From ANS – Published May 12th, 2020
In general, we hear that young people are: passionate, fearless, idealistic, reckless. Young people are indeed like this, sometimes it could be an advantage or a danger. But, on a cold December 1859, in the silence of the outskirts of Turin, in a modest room, 19 young people listened attentively to the words of a dreamer priest and made a covenant: they promised to give themselves entirely to God and to help young people throughout their lives. And to be like Don Bosco, that priest who above all loved them.
This adventure that had just begun, in the eyes of an economist, was a company destined to fail: they had neither resources nor money, they were full of debts and without any pedagogical preparation, only two were over twenty years old. Poor teenagers and “lost” by our standards.
Don Bosco had promised them a teacher. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “She will always be with you,” and they believed him and set off on their journey. That night everything happened in a dizzying manner: on a simple sheet of paper they wrote their names, and prayed. None of them knew exactly where this commitment would take them in the future, they just wanted to help. Some of them would have gone to the ends of the world for that decision, others in the poorer suburbs of Italy, France, Spain, among the most neglected young people in society.
160 years later, they form a religious family of almost 400,000 people who inherited Don Bosco’s dream. The impulse of that night has become a splendid reality.
That night one thing was evident, above all: many young people need our help to grow, to form themselves and to build a future and where there is a needy young man, there must be the children of Don Bosco: amid the slums of Latin America, in the Amazonian forests, in the refugee camps of Africa, in the streets of our peripheries of our cities among gangs and young drug addicts. The Salesians are helping the victims of the guerrillas, the displaced people, healing their wounds and rebuilding lives that seemed impossible.
We Salesians are children of dreamers and jugglers, doctors and pastors, friends, parents, brothers and sisters. We are children of a utopia, missionaries to distant lands and reckless navigators of the digital oceans. We are not afraid to challenge the unknown, learn new languages and acknowledge ourselves as brothers of many races.
One taxi driver, bringing Salesians of four different races from the airport, asked: “What is it that unites you with you who come from such far away places?” The answer came spontaneously: “God.”
The great epics begin in silence, the result of convictions that mature in intimacy, it is known only when they begin but not where and when they end.
In this forced quarantine maybe something new is being born and we should only be open and available to leave, set off. Maybe on an impulse.