For years, in fact, Fr Mendes has been studying and exploring this issue, in line with Salesian Pastoral Care in the world of youth and in response to the appeal of the Rector Major contained in priority no. 3 of the action plans of the Salesian General Chapter 28: "Living the Salesian sacrament of presence and living in the digital environment". The theme proposed here correlates Don Bosco's communication with current times, offering a reading of the concepts of fraternity and social friendship which are also present in Pope Francis’s Encyclical "Fratelli Tutti – Fraternity and Friendship". Fr Mendes thus offers interpretations of Don Bosco and his way of communicating into a current context to better understand digital reality.
How did the idea of writing articles about Don Bosco as a communicator of young people come about?
Don Bosco is one of the great communicators of the Church. Had he lived in the present day, he would “own” social media. But let us immediately specify that in the times in which Don Bosco lived, there was no digital reality at all and he could not know the dynamics of the Internet or social networks. It is therefore not proper to force certain links. What we want to do here is rather to recover the intuitions that Don Bosco had about communications of his time, such as communicative interactivity. Let me give you an example: Don Bosco knew how to combine games, theater and music, just like some popular platforms do today.
What other issues will be addressed?
12 different themes will be dealt-with, including: the study of communication and dialogue between culture and youth language; an in-depth study of how Don Bosco studied geography and how he applied the spatial dimension in communication; the language of dreams as a metaphor and narrative; autobiography as the art of writing about oneself; the dimension of the liturgy and prayer; communication and holiness.
What is the basis of these studies?
The basis are the studies in anthropology, digital ethnography, neuroscience, psychology of human relationships, multiple intelligence, artificial intelligence. Naturally, it is also based on the values of Don Bosco's educational system.
Where did Don Bosco learn this artistic dimension from?
Don Bosco learned it as a child. The artistic dimension is in him since childhood and in the Memoirs of the Oratory we see in fact a Don Bosco who narrates his experience in games, music, interactivity, etc.
At the heart of every form of communication is interpersonal relationships. What does Don Bosco teach us today in this sense?
Don Bosco sensed (intuitively) that the educational experience grows where there are human relationships and empathy. We can say that this is the heart of communication. Don Bosco creates a system, almost an eco-system, based on human, social and interpersonal relationships.
Today we talk about the internet as a habitat. How did Don Bosco manage to build an educational environment with out it?
Don Bosco knew how to appreciate the talents of each person; he understood what a person could do and what he could learn. Why he invested in apprenticeships, arts, schools and vocational training centers. He gave life to a formative journey made up of commitment, discipline and evaluation. This created an environment of trust, enthusiasm and educational love. Don Bosco offered each one his own space wherein to collaborate together with creativity and joy.
How does Don Bosco work on faith in God and in Our Lady in this environment?
Don Bosco lived an experience in which God is a Gift and in which faith offers an interpretation of life as gratuitousness. Faith is communicating, expressing the freedom and creativity that arise from the love of God and from the motherhood of Mary.