January 31, 2008
The Feast of St. John Bosco
Here is a brief homily presented today on the feast Saint John Bosco given at Boston College to a congregation of students, folks from the local community, and several Jesuits.
Saint John Bosco
2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29
“Who am I, Lord, and who are the members of my house?” This was a question that would not leave David. Who was he—the youngest of a many sons, the one deemed insignificant, and yet the one anointed by God to be the king of His people. David built a house for God where His people would come and worship Him. Why, because the people would know the truth of God and His word that is truth.
In a sense, John Bosco, the founder of the Salesian Order, followed in David’s footsteps. Like David, St. John Bosco’s youth spoke of insignificance and humility, and like David, he, too, was destined to do great things for God. John was a talented boy, and he did not let the extreme poverty of his family interfere with his destiny prepared by God. In his early priesthood, John Bosco came to understand that there were other poor boys who needed help to become good disciples of Christ. So he took to tutoring poor children. A few at first, but then the numbers grew and so did those who came to help John Bosco. Perhaps with the model of the “oratory” of St. Philip Neri in mind, St. John established one and then a few small “oratories” to instruct these impoverished children in the ways of God and the ways of the world. Lessons in the catechism, confessions, Mass, and cultivating skills needed for the trades were the enterprises in which St. John Bosco found himself. The number of children who were the beneficiaries of his education of the heart, mind, hands, and soul went from one to the hundreds in quick succession.
By the time St. John died in 1888, there were well over two hundred such “oratories” in all parts of the world that were sending forth young workers for the vineyards of the world and of the Lord. The rule he wrote for the schools that he and other Salesians established was this: “Frequent confession, frequent Communion, and daily Mass!”
Don Bosco and the Salesians took to heart and practiced Jesus’s exhortation in Mark’s Gospel: a lamp is not brought into a dark recess and covered but placed out in the open where it will do good!
But this work of bringing Christ’s light into the world is not only for the Salesians, it is for us all who follow Jesus the Christ in the discipleship we share through our baptism. For those of us who are Jesuits and those who labor with us, we were recently reminded of this joyful responsibility by Cardinal Rodé (in his homily at the opening Mass of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus) when he recalled that our work must be eminently apostolic with a universal human, ecclesial and evangelical fullness. It must always be carried out in the light of our Jesuit Charism—which is the light of Christ and his Church universal.
We are asked to place this light where it is needed most—and reflecting on the world of today, there are many places where this need is great! As Cardinal Rodé again reminded us, the Church is waiting for this light so that the sensus Ecclesiae may be restored and reanimated—and in this fashion, where more is needed, more will be given. Not by acts solely determined by ourselves but by the guidance of the love of Christ that we bear, with St. John Bosco, that is the true and only light capable of dispelling the darkness of our world.
St. John Bosco, pray for us!
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