Father Pascual Chávez Villanueva said this Saturday, the feast of St. John Bosco, at a Mass held at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians at Valdocco in Turin. At the launch of the "year of grace" for the order, the rector major delivered the traditional message to the young people of the Salesian Youth Movement.
The superior recalled in his homily the "seed" that was sown by a small group of 18 young men who, on a cold evening on Dec. 18, 1859, were gathered together in Don Bosco's room near the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in Valdocco to make the most important decision of their life, which was "to stay with Don Bosco, giving themselves completely to the Lord."
"It is a story that continues down to us because that seed became a great tree: the Salesian Family," he continued.
"It is true," the priest said, "they were poor young men, limited in their human and cultural experience. But, in Don Bosco, they met Jesus Christ, who sent them on a humanly impossible mission, a foolish adventure."
To continue this mission, which originated with Christ's mandate to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, Father Chávez invited the young people "to promote a basic attitude: the desire to walk together toward a common goal, with an intense spirit of communion, with a convinced desire for synergy, with a mature desire to plan together."
Above all, he said, "it is necessary to be within the reality of youth […] with its shadows and its lights, with its anxieties and its hopes, with its joyful spirit but also with its sufferings, with its rush of life, but also its deserts where only the weeds of solitude grow."
Anchored in Christ
It is also important to promote in all environments "a better quality of life, a more intense and profound interpersonal communication and sharing to overcome the individualism and the solitude in which many young people live."
Father Chávez invited the youth to "make the voice of young people present, especially the many young people who do not have a voice and who no one hears; make their needs and their expectations known, defend their rights and accompany them in the claims they make."
"It is also necessary to make the good news known of what is happening in the world of youth," he added, "so many positive initiatives that often do not get reported by the media; in this way you can help adults to have a more positive vision of the world of youth and spread your enthusiasm and dynamism."
The superior of the Salesians called on the young people to always remain "present in the reality of youth with your heart anchored in Christ," and asked them to never neglect volunteering in the community or the missionary commitment.
"Be ready, open to making decisions for demanding service, generous to the point of welcoming the gift of God who calls with a vocation of special consecration," he said.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict XVI's secretary of state and a Salesian, celebrated the feast of St. John Bosco this Saturday, presiding at Mass in the cathedral of Bologna.
"Every time we celebrate St. John Bosco," the cardinal said, "we admire the gift of the Lord, given to the Church and society through this humble but extraordinary Piedmontese priest: the gift of a work completely dedicated to youth in which a continuation of Christ's love for the little ones and the poor can be recognized."
Conveying the blessing of the Holy Father to the faithful in the crowded cathedral, Cardinal Bertone said: "I assure you that he loves the Salesian Family and follows it with paternal solicitude."
In his homily, Cardinal Bertone recalled the foundation of the Salesian Institute in Bologna, between 1897 and 1898, which owed much "to the help of so many Bolognese, both famous and anonymous, who were happy to contribute to such an important social and apostolic work: Assuring children and young people a dignified present and preparing them a future full of hope."
We are all aware, he said, "of how much this is still relevant for Italy today! And this under two aspects, which are also two crises: the aspect of work, with the problem of unemployment and the uncertainty of youth; and that of education."
"Many years have passed since the time of Don Bosco," the Vatican secretary of state concluded, and "Italy has changed a great deal. But the heart of young people has not changed! It like that of the boys whom Don Bosco welcomed in his first oratory. This is why the mission of the Salesians is as relevant today as it was then."
Year of grace
The "year of grace" will be marked by other special dates and events including the celebration of the feast of Mary Help of Christians (May 25), the name day of Don Bosco (June 24), and Don Bosco's birthday (Aug. 16).
On Dec. 18 all the Salesians in the world will be invited to renew their religious profession.
A casket containing relics of Don Bosco will visit the various countries where the Salesians are present. The long journey will begin in July this year beginning in Chile and will come to an end in 2015, the year of the bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth.
The Salesian Congregation is present today in 129 countries with 16,092 Salesians: 10,669 priests, 2,025 coadjutors, 2,765 seminarians, 515 novices, 118 bishops and five cardinals.