Monday, November 30, 2009

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent
Nov. 29, 2009
Jer 33: 14-16
Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah” (Jer 33: 14).

We begin a new church year, a new year of grace, on this 1st Sunday of Advent, returning to the front of our missals, turning in our lectionaries to a new cycle of Scripture readings, the so-called C cycle, which features the Gospel of St. Luke.

We just heard from Luke, his account of the words of Jesus foretelling the end of the world: “nations in dismay,” nature in turmoil, people dying of fright (21:25-26). It’s not a pretty picture. And then the Son of Man—Jesus—will come on the clouds of heaven (21:27), his 2d coming, which we profess every Sunday in our Creed: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”

The last couple of Sundays the readings turned our attention to that 2d coming, and our attention remains there as we begin Advent, this season of expectation of the Lord’s coming. Next week our attention will start to shift to the coming of the Messiah in history, the coming that has already taken place to start our redemption. But for now our attention remains on his future coming at history’s end.

Luke’s description of that coming, as I noted, strikes a note of fear. “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” the Letter to the Hebrews cautions us (10:31). Yet Jesus, speaking thru Luke, also says to us, “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (21:28). If we believe that Jesus is our Savior, should we not be happy to see his coming? Should we not stand erect, jump to our feet like sports fans as an exciting play unfolds? Should we not raise our heads and look our Redeemer in the face and exclaim, as the Book of Revelation does, “Come, Lord Jesus!”? In the opening prayer moments ago we asked that Christ might “find an eager welcome at his coming.” Don’t we want to be among the welcome party? When he comes in his glory, we don’t want to be like cockroaches running to hide under the cabinets, do we?

Advent reminds us that the Lord has promised us redemption, salvation. So our 1st reading begins with the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” The Lord’s promised to save us, and he’s going to do what he’s promised.

Jeremiah, the prophet of doom to an unrepentant kingdom of Judah, also promises that after the Lord has punished Judah for her sins, he will deliver her. “In those days I will raise up for David a just shoot [these words resemble Isaiah’s prophecy (11:1) of a sprout from the stump of Jesse, from the family tree of King David]; he shall do what is right and just in the land” (33:15). David’s descendants have made royal mess out of their kingdom thru their idolatry, their injustice, their infidelity; that’s why Jeremiah rails so angrily against the leaders of his time. But God will redeem their kingdom thru one of David’s descendants.

Jeremiah couldn’t have imagined how the Lord would do that, thru Jesus of Nazareth, a son of David, the Son of David, who truly did “what is right and just in the land” and fulfilled the promise that the Lord would be our justice (Jer 33:16), that is, the Lord would make us all just by destroying our sins.

One of the big, big issues of the Protestant Reformation was the question of justice. How does God justify us, make us holy in his sight in spite of our sins? I read somewhere, a long time ago, that Martin Luther used an image something like this: Imagine a big pile of manure (Luther liked to use stronger words than that) in a barn yard or a field. It snows, and the pile of manure is covered over and looks gloriously clean and fresh. But underneath, it’s still a pile of manure. When the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ comes to us, it covers over our sins, our guilt, and makes us look clean and fresh before God, who accepts us again as his children. But under Christ’s grace, we’re still dirty sinners, only “pretend” saints, which however is good enuf for us to be saved.

Catholic theology, tho, says that the grace of Jesus Christ transforms us entirely. Our sins aren’t covered over but wiped out, destroyed, zapped! The pile of manure becomes a pile of gold, something pure and lovely in itself, just as if King Midas had touched it. There’s no make-believe necessary. By God’s grace, we’re no longer sinners but saints.

Transformed by Christ’s grace, by the forgiveness that he offers us, we really do become saints, “God’s holy ones,” as St. Paul calls Christians over and over again—for instance in today’s 2d reading, where he prays that “the Lord make you…blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones” (1 Thess 3:12-13).

Until the moment of death, of course, we remain all too susceptible to sin. We need God’s healing grace, God’s transforming forgiveness, over and over. So Paul does urge us, “Conduct yourselves to please God” and follow the instructions he gives us in Jesus’ name (4:1-2). Jesus warns us against carelessness: “Beware that your hearts don’t become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of life…. Be vigilant at all times…that you may have the strength…to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34,36). Be on your toes to live out your belief in our Lord Jesus day by day, so that when he comes for you you’ll be ready and waiting and glad to see him. If you haven’t done your best at that up till now, now is a new day, and Christ comes to you today with his forgiveness, his grace, so you can start afresh on his path.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Remembering the War Dead

Hautrage Military Cemetery, Belgium

Just outside the village of Hautrage, Belgium, on the road to St.-Ghislain, there's a small military cemetery. On Nov. 5, a few days before what's called Remembrance Day in those parts, i.e., Nov. 11, I stopped in there.

Here in the States we remember our war dead on Memorial Day and honor all our military and naval veterans on Nov. 11, once called Armistice Day. Nov. 11 is of course the anniversary of the day the armistice ending World War I took effect: at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

At the gate (above) it is marked simply in 2 languages "Hautrage Military Cemetery 1914-1918." This being Belgium, you might expect those 2 languages to be French and Flemish. Hautrage, by the way, is in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium--just a few miles from the French border, in fact. But the 2 languages are German (left post) and English (right). And all of the war dead within are German and British.

In what was called at the time "the Great War," death didn't care what uniform a man wore. I didn't count the graves, but it seemed to me that the numbers were about equal. The small, dark crosses are all German graves, and the large white stones are all British.

At what appears to be an official Web site for the cemetery (http://www.ww1cemeteries.com/ww1cemeteries/hautragemilitarycemetery.htm), which I discovered thru Google in mid-December, I found this information:

For almost the whole of the war Hautrage was in German hands and this cemetery was started by them in August 1914, it was later used in 1918 when they concentrated the graves of many British soldiers killed in 1914 and buried on the surrounding battlefields or in local cemeteries here. After the armistice, graves were brought here from other cemeteries in the area.

That Web site also gives these stats: there are 773 graves, of which 538 are German, the rest U.K. So much for my impression of "about equal" numbers!

Inside there's a memorial from the Belgian people (above), reading in 3 languages (English and German on the front, French on the back): "The land on which this cemetery stands is the free gift of the Belgian people for the perpetual resting place of those of the Allied armies who fell in the war of 1914-1918 and are honoured here."

In case you don't remember your history, Belgium attempted to remain neutral while most of Europe was rushing fearfully, unwillingly, and witlessly into war in August 1914 (read Barbara Tuchman's classic, The Guns of August). But that didn't work because the Germans invaded anyway in order to attack the undefended border with France since their own border with France was heavily defended. The Belgians paid an awful price--every city, town, and village has its own war monument with a long list of the dead--and appreciated their defense and eventual liberation by the Allied armies, as they would in a later and much worse war.

As you can tell, the cemetery is well tended. I think that's always the case, and not just in the week before Remembrance Day. But there were fresh flowers at several grave sites of both nationalities (above, below), and in at least one case, a photo.

All of the British gravestones with names on them indicate the regiment to which the fallen soldier or officer belonged, and most also have a short phrase, probably selected by the family, such as "His glory is eternal," "There is no death; what seems so is transition," and from Job, "There the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest."

If you're able to enlarge this picture of German grave markers, you'll see that they're anonymous: "Ein Deutscher Soldat." It seemed to me--again, without my having counted anything--that perhaps as many as half of the German were similarly marked, and a third of the British graves, "A Soldier of the Great War...Known unto God."

Not that that anonymity was anything new. You can visit any of our Civil War cemeteries and see the same, or the War of 1812 cemetery at Sackett's Harbor, N.Y. I guess we became more sensitive to the question during WWI, which is when the idea of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier arose. Happily, the problem has been resolved in so-called modern warfare (would that we could resolve THAT problem) by DNA testing, and there haven't been any unknown American casualties in the Gulf Wars or Afghanistan.

All of these German and British dead fell in two battles, one in late August 1914 as the Germans were driving thru Belgium toward France, and one in early November 1918 as they were being driven back to the Fatherland. Some of the men actually died after Armistice Day, presumably from wounds suffered earlier or from illness.

It is of course striking to see these enemy soldiers lying in peace together, and both British and German memorial books kept at the cemetery gate. Needless to say, I uttered prayers throughout my visit that they might be enjoying eternal peace.

Requiescant in pace!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King
Nov. 22, 2009
Collect
Dan 7: 13-14
Catholic Scout Retreat, JFK HS Somers

I was asked to be available in case the chaplain of the Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting, Msgr. Anthony Marchitelli, was unable to make it to the retreat. So I prepared the following homily but didn't have to use it because Msgr. Marchitelli did make it. Monsignor gave a fine homily based not only on his faith in Jesus Christ but also on his expertise in the world of Harry Potter.

“Almighty and merciful God, you break the power of evil and make all things new in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe” (Collect).

Liturgically speaking, it’s already Sunday, Nov. 22. Our Christian calendar has its roots in the Jewish calendar, where the day begins with sundown, as you know, and not at midnite like our Western calendar. That’s just one of many traces of Judaism within our faith, which grew out of Judaism. We sing alleluia and hosannah, Hebrew words, in our liturgy. We call Abraham our father in faith. What we call the Old Testament, the Jews call the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Eucharistic celebration grew out of the Passover seder. And of course, as the bumper sticker says, our boss is a Jewish carpenter.

Ask people of my generation—Mr. Collins or Mr. Gervat, for example—what Nov. 22 means, and they’ll tell you it’s the day Pres. John F. Kennedy, for whom this school is named, was shot 46 years ago. (Heavens, it’s hard to believe it was that long ago!) And they’ll tell you what class they were in when the principal announced the news, the reactions teachers and students had, how everyone was glued to their TVs for the next 4 days, how people cried—and maybe what they had for lunch that day.

Ask an older generation—like Mr. Kelly’s—what happened on Dec. 7, 1941, and you’ll hear how their Sunday rest was disrupted by the news interrupting whatever they were listening to on the radio, news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor—a place few Americans had even heard of—news that the U.S. was now part of what turned out to be the worst war in history.

Many of you guys are old enuf to remember 9/11. If you don’t remember it vividly because you were too young 8 years ago, you’ve certainly heard about it from your parents, teachers, Scoutmasters, the news.

These kinds of days that stick in our national and individual memories—Dec. 7, Nov. 22, 9/11—are exactly what Pres. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941—“date[s] that will live in infamy.” Infamy, as you know, is fame for all the wrong reasons. The dictionary defines it as “evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal.” Hitler and Stalin aren’t famous; they’re infamous. Likewise Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray and Osama bin Laden. Days like Dec. 7, Nov. 22, and 9/11 are symbols of evil because horrible events took place on them, events that were planned and executed by deliberate, evil human choices.

Not every evil choice has such world-shattering impact, of course. We’re all aware of awful things people do on a somewhat smaller scale: drug dealing, child abuse, piracy, human trafficking, abortion, genocide, broken families, irresponsible sex, racism, sexism, environmental pollution—we could go on and on, couldn’t we?

We’re also aware of evils we’ve done ourselves. How many people, including ourselves and our families, have we hurt by deliberate, evil choices we’ve made? by using abusive words or actions, by lying, by stealing, by cheating, by laziness, by breaking a promise, by disobedience, by disrespect, and so on?

Yes, without doubt, there’s a powerful lot of evil in the world around us and within our own hearts. I’m reminded of a cute—and clean—limerick:

God’s plan made a hopeful beginning.
But man spoiled his
chances by sinning.
We trust that the story
Will end in God’s glory.
But at the present the other side’s winning.

Yes, to a very great extent, the world appears to be in the hands of the wicked, or we might say, in the power of the Evil One. Who’s the Evil One? Obviously, I don’t mean Voldemort or Darth Vader!

Do you remember the 3 temptations of Christ? One of them is Satan's offer to him of “all the kingdoms of the world” with all their power and glory, claiming that these were his to give to whomever he wished. All Jesus had to do to possess them was to worship Satan (Luke 4:5-7). Satan has staked a claim on the world, and all the evils we see, all the evils we experience—some of which we’re guilty of ourselves—give some validity to Satan’s claim.

But today we’re celebrating the claim of Someone else. In our opening prayer we praised God for “breaking the power of evil and making all things new in Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” The 1st reading promises the coming of “a Son of Man on the clouds of heaven” who will receive “dominion, glory, and kingship” and the service of all mankind, receive them not from Satan but from Almighty God (Dan 7:13-14). The 2d reading tells us that Jesus Christ is “the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth” who “is coming amid the clouds” (Rev 1:5,7).

When Jesus Christ rose from the grave on Easter Sunday, the 1st human being ever to conquer death, he became “the firstborn of the dead,” and he broke the power of evil. Death is evil, the consequence of our sins. If death can be broken, evil can be broken. Now all things are made new; the world is recreated by God, destined to be brought back to life on the Last Day when Jesus returns in his glory. Altho we’re sinners, our sins don’t have to be our masters, death doesn’t have to be our master, Satan doesn’t have to own us any longer because Jesus Christ “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” and called us into God’s kingdom (Rev 1:5-6).

Those who’ve found new life in Jesus are already making the world new and breaking the power of evil. Those who’ve given their lives to Jesus—allowing him to be their king, the ruler of their lives—are making the world better by practicing justice, peace, kindness, purity; by healing, teaching, spreading joy, serving others instead of stealing, lying, making war, taking advantage of the weak. Do you want to see what the world can be when Christ rules? Look at the saints, at the world they created around them: St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine, St. Thomas More, Don Bosco, St. Dominic Savio, Mother Cabrini, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day.

If we’d imitate the saints, God would be breaking the power of evil thru us, making all things new thru us, by the power of Christ at work in us. Jesus answered Pontius Pilate concerning his kingdom, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). If we listen to Christ’s voice, if we act on his teaching, we’ll be acting on the truth: the truth that God created us and the whole world, and we all belong to him; the truth that God created us in love and has destined us for happiness; the truth that every human being is a child of God with immortal value and dignity; the truth that the power of Christ for goodness can work in us to make a better world.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Homily for the 33d Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 15, 2009
Daniel 12: 1-3
Mark 13: 24-32
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.

“It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress…. Your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book” (Dan 12: 1).

I’m always amused a little bit by the link between the appearance of Michael, the great prince—St. Michael the Archangel, my patron—and “a time unsurpassed in distress.” But Michael appears as a guardian of God’s people, not the cause of the unsurpassed distress but the one who will help God’s people escape the distress and horror of “that time.”

“That time” is vaguely defined, but it’s a cataclysmic period—rather like those disaster movies that come out every so often (one called 2012 is about to hit the theaters). We Scripture readers often associate it with the end of the world, the end of history, the 2d coming of the Messiah and the Last Judgment.

Jesus, too, seems to speak in those terms in today’s gospel. It’s no accident that we read such passages at this time of year. As the days shorten in the Northern Hemisphere, as darkness and gloomy days fall upon us, as temperatures drop, as leaves fall and flowers fade, as various animals go into hibernation—as nature seems to die—the Church has us reflecting for several weeks on the End, the Last Things: death, judgment, heaven, hell. Next week will be the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, the last Sunday in the liturgical calendar, and the feast of Christ the King, “the Son of Man who will come with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26) on the Last Day to establish his everlasting reign over his elect and to pass judgment on the wicked, who “shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace” (Dan 12:2). On the following Sunday we shall pass into the Advent season, again reminding ourselves that he who came once in history to save us will come again at history’s end to judge the living and dead.

In many biblical passages, like those we read today, the End is described as terrifying, as horrible. Signs and portents are given that might be read as indications that the end is at hand. In fact, Christians have read those signs and portents for almost 2,000 years and often have interpreted them to mean the 2d Coming of our Savior is at hand. What generation of humanity hasn’t experienced natural disasters, famine, plague, and war? A few days ago I was reading about Pope Gregory the Great, who died in 604, and was convinced during his pontificate, a time unsurpassed in terrors (famine, plague, foreign invasions, political and ecclesiastical corruption) that the End was at hand. And aren’t these sorts of horrors magnified by our modern technology —nuclear weapons surely are more terrifying than the crossbow—and by our mass media, which let us all know almost instantly of every tsunami, Ebola outbreak, terrorist bombing?

Those sorts of terrors—the unfortunately “normal” events of human history, many of them the results of human sinfulness, of deliberate human choices—are however only prelude to the terrors of divine judgment, to the Day when Jesus Christ will “trample out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,” as one of our favorite national hymns puts it. That men and women will be judged, will be held accountable by our Creator on that Last Day, is what the Scriptures are teaching us—not the signs and omens, as such.



How can we avoid the terror of that Day? How can we assure ourselves that our names will be “found written in the book” of God’s people, what the Book of Revelation (passim) calls “the book of life,” so that we “shall escape” the disaster, the distress, the disgrace, and we “shall awake from the dust of the earth to live forever” (Dan 12:2)? The readings, you note, are not about only “unsurpassed distress” and “everlasting horror”—eternal damnation—but also about deliverance and salvation: “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament” (12:3). (You have to understand that “wisdom” in the Bible isn’t an intellectual quality; it means obedience to the Law of God.) How can we be sure that we’ll be among those whom St. Michael comes to guard (12:1), that we’ll find ourselves among the elect whom the angels of God “will gather from the four winds,” from every part of the earth (Mark 13:37)?


The Responsorial Psalm provides us with an answer: “I set the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed” (16:5,8). We turn to Jesus Christ our Savior, to the example of his life and to his teaching, and we set this ever before our eyes, before our minds, before our hearts as the model and the basis for our own lives: for our desires, for our decisions, for our words, for our actions. We journey thru life arm in arm with the Lord—“with him at my right hand.” WWJD: what would Jesus do? Insofar as we can know that, we do it: we forgive, we attend to the needs of our neighbors, especially the sick and the poor, we speak the truth, we respect the good name of people we know, we honor marriage between one man and one woman, etc. What we can’t know —how would Jesus vote today in a particular election, exactly what kind of immigration laws would he write, what kind of curriculum would be plan for our schools—those sorts of things we try to figure out and act on as best we can in the light of more general principles in the life and teachings of Jesus. But in all things, Jesus is the standard of our life; we set him ever before us.

And if we’ve set Jesus ever before us, if we’ve always done our best to have him at our right hand, then when he returns in his heavenly glory, when he comes again to judge the living and the dead, we shall not be disturbed. We’ll be part of the welcoming party! You know, the earliest Christians didn’t live in fear of the Lord’s return; they prayed for it: “Come, Lord Jesus!” You read that in the Book of Revelation. If we’ve lived for him, then we shall live with him. No fear, no terror, no everlasting disgrace.

Ah, but we don’t always set Jesus before us. We’ve all sinned, and each of us in his or her own heart knows the awful details. What then? Listen 1st to the verse preceding today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews: “We have been consecrated thru the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:10). And then listen to what follows, from the reading we heard a short while ago: “This priest [Jesus] offered one sacrifice for sins…. By one offering [of himself on the altar of the cross] he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated” (10:12,14). He has consecrated us thru his self-offering, a consecration that touches us in the sacraments, and so he takes away our sins, makes us perfect forever—provided only that we turn to him in repentance and commit ourselves to him. Perfection is a lifetime journey: we “are being consecrated” day by day as Christ works in us, as much as we let him do that, as much as we set him ever before us. Have confidence in him, in his mercy, in his forgiveness, and recommit your life to him, to his teachings, to his way of life. Have confidence that he’ll finish the job he started on the cross, which is our salvation.
Bulging in Belgium

Following the (almost) week in Turin, I spent a week in Belgium with my sister Rita and her husband David. I haven't had a chance yet to process the photos that I took in Bruges, Ghent, Tournai, Mons, or their little village.

David and I also visited some of the places where the Battle of the Bulge was fought in Dec. 1944-Jan. 1945. We were accompanied by his unit commander, who is familiar with the area and the topic, which added immensely to our visit.

Since David has already blogged very competently about the day, I'll refer you to him:
http://thedrbbasite.blogspot.com/2009/11/bastogne.html
Celebrating Blessed Michael Rua (1837-1910)

It's 3 weeks since I've posted, and that's because I was in Europe for 2 of those weeks with limited computer capability.

The main reason for this trip was the Fifth International Convention of ACSSA, the association for Salesian historians. It took place at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, the Salesian motherhouse in Valdocco (Turin), from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1.

That venue was chosen because the meeting was all about Blessed Michael Rua, Don Bosco's first successor, whose centennial will occur next April 6--the centennial of his "heavenly birthday," i.e., the day he entered eternal life.

Rua was a native of Turin and began coming to the Oratory around 1846, about the time it settled at its permanent home. From the beginning Don Bosco marked him as special, and eventually he became his hand-picked vicar. The meeting brought together more than 90 Salesians, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMAs), other religious, and lay people who are interested in Salesian history either professionally or as a hobby. (Most of us are pictured above, in the courtyard of the Oratory below Don Bosco's rooms. I'm seated in the front row, 7th from the right.) We came from every continent--Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America. By far most of the folks were from Europe and Latin America, where the Salesian presence is strongest; and of course the meeting was in Europe.

One of the best parts of these kinds of meetings is just being with other Salesians from all over the world--and in this case, one's fellow historians, many of whom I've met at previous such gatherings. One of the special features of this particular meeting was the presence of so many FMAs(Salesian Sisters).

41 papers were presented on almost as many topics about Fr. Rua. I was asked to give one on his dealings with the Eastern U.S., and so I did. It was the only one given in English and, as far as I know, the only one not given in Italian. (We had two afternoons with split sessions, so it's possible some papers that I missed were given in Spanish.)

The topics included Fr. Rua's relationship with the FMAs and with various parts of the SDB world; sacred music; hearing confessions; the theater as an educational tool; the 1st and the most recent biographies of him; the beatification process; and more. Strong themes that emerged from the papers and discussions included the differences between Don Bosco and Fr. Rua, despite the latter's nickname as "another Don Bosco," and the fact that Fr. Rua's personality was not nearly as stark or stern as it has sometimes seemed to Salesians: too much emphasis on him as "the living Rule," and not enuf on his fatherliness, patience, flexibility, practical side, and so on.

Celebrating his centennial, an exhibition on Blessed Rua opened in some side rooms of the basilica of Mary Help of Christians. Fr. Adriano Bregolin, the SDB vicar general, inaugurated the exhibit on the 28th.
Since Blessed Michael's liturgical memorial falls on Oct. 29, we were able to celebrate that--along with very many Salesians from the 2 local communities of Valdocco and perhaps elsewhere. Fr. Bregolin, who is Fr. Rua's successor as the vicar of the rector major, presided at the Mass and preached. After Mass, we all descended to the crypt of the basilica to pray at Blessed Rua's tomb.

A variation from the days of presenting and listening to research came on Oct. 30, when most of us got into 2 large buses and went to the hamlet of Sant'Anna di Caselle, not far from Turin, where Fr. Rua was ordained in 1860.

We received a royal welcome from the locals, including the mayor and the pastor (our arrival at the village entrance, above), celebrated Mass (literally filling the tiny church),
and then had a huge feast in town (Caselle proper) at the oratory that these devoted lay Salesians run.

The hospitality of the Salesians of Turin was wonderful.

On the final day of the convention, we elected a new board of directors ("presidency") for the association. Outgoing president Fr. Norbert Wolff of Germany is pictured above, presiding at that general assembly. The new president is Sr. Grazia Loparco, FMA, of Rome.

Painting of Blessed Michael's "first Mass," in the church of St. Francis de Sales at the Oratory, assisted by Don Bosco.


Since I arrived in Turin about 26 hours before the start of the convention and, due to airline schedules, was compelled to depart about 16 hours after it ended, and since we had one free afternoon (the 30th), I was able not only to visit the Salesian sites of the Oratory (the basilica, the church of St. Francis de Sales, the Pinardi chapel, Don Bosco's rooms) but also to visit some sites in the city. I opted particularly for Turin's cathedral, linked to Don Bosco's archbishops, the Holy Shroud, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. At left (I hope!) is the memorial in the cathedral to Abp. Louis Fransoni, who ordained Don Bosco and was a great supporter of his work in its difficult beginnings.

I also opted to visit the Consolata, the church of Our Lady of Consolation, patroness of Turin, where Don Bosco often went to pray and where his mentor, St. Joseph Cafasso preached and heard confessions (including Don Bosco's every week) for some 20 years, and where Cafasso is entombed.