By Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB
Kristu Jyoti Publications, the Salesian publisher in Bangalore, has just published a new book, The Salesian Legacy of Father Philip Rinaldi by Fr. Martin Dai Loc Nguyen, SDB, a member of the Vietnam Province. Publication coincides with the 25th anniversary of Fr. Rinaldi’s beatification by St. John Paul II.
The book originated as Fr. Nguyen’s dissertation at the UPS and was published in Italian by LAS in 2011. Its full, academic-sounding title is The Salesian Legacy of Father Philip Rinaldi: With Don Bosco and with the Times. An Analysis of his Circular Letters (1922-1931). Notwithstanding the long title, the book is short: 147 printed pages, including front matter (16 pp.), two appendices (11 pp.), photos (6 pp.), and bibliography (6 pp.). The 178 notes are conveniently placed at the foot of their pages. Unfortunately, it lacks an index.
Fr. John Puntino, SDB, a long-time devotee of Fr. Rinaldi, was the driving force behind the English version of The Salesian Legacy and wrote a two-page Presentation for it. The translation itself was carried out by the late Fr. Vincent Zuliani and the (still alive) Bro. John Rasor, with final editing and proofing by Fr. Puntino.
Fr. Nguyen organized the contents of Fr. Rinaldi’s circular letters in such a way as to bring out the major themes of the Salesian spirit. He writes in his Preface that the central point of Fr. Rinaldi’s life was “the faithful handing over of Don Bosco’s charism in spite of the fact that the dynamism of the times called for changes with the Salesian Society” (p. 7). A principal means for his doing so was his circular letters, the object of Fr. Nguyen’s study.
Fr. Puntino writes: “In this volume, Fr. Martino Dai Loc Nguyen masterfully organizes the content of Blessed Philip Rinaldi’s circular letters around key elements of the Salesian style and spirit: attachment to Don Bosco and his single-minded desire for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, active participation in Salesian family life and Church life, piety and good human and spiritual formation” (p. 9).
In addition to the primary source of Fr. Rinaldi’s letters, Fr. Nguyen used secondary sources: the Biographical Memoirs, the Annali, Don Bosco’s letters, and writings about Fr. Rinaldi,. Through all this material, he aimed to discover Fr. Rinaldi’s teachings on the Salesian spirit and then discern what the importance of that teaching was in Fr. Rinaldi’s time and its relevance for the present generation of the Salesian Family (p. 16).
Fr. Nguyen gives us a rich selection of texts as well as important insights that will prove useful for forming new generations of Salesian apostles.
The book’s three chapters cover Blessed Philip’s life and historical context; the nature and role of the circular letters; and the key features of the Salesian spirit as revealed in the letters. Those key features, according to Fr. Nguyen, are:
close reference to Don Bosco
seeking souls (vocations, missions, oratorian heart, church and Salesian events)
community life (coadjutor brothers, equality of the members, unity in the Salesian Family)
attachment to the Church and the Pope
encountering God and people (piety, cultural and spiritual formation)
All members of the Salesian Family would benefit from reading and absorbing The Salesian Legacy of Father Philip Rinaldi.