RMG – Rediscovering the 1884 "Letter from Rome," or "the Gospel of Don Bosco"

13 May 2022

(ANS - Rome) - Among the recurrences that make May a "Salesian" month, in addition to the celebrations of many saintly figures and the Feast of Mary Help of Christians, there is also the date of May 10, the date on which Don Bosco, in 1884, produced his famous "Letter from Rome," almost a spiritual testament of the Saint of the Young. The reason Don Bosco wrote that famous letter was the danger of the loss of the Salesians' physical presence among the boys, the almost connatural ability to understand their culture, and the transparent, familiar, good love that reveals God and wins them to God. At a time when the whole Congregation is called to deepen the value of the "Salesian sacrament of presence" and accompaniment, it may be useful to go back and reread that Letter, making use of the enlightening contribution that Fr Pascual Chávez, Rector Major Emeritus, offered just over two years ago when he commented on it at the start of the Congregation's 28th General Chapter.

The Letter from Rome contains Don Bosco's well-known maxim: "That young people not only be loved, but that they themselves know they are loved."

"It is, of course, the most transparent meaning of the letter, an enunciation of the great principle that we could call the 'visibility of love'" suggests Fr Chávez. In the texts of the New Testament love is associated with light, as irradiation of the Light itself which is God.

And the love that the Salesians show for young people could be compared to a small Transfiguration.

It is therefore necessary to verify, learn and invent the languages of love, of which the Salesian must be a passionate “connoisseur” or “lover”, in the sense that Don Bosco gave to this word: "concern, commitment, passion."

"Today, this is," continues Fr Chávez, "the fundamental challenge of the educator: to make him understand that he really loves, that he loves forever, that he loves everything of that human who appears before him and who reveals himself and changes with the passage of time; demonstrate that he loves even in the face of refusal, forgetfulness, distortion or profiting use; and thus to convince to love, that is to give birth to the inner conviction that one is worthy of love, and, even more, that one is capable of love (and it is the perception of one's own inalienable value, is the foundation of one's dignity, is the root of all authentic hope); and to make you understand (but this is also grace) that there is a Source, which is for me and for you, always open and available, never exhausted in its inexhaustible wealth."

The pedagogical genius of Don Bosco is expressed in the other extraordinary phrase: "That being loved in those things they like by participating in their childhood inclinations, they learn to see love in those things that naturally they like little; such as discipline, study, self-mortification and these things they learn to do with love."

"There is therefore an element of rationality that must intervene, that is, a need for knowledge that must take and guide the Salesian educator: and it is knowing young people, understanding the situations, the questions, the needs to be able to cope with them."

Love becomes, in two directions: meeting, trust, industrious cordial collaboration and, above all, the joy and happiness of "feeling good together."

And for Don Bosco, happiness is a privileged way for evangelization ("seeing you happy in time and eternity") and a road that opens up to God.

The full text of Fr Chávez's reflection is available at SDB.org.


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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