Rome, April 1st, 2009
To Salesian Confreres of the Congregation
My Dear Confreres,
We are in the Jubilee year of the 150th anniversary of the founding of our Salesian Society. There are many initiatives under way in various Provinces, and a lively historical interest in the beginnings of our charismatic family is spreading pretty well everywhere. All of this makes for a greater awareness in us of our Salesian consecrated vocation and fosters the maturing of our charism which can lead to a deep renewal in our life and in out mission. With a sense of humble gratitude we feel the need to give praise to the Lord for the great gift we have received.
At the centre of all that we are celebrating in this “Holy Year” of the Congregation there is the fascination with the person of Don Bosco, who, still today, renews in us our enthusiasm, attracting our heart for an ever more complete gift of ourselves, re-enforces the passion for the mission to the young. In these days the memory of his canonisation which took place on Easter Sunday seventy five years ago by Pius XI, on 1 April 1934, helps us to understand that it is precisely his holiness that has conquered us. Our admiration for Don Bosco grows because of his holiness and it is this which invites us to invoke and to imitate out Founder.
- In my first letter at the beginning of the last six-year period, with the same words that the Servant of God John Paul II used, I wrote to you “Dear Salesians, be saints!”. In this way I invited you to make holiness our plan of spiritual life and of pastoral action. At the beginning of this new six-year period, the year of grace which we are celebrating once again presents us with the commitment to holiness as the main way “to make a fair copy of the Congregation”, as Don Bosco himself prophetically expressed it. Holiness is the beautiful thing about our lives, our communities, our Congregation. Holiness which is expressed in the radical following of the Lord Jesus obedient, poor and chaste, is the fascinating thing about consecrated life. Holiness lived in the total giving of oneself to God for poor youth, is the power which emanates from a witness which is genuine, capable of raising up and attracting vocations. This then is why holiness together with its art and its liturgy, constitutes the beauty of the Church. Rightly then one can say: “Only beauty will save the world!”
- Don Bosco’s holiness is the guarantee that his life-project, his school of spirituality, his style of apostolic action constitute an authentic path which leads to the fulness of love. Following the path opened up by Don Bosco in the following of Christ, we have the certainty of living a life that is fully evangelical, completely given without conditions, with reserve without holding back. At the school of Don Bosco we too learn to be saints.
- The many forms and the great variety of holiness that have flowered in the 150 years of the Congregation, among the young pupils, in the Salesian Family are a sign of the holiness of our Founder. “The holiness of the sons proves the holiness of the father ,”Blessed Michael Rua wrote to Salesian Rectors, in sending them the spiritual testament of Don Bosco, a few days after his death. The first Salesian generation had no doubts about the holiness of their “father and teacher,” even though they could not proclaim it before the Church had solemnly recognised it.In the meantime the holiness which at its beginnings the Congregation succeeded in living in its service of the young, applying the extraordinarily simple but equally effective method used by Don Bosco, would have been the most valid argument in favour of the holiness of the Founder. In this way with time the holiness of the sons and daughters has gone on increasing: following the father a good number of his disciples made their own that sympathetic form of holiness almost “homely” which is the “holiness of work and of the playground.”
- There are so many Salesian saints male and female who have drawn their inspiration from Don Bosco. The same path is being set before us: if we want to become saints we have to look at him. We are the heirs of a saint. Holiness is the greatest legacy that he has left us. Don Bosco has handed on to us an original style of holiness, consisting in simplicity and attractiveness. A holiness that makes us friendly, good, simple, easy-going. This is the holiness to which we are called, capable of attracting the young. This has been Don Bosco’s gift to the young and this is the best gift that we too can offer to the today’s young people. Let us remember dear Confreres: poor young people have a left to our holiness!
Paraphrasing Don Bosco, we may say that it is a fascinating thing to be saints, because holiness is luminosity, spiritual energy, splendour, light, inner joy, equilibrium, serenity, love taken to the extreme. The Church too in Vatican Council II reminds us that “everyone is called to holiness” (LG 39). This is the priority of the new millennium: “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity… The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living” (NMI 31).
Holiness should not intimidate us, as though it were asking us to live an impossible heroism, reserved to the few privileged ones. Holiness is not our work, but the gratuitous participation in God’s holiness, and therefore a grace. It is a gift, before being the fruit of our efforts. Our whole being is inserted in the mysterious sphere of the purity, the goodness, the gratuity, the mercy, the love of the Lord Jesus. It is the total handing over of ourselves in faith, in hope, in love to God; a handing over that is accomplished day by day with serenity, patience, gratuity, accepting daily trials and joys with the certainty that all makes sense in God’s eyes. Don Bosco’s holiness shines out with the splendour with the hope and with the joy of Easter. The Jubilee of Easter Sunday 1 April 1934, experienced in St Peter’s Square on the day of the canonisation, places Don Bosco’s holiness in an Easter light. With the approach of Easter in this year of grace 2009 it is my prayer for all of us that with renewed joy and commitment we may live this journey of holiness as a new life. Cordially in the Lord
Rome, 1 April 2009
Fr. Pascual Chávez Villanueva, SDB Rector Major