, but only as your own strengths do. "12. Let the world know that you are poor in clothes, food, and housing, and you will be rich in the face of God and you will become masters of men's hearts."
To shape this Salesian in situations characterized by extraordinary needs "Ricordi" contribute, proposing personal and community behaviors vivified by charity, nourished by piety, promoters of vocational fruitfulness. To the charity pushes the "Recollection" 13: "Among you love, advise yourselves, but never bring either envy or rancor, rather the good of one, be the good of all; the pains and sufferings of one are considered as pains and sufferings of all, and each one studies to remove them or at least to mitigate them ". We can add, expanding the recipients, the "Ricordo" 19: "In contentious things, before judging, both parties are heard".
Four "Memories" recall piety: "14. Observe our Rules, and never forget the monthly exercise of a good death. 15. Every morning commend the occupations of the day to God, denominations, schools, catechisms, and the sermons 16. Recommend the devotion to MA and to the Blessed Sacrament constantly. 17. To the young people recommended the frequent confession and communion ".
The passion for vocations is kept awake by the "Memory" 18: "To cultivate the vocation eccl.ca insinuate: 1st love of chastity, 2nd horror of the opposite vice, 3rd separation from the devils, 4th frequent communion, 5th charity with signs of loving kindness and special benevolence ".
The 120th and last "Memory" invites us to constantly raise thoughts and aspirations to the summit of the Novissimi: "In the labors and in the sufferings do not forget that we have a grand prize prepared in heaven".
Traits of "missionary spirituality" in correspondence with "superiors in mission"
The contents of the "Memories" are further reiterated and enriched in the letters to the missionaries themselves. The fidelity to the original vocation, the youthful works remains confirmed; involvement in the urgent ministry between the people and the emigrants is encouraged; the "missionary dream" is insistently rekindled with repeated exhortations to daring towards new spaces, to courage, to sacrifice.
The beginnings in Argentina and Uruguay were the springboard
for a subsequent, unexpected, development in Latin America. But the missionary action itself takes off, in relatively modest dimensions, only in 1880. The protagonists of the first years of activity in Argentina and, from 11777 in Uruguay, had to "invent" almost everything, with inadequate personnel and means. No small problems soon arose due to the inadequacy of some, the maladjustment of others and some defections. However, having grown up at the school of a courageous and far-sighted man like Don Bosco and supported by the fascination that he continued to exercise overseas, they gave an intense and productive rhythm to their action.
Among them they occupy, as has been said, a privileged place in the epistolary references those that will be the "inspectors" and directors.
Of great importance in the first two years is the correspondence with Don Cagliero, head of mission, who continues to be one of the most authoritative members of the Superior Chapter. Here are some hints. The letter of 12 February 1876 is particularly important. In it Don Bosco expressed great regret for a letter that Don Tomatis had sent from San Nicolas to Fr Francesia, director at Varazze "in which he expresses how he does not agree so much with someone and that he will soon return to Europe" . Don Bosco then strongly emphasizes two aspects that he considers to be prominent in missionary spirituality: "Tell him two things: 1) That a missionary must obey, suffer for the glory of God and give himself the utmost care to observe those vows with which he consecrated himself to the Lord.
He then writes to the person concerned. After expressing his displeasure at the letter written to Varazze, he outlines his profile of the "missionary": "Listen to me, dear D. Tomatis: a missionary must be ready to give his life for the greater glory of God; able to endure a bit of dislike for a companion, had he also notable defects? So listen to what St. Paul tells us: Alter alterius onera portate, et sic adimplebitis legem Christi, Caritas benigna est, patiens est, omnia sustinet. quis sua-rum et maxime domesticorum curam non habet, est infideli deterior. Therefore, my dear, give me this great consolation, indeed, give me this
great pleasure, it is D. Bosco who asks you: for the future Molinari is your great friend, and if you cannot love him because he is defective, love him for the love of God, love him for the love of God. Will you not? Besides, I am glad you say, and every morning in the Holy Mass I commend to the Lord my soul, your labors. "
To Don Tomatis, whose interesting and rich collection of letters was also published, Don Bosco will write several times afterwards: "A few lines will certainly be welcome to you too as they are written by the true friend of your soul [...]. Then you will see, and I command you, to be the model in work, in mortification, in humility and in obedience to the new-born. Isn't it true that you will do it, but I would like you to write me some long letter that was like a report spiritual exercises and tell me frank life, virtues, present miracles, past and future. What do you say? Dear D. Tomatis, love Don Bosco as it brings great affection to you ". To him, once appointed as director of San Nicolas, he reserves the advice he used to give to Directors: " 1 ° Take great care of your health and that of your subjects; but make sure they don't work too much and is idle. 2 ° power of attorney to precede others in piety and in observance of our rules; and used to ensure that the visit to the Blessed Sacrament is observed by others, especially meditation. Sacrament, weekly confession, well celebrated Mass, and frequent communion for non-priests. 3rd Heroism in enduring the weaknesses of others. 4 ° To the students much benevolence, much comfort and freedom to confess ". and frequent communion for non priests. 3rd Heroism in enduring the weaknesses of others. 4 ° To the students much benevolence, much comfort and freedom to confess ". and frequent communion for non priests. 3rd Heroism in enduring the weaknesses of others. 4 ° To the students much benevolence, much comfort and freedom to confess ".
Returning to Don Cagliero, Don Bosco in another letter recommends him renewed fidelity to the specific Salesian "mission": "This is what the Lord wants of us at this moment! Houses and colleges of low condition, shelters where savages or semi-savages are accepted if they can occur . Great effort to cultivate vocations ". Later he urges the missionary advancement: "In general, always remember that God wants our efforts towards the Pampas and the Patagons and towards poor and abandoned children"; "great excitement to go to the missions: lawyers, notaries, parish priests, professors ask to become ad hoc Salesians. Make every effort to have students or adults who lived among the savages. If some wanted to come to Europe to do their studies or learn trades, send them mashed potato".
Meanwhile, the "American dream" expands and, with it, recklessly the "missionary dream". At the beginning of 1877, writing to a certain Boassi, Don Bosco rejoiced that he was in "family relations with D. Pedro and his wife Empress of Brazil", adding: "If he will have comfort, suggest them one of our houses in that vast empire ".
After a few days he confided to Don Cagliero a project, full of future and illusions, which he said started from two proposals by the Pope, which he accepted: "An Apostolic Vicariate in Patagonia, for example in Carmen, or in s. Cruz, or Puntarenas, or better yet one Vicariate that extends to all three "; "But it is by D. Cagliero quid? - he continued - to the Indies. In the beginning of 1878 we will assume the Apostolic Vicariate of Mangalor in the Indies, which has about three million souls".
Naturally, the Asian projects were held back: "In view of the houses that are multiplying, and thus thinning the staff, the Ceilan, Mangalor, Australia etc. project is suspended on your return." In August 1877, Don Cagliero returned to Europe. Others will be American interlocutors. But in fact the "super-inspector" for America remains in Turin.
The first local inspector will be, until his death on 12 August 1880, Don Francesco Bodrato. However, the very few letters addressed to him by Don Bosco contain guidelines for the "paternal" direction of the Salesians in his employ: "1. Make every sacrifice to preserve charity and union with the brethren. 2. When you have to make corrections or give particular advices never do it in public, but always inter te et illum solum 3. When you have made a correction, forget the phallus and show the praiseworthy goodwill to the criminal " On another occasion he writes: "Recommend to our dear confreres: 1. To work in the way health care entails and no more; but let each person beware of idleness. 2. Recommend compliance with our Rules. Woe to us if we study them without practicing them".
Among the letters of Fr Bodrato published by the Salesian Historical Institute there are some to Don Bosco. In their last two letters (1880) Fr Bodrato underlines with particular force how much the figure of the founder meant for him and for the Salesians in America and
the relationship of filial devotion that binds him to the major superior. We mentioned this in the Introduction. The founder himself appears as a "living message" of everyone's operating style. "We live by Don Bosco [...] We need to invert that sentence which says:" Gloria Pa-tris filius sapiens "[...] Oh if it were here, D. Bosco, how much good would you do with Tipografia! We are still children, although I both in the beautiful 57 years [...] From all this VP may well argue that the name of D. Bosco is a kind of prestige, a mysterious quid that contains a certain attractive secret force [...] Keep me in mind in his memory in the auspicious day of his name day, God alone knows my desire, and She, dear Father, knows who is D. Bodratto, obedient and fond of Don Bosco until his death, always ready to his signs.
With the arrival of the members of the third expedition in America, Don Giacomo Costamagna, who (with Don Vespignani) will quickly become a prominent figure in Salesian history in America will emerge more and more in correspondence with Don Bosco. At the end of 1880 he succeeds Don Bodrato as director of the San Carlo college of Buenos Aires and inspector. Don Costamagna recommends: "Do what you can, but only what you can. Put full trust in the Lord, saying how St. Paul: Omnia possum in eo, qui me confortat [...] Promote charity among our confreres ".
Solidarity, unity, courage are recommended to correspondents in America, in particular, after the death of Don Bodrato. "Now show yourself courageously - he writes to Don Vespignani -. Patience, prayer, courage; here is our program right now. Do all you can to encourage and remove discontent. You will tell the students and our members that I expect great things from them. Morality, humility, study, here is their program ".
In January 1880 five Salesians and four Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, headed by Father Giuseppe Fagnano, - from November 1883 Prefect Apostolic - left for Patagonia, giving
beginning the real "missionary" work. In a letter to Fr Fagnano, a hard worker and quite autonomous fixer, Don Bosco thus begins: "I finally received your letter of 6 September, and it is the first I receive from you since the time you went to Patagonia". He assures him that his going to Patagonia, undesirable from the interlocutor, had been wanted "of all my intelligence [...] by urging to send one of absolute confidence and able to get on with business, but secure in morality [...] Neither a doubt nor a lack of confidence or anything else was part of it ". Later he reaffirms, prophesying the future: "The greatest undertaking of our Congregation is that of Patagonia. You will know everything in due time. However, I cannot conceal from you that a great responsibility weighs on you".
On the other front he turns to Don Luigi Lasagna to console him: "It was not possible to have printers. Those who are suitable, lack courage and those who have courage, lack the capacity". Equally decisive is the reference he makes to the aforementioned Fr. Tomatis in a letter to Fr. Costamagna: "I cannot give myself reason of Fr. Tomatis. He is obliged to write and have the Superior write about the staff of his college. Tell me the moral status, material and hopes or fears of our things. Without this we cannot walk except among the uncertainties. And with a spirit of faith he concluded: "God bless us all and Salesians make me saints and a holy man."
While the missionaries are on their way to America, Don Bosco concludes a letter addressed to Don Cagliero with words that bear witness to his concern for them: "I recommend that everyone take care of health and by writing to me you will say if no one has suffered the journey and if presently they all find themselves in good health. In giving your news to our dear ones, if possible, try to read together the "Memories" I gave you before your departure. " Indeed, the "Ricordi" motifs often return in
the letters of direction and animation, enriched by others, which are equally dear to him.
To Don Taddeo Remot suggests to you: "When the devil goes to disturb you in your business, he does likewise towards him with a mortification
, with an ejaculation, with laboring for the love of God. I send you
two companions of whom I hope you will be happy. Use they have a lot of charity and patience, and I am happy with you. Continue. Obedience in
your conduct. Promote obedience in others: this is the secret
of happiness in our Congregation. " With the same don Re-motti he rejoices at the "frankness" with which he repeatedly wrote to him, and
makes some recommendations to him: "1. To bear the faults of others even
when they are to our detriment. 2. To cover the stains of others, not never make fun of anyone when he is offended
ra, but works for love of Jesus; suffer everything, but do not break charity "." See you on earth, if it pleases the divine will; otherwise Heaven is preparing us and divine Mercy will grant it to us ".
The letter to a coadjutor "tempted to abandon the Congregation" is firm and precise: "Do not do this. You consecrated to God with
vows, you Salesian Missionary, you of the first to go to America, you
great confidant of Don Bosco will you now to return to that century where there are so many dangers of perversion? I hope you will not do this
inappropriately. Write down the reasons that disturb you, and as a father I will give advice to the beloved child, who will make him happy in time and in eternity ".
Encouraging is the short letter to the young priest Valentino Cassini, who was able to be of very poor health: "I
do not want to save anything for your own good. If necessary,
I will try to make you come to spend some time at the hands of Don Mazzarello and among all two light a great fire of charity, whose
flames blaze me throughout the whole college and elsewhere. You then do not doubt my benevolence, which is very great for you and for all my dear children of America. continue as you have written. After the storm will be clear weather ".
With the cleric Antonio Paseri is very affectionate: "You, or my dear Paseri, have always been the delight of my heart, and now you are even more, because you have totally dedicated yourself to the Missions, which is
to say: you have abandoned everything for to consecrate everything to the gain of souls, courage then, my dear Paseri, prepare yourself to be a good priest, a Salesian saint ".
Instead to the cleric Calcagno recommends: "Do not look back. Let us contemplate the Heaven that awaits us. There we have a great prize prepared. Work, earn souls and save me yours. Sobriety and obedience to you are everything. Write to me often".
A letter of good wishes then reserves for the first Uruguayan Salesian cleric Juan Pedro Rodriguez Silva: "That Lord who called you to be a Salesian, but fervent and exemplary Salesian, help you to earn him many souls for heaven, you will do with your good example, with exact observance of our Rules ".
Finally, a series of recommendations are contained in the letter to a parish priest: first of all, the observance of our rules, "in addition to the text of the rules you will benefit from the frequent reading of the decisions taken in our General Chapters [...] But as a Curate use all your charity to your priests to help you with zeal in the sacred ministry, and take special care of the children, the sick, the old, that if in the Missions and in any other way you come to see some young man who gives some hope for priesthood, know that God sends you a treasure in your hands. Every solicitude, every effort, every expense to succeed in a vocation is never too much: one always calculates appropriate expenditure ".
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The Salesian missions made the "fortune" of Don Bosco. The positive image propagated by the Salesian Bulletin raised enthusiasm, vocations and economic support everywhere. Certainly not all roses and roses: Salesians not always worthy, insufficient spiritual and professional preparation, economic problems, difficult political and religious situations, etc. The epistolary of the missionaries give more than convincing proof and their reading would not fail to do good. But in the end, Salesian society took root in Latin America (and elsewhere) and received more successes than failures. Unfortunately, their "true story" has not yet been written, also because too many important sources are missing from the scholars' appeal. We hope and pre
let us assume that this is done in as short a time as possible with the contribution of all the Salesians (and non-Salesians) who in their past find lessons in life also for today. To "return to Don Bosco" it would perhaps not be bad to go through those who have followed the arms with greater or lesser fidelity. But this is another matter, which we hope can be opened on the occasion of the now not too distant centenary of the death of one of his best sons, his first successor, blessed don Michele Rua.
"Simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord"
(Pope Benedict XVI)
We have thus reached the end of our biographical and spiritual itinerary of Don Bosco. We have seen it grow in a family governed by an exemplary Christian educator mother, in a country open to the holy principles of faith, in the town of Chieri within a college by a severe Christian lifestyle and a seminar capable of to offer him that basic philosophical-theological formation that he would then consolidate, in a pastoral function, in the Convitto of Turin. He settled in the outskirts of this city in 1846, he gave life to a Work that has simply of the prodigious on the plan of the number and the amplitude of the initiatives, of the continuation obtained, of the collective imagination. Crowds of the faithful wrote to him, sought him out, approached him to touch him, follow him in the mass and in preaching,
We just have to proceed to a first operational synthesis in a key of relevance, the one indicated to us by the title: the Salesian mission today. Other three will follow, of a more pedagogical character and suitable for the whole Salesian Family.
First of all, the meaning of the term "mission" is now clear. This is not a group of people sent abroad for some "bargain"; not even with this term do we want to indicate a group of
people away from home to convert others to a certain religion. Nor is it a field of activity. Instead, it is a question of looking at the Latin term itself: mittere, sending someone, by someone else, to do something.
Summarizing, the Salesian mission, that is to say "spending life in the implementation of the saving project of God in Christ accepted and proposed by Don Bosco", can be understood in various ways:
• In a theological sense: God, calling us personally, there consecrate with the gift of the spirit and send us. The Salesian service is a service received and lived as missio Dei, which asks to be "prayed" and "evangelized".
• In an ecclesial sense: our mission participates in that of the Church, which realizes the saving plan of God and the advent of his Kingdom. Ours is a service received and lived as missio Ecclesiae, and therefore it is carried out in the Church (fidelity to it), with the Church (in ecclesial communion), for the Church (in favor of its growth).
• In a community sense: a service received and lived as a missio comunitatis with two particular commitments: safeguarding fidelity to the charism of the founder and implementing the communion of each apostolate, including that entrusted to the individual.
• In a historical sense: our vocation asks us to be in solidarity with the world and its history; the needs of today's youth move and guide our pastoral action.
• In a mystical sense: we work for the salvation of souls, redeemed by the blood of Christ. The Salesian experiences paternity of God; receives and anchors his project drawing, in the Holy Spirit, on the charity of Christ; builds the unity of his life by fusing every tension in a spiritual project that identifies with Christ the Savior.
• In an ascetic sense: the Salesian gives himself to his mission with tireless activity, with temperance, with an austere sense of life ...
• In a concrete sense: sent, having in hand the tools, the means ... also economic.
All these dimensions of our "mission" could be the object of specific meditations. We must be satisfied with a "transversal" reflection.
To accomplish this mission - in some way similar for all institutes of active life - at least three options are possible, all three realized in the last decades of the last century.
The diaspora: after 1968 many religious immersed themselves in the world, until they lost their visibility. The consecration has become "secret" heritage: without uniform, privileges, security of the institutions. They had to be recognized only for the way they were, also because speaking on behalf of the structures, with the uniform, risked being rejected. And so here is the widespread spread of secular Institutes, lacking in "means of pressure" and persuasion, strengthened only by the evidence of faith and charity.
The pure evangelicality: against the "arrogance" of monastic inspiration the cloisters, the cloister have been abolished ... to dedicate oneself to transparency only, to the absolute of God, to the only prayerful listening to faith and to the Word, to the simple appeal to consecrated life regardless of direct pastoral care.
But the big problem arose that the charisma of many founders was expressed in the concreteness of very tangible activities, so much so that the crisis of the works has often become almost a crisis of the right to exist. Here then is the third way, that of mediation, ours: we cannot pretend that Don Bosco was a religious, a priest who was interested in education by chance. No, Don Bosco was a religious, a priest as an educator. For us consecrated life is dedication to God and to young people, even if the way of working constantly changes and we do not know which shore we will reach. The choice of this third way, compared to the other two is less certain, is more problematic, perhaps even less suggestive, but it is ours.
Phenomenology of behavior in the face of the "new"
In the historical phenomenology of religious institutes we are witnessing a curious paradox: while they were raised up by God to perceive, to "read" and "say" prophetically the new that surfaced, however, once established, the risk has been constant (for which reforms are made and reformers are born) to always privilege the dimension of tradition: not novitas, but antiquitas. This is trop
often considered as a virtually unique criterion of truth. Throughout history, the dynamism of being "a prophecy of future times" has been lost, as we hear it being said, to settle "in the ecstasy of maintenance", thus risking to lose sight of the reality of existence. Instead the essential connection with reality is the true foundation and the place of finding the novelty.
A congregation that closed itself in the consideration of the charismatic gift given to it would collapse. A Salesian province that closes itself in works and structures that provide the service and the answer, finds it difficult to look out "beyond the wall", hardly sees the questions that come from new situations and youth poverty, it easily ends up seeing only its own young people "poor" (exactly only those that can be included in "own works"), others risk being "invisible" in their eyes.
So we must be innovative, not to be "à la page", to be applied to something gratifying and recognized by public opinion, but for a factor of dynamic fidelity. Our works cannot be configured simply as a pure service offered to society for interventions that it should hold.
The "permanent" task of religious institutes will perhaps be that of being - at the operational level - "temporary prophetic antennas" that know how to discover the new horizons of poor youth, they know how to guess new solutions, they know how to take on the most urgent situations in a "prototypical" way and difficult, in a "provisional" way, that is until the reception of that need that arose in that moment will not have become "normal" intervention by society and the State. "Making yourselves useless here" because those who had to arrive and then "make themselves present there" arrived, where no one has yet arrived.
Four "novelties" to consider well Today crisis of credibility ad intra and ad extra
The Salesian Congregation has made strong steps forward, and could not fail to do so, given that the young people of 2000 are much more than those of the second half of the nineteenth century, but also, for example, to those
of our youth. In the second half of the twentieth century, sociologists distinguish at least five distinct phases in which the so-called youth "condition" or "culture" was expressed: the phase of the economic boom, of sexual control, of the ebbing of private weapons, of the desire to having fun in the nineties, of independence, autonomy, display of the look, of the high tech of 2000.
Now in the Salesian context if the General Chapter 18 (1958) had not received the post-war transformations in depth, so the provisions and resolutions did not turn out to be very distant from those of the twenties and following, from 1965 onwards nothing was done but to attempt that turning point which has then merged into the all-encompassing "pastoral", a term that until then had remained outside Salesian literature, but since then has been firmly introduced; later also married with "pastoral charity" and translated with "oratorian heart".
But the unexpected result - certainly not as a result of the change - is the credibility crisis, the faded image, the shortage of vocations, the uncertain future, not only in Europe, of which we are all well aware. It is certain that we are on a lane of slow, disregarded and undervalued vehicles. We find it difficult to talk to the hearts of young people; we are shaken by the irrelevance of faith in the construction of their lives; we see a lack of harmony with their world; we perceive that we are not able to be significant and to communicate deeply with them; we note that they are inserted without defenses in a world in which the rift between faith and life dramatically crosses all areas and levels of human experience (cultural, social, anthropological, moral, technical-scientific, juridical, political); we realize that the coveted freedom seems to have lost its reasons, so everything in them ends up resolving itself into opinion or superficial sensations. At least in the West we are a bit taken by a sense of dismay not only in front of the old world that seems to return to the vices of paganism, but also in front of the aging congregation, which seems devoid of momentum. One has the feeling that something is collapsing and that one does not know how to do so in order not to be overwhelmed.
Furthermore, on a personal level we see perhaps with little clarity the role to which we dedicate ourselves and we are far from the contagious enthusiasm and legitimate feeling of the first generations of Salesians who
have successfully lived and exported the charism of Don Bosco to the world. Many of us are perhaps not fully convinced of the usefulness of our mission today, as we do it; perhaps we do not find adequate and meaningful work commitment, because we do not know how to reinvest and renew.
Even with regard to our works, lay people who are not tuned to our charism often appreciate them only because of the speed and incisiveness of the intervention, because of the utilitarian aspect of the service. They see in them philanthropy, but not charity and evangelical inspiration, so they sometimes consider them as lucrative enterprises or perhaps only as prestige in the collapse of the welfare state. Believers themselves too often doubt their value even when they help and use them. In their personal lives, they are not inspired by the religious experience of the congregation.
Until the Second Vatican Council the reference was to the universal Church: from then on the ecclesiology moved to the local churches, to the communion of the local churches and the religious must adapt. Therefore it is no longer enough to be attentive to the general curia, to live within the local Church, to coexist, share, give and receive: the single charism is to be delivered as a patrimony to the ecclesial community of which we are a part. One cannot be of the church, without being in a church; it is not enough to work for it, it is necessary to live by it. Obviously the Church in which we find ourselves must recognize the ecclesial service of our charism.
But let us not delude ourselves: it does not seem that our works raise awareness of the local Churches much. If before we complained about the separateness of the religious within the Church, today it seems that they are being progressively marginalized. You risk being exploited to help others in difficulty, rather than being recognized as owners of a specialized service. It is a fact that the dominant parochialism in the clergy tries to subordinate to itself all the available energies, in the ideal of having many militants in favor of their own initiatives. Each charisma is instead necessary one to the other: it is useless if buried. Because there are difficulties in the dated, but still valid,
Mutuae Relationes, for which they were revised? Only for bad agreement of the areas of intervention or instead for different ecclesiological conceptions?
The Salesians belong to the presbytery together with their community, which constitutes their apostolic subject. Salesians did not make themselves self-fulfilling. However, it is not difficult for individuals to construct their own very significant pastoral space, but without any reference to the community, with the consequence that their initiatives are seen by the ecclesial and civil community as the result of a single operator, a "freelancer" and not as an expression of a precise congregational identity.
For some time now we have been moving towards projects of "pastoral care of the territory" rather than pastoral care totally dependent on a single supposedly thinking center. Until yesterday we worked in "home", inside our works. Often then the house was an island: a religious place, "reserved", a place of silence, almost an enclave; now, and more and more, we go beyond the works, in non-denominational, secular places: we are immersed in the world both at home and outside. Therefore, more than the community, the individual will bear witness to the faith, the charism, even if the community as such, as we have just said, must have its part. In the new working conditions the individual cannot always have the community that defends him, protects him and compensates for his deficiencies. It requires skill, personal maturity,
An example to clarify. For a long time poverty was considered individual, within solid properties; the principle of economy was in force for which the gain or saving was invested in works and the value of one's work was not taken into account too much. Today all this has exploded; your work is paid and we know what it's worth; there are pensions, insurance ... (H which should make us more aware of the distressing problems of unemployment and the uncertainty of life that concerns those who have not taken a vow of poverty!). It is therefore a non-indifferent turning point in our lives.
Don Bosco soon learned the art of involvement; we have already mentioned it. Today the causes of such insertion of lay people as collaborators in Salesian houses are the same as those of a century ago, but united with other "unpublished" ones. First of all the renewed awareness of the baptismal identity, missionary of the laity in the Church. Furthermore, the wave of lay volunteering in "mission lands", declericalizing the mission, has made it clear that the development of peoples cannot be only the commitment of priests and consecrated persons, who have always been committed to the most risky frontiers.
Collaboration then is a very widespread need: a laity that is no longer just auxiliary or aggregate, almost in the second row, requiring more obedience than a creative contribution, but an animated and animating laity, with the same collaboration. Thus the centuries-old practice of more or less marked paternalism is overcome. What is to be feared is not the confrontation between various sensitivities, but the uniformity, the homologation, the presence of a layman yes man, who "manages the sacristy", who is silent and does not take responsibility on his own in the ecclesiastical and social public agora.
It is evident that we Salesians will be less and less the subject that holds the "stock majority", given the lay mass that presses in our works; but it is equally evident that a Salesian animating nucleus (not necessarily of consecrated Salesians) can never be lacking. It must make us reflect on the fact that the dominant of the most prominent ecclesial movements is that they are animated from within by particular nuclei, which however exist to guide all the vast free movement that surrounds them and justifies them. They are popular and not elitist and separated.
A consignment transmitted by Don Bosco to his sons deserves to be carefully considered: "The Salesian never groans about his own times". Instead it operates, albeit within the limits of the possible, convinced as Don Bosco that the excellent is the enemy of the good "and that" the good is done as it can "(if it cannot be done" well ", as would be desirable). Here are some suggestions.
A. Returning to young people. To say Salesian mission is to say "predilection", "consecration" for the young. For the Salesians it is always "the year of youth". It is among the young that Don Bosco has developed his lifestyle, his pastoral heritage, his educational system, his spirituality. Volver on the patio was the motto of a Salesian province in Argentina a few years ago: in direct contact, on the front line, with young people; in tune with them. Woe to us if we lose contact with young people! We must resurrect our specific role as "missionaries of the young", without allowing ourselves to be too bureaucratized and methodologized. We must "start again" from the young, if we want to "start again" from Don Bosco, that the young people, if he went to look for them instead of waiting for them to bring them.
And today in Italy the "poor and abandoned" young people of Don Bosco are those of the "youth emergencies": immigrants, unemployed, especially in the south, socially marginalized present in every city, expelled from school, only children with every kind of individual entertainment but totally desocialized, unable to stay in the company of others, who prefer to withdraw to hear music ...
Our current recipients could be the young people present where we are too absent, as in the galaxy of media or large concentrations of university students, where we are not very present as in the world of great "summer" availabilities for work camps or social, national and international volunteering, where we are scarcely significant as in the offer of places of spirituality or people available "for the spirit" and not just for "feasting together".
Obviously none of us is hiding the "structural" and "conjunctural" limits we have at the moment, such as the presence of heavy structures designed for other eras, the average age of the confreres, the "dated" preparation for many of them (worth to say for a world and an education that no longer exists), the rigid mentality of many in front of the world of youth, which is always different by definition, almost unexplored, unpredictable, in terms of ideas and behavior.
But there are perhaps other "personal and community" limits, to be considered carefully. Don Bosco wrote in the notes that tradition called the spiritual testament: "When
the comforts or the comforts will begin between us, our pious society has completed its course. The world will always receive us with pleasure so long that our concerns will be directed to the savages, the poorest children, the most unsafe of society ". Today, inspired by him, we should have the courage to say that when a Salesian community closes "in front of the TV or the computer for hours and hours, it is a sign that (at least in that place) the congregation has finished its course; that when a Salesian work is reduced to four boys with a ball, two soccer, a room to video games and computer games ... that when a house, a province finds time, not to go and find young people to coordinate their own initiatives, but to make too many cultural or pseudo-pilgrimage trips or itinerant spiritual exercises ...
The development of a Salesian house and the number of young people educated in it are also the thermometer of its raison d'être in a particular place. Let us never forget the dynamics of growth of the Oratory of Valdocco: different works grew on the original stock, the staff was in continuous growth (priests of the city occasionally present, clerics, who however did not persevere, lay people who helped from outside and later young from Don Bosco trained, who from 1859 became Salesians), as did the number of boys: he passed from 3 new young people a year to 11851, to over 400 to 11866; the few tens of boys of the fifties became the hundreds of the sixties onwards, until they reached the number of about 800 (excluding the external oratorians,
B. Qualify. It is evident that fidelity to our "mission", to be incisive, must be placed in contact with the "knots" of today's culture, with the matrices of mentality and current behavior. We are faced with colossal challenges, which require seriousness of analysis, relevance of critical observations, in-depth cultural confrontation, ability to psychologically share difficult situations; otherwise we would give banal, irrelevant, insignificant, laughable, repetitive answers. Today, on the real conditions of youth - although always changing and diversified due to situations and problems - systematic information can be obtained thanks to sophisticated tools
search and sociological and psychological analysis. And this information tells us that the juvenile age has expanded beyond measure, that given the current youth conditions and the conflicting context in which they grow up they should be considered "abandoned", "dangerous and unsafe", to put it as Don Bosco, almost all youth of the world. The same can be mitigated regarding the actual "potential" of the child, boy, teenager, young, young adult for whom a specific educational process must be implemented within the educational pluralism in which they grow up. What is certain is that we cannot rely only on the documents of the General Chapters or on the letters of the Rector Major.
We can and must ask ourselves: who exactly are the young people to whom we "consecrate" our lives personally and in community? What do they want and what do we (and God) want for them? Do we really know the youth of today? Those of the anonymous but very popular discos and gyms, those of the overcrowded "white nights", of aggregations for fashions (hair, clothes, tattoos ...) and for idols (music, television characters ...), of the latest generation cell phones, of the chat, sms, newsgroups, of continuous travel, even looking for places of spirituality. Have we looked for and found the way to enter the places that young people attend? Don Bosco knew how to "talk to young people", he tuned in with them. Can we do it too? In addition to the traditional classical and modern languages, do we know the language, better still, the very rapidly evolving languages of young people? Are we on the same wavelength or not? Do we use "operating systems" compatible or not with those adopted by them?
New problems correspond to new young people, new responsibilities. Let us ask ourselves: What is our pastoral professionalism on a theoretical level? And at the level of practice? Our Salesian educational professionalism finds the test bed in creativity, flexibility, flexibility, in antifatalism, in the ability to risk even beyond the walls of our house, in learning to work in teams, in training ourselves in new ways of working. An educational service today demands
specific skills, for the public-private interface that it involves, for the planning of educational facilities, for participation in projects with public funding. In short, it is no longer possible to "proceed with the good", even if we avoid the risk that, waiting to possess a suitable scientific instrumentation, we will become old and inexorably more and more alien to the world of youth. Obviously this cultural instrumentation needs that those who use it - that is us - verify it on their own skin, believe that it does not supply the soul and absolutely does not dispense from the richness of the heart, of the mind, of evangelical coherence.
Don Bosco personally developed already known educational forms and "invented" others. In the period 1845-1859, absorbed as it was by the thousand problems of its Oratorios - when the congregation did not yet exist - it found the time to write and publish a mass of writings (over 80 books and files), reaching almost to have one adopted, sacred history, no less than in state schools of the Kingdom. Is it really unthinkable for a Salesian today to find, beyond his own professional role, adequate space for significant activities, including cultural, at least popular or mid-level? The history of the congregation offers splendid examples in this regard.
The same applies to "choral" education, which we will also mention later. Today, even more than yesterday, we realize that educational responsibility can only be collective, shared, shared as widely as possible. We can and must ask ourselves: what is our "link" with the "network of relations" in which our young people live? What is our precise contribution to participation and collaboration within this network? We use the means of communication to educate in a creative way, since they are very powerful means of creating mentality. Can we imagine what he would have done with Bosco if he had the internet at his disposal? It is essential to work synergistically with other educational agents,
C. Review the presences and services with the operative genius that Don Bosco transmitted to us. It is necessary to continually go from one "po
emergency policy "to a" planning policy ", obviously adapted to the available resources. The creativity of the invention cannot remain within the individual, but must draw on dimensions and structural responsibilities. It is necessary to continuously renew the criteria that guide the choices operational, keeping in mind the complexity of the situations in which we operate, in this way we recover the identity and the specificity of our mission (just like the companies, which through real restructuring and not simple adaptations adapt to the market so as not to remain outside, obviously without wanting to identify with this the concept of managing a business with that of religious coexistence, the goals are so different.) The result is continuous turning, which if not strictly historical,however, they change the face of a Province.
In addition to being careful not to close oneself, as if folded back on oneself, it is necessary, as we said, to widen the range of action and spread a positive image of ourselves, like Don Bosco who did it in a way that was at times decidedly rash.
We can ask ourselves: where is the element of risk, courage, fantasy, the shock mass that was Don Bosco in his time? Where are his prophetic positions, in defense of the rights of young people (and of what he called the "low people") and in defense of the rights of God (prophecy, without arrogance, but with determination). Where and how do tens of thousands of Salesian Cooperators work, the even more numerous former students, who on the level of social and cultural visibility sometimes seem to have the gift of invisibility?
The various closures of works carried out by Don Bosco were not the index of a retreat and defeat, but of a reorganization and a relaunch, demonstrated by the ever-widening amplification of works aimed at youthful animation: all initiatives that in hindsight they highlighted the continuous coordination, the further development ... Perhaps the same cannot be said of our "downsizing", of our "restructuring", in which the closure of too many works, instead of appearing functional to a rational choice in order to a different development, it is an unequivocal sign of an inevitable, albeit painful, disappearance of a charisma in a given territory. But the "close here", without "opening there", if in some way "solves"
perhaps a problem "here,
"Who did not say no."
Who knows that it is not necessary to reverse the direction of the traditional
Salesian flow! Instead of defending with tight teeth or starting with remarkable human costs works to provide long-term services to a defined group of young people - works that involve heavy economic management, adaptation to demanding civil laws, high managerial skills and professional skills very far from the contents of the previous training - who knows that it is not better to be culturally equipped to create "qualified" groups in the places and ways that are already usual for young people! Moreover, it is now a few decades ago the idea that every Salesian managed a group and it is well established that the "Salesian mission", with the various dimensions we have mentioned above, does not necessarily coincide with the initials.
activities and pastoral activities.
Who knows if the Congregation as a whole today should not review the extreme variety of its works to "concentrate" its
efforts in certain directions, catching "the signs of the times" in modern "ecclesial movements" that seem to better respond
to the demands of the today's youth. Some of them, in hindsight, have simply captured and relaunched in an innovative way one or more intuitions of our rich historical-pedagogical-spiritual heritage. If it could, and perhaps, a careful
analysis should be made .
The reversal in the restructuring or founding of labor
evidently requires a development plan for the same, a training plan for the people assigned to manage them, an evaluation plan for the human, economic and structural resources available. In case of lack of these, it is necessary to realistically
simplify structures and services, reduce the vast and perhaps generic purposes. It is useless to keep works that have exhausted their life cycle at all costs. Italy and Europe are littered with former religious houses ... You can die of inaction, arriving too late
in making diagnoses and adopting adequate therapies, and it is sad to see oneself obliged to restructure one's works simply as a result of external conditioning, without the explicit will of the people coming into play, without any
evangelical or theological motivation that must have been involved at the base of those settlements.
There are two risks to be avoided: that of losing the congregation's unity-identity, to want to do everything without being able to do so, to want to abandon stable things for other ill-conceived women, to disperse short-term resources; or that of giving in to "fundamentalism", that is to say, absolutizing and making perennial works or limited and contingent aspects of them, ending up being content with the already possessed, the already known, a fossilized tradition, defense, perhaps in good faith, in the name of loyalty to the past.
D. Last, but not least, to evangelically reinvigorate one's own experience, to recover all the spiritual dimensions of our "mission"; in summary: to make the revelation of God to the young and to the people the reason for our life, according to the logic of virtues. theological. The Salesian, a man of faith, confidently abandons himself into the hands of God revealed in Jesus and becomes capable of accepting all the circumstances of life, so as to allow God to manifest his saving action to you. He realizes that no situation corresponds adequately to the will of God, but strives to live and work in such a way as to always fulfill the will of God. The Salesian, a man of hope, awaits God every day to be able to accept his future gift in all situations, including bankruptcy "
His "union with God" is not that of a company official, or of someone who thinks like a simple reader of the
favorite newspaper and the viewer of the last television talk show; but
that of one who lives an intense inner life with his God in the midst of a tireless activity (contemplative of action), of those who consecrate themselves to generous apostolic work, of those who reject comfort, the search for
consolation, the gratification of success, of those who accept all the labors (work and temperance), of those who exude love for the Eucharist, Confession, the Virgin, the Pope, in short, of those who live their lives in God, of those who "participate" in the divine life.
Without an intimate experience of God, returning to the young, the here
qualify and review attendance and services are doomed to failure, as they would be deprived of the sole and priority condition. We must be convinced that the Gospel is transmitted "by contagion" where there is true human-spiritual relationship, patient, trustful, faithful and joyful. Today, of course, the modalities of the interpersonal relationship are different from those of the past. But young people (and adults) entering the heart of the Salesian must discover not a very up-to-date technocate, not a skilful but vacant communicator, not even an ecclesiastical official or even a pastoral worker, but a man "passionate about God", a rich person in humanity, complete, which reveals to them the beauty of the Gospel. The charismatic and prophetic identity of the Salesian not only go hand in hand with the institutional ones,
* * *
We then conclude this meditation-instruction with the words of the Memories-Spiritual Testament of Don Bosco, which offer the key to the interpretation of Salesian activism understood as total charity, usque ad effusionem sanguinis, up to the mystical union with God in a unlimited oblative love: "When it happens that a Salesian succumbs and ceases to live working for souls [l] then you will say that our congregation has returned a great triumph and above it will descend the blessings of heaven".
"Men are not born, they are formed" (Erasmus)
Don Bosco continues to interest many people in many countries over a century after his death (1888). It is considered a still significant figure, even beyond the Salesian area. But he also seems to perceive some perplexity on the topicality of his "message, on his" modernity "almost as if his intuition to dedicate himself to the education of young people, his conviction that" we need to seek to know our times and to adapt to them ". And it is precisely our times that ask us to" start from him ", starting from the educative, open to the transcendent Salesian, obviously it will be a question of understanding what education means today, but in the meantime the base it is solid, religiously and civilly, as we immediately see.
We have already mentioned it: the historical importance of Don Bosco is to be traced, before in the "works" and in certain relatively original methodological elements - everything in some way was and can be subjected to criticism even in the Catholic sphere - in some intuitions fundamental.
First of all the intellectual and emotional intuition of the universal, theological and social significance of the problem of youth. especially "abandoned" (that is, of the enormous portion of youth that was not taken care of or treated badly), to ensure a dignified future. It reads in an issue of the "Salesian Bulletin" published
under his direct supervision: "Children and young people are the foundation, the seed of religious and civil society. Who does not know that from here to ten, fifteen, twenty weapons Will the children, who now crown us, form the backbone of the people? So what youth will be present, such will be the people, such will be the society "(Boll. Sal. 1878, n. 7, p. 2).
Secondly, on an operational-concrete level, Don Bosco intuited the need for large-scale interventions in the Catholic world and civil society, as a primordial necessity for the life of the Church and for the very survival of the social order.
On the basis of the first intuition, he personally went on to realize the second, through a worldwide educational project, capable of involving very large numbers of field workers: collaborators, benefactors, admirers, believers and non-believers. With its breadth of views, initiatives and achievements, it met with great success, despite great difficulties at the outset: the lack of economic resources (always inadequate for its accomplishments), its modest cultural and intellectual baggage (a moment in which c "we needed instead answers with a high theoretical profile, being the son of a theology and a social conception with very strong limits (and therefore inadequate to respond to secularization and the profound social revolutions taking place: let's think only of Marx).
Now "starting from Don Bosco" means sharing its intuitions to elaborate and update them "in our day"; it means rereading it again in a "foundational" key, bearing in mind that we will be able to "do ourselves today, like Don Bosco yesterday" only if we know how to "be us today, like Don Bosco yesterday".
If among the many definitions of the nineteenth century there is that of "century of pedagogy", and if the so-called "brief", the twentieth, has been defined as the "century of the young"; how can the XXI century be defined? Obviously we do not know, but it is certain that, in the logic of the previous two, it seems to begin under the sign of "education", or rather of the educational emergency. The requests coming from
the Church, from the world civil community and also from our own daily experience prove it .
As for the first, Pope John Paul II wrote as early as 1988 in his letter to the Salesians: "Perhaps today more than ever, educating has become a vital and social imperative together, which implies a firm stance and a willingness to form mature personalities. , the world needs individuals, families, and communities that make education their own raison d'être and devote themselves to it as a priority purpose, to which they unreservedly give their energies [...] Being educators involves a real life choice ". In turn, the successor, Benedict XVI, to the Italian Church, who at the Verona conference (October 2006) expressed the desire to dedicate himself to education "with new commitment", reiterated the same conviction: "In concrete terms [... ] a fundamental and decisive question is that of the education of the person. We need to be concerned about the formation of his intelligence, without neglecting those of his freedom and ability to love [...] A true education needs to reawaken the courage of final decisions, which today are considered a constraint that mortifies our freedom, but in reality they are indispensable to grow and reach something great in life [...] I want to express here all my appreciation for the great formative and educational work that the individual Churches do not tire of doing in Italy, for their pastoral attention to new generations and families. Among the many forms of this commitment I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the Catholic school ". We need to be concerned about the formation of his intelligence, without neglecting those of his freedom and ability to love [...] A true education needs to reawaken the courage of final decisions, which today are considered a constraint that mortifies our freedom, but in reality they are indispensable to grow and reach something great in life [...] I want to express here all my appreciation for the great formative and educational work that the individual Churches do not tire of doing in Italy, for their pastoral attention to new generations and families. Among the many forms of this commitment I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the Catholic school ". We need to be concerned about the formation of his intelligence, without neglecting those of his freedom and ability to love [...] A true education needs to reawaken the courage of final decisions, which today are considered a constraint that mortifies our freedom, but in reality they are indispensable to grow and reach something great in life [...] I want to express here all my appreciation for the great formative and educational work that the individual Churches do not tire of doing in Italy, for their pastoral attention to new generations and families. Among the many forms of this commitment I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the Catholic school ". ] A true education needs to reawaken the courage of the final decisions, which today are considered a constraint that mortifies our freedom, but in reality they are indispensable to grow and reach something great in life [...] I want to express everything here my appreciation for the great formative and educational work that the individual Churches do not tire of doing in Italy, for their pastoral attention to the new generations and families. Among the many forms of this commitment I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the Catholic school ". ] A true education needs to reawaken the courage of the final decisions, which today are considered a constraint that mortifies our freedom, but in reality they are indispensable to grow and reach something great in life [...] I want to express everything here my appreciation for the great formative and educational work that the individual Churches do not tire of doing in Italy, for their pastoral attention to the new generations and families. Among the many forms of this commitment I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the Catholic school ". ] I want to express here all my appreciation for the great formative and educational work that the individual Churches do not tire of performing in Italy, for their pastoral attention to the new generations and families. Among the many forms of this commitment I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the Catholic school ". ] I want to express here all my appreciation for the great formative and educational work that the individual Churches do not tire of performing in Italy, for their pastoral attention to the new generations and families. Among the many forms of this commitment I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the Catholic school ".
Moving on to the international civil community, on the eve of the third millennium, the UNESCO report of the international commission for the 21st century, chaired by Jacques Delors, with the significant title "In education, a treasure" wrote: "In the face of the many challenges the future, education appears to us as a precious and indispensable means that will enable us to reach our ideals of peace, freedom and social justice [...] It will have to play a fundamental role in personal and social development ".
The statement is very strong. In other words, it goes on to argue that education itself is the challenge of the third millennium. And these are not small numbers, if you think that the only youth with less
of 18 years it constitutes 38% of the world population, and in the 50 least developed countries it constitutes half population. In turn, the World Education Forum held in April 2000 in Dakar with the participation of 1100 delegates from 164 countries launched for 2015 the Education for Ali (Efa) program with six precise Efa-goals, the first of the which, within a previous project in favor of basic but quality education for all, states: Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and with disadvantaged children. How can we not immediately think of Don Bosco's "poor and abandoned" youths?
For our part, we finally know that we are today, as in the nineteenth century, in the presence of a society in crisis, in the sense of a rapid transition from one company to another, so that in a rapidly changing world the necessary points of reference on which the company is based. It is therefore clear why the number one problem facing our societies today is education, not so much politics and economics. In some quarters there has even been talk of education at sunset, from "the last crossroads of education": the final outcome of postmodernity would bring the name of "dehumanization" of man, of nihilism, rather than of new humanism, of "construction" of "new men".
It is not a problem of simple schooling or starting work; what is in crisis is the ability of a generation of adults to educate their children. For many years, universities, schools, TV and newspapers have preached (and preached) that freedom is the absence of ties and history, that one can become great by following one's taste and pleasure. It has become normal to think that everything is the same, that nothing in the end has value except the usual things: money, power, social position, pleasure. People live as if the truth were optional, so young people live bored, sometimes violent, at the mercy of fashions and power, exposed to manipulation, neglect, abandonment. Their uncertainty and insecurity are the daughters of a culture that has systematically demolished the classic conditions and places of education: the family, the school, the Church, civil society as a whole, conditioned by aberrant ideologies and attacked by fanaticisms and extremisms of all kinds. Such is the situation today
naturalized almost everywhere in Europe and in the most developed countries. The proof is that the most warned spirits feel again the need for "masters" endowed with a "strong" thought, which puts man back in his place, which helps to overcome the growing distance between civilization and faith, between science and conscience, between person, state and society.
And the situation is even worse in the less developed nations, where the fundamental, and therefore non-negotiable, right to education and education of the little ones is considered to be not necessarily vital. Indeed, history teaches us that even at the time of Don Bosco's first Oratory there were many ministers of State who opposed compulsory literacy. Today in many countries this right is still overwhelmed by the opposition of those who see the educated person as a competitor to his positions of power and prestige and for the lack of the necessary economic conditions both by families and by the State.
The nineteenth century was crossed by an educational uneasiness, as the greatest scholar of the Preventive System of Don Bosco, Pietro Braido, observed. But I believe that it can also be affirmed of the XXI century (and perhaps of every century), given the quantity and quality of recent studies and researches in which not only the possibility of educational prevention is affirmed, but also the constant revival of pedagogy does not repressive and above all the effectiveness of prevention as a form of education. If confirmation were needed, it would be enough to analyze the preventive experiences taking place almost everywhere in many areas of society.
Obviously there are various expressions and different forms of educational preventive, some reductive and partial and others of high cultural depth, which tend to (re) build ideas, values, pedagogical and spiritual itineraries adapted to today's complex society, in which the same prevent, in its double meaning, positive and negative, it has assumed incomparable dimensions with respect to Don Bosco's achievements and formulations. Let us limit ourselves to two reflections, one of a more general nature and one relating to the youth world.
In abstract terms education means the process of transmission of knowledge, norms, values and abilities, put in place by adults towards younger generations, in order to make them become full members of a society and a culture, ensuring thus the continuity of the same. This education is declined in a thousand ways, depending on the objective content (affective, sexual, artistic, physical, civic, moral, religious, socio-political, food, technical ...), of high specific objectives (to democracy, to legality, to globality, health, ecology ...), times (pre-school, school, ex-school, family, ecclesial, permanent), ways (formal, informal, intellectual, popular, family ...), etc.
Now we immediately realize that in a structurally complex society like ours, "society" and "culture" are formulas that imply different realities in continuous movement, the result of encounter-conflict between them, not always easily integrated and amalgamable. Moreover, within a culturally polycentric society, relationships and social subjects have multiplied, the logics and values that structure relationships, so that citizens, induced to refer to multiple cultural and interest centers, experience a crisis of meaning of social belonging, whose social effects are visible in the well-known individualistic mentality, in the evident downsizing of family protagonism and in the triumphant relativism. Add religious indifferentism,
If we then move from the broader social plan to the more restricted of the youth world, we see that the problems of the desocialization of nineteenth-century Turin teenagers, due to the fact that the young had left their family, did not attend
either the school or the parish and therefore "self-educated" on the road, they are, in a way, similar to those of today's youth.
The family is less and less socialized and cultivates more than ever the ideal of establishing itself as a small island where it is possible to preserve itself from every social conflict. It is a place where one can express and realize one's desires, and no longer as a primary social institution in which one learns the elementary rules of living together. The enormous use of modern objects of comfort and communication (TV, computer, mobile phone, DVD player ... all turned on in the room at the same time) plays decisively against the socialization of youth. The ease of their use does not mean true sharing of ideals, but often, just talk. With the family in crisis, a lot then falls on the school, but even this one is not prepared to educate, so much so that it lives constantly in the phase of reform. That school "
The reciprocal exchange of the parties in this educational responsibility has the consequence that many young people grow up according to "a pedagogy of the street" or the disco, with an increasingly weak sense of sociality, full of unresolved conflicts, affected by instinctive behaviors. The result is that the first three ideas that a teenager today associates with tomorrow are fear: the fear of pollution, unemployment, terrorism. And the main cause of this malaise of youth derives in some way from the negative view that adults address to tomorrow and which they transmit to young people. Now a society that does not allow young people to formulate projects for the future, is a society that prevents the construction of the meaning of life. A "preventive" education is therefore required.
Faced with similar challenges, Don Bosco seems to have a word that is always current. In the utopia of an educational movement as vast as the world, he dreamed of the collaboration and complementarity of all militant Catholics and all men of good will interested in the future of humanity, a sort of educating society that assumed education as a mission.
Above all, it is a question of enhancing the educational function (with relative choral responsibility) of all adults who, in various capacities, affect the education of young people and their ability to make existential choices: parents, teachers, health and social workers, local administrators, operators of the leisure, volunteers, professionals, policy makers. It is not a matter of experts: it is the duty of all those who care about the good of their people, of every "educational agency", all now convinced that no educational space is self-sufficient to teach or learn the difficult "job of man" . It is not enough that some willing people light up "the match of education", if others do nothing but turn it off. Everyone is invited to take responsibility.
Secondly, adequate legal instruments, economic resources, ethical guidelines, structures capable of coordinating all the available active forces and referable to a network of opportunities such that both the entire company to invest in quality education, bringing the young people at the center of social, political, cultural, ecclesial attention ... The ancient and modern media are powerful factors of education and should be used creatively, broadly and effectively by educators, so as to reach thousands of people in a short time and disseminating valuable ideas and programs.
who live more detached. Could they eat, clothe, live together without money or possessed by them, or by their benefactors and patrons? And the humanitarian works, the hospices, the hospitals and so on could perhaps subsist without it, and come to the relief of so many miseries, which which funeral do they cover the earth? - The Divine Savior himself wanted to submit to this need [...]. It is therefore evident that the currency is the largest and most necessary power in the world ". What funereal am I covering the earth? - The Divine Savior himself wanted to submit to this need [...]. It is therefore evident that the currency is the largest and most necessary power in the world ". What funereal am I covering the earth? - The Divine Savior himself wanted to submit to this need [...]. It is therefore evident that the currency is the largest and most necessary power in the world ".
Finally, all the forces that intend to refer to an educational system like Don Bosco's should appeal to a theoretical frame of reference, modulated on the new needs of history (solidarity, dialogue, democracy, participation, peace, freedom, globalization ... ) and on the recent achievements of the human sciences, bearing in mind that none of them has a recipe or magic formula. The concept that the future of the person passes through the education received, that man is the decisive and fundamental factor of the laborious and meticulous process we call "education" and that an integral education can only refer to what is worthy of man, including the search for his destiny and his vocation.
Against the educational models present on the "market of ideas" one must opt for one that is inspired by a significant humanism, capable of giving hope, of challenging "the sense of nonsense"; a model that believes in the primacy of the person over everything else (state, society, economy ...), that thinks that "a well made head" is
better than a head made in some way and that man is a " person in vertical and horizontal relationship ", able to discover not only the reasons of the mind, but also the" reasons of the heart "(Pascal), that is to choose the good, the true, the beautiful, the right.
If the primacy of the spiritual, of the "religious salvation" of the young is indisputable in Don Bosco's operational intentions, the tension to offer the recipients everything they needed to fully experience their existence was also evident in him. Without ever having written it as such - he was interested in working for the "civil, moral, scientific education of his young people" - his "educational project" included processes of religious education, literacy, job training, primary socialization of young people .
The "integral salvation" of the Don Bosco youth pursued it through two forms that could be defined in today's language as "human promotion and spiritual promotion", or even theologically "temporal charity and spiritual charity".
As for the first, it proved to be indispensable for the "poor and abandoned" youths of the popular classes, those with little chance of social advancement. Don Bosco provided them (in order) with recreational, educational, scholastic, food, clothing, lodging, craft and protection spaces, workshops with schools and corporate support, study and then again pastimes and leisure time activities, an atmosphere of joy, friendship , camaraderie, youth leadership, participation, activism, volunteering ...
The central role attributed in the Salesian environment to basic vocational education, from the "primitive" laboratories of Don Bosco to the "professional schools" of the time of Don Rua managed on more rational, methodical and scientific bases is also known. The first subject of the work, of course, was the boy, with his needs, his expectations and the dignity of his person. Therefore, no uncertainty about the primacy of man over work, about worker over capital, about conscience over technique, about solidarity over individualistic or
corporeal interests. The "trade" did not have to be slavery, but neither was it a hobby; only precise duty, source of satisfaction, material good, moral, individual, family and social good.
The complexity and variety of educational interventions (recreational, cultural, social welfare) tended to make the young person mature, directing him towards an optimistic and rich in experiences, inspired by healthy realism and not frustrating utopianism: "I do not want my children are encyclopedic, I do not want carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers to be lawyers, nor that printers, bookbinders and booksellers put themselves to be philosophers and theologians, much less understand that my professors and teachers study De arte politica, as if they were to become ministers and ambassadors, it is enough for me that everyone knows what concerns them, and when a craftsman possesses useful and opportune knowledge to exercise his art well, when a professor is provided with the science that belongs to him in order to properly instruct his students,they, I say, are as learned as is necessary to make themselves meritorious of society and religion and have the right as others to be respected ".
Then came for all young people - but not only for them - the "spiritual charity", that is the commitment for the salvation of the soul, which, as we have said, occupied the first place. All of Don Bosco's work, at home and outside the home, was aimed at forming a mentality fundamentally directed towards evangelical principles and orientations. For him the worst "alienation" - we are in Marx's time - was that of a spiritual order, so every effort had to be made to save young people from sin, heresy, religious indifference. Logically, in order to achieve objectives of such importance it was necessary that religious education should not be reduced to extemporaneous moments, not very fruitful, ultimately inconclusive, but that the boys prepare themselves for life with a slow and also tiring path of education and study; moreover the Salesian educator had to live a dynamic faith expressed in coherent and verifiable choices, aware that in the context of evangelizing education "the person himself is the message".
The gap between the theoretical acceptance of Catholicism and its practical observance was attributed by Don Bosco himself, in 1886, to the lack of "education of the heart" (Christian mentality) on the part of the school: "The cause is one, it is all in pagan education that is generally given in schools.This education, entirely on pagan classics, imbued with purely pagan maxims and judgments, imparted with a pagan method, will never ever form, in our days in particular, in which the school is everything, true Christians. I have fought all my life against this perverse education, which spoils the mind and heart of youth in its most beautiful years: it was always my ideal to inform it on a truly Christian basis. "
Don Bosco complained that he had not been sufficiently understood, that he had failed to start that reform work in education and teaching, to which he had consecrated all his strength at least since 11477, when he had written in the preface to his first edition of the Sacred History: "on every page I always had that principle fixed: to illuminate the mind to make the heart good". More than thirty years later the "Salesian Bulletin" openly criticized the completely non-denominational formation given in the schools of the time: "as a distorted stepmother she divides [like the false mother of the well-known piece of Solomon] the children into half, she cultivates in part the mind, but neglects its heart, it is hard to make them scientists, but not to make them virtuous, it trains them to procure the fleeting goods of the present life, but their point does not point to the means to achieve the possession of the true goods of the future life "(Boll. Sal. 1881, n. 9, p. 1). And the position of the successor, Don Michele Rua, just died Don Bosco, was the same: "Let us remember then that we would miss the most essential part of our task, if we reduced ourselves only to impart literary instruction, without uniting the education of the heart. To this above all we must aim, to form our students, good Christians, honest citizens, also cultivating the vocations that meet each other ". Let us remember then that we would miss the most essential part of our task, if we reduced ourselves only to impart literary instruction, without uniting the education of the heart. To this above all we must aim, to form our students, good Christians, honest citizens, also cultivating the vocations that meet each other ". Let us remember then that we would miss the most essential part of our task, if we reduced ourselves only to impart literary instruction, without uniting the education of the heart. To this above all we must aim, to form our students, good Christians, honest citizens, also cultivating the vocations that meet each other ".
In Don Bosco's educational action, as we know, the two goals, human and spiritual, lived concretely and simultaneously, since for him there was no doubt that earthly life was connected with the heavenly vocation. I save you the quotes. It will be confirmed 100 years
later by both the Second Vatican Council (GS Proemio) and the Salesians when they affirm that it is not possible to educate without evangelizing and that no true education is given without catechesis: "We educate by evangelizing and evangelizing by educating".
Don Bosco's educational system - which aims to form, as the honest citizen and the good Christian is known - is based on a vision of the citizen and the Christian of his time, and could not fail to be.
Only that his time is no longer ours and so the honest citizen of the third millennium is no longer that of the Piedmontese-Italian nineteenth century, when an "active politics" was not conceived if not only by a rich and privileged minority , of which the preadolescents or the poor adolescents or of the middle class would hardly have been part collected by Don Bosco in his houses. The honest "current citizen is not even the one who, in the analysis of the social unease of young people, tends, like Don Bosco, to seek its causes solely in the moral and religious responsibilities of individuals and not in the conditioning and determinism of an economic, political nature social, juridical, etc. And it is not only that which simply obeys the laws, does not give problems to justice, thinks only of "its facts". The transition from monarchic absolutism to liberal parliamentarism and then to democracy, the rise of the "social question", of socialism, of Marxism, of syndicalism, the sixty-eight, the social doctrine of the Church, the universal demand for active and democratic citizenship, the crisis of ethical evidence, etc. they left the mark heavily.
In the same perspective it is also evident that today's "good Christian" is no longer what Don Bosco and his neighbors conceived: a minimum of religious formation, customary reception of the sacraments, devotions to the saints as models and ideals of Christian life , exclusive reading of "good" books, absolute obedience to the legitimate ecclesiastical authorities within the only ark of salvation (the Catholic Church), a life of progress in the virtues that is then known
he would happily conclude with a virtuous death. A century of theological reflection and a Second Vatican Council would have passed in vain and the multi-religiousness and multi-confessional nature of today's world would indicate nothing. The recent doctrinal acquisition of the revaluation of the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world, received by mandate directly from Christ in baptism and confirmation, and not by mandate of the parish priest and bishop, has far-reaching consequences both in the ecclesial area than in that of temporal commitment.
It must therefore be acknowledged that the well-known formula of "honest citizens and good Christians" is to be re-founded today on an anthropological and theological level, it must be reinterpreted historically and politically. A renewed anthropology should identify, among the values of tradition, which are to be maintained in postmodern society and those that are new to be proposed; a renewed theological reflection should specify the relationship between faith and politics and between different faiths; a renewed historical-political analysis should compose education and politics, education and social commitment, politics and civil society (we'll talk about it); a renewed Preventive System should indicate the traits of today's "honest citizen", the traits of the "good Christian" of an era, like ours, of the difficult relationship between faith and reason,
Furthermore, it should be well evaluated whether the subordination, as it was in the mens of Don Bosco, of the temporal end to the transcendent end, the pre-eminence of individual values over social ones, of the religious factors compared to the earthly ones, of the Catholic elements compared to those that are simply Christian or even Christian, of European "values" compared to those of other geographical areas.
Education, prevention, evangelization, insertion into society: these are the generating ideas of the Salesian commitment at the beginning of the third millennium. These are not peregrine ideas, if we consider that it has been more than thirty years that the Salesian Constitutions (art. 40) define a Salesian Work, on the model of Don Bosco's first Oratory, as "a house that welcomes, a parish that evangelizes, school that starts life, courtyard to meet as friends and live in joy ".
No one can think that a renewal can exist, especially if it is profound, without expenses and without courage. We would be deluded if we thought of a painless change. Educating is urgent, it is the great challenge of the present time. However, it will always be a risk, a bet, a demanding, demanding "mission", one of the least bureaucratic ones one can think of. Educators are not born, they become by vocation or by free choice "of reason and heart", out of love.
"Do you want to do a good thing? Educate the youth. Do you want to do a holy thing? Educate the youth. Do you want to do a most holy thing? Educate the youth. Do you want to do a divine thing? Educate the youth. Indeed, among the divine things, is it divinissima "(Don Bosco to the Cooperators)
"Education is a matter of the heart", said the Salesians and other commentators on Don Bosco's "Preventive System" since 1935, when the "circular on punishments" was published, and it continues to be repeated, always attributing the an expression to Don Bosco, who instead never seems to have written it, according to at least the editor of the critical edition of the aforementioned circular, José Manuel Prellezo.
This does not mean that it is not true. Don Bosco in fact, in a world traditionally marked by the difficulty of establishing an adequate intergenerational relationship, relaunched a "pedagogy of love" intended to establish a relationship with young people based on believing in them despite their deviations, on hoping with them even in the more desperate situations, and to love them and to accept them as they are. Studying it in his lived reality, we discover in Don Bosco an instinctive and brilliant overcoming of the educational paternalism inculcated by a great deal of pedagogy of the centuries before ('500 -'700), when the pedagogical discourse reflected the paternalistically structured European society (fedecommessi nobiliari, heads of art, family leaders
i Resumed here in large part the conference held in Rome in January 2004 during the days of spirituality in Rome. I have offered a broader presentation of the same contents in the essay An ever-current educational system (Turin, Elledici 2000).
glia, etc.). In him there is an original translation of the evangelical commandment of love. Recurrent episodes and expressions well known to the readers of that family album which are the "Biographical Memoirs" indicate the modernity of the method, beyond the labels. A quotation from a letter to the young people of Lanzo: "let me tell you, and no one is offended, you are thieves, I say and I repeat it, you have taken everything [...] you have enchanted me with your benevolence and kindness , you have bound the faculties of the mind with your piety, I still had this poor heart, of which you had stolen from me the affections for the whole affections. Now your letter [...] have taken possession of all this heart, of which nothing the more he remained, if not a keen desire to love you in the Lord, to do good to you,
We then understand how, faced with a relationship between Don Bosco and the boys of the same type as those woven with Christ, someone (Xavier Thévenot) spoke of the sacramental dimension of the educational relationship. For the Salesian the educational activity towards the young is the very place of his encounter with Christ: "every time you did these things to one of these my little brothers, you did it to me" (Mt 25.40 ).
The love that sustains the whole educational system must not only be lived and even declared, but perceived. It is the great message, written by Don Lemoyne, in the name of Don Bosco, in the famous letter from Rome of 1884 addressed to the Salesians of Valdocco: "Let young people not only be loved, but that they themselves know they are loved". The essential lies always in the love of the educator perceived by the young, but this conclusion is not so much a fact of "feeling" as in the free "sharing" of the pedagogical itineraries proposed by the educator, with great intelligence and foresight. This is why the widespread slogans "do not just love ...", "study to make you love ...", "education is a thing of the heart" can be reductive, not resolutive, even misleading if understood as a single figure or definitive synthesis of Don Bosco's educational system. Alongside love, which cannot but be present, many other conditions must be set for the education of young people, as has been done more than a nod in previous conferences.
One can then legitimately be skeptical of the idea that a
a priest educator of the nineteenth century is able to offer a pertinent answer to today's children who live in social, economic and cultural situations so different from those of nineteenth-century Turin. Many, like us, are convinced that the "Preventive System of Don Bosco" is appropriate for a world that no longer exists; however I am equally convinced that some of his convictions about young people are still valid today for families, for schools, for educational institutions, for host communities for young people in difficulty, in the prevention of drug addiction, for counseling, for humanitarian associations, for today's multicultural and multi-ethnic parishes. A "Prevention", understood as early and widespread intervention, but not so much in a negative way as containing the negative values,
Obviously we will be dealing with the great virtualities of the preventive system for "new" young people of the century. ) 0 (1 called to live in a vast and unprecedented range of situations and problems, in decidedly changed times, in which the human sciences themselves are in a phase of critical reflection.
"Generations without Fathers and Masters" is a definition of young people that we have been told by sociologists for at least 30 years. What does it mean? Two things. First and foremost that young people reject parents, adults, and want total liberation from paternal authority as soon as possible (and then paradoxically they stay in the family for over 30 years). Secondly, they lack both references that can help them identify the foundations of their existence, and the tools to be able to give an adequate response to post-materialistic needs. The sociological investigations give, as we have already seen, a worrying scenario of today's youth, discouraged and without a life plan, available to a restricted social life, without the strength to assume collective commitments and to make binding choices for the future.
disillusioned by adults, rather than protesting, as they were a few decades ago, retire to the safe world of affections, family and few friends. They see society as dangerous, school as a stranger, politics as a dirty thing, solidarity as a hobby for some, and so they set themselves up to fall back easily on their own feelings and individualism, putting everything and everyone at their own service.
Perhaps too many educators passively accept this fact and withdraw to one side. Well, Don Bosco would not agree. In fact, he wrote: "young people really need a beneficial hand that cares for them, cultivates them in virtue and takes them away from vice"; "In every young man, even the most unfortunate, there is a point accessible to good: the educator's first duty is to look for this point, this sensitive chord and profit from it"; "The young (except for rare exceptions) have under their skin and waste of education and dissipation, a good heart and a reducible soul if taken from their own mind and guided by the Christian system of goodness".
For Don Bosco also the young people of today need to have an educator by their side, whom he wanted "father, brother and friend", help and support.
First of all, the educator must be there. The young cannot grow alone, in complete and total self-education; it is not self-sufficient, even if it grows in a group of peers. However, the educator must be "close" to the young person, must stay inside the field where the difficult educational game is played; must stay in the same boat as the young one: either they save or drown together. And it must be there with all of itself, that is with all its personality, its past, its fears, its anxieties, its convictions, including those of the coherence between the communicated model and the lived model. All this affects the education of the learner. He is the person of the educator who educates.
Secondly, the educator must cover multiple roles, even simultaneously, depending on the need of the child (age, maturity, sex, psychological condition, situations, experience, etc.).
The first to assume is the role of father, that is of the authoritative and authoritative carrier because credible; pole of attraction for the growing child and dialectical pole for the young man in search of the redefinition of his own identity. A father who does not have to sem
pre and still think of everything instead of the minor, maybe distribute orders and threaten punishment as if he were a severe and inflexible judge. A father who always remains such, that is, who never abdicates his responsibilities, does not delegate his duties, does not seek easy sympathies, avoiding telling uncomfortable truths, closing his eyes to everything, yielding to the alibi of spontaneity and permissiveness (but not even obviously to the pernicious authoritarianism). It is always tempting to catch up with the boys, with the alleged goal of making them responsible. It is not so much a question of doing "for", the young man, as if he were a simple recipient, but "with" the young person, considered the co-protagonist of the educational action. The establishment of this relationship alliance with the young person needs a good positioning on the part of the educator, who must be close enough to not be indifferent, and sufficiently distant to not be undifferentiated. The educational art "essentially consists in finding this point of good distance and good proximity, to be established however" with "the young person.
At the same time it is necessary that the educator-father is also brother and friend, with a strong empathic dominant, who speaks the same language, who does not judge, who experiences the same difficulties in discovering his own role. Brother-friend with whom one compares one's ideas and ideals, who is not only a person with whom one shares and organizes one's free time, but constitutes an occasion, a reason and a tool for comparison. Then this father / brother / friend helps in interpreting and bringing out those needs of young people difficult to express by themselves, those that they feel on their skin without being able to identify them: the taste for good, justice, beauty, solidarity, of peace. It supports them in the difficult search for answers to the fundamental questions of life.
Young people need to be reassured about the unconditional character of the educator's love, which makes itself the guarantor of a set of rules that they hold, despite attempts at adolescent transgression. In this way, trust is generated, self-esteem is generated
and on this positive spiral comes responsibility, on which the success and hope of tomorrow is built. Young people need to be empowered, because it is only by exercising responsibilities that one learns to become responsible. Many of them suffer today from being unable to exercise any real responsibility. We must let them internalize certain values and experiences, that is, make them arrive where behaviors are born and are rooted to develop a personality capable of making their own decisions inspired by the good. It does not matter to have experiences, if they are not internalized, if they are not settled to be re-elaborated inwardly, giving them meaning.
Young people must be enabled to the concreteness of social and religious life; the theory is not enough if there is no training in the realism of existence with a growing sense of seriousness and collaboration. The schools, the oratories are not only comforting places where one finds oneself well, there are friends and pleasant activities; they must also recall the drama of life and choices, they must help young people to avoid wrong behavior, to give themselves rules of life, to take responsibility, to enter into different life forms. The acquisition of operational and relational skills must be coupled to the formation of the mind and heart. The motivation is also essential for those who lack the inner drive to do important and precious things, not forgetting that the
The generational gap is an acquired fact, which we have experienced as children with our parents, with our educators and which we experience as adults with the new generations. The conquest of one's autonomy is necessarily emancipation from any authority, beginning with the first infantile no. But the process of growth towards adulthood is never linear, it always involves discontinuity, ambiguity, mistrust, inconsistencies, maybe real provocations. Well Don Bosco in this regard teaches us that there are two secrets for reconnecting the two parts, to launch a bridge between them: communication and mutual acceptance.
First of all, it tells us that what we might call "oddities" fall into normality, and the educator does not get very upset. It will try to mend the eventual "tear", to reopen the interrupted but indispensable channel of communication. A communication that can take place through a close interpersonal relationship, made of an authentic constructive dialogue looking at each other while talking to each other; that is through the acceptance of a dialectical comparison with them, even of the inevitable, difficult but also useful clash; not blaming in the case of different opinions, educating oneself while educating oneself, not pointing unilaterally and unreasonably to what is good and thus holding oneself as unique possessors and interpreters of the truth. Furthermore, it is a matter of not setting the times and methods of collaboration, the needs and interests of young people, the behaviors, attitudes, gestures and decisions they have to take in a completely autonomous way. It must be absolutely avoided to grant trust in words, but then to withdraw it in practice, to transform difficult moments into states of permanent discouragement, in which the interpretative filter of reality is dark and does not let light and color of life pass. The educator-communicator accepts the fatigue of his role, knowing that it does not go without frustration and conflict, moments of failure and powerlessness. but then to withdraw it in practice, to transform difficult moments into states of permanent discouragement, in which the interpretative filter of reality is dark and does not let light and color of life pass. The educator-communicator accepts the fatigue of his role, knowing that it does not go without frustration and conflict, moments of failure and powerlessness. but then to withdraw it in practice, to transform difficult moments into states of permanent discouragement, in which the interpretative filter of reality is dark and does not let light and color of life pass. The educator-communicator accepts the fatigue of his role, knowing that it does not go without frustration and conflict, moments of failure and powerlessness.
True communication necessarily requires mutual acceptance. Young people rightly want to take their lives into their own hands, they rightly want to be respected in their right to be and feel themselves protagonists. On the other hand, educators who have the duty to educate and develop young people have the same right to be respected and accepted. Therefore a mutual acceptance, a bipolar acceptance is required.
Don Bosco tells us that the educator must accept the young as they are and not as he would like them to be. He wrote in his prayer book for the young people: "Just be young, because I love you very much". To accept means to be willing to "understand" a particular behavior of the young person, that is to say to be willing to grant him extenuating circumstances, to recognize the influences of the temperament, of the living environment, of the reference group. As an adult, the educator knows how to tolerate youthful distrust of the adult himself, endures tensions and contradictions, pays intelligent attention and
amorous to aspirations, conditioning, life situations, environmental models, tensions, claims, collective proposals. That the young man should not always be right is obvious; but it certainly has reasons that the adult must consider.
Don Bosco, however, tells us that even the young must accept the educator and his intervention on the basis of a series of reasons: rationality and reasonableness, authority and fear, personal ascendancy and suggestion, other emotional dynamisms, perhaps even utilitarian calculation. To do this, the young person must overcome any obstacles: the state of collision with the environment and with the educators or that of disappointment, frustration, the careless personal of the educator; the instinctive resistance to the intrusion of strangers in one's life; unavailability due to laziness and pride: in short, a set of psychological defense mechanisms, because the future good costs the renunciation of immediately pleasant things.
The appeal that Don Bosco sends to us educators today, in addition to "being with young people" and not being afraid of them, is to meet them with a heart that lets itself be moved, with ears that listen and know how to understand , with hands that grasp and support, with feet that adapt to their step on the dusty roads of life. Only then can one be accepted by the young. And so here Don Bosco decline this effective approach to young people with the famous three words: Reason, Religion, Loving Kindness. None of the three is sufficient by itself, not even the last, if it is not accompanied by the others.
Reason is the first element of the important trinomial, and I would say that it is of immeasurable actuality, in the light of the first acts of the magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI, marked by making the traditional Christian synthesis of "religion, faith and life", mass today in crisis from the alleged contradiction - if not mutual exclusion - between reason and faith.
The educator in harmony with Don Bosco believes that reason is a gift of God, and it is thanks to it that one can discover the values of the good, set the goals to be pursued and find means and ways to
reach them; and thereby automatically excludes recourse to violent imposition and undisputed acceptance of the command.
Reason and reasonableness (which easily becomes common sense, healthy realism, genuine respect for people) are linked to the
educator's ability to adapt to the various environments and situations in which he finds himself working, to pay a different attention to individual young people, to live with their problems, to accept long-term expectations of overcoming misunderstandings, prejudices, mistrusts and fears.
The educational reason takes into account that young people love free time, play, music, theater, walks, a group of friends, playstations, mobile phones ... Don Bosco said that
educators needed to love what they loved young people, so that young people
return to love what educators loved. So how can we forget the ample space and dignity given by Don Bo
sco to the recreational moment, to sport, to music, to the theater and to the courtyard, to the group experience (which can be the best or the worst educator)?
Reason takes into account that educational work requires freedom and that without it there is no education. Don Bosco had a practical
and realistic concept of freedom. Freedom is not a whim, doing what one does
he wants at the mercy of his own feeling, it is not emotionality, taste, mood of the moment but possibility and duty: possibility as the root of
freedom and duty as its implementation. The young person is free when he is
able to perform his duty in normality, when he is brave, when he knows how to forbid himself what is bad, that is when he is capable
of thinking with his own head and acting responsibly. It is therefore a matter of growing young people from within, relying on inner freedom, counteracting environmental conditioning, the inclinations of passions, external formalisms, preparing them for tomorrow through a solid formation of character.
Reason and freedom must be educated through study, school, education that respects human and Christian values. Now, in the
face of technological rationality, of evasion in the immediate emotional, of "weak thought" and together with the demand for "critical thinking" within a "liquid society", reason is invited to recover the fullness of its meaning and its functions:
observe, reflect, understand, try, verify, change, adapt, decide, develop, evaluate ... In this sense at the time of Don Bosco and for most of the following century, the Salesian "culture" proved to be very traditional, conservative , and mostly solely functional to a student or craft profession; the mode of transmission of this "culture" was also predominantly authoritarian, closed to free reading, personal research, discussion and debate.
And it is instead with the "reason" that we build that updated and integral anthropology of which we spoke previously. And with the reason that the educator realizes that he is wrong in that society which accustoms young people to live constantly on an emotional and sensorial level, to the detriment of "reason" understood as knowledge, memory, reflection, which does everything because young people do not they lack nothing, and thus lead them to believe that they must satisfy all their desires, confusing them with their needs. Young people need points of reference, not just simple icons of society. They have to grow out of consumerist alienation, of the idolatry of well-being that exhausts them and weakens them, which makes them constitutionally lazy.
The second element is religion. For Don Bosco the highest form of human reason is the acceptance of the mystery of God - the God of metaphysics, or the "absolute Being" identical to the God of history, the God-with-us - as Pope Benedict XVI says, who denounces a reason that rejects religion in the context of subcultures.
Don Bosco certainly did not "reason" with the theological-philosophical categories of Pope Benedict. He left the "speculative" and abstract religion to others, and preferred the "positive" one, namely the living faith, rooted in reality, made of presence and communion, of listening and docility to grace. A religion to which young people are gradually introduced, which dialogues with reason and loving kindness. Not for nothing "the columns" of the Salesian educational building are the Eucharist, Penance, devotion to the Madonna, love for the Church and her pastors. Education then becomes a sort of "itinerary" of prayer, liturgy, sacramental life, spiritual direction and religion-religiosità is at the peak of the educational process.
Don Bosco is convinced that a true education is not possible without an openness to the transcendent, and knowing in depth the weakness and inconstancy of young people, offers them as a remedy the religion that points to holiness as the end of life. Holiness which is simply doing one's duty every day, even if "hard": "working" holiness, holiness for all, holiness of the boy who lives in a state of habitual grace because he succeeds, with personal effort and with the help of the Spirit , to avoid sin in the most common forms: bad companions, bad speeches, impurity, scandal, theft, intemperance, pride, human respect, lack of religious duties ...
What was Don Bosco's concern in the face of the phenomena of indifferentism, anti-clericalism, irreligiousness, Protestant proselytism, paganism should not be very different from that of the educators of 2000, to whom, however, a much more difficult question is asked and in-depth comparison between culture and faith, if only for the fact that between them and Don Bosco there is the century that saw modernism, the liturgical movement, the foundation and reinvigoration of morality and spirituality, the reditus ad fontes of the message Christian announced in Scripture, the Second Vatican Council, ecumenism, the rediscovery of the role of the laity in the Church ... and also, simultaneously, wars and political and social revolutions of planetary dimensions, recurrent fundamentalisms and short circuits between religion, state,policy...
And so we are at the third cardinal principle of the method, loving kindness, an omnipresent term in Salesian literature, even if understood in different ways.
Loving kindness is love demonstrated, it is the ability to enter into a deep relationship with the young person, to be well together, to know how to "read" life (one's own and that of others) even in terms of suffering, of attempts that may have failed.
Loving kindness is translated into the commitment of the educator to be, as has been said above: a person totally dedicated to the good of the students, present in their midst, ready to face sacrifices and toils in fulfilling his mission, with availability, sympathy, kindness, capacity for dialogue, cordiality, understanding, without that oppression of presence that excessively brings the
preventive system closer to the repressive system. It is the risk that the mythical Salesian "assistance" has run throughout history, often solely intended as a nagging and physical omnipresence capable of defending a child and protecting a weak unwary, without paying sufficient attention to the risk of blocking the natural and legitimate process of maturing autonomy.
Loving kindness which also becomes familiar with which the correct relationship between educators and young people is defined. The aims to be achieved and the methodological guidelines to be followed acquire concreteness and effectiveness if based on frank "family spirit", that is lived in serene, joyful and stimulating environments. And in the spontaneity and cheerfulness of the relationships that the shrewd educator grasps ways of intervening, as mild in expressions, as effective in results for the continuity and the climate of friendship in which they are realized. Not to mention the group experience, a fundamental element of the Salesian educational tradition. Too often it does not reflect on the group alliance. Don Bosco, with his undeniable talents of "comedian" and "communicator"
Traditional loving kindness must be rethought both in its foundations and in its contents and manifestations, bearing in mind how strong is the self-awareness of young people today, ever more careful to allow themselves to be "captured" emotionally and dangerously by adults, and as always critical today the situation of many families, marred by the lack of fraternal relations (unique children), by the constant absence of the mother (inserted in the labor market) and by broken relationships between parents (divorces, separations).
Thus it becomes ever more necessary to invent a concrete and articulated "family preventive pedagogy", which goes back to applying, in changed situations, the key concepts of the "system", in particular the "loving kindness" problem, oscillating between affective creativity, a reassuring sense of belonging, anxious possessiveness, risking violence. The same "family spirit" relived and actualized, should overcome those forms of paternalism and familism proper to our past in order to achieve "free" and liberating, authentically personalizing relationships.
Don Bosco's educational system today also needs to respond to the legitimate, explicit and increasingly frequent requests for
forms of activism, self-government, self-management, carefully evaluating them and satisfying them in the appropriate forms. Today it requires a greater personalization in relation to the effective "freedom" of the student, to his requests for autonomy in choosing objectives and means to reach them, to the "energies" of which he is the bearer (vitality, ideality, desires, and even restlessness, contradictions , reasons, passions) that must be respected and helped to develop with differentiated resources and methods in the different seasons of life. It will also result in greater attention to educational pluralism in which young people grow up.
And so too should the modern gaps of Don Bosco's Preventive System in terms of youth education of affectivity, sexuality and human love be filled up, since it is implemented in another environment in a non-mixed environment according to use of the times, it has always been reticent in this regard, solely aimed at simple control and "silence", although it made "loving kindness" one of its cornerstones. And the responsibility is great, since we are today faced with a clear separation between reason and affectivity: to rationally know the world is reduced to measuring what is according to our patterns or mental mechanisms and the affective sphere is reduced to an emotional subjectivism, precisely without objective reasons.
* * *
Educate in unprecedented scenarios by proposing valid and engaging experiences, making young people grow from within by focusing on inner freedom and opposing external conditioning, "winning the hearts" of young people to induce them serenely to values, correcting deviations and limiting their passions , prepare them for the future by combining the formation of the mind with the acquisition of operational skills, enabling them to be concretely involved in social and ecclesial life: this is the difficult task of the educator who intends to be inspired by Don Bosco's educational system, that is why "education is not only thing of the heart ".
"If the Gospel does not become political, it ceases to be gospel"
(Teol. MD Chenu)
In this last conference we will look into an aspect of our mission: education as a socio-political option. Let us not be afraid of this word: Don Bosco was also a social and political operator, and he was essentially through education, through the cultural, professional, moral and religious formation of youth. We will be guided once again by his word.
Don Bosco, "burned" by the zeal for souls, felt the tragedy of a people moving away from faith; felt the drama of the indifference of the people towards the youth, to which the solicitude of the Lord Jesus had turned instead. He reacted energetically, he denounced the ambiguity and the danger of the situation, he contested - in his own way we mean - the strong powers of his time, but above all he found new ways of opposing evil, resisting the negative forces of society. With the scarce resources at his disposal, he was able to grasp the few possibilities offered by the historical moment to develop and strengthen them.
He had for himself and for the Salesians the freedom and pride of autonomy. He did not want to tie the fate of his work to the unpredictable variation of political regimes. In this regard, from the early 1960s, Don Bosco intro
in the text of the Constitutions there was a precise article: "It is a principle adopted and that it will be unalterably practiced that all the members of this society will be strictly kept from strangers to everything that concerns politics, waves or voice, or with writings, or with books, or with the press they will never take part in matters that even indirectly can compromise them in terms of politics ". He was convinced with this to best realize the project of religious educators who were not partisan counterparts, totally "incarnated" in the life of the young, to be prepared for the concrete reality in which they should have measured the validity of the human, moral and professional formation received and assimilated. Among other things, if the constitutions of 1864 excluded politics for the Salesians,
The aforementioned article was quashed by the Roman ecclesiastical authority, but the spirit remained with its behavior. Don Bosco intended to safeguard, for himself and for his family, the possibility of fully integrating into existing social and political situations and conditions, and of working in them with the utmost fluency without having to stand up for this or that "party". With the authorities, etiam discolis, it was still necessary to cooperate, above all if this entailed ample opportunities for work "for the greater glory of God and the health of souls".
The testimony of don Giuseppe Vespignani concerning his first impact with Don Bosco in Turin is precious in this regard. "As a good Romagnolo, I tried to insinuate to Don Bosco the need for a foundation in Bologna, our metropolis, showing him the opportunity to say that the" Catholic Youth "was then born, made up of elements ready to fight for Catholic institutions and in defense of the priests. Don Bosco let me say, and then calmly replied: "We do not have this spirit of ardor and combat; we do not deal with politics; we only try to work in the midst of youth and pray that they leave us do not worry in this our occupation. As long as they invite us or call us for other things, other than our mission among the children, we will not go there, because we would not be in our place ".
In this direction was the profession of "political faith" that he had rendered in various circumstances. It is reduced to the
essential in a letter to the Interior Minister Giovanni Lanza
February 1872: "I write with confidence and I assure you that while I am a Catholic priest and fond of the Head of the Catholic Religion, I have always shown affection to the Government , for the subjects of whom I have always dedicated my weak substances and strength and life ". Or even in that to the Minister of Grace, Justice and Worship, Paolo Onorato Vigliani the following year (4 July 1873): "Although I live at all extraneous to political matters,
He further illustrated his position to the Salesians in the first General Chapter (1877) commenting on "giving to Caesar what is of Caesar", and also in the last session of the third (1883) when he recommended "to know and adapt to our times" , that is, "to respect men, therefore of the authorities where one can speak well, where one cannot, is silent. If there is any reason, assert oneself in private. And what is said of the civil authorities, let us also say about the 'Ecclesiastical authority ".
In the first conference to the Rome Cooperators of March 1878, Don Bosco was able to illustrate the possible peaceful coexistence of two "policies"; that of operators among young people and that of professionals of public affairs. There is no danger of contrasts - he believed and assured - "because the work of the Salesians and their Cooperators tends to benefit morality and reduce the number of children, who abandoned themselves are in great danger of going to populate the prisons. Instructing them, starting them at work, providing the means, and where it is necessary, even sheltering them, saving nothing to prevent their ruin, or rather making them good Christians and honest citizens, these works, I say, cannot but be respected, indeed desired by any government , from any policy ".
In fact, according to Don Bosco's style, the Salesian's commitment is to change consciences, to train them in human honesty, civic and political loyalty, and if anything in this perspective "change" society, through education, from from inside. Don Bosco is a priest, a moralist; he is neither sociologist, nor trade unionist, nor economist, nor politician
co. The question does not arise as to whether consciences can be formed in certain structures. He starts from the idea that education can do a lot, in any situation, if it is carried out with the maximum of good will, commitment and adaptability. Despite the "sadness of the times", the political harassment, the "novelties" of the time, Don Bosco considered the Piedmontese (and then Italian) society rather reliable, secure, well layered and orderly, not dangerously revolutionary and violent. All that remained was to work with wisdom and intelligence - perhaps even with a bit of cunning and cunning - in the existing order, without "revolutionary" temptations. It was not a risk-free position: adaptation could become acquiescence and opportunism; and, on an educational level,
The memories left to the Salesians in the last Memoirs-Spiritual Testament to the Outsiders and the difficulties reflect part of his mentality. It suggests flexibility and prudence. "With outsiders we have to tolerate a lot, and even endure damage rather than coming to questions. With civil or ecclesiastical authorities we suffer as much as we can honestly, but we do not come to issues before the secular courts," preferring rather arbitration forms, which allow to avoid expenses and to maintain "peace and Christian charity". "If in a country or in some city there is a difficulty on the part of some spiritual or temporal authority, try to do so that you can present yourself to give reasons for what you have done.
Finally, here is his political-pedagogical belief, lived, professed before he formulated in 1883 in his speech to alumni in a context of faith-political separation: "We do not make politics [...] we also make politics, but in quite harmless, indeed beneficial to every government [...] we tend to diminish the wretches and the vagabonds, to diminish the number of small criminals [...] to empty the prisons [...] This is our policy ". The intentional
extraneousness to politics did not mean, however, a lack of national meaning, given the lively love for the royal family, traditions, peace and the availability of active assistance in times of national emergency (cholera, wars, earthquakes, etc.).
Obviously it should not be forgotten that Don Bosco is firm in the ideal of the confessional state and in the image of the stratified society of the "classes" in which they lived, inevitably rich and poor, in which respect for authority flourished, love for fatigue , gratitude to benefactors, the unconditional inviolability of private property. Don Bosco, instead of elaborating principles, manifests tendencies that are more conservative than democratic, paternalistic, more egalitarian, clerical rather than secular, associations rather than corporative and unionist. He aspires to a peaceful moral order, respectful of all, in which the ecclesiastics had pre-eminence; its social model was the one acquired, traditional, hierarchical, not to be created, distinguishable between spiritual and temporal,
It is then evident that the socio-political perspective in Don Bosco must be integrated with considerations on the religious and salvific dimension of its educational action. He stated this and repeated it in many conferences to Salesian cooperators. One quote suffices, that of the speech in Turin on 1 June 1885 in favor of the Salesians, in which he argues that the Salesian work should be supported "because it educates the youngsters in virtue, at the Via del Santuario, because its main purpose is to instruct the youth that today has become the target of the bad, because it promotes in the midst of the world, in the colleges, in the hospices, in the festive oratories, in the families, it promotes, I say, love for religion, good customs, prayers, attendance to the sacraments: in these times the wicked try to spread wickedness and bad custom,
It is widely known that the world has become small, it is a "village", permeated by great technological, media and global innovations
and by the cultural criteria that these suggest: productivity, efficiency, calculation, scientific rationality ... The reading framework social phenomena is now the planetary one, so the old interpretative categories are outdated. Suffice it to say that today we speak of "deconstruction of thought", "anthropological mutation", "globalization", "universal ethical code", tolerance, interculturality, multi-strategy, new ideas ...
The Populorum Progressio as early as 1967 had told us that the place of verification of the validity or otherwise of an international economic system was not so much the labor dispute in its own house, as the international economic system, which sanctioned an inhuman dependence of the South on the North. The result was that operating charity according to narrow, local, pragmatic and approximate criteria, forgetting the wider dimensions of the common good (national and planetary) was a serious gap even in theological order.
The ethical maturation of the contemporary conscience has also found the limits of an assistentialism, which, forgetting the political dimension of underdevelopment, is not able to bite on the causes of misery, on the structures of sin from which the state of oppressive things springs from, always denounced by all ( since the synod 1971). To conceive charity only as almsgiving, emergency aid, depoliticized assistance means moving within the ambit of Samaritanism which, beyond good intentions, ends up becoming worse because it is functional to models of development that aim at the welfare of some, gilding the bitter pill for others. There is a philosophy of aid that leaves the privileges of benefactors intact and sometimes results in operations to their advantage: something is given and more is received.
In the post-conciliar period the words "poverty of the Church" and "Church of the poor" have had many faces, even contradictory ones. The magisterium, however, has increased its attention to the third world. There is however a risk: that the announcement of the Gospel tends to pay the price of the reduction of the Gospel to ethics, so that it is shared by all to be listened to by all. The term "Church of the poor" was
thus assumed in a political or ethical perspective, impoverishing it of its messianic content. It was used to support the revolutionary commitment, rarely was the criterion of discernment of ecclesial life made, a place of Church reform. More often it has been reduced to virtue, which some willing has followed without questioning the concrete life of the community. In short, poverty as advice to some, not a sign of the Church as such. One fact remains that we did not invent the Gospel, just as we did not invent its tragic impact with politics and the economy. Respect and defense of human rights, rooted in the dignity of every human being, the universal destination of goods, the preferential option for the poor, challenge the social responsibility of each and every one.
Does Salesian pastoral charity have nothing to say about it? After all, what did Pope John Paul II do when he left no corner of the earth in peace? Faith touches history, though not reducing itself to it. If love of neighbor is not the whole Christian message, can one deny that it is central and essential? Who can doubt that the socio-political dimension is structural to people and is a decisive dimension for the life of human society? Who can doubt that we have to create the conditions in which the economy is not annulled, but brought back to an order of ends that does not end in it, since its ultimate goal is the human person in his integral and solidary growth at a planetary level? The Church, the thinkers, the theologians, the professors, have we not perhaps given too much weight to individual morality, and not to social, public morality, privileging certain commandments at the expense of others? Has not the church's social doctrine been too often evaded?
The Church-political relationship was recently specified by Pope Benedict XVI in his first encyclical: "The Church cannot and must not take the political battle in its hands to achieve the most just society possible. It cannot and must not take its place of the State. But it cannot and must not even remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice. It must fit into it through the path of rational argumentation and must awaken spiritual forces, without which justice, which always requires sacrifices, does not can he
establish and prosper. The just society cannot be the work of the Church, but must be carried out by politics. However, striving for justice by working for the opening of intelligence and will to the needs of the good interests her deeply "(Deus Caritas est, n. 28).
Yet. It has been said and written that in the face of the modern State, which has assumed the protection and social assistance of citizens, the Church no longer had any room for intervention in terms of charity and assistance. The reality that we live today denies this hypothesis that had nourished the secularist and statist ideologies. The Church very often returns to being a point of reference also within the Welfare state or what remains of it.
For many years we have heard that charity and assistance were old and useless tools that could no longer be used in modern society and the democratic state. Today, even in secular circles, the social function of Christian voluntary service is recognized, of the so-called third sector - non-profit - of initiatives that start from parishes, associations, institutions, churches, movements ...
In the congregation perhaps the most innovative and "revolutionary" aspect of recent years has been indicated a few years ago by the 23rd General Chapter (1996, nos. 203-210-212-214) which spoke of "the social dimension of charity" and of "education of young people to the commitment and participation in politics", "a field that we have neglected and ignored".
We can ask ourselves: has our system of not doing anything other than the policy of "our father" changed? Perhaps we need to talk about everything from the pulpit: violence, terrorism, politics, work, genetic engineering, etc.? Should we make the "theology of liberation" ours? But what "liberation theology"? On the other hand, it is not by chance that Don Bosco's initial "educationist" choice and the consequent personal intention of educators to exclude "militant politics" from their lives, has conditioned and limited the socio-political dimension of the formation of students. ? Some weight did not even have pro educators
do you think of conformism due to insufficient culture and excessive distance from the real world of men? Could (and can) perhaps constitute a solution to the generic recourse to the "honest citizen and good Christian" formula, or to the other, reductive, of the honest citizen "because" good Christian "?
There is no doubt that things change, indeed, that things have changed, and even in fidelity to the original spirit and renewed constitutions, a few steps forward must be made, evidently running certain risks, on pain of being left behind, out of history, that is betray our mission. Of course the silence would please many, as the silence of the dogs is dear to the fox that has penetrated the chicken coop. But the orientations of the General Chapters if they are not translated concretely into facts that have to do with justice, peace, the culture of solidarity, the commitment to the transformation of society according to the Gospel, do not serve.
As educators we cannot close our eyes to the fact that, despite the great advances in science and technology, billions of people today live in worse conditions than 15 years ago, that 89 countries today live in a worse situation than 10 years ago, that the 25% of the world's population lives below the poverty line, which 1.5 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, which 1 billion people are illiterate. It has been calculated that with 6.3 billion dollars, it would be possible to ensure elementary school for all the inhabitants of the world (while in the US alone, 8.4 billion dollars are spent each year on cosmetics).
As educators we cannot remain indifferently looking at the destruction of the megalopolises of the southern hemisphere, the lack of a future for young people, the betrayal of the poor people's legitimate expectations, hunger, pollution, violence, petty or institutionalized, the crisis of justice, generalized corruption, the persistence of a flourishing war industry, the exploitation of minors ... in short, all those elements that bring tears, blood and death to millions of creatures every day. Civilization therefore far from that of love proposed by Pope Paul VI and reaffirmed by his successors.
In harmony with all this it seems that we need to proceed to a more coherent practical implementation of Don Bosco's educational choice,
to a reconsideration of the social quality of our education. Don Bosco's educational system was sometimes weak even from the point of view of statements and formulas - in the
create explicit experiences of social commitment in the broadest sense, and in it, specifically political. A specific theoretical and vital study is required, inspired by a broader vision of education itself, together with realism and concreteness. Proclamations, posters, slogans are not enough. We also need theoretical concepts and concrete operational projects to be translated into well-defined and articulated programs. After all, over the centuries the service of charity has perhaps not been entrusted to the Church and in it "to men and women who have taken the field against poverty, diseases and situations of lack of the educational sector"? (Deus caritas est, nos. 22, 23, 25).
Finally, let us ask ourselves: is the Salesian congregation, the Salesian family, our Province doing everything possible in this direction? Is our solidarity with youth only an act of affection, a gesture of donation or even a contribution of competence, a rational response, adequate and pertinent to the needs of young people and today's society?
A first step forward: educating ourselves and educating about political virtues
In general it seems to notice a socio-political lack of preparation of the Salesian as of the average believer. Instead it is necessary to have clear ideas about what is political: it is the starting point. Working to think well - Pascal said - is the principle of all morality. It should be kept in mind that politics is the multiple and varied economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural action, intended to promote the common good organically and institutionally (Christifideles laici 42); that politics is a way of living the Christian commitment to the service of others (Octogesima adveniens); that politics is a duty that engages everyone in the defense of the human person; that politics is a value because it is directly connected with the dignity and fundamental rights of human life. If duty, it must be fulfilled; if value,
Now some choices in the field can be made precisely by the educator: the vocational orientation to political militancy, perhaps
radiating and motivating those who reveal an aptitude for the management of public affairs and for the activities of bodies of social or political militancy; the promotion of citizenship education and non-violent youth leadership in order to transform the unjust structures of society; the emphasis on national and international volunteering as a verification of this youthful leadership in the service of the weakest; the promotion of family custody, distance adoptions, family houses, housing communities, drug addiction recovery centers; the creation of local, national and international forms of fair trade, of solidarity with the countries that live in less human conditions "where the human is always measured on the basis of the Gospel". Then the Salesian Cooperators,
It is also a question of teaching and educating young people to open to the world, to interculture, to dialogue and to interreligious respect with journeys and activities of understanding other cultures, with schools of globalization, with courses and seminars on specific topics, with the proposal of particular experiences, with publications of pamphlets, books and magazines ... All activities that want to provide young people with the capacity for intercultural / interreligious dialogue, autonomy in the political evaluation of the decisions taken by the government of their own country or other countries, of ability to overcome prejudices and racisms by increasing one's knowledge, to understand that being closed in one's "particular", in one's own little world, is no longer thinkable and indeed misleading. More than turning off the TV or the computer, it's about "
Finally, we cannot be in solidarity except by being on the weaker side. Which side are we on? In the way of judging, of living, of choosing friendships and languages, of setting priorities, of relating to public structures? We are well among those who say: "The poor will always have them with us" or, with some suffering, we wonder how the parable of the Good Samaritan should be read today? If it is not necessary to "take the field" politically, it is necessary to "think politically" without sixty-eighty nostalgia, but cultivating the sense of a global project of society, even "not politically correct".
Two other objectives are set before us. First and foremost, in the individual and collective conscience of ours and of our recipients, certain values often and easily extraneous to them, such as the will to get out of one's selfishness to open up to the needs of others, to share the superfluous and also the need with those who suffer, to discover that we are a great family (of God), and that therefore we have the same father and we are brothers, to question our way of life too full of superfluous things, to glimpse the great problems of justice and peace that animate the world .
Secondly: to be convinced that life changes in everyday life, in the daily way of living. It is the daily practice of corporal and spiritual works of mercy, dealt with personally, without delegations and evasions on a personal level or on the family-community level (is there a "poor" item in our budget?), Nor on a national level- Provincial? (in Italy there was the program of the Episcopal Conference "starting from the last" years ago; but by chance did not remain a slogan?), nor on the international-congregational level (there is no risk of limiting ourselves to beautiful intentions, to moralistic discourses, to the documents of the General Chapters)?
We are all convinced that the drifts of human freedom without objective truth, the loss of moral values, the disorder of civil coexistence undermine the heritage of civilization of our country. It is therefore a question of starting among the tens of thousands of young people who are approaching a new process of evangelization, of spreading the Christian mentality in all areas of life, of developing a Christianally oriented culture.
It is therefore in the area of ideas and customs, that is to say in the social area, that the Salesian educator requires a new presence, so to speak "post-pastoral" or "prepolitical" - consistent with the Gospel and the social doctrine of Church - able to help remake the country's ethical fabric. His will certainly be an active minority presence, not so much a substitute for the shortcomings of the welfare state, but cultivating the Donboschian dream of a sort of
citizenship pact based on shared common values, as Christian as possible.
To the human promotion, to the presence also with own initiatives in the civil society, will follow - even at the same time - the explicit evangelization above all for those who have already reached the satisfaction of the primary needs. This may mean many choices for us, as already mentioned, such as the revision of the works according to criteria of spiritual significance, the redevelopment of the personnel for new needs (except to discover that as soon as it is finished we must start again), the use of the properties for educational, spiritual and non-economic purposes, having the courage to always decide in light aeternitatis and to celebrate the hope of a better world. And we could continue ...
I conclude with a last quotation relevant to the Strenna of the Rector Major for 2007 concerning the promotion of "Life". In 1884, worried about a sad phenomenon that was widespread in his time, Don Bosco entrusted a group of diocesan priests with the task of making pastoral work an announcement and a service of life with these words:
"Today no estimate of life is made. Who commits suicide in order not to endure pains and misfortunes: those who risk their lives in a duel: those who spoil it in their vices: those who play it in risky and capricious deeds, who cast it facing dangers to execute vendettas and vent passions, therefore preach and remind everyone that we are not the masters of our life, God alone is the master, whoever is attentive to his own days makes an insult to the Lord, is the creature that makes a an act of rebellion against his Creator: you who have ingenuity will find ideas and reasons in abundance and a way to expose them, to induce your listeners to love life and respect it, in the great thought that the temporal life well employed is a harbinger of eternal life " (Boll. Sal. 1884, n. 8, p. 116).
Don Bosco in all his life had done nothing but give young people, dangerously started on the roads of perdition and the squandering of the best of their vital resources, a meaning to life, recovering them to a joyful existence, which was worth being He lived. Now leave the task to us.
At the end of these meditations-instructions I would like to try a brief conclusion, in a way of "preaching the memories" with which the Spiritual Exercises traditionally ended and which outlined for the Salesians of a province a common path of spiritual life for a whole year.
Open your eyes to the world
At the beginning of the millennium we are facing an era of very profound changes, with the recent descent into the field of new, disruptive and invasive forces, even compared only to the years of the cold war and ideologies. We need to acknowledge that society, family, person, Church, religious life, youth, language, night and day, schedules, personal and community biorhythm have changed ... A remote past is dead definitively: a certain theology, a certain concept of religious life, a certain way of educating that lasted until the sixties. But even a "near past" is dying: that of the first post-conciliar theologies, the first enthusiasms of the renewal of Consecrated Life through the renewed Constitutions, that of a certain educational serenity after the drunkenness of the sixty-eight and the terrorism of the years of lead. There remains only a present, on which to build a future.
In the Salesian context, the same has happened in some way, since the beginning of the congregation: first of all with the progressive "existential crises" of Don Bosco which served as a prelude to the choices we have documented (priestly, educational, congregational, missionary) and then, after him, with the "crisis of the congregation" in mo
particular minds (on which we have not been able to dwell) but that we all know somehow. To limit ourselves to three: that of the development of the Congregation after the death of Don Bosco (when the incapacity of the same was hypothesized to survive the founder), that of the recovery after the sixty-eight (when the high tones of the protest seemed to prelude to an irrepressible vocational crisis, due to the overcoming of the reasons of tradition with respect to innovation), that of the discovery of unity around the King ttor in the nineties (when there was a fragmentation of the works and a marked individualism of the confreres). The congregation emerged unscathed and continued its history with moments of escape, stagnation or even return to the past,
If, therefore, we found ourselves faced with dry alternatives during the more than one hundred years of our history, today we are faced with one of them, at a true "turning point", with the globalized civil society and the young people in pieces that we find again , with the reduction of the personnel we witness with impotence (at least in Europe), with the contraction of works, to which we are "forced" for reasons of force majeure.
The alternative that presents itself to us is simple, at least to be understood: or we remain paralyzed by fear in the face of the challenges of the new that inexorably advances, to which we feel unprepared to respond, or we consider these challenges positively as new opportunities, to be answered with more courage and with more vitality than perhaps has been done in recent times. Now there is no doubt between choosing to suffer the obvious conflict and trying to glimpse the new that is born, between resignation and resistance, between death and life, because God is unpredictable novelty in history , is the Lord of life. To do this it is necessary to bring out the most profound and charismatic in us, in our vocation: va
to tell her the decision to spend our existence in the implementation of the salvific project of God in Christ proposed to us by Don Bosco, a timeless character, and fidelity to the "poor and abandoned youth", without whom we cease to be Salesians, because only next to them we will feel rich and we will be fruitful, while far from them we will feel poor and become sterile.
Then, on the basis of the considerations carried out in these days, the Salesians of this beginning of the millennium could be called to do three particular operations that I indicate, in extreme synthesis, with three neologisms perhaps not too difficult to memorize:
The Congregation, the General Chapters, the Provincial Chapters (ourselves) are a building site always open, not a building site in closing. The necessary downsizing must mean for us rebirth, a revival of new vitality. Destructuring means being convinced that we are the operational subject and our "divine mission", not the inherited structure, not the necessarily contingent Work. God calls us to be active, creative and not succubus and slaves of reality that are no longer congruous and suitable for the best service to young people. Don Bosco was a teacher in this, leaving the sure path, traveled by others, to invent his own, more difficult and risky: but it was the one that the Lord inspired him!
Transcendence is the first act of consecrated life, but at the same time the face of God, which we carry within us and which we seek to see in our young people, is the sign of his presence among us. The "mission" entrusted by the Heavenly Father to be in the Church "signs and bearers of God's love to young people, especially to the poorest", must make use of the meeting, the visible welcome of the young people of the walls, squares, and classrooms, family nests ...
A strong visibility of our gift will take away from the anonymity the invisible, the nameless, the marginalized, the excluded, the without future ...
It is not a simple operation, but vital for understanding different cultures and religions. There are no children of a lesser God or a culture without a capital letter. Whites or blacks, rich and poor, believers and distant, everyone asks us to "incarnate", to be present among them, to carry the burdens of one another. But to do so with an identity that is not faded, confused, even if necessarily lived in different contexts and cultures, perhaps alien or allergic to our faith in the Lord Jesus.
I believe that if we succeeded in this triple operation, ours could be an authentic "Starting from Don Bosco" for the third millennium. It is the most fervent and sincere wish that we can exchange.
Premise pag. 5
Introduction: Starting afresh from Don Bosco "9
1." Be inside the story "of Don Bosco, in the Church of Christ, at the service of the world" 17
2. Don Bosco: the secrets of a success "29
3. Those formidable first ventures 'years (1815-1835) »45
4. The decade of preparation (1835-1844)» 59
5. The fundamental choice: the young (1844-1846) »71
6. The vital choice: consecrated persons and mandates for a community mission ( 1854-1874) »83
7. The strategic choice: the missions (1875)» 97
8. The Salesian mission today »111
9. Starting afresh from the educational» 127
10. Education is not (only) a thing of the heart »143
11. Is the policy of the Pater Noster still relevant? »157
Conclusion: "Remember" to the Salesians of the third millennium "171