Friday, August 12, 2011

Preparing for Don Bosco's Bicentennial

Preparing for
Don Bosco's Bicentennial

On Aug. 16, the birthday of St. John Bosco, the Salesian Family will launch a 3-year period of preparation for celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth. Fr. Pascual Chavez, the rector major, announced the plan last Jan. 31 in a letter to the Salesians.

Today ANS (the SDB international news service based at HQ in Rome) published a short interview with Fr. Francesco Motto, director of the Salesian Historical Institute at HQ, about what it means to get to know DB.

Just a few days before the beginning of three years of preparation for the bicentennial of Don Bosco’s birth in 2015, ANS asked Fr. Francesco Motto, director of the Salesian Historical Institute in Rome, to suggest how we can learn more about this saint from Turin.
For Fr. Motto there are three stages in getting to know Don Bosco better:
-- Read the themes of the historical Don Bosco, whether religious, moral, dogmatic, political, cultural, economic, etc., in the light of analogous problems and recent events, so that they can be useful to us today.
The Salesian historian starts from the simple question: “Which Don Bosco?” because “there are dozens of images of Don Bosco in books, reviews, journals, videos, film, and fiction.” He quotes the remark of Fr. Chavez’s in the strenna for 2012: “Our approach to Don Bosco, using appropriate methods of historical research, has led us better to understand and assess his human and Christian greatness, his practical brilliance, his skills as an educator, his spirituality, and his work, which are fully understood only if deeply rooted in the history of the society in which he lived.”

Understanding Don Bosco is a subject dear to the heart of the Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chavez. Taken up in the first theme of the Salesians’ 26th General Chapter in 2008–“Return to Don Bosco”–it was put forward again to Salesians in his letter of January 31, 2011, in which he outlined the journey of preparation for 2015: a knowledge of Don Bosco’s life story, his educational method, and his spirituality.

Fr. Motto’s suggestions – available in the Service section of ANS – are not limited to the mere knowledge of the historical data; as outlined by the Rector Major, they include consideration of the educational and spiritual context.

-- Go back to genuine and certain sources, “meaning authentic texts from Don Bosco, his writings, published by him or by his sons, on-line or on paper”;

-- Go further into the sources – even those which are most certain and valid–going beyond “a superficial and simplistic reading. It is necessary to understand the ideas and mental constructs of Don Bosco, his own values and those he adopted, his style of written and spoken language, his method of drafting and re-drafting.... A theological reading of the sources can be enhanced by a social, economic, or political reading. The supernatural must take account of natural factors. Don Bosco is not an ‘island’ in the sea of his times.”

Fr. Motto ended by explaining that “when he has understood, indicated, and explained the context, the events, the causes, and the consequences, the historian has completed his task. To his ‘historical’ interpretation there needs to be added the ‘existential.’”

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