LETTER OF RECTOR MAJOR - Fr. EGIDIO VIGANO
AN INVITATION TO BEAR GREATER WITNESS TO OUR CONSECRATION
Rome, 8 September 1992
Birthday of the Virgin Mary
importance of the next Synod Of 1994. - A difficulty. - An authoritative aide
for its preparation. - The unfinished renewal. - Ecclesial aspects in our
post-conciliar experience. - The great open horizons. - Demands of the New
Evangelization. - We await from the Synod a renewed presence in the world
of the mystery of Christ. - Conclusion: Mary, Model and Helper of the consecrated
My dear Confreres,:
Today, the feast of the Birthday
of the Virgin Mary ' the Father's gift for our salvation, I invite you to
reflect on God's generous initiative in our vocation, on his constant presence
and the precious gift of his grace, freely bestowed on us throughout our lives.
I think of all of you, immersed as you are in work, animated by that 'pastoral
charity' which the Holy Father describes so well and profoundly in the Apostolic
Exhortation 'Pastores do vobis' in Chap. 3: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon
me'. It is a masterly indication that lights up our' apostolic consecration',
making it the living center of all our interior life.
Before long there will be a
new ecclesial event which will concentrate attention on the nature and mission
of the consecrated life among the People of God: the Pope has called the Bishops
to an ordinary Synod (the ninth) towards the end of 1994; it will deal with
this specific theme, which he considers vital for the renewal of everyone.
There is an urgent need in the world for a more intense spirit of the beatitudes
to which consecrated persons bear witness.
The Synod will approach the
theme from the standpoint of the universal Church, as distinct from other
particular Synods (e.g. the 4th Assembly of the Latin-American Bishops or
the coming African Synod) whose purpose is to provide a pastoral response
to the challenges of their particular contexts. They are both means of pastoral
guidance, equally indispensable and mutually complementary: one investigates
more deeply the values of their identity for all the People of God, the other
' in the light of the common ecclesial identity ' deals in practical terms
with the various cultural and social challenges of people: unity and plurality
in a pastoral work which is at one and the same time one of transcendence
Without any doubt the general
vision of the 94-Synod will become translated into particular aspects of both
various Institutes of Consecrated Life and the cultural demands of different
regions. But its importance antecedes such consequences and furnishes them
If we look at recent Synods
of universal level (e.g. the extraordinary Synod twenty years after the Council,
the one about the Lay Faithful, and the one dealing with the formation of
priests), it becomes immediately clear in what consists the aspect of ecclesial
unity and its importance for application to different contexts.
The successors of the apostles
will be concerned to reflect from a pastoral point of view on 'consecrated
life' in today's world: on its many forms for tending towards holiness and
its various roles of witness and service. There is need to enter into the
heart of the Church's mystery the source of all the energy of sanctification;
if consecrated persons ' in whatever country of the world ' do not concentrate
their efforts on this aspect they expose themselves to the danger of beating
the air. It is not enough to work feverishly and live among the people; they
need urgently to proclaim to those people the prophecy of the resurrection
in an existential and practical manner.
The next Synod will reimpose
on us and on everyone else our ecclesial obligation of giving 'outstanding
and striking testimony that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to
God without the spirit of the beatitudes'. I think it will be particularly
beneficial to the Congregation if even now we begin to foster awareness of
the importance of this Synod, of its preparation and its celebration.
What about our own personal
and communal participation in the Synod? What form can and should it take?
It is not easy to give a simple reply suited to everyone. We have to look
back over and summarize the laborious research we have worked at and lived
through over a period of thirty years; we shall look again at aspects we have
already affirmed and more than once, but to consider them from a different
standpoint. Of its nature that is not the easiest of tasks, but it will be
stimulating and rewarding. But I think that on at least two points we cannot
fail to make our contribution: a renewed commitment to live in a convinced
and consistent manner our salesian vocation, as authoritatively re'defined
and brought up to date in our Rule of life; and a lively and assiduous interest
in everything that will be done in the Church so as to prepare adequately
for the coming event. This letter of mine offers some indications designed
specifically for the involvement of all of us, indiv class="testo"idually and collectively,
in both directions.
On 2nd February last, the feast
of the Presentation of the Lord, it was my good fortune to be able to concelebrate
with the Holy Father in St Peter's Basilica, which was packed to the doors
with men and women religious. The traditional offering of candles took on
a special significance. In his homily the Pope said: 'Today, in lighting these
candles which signify the light of Christ, we are also beginning preparations
for the next Assembly of the Synod Of Bishops, which, as you know, will deal
with consecrated life and its involvement in the Church and the world. On
the threshold of the year 2000 it will deal with your life, your consecration,
your way of participating in evangelization and, as a consequence, the Church's
missionary activity. Support the preparations for it with your prayers! Actively
participate in the consultations addressed to you. The successors of the Apostles
want to help you to be Gospel leaven and evangelizers of the cultures of the
third millennium and the social ordering of people.'  These last remarks of the Pope make
me think of the notable evolution of consecrated life in the decades that
have followed the Council. despite the defects that are never absent from
human endeavors; we are living through the beginnings of a new stage of vitality
in secular history. The latter is emerging from a somewhat wintry period,
but is already living in a spring-like atmosphere and is opening up to the
future to grow with greater vigor our and confidence. Vatican II provoked
in fact a new ecclesial beginning. Despite being harassed by many problems,
we can meditate with joy on the words of Paul VI: 'We are living in the Church
at a privileged moment of the Spirit. People are happy to place them'selves
under his inspiration. They are gathering about him; they want to let themselves
be led by him'. 
Let us therefore give ourselves
diligently to the preparation of this Synod.
The 94-Synod is not going to undertake a study
of the particular characteristics of individual institutes, nor even
of religious life by itself; it is going to give its attention rather
to the global significance and ecclesial importance of the whole of
'consecrated life', and into this category come also secular institutes,
other forms of special consecration and Societies of apostolic life.
The question immediately arises
as to whether this extension of approach will not expose the Synod to a certain
risk of dispersion and genericism. Will not the breadth of treatment prove
harmful to the depth and practical nature of the concluding guidelines?
When one looks at the program (which has already begun)
of the work to be done, it would seem that the breadth of approach does not,
in fact, exclude the possibility that at certain moments the Synodal Fathers
may concentrate their attention on some particular groups, e.g. those of 'religious
life' as such; these indeed make up the lion's share of consecrated life.
On the other hand it must be acknowledged that among the
People of God of the present day, starting from those who bear the responsibility
for pastoral work, it is truly fitting and indeed urgent to specify the ecclesial
dimension and particular role of consecrated life. In this sense the breadth
of approach will be particularly useful, for two reasons.
The first is that of deepening the substantial common aspects, without
which consecration cannot be lived; or in other words that basic component
which lies at the root of the different characteristics proper to the
individual groups. In our own case, for instance, being a 'true Christian'
(which is the fundamental common aspect) is the driving force behind
being 'salesian' (which is our specific difference). Our special General
Chapter (GC20) already said this: our following of Christ, we read in
the Acts, 'is not something external added to baptismal consecration,
but a mode of living out baptismal commitment in one of the different
and complementary christian vocations, all generated by the Spirit.
There are not two levels in this vocation: that of religious life which
is a little higher, and that of christian life which is a little lower.
For the religious, testifying to the spirit of the beatitudes with the
profession of the vows is his only manner of living out baptism and
of being a disciple of the Lord, thus fulfilling a coordinated service
in the global mission of the Church'.
The second is that of appreciating from a historical point of view the
diversity of the individual charisms so as to see in them,
as one looks at their concrete experience, the inexhaustible creativity
of the Holy Spirit through the centuries, in response to the many newly
arising and varying contexts in which the Church carries out her mission.
This obliges us in our examination of consecrated life to go much further
than intellectual concepts hatched from abstract themes.
In this way one comes to a better
understanding of both the common vitality to be strengthened, and the unique
nature of each particular characteristic to be interpreted as a pluriform
historical expression of the one charity infused by the Spirit.
It is precisely in this sense
that preparations are being made for the Synod: on the other hand it is better
to await its celebration before making serious judgements.
An authoritative aide for its preparation
Soon there will be published
for our use an aide of the Synodal Council, commonly known as the 'Lineamenta':
it will be an incentive to reflection throughout the whole period of preparation.
It will be made up of three complementary parts:
- the doctrinal vision of consecrated life in the mystery of the Church
- its present situation, after the fertile but troubled
developments from Vatican II to the present day;
- its mission, with particular emphasis on the responses
to be given to the New Evangelization. Keeping in mind what the Council said,
consecrated life 'while not
entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably
to her life and holiness', the thought comes to mind that the Successors of
the Apostles will want to highlight especially the vital values involved in
the sequela Christi,
which alone can stimulate 'all the members of
the Church to fulfil unflaggingly the duties of their christian calling'.
Consecrated persons are called to lead others to the discovery
of what the Holy Spirit has given to the People of God through their consecration.
If we allow ourselves to be
challenged by this Synodal objective, we shall better understand that the
process of renewal, in which we feel ourselves involved, cannot be just a
problem of method and pastoral programming; it is primarily a spiritual attitude
of making a fundamental option, a mentality, a discernment, a concept of life;
indeed such an interior conversion becomes the source and incentive for a
search for appropriate methods, and constitutes the driving force of every
I think that the Synod will
ensure for us a renewed clarity and a deeper enlightened understanding, in
so far as in its reflections it will start from the standpoint of 'ecclesiality'.
This indeed affects consecrated persons, not only as referring directly
to Christ, but also to all members of the People of God, to the lay faithful
and to the Pastors.
This is a work of the Synod
which will certainly prompt us to reflect on the doctrinal basis of the consecrated
life, starting primarily not from the specific nature of each Institute (as
we are accustomed to do amongst ourselves), but rather by concentrating attention
on the common fundamental quality to be discerned from an ecclesial point
of view through our own particular experience linked to a gift of the Holy
Spirit meant also for others.
In a certain way we are invited
to carry out a process which is the reverse of that of the recent General
Chapters: there our concern was to start from the prompting of the Council
and so define the charisma left us by the Founder, i.e. we moved from the
common patrimony of the Council to the specific nature of our own characteristics;
here on the other hand we shall have to start from the experience of our charismatic
identity so as to bring light and deeper understanding to common values of
an ecclesial nature, i.e. we have to pass from the specific nature of our
own characteristics to the vital common patrimony.
Between Vatican II and the
present day, progress of an ecclesiological kind has been made' in steps which
need to be examined in the light of their mutual illumination aimed at creating
harmonious growth: e.g. between local Church and consecrated life, ministry
and charism, communion and particular character, consecration and mission,
All this will serve to strengthen
in us the awareness that we are living in the early part of a new era: a
new beginning in the recurrent youthfulness of the church.
The Synod therefore will be
an excellent occasion for perfecting the great commitment to spiritual renewal
extended to all the People of God, enlightened and richly expressed by the
multiple institutes of consecrated life. I think that the efforts we shall
make to single out some aspects of out: life that we can offer as the fruit
of the journey we have made in these years, will foster in ourselves a more
lucid awareness of the biblical and theological foundations of our consecration
and mission, of the evangelical counsels, of the responsibility shared by
every member, of decentralization in unity, and of the indispensable and fraternal
service provided by authority.
The unfinished renewal
The consideration of what has
happened since Vatican II,
will provide a kind of realistic assessment
of the evolution of consecrated life in relationship also to the future of
society. The processes of secularization and socialization have, in fact,
had an influence in this field of no little weight; no one can ignore the
effect these have had on the evolution of consecrated life, not indeed so
as to detect a possible downturn, but rather in view of a balanced discernment
of positive values and a possible opposition to be renewed.
In the period following the
Council we have made some essential progress: efforts at renewal, commitment
to revision, to rethinking and planning, to new initiatives and experiences,
to solving problems and difficulties. We have reflected several times during
these decades on some particularly decisive aspects. 
The steps in our progress have
been marked by no fewer than five General Chapters: the 19th (1965), which
specified amongst other things the nature and manner of functioning of the
General Chapter itself, an indispensable work that made possible the steps
that followed later; the 20th (1971),
the 'Special' Chapter, which carried out, the vast and prolonged work of the redefining of our salesian identity
in the Church; the 21st (1978) which took on especially the updating of our
educative and pastoral plan, the role of the Rector and the figure of the
salesian Brother; the 22nd (1984) finished the re-elaboration of our Rule
of life; and the 23rd (1990) examined more deeply and laid down how our methodology
of educating young people to the faith should be carried out. These great
Chapters were prepared by the combined work of confreres from all the provinces,
keeping in mind both the guidelines of Vatican II and the various cultural
requirements. Worth pointing out too is the enormous work of preparation for
the Special General Chapter (GC20), under the guidance of Fr Luigi Ricceri,
Rector Major at the time.
In the course of these various
stages many positive results have most certainly emerged: the living reference
to the Founder, the significance of our specific characteristics, the concept
and rewriting of our Rule of life, the revaluation of the religious profession,
the emphasis placed on salesian spirit, the revision of the structures of
service with decentralization in unity, the oratorian criterion for activity,
the renewed awareness of the community dimension, attention to initial and
ongoing formation, generosity as regards missionary development, the relaunching
of the Salesian Family, the involvement of the laity, etc. But all this has
been set in motion with an eye to the future; it is not yet finished. The
reality of renewal is something continually in progress; it is accompanied
by new tendencies, challenges not previously met with, cultural differences
associated with different contexts, and endless problems to be faced. In addition
the six-yearly programs drawn up by the Chapters have not matured to the same
extent in all the provinces; and then there always remain among the confreres
some impenetrable areas.
And then if we look at other
groups of consecrated life we see that 'unfinished' renewal is a reality.
The use of the term 'unfinished' implies that we recognize the positive steps
that have been taken, but also that the process is a gradual one and that
unfortunately some negative aspects still remain. There is no point in drawing
up a list of the more serious failings because, amongst other things, they
would involve shortcomings and inadequacies in other sectors of the Church,
since the whole area of consecrated life is involved. It is not at all easy
to renew in a short time the entire People of God in every geographical situation.
The fact that it is incomplete is therefore clear enough, but what gives us
hope is the positive renewal that is in progress everywhere.
If we now turn our attention
more particularly to our own case we are very much aware of various problems:
the slow speed of spiritual revival because of an atmosphere of superficiality,
the obscuring of some essential values like the weakening of ascetical practices,
the fading of apostolic enthusiasm in various works, manifestations of confusion
in some confreres, certain tensions here and there that lead to lack of balance,
the danger of a genericism and general leveling down that leads to a weakening
of identity, some concessions to dissent, more than a few expressions of individualism
or the desire of an easy life, a public witness in society which is not always
clear, etc. Between the fidelity to the Founder and the Council which is so
well defined in the Constitutions, and the situation actually observed in
daily life, there is in fact a considerable divergence, even though it is
in process of being overcome.
For us fidelity consists in
making of Don Bosco our constant point of reference, and in making the effort
to imitate his kind of sanctity. If he were alive today, he would incite us
to a style of consecrated life that is more meaningful at a public level,
from both a spiritual and ascetical standpoint on the one hand and an apostolic
one on the other (though the two mutually compenetrate and are inseparable);
this would also prompt us to think up new responses I
the result of renewed interior
convictions, of magnanimity in planning, and of a tireless spirit of sacrifice
and apostolic courage.
I think that the post-conciliar
renewal is making us grow in this dynamic fidelity despite the fact that it
is incomplete; we can safely say that we are on the right road.
But if it should happen in some
areas that to the dangers and negative aspects already mentioned we have to
add the drama of a growing lack of personnel and of the aging process, which
renders the future of some works more than a little precarious, renewal must
be accompanied by the courageous seeking of new and previously untried solutions,
al'lowing ourselves to be guided by the criterion of significance, on which
we have now been insisting for some time.
In any case, a symphony is
still a symphony, even if it is unfinished! The celebration of the Synod is
a propitious opportunity for correcting false notes.
Ecclesial aspects in our post-conciliar experience
In the years following the Council we have profited by
some of the great ecclesial values inherent in our own specific vocation.
Reflection on them offers us the possibility of contributing to the preparation
of the Synod (in various local and general meetings) practical elements for
the renewal of consecrated life. We shall list some of them, emphasizing
in them the ecclesial aspect in its deepest sense: i.e. not only of 'thinking
with the Church' and 'working with the Church' but rather of 'identifying
with the Church' in living our own vocation as an expression of its vitality
of grace, of doctrine and of evangelizing responsibility.
I think the following aspects
are particularly stimulating: the fact that our vocation is embodied in a
'charism'; the feeling of being permeated by a special 'consecration'; the
concept of 'religious profession'
as a covenant with God in view of
a particular evangelical project; the fact that through our particular characteristics
we form part of the sacramental nature of the People of God: the fact that
we are qualified in the latter, through the initiative of the Holy Spirit,
in a specific 'field of work'.
Each day we have experienced
the mystery of the Church through living these aspects which are common to
other consecrated persons, even though with different typical experiences,
especially concerning the choice of field of work. It is worth our while therefore
to bring them out as living sources of what we may call 'ecclesiality'. We
have already spoken of this many times in the past, but now we do so with
our eyes on the theme of the coming Synod.
The fact that the charism of the
Founders is to be considered as an 'experience of the Spirit' to be transmitted,
preserved and developed as a gift to the People of God, has made us
feel in a more lively way our
sharing in the mystery of the Church, experiencing its Pentecostal dimension
in our vocation, which is vitally ecclesial because it is charismatic.
Consideration of the variety
of charisms has prompted us, not only to follow theories and interpretations
that are more or less generic, but also to refer back more attentively to
the permanent historical and creative presence of the Holy Spirit. The charism
of the Founder is not a vague and abstract gift a kind of myth without
a history ' but a lived evangelic reality intertwined with history; its iden'tity
is portrayed in various kinds of christian existence and is constitutionally
ordered to the life of the Church. In
this way we have learned to seek
the origin of every kind of consecrated life primarily in the initiative
of the Holy Spirit in the course of the centuries.
And so, for example, instead
of looking at the monks of the desert for the initial prototype of our consecrated
life, we discover our particular gift rather in the kind of life of the Apostles,
to which we are substantially directed by the experience of the Holy Spirit
lived by the Founder. The awareness of being linked to the Holy Spirit by
special bonds not only provides us with wider horizons in looking for models,
but also intensifies our knowledge of the vitality of the Church.
What is new in every charism
' the prophetic dimension it manifests in the saving mission of the People
of God ' is usually a particular reading of the Gospel, a courageous way of
facing the new challenges of society. Relaunching a charism means rediscovering
these innovative nuclei placed in it by the Holy Spirit.
History teaches us, in fact,
that a charism can provoke resistance, without on that account diminishing
'boldness in initiatives, perseverance in the gift of self or humility in
the face of adversity: the true relation between genuine charism, with its
perspectives of newness, and interior suffering, carries with it an unvarying
history of the connection between charism and cross'.
In this charismatic perspective we may say that an important
contribution of consecrated life to penetration and participation in the life
of the Church is the protagonism of the Holy Spirit, his life-giving and animating
presence in the Body, his many sided fertility directed to creating communion,
his role as the builder of organic and catholic unity through the valuable
contribution of so many differences.
But we must add too that the
Spirit bestows multiple and appropriate charisms also on Pastors, who must
bring them together in ecclesial communion: to the Pope and the Bishops he
gives the charism of coordinating charisms; It is precisely because of this
that emphasizing the protagonism of the Spirit sheds daily light on the organic
nature of the Church as the 'Body of Christ'. In fact, before the diversity
proper to hierarchical structures, and before the exercise of the various
ministries and offices, there is the mystery of the Church in which all are
called to give the primacy to 'life in the Spirit.'
Reference to the Spirit, therefore,
as the source of life is for everyone the fount and foundation of a genuine
Vatican II brought about a
real upheaval in the manner of interpreting 'consecrated life'. The terminology
now in use stems from the Latin term 'consecrata' used by 'Lumen gentium'. 
By whom is this life 'consecrated?' The answer is to be found precisely in
that word, used in the passive voice; it proclaims that God is the protagonist,
through the ministry of the Church, of a special consecration: it is not a
sacramental anointing, but a 'solemn blessing' (to use the term from the Rite
of Religious Profession) which ensures a special gift and assistance from
the Holy Spirit.
From this point of view, the
adjective 'consecra'ted' appears to be the element certifying the eccle'sial nature of such life. .
The divine act of 'consecrating'
inserts, in line with what happens in Baptism and Confirmation, a special
'presence' of the Holy Spirit: by it he commits himself to involvement with
those who profess the evangelical counsels, to be their guide, support and
food. Consecration, seen as a 'particular presence of the Spirit', becomes
a living source of hope and thus shows forth an aspect of the life-giving
role of the Spirit as 'soul' of the Church.
And there is a further observation
which it is important to add: God's consecrating action with the gift of his
Spirit involves at one and the same time both the 'vocation' and the 'mission';
it is God who, by giving his Spirit, 'calls', 'consecrates' and 'sends' in
a single act of providence and predilection. From this standpoint vocation,
consecration and mission are inseparable. Hence consecration and mission appear
as two constituent aspects of a single reality, in which they coexist in mutual
interchange: they indicate an evangelical plan of life animated in a particular
manner by the loving presence of the Holy Spirit.
This observation has a considerable
repercussion on the very interpretation of consecrated life. The 'mission'
is not something external, simply identifiable with 'apostolic activity',
but a divine initiative that precedes and guides it; it is directly included
in the consecration and defined in the choice of field of work that forms
part of the Founder's charism. And so from the mission are born physiognomical
traits which give form to the commitment to the evangelical counsels and determine
their ecclesial typology and manner of realization. The making of the vows
is not a commitment by a vague and generic promise, but indicates the acceptance
of the radical consequences of baptism and their expression in a well defined
manner by a particular physiognomy, derived precisely from the mission given
And so there is no longer any
tension between consecration and mission (especially in groups of apostolic
life), but mutual compenetration in the interchange of ecclesial values. Using
the term 'consecrated life' is an indication that in the People of God there
is a portion chosen and designated by the Lord for the good of the Church
(as regards sanctification and the apostolate), and that it is enriched by
a great variety of charisms 'like a bride adorned for her husband, and to
manifest in herself the multiform wisdom of God.' 
conciliar vision of consecration, while able to bring about a deep interior
spiritual renewal in the consecrated persons themselves, emphasizes a vital
ecclesial aspect at the same time: the sacred hierarchy intervenes in the
act of consecration, to ensure by its ministry the realization of the vocation
and mission expressed by the different charisms, considered as a particular
gift to be preserved and defended.
Profession is the name of the
act by which one who is chosen and called gives himself totally to God (its
full significance appears in perpetual profession): he commits himself to
follow Christ in a radical manner, highlighting some aspect of his unfathomable
mystery. The deeper understanding of the theological sense of consecration
helps to specify what is being done by the subject making his profession:
strictly speaking he does not 'consecrate himself' (in fact he 'becomes consecrated');
he 'offers himself' in a total oblation. The radical aspect of this oblation
is contained and manifested in the evangelical counsels; they are the measure
of the generosity of the response to the di'vine call. Consecration on the
part of God and the complete donation of himself with the evangelical counsels
on the part of the subject become inseparably united in 'profession'. And
so in the professed person the effects of the particular presence of the Holy
Spirit abide side by side with his own will of radical oblation; he is now
said to be 'consecrated' and his existence 'consecrated life'. And so we can
see that the adjective 'consecrated' has a double meaning: that of the divine
action ('consecrated by God'), and that of radical self-donation into which
the special assistance of the Spirit enters in a vital way ('consecrated to
God'); both of them are due to the loving presence of the Holy Spirit.
The radical commitment to the
practice of the evangelical counsels is included in a true personal and group
'covenant' with God through the Founder, considered after the manner of a
father or patriarch; it is a covenant which gives to the making of the vows
the concept of a concrete response to the particular project suggested to
the Founder by the Holy Spirit. The fact of the intimate unity between consecration
and mission means that the evangelical counsels are deeply and vitally inserted
into the particular mission received in consecration and in the concrete project
expressed in the charism. And so the profession is not just simply the making
of vows, but also the intention to live them in line with the Founder's charism.
The realization of the mission gives the concrete tone and ecclesial physiognomy
to everything that is offered in profession. The self-donation in the practice
of the evangelical counsels is determined and measured by the realization
of one's own mission in the Church, according to the Rule of Life approved
by the Church herself.
Rightly does 'Lumen gentium'
declare: 'Being means to and instruments of love, the evangelical counsels
unite those who practice them to the Church and her mystery in a special way.
It follows that the spiritual life of such Christians should be dedicated
also to the welfare of the entire Church.
To the extent of their capacities and in keeping with the particular kind
of religious life to which they are individually called, whether it be one
of prayer or of active labor as well, they have the duty of working for the
implanting and strengthening of the kingdom of Christ in souls and for spreading
it to the four corners of the earth.' 
And so from this point of view
too the ecclesial nature of consecrated life is highlighted; rightly does
the Church 'preserve and foster the distinctive character' of the various
This 'distinct character'
is inherent in the diverse professions of the evangelical counsels 'and also
involves a particular style of sanctification and apostolate which creates
a definite tradition.' 
differences inserted in the same profession have been created by the Spirit
for the precise purpose of enriching and energizing the Church in the realization
of her mission of salvation.
presentation of the Church by Vatican II as the universal 'Sacrament of salvation'
has given back to this term the meaning of a witness and credible sign inherent
in christian existence: those who are baptized must become 'signs and bearers'
of the mystery of Christ among men.
The Church has, therefore, a
sacramental na'ture manifested by a colorful variety of vocations which render
her meaningful among peoples in many different forms. Consecrated life forms
an important part of this 'sacramental nature' of the Church. 
'Lumen gentium' states, in fact,
that by means of those who are consecrated, the Church can better present
Christ, 'in contemplation on the mountain, or proclaiming the kingdom of God
to the multitudes, or healing the sick and maimed and converting sinners to
a good life, or blessing children and doing good to all men, always in obedience
to the will of the Father who sent him'. 
This multiple ecclesial significance,
as well as bringing together the plurality of theological and Christological
values inherent in consecrated life, gives a practical indication of the reason
behind the many ways in which the members become associated with the mission
that belongs to the People of God 'by a new and special title': 
'they reveal more
clearly to all believers the heavenly goods which are already present in this
age, witnessing to the new and eternal life which we have acquired through
the redemptive work of Christ and preluding our future resurrection and the
glory of the heavenly kingdom. Furthermore (...) this state manifests in a
special way the transcendence of the kingdom of God and its requirements over
all earthly things and the highest kinds of bonds within it, bringing home
to all men the immeasur'able greatness of the power of Christ in his sovereignty
and the infinite might of the Holy Spirit which works so marvelously in the Church'. 
This perspective of the special significance of consecrated
life also helps in interpreting the comparatives (e.g. 'more closely', 'more
intimately', 'in a more certain and secure manner') with which the Council
documents refer to it. Rather than indicating an order of dignity or holiness,
these comparatives highlight the special sign provided in the Church by consecrated
life, i.e. the 'sacramental dimension' by which it manifests to the world
the many riches and usefulness of christian values.
particular it openly proclaims the eschatological
character of the People of God. Consecrated persons, with their total self-donation
through the practice of the evangelical councils, become a visible sign of
the force of the resurrection; they strive to become experts in discerning
the action of the risen Christ in history and bear witness to the commitments
and joy of hope in preparing for the Savior's return with the expectation
of 'new heavens and a new earth'. 
Hence from this point of view of significance also, the
advantageous ecclesial character of consecrated life is affirmed in a particularly
concrete and attractive manner.
- Choice of field of
Apostolic consecration implies, on the
part of the Holy Spirit, the assigning of chosen beneficiaries in the evangelizing
mission. And so, for example, for those who are sent to young people it means
interpreting their mission as intrinsically linked with the evolutionary age
of man, or in other words feeling called to embody in a competent manner their
own activities in the field of education. The choice of a field of work (which
in this case is an 'educative choice') becomes comes in fact the first step
in the inculturation of the Gospel; it is a step in which faith and life,
Gospel and culture, must be made inseparable.
For us this aspect was set out
in detail in the GC23, and we have commented on it in the special circular
on the 'new education', in which we said precisely that the educator-evangelizer
must culti'vate the endowments proper to an 'artist' of God to be able to
bring together in unity the different aspects that combine to foster the
growth of the per'son being educated. In this era of great transformations,
to the demands of the new evangelization must be added, therefore, those also
of a 'new edu'cation' . 
From this point of view there are several human innovations that
must be known and stud'ied more deeply; this in turn helps us to see that
considering man as the vehicle for the Church's mission implies many practical
consequences as re'gards the process of inculturation. Today we can say that
the slogan 'to evangelize by educating and educate by evangelizing' expresses
the need for a methodology to be duly evaluated in all the work needed in
a new evangelization: to permeate culture by the Gospel as the vehicle of
salvation. The gospel message, however, must not be diluted in culture but
rather continue to be always its horizon and a necessary incentive to progress.
And we can go even further.
We see that the educative choice belongs to the wider field of human advancement,
which is itself always bound up with the practical exercise of christian charity.
From this point of view the choice of a field of work makes us see at the
present day, and with particular concern, certain priorities which are essential
to its relevance: the preferential option for the poor, solidarity in line
with the Church's social doctrine, ethical discernment in the formation of
conscience, the reality of sin, the urgent need to proclaim the events of
the Passover of
Our experience teaches us that
the choice of a field of work becomes a kind of crucible where former ecclesial
aspects become fused and prepared for use; it appears as the concrete and
indispensable expression for the Church's maternal function in respect of
the christian development of mankind.
The reflections we have made,
which do not claim to be exhaustive, on the aspects we have considered and
which were already known to some extent (charism, consecration, profession,
sacramental nature, and choice of field of work), we may consider as a profitable
result of our postconciliar experience; with them we have entered the Pentecostal
orbit of the Council. They can shed valid light also on the whole process
of the renewal of consecrated life. It
is a question, in fact, of intensifying
with the presence and power of the Spirit, the unfathomable mystery of Christ
in time; of making vivid and relevant to the present day the charisms of Founders
and Foundresses; of appearing on the threshold of the third millennium with
the invigorating energies of the resurrection.
The great open horizons
The Synod will certainly direct
its attention also to the several serious problems that remain open in the
must be said that
in the whole of christian life, and hence also in consecrated life, incompleteness
is inherent in our very condition as 'pilgrims'. Awareness of this condition
should not provoke discouragement, but rather help us to a clear under'standing
of the goals to be attained, albeit gradually and with sacrifice supported
by hope. And so when looking at the discrepancy which still exists be'tween
the ideal described in renewal documents and daily life, we must be able to
single out the more significant and strategic points on which to concentrate
with unambiguous and constant fidelity. These are objectives to be realized,
and we have already started on the way; they need to' be continually studied
at greater depth, revised and replanned at opportune moments.
In the 'Lineamenta' are listed
various problems that have remained open; in our case we prefer to speak of
them as goals not yet reached. We men'tion below some of the more important
ones, not to hurl recriminations against deviations or shortcomings (which
unfortunately exist) but to motivate our commitment to preparation for the
Synod, as I said earlier.
We refer more directly to our
salesian situation, so as to translate our eventual contributions to the Synod's
work not only into reflections to be put forward, but also and more particularly
into living witness. Continuing with trust and constancy along the road we
have begun, we intend to commit ourselves forthwith to a more authentic renewal,
keep'ing in mind certain guiding principles that seem to us more urgent. A
consideration of them will serve us as an examination of conscience.
-'Life in the Spirit'.
The renewal of consecrated
life is intimately linked with an intensely lived 'life in the Spirit'; because
it is the Spirit who gives life and growth to a vocation. In our experience
since the Council, the ecclesial elements mentioned earlier have fostered
an appropriate formative pedagogy (for the initial stages and ongoing formation),
and have contributed to the marked improvement in our personal and community
life. But we are speaking of a very demanding process that will never be completed
and which unfortunately is hindered by the secularized climate in the environment
in which we live.
Our own 'life in the Spirit' is of an active kind, the fruit
of an apostolic consecration which constitutes the source of all our sanctification.
Its central driving force is 'pastoral charity', the bearer of the 'grace
of unity' which makes possible the vital synthesis between contemplation and
This salesian spirit has been lived in an eminent manner
by several confreres in the short history of the Congregation: our Family
can already boast among its members 3 Saints, 5 Beati, and more than 19 Servants
of God, of whom 7 have already been declared 'Venerable', without including
the many Spanish martyrs. They are a sure indication to us that our plan of
sanctification is animated by the 'new and undying enthusiasm' which is the
first condition for all evangelization.
The clarity of their testimony reminds us too that among
young people we are not simply educators but also consecrated persons, i.e.
men of God, sent to educate and hence carry out a work destined to be the
typical expression of a strong adherence to Him who sends us; this is the
soul of the preventive system, and it has consequences which are many and
very decisive for both personal and community life. The Pope has asked us
to avoid the dangers of both intimism and activism. We have undertaken to
foster our own kind of prayer 
and to permeate our apostolic work
for the young with salesian spirit. 
In these we can always increase our
efforts, aware as we are that some of us move too slowly. We must consider
life in the Spirit as the first open goal ahead of us. In this sense we await
from the 94-Synod enlightenment and encouragement which will provide sufficient
space also for the particular aspects of active consecrated life, which has
perhaps been forgotten to some extent or not dealt with at sufficient depth
in official guidelines. For this reason we want to be able to imitate the
Founder to a greater degree and to acquire a better knowledge of the spiritual
doctrine of St Francis de Sales, so as to offer a characteristic apostolic
testimony to the life and holiness of the Church.
John Paul II,
spoke to us during his unforgettable visit to the GC23, reminded us in forthright
terms: 'First of all I want to emphasize as a fundamental point the strength
of a unifying synthesis that stems from pastoral charity. It is the fruit
of the power of the Holy Spirit which ensures the vital inseparability between
union with God and dedication to one's neighbor, between depth of interior
evangelical meditation and apostolic activity, between a praying heart and
busy hands. Those two great Saints, Francis de Sales and John Bosco, have
borne witness to this wonderful' grace of unity'. The hidden riches that accompany
it pro'vide clear confirmation, as amply demonstrated by the lives of these
two Saints, that union with God is the true source of the practical love of
one's neighbour'. 
We are also grateful to the Holy Father for the Apostolic
Exhortation 'Pastores dabo vobis', in which (as I said at the beginning) we
find pastoral charity presented precisely with these characteristics' of unifying
potency. The grace of unity, the fruit of pastoral charity in salesian life,
is contained in that 'thirst for souls' with which Don Rinaldi commented on
the spirit of Don Bosco. 
There is however one spiritual
aspect among us which has certain defects: it is that of our ascetical
There is no true life in the Spirit without concrete ascesis.
Certainly the latter must be in harmony with the particular characteristics
of our charism,27 but it must be there, every day and 27 d. in abundance.
This, maybe, is the weak point in our spiritual revival. And yet every form
of consecrated life has always been an ascetical exercise. Let us call to
mind once again what St Ignatius of Loyola said: 'greater mortification of
self-love than abstention from meat; and more mortification of the passions
than prayer; for a person who keeps his passions mortified a quarter of an
hour should be sufficient for an encounter with God'.28 a d. Our 'da mihi animas' must always be accompanied by the mystery of the
cross ('cetera tolle') which renders our activity fruitful.
-'A living sense of ecclesial communion'.
Another open horizon,
which often meets with particular difficulties, is that of our concrete
presence in the local Churches.
The 85-Synod, twenty years after
the Council, reminded us that 'the ecclesiology of communion is the central
and fundamental idea running through the Council documents'. Our consecrated
life will need to manifest in a better way the incorporation of salesian works
and foundations within the organic communion of the Church, characterized
simultaneously by the div class="testo"ersity and complementary nature of vocations.
For us the mystery of communion
must enlighten both the doctrine concerning the universal Church and that
regarding the local Church. Let us recall what the Holy Father recommended
to Superiors General some years ago (1978): 'By your vocation you are with
the universal Church, through your mission you are in a particular local Church.
Therefore your vocation for the universal Church is realized within the structures
of the local Church. You must do all you can to bring about the development
of consecrated life in the individual 1ocal Churches, so that .it can contribute
to their spi'ritual construction and become their particular strength. Unity
with the universal Church, through the local Church: that is the path you
must follow.' 
A practical problem in this
connection can be relations with those responsible at the local level for
pastoral work. The document 'Mutuae relationes'
had looked forward
in hope to an easier and more fraternal communion, which in certain cir'cumstances
was not always realized. Let us hope that the 94-Synod will give special attention
to this point.
It is important that all the
Bishops should have a concept of the gift of the consecrated life more in
harmony with the ecclesiology of the Council, and be able to appreciate, foster
and coordinate its richness. 'Mutuae relationes' had already clearly sta'ted:
'The Holy Spirit is the soul
of the ecclesial Body. No member of the
People of God, whatever his ministry may be, can personally possess in him'self
the totality of all the gifts, offices and duties: he must enter into communion
with the other members. Differences in the People of God, whether of gifts
or functions, converge and mutually complement one another for a single communion
and mission'. 
For our part we are called to
collaborate with more flexibility and understanding, prompting a fraternal
dialogue which does not succumb before difficulties and constantly endeavors
to overcome problems. In this connection, in addition to a more complete and
specific doctrinal formation, attention will have to be given to individual
persons with their particular mentality and temperament; and so dialogue will
need the help of intelligent pedagogy, fraternal cohabitation, salesian kindness
and a lot of patience.
Our works (oratories, youth
centers, schools, parishes etc.) are of a pastoral kind (our mission is to
the 'young and the poor') at the service of a locality; each one should have
its own particular characteristics (or at least this is what we are aiming
at) to enable it to be incorporated and harmonized with the projects of the
local Church to enrich the latter's possibility of service. Experience has
shown that if we agree in laying down the necessary conditions a satisfactory
situation can be realized without disagreements.
It is clear that, on our side,
we shall have to improve our fidelity to the magisterium and pastoral guidelines
of Peter's Successor ,31 as well as our ', knowledge and adherence to the
ministry that be- longs to the Episcopate, to the role of the various pastoral
organisms (and in particular those of the presbyteral and pastoral councils)
and to collaboration with the laity.
There is no doubt that at the
present day every pastoral initiative has urgent need of greater ecclesial
communion and, for us, a communion built on kindness.
This is an aspect linked with the concept of 'sign'
proper to the consecrated life, considered in general as a sharing in the
sacramental nature of the Church: but every charism shares in it in its own
specific manner ' a manner that is called to become a concrete project in
its works and foundations; the latter should clearly manifest in the neighborhood
the particular cha'rism concerned. Now, in a time of great cultural transformation,
of pastoral renewal in the Church, of involvement with the lay faithful, of
previously unknown challenges and new forms of poverty, to'gether with a drop
in the number of personnel in many regions, it becomes vital and even indispens'able
to rethink the significance of our presences, with due consideration to the
fundamental aspects of our own postconciliar renewal. Of this the Vicar General,
Fr Juan E. Vecchi, has already written in the AGC, with reference to the 'person
of the Salesian', the 'community', 'pastoral quality', the 'ability to recruit
other workers', and the 'rela'tionship with the locality'. 
All this forms a target that
is open and in urgent need of attainment. Attempts have been made at times
to achieve it with partial solutions, but without very positive results; a
reshaping of the works is not sufficient by itself, neither are certain forms
of insertion among the poor, nor the inventing of other kinds of community
life, and still less the giving up of the works themselves. It is not simply
a problem of structures, of individual fantasy, of criteria inspired by positions
that are sometimes rather ideological, but of putting into practice the evangelical
project of the Founder.
Our apostolic works will be
truly significant if they respond, among other things, to two requirements:
the first is the manifestation of all aspects of their charismatic renewal
and not just some partial facet; and the second is the ability to respond
to the more urgent requests of those to whom our mission is addressed in the
areas and cultures where the work is sited. Certainly this will mean that
we must keep in mind our strength in personnel; it is a dangerous temptation
for significance to want to meet every necessity. It is a case of giving 'signs'
of response to the challenges with the authenticity of our own charism, of
living it here and now in new forms (and if necessary also in fewer works)
but in genuine fidelity to the common project.
Significance must always be
conjoined for us with the 'educative option', because that is the field in
which we are sent to work. That is where we commit ourselves by our profession
and that is where our prophetic dimension is realized.
- 'Missionary mentality and outlook'.
The present social
and cultural situation has opened up very many new equivalents of the Areopagus
in the Church's mission. 
is now necessary to adopt a missionary criterion almost everywhere. ' In particular,
if the renewal implies for us an adequate' refounding of the Oratory', 
as realized by the
Founder and suggested by the Constitutions, 
we immediately have an urgent objective
to achieve ' that of converting ourselves (as the Pope told us) into true
'missionaries of youth', not only in the case of those sent 'ad gentes' but
in all our works, as is evident. This attitude implies special initiatives
in communal living and dialogue for evangelization purposes, the ability for
adaptation, an apostolic creativity based on the permanent criteria of the
preventive system and applied in the various works in the most suitable way.
We must cultivate a spirit of initiative, which is not satisfied
with remaining on the defensive, so to speak, but which seeks to attack or,
in other words, to seek the opportune moment for indicating a lifestyle and
proclaiming the Gospel. We need to think of the first great missionaries,
the Apostles, who were never silent about the mission they carried within
them wherever they went. What I mean to say is that being called 'missionaries
of the young' is not just having a fine name (and at the present time a very
relevant one), but a commit'ment to conversion in view of a new kind of evan'gelizing
The GC23 has given an ample
description of what we have to do; the difficulty lies in knowing how to put
it all into practice. It is indeed therefore a case of another open horizon,
to the attaining of which we have been dedicating our best efforts for a number
there is the goal of inculturation, not only in the missions properly so called
but everywhere. As has been said more than once, we are living in an era of
cultural transformaion which, through the signs of the times, is pro'voking
the growth of a planetary culture which in turn is necessarily giving a new
dynamism to the various local cultures. Although in itself culture is not
something absolute, it nevertheless conditions the life of everyone: language,
manner of life, ways of appreciating values, a system of thought and judgement
' these are all realities which constitute the atmosphere breathed by every
individual. Now the Word of God has been proclaimed to be contemporaneous
with every human generation in every part of the world. We must therefore
be able to make it contemporary with local culture.
For this purpose a correct inculturation becomes essential.
This demands, primarily and on the one hand, clarity and integrity about what
we have to inculturate; and on the other hand, competence in the local language,
discernment regarding ways of life, awareness of changes as regards the appraisal
of values, the knowledge and ability to evaluate systems of thought and judgement.
It is not an easy task nor one that will have an end, because we are witnessing
the dawning of a new historical era. It is a task to be realized in an ecclesial
The acceleration of such dynamic
forces can lead more than one person to relativism, and even to discouragement.
But the fact that we can count on a truth of salvation as regards man and
his history, revealed to us by God himself, points out to us the road of inculturation
as an indispensable choice for the realization of our vocation.
In particular, as far as our
consecration is concerned, inculturation allows for a healthy pluriformity
of manner of life, provided that the latter be rooted with clarity and integrity
of content in 'the one common vocation, following the evangelical project
set out in the Rule of life. The gradual work of inculturation demands an
authentic consecrated life faithful to the characteristics of the Founder's
charism, and a careful critical ability in discerning the cultural values
to be assumed and integrated.
And there you have another
great horizon which is always open; at the present day it touches the whole
Church and demands a continual analysis of relations between unity and pluriformity,
al- ways respecting the primacy of the Word of God and the charism of the
Founder in the development of cultural values.
For the Gospel or a charism
to be inculturated it is absolutely necessary that the elements of its specific
identity be preserved. It
can be seen at once, therefore, that the
work to be carried out is a complex one; attention, sensitivity and study
are necessary as regards both novelty and tradition; the progressives
fact run the risk of distorting the origins, while the traditionalists
risk misunderstanding the contemporary element and what the Lord is saying
to us through the signs of the times; neither are able to discern the true
nature of God's gifts with their unique transcendence ' essentially ordered
to embodiment, and the historical modality (which is in fact transitory)
of cultural schemes, though yesterday they were precious cocoons of God's
The right discernment of the
steps to be taken in so delicate a field, is not a task to be left to the
arbitrary decision of individuals, but must be taken up by the community at
its various levels, under the guidance of the designated leaders.
Demands of the New Evangelization
Today the Church gives special
attention to the new evangelization and hopes that consecrated life also will
give to it its generous support. We may ask therefore what are the principal
demands that emerge from this task. The response would be lengthy, and here
it will be sufficient to indicate two complementary lines of approach: one
concerns the subjects called to evangelize; and the other the particular
which must be kept in mind. On the part of the subjects
one may recall the program expressed by John Paul II concerning evangelization:
'new in enthusiasm, new in methods, new in expression'. The renewal of consecrated
life must be courageously compared with the demands of the new evangelization;
they call for a kind of conversion by individuals and communities. There must
be a 'new enthusiasm' in the witness of one's own charism with a life in the
Spirit which renews deep communion with the mystery of Christ; a 'newness
of method' in the apostolic enterprise which expresses the charismatic fervor
of the particular characteristics; and a 'newness of expression' (with a spirit
of initiative) to translate the new methods into activities and works, in
sincere ecclesial communion. The new evangelization requires, therefore, the
fullness of the testimony of the pastoral charity of the particular charism,
so as to irradiate the light and warmth of the Gospel with life itself.
The GC23 has prompted us in this very sense; 
it insisted that each community be a true 'sign of faith', i.e. made up of
members who are 'spiritual men'; that it be a 'school of faith', i.e. truly
missionary among young people, making of evangelization its reason for existing
and functioning; and, finally, that it become a 'center of communion and participation',
able to unite and incite other collaborators, in harmony with projects of
the local Churches.
As regards cultural content,
there is an urgent need to give attention to values that have matured
in the emerging culture: they proclaim true innovations. It is true that discernment
is needed within their innate ambivalence, but they certainly embody innovations
that need to be baptized and in which Christ's Gospel and the particular charism
can be incarnated. One need only think of the emergence of the temporal order
and the proper evaluation of the values of the laity; of the progress made
in the concept of social life and the new fron'tiers that have opened before
the social dimension of the faith; of the development of relationships of
reciprocity between men and women, and what follows from these for the renewal
of society and the Church; of delicate challenges in the ares of life, justice,
peace, solidarity and ecology, with so many questions to be resolved from
an ethical point of view.
In particular, the field of
special interest to us is that of youth (open to several groups of consecra'ted
life): this is where we are called to offer our best efforts to re-establish
dialogue with the young and educate them to the faith. The educative op'tion
points to a far from simple path that must be followed in the light of the
We await from the Synod a renewed presence in the world
of the mystery of Christ
What can we expect from the
94-Synod? Many results, certainly; but there is no point in drawing up a hypothetical
The Synod will tackle the theme of consecrated life, looking
in global fashion at its mission and nature in the Church. The successors
of the Apostles, called as they are to foster the renewal of the entire People
of God, will be concerned to translate the great principles and guidelines
of the Council into renewed pastoral forms. Certainly from the Synod will
come guidelines for renewal: from the primacy of 'life in the Spirit' to the
consideration of relationships of communion with both the Bishops (a relaunching
of 'Mutuae Relationes'
) and the lay faithful, to a common vision of
the doctrine of the local Church, to the appraisal of the charismatic pluriformity
in the process of renewal, to some practical problems concerning especially
the' religious life', etc.
We could say, however, that we expect as a global fruit
not so much a solution to specific problems of this or that group, but rather
a strong re- launching of consecrated life in its essential and vital aspects.
Consecrated life, in fact, through the fruitful action of the Holy Spirit
in the Founders and Foundresses through the centuries, is called to manifest
the richness of the mystery of Christ which makes to shine out in the Church
(his Body in history) the multiform grace of Christ its Head. Consecrated
life also evokes and preserves a special communion with the Church in heaven,
through so many eminent holy men and women who have borne witness to the Church
and embellished it by their experiences: 'from the God-given seed of the counsels
a wonderful and wide- spreading tree has grown up in the field of the Lord,
branching out into various forms of religious life in solitude or in community;
different religious families have come into existence in which spiritual resources
are multiplied for the progress in holiness of their members and for the good
of the entire Body of Christ'. 
charismatic fertility which
has matured through history is still alive and influential,
with bonds of communion and grace in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Disciples are called today to
manifest the mystery of Christ by rendering Founders and Foundresses still
vitally present; their renewed life will appear as a spiritual exegesis or
a vast existential comment on the inexhaustible patrimony of the Gospel. Consecrated
persons at the present day, instead of getting involved in the demythologizing
of their particular origins, must be able to demonstrate this ineffable communion
of saints. This is the most authentic way in which Founders and Foundresses
feel that they too are committed from heaven to collaborate in the new evangelization.
Conclusion: Mary, Model and Helper of the consecrated life
From the abode of the Saints the first to intervene in guiding
the Synod and rendering it fertile will be the Virgin Mary, the model and
helper of consecrated life. In a motherly way she has always accompanied the
work of the Holy Spirit, the distributor of charisms: witnesses to this are
the Founders and Foundresses and the Marian dimension of their Institutes.
Mary is the Helper of the Church in difficult times, she is the Star of the
new evangelization and the Guide of the Bishops. Full of grace from the first
moment of her conception, all her life has been an experience of the Holy
Spirit; after Jesus, she is certainly the highest model of consecrated life:
of complete self-donation to God, of the motherly mission towards Christ,
of an intense journey of faith, of the unequalled example of a first disciple
in following the Lord, of being the sign and bearer of the richness of his
mystery to all men, of an ineffable love for the Church of which she is by
her very existence both prophet and mother.
Mary invites us to pray for this Synod and to prepare it,
to the extent that lies in our power, with a lively care and hope. It is an
event that will enable consecrated life to take on, through her maternal intervention,
a particularly decisive role in the new times.
One aspect of our preparation
will be that of studying more deeply the salesian vocation from the synodal
aspect of a living charism for the Church of today, as we have tried to suggest
in these reflections. Mary will help us to perceive more clearly from an ecclesial
standpoint the significance and importance of Don Bosco, and to live with
renewed commitment his gospel project ac- cording to the needs of the new
evangelization. She has already helped us to this end through the great Chapters
that have followed Vatican II; she is guiding us now as we implement the deliberations
of the GC23, and she will urge us on in an ever more pressing manner through
the new Synod towards those ever open horizons and goals which will help us
to be authentic and more credible 'missionaries of the young', i.e. to be
protagonists with them of a new era of the presence of faith in society.
May Don Bosco prosper the work!
Cordial greetings as we take up our common task of moving towards the objectives
that will render ever more efficacious in the Church the patrimony of consecrated
life left us by our Founder.
Affectionately in the Lord,
Don E. Viganò
 Oss. Rom.
(Eng. edtn.) 5 Feb.'92
 Lumen Gentium
e.g. GC19, 20, 21, 22, 23; AGC 312, The renewed text of our Rule
AGC 316, Vatican II, still a powerful force at the present
AGC 319, 1988: an invitation to a special renewal of profession;
AGC 320, The Guide to the Constitutions
; AGC 330, The Don Bosco
Cetenary and our renewal;
 Mutuae Relationes
 Perfectae Caritatis
Acts 21, 1
SGC and AGC 334
especially 37b, c; 69-70; and AGC 336
GC23 4, 90-91, 215-220