I wish you all many blessings on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We recall how important this day is in our Salesian history and how devoted Don Bosco was to the Blessed Mother. As Fr. Ángel gave the Good Morning thought to the FMAs on Thanksgiving Day, he emphasized that filial love. As he recalled the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMAs), Fr. Ángel said Don Bosco wanted the Sisters to be a living monument of gratitude to Mary for the singular graces obtained by such a good Mother. Fr. Ángel went on to say that if a Salesian is not devoted to Mary Help of Christians, as Don Bosco was, he is not a Salesian. This filial devotion is integral to the Salesian charism.
As we reflect on the historic visit of the Rector Major and the General Councilor for the Interamerica Region, we can recall particular messages or experiences that guide us in living the Salesian charism. I’d like to share one such message from the homily the Rector Major gave in Orange on the last day of his visit. He celebrated the Mass of St. John Bosco and spoke of the genius of Don Bosco in accompanying young people as they grow, guiding them toward life choices. He connected his reflections with some observations he had about the Salesian presences he visited in the USA. At the original Oratory, Don Bosco created a healthy environment where young people could grow to become honest citizens and good Christians. The young were involved in sodalities, volunteer projects, sports, music, etc. where they could develop their talents, learn to live in community, and show concern for others. At the same time, Don Bosco knew how to guide individuals on the spiritual journey toward discovering their vocation. It seemed to me that Fr. Ángel was not only giving a reflection on Don Bosco’s style of accompaniment at the Oratory but summarizing the ninth chapter of Christus Vivit, which is on discernment. We are concerned about the environment, groups, and individual accompaniment. He recognized the healthy environment in our Salesian presences, encouraged us to offer groups that would involve the young people, and emphasized the importance of accompanying young adults who search for their purpose in life and God’s call. Echoing his words at the end of GC27, he said we have to be bold in proposing to the young God’s call to a vocation in the Salesian Family and, particularly, to Salesian religious life.
On this particular day, we can think of how Don Bosco engaged Bartholomew Garelli in a personal dialogue, winning his trust and beginning a process of spiritual growth. Bartholomew returned to the Convitto with his friends who also needed to learn their catechism. The recently ordained Don Bosco used the open spaces, sacristy, and chapel at the Convitto as a healthy environment to gather young people, even if this noisy bunch disturbed the peaceful quiet of the Convitto. We are not only recalling a moment in the history of the development of the Oratory—we are animated to live this story today. As Fr. Ángel observed, the environments in our presences are Salesian.
In these next few weeks, we will have religious services, volunteer opportunities, social gatherings, concerts, tournaments, etc. where young people can take the lead. Let’s not stop there, but complete the experience of the Oratory by including occasions of personal accompaniment. This might be Confession, a word in the ear, time to talk to past pupils, or coffee with a young colleague. In these ordinary yet meaningful ways, we accompany the young toward vocational discernment.
May Mary, the Immaculate Help of Christians, guide us.
Fr. Tim Zak