Rome - Saint John Lateran
March 4, 2020
A very 'special' General Chapter 28 at Valdocco (February 16-March 14) is over. Among the clear and strong charismatic 'energizers' we treasure the message of Pope Francis to the Salesians of the General Chapter, sent from Saint John in Lateran. Although Pope Francis was not able to join us at Valdocco, this message remains and motivates the sons of Don Bosco all around the world. The key word is the 'Valdocco option' as the Gift of the Young people, as the Charism of presence, in the plurality of languages and as the ability to dream! Main points of Pope's message:
My affectionate greetings! I thank God for the opportunity of this moment of sharing along the journey you are now carrying on.
It is meaningful that, after several decades, God’s Providence has led you to celebrate the General Chapter in Valdocco - the place of memories - where the foundation dream became a reality and took its first steps. I am sure that the youthful noise of the Oratory will be ...the best music, the most effective one for the working of the Spirit who is going to rejuvenate the charismatic gift of your Founder... allow these voices and songs, in turn, to recall within you the faces of many other young people who, for various reasons, find themselves like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6:34).
Revive the gift you have received
Reflecting on the profile of the Salesian for today’s young people implies accepting that we are immersed in a moment of change, with all the uncertainty coming along with that... Neither pessimism nor optimism are gifts of the Spirit, because both come from a self referential vision, whereby we may tend to value ourselves only based on our own strengths, abilities or capabilities, preventing us from contemplating what the Lord is already doing and wants to accomplish among us (Christus Vivit, 35).
In times of change, it is good to stick to the words of Paul to Timothy: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of strength and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). These words invite us to cultivate a contemplative attitude, able to identify and discern the crucial points. This will help to move forward with the spirit ... of Don Bosco and, like him, to unleash a “valuable cultural revolution” (Laudato sii, 114)... The “Valdocco option” of your 28th General Chapter is a good opportunity to go back and engage yourselves with the sources and ask from the Lord: “Da mihi animas, cetera tolle”.
The “Valdocco option” and the gift of young people
The Salesian Oratory and everything that shot up from it, as the "Memoirs of the Oratory" narrates, was born as a response to the life of young people... I see it as an act of continual conversion and a response to the Lord who, “tired of knocking” on our doorstep, is now waiting for us to go and seek him and to meet him... Or he waits for us to let him out, when he knocks from within us. A conversion that involved (and complicated) his whole life and the lives of those around him. Don Bosco not only does not separate himself from the world, searching for holiness, but he let himself be involved and he chooses how and in which world to live in.
By choosing and accepting the world of children and young people abandoned, without work or formation, he made them experience in a very tangible way the fatherhood of God and provided them with tools to narrate their life and their story, through the light coming from unconditional love. They, in their turn, helped the Church to embrace once again her true mission: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps. 118:22).
... Salesianity is born precisely from this encounter, able to inspire visions and prophecies: to welcome, integrate and enhance the best qualities as a gift for others, especially for those marginalized and abandoned, from whom you do not expect anything....Each Charism needs to be renewed and evangelized, and in your case above all by the poorest young people. Those encountered by Don Bosco yesterday and by the Salesians today are not mere recipients or end receivers of a strategy planned in advance, but living protagonists of the oratory yet to be fulfilled. Through them and with them the Lord shows us his will and his dreams.We could call them co-founders of your houses, where the Salesian will be an expert in prompting and enhancing this type of dynamics, without setting himself as their master or even feeling that way...
The “Valdocco option” and the Charism of presence
It is important to believe that we are not trained for the mission, but that we are trained in the mission, around which our whole life rotates, with its choices and priorities. Initial and ongoing formation cannot be considered as something prior, parallel or separate from the identity and the disciple’s sensitiveness and perception. The inter gentes mission is our best school: it is starting exactly from it that we pray, reflect, study, rest. When we isolate ourselves or we turn away from the people we are called to serve, our identity as consecrated becomes disfigured and turns just into a caricature.
...There is therefore an urgent need to find a way of formation whereby the fact that evangelization implies the full participation of every baptized, with all the ‘citizenship rights’, is fully embraced... I encourage you to continue to try your best in making your houses an “ecclesial workshop”, capable of recognizing, appreciating, stimulating and encouraging the various calls and missions within the Church.
In this sense, I am thinking concretely of two presences within your Salesian community, which can help as elements from which to recognize the place taken by the diverse vocations among you; two presences that constitute an “antidote” against any clerical and rigorist tendency: the Salesian (coadjutor) Brother and Women (cf Valdocco without Mamma Margaret)...
The “Valdocco option” in the plurality of languages
...The universal presence of your Salesian family is a stimulus and an invitation to safeguard and preserve the wealth of many of the cultures in which you are immersed without trying to “standardize” them. On the other hand, strive and do your best to enable Christianity to take on the language and culture of the local people.
...Firm in this conviction, the Salesian is called to speak in the mother tongue of each of the cultures in which he finds himself. The unity and communion of your family is able to take on and welcome all these diversities, which can enrich the whole body in a synergy of communication and interaction where everyone can contribute the best of himself for the good of the whole body.
At the same time, the irruption of virtual reality as predominant language in many countries where you carry out your mission requires, first, to recognize all the possibilities and the good things it produces, without underestimating or ignoring the impact it has on creating bonds, especially on the emotional level.
The “Valdocco option” and the ability to dream
...With the dream Lord made his way in Don Bosco's life and in the life of your whole Congregation, by enlarging the capacity to imagine all what is possible. The dreams... helped him, as it happened as well to St. Joseph, to sense and follow another tone of life, another measure, born out of the depths of God’s compassion. To truly and concretely live out the Gospel became possible ... He dreamed it and shaped it in the form of the Oratory.
I wish to offer you these words as the “good nights” in every good Salesian house at the end of the day, inviting you to dream and to have indeed great dreams. Be assured that the rest will be given you in addition. Dream open houses, fruitful and evangelizing; homes that allow the Lord to manifest to many young people his unconditional love and allow you in return to enjoy the beauty to which you have been called. Do dream ... And not just for yourselves and for the good of the Congregation, but for all young people without strength, deprived of the light and comfort of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith that sustains them, devoid of a horizon of meaning and life (Ap. Exhort. Evangelii gaudium, 49). Do dream ... and make others dream as well!