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Bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco, Strenna 2015


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Bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco

Strenna 2015

. A beautiful spiritual heritage. - 2. The Strenna, a word of unity for all our Salesian Family. - 3. Like Don Bosco: with his pastoral heart and his educational action, involved in the Plot of God . - 3.1 Don Bosco with the heart of the "Good Shepherd" - 3.2 In the history of God and men - 4. With young people, for young people! especially the poorest. 4.1 With young people! standing with them and in their midst 4.2 - With young people! showing them our pastoral predilection - 4.3 With young people! especially the poorest - 4.4 For the young! because they have the right to meet believers and adult reference models - 4.5 For young people! for whom the personal meetingwill be an opportunity to feel accompanied - 4.6 For young people! because young people, especially the poorest, are a gift for us - 5. In the bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco - 5.1 A first centenary   5.2 In the celebration of the Bicentennial - 6. Mamma Margaret, mother and educator of Don Bosco. - 7. With Mary, the most distinguished collaborator of the Holy Spirit.

My dear brothers and sisters,

I wish to begin this letter, which has the purpose of being a commentary or the development of the theme of the Strenna, greeting very affectionately all my Salesian brothers, my Salesian sisters, to whom by tradition it is first delivered, in the person of the Mother General , the Strenna of each year. It then becomes a proposal of communion for our entire Salesian Family in the world.

I accompany the delivery of the Strenna with a lively and sincere wish for this Christmas and the beginning of a New Year, both moments of celebration like the Gift and Grace of the Lord. A wish that, as a wish of the heart, would like to be a real opportunity to greet us personally. Since this is not physically possible, I hope that at least the expression of this feeling can reach everyone, while I transmit this simple comment and development of the central theme of the Strenna for this year 2015.


I define our family tradition of the Strenna as a ' beautiful spiritual heritage' , because it is something that has always been very dear to Don Bosco. The first messages that - as a Strenna - are collected in our tradition, date back to the 1850s. In the Biographical Memoirs [1]we read that a strategy used by Don Bosco was to write, occasionally, a note, making it reach the one to whom he wanted to give advice. Some of these notes have been preserved and are very personal messages, which invite a good deed or to remedy something that is not right. But beyond this, since the first years of the Oratory, Don Bosco had begun to hand over, towards the end of the year, a Strenna to all his young people in general and another to each one in particular. The first, the general one, usually consisted in indicating some ways of proceeding and aspects to be kept in mind for the good progress of the year that was about to begin. Almost every year Don Bosco continued to give such Strennas.

The last Strenna - the last of Don Bosco for his children - is given in a very special situation. We find it also written in the Biographical Memoirs [2] . Don Bosco, hearing that the final moment was coming, had Don Rua and Mons. Cagliero called, and with the few remaining strengths, he gave some last recommendations for them and for all the Salesians. He blessed the houses of America and the many confreres who resided in those lands, blessed all the Italian Cooperators and their families, and finally asked them to promise to love each other as brothers ... and to recommend frequent communion and devotion to Mary Most Holy Help of Christians .

Gathering these words of Don Bosco, Fr Rua in his third circular describes that moment and those words, and adds that " this could serve as the Strenna of the new year to be sent to all Salesian houses. He wished it to be for a lifetime and gave his approval to actually serve as the Strenna for the new year " [3] .


Our Salesian Family is distinguished and characterized by the fact that it is, first of all, a charismatic family [4] , in which the Primacy of God-Communion constitutes the heart of Salesian mysticism. This is so because this refers us to the origin of that "charism" of the Spirit that was transmitted to us by Don Bosco for "being lived by us, deepened and constantly developed in harmony with the body of Christ in constant growth". [5]

In this communion we recognize the diversity and, at the same time, the unity that has its source in the baptismal consecration, in sharing the spirit of Don Bosco and in participating in the Salesian mission at the service of the young, especially the poorest [6] .

This is why in every Strenna we emphasize this aspect of communion , which is a priority in our Family. To the extent that a Strenna can help the pastoral planning of the different branches and groups, it is welcome, but its primary purpose is not this, it is not to become a pastoral program for the year, but rather to be a a message that creates unity and communion for our entire Salesian Family, in a common goal. Then you will see in each "branch" of this family tree how to concretize it in life, how to make it operational.

Hence my proposal for Strenna, dear brothers and sisters of our Salesian Family, for this year 2015 that the Lord gives us:




To say HOW TO DON BOSCO today is first of all to meet and rediscover in all its fullness the spirit of Don Bosco which, today as yesterday, must have all its charismatic strength and all its relevance.

Of all that could be explained about this charismatic reality, I would like to emphasize two aspects at this time:

▪ Pastoral Charity (or the heart of the “Good Shepherd) as an element that mobilizes Don Bosco's being and doing.

▪ His ability to read "Today" to prepare "the Tomorrow" .

3.1 Don Bosco with the heart of the "Good Shepherd"

The heart of the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, marks all our pastoral action and constitutes an essential reference for us. At the same time, we find its concretization, ' in the Salesian manner', in Don Bosco (molded in the unique spirit of Valdocco, or in the proper spirit of Mornese, or in what all the groups of the Salesian Family have most typically). Therefore, in our Family the point of confluence first and for all is the charism of Don Bosco raised up by the Holy Spirit, for the good of the Church. This is what we call the Salesian charism , which embraces us and welcomes us all and all.

In Don Bosco "the happy expression (which was his life program)" It is enough for you to be young for me to love you very much "is the word and, before that, the fundamental educational option" [7] par excellence. We know that for his boys and young people Don Bosco “carried out an impressive activity with words, writings, associations or companies, foundations, educational works, travels, meetings with civil and religious personalities, with the Pope himself; for them, above all, he showed attentive attention to their people, so that in his love of a father young people could see the sign of a higher love " [8] .

This predilection for the young, for each young person, was that which led him to do everything possible, to break 'every mold', every stereotype, in order to reach them. As Don Francesco Dalmazzo attests to the "process of holiness" of Don Bosco, under oath. in 1892: "I saw Don Bosco one day leaving Don Rua and me, who were accompanying him, to help a young mason drag an overloaded cart, to which he felt powerless and showed it crying, and this in one of the city's main streets » [9] .

This predilection for the young led Don Bosco to place all his being in the search for their good, their growth, development and human well-being, and their eternal salvation. This was the horizon of our father's life: to be everything to them, until their last breath! One of our sisters, Don Bosco's scholar, expresses this very well when she writes: “The love of Don Bosco for these young people was made of concrete and opportune gestures. He was interested in their whole life, recognizing their most urgent needs and realizing the most hidden ones. To say that his heart was given entirely to young people means to say that his whole person, intelligence, heart, will, physical strength, his whole being was oriented to do good to them, to promote their integral growth, to desire their salvation eternal.[10] .

This same ardor led him, with similar criteria, to seek a solution to the problems of the young, with the closeness and cooperation of the Cofounder Maria Domenica Mazzarello and the group of young women united with her and dedicated, in the parish context, to the Christian formation of girls.

His pastoral heart urged him, equally, to count on other collaborators, men and women, "consecrated" with stable vows, "cooperators" associated in sharing the pedagogical and apostolic ideals " [11] . To this is added his action as a great promoter of a special devotion to Mary Help of Christians and Mother of the Church, and her care and permanent affection for her past pupils.

  And at the center of all this action and of his vision there was, as a true engine of his personal strength "the fact that he realizes his personal holiness through the educational commitment lived with zeal and apostolic heart" [12] , the pastoral charity. This pastoral charity for Don Bosco, precisely to feel involved in the Plot of God, meant that God had the primacy in his life, He was the reason for his living, for his acting, for his priestly ministry, to the point of abandoning himself in him up to the rashness. And this feeling of being involved in the Plot of Godit meant, for that very reason, to love the young, every young person, whatever his state or situation, to bring him to the fullness of that human being, who manifested himself in the Lord Jesus, and who materialized in the possibility of living as an honest person citizen and as a good son of God.

And this must be the key to our being, living and implementing the Salesian charism. If we come to feel in our own bowels, in the deepest part of each and every one of us this fire, this educational passion that led Don Bosco to meet the young man face to face, believing in him, with the trust that in each one there is always a seed of goodness and of the Kingdom, to help him give his best and bring him closer to the encounter of the Lord Jesus, then we will undoubtedly be realizing the most beautiful of our Salesian charism.

3.2 In the history of God and men

I believe, and many of us believe, that Don Bosco had a special ability to know how to read the signs of the times. He was able to make his own many values ​​that his time offered him in the field of spirituality, social life, education ... and he was able to give all this a very personal imprint that distinguished him and differentiated him from other great men of his time.

All this allowed him to read today as if he already lived in tomorrow! The present day of Don Bosco, was looked at by him with the eyes of the 'historian of God', the eyes of the one who knows how to look at history to recognize in it the signs of the Presence of God. Present history, not past! Looked at with that lucidity that, to most people, it is possible to have only by re-reading the events in God, and thus giving answers to the needs of his young people.

Because of his way of living and doing, we too are called today to ask Don Bosco to teach us to read the signs of the times, to help young people.

This same conviction expresses the Special General Chapter when it says that "Don Bosco had a high degree of sensitivity to the needs of the times .. His first collaborators were trained in this spirit ... And modern society with its rapid and profound changes requires a new type in person , able to overcome the anxiety caused by such changes and to continue to search, without settling down in solutions made ... capable of distinguishing the permanent from the mutable, without extremism " [13] , and in this desire to actualize the charism, the The journey that remains is, rightly, that of seeking for us that pastoral heart of his, united with this capacity for mobility, for adaptation, as a believing reading of the 'here and now'.

4. WITH YOUNG PEOPLE, FOR YOUNG PEOPLE! especially the poorest   
4.1    WITH THE YOUNG ! standing with them and in their midst

Let WITH YOUNG PEOPLE !, Brothers and sisters of our Salesian Family, because the starting point of our make flesh and blood (incarnate) the Salesian charism is to STAY WITH YOUNG, be with them and between them, meet them in their lives everyday, knowing their world, loving their world, animating them in being protagonists of their lives, awakening their sense of God, animating them to live with high goals.

The world of young people is a world of possibilities. In order to be a leaven in this world, we must know and positively and critically evaluate what young people value and love. The challenge of our mission among the young goes through our prophetic ability to read the signs of the times, as we previously said about Don Bosco; that is, what he is telling us and asking God through these young people with whom we meet.

This challenge begins with having the ability to listen, and having the courage and audacity to engage in a "horizontal" dialogue, without static positions, without first obtaining possession of the truth. We adopt the attitude of the "apprentice" and we will learn much about them and the image of the Church that we embody for them. The young, with their word, their presence or their 'indifference', with their answers and their absences, are claiming something from us. And also the Spirit in them, and through them, is talking to us. From the encounter with them one never emerges unscathed, but mutually enriched and stimulated.

4.2   WITH THE YOUNG ! showing them our pastoral predilection

And we say WITH THE YOUNG! because what fills our hearts from the moment of the vocational calling of Jesus to each of us, is the pastoral predilection for children and young girls, boys, young people and young women; predilection that will manifest itself in us, as in Don Bosco, in a true 'passion', seeking their good, placing all our energies in this, all the breath and the strength we have.  

 Our communities, whatever the group of our Family ( may they be communities of religious life, communities of prayer and commitment, communities of witness ...) must try to acquire "visibility" among the youth of their environment. This visibility requires discernment, options and renunciations. Above all, it means gratuitousness in service, joyful and detailed fraternal relations, in a community project of prayer, meetings and service. More than ever, an "open house" is required, with a plurality of convocation initiatives and proposals responding to the problems of the young people of the area. Who knows that young people realize the value of having a "Salesian focolare", being able to count on a group of friendly people. Significance will require that our communities live in a healthy tension, which turns into research, discernment and decision-making, which have to be continually verified, 

4.3 FOR YOUNG PEOPLE! especially the poorest 

On several occasions I have commented that when Pope Francis speaks of going to the periphery , going to the whole Church, he calls on us in a very lively and immediate way because he is asking us that we are in the periphery, with young people in the suburbs, far from almost all, excluded, almost without opportunities. 

At the same time I say that for us this periphery is something that is just like the Salesian Family, because the periphery is something constitutive of our Salesian DNA. What was the Valdocco of Don Bosco if not the periphery of the big city? And what was Mornese if not a rural suburb? It will be necessary that in our examination of personal conscience and of Family we confront ourselves with this strong ecclesial call, which is in turn the essence of the Gospel. It will be necessary to examine ourselves about our being with young people and for them, especially for the poorest, needy and excluded ..., but it will not be necessary for us to seek our north, our ' navigational star'because in the last, in the poorest, in those who need us the most is what is most proper to our charismatic identity, and it is with this charismatic identity that we must confront ourselves to find our place, our way of responding to the mission today , in the 'here and now'.  

4.4 FOR YOUNG PEOPLE! because they have the right to meet believers and adult reference models

Every time it becomes increasingly evident that our service to young people also, and to a great extent, passes through reference models of believers and adults. Young people seek and wish to meet with valiant but "normal" Christians, who can not only admire, but also imitate. Our young people, as well as in other dimensions of their "under construction" person, need to mirror themselves in others, they want to recognize themselves and learn to live their faith, but by contagion (by testimony of life) rather than by indoctrination .

This is why our pastoral action cannot be a uniform and linear task, given that the situations of adolescents and young people are so differentiated. This will imply, especially in us educators and educators, profound attitudes, such as being willing to 'lose our lives' to give it for the Kingdom, accept poverty, austerity, sobriety as a choice of personal and community pastoral freedom , always putting people first, the meeting with them and the service to them.

4.5 FOR YOUNG PEOPLE! for which the personal meeting will be an opportunity to feel accompanied

Working with young people and for young people has been and is not only a privilege to be in touch with vital people, full of potential, dreams and freshness ... but above all it is an opportunity that we are offered to walk with them to return to Jesus, to recover his life and his message, without filtering his radicalism, without evading the always uncomfortable comparison with our scales of values ​​and lifestyles. We are convinced that the Gospel, both today and yesterday, has every chance of being heard, heard and accepted again in the world of young people as a Good News.

In this being heard and accepted by the Gospel, the challenge of cultivating a personal encounter with ourselves is presented to us .personal spiritual accompaniment, in which each Salesian educator, Salesian educator can propose paths, suggest choices. Following the example of Don Bosco, we have a great need for educators and educators who are open to new things, agile to innovate, try, take risks and personally be genuine witnesses in the lives of young people. We need the personal approach in the spontaneous encounter, the interest in "their things" without pretending to invade their intimacy. An accompaniment preferably centered on a positive and affectionate consideration of the other, and which must materialize in the tasks of "facilitating", "enhancing" and "orienting". When we talk about undertaking "faith education itineraries", this does not consist so much in bringing something from the exterior to the interior of the young, but in helping them to highlight their most radical intimacy inhabited by God, to develop the potentialities and capacities that they carry within themselves. It is about accompanying their lives, helping them to discover their most intimate identity and their life project.

4.6 FOR YOUNG PEOPLE! because young people, especially the poorest, are a gift for us

It was the Rector Major don Juan E. Vecchi who wrote that " young people are a gift for us ". [14] And we certainly cannot think that Fr Vecchi was defending poverty, but it is certain that if we stay with them and in their midst, they are, they are the first to do good to us, to evangelize us, to they help to truly live the Gospel in what is most typical of the Salesian charism. I dare say that it is the young, the young, especially those who are poorer and needy, who will save us,helping us to get out of our routine, from our inertia and our fears, sometimes more concerned with preserving our own certainties than keeping our heart, hearing and mind open to what the Spirit can ask of us.

For them and in front of them we cannot avoid the urgencies that are knocking on the door of the same youth reality. We collaborate with our multiple works and services to promote the welcoming of young people, to listen to the cries of the soul: young people alone, affected by violence, with family conflicts, with emotional wounds, confused, with suffering and pain. The Good News leads us to listen and accept unconditionally their needs, desires, fears and dreams. It is also urgent to recover their capacity for research, for indignation at the opportunities that are closed to them to be empty promises; it is urgent to stimulate their dreams to promote action, collaboration and the search for better companies. Accepting "the embrace of God" as a gift, learning to cry with Him, to laugh with Him.

5.1 A first Centenary

We are celebrating the Bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth. As is natural, there was a first Centenary , of which I wish to offer a small historical review [15] .

Let's start by saying that in 1915 not only one but two Centenarians were accomplished , both very "Salesians": the birth of Don Bosco and the definition of the date of May 24 as a celebration in honor of Mary Help of Christians. This was deliberated by the decree of Pope Pius VII, to give thanks to the Mother of God for her liberation from captivity, establishing precisely the feast of Mary Help of Christians on May 24, the date of her return to Rome.

The idea of ​​solemnly celebrating the first Centenary of Don Bosco's birth began well in advance. Fr. Paolo Albera wanted to attribute a twofold character to the celebration: that it served to extend devotion to Mary Help of Christians and also for the knowledge of the figure and work of Don Bosco, also with the aim of accelerating the Cause of Beatification.

In 1914 the organization of the celebrations for the first centenary of Don Bosco's birth was already well advanced. The press had made known to the general public the main acts that would take place on that occasion, the authorities that would have intervened; a selection was also made of the plans for the construction of the monument and of the new church; the Holy See had approved the change of date of the General Chapter and the resignation of the members of the Superior Chapter one year from their respective posts; Cardinal Gasparri, as Cardinal Protector of the Salesian Congregation, had written a letter in the name of the Pope.

However, the circumstances that occurred were very adverse. In 1914 and 1915 a series of tragic events happened: a strong earthquake that struck a part of Sicily, with serious material damage even if, fortunately, without loss of life of SDB and FMA; a fire that completely destroyed the Chilean house of Valdivia; the death of Pius X, very close to the Salesians. A new earthquake, at the beginning of 1915, devastated the Abruzzi region, causing the death of three Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; two Salesians were hidden in the debris.

And the most tragic, painful and prolonged event came: the outbreak of the First World War which divided the world into two great warring parties, leaving millions of deaths in its course. Italy, at first neutral, entered the war on May 2, 1915, just before the celebrations for the centenary of the feast of Mary Help of Christians.

The war conflict severely affected Salesian works in many countries. About 2000 young Salesians were called to arms, in either of the belligerent parts. The war prevented or made contact and communication with the Salesian houses of the FMA and SDB very difficult. The aid of the Cooperators also diminished to a great extent. Don Albera made constant calls to prayer, especially insisting on the commemoration of the 24th of each month, dedicated to Mary Help of Christians. It was evident that in this situation the brilliant Centennial programs tended to be suppressed or reduced or better circumstances kept pending. It was decided to suspend the festive acts, reduce the programs and give them a more religious and intimate character; still with the hope that peace would come soon and obstacles could be overcome.

Nevertheless, and despite the fact that the day before the feast, May 23, Italy had declared war on Austria, as already mentioned, entering the group of allies, on May 24 a solemn pontifical was celebrated in the full Shrine , presided by the Cardinal Archbishop of Turin.

There were also celebrations in Valsalice and Castelnuovo. To close the Centenary, the Rector Major invited all Don Bosco's friends to a double pilgrimage: the first, on August 15, to visit Don Bosco's tomb and the second, on the 16th, to visit the place of origins to Becchi, where Don Bosco was born, and in Castelnuovo, where he had been baptized. In Valsalice the presence was so numerous that an altar had to be erected in the portico that is in front of the tomb. Thousands of people flocked, occupying the courtyard spaces and its surroundings. Songs, prayers and offerings preceded the Eucharistic blessing, imparted by Don Albera from the terrace located in front of Don Bosco's tomb. All those present received an elegant memory with the image of Don Bosco and some of his maxims.

 The second day, August 16th, he gathered around the house of Don Bosco to the Becchi numerous groups of young people and adults, ecclesiastics and laity, who came from Turin and the surrounding populations. Don Albera and the whole Superior Chapter were waiting for them. Don Albera celebrated Holy Mass and then proceeded to lay the first stone of the new church, which was intended to be built there in honor of Mary Help of Christians, as a reminder of the double centenary. At Castelnuovo a commemorative plaque was discovered and, after a popular meal, there was an official tribute from the people. Don Albera was declared an "honorary citizen".

In America both Centenaries could be celebrated, that of the feast of Mary Help of Christians and that of the birth of Don Bosco. Mass actions were held in all the American nations where the Salesian work was established in honor of Don Bosco and Mary Help of Christians. In various places the name of Don Bosco was given to the streets and centers and churches were erected in perpetual memory of the event. Argentina and Brazil were the nations that most distinguished themselves in this circumstance.

5.2 In the celebration of the Bicentenary

So far the story of the celebration of the first Centenary. Now, there are many acts, mostly very simple, that are taking place all over the world for the Bicentennial. I want to emphasize, as I did on August 16 at the Becchi at the beginning of the Bicentenary, the meaning of the same.

Today we - I said precisely on that occasion - while celebrating the Bicentenary of this historical event, we make immense thanks to God for what he has done with his intervention in History, in this concrete history, here, on the Becchi hill. Several times I say, in this paper, in one way or another, that the Salesian charism is the gift that God, through Don Bosco, has given to the Church and to the world. It was formed over time, from the knees of Mamma Margherita to friendship with good teachers of life and above all in everyday life with young people.

The Bicentenary of the birth of Saint John Bosco is a jubilee year, a "year of Grace", which we want to live in the Salesian Family with a deep sense of gratitude to the Lord, with humility but with joy, since the Lord himself is the One who blessed this charming apostolic movement, founded by Don Bosco under the guidance of Mary Help of Christians. It is a jubilee year for the thirty groups that already form this great Family and for many others who, inspired by Don Bosco, in his charism, in his mission and spirituality, hope to be recognized in this Family.

It is a jubilee year for the whole Salesian Movement which, in one way or another, refers to Don Bosco in its initiatives, activities, proposals, and walks sharing spirituality and efforts for the good of the young, especially those most in need.

This Bicentennial wants to be a precious opportunity for all and throughout the Salesian world, which is offered to us to look to the past with gratitude, the present with confidence, and to dream of the future of the evangelizing mission of our Salesian Family with strength and evangelical novelty , with courage and a prophetic gaze, letting themselves be guided by the Spirit that will always bring us closer to the newness of God. The Bicentennial is already being an opportunity for a true spiritual and pastoral renewal in our Family, an opportunity to make the charism more alive, and make Don Bosco is as current as ever for the young, on our journey towards the physical and human peripheriesof society and young people. The year of the Bicentenary and the subsequent journey that we will have to travel must be a time for us to bring what humbly forms part of our most living charismatic essence.

This Bicentennial must also be, and is being, the re-enactment of so many women and men who in this exciting project have given their lives in a heroic way for this ideal, in the most difficult and extreme conditions in the world, and for which they are a triumph, a priceless treasure that only God can evaluate.

With this conviction that we have, we feel more animated, not only to admire Don Bosco, not only to perceive the actuality of his figure, but to strongly feel the irrevocable commitment of the imitation of the one who came from the hills of Becchi to the outskirts of Valdocco, and on the rural outskirts of Mornese, in order to involve with itself and with other people all that sought the good of youth and its happiness in this world and in eternity.


I would not like to finish the comment of this Strenna in the Bicentennial year of the birth of Don Bosco, which has its central point in its educational and pastoral practice, without making a reference to the one who was its mother and educator. And this is because ignoring or keeping quiet about his mother, Mamma Margaret, is ignoring that so many natural gifts that we recognize in Don Bosco have their origin, certainly always in God, but with the human mediation that was his family and in a special way his mother. Hence the reason for this simple reflection [16] .

In May 1887 Don Bosco went to Rome, and it was the last time, for the consecration of the Church of the Sacred Heart, a perennial monument of his love for the Pope. He was now at the end of a long industrious life, that the construction of that temple had helped to shorten. On Sunday 8 May a reception was given in his honor with the participation of ecclesiastical and civil, Italian and foreign personalities. At the end of the reception, many guests spoke in different languages. Someone was born in curiosity to know which was the language that Don Bosco liked the most. He, smiling, replied: "The language I like best is the one my mother taught me, because it cost me little effort to express my ideas, and then I don't forget it as easily as other languages!" [17] .

Don Bosco has always recognized the great values ​​he had drawn from his family: peasant wisdom, healthy cleverness, a sense of work, the essentiality of things, industriousness in working hard, optimism to the full, the resistance in moments of bad luck, the ability to resume after the setbacks, the joy always and in any case, the spirit of solidarity, the living faith, the truth and the intensity of the affections, the taste for hospitality and hospitality; all the goods he had found in his house and which had built him that way. He was so marked by this experience that, when he thought of an educational institution for his boys he wanted no other name than that of "home" and defined the spirit that should have shaped it with the definition of "family spirit". And to give the right impression to the thing, she had asked Mamma Margaret, by now old and tired, to leave the tranquility of her little house on the hill to go down to the city and take care of those boys gathered from the street, those who will give her many worries and sorrows. But she went to help Don Bosco and to be a mother to those who no longer had a family and loved ones.

It was precisely the presence of Mamma Margaret at Valdocco during the last decade of her life that not only marginally influenced that "family spirit" that we all consider as the heart of the Salesian charism. In fact, that was not just any decade, but the first, that in which the foundations were laid for that climate that will go down in history as the Valdocco climate. Don Bosco had invited the Mother driven by practical necessities. In reality, in God's plans this presence was destined to transcend the limits of a contingent necessity, to enroll in the framework of a providential collaboration for a charism still in its nascent state. Mamma Margaret was aware of this "new vocation". He accepted it with humility and lucidity. This explains the courage shown in the toughest circumstances. Just think of the cholera epidemic. Think of gestures and words that have something prophetic, like using the tablecloths of the altar to make bandages for the sick. It is worth especially the example of the famous "Good Night", an original note of the Salesian tradition. It was a point to which Don Bosco gave great importance and was started by his mother with a small sermon addressed to the first young man hosted[18] . Don Bosco would then have continued this custom not in the church as a preaching, but in the courtyard or in the corridors, or under the arcades in a paternal and family manner. The inner stature of this mother is such that the child, even when he has become an expert educator, will always have to learn from her. To summarize what has been said, the judgment of Fr. Lemoyne is valid: "In her it could be said that the Oratory was personified" [19] .

This relationship between mother and child matures until Mamma Margherita shares in her son's educational mission: "My dear son, you can imagine how much it costs my heart to abandon this house, your brother and the other loved ones; but if it seems to you that such a thing may please the Lord I am ready to follow you ". He leaves the dear Becchi house, follows him among the poor and abandoned youth of Turin. Here for ten years (the last of his life) Margherita devotes herself without saving to Don Bosco's mission and to the beginnings of his work, exercising a double maternity: spiritual motherhood towards the priest son and educational motherhood towards the boys of the first oratory, contributing to educate holy children like Dominic Savio and Michele Rua. Illiterate, but full of that wisdom that comes from above, it is the help of so many poor street children, nobody's children. Ultimately, the grace of God and the exercise of virtues have made Margaret Occhiena a heroic mother, a wise educator and a good counselor of the nascent Salesian charism. She is a simple person Mamma Margaret, yet she shines in the extraordinary number of holy mothers who live in the presence of God and in God, with a union made of silent, almost continuous invocations. The "simplest thing" that Mamma Margaret continues to repeat with the example of her life is this: that holiness is at hand, it is for everyone, and is carried out in obedience faithful to the specific vocation that the Lord entrusts to each of us. the grace of God and the exercise of virtues have made of Margaret Occhiena a heroic mother, a wise educator and a good counselor of the nascent Salesian charism. She is a simple person Mamma Margaret, yet she shines in the extraordinary number of holy mothers who live in the presence of God and in God, with a union made of silent, almost continuous invocations. The "simplest thing" that Mamma Margaret continues to repeat with the example of her life is this: that holiness is at hand, it is for everyone, and is carried out in obedience faithful to the specific vocation that the Lord entrusts to each of us. the grace of God and the exercise of virtues have made of Margaret Occhiena a heroic mother, a wise educator and a good counselor of the nascent Salesian charism. She is a simple person Mamma Margaret, yet she shines in the extraordinary number of holy mothers who live in the presence of God and in God, with a union made of silent, almost continuous invocations. The "simplest thing" that Mamma Margaret continues to repeat with the example of her life is this: that holiness is at hand, it is for everyone, and is carried out in obedience faithful to the specific vocation that the Lord entrusts to each of us. with a union made of silent almost continuous invocations. The "simplest thing" that Mamma Margaret continues to repeat with the example of her life is this: that holiness is at hand, it is for everyone, and is carried out in obedience faithful to the specific vocation that the Lord entrusts to each of us. with a union made of silent almost continuous invocations. The "simplest thing" that Mamma Margaret continues to repeat with the example of her life is this: that holiness is at hand, it is for everyone, and is carried out in obedience faithful to the specific vocation that the Lord entrusts to each of us.


I conclude by keeping the Pope's words very much present, today St. John Paul II, at the conclusion of his letter already quoted, in which he invites us to always keep before us Holy Mary, as the most distinguished collaborator of the Holy Spirit. The Pope invited us to look at Mary and listen to her when she says: "Do whatever he tells you", evoking the passage of the wedding at Cana ( Jn 2 : 5).

In a beautiful final fragment the Pope says, addressing the SDBs of that moment, but in a context that is very adequate for our whole family today: «To you I entrust you and together with you I entrust the whole world of young people, so that they , attracted to you, animated and guided, they can achieve, with the mediation of your educational work, the stature of new men for a new world: the world of Christ, Master and Lord " [20] .

Such is the strength of this desire and of these words that the then Pope directs us, that I do not think we can say anything more than "Amen!", "So be it", counting on the Grace that comes to us from the Lord, the intercession of the Help of Christians and the heart of the Good Shepherd of all members of the Salesian Family.

May the Lord grant us his blessing.

Rome, 8 December 2014

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

Don Ángel Fernández Artime, SDB

Rector Major


[1] See MB III, p. 616-617

[2] See MB XVIII, p. 502-503

[3] Ibid

[4] See the Identity Card of the Salesian Family, art. 5

[5] Mutuae Relationes, 11

[6] See the Identity Card of the Salesian Family, art. 4

[7] Cf. John Paul II, Iuvenum patris,  n. 4

[8] Ibidem

[9] Ordinary Process, public copy, sheets 870-972, quoted in Bosco Teresio, Don Bosco seen from up close , Elle di Ci 1997, p. 108.

[10] P. Ruffinato, We educate with the heart of Don Bosco, in "Notes on Youth Ministry", n. 6/2007, p. 9

[11] Ibidem, 10

[12] Ibidem, 5

[13] CGS, n. 665

[14] ACG 359, p. 24

[15] Note: The information, which I summarized as much as possible, was facilitated by Fr Jesús Graciliano García, who prepared for the Salesian Bulletin of Spain eleven small articles, one for each month, collecting what was the history of the first centenary. 

[16] Note: I asked Fr Pier Luigi Cameroni, SDB Postulator for the Causes of Saints, who could enlighten me in this brief reflection. So he did and I thank him warmly.

[17] MB XVIII, p. 324-325

[18] Don Bosco tells this episode in the Memoirs of the Oratory, p. 181-182

[19] MB III, p. 376.

[20] John Paul II, Iuvenum patris,  n. 20