"In extreme cases, extreme means must be used"

10 August 2017

"Lift up your hearts! No more complaint and fear! It well may be some happier hour will find this memory fair.” These are the words with which Aeneas encourageed his companions in the adversity of fate and dangers. (Virgil, Aeneid, I, 203)

In his memoirs, Don Bosco recalls a famine that struck his region in his early years. There was no food to find, at any price, and as much as she tried, Mother Margherita could not find any food for her children.

She gazed into her children's eyes. They were always hungry. And fearful. She was never discouraged, not even for a moment.

She stood up and said, "In extreme cases, extreme means must be used." She took a big knife and went to the stable. With the help of Bernardo Cavallo, she killed the calf. And that evening, the Bosco family could fill themselves with meat.

Antonio, already quite big, worried, "How will we manage without a calf?"
“Something must be sacrificed for what is really important,” was her answer. “You are more important than the calf. We will roll up our sleeves and work harder. We will find help. Together we will manage."

John chewed his biteful of roast meat with gusto and listened attentively to his mother's words. He would not forget them.

As the poet Virgil suggests, it is an example to remember, especially in a crisis wherein we face sudden and violent changes that profoundly affect our lives.

Fear and wonder are our first reactions. However, even in these uncertain situations, great opportunities can arise, and once we overcome fear, it is possible that new habits and new patterns appear, many times more effective than the previous ones.

These are precisely the circumstances in which one must overcome fear and start walking, as did Mother Margherita at the time: when that time comes and the indications are clear, we must kill the "golden calf" we have built, even though it disturbs us to do so as it gives us security. And as Don Bosco did many times, in these cases we must put our faith in God and take the next step: one must let oneself go, commit and choose on the basis of priorities.

As Zygmunt Bauman said, "the world is a place where all dwellings are temporary and never eternal and stable, and where all directions shift."


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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