"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lc 4, 18-19)
Let us educate with the heart of
to develop to their full potential the lives
of young people, especially the poorest and most disadvantaged, promoting their rights.
This Strenna is in close continuity with the Strennas of the two last years. Life is the great gift of God, “the lover of life,” which he has entrusted to us as a seed so that we may collaborate with him in making it grow and produce abundant fruit. This seed needs “to fall into good soil,” in which it can germinate and bear fruit; this soil is the family, the cradle of life and love, the first place where one learns to be human. The family welcomes the gift of life with joy and gratitude and provides the natural setting suitable for its growth and development. But as with the seed, good soils is not enough; there is also need for the patient and laborious efforts of the farmer, who waters it, cares for it and helps it to grow. This farmer who helps life to grow is the educator.
We have been called for precisely this mission. The text from the gospel of Luke, that I have chosen to introduce the Strenna, describes our vocation as educators in Don Bosco’s style. Not by chance, in the Salesian Constitutions these verses have been chosen as the biblical quotation inspiring “our pastoral educational service”.
At the beginning of his public life, Jesus identifies in this text from the prophet Isaiah read in the synagogue at Nazareth his messianic mission and affirms, in front of his fellow citizens: «Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing » (Lk 4,21).
This “today” of Jesus continues in our educational mission: we have been consecrated with the unction of the Spirit, through baptism, and we have been sent to the young to proclaim to them the novelty of the life that Christ offers us, in order to foster and develop it through an education that frees the young and the poor from the forms of oppression that prevent them from searching for the truth, from opening themselves to hope, from living with purpose and with joy, from building their own freedom.
Fr. Duvallet, for twenty years the collaborator of Abbé Pierre in his apostolate of the re-education of the young, addresses to us a significant kind of appeal: «You have works, colleges, oratories for the young, but you have only one treasure: the pedagogy of Don Bosco. In a world in which youngsters are betrayed, squeezed dry, crushed, exploited, the Lord has entrusted to you a pedagogy in which respect for the young person, for his greatness and his frailty, for his dignity as a son of God prevail.
Preserve it, renew it, rejunevate it, enrich it with all the latest discoveries, adapt it to these twentieth century creatures and their tragedies that Don Bosco could not know about. But for heaven’s sake, preserve it! Change everything, if necessary lose all your houses but preserve this treasure, forming in thousands of hearts the way to love and to save the young, that is Don Bosco’s heritage.»
Aware then of the greatness of our vocation and of the gift that we have received in the pedagogy of Don Bosco, we want to commit ourselves to making the words of the Prophet become a reality in our day.
In practical terms the Strenna is intended to focus on:
- the subject of Salesian pedagogy and the Preventive System; in particular, I think that this requires further study and formation, so as not to lose its richness;
- the valid contribution that we can offer in responding to the huge challenges of life and of the family; in this way we also preserve the link and continuity with the two previous subjects (family and life);
- education and the promotion of human rights, in particular the rights of juveniles, as an important way for us to make a positive contribution through our commitment to education to all cultures.
The aspects that the Strenna invites us to consider carefully are fundamentally three:
1. Educating with the heart of Don Bosco, that is to say, living the Preventive System, which is a charity that knows how to make itself loved (cfr. Const. 20), with a renewed presence among the young, consisting in affective and effective closeness, in participation, in accompaniment, in animation, in giving witness, in vocational promotion, in the Salesian style of assistance. Above all a renewed option for the young who are poor and at risk, seeking out situations of evident or hidden deprivation, having confidence in the positive resources of every young person, even the most damaged by life, committing our whole lives to their education.
2. Attending to the integral development of the young through a renewed option for an education that forestalls evil by trusting in the good that there is in the heart of every young person, that develops it with perseverance and with patience, that re-establishes the personal identity of each one, that forms strong individuals, active and responsible citizens, people open to the values of life and of the faith, capable of having a purpose in their lives, lived with joy, with responsibility and with competence. An education that becomes a real spiritual experience that draws on “the love of God who provides in advance for all his creatures, is ever present at their side and freely gives his life to save them” (Const. 20).
3. Promoting human rights, in particular those of juveniles, as the Salesian way of promoting a culture of life and a change of structures. The Preventive System of Don Bosco has a great social outreach: it wants to collaborate with many other agencies in the transformation of society, working for a change in the criteria and views about life, in the promotion of the culture open to others, in a sober style of life, in a constant attitude of selfless sharing and of a commitment to justice and the dignity of every human being. Education to human rights, in particular to the rights of juveniles, is the privileged way to implement in various contexts this commitment to prevention, to integrated human development, to the construction of a world that is more fair, more just, more healthy. The language of human rights also allows us to dialogue and to introduce our pedagogy into the different cultures in our world.
- With a renewed decision to become involved as communities in specific fields of action. The communitary character of Salesian pedagogical experience demands that we create a spirit of communion regarding the educational ideals of Don Bosco, knowing how to involve all those with responsibilities in the various educational institutions and programmes, forming in them a critical awareness of the causes of youth marginalisation and exploitation, a strong motivation that sustains the efforts of every day and an active and alternative attitude. All of this involves a commitment to the formation of educators.
- With a renewed deliberately pastoral approach. Salesian activity, in whatever situation it is carried out, always includes a concern for the salvation of the individual: knowledge of God and filial communion with him by accepting Christ, through the sacramental life of the Church. Having made an option for youth and poor young people, Salesians take as their starting points where the young people find themselves, and the possibilities they have of making a journey of faith. In every work of rehabilitation, of education and of personal development, there is the beginning and the implementation of that salvation that will become more explicit as those involved become more capable of it. All have a right to Christ. He needs to be proclaimed without forcing things too much but also without letting things slip by too easily.
Rome, l June 2007.
Fr. Pascual Chávez Villanueva,