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`SAINT JOHN BOSCO: `IUVENTUTIS PATER ET MAGISTER`

LETTER OF RECTOR MAJOR - Fr. EGIDIO VIGANO'


SAINT JOHN BOSCO: "IUVENTUTIS PATER ET MAGISTER"

ACG 329
Rome, 24 February, 1989

The letter "Centesimo Exeunte" - A title needing deeper thought and interior assimilation - The designation "Father" - The adjunct "Teacher" - The living connection with "Youth" A spur to a "New Evangelization" - Ecclesial endorsement of the preventive system

My dear confreres,
The celebrations of the first centenary year of the death of our Father and Founder Don Bosco have come to an end. News comes in from all over the world of quite extraordinary events that gave rise to admiration, led to thoughtful reflection and opened up perspectives of fresh commitments. We have discovered that the personality of our Saint has an outstanding place in history and is of concern to wide sectors of cultural and social life. We have enjoyed it all, not because of an ingenuous satisfaction of corporate self-esteem, but because we have been able to contemplate more clearly in him the wonders of the Holy Spirit.
We have experienced a great joy of faith, which has increased in us the appreciation of our vocation and our dedication to our mission. And for all this let us be grateful to God.

The Pope's letter Centesimo Exeunte

It was precisely during the concluding days of the centenary 24 January last, feast of our Patron St Francis de Sales and the day we commemorate Mary Help of Christians that the Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II gave us a wonderful gift, all the more esteemed because it was so unforeseen: the official title for Don Bosco of Father and Teacher of Youth.

It is a gift which, while filling us with joy, must lead us to deeper reflection and a greater awareness of our responsibility. linked with heartfelt gratitude to the Vicar of Christ.

It is a title which we might say has always been used spontaneously in the familiar language of salesian houses. Evidence of this is something Card. Cagliero said in 1922 during the diamond jubilee celebrations of the ordination of his old companion Don Francesia, with whom he had been ordained in 1862. Speaking of himself and his friend he said: If we have attained an honored place in society, if we have been able to do some good (and I can tell you that we have always striven to do as much good as possible), we owe it under God to one person alone: not to our fathers, whom both of us lost at an early age, not to our mothers holy and pious they were, but not able to help us but to Don Bosco whom we called father from the time we were youngsters, whom we have continued to call father and teacher right down to this very day, and whom we hope to be able to venerate as a saint even here on earth before we go to thank him in Paradise. [1]

To call Don Bosco father and teacher is therefore for us a familiar way of expressing our admiration and affection; I think the same idea is probably applicable also to other outstanding founders and educators.

What is absolutely new about the Letter Centesimo Exeunte is the fact that the supreme authority of the Church has declared in solemn and official terms that Don Bosco is not an ordinary father and teacher of the young, but the Father and Teacher of Youth par excellence, at the level of the universal Church: i.e. the title extends to all young people of all continents, both today and in the future. In fact Peter's Successor has declared and proclaimed by virtue of his Apostolic Power that Don Bosco is the Father and Teacher of Youth, and has ordained that under this title he be honored and invoked throughout the whole Church, not only by the great Salesian Family but by all who have at heart the cause of youth and intend to foster their education so as to contribute to the building of a new humanity. [2]

This precise statement obviously extends to the whole of his rich personality and his unique mission, but it exalts especially his pedagogical holiness and the brilliance of his method as a landmark in Church history, as the Pope said. Don Bosco in fact, and still in the words of the Holy Father, has left behind him a concept, a teaching, a method, which have become part of our heritage. He invites us not just to dedicate ourselves to youth in a general way, but to educate by means of a specific plan or in other words by his comprehensive system which, while detracting nothing from the enriching contributions made by other past and present educators, provides a solid basis for a successful attempt to combine the complex elements involved in the overall development of the child or young person. [3]

A title needing deeper thought and interior assimilation

In the first place therefore the Congregation must undertake a deeper analysis of the significance of this title which characterizes Don Bosco so well.

Our cultural centers and our scholars will be able to continue a work which has already been seriously begun in some of their best works, and most recently in such high level initiatives as: the seminar on The pedagogical experience of Don Bosco, held at the Cini Foundation on St George's island at Venice; [4] the first international Congress of Studies on St John Bosco which took place at our University in Rome; [5] and the symposium on Don Bosco the Founder held at the Generalate, Via della Pisana, Rome. [6]

These were significant moments of reflection, not with direct reference to this title (which had not as yet been proclaimed) but to its essential content and the stimulating perspectives to which it gives rise. Every confrere is called upon to examine himself daily to see how he measures up to the content of the title, looking to Don Bosco as his supreme model of salesian fatherliness and christian pedagogy.

Although the title is formulated in terms which were already to be found in the liturgical texts for his feast and in some of the formulas we use in praying to him, now that the happy expression has been declared an ecclesial title officially conferred on him it behoves us to be able to explain it so as to pass on to others all its rich significance.

A circular of the Rector Major is hardly the place to attempt even a brief study in this connection, but rather to suggest some spiritual motives for assimilating its significance and feeling it a stimulating enrichment to our mentality.

In this title in fact we can see condensed, unified and set out, as I said earlier, the main values of the living heritage left us by Don Bosco:
his kind of holiness: practical love;
his choice of a field of apostolic activity: youth;
his strategy of approach: the preventive system;
his program of action: education;
the secret of his success: his intuitive knowledge of the juvenile heart.

Here I simply invite you to meditate on some of the contents of the title, referring to the mystery of the triune God as their source; to the love of the Father rich in mercy; to the solidarity of the Son made for us the way, the truth and the life; [7] to the creativity of the Holy Spirit, who is the gift of transforming rejuvenation for the world throughout the centuries.

This would not seem to be a far-fetched notion: the Blessed Trinity is the true supreme and central mystery of our faith, and must be so in our life and reflections. As a theologian of the East has written: the Saint is an icon of the Trinitarian God. Don Bosco was a saint imbued by this mystery of God. The particular holiness of his da mihi animas essentially reflects the pastoral and pedagogical richness of Trinitarian charity, meriting for him so noble and uniquely distinctive a title.

The designation Father

Among his boys Don Bosco was a prophet of kindness; rightly the Holy Father has several times called him a genius of the heart. In him kindness was a constant personal attitude; it was expressed each day in a contemplation of the continuous manifestations of God's love and a consequent methodology of loving kindness which marked all his apostolic activities.

Part of this interior attitude was his ecclesial role of Founder, as a fruitful father who left a gospel heritage to so many sons and daughters who continue his mission among youth.

The apostle Paul assures us that all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its title from the first Principle of all love. [8] This means not only that every Family that goes back to a Founder finds in him the fatherhood of God, but also that he is a witness to it and passes on in practical terms his internal feelings and expressions of affection.

God the Father, the all-powerful creator, manifests his divinity especially in the unfathomable riches of his mercy: he so loved the world that he gave up his only-begotten Son. [9]

Don Bosco has borne witness to the mystery of this merciful fatherliness by giving himself entirely to the young: for you I study, for you I work, for you I live, for you I am ready even to give my life. [10]

And this complete self-donation Don Bosco expressed through a constant and familiar attitude of loving kindness: he taught not only how to love, but also and in a daily and sincere manner how to make oneself loved. The ascetical aspect of his holiness led him to give priority to the social virtues which inspire trust and confidence, which open the heart to a family kind of life, which foster dialogue and understanding, and are expressed in the style of relationships which as the Apostle writes is patient and kind; is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [11]

Don Bosco's apostolic activity in fact is entirely based on the words of St Paul who proclaims the mystery of charity. [12] And pursuing the matter at still greater depth, it must be added that for Don Bosco the term father means not only kind and loving like a father, nor only father-founder of a spiritual Family, but comes to indicate more vitally the apostolic action of generating new life, the evangelical awareness and the carrying out of a responsibility which cares for and educates young people and brings about their growth to christian maturity as adopted children. He is the father of youth because he felt himself called by God to be a real father to so many needy youngsters and generate them to a life of grace as sons of God, in the deep sense of the apostle Paul: for though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel; [13] my little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you! [14]

These brief remarks on the fatherliness of Don Bosco, manifested in his pedagogy of love and loving kindness, are no more than a rapid though stimulating indication of a theme which is central to our salesian spirit. This has been authoritatively stated by his third successor, Fr Philip Rinaldi: The whole life of Don Bosco is a complete treatise on the fatherhood that comes from the heavenly Father (Eph 3,15) and which he practiced here below in a very high and almost unique degree towards the young and towards all, in the thousand and one events of life, in relief of all temporal and spiritual distress, with total dedication and self-sacrifice, in the greatness of a heart boundless as the shores of the sea, making himself all things to all so as to win over young souls and lead them to the Lord. [15]

We may add that the principal daily source of the fruitfulness of his spiritual fatherhood was the exercise of his priestly ministry in the sacrament of Penance.

It is important therefore that we regain and deepen the sense of this characteristically oratorian fatherhood in the multiple human and divine aspects that belong to it. This is an inescapable task of every disciple of Don Bosco. Because, if it is true that Provincials and Rectors have the duty of bringing this fatherliness to life in particular and specialized ways, [16] others also priests, brothers and clerics since they are educators of young people who want to be loved and helped through the various stages of their development, must know how to behave as real fathers, each according to his own role: responsible, patient, generous and encouraging.

At the end of the Novices' Retreat at Villa Moglia in 1930, Fr Rinaldi did not hesitate to tell them (novices!): You too must be fathers to the youngsters entrusted to you; you must love and help them as would a real father, [17]

The adjunct Teacher

The term teacher is closely linked with that of father. Here again it is not enough to say that Don Bosco was a genial educator who taught an efficacious method of formation: he was not just a competent exponent of a good method.

He was a teacher because among his fatherly tasks he gave priority to the inculcating of a true sense of life, of communicating the power and vigor of christian values, the practice of the baptismal virtues, making known above all in a way specifically adapted to the young the genuine way of love, through a pedagogy of holiness.

You need only think of the sense in which he was the spiritual guide of Dominic Savio, of Michael Magone, of Francis Besucco, and of the Oratory boys in general. In these cases too the most convincing part of his teaching was the penetrating exchanges in the confessional.

In him the two characteristics of father and teacher were intimately interwoven, lived and applied in an inseparable fashion.

The term Teacher refers therefore to the wisdom of heart with which Don Bosco was able to bear witness to and transmit fundamental criteria and his efficacious way of tackling the complex tasks of education.

In his Letter Iuvenum Patris, John Paul II had already presented St John Bosco as an outstanding Master in education, because he had been able to produce a vital synthesis between educational practice and pastoral wisdom, between human advancement and evangelization. Today more than ever before, said the Pope, there is need of an educational method which can take the contributions of the human educational sciences and raise them to the life-giving level of pastoral charity. There is a real hunger for a pastoral wisdom which is not satisfied with deciphering or interpreting man, but is concerned to bring about his efficacious transformation in the light of those final ends and the strength of the dynamic forces inserted by God himself in the heart of the Church and humanity. [18]

In this sense Don Bosco goes back to Christ, the inventor of pastoral work and the supreme Master of paschal salvation. God the Father sent his only Son into the world as the Word of saving truth: In many and various ways, says the letter to the Hebrews, God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, [19] Jesus, in fact, came into the world to bear witness to the truth; [20] his truth alone will make us free. [21]

The application to Don Bosco of the title of Teacher means to recognize in him a particular reading of the event of Christ and a pedagogical ability to communicate his Gospel. This he did by means of an educational system which operates, as the Holy Father has said, within human growth itself by methodological criteria which are in harmony with the lively desires and expectations of youth and the poorer classes.

The idea of prevention which is characteristic of his system was described in the recent Letter Centesimo Exeunte as centered on the need to protect the young from negative experiences; to provide a positive education through valid suggestions and examples; to build on the interior freedom with which they have been endowed; to establish with them relationships of genuine friendship; to stimulate their innate abilities by means of reason, religion and loving kindness. [22]

Our Congregation has spread the knowledge of the exceptional validity of the singular experience lived by the Founder and passed on by him to be faithfully preserved, studied intelligently at greater depth, constantly reapplied and courageously developed in the many new cultural situations that the future would bring. His first disciples used to say of him what the beloved Apostle said of the Savior: That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands. We are his witnesses, and this is what we proclaim to you. [23]

The substance of his teaching remains intact; the unique nature of his spirit, his intuitions, his style, his charisma are unchanged, because they draw their inspiration from the transcendent pedagogy of God. He continues to be our teacher in the present difficult times, and suggests a 'new education' which is at once both creative and faithful. [24]

The living connection with Youth

The connection of the terms Father and Teacher with Youth is an explicit indication of Don Bosco's choice of his field of pastoral charity: it is that of young people, and preferably those who are in need or of the poorer classes.

With him his sons and daughters too are called to be, in the words of John Paul II, always and everywhere missionaries of the young. [25]

And his choice of youth is not only a specification of those to whom his work would be directed but implies a whole gospel climate of life, a sensitivity about the future, a valuable standpoint for the discernment of reality starting from the the poor and the little ones; it is a standpoint which becomes in fact a kind of daily injection of youthfulness and a good beginning from which he and his educators can begin in reinterpreting society.

We need only reflect on what is said in the recent Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici: The Church sees her path towards the future in youth, beholding in them a reflection of herself and her call to that blessed youthfulness which she constantly enjoys as a result of Christ's Spirit. [26]

In the famous Message of the Vatican Council II to youth, the Bishops recalled that four years work had been dedicated to rejuvenating the Church's countenance, so that it might better correspond to the design of the Risen Christ who is eternally young: his Spouse possesses what constitutes the strength and the charm of youth: the ability to rejoice with what is beginning, to give oneself unreservedly, to renew oneself and to set out again for new conquests. Look upon the Church and you will find in her the face of Christ, the genuine, humble and wise hero, the prophet of truth and love, the companion and friend of youth. [27]

This nostalgia for the springtime of our life makes us think, as we return to the Mystery of God, of the renewing force of the Holy Spirit who is the power behind novelty and sanctification in history. He is the soul of the Church, the inexhaustible source of its youth, the author of that special reserve of creative power that transforms the world. It is through the work of the Spirit, in fact, that the whole of nature groans in a common travail. [28]

The Spirit therefore brings ever new strength and energy. He brings to fulfillment all the exciting communication of God to man, injecting into history the new things that are needed to give it life and lead it to its objective: he who sows in the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternallife. [29]

This new and eternal life resides in the hearts of all believers: in the young, enriching them with a life of faith which makes them in very truth the hope of the Church and Society (we had a happy taste of this at Turin in the Appraisal DB88); in adult educators: endowing them with the freshness of the Gospel, a right understanding of the values of renewal, empathy for the era which is beginning, a welcome acceptance of the challenges of youth. a friendly presence to help young people to discern their plan of life, and a shared perception of the values emerging from justice, non-violence, peace, solidarity and ecology.

The whole Church, says the Pope, is asked to see itself in a special way in youth; it is called to relive the love of predilection which Christ showed to the young man of the Gospel: Jesus, looking upon him, loved him. [30]

This is one of the more urgent aspects of the Gift of the Spirit for all the People of God, and particularly for us.

A spur to a new evangelization

We must consider the title also as a strong appeal and CM1 insistent stimulus for the present tasks of the new evangelization: we are at a stirring and dramatic point in history.

The preparation of the coming GC23 already has us all occupied in discerning and planning what we have to do in this regard. The Pope too referred with satisfaction to this task and challenge we want to address in the General Chapter for the education of youth to the faith, linking it with the proclamation of the title. It is a theme, the Pope told us, which touches deeply the entire Church. It has implications which do not depend only on particular characteristics of the prevailing youth condition, but stem from a cultural situation which is passing through a period of great changes as the third millennium of christianity draws near. It is a time of great ecclesial responsibility and of a captivating commitment in the process of evangelization. [31]

Don Bosco's option for the young calls for a courageous revision and creativity on our part. Starting from the lowest, as the saying goes nowadays, provides an approach for interventions which is particularly enlightening. The Italian Bishops have declared that these 'lowest' are a dramatic sign of the crisis of the present day In the first place we shall do away with the idols we have built up: money, power, consumerism, waste, and the tendency to live beyond our means and possibilities. Then we shall rediscover the values inherent in the common good. [32] The country will not grow unless we all grow together. [33]

This line of approach leads to a deep cultural appraisal for an exciting change of mentality in the way we perceive the strategic points of evangelization. Don Bosco launched a pastoral work of renewal precisely because he started from this perceptive standpoint: starting from the lowest enables you to better understand the problems of everyone.

But he concentrated on the young, not only because they were abandoned and in need, not only because they were poor and on the fringe of society, not only because they were at the end of the line and victims of inadequate structures, but also and intensely and this is evident in all his methods because he perceived at their true value their rich qualities of heart which promised new hope for the future.

This is why in living with them he was led to build an environment of joy, based on his conviction that the possibilities of a successful outcome were already there. He was never a prophet of loom or a bitter critic, wallowing in pessimism and stirring up gloom and dejection. He showed himself a joyful disciple of the Lord, the herald of the message of his paschal victory, with confidence in the youthful energies not yet tainted by wrinkles and old age, the guide of new generations looking for he truths of salvation, attracted by great ideals and animated by generous aspirations.

The Archbishop of Turin, Card. Anastasio Balestrero, in his homily during the concelebration concluding the centenary year, said on 31 January as: Today people are too sad; we have human beings who are too serious, always tormented by problems, by nightmares, by dark and gloomy doubts; but the joy of Christ, which Don Bosco proclaimed and fostered so much, must find us still faithful: this is an example he gives us, something he has left us, and it is also a hope which takes new life in all of us.

This too is an important aspect which cannot fail to enter into the interpretation of his title of 'Father and Teacher of Youth.

Ecclesial endorsement of the preventive system

If we think of how much Pope John Paul II has aid and written during the centenary year, from the Letter Iuvenum Patris to the homilies and addresses he gave during his pilgrimage to Turin and district, to the document Centesimo Exeunte and to his words during the special audience asked for by the Rector Major and his Council to fulfill their obligation to thank him, we cannot fail to conclude that the title sums up in a brief and well-chosen expression the most authoritative statement of the vocation and mission of Don Bosco, and of his charism among the People of God. We may say that it constitutes an ecclesial endorsement of the preventive system.

The Pope has meditated a great deal on Don Bosco, and on his own personal initiative at the end and culmination, as it were, of the celebrations has conferred on him this title, because he was fully convinced that Don Bosco attained his personal holiness through an educative commitment lived with zeal and an apostolic heart, and that his life, spirituality, writings and work provide great evangelical lights and valid methodological criteria for the formation of the New Man. [34]

For the whole Church, and especially for our Family, it is a powerful encouragement to give ever greater value to Don Bosco's pedagogical and pastoral criteria, and to truly live and act as missionaries of the young.

And then for us Salesians in a most particular way, this title must represent the motto and slogan of the centenary, which urges us to gather the greatest possible fruit from the very many gifts we have received in our efforts to give to the priceless charisma of the Founder the maximum relevance to the present day. Let us be its signs and bearers everywhere!

The title's contents should become a living part of our attitudes, our convictions and our apostolic creativity.

Let us by all means intensify the seriousness of studies on our mission and on the Founder's spirit, but as well and above all let us grow in that natural kindred relationship with the Holy Spirit who makes us witnesses and communicators of the extraordinary gift God has bestowed on Don Bosco for youth.

This will be the most fruitful task in our work of renewal: for our own apostolic mentality and outlook, for creativity in our pastoral work, for the oratorian criterion we want to relaunch, for our system of kindness, for a lively and relevant youth spirituality, for a growing involvement of the laity, for a generous missionary development, for a more efficacious campaign for vocations, for effective competence in the new evangelization, so as to make greater progress with the young on the difficult road that leads to holiness.

Let us turn with trust to our dear Founder and ask him to intercede for us and help us to be faithful; let us say to him:

O Father and Teacher of Youth, Saint John Bosco,
teach us to become every day
signs and bearers of God's love for the young;
and grant that with Mary as our guide we may follow joyfully with them the way that leads to Love!
Before concluding, dear confreres, I want to ask you a favor: that in every house you will express heartfelt gratitude to Pope John Paul II with a eucharistic concelebration offered for his intentions. Some communities have already taken the initiative in doing this, but it is fitting that it be done in every community.
May Don Bosco always intercede efficaciously for Peter's Successor, who guides the Church of Christ in these years which are at once so difficult but promising.
My cordial greetings and best wishes to you all.
Affectionately in Christ, Don Egidio Viganό.

1.2 LETTER CENTESIMO EXEUNTE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

To my beloved son
EGIDIO VIGANO
Rector Major of the Society of St Francis de Sales

The centenary year of the death of St John Bosco, Founder of the Society, is coming to an end, and my mind goes back to so many memories from which I draw strength and consolation as I recall the highlights celebrations which have punctuated it.

Many have been the meetings with young salesian pupils coming from every part of the world; but especially prominent and vivid in my memory is the pilgrimage I made to the places associated with your Founder for the pastoral purpose of expressing my feelings of gratitude to God for having given to the Church so outstanding an educator. Already at the outset of the jubilee year I wrote you a Letter drawing attention to the particular mission and charisma of Don Bosco and his spiritual sons and daughters in the art of the formation of youth, and I also recommended to all who work amongst the young that they should follow faithfully the ways he had marked out, adapting them to the needs and characteristics of the present day.

Today's problems in the field of youth confirm, in fact, the enduring relevance of the pedagogical method devised by St John Bosco and centered on the need to protect the young from negative experiences; to provide a positive education through valid suggestions and examples; to build on the interior freedom with which they have been endowed; to establish with them relationships of genuine friendship; to stimulate their innate abilities by means of reason, religion and loving kindness (cf. Letter of 31 January 1988, nn. 8,10-12).

It is my earnest wish that the fruits of this commemorative year should long endure in the Salesian Family, as also in the universal Church which has recognized in Don Bosco and continues to see in him a shining model as an apostle of the young. And so, acceding also to the desire of many of my fellow Bishops, of the Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, of the Cooperators and Past Pupils, and of large numbers of the faithful, in virtue of my Apostolic Power I declare and proclaim St John Bosco to be the .. Father and Teacher of Youth (Iuventutis Pater et Magister), decreeing that he be honored and invoked under this title, especially by those who see themselves as his spiritual children.

In the sure hope that this decision may contribute to an ever greater cultivation of devotion to this dear Saint and prompt many people to imitate his zeal as an educator I impart to you, to your confreres and to the entire Salesian Family my propitious Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 24 January 1989, the memorial of St. Francis de Sales, in the 11th year of my Pontificate,
Joannes Paulus Pp. II

1.3 ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER IN THE AUDIENCE GRANTED

TO THE RECTOR MAJOR AND HIS COUNCIL

(4 FEBRUARY 1989)
1. It gives me particular pleasure to meet the Rector Major and the General Council of the Salesian Society, at the end of the solemn celebrations of the Centenary of the death of St John Bosco. As I wrote only a few days ago at the close of the centenary year, my mind goes back to so many memories from which I draw strength and consolation as I recall the highlights of the celebrations which have punctuated it (Letter 'Centesimo Exeunte', 24 January 1989). As is evident from the multiplicity of meetings, especially of young people, of pilgrimages to the salesian historic places, of study congress, including the international Congress of historical and pedagogical studies which took place in Rome, there is no doubt that his dynamic love continues to bear fruit in every country of the world. In various ways, and especially through my pilgrimage to the places associated with your Founder, I too wanted to draw attention to the particular charism and mission of so outstanding an Educator, a real gift of God to the Church. His stature as a Saint, I wrote in the Letter 'Iuvenum Patris' of 31 January 1988), gives him a unique place among the great Founders of religious Institutes in the Church. He is outstanding from many points of view: he initiated a true school of a new and apostolic spirituality; he promoted a special devotion to Mary, Help of Christians and Mother of the Church; he displayed a loyal and courageous ecclesial sense manifested in the delicate mediation work he carried out between Church and State at a time when the relations between the two were difficult; as an apostle he was both realistic and practical, always open to the implications of new discoveries; he was a zealous organizer of foreign mission with truly Catholic sensitivity; he was an eminent example of a preferential love for the young, and especially for the most needy and for the good of the Church and society; he was the exponent of an efficacious and attractive pedagogical method which he has left as a precious legacy to be safeguarded and developed (n. 5 AAS 70 [1988], p. 973).

Fully convinced that Don Bosco attained his personal holiness through an educative commitment lived with zeal and an apostolic heart (ibid), and that his life, spirituality, writings and work provide great evangelical lights and valid methodological criteria for the formation of the New Man, I decided to proclaim him the Father and Teacher of Youth and ordain that under this title he be honored and invoked throughout the whole Church, not only by the great Salesian Family but by all who have at heart the cause of youth and intend to foster their education so as to contribute to the building of a new humanity (cf. 'Centesimo Exeunte').

Don Bosco is a landmark in Church history: in fact he has left behind him a concept, a teaching, an experience and method which have become part of our heritage; and in the words of my venerated Predecessor Paul VI, he was a marvelous synthesis of human talents and supernatural gifts, a genius recognized by modem pedagogy and catechesis but, above all, a genius of holiness, of that holiness that is one of the characteristics of the Church which is at once holy and also sanctifying (AAS 70 [1978], p. 177; GC21 469).

2. The context of educational activity is closely linked with the Church's mission of salvation, for it is the field in which each individual grows to maturity in the light of God's Word. Don Bosco is a sign of predilection for the young, and especially the most needy among them.

In the present phase of great developments in the educational sciences which are gradually finding their proper place in the overall field of philosophy, a process to which scholars of the Salesian Family are making their contribution. Don Bosco invites us not just to dedicate ourselves to youth in a general way, but to educate by means of a specific plan. Our Saint made an active synthesis of pedagogical theory with educational practice and offers us a system which. while detracting nothing from the enriching contributions made by other past and present educators. provides a solid basis for a successful attempt to combine the complex elements involved in the overall development of the child or young person.

Finally there is the apparently essential need for linking together education and evangelization; Don Bosco's concern for the evangelization of his boys was not limited to catechesis alone, nor to liturgy alone, nor to those religious practices which call for an explicit exercise of faith and lead to it, but covered the whole vast sector of the youth condition (Letter 'Iuvenum Patris'. n. 15; AAS 80 [1988]. p.981).

Dear Brothers, I have learned that you have chosen for your next General Chapter the theme: Educating young people to the faith: a task and challenge for today's salesian community. It is a theme which touches deeply the entire Church. It has implications which do not depend only on particular characteristics of the prevailing youth condition, but stem from a cultural situation which is passing through a period of great changes as the third millennium of christianity draws near. It is a time of great ecclesial responsibility and of a captivating commitment in the process of evangelization.

3. For this reason I say to you and to all members of the Salesian Family: be always and everywhere missionaries of the young! Educate with your gaze fixed on Christ, the divine Educator of the People of God as did Don Bosco. Today more than ever before there is need of an educational method which can take the contributions of the human educational sciences and raise them to the life-giving level of pastoral charity. There is a real hunger for a pastoral wisdom which is not satisfied with deciphering or interpreting man, but is concerned to bring about his efficacious transformation in the light of those final ends and the strength of the dynamic forces inserted by God himself in the heart of the Church and humanity. In this field Don Bosco is indeed a Witness, a Father and Teacher, who can bring light to educational tasks of the present day to enable them to respond to the serious challenges of the modem world.

May his powerful intercession give strength to the agonizing appeal for help prompted by the thousand and one problems of today's families and educators.

My prayer and Blessing go with you.
(From the 'Osservatare Romano', Sunday 5 February 1989)

[1] E. CERIA, Annali. IV. P. 106 SEI, Turin 1951
[2] Address to SDB General Council 4 Feb. 1989; Oss. Romano 5.2.89
[3] ibid.
[4] 3-5 October 1988
[5] 16-20 January 1989
[6] 22-26 January 1989
[7] Jn 14,6
[8] Eph 3,15
[9] Jn 3,16
[10] Chronicle of the Oratory, RUFFINO, ASC. 110
[11] I Cor 14, 4-7
[12] G. Bosco, Scritti ped. e spirit. LAS, Rome 1987, p. 194
[13] I Cor 4, 15
[14] Gal 4, 19; also I Thess 2, 11; Philem 10
[15] Acts. Sup. Chap., 26.4.31, p. 939 ff.
[16] respective manuals
[17] Testimony of a novice of the time
[18] As note 2 earlier
[19] Heb 1,1-2
[20] Jn 18,37
[21] I Jn 8,32
[22] Centesimo Exeunte
[23] 1 Jn 1, 1-2
[24] Iuvenum Patris 13
[25] As note 2 earlier
[26] Christifideles laici 46
[27] 8 December 1965
[28] Rom 8, 22
[29] Gal 6, 8
[30] Mk 10, 21
[31] As note 2 earlier
[32] ibid. 6
[33] ibid. 8
[34] As note 2 earlier