By Fr. Louis Molinelli, SDB, Delegate for Youth Ministry
When St. John Bosco began his ministry among young people, he chose St. Francis de Sales, who was Bishop of Geneva almost two centuries before Don Bosco lived, as his model. What impressed Don Bosco about St. Francis de Sales was his unbounded kindness and gentleness toward everyone he encountered. Truly, St. Francis de Sales sought to model himself after Jesus, meek and humble of heart. Don Bosco believed that in working with young people, one must develop these same qualities that St. Francis de Sales did. The situation of young people in 19th century Turin was fraught with abuse, immorality, breakdown of family structures, and government structures that were amid change. Many of the young people coming into Turin or having to live within this quickly industrializing city found themselves the victims of human trafficking, lack of education, lack of good role models, and an even greater lack of faith. To get them to trust again, Don Bosco saw the gentleness and kindness of St. Francis de Sales as the roadmap to success. It was not easy! To gain the trust of these young people required Don Bosco and his collaborators to show herculean patience, indefatigable gentleness, and the charity of Christ, which knows no limit.
St. Francis de Sales himself often encountered those who were rude and disrespectful to him. Although his personality was such that he could be boiling on the inside, his external demeanor exuded charity and meekness. Usually, the person who was upset with him would leave a friend, amazed at how gently he had been treated.
"Do all out of love, nothing from constraint." Our strenna this year calls us to imitate our two saints in these qualities of kindness and gentleness. Our society sees these things as weakness. The Christian sees them as strengths in Christ Jesus. Only when someone can sacrifice all for the good of another and expect nothing in return can true conversion take place.
So, be kind and gentle with people. Everyone is on the same journey. Also, be kind and gentle with yourself! Allow yourself to be molded by the Divine Master and to change over time. The Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, wants each one of us to embrace His offer of salvation.