|RMG – The work of Fr Lenti in different languages|
(ANS – Madrid) – The Jesuit Comillas Pontifical University, in its review “Miscelánea Comillas” – its main publication for academic material from the Faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences – in a recent very positive book review spoke highly of the first volume of the Spanish edition of “Don Bosco, History and Charism” by Fr Arthur Lenti SDB.
The Spanish language version was edited by Fr Juan José Bartolomé and Fr Jesús Graciliano González and published by the “Central Catequística Salesiana” (CCS) in Madrid. In agreement with the author the two editors have brought together Fr Lenti’s monumental work in seven volumes – in 3 volumes while updating the notes and quotations and adding a Spanish bibliography.
William Rodriguez Campos, the author of the review of the first volume, recommends the work of Fr Lenti, a historian who is able to identify the main thread uniting human events, and record them objectively. Fr Lenti does this in masterly fashion presenting the life and work of Saint John Bosco (1815-1888). “The first two chapters dedicated to a study of the sources and the biographical tradition concerning Don Bosco are jewels of inestimable value for historians, social scientists and researchers” Rodriguez Campos declares.
Using a hermeneutic approach Fr Lenti indentifies, evaluates, compares and often corrects documents and interpretation regarding Don Bosco formerly considered indisputable. He forcefully and in a definitive manner combats myths and superficial views. In this regard he emphasises the work done on the text of the “Memoirs of the Oratory”, because it subjects to a critical examination anecdotes from the life of Don Bosco which had been transformed into “categories”: Don Bosco in opposition to the parish priests, a revolutionary persecuted by the civil authorities, abandoned and alone, not involved in politics. Fr Lenti shows that all these anecdotes are false.
In locating the saint in his religious context, Fr Lenti illustrates a fundamental aspect: the direct, conscious, desired influence of the Jesuits, Barnabites, Franciscans, Oblates, Oratorians... In studying the social activity of Don Bosco, his spirituality and Pastoral work, the fact cannot be ignored that Don Bosco synthesises these influences in a vital, spiritual and pedagogical way.
The atmosphere of the Convitto Ecclesiastico as experienced by Don Bosco was an experience of formative and theological equilibrium. It was an atmosphere contrary to Jansenism, Liberalism and Gallicanism. There was a strong Jesuit influence, among other things, through the “friends’ association.” The models of moral and pastoral theology proposed were, in addition very different from one another: Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Philip Neri and Saint Francis of Sales. And helping Don Bosco to move towards a spirituality founded on love and on pastoral charity there was Fr Joseph Cafasso. “In fact,”– Rodriguez Campos declares, “ Fr Luigi Guala and Fr Cafasso were the founders and the soul of the Convitto”.
The author of the review goes on to note that Chapter XIV makes the most impact and containing the most extensive documentation; demonstrates the “explosive discovery by Don Bosco of the poor and abandoned boys of Turin.” In a most disillusioned manner he describes the social, moral and religious situation of youth. The increase in the population and the urban expansion contributing to making worse the living conditions of the rural population with hunger, exploitation of the work force and unemployment, poverty illiteracy, and beggary. Whereas at the Oratory the boys found a house, a school, a playground. The novelty of Don Bosco’s Oratory: its fundamentally religious purpose.
Rodriguez Campos also points out that through the Regulations for the Oratory one can recognise another of Don Bosco’s gifts, that of the writer. And he concludes: “An extraordinary work. Full of topics and themes. An excellent and successful effort uniting harmoniously a realistic view of the life and work of Don Bosco and his genuine religious motivation.”