My Dear Young People,
During the beatification of Zephyrinus Namuncurá, deep in the heart of Patagonia, I was thinking of all of you. As well as the joyful faces of the young people from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, among the colours and the songs of that unforgettable day, I could see your faces and hear your voices. Together with Zephyrinus you too were in my thoughts and in my heart. I seemed to me that the Oratory at Valdocco had spread its wings beyond the ocean to embrace all the young people of the world. A great multitude, different in language and culture led by the same father, Don Bosco, and by three young saints: Zephyrinus, Laura and Dominic. What a magnificent sight!
In that place, at Chimpay, where Zephyrinus was born, I thanked God for these mature fruits of the Preventive System, a way of education that leads to holiness. If a tree is judged by its fruits, it means that this tree is good and strong. Together then let us thank the Lord for the great treasure that He has given us in the educational system of Don Bosco. The Strenna, that I offered this year to the Salesian Family and that I now hand on to you, is meant to be an invitation to appreciate this treasure, renewing in each and everyone the commitment to “educate with the heart of Don Bosco, developing to their full potential the lives of young people, especially the poorest and most disadvantaged, promoting their lefts.”
My dear young people, you have received the great gift of your life. First of all, a family, in which you have grown up, enjoying the affection and the help of your parents. You have felt protected, guided, loved. Today you have friends with whom to share your experiences and affections. You enjoy all sorts of educational opportunities that enable you to look to the future with a certain confidence. You also have the privilege of knowing Don Bosco and the riches of his presentation of the Christian life and of youthful holiness. All these gifts of God are a treasure that has been entrusted to you. A treasure to guard, a treasure to augment, and a treasure to make bear fruit through education.
This then is your first responsibility: to take hold of your lives and become fully rounded persons, fulfilling the plan God has for you: becoming His beloved sons and daughters. This isn't out of your reach, as young people like Zephyrinus, Laura and Dominic show us. Indeed it is already beginning to happen in your lives. On your part you are following Him freely and joyfully as you show by your commitment, and on His part, the Holy Spirit is shaping your heart and your life and making you into a new person in the likeness of God.
It is also true that in your life - as it was in that of Zephyrinus- the social and cultural problems of our day play their part. It is to be expected that you experience their effects in a special way. The voices coming to you from all sides are putting before you models of life that are marked by unbridled freedom, by arrogance, overbearing behaviour and success at all costs. Have the courage to go against the current ! This is what the Pope told young Italians at Loreto.
At a time like ours characterised by a certain nihilism inviting us to a kind of easy-going attitude and passive acceptance of things, yours is a difficult task but an exciting one: not only to resist and to be genuine/authentic, but also to help your companions to love and enjoy life, to fill daily life with a selfless commitment to the service of others. You can make a real contribution to defeating the culture of indifference and death by proposing, through your personal witness, a way of life intent on living peacefully together and respect for others, on service and solidarity, on the joy of living and a positive view of people and of humanity and of society. All of this went towards that combination of values at the heart of the pedagogy and the spirituality of Don Bosco.
Therefore, today more than ever, it is necessary to give education a new social dimension. In your daily life, in your families, at work or at University, in your social lives with your friends and acquaintances it is necessary to create an alternative life-style: bringing a new approach to life that can gradually transform the social fabric almost “by infection”! Isn't it a wonderful thing, my dear young people, to be the promoters of a “new life,” based on open-heartedness towards everyone, on unconditional respect for their dignity, on selfless and generous service, on a view that sees life precisely as a gift to be shared and defended? You know what? This is God's dream. And we can give Him a hand in making it a reality!
This then, my dear young people, is the way to live in hope. A hope that makes you feel in union with others, and with them responsible, that impels you to be involved in the present moment but without being a slave to it. Which knows that no progress is possible without the cross so that this is taken up with joy and generosity: «To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves—these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself», Pope Benedict XVI tells us (Spe salvi, 39). Don't give in then, my dear young people to the temptation to superficiality and individualism; don't let yourselves be taken in by a future empty of promise. The springtime of your lives cannot remain in the frozen grip of wintry spirit.
In the message I am sending you with the Strenna I encourage you to take up this task with the heart and the passion of Don Bosco. Don Bosco's love for the young was a matter of practical and appropriate action. He took an interest in the whole of their lives. He was able to recognise their most urgent needs and to guess the hidden ones. Everything in him, his intelligence, heart and will, physical energy his whole being was directed towards the good/benefit of the young. With equal passion he fostered their total development and at the same time desired their eternal salvation. Have you ever asked yourselves why young people all over the world love Don Bosco so much? It is because they have seen and understood. They have seen that his heart was entirely consecrated to the salvation of his boys/young people. They have understood that he wanted to give everything to the last breath in his body, for their good and for their happiness. This love of the young of yesterday and of today, and I can bear witness to it, is their response to this total love of this marvellous Father and Teacher.
We have to realise that nowadays there are many young people, your companions or acquaintances who need to be loved in this special way. Many of them haven't received the gifts and the opportunities in life that you have. They too need to feel Don Bosco alive and close to them. You are called to be that presence of Don Bosco for them.
Zephyrinus could be a model and an encouragement for you. There is something he said that sums up all his plan of life: «I want to study so as to be useful to my people». In fact, Zephyrinus wanted to study, to become a priest and to return to be among his people to contribute to the cultural and spiritual growth of his people, as he had seen the first Salesian missionaries do. Are you, like him, ready to become educated so as to make yourselves useful to the many young who are looking for a meaning in their lives? Are you ready to become for them a presence of Don Bosco, to become involved with a heart like his and with his dedication to their human and Christian development? I can assure you that in this commitment you will discover great happiness.
I want to suggest to you one special area for this commitment. I am referring to education in and the defence of human lefts, in particular the defence of the lefts of juveniles/ minors. Today there is a lot of talk about human lefts and often there are declarations made, but just as often it is clear that these lefts are not respected, especially when it is a question of the lefts of the most disadvantaged, of the poor and vulnerable. You will have seen this for yourselves: in school or among companions the weakest are often the ones to suffer abuse; in the work place the youngest are mercilessly exploited; even more painful is the situation of those juveniles who are defenceless in the face of social or political groups who are only looking to their own interests or advantage. Respect for and the defence of human lefts, and in particular the lefts of juveniles is above all a personal responsibility for each one of us, starting from where we normally find ourselves in our daily lives.
Don Bosco's educational system is a valuable means for the recognition and the promotion of human lefts. Through it we learn to consider every young person responsible for and the protagonist of his or her own life and education. We provide him with protection, understanding his particular needs, and we help him to become someone responsible for and aware of his and others' lefts. This is what it means to see young people through the eyes of Don Bosco and to love them with his heart. It means believing in the absolute value of the individual, recognising in each one of them their dignity as a son or daughter of God; it means having confidence in their desire to learn, to study, to escape from poverty, to take their own future in hand.
Open your eyes, my dear young people! Look around you and see how many boys and girls, teenagers and young people in your district, in your town, at school or at work are seeking a better quality of life, are struggling to be accepted without being afraid, to have the chance of a job, to find a place in school. Look at them with the heart of Don Bosco and open your own hearts to them. Take their part, trying to do something about their education or offering them your help and defending them against those who trample on their lefts. There is much you can do! Work together then with all your strength in every way possible so that they too may become active and responsible citizens in society.
Being on the side of these of these young people means committing ourselves to becoming the builders of a new humanity at the heart of which is a real culture of human lefts. We are called to speak out, to persuade, and in the last analysis, to prevent the violation of human lefts rather than punish or repress them. In this we need to be responsible with an active and critical approach/attitude and at the same time acting on a united front, networking, , overcoming our fears, inhibitions, our individualism that close us off in the pettiness of our own concerns and self-interest.
My dear young people, educating with the heart of Don Bosco is a wonderful mission. And this mission is also entrusted to you. Have courage! In following this pathway of hope you are not alone. Don Bosco is walking with you, and with him Mother Mazzarello, the young saints Zephyrinus, Dominic and Laura. They are lights of hope along our path. But who more than Mary could be for us the Star of hope? Through her, the hope of the ages became a realty and entered into this world, into history. Mary, who believed and hoped even in the darkness of Holy Saturday, is with us and walks among us as our Mother and Teacher of hope.
Holy Virgin, I entrust to you the young people of the world, especially those most poor, those most in need and those most at risk. Guide them along the path of their human development and make them courageous witnesses to Christ in our day.
Grant, Dear Mother, that they may grow in a spirit of solidarity, working with a lively sense of justice and to create greater sense of fellowship.
Help the Church and the Salesian Family to live according to the Gospel of love, so that the young may see shining in them the face of your Son Jesus.
Panamà, 31 January 2008
Fr. Pascual Chávez Villanueva, SDB