To the Salesian Confreres of the Congregation
Roma, January 31st, 2010
Solemnity of Saint John Bosco
My Dear Confreres,
I am writing on the liturgical Solemnity of our dear Father, recalling the 31 January 1888, the day on which with the death of Don Bosco, Don Rua became de facto his first Successor.
On this occasion we are beginning the celebration of the centenary of the death of Don Rua which, as we know, took place on 6 April 1910. In order to encourage greater involvement on everyone’s part, I want to tell you now about some initiatives which will accompany the centenary, referring back to the letter with which I launched the celebration, which I sent to you on 24 June 2009 and in which I mentioned the spiritual and pastoral journey for this year.
Our heart is full of gratitude to God for the gift He made to our Congregation and to the Salesian Family in the person of Don Rua. Faithfully following in Don Bosco’s footsteps, he became a Blessed; deeply involved in the beginnings of the Salesian charisma he ensured its continuation; generously taking up the guidance of the Congregation, he promoted its development.
1. Knowledge of Don Rua
It is our task during this year to know Don Rua and to make him known, and through him, know how to read and understand one part of the history of our Congregation. Discovering our roots, we will become more aware of our identity and therefore more capable of looking towards the future.
To help your study you could make use of my letter which was in number 405 of the Acts of the General Council entitled “Successor of Don Bosco: son, disciple, apostle. The human and spiritual profile of Blessed Michael Rua”. In addition, the “Life of Don Michael Rua” written by Fr Francis Desramaut has been published and also now translated into various languages. At the end of October last year in Turin there was the Congress of the Salesian Historical Association on Don Rua, the Acts of which will soon be available. A travelling exhibition in various languages on Don Rua is also going the rounds; a video will also be produced on “The Project for Europe according to Don Rua”.
As you can see, there is no shortage of helps to get to know Don Rua. A knowledge of history helps us to understand the context in which he lived and the complexity of the circumstances, it throws light on the choices he made, reveals his lively intelligence, his greatness of heart, his farsighted courage. A better knowledge of Don Rua will evoke in us a love for him and the love will urge us to imitate him; it this way we shall the more easily propose to ourselves that we like him be “another” Don Bosco.
2. Significant dates in the centenary year
In addition to 31 January, the date of the opening of the centenary of the death of Don Rua and the beginning of his period of service as Rector Major of the Congregation and as the Successor of Don Bosco, there are other dates which can be of advantage to us in the course of the year.
In the first part of the year an opportunity could be found, at local and Province level to present the Strenna which this year invites us to imitate Don Rua in bringing the gospel to the young.
On 6 April we can commemorate the date of Don Rua’s death which took place in Turin in 1910, recalling the way the confreres responded and the addresses given at his funeral.
On 29 July we can commemorate his ordination to the priesthood, which took place in the Chapel of Saint Anna at Caselle Torinese in 1860, exactly one hundred years ago.
On 29 October, the liturgical memorial of Blessed Michael Rua, we will recall his beatification held on that day in 1972, and we will be able to re-read the homily which Paul VI gave on that occasion.
3. International Congress
At the end of October 2010, from Friday 29 until Sunday 31, at the “Salesianum” at the Generalate there will be an International Congress which I asked for on “Don Rua in history.” It is a Congregational event, in which scholars from all over the world will be involved, Salesians and others. In the light of the research undertaken and of the results of this Congress it will be possible to write another life of Don Rua.
For this occasion I am inviting all the Provinces, Vice Provinces and Delegations to send to Rome two confreres to take part in the Congress. It will then be their task on their return to animate the confreres, presenting person of Don Rua. It would be appropriate, for example, to choose to send the Provincial Delegate for Formation and a teacher of Salesian studies.
It would be more easy for those confreres sent to take part in this Congress if they could understand Italian. The conferences at the Congress, in fact, even though there will be simultaneous translation, will be given and distributed written in Italian.
4. Provincial Congresses
The conclusion of the centenary will take place in the month of November with the celebration of a Congress on Don Rua in every Province, Vice Province and Delegation for the confreres and the Salesian Family. Those taking part in the International Congress could be responsible for leading them.
To prepare the programme of the Provincial Congress, use could be made of the conferences at the Congress in Rome in 2010 and the Acts of the Turin Congress in 2009, and perhaps also the history of the Province or the Region connected with Don Rua. The Provincial Congress will be one way of keeping alive the person of Don Rua and showing the confreres the relevance of Don Rua for today.
I thank you for the attention you will give to these suggestions and proposals. Each one of you will certainly not be lacking in imagination and creativity in order to identify in your personal lives, in the community and in the Province the ways and means to know, love and imitate Don Rua better. May he accompany us throughout this year and help us to live our vocation faithfully.
Yours in the Lord,
Fr Pascual Chávez V., SDB