MESSAGE OF THE RECTOR MAJOR TO THE YOUTH
Feast of St. John Bosco – 31st January 2018
My dear Youth,
Let me greet you with great affection and with the promise of my prayer for all and each one of you.
Also this year, as last year, on this day of the Feast of St. John Bosco, January 31st, I am in another part of the world. This time I am in Asia, East Timor. From here I wish to make my presence felt in the most diverse places of the world where young people experience the joy of feeling that the Lord has presented them with the gift of Don Bosco as Father and Teacher of the Youth.
I still cherish the memory of the encounter of Pope Francis with the youth in Chile and Peru, which took place a few days ago. On the other hand, there is everywhere a great movement in preparation to the Synod of Bishops that has been convened on the theme: “Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment”. Pope Francis himself wants to meet, during the week preceding Palm Sunday, delegations of young men and women coming from all over the world, because he wishes to have «a meeting where you are going to be the protagonists, young people from the whole world, Catholic and non-Catholic youth, Christian youth and youth from other religions, and young people who do not know if they believe or do not believe. All of them, to listen to you, to hear you directly, because it is important that you speak; do not let yourselves be silenced».
All this arouses in me an immense joy.
May I tell you something confidential? When I travel through “the Salesian world”, in the most diverse nations and I meet with you, young people, and I see your faces, your smile, your sincere, pure and authentic look, I tell myself: the world, the Church, our Salesian Family and the Salesian Youth Movement have a great present and a promising future.
Last year (do you remember?) I wrote telling you, among other things, that we believe in you. Today I confirm my full trust in you and I say even more. My dear Youth, do not renounce your dreams and your ideals, even if sometimes this might seem difficult. Keep on looking passionately for your happiness, but for the deep and authentic one, the one that will make you feel happy and fulfilled. A happiness that is far away from everything superficial and void; far away from all that is “disposable” and, I say it with great grief, far away from what could at times also lead “to use, dispose of and discard” people.
As I think of you, I like to recall what on one occasion then Pope Benedict XVI told and wrote to you: «Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth».
Someone will ask if this message is valid also for non-Christian youth. My answer is undoubtedly yes. The message is valid for all, my dear youth.
Listen, I wish to share with you an experience I had a few weeks ago. I was visiting the Salesian Province of Guwahati, in Assam, in Eastern India, and during the meeting in a Salesian presence with young university students of different religions (Catholic, Hindu, Muslim) I was deeply impressed at seeing that they themselves proposed to recite together the “Our Father”. I was moved. And I congratulated them on the significance of their proposal. Because these youth, capable to call God “Father”, the One God, will also be capable to build a world of Peace, of True Justice, of Universal Fraternity.
This is the same thing Pope Francis affirmed during his visit in Bangladesh: «I am very happy – he said – that, together with Catholics, there are many young friends who are Muslim or from other religions. By being here together today you show your determination to promote an atmosphere of harmony, where, despite religious differences, you stretch out your hand to the others».
It is because of this that I take the liberty of suggesting to you, even more than asking from you, Young People of the “Salesian World” and of any other reality, to open up your heart to God and to let Him surprise you. Let Him enter into your inmost life. He will never delude you.
Do make the experience of encountering Him, and as best you can pray, entering into dialogue with Him.
May the Rector Major request this from the youth of the world? Of course he may. And I do it in the name of Don Bosco who, in communion with God, loves you deeply. And I request this from you because I am deeply convinced of it. Lest it happens to us what recounts Edith Stein (a philosopher of the XX century, now a Saint), who, speaking of herself and her adolescence, affirmed that «she had lost in a conscious and deliberate way the habit of prayer». I invite you, my dear Young People, to cultivate and intensify that vibrant experience of prayer as a dialogue with God. And then, keep on being generous in your life, keep on offering your time and your qualities to other people, keep on looking for the way to grow in your interior life; let yourselves be helped and accompanied by those who, having lived it before you, can offer you the gift which is openness to listening, with a heart available and ready to accept what God, through the Spirit, whispers to you in the depth of your heart.
confidence in Mary, the Mother of the Lord, our Mother and Helper. Our Lady
will accompany you in every moment of your life: in the crossroads of the
journey and in moments of difficulty. Be brave! Do not lose hope, «because – as
Pope Francis said –life is worth living with our heads held high»
With all the affection of your ever truly father, brother and friend in Don Bosco,
Rome, 31st January2018,
Ángel Fernández Artime, sdb