Japan – Venerable Fr Cimatti's meditations on Don Bosco and Francis de Sales

24 February 2022

(ANS - Tokyo) - On November 12, 1944, in the midst of the Second World War while bombings raged over Tokyo, Fr Vincenzo Cimatti presented a voluminous manuscript, entitled "Course of Meditations for the whole year", to the Rector and clerics of the Salesian studentate in Tokyo. He composed it between 1941, the year in which he resigned as Apostolic Prefect, and 1944, during the period of forced inactivity during the war. It is preserved in the "Cimatti Museum" of the Japanese capital, but for the most part, it has not yet been transcribed. A first part of these meditations, however, is now made available to ANS readers.

In the introduction, he wrote: "Naturally these meditations recall the spirit and practice of Salesian life. Since the religious virtues, which the Salesian must shine with in order to be what Don Bosco wants him to be, find their natural, wider and genuine practical commentary in the works of St. Francis de Sales, so from time to time the voice of our sweetest Father Don Bosco is alternated and united with that of our Patron Saint. The material of meditation is the direct word of St. Francis de Sales and Don Bosco, with brief passing connections (when necessary) of the compiler." 

"Compiler", not "author". And indeed, the writing that we present here, which is one of the first in the series, is largely made up of quotations from the writings of St. Francis de Sales and Don Bosco, but that does not make it any less valuable. If one did not love and know these writings well, one could certainly not prepare a work of this kind. It is a continuous comparison between St. Francis de Sales and Don Bosco to show that Don Bosco modeled himself on St. Francis de Sales and his spirituality is that of our Patron. It is also Fr Cimatti’s, who was an authentic Salesian.

He quotes a great deal from his "Letters". In 1927, to the then cleric Valentini Eugenio, his former student, he wrote: "Read the works of St. Francis de Sales, especially the Letters, leaving for last the Philothea and the Theotimo". And you can tell from the quotes that this was one of his favorite readings. However, the vast knowledge he has of all the writings of these two Saints is truly extraordinary.

It has not been possible to find the original of the text we present here. The copy available is a typewritten transcription by Fr Alfonso Crevacore, dated February 2, 1971. He writes: "We believed it worthy of the effort to bring here 29 meditations for the month of January, dedicated to Saint Francis de Sales and Don Bosco. We have tried to reproduce the manuscript faithfully. It has not been possible to check the quotations, which, we should point out, are not always introduced with quotation marks. However, they have great value from the documentary point of view: they report the thought of Msgr. Cimatti, what was the motive for his action. What the popular proverb says is really true: "The tongue beats where the tooth aches! Some pages can be said to be autobiographical. They can be applied to him by simply changing the name. It will not be necessary to recall Msgr. Cimatti's immense love for Don Bosco: perhaps it is not possible to venerate and love a simple creature more."

Fr Gaetano Compri, a Salesian over ninety years old, Vice-Postulator and tireless promoter of Fr Cimatti's Cause of Beatification, states bluntly: "To my knowledge, there are many historical studies on St. Francis de Sales and Don Bosco, but I cannot say if there is a study from a practical point of view like this one by Fr Cimatti. On every page, you can feel his heart, which wants to guide us to imitate these two Saints, who from the point of view of spirituality are truly two soul mates. This writing is proof of this."

The text of Fr Cimatti's 29 January meditations is available, in Italian, at the bottom of the page.



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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