“PASSION FOR GOD – PASSION FOR THE WORLD”
Message to the Secular Institute, the Volunteers of Don Bosco,
on the 90th anniversary of their Foundation
(20th May 1917 – 20th May 2007)
To my dear sisters, members of the Secular Institute, the Volunteers of Don Bosco
It is with immense joy that I am writing this message, and would like to express my presence through it at the common celebrations for “90 years of passion for the world”, the motto you have chosen to sum up your history and, at the same time, to plan your future. There really is good reason to praise and thank the Lord who has been so good to you. From its humble beginnings the Institute has developed throughout the world and has been taken up as a life project by so many women who have disocvered a calling in it responding to their desire to consecrate themselves completely to God, while continuing to be fully involved in the world. And all of this as taught through Salesian spirituality. Today you make up part of the Spiritual and Apsotlic Family of Don Bosco, as an original branch within it marked by your threefold Consecration – Secularity – Salesianity.
I am pleased to see that these have been 90 intense, meaningful and fruitful years, because – as you yourselves have said – they have been
“experienced in a life completely given to Christ for a greater availability to your brothers and sisters;
Brought about through an encounter with Christ in daily life, in the midst of people;
Involved in the human story with optimism and hope;
Inspired and sustained by the Salesian charism of Don Bosco“.
By making Mary of Nazareth’s canticle our own, along with you, let us magnify the Lord who has accomplished these wonders. Or, in the words of the psalmist, let us repeat “The Lord has been good to us and we are happy”. Your thanksgiving is the best way, the more Christian way, to contemplate the past and to also merit our God’s greatness in the future, since he wants to continue to count on you not just to do things, but rather to belong solely to God and to bring him to the entire world.
I know that for the 20th May, even if you can’t do so all around the world, you have been invited to have a common celebration at local level and, where possible, regionally, in expectation of an already planned solemn celebration.
For my own part, I believe that for this moment in the history of the VDB Institute, your attention and gaze should be directed to the future: In practice I am referring to your Centenary. You have ninety years behind you now that can allow you to reach this jubilee through a good spiritual, personal and institutional preparation. It will be a particularly appropriate time for listening together to God’s will for you, in this new phase of history, and to plan the future of the Institute.
In this your journey towards the Centenary the entire Salesian Family remains close to you, as it too will experience over these years a time of intense preparation for the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of our beloved Founder and Father, Don Bosco (1815-2015): children of saints, we cannot but focus on Salesian holiness as God’s offering to the world.
It will be an occasion to write the history of the Institute, aware that we always discover our originality in our beginnings and that the course of history is there to mature and grow in charismatic identity, which is what identifies us within the Church, the Salesian Family and society.
It will also be a more opportune moment to dream and plan the future. This, obviously, is your task; nevertheless allow me to indicate some elements that could encourage and illuminate the task.
The first is the conviction of the value of your vocation, of the original contribution you are called to offer. I am not only referring to the mission field, to ‘doing’, but especially to the dimension of ‘being’, more so since a particular aspect of your charism is your “reserve”. This does not imply anonymity or invisibility– because your witness of faith, gospel values, in a society which is ever more pluralist and secular, has to be more evident – , but it is simply a guarantee of your complete ties to family, and social and secular realities. This is why there is no external habit, nor life in community, nor a specific apostolate marking out your life; your witness must indicate the presence of God in the world, like the sanctuary lamp which points to the Eucharistic presence of Jesus. It is a humble service, yes, but its function is not an indifferent one. Obviously you must focus on a lifestyle that gives rise to questions and lets those who see you guess at your deeper motivations, asking you the reason for your hope.
One thing certain is that your secular consecration has the family as a field of action and the social circles where you live and work. This does not limit the possibilities of your consecration, indeed, it should urge you on to make visible your sense of belonging to and passion for the Church; it should make you courageous evangelisers, completely taken up by a great love for Jesus, the inspiration for and main strength of your life; it should ultimately arouse in you a spirit of prophecy for proclaiming the Good News through your witness to whomsoever you should encounter along your journey.
It is up to you to determine your specific pastoral activities in the various settings you find yourselves in, taking account of the variety of social, cultural and religious contexts you have to work in. Nevertheless an essential trait for identifying you is immense compassion for the needy, the poor and the marginalised and those who are excluded and, “at risk”. The passion for God is seen in a compassion for humanity. That is the source of our life, this is the test of our experience of God and of our gospel existence. Without the first the rest is mere philanthropy. Without the second the rest is pure spiritualism.
As authentic daughters of Don Bosco, as VDB, strengthen your close affiliation to the Salesian Family, called today to think and act ever more like a spiritual apostolic movement, respecting the autonomy of each of the branches which make it up, passando passing from a unity of hearts to a unity of intentions and plans. The specific nature of your secular consecration comes from your “Salesianity”. We are talking about a special spirituality: We find it expressed in the motto of our beloved Don Bosco: “Da mihi animas, cetera tolle”. This expresses the passion of Don Bosco, who thought of nothing else but the salvation of the young and invested this “action of salvation” with his pedagogy of kindness, which constitutes the secret of the Preventive System. It is loving-kindness, in fact, which makes love visible, credible and effective. Goodness is love’s face. Herewith the essential task of returning to the source. Today they speak of “refounding” consecrated life. Rather than pretending to start from the beginning again, creating “ex nihilo”, which could end up being different from what the original founder had in mind, the truer appeal is to return to the foundations. We should, at any rate, be convinced that Christ is our only foundation, as Saint Paul put it speaking to the community at Corinth, when he invited them to overcome their divisions - those who identified themselves as being followers of Apollo: “Everyone doing the building must work carefully”. “In fact”, says Saint Paul “no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, that is Jesus Christ” (1 ). 3, 10-11). “Refounding” therefore means returning to the Founder, in your case, Blessed Philip Rinaldi. It is necessary to draw from the sources of the charism to find inspiration, energy and light there, to make it more responsive to new hopes, expectations and needs. This is what “dynamic fidelity” means.
I conclude by turning my thoughts to Our Lady, the model of a woman totally consecrated to God, and completely involved in family and social realities, always attentive to the voice of her Lord, and always open and obedient to the Spirit who was leading her. To Her, and to her maternal care, I entrust the Institute of the Volunteers of Don Bosco and each one of you.
With much affection, in Don Bosco,
Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva