By Bro. Damien Ho, SDB
Stumbling upon what seems to be myriads of people waiting in line to go through security and check-in before Holy Mass with the Rector Major and the general audience with Pope Francis, my gaze for the whole weekend both intentionally and unintentionally, fixated towards our coadjutor brothers who were there to witness the Canonization. The commotion and energy that fed from built-up excitement, young people singing and cheering, Salesian family members reconnecting with one another, or just meeting new people, nothing was quite as loud and bold as the example of the coadjutor brothers who were there to witness their fellow confrere be celebrated for a life of full of joy, gratitude, and simplicity. My encounter with Salesian coadjutor brothers from all over the world shaped a fulfilling experience upon my witness and reflection of the Canonization of Artemide Zatti.
It is hard to identify a Salesian event without joy and the Canonization of Bro. Zatti was flooded with it. Meeting our own Bro. Reegan among many other young Salesian coadjutor brothers from all over the world was a great witness of this. There was excitement and happiness. For many of us, it was our first canonization, for others, it was being in Rome for the first time. Whatever may be the case, Bro. Zatti gave us a reason to be together. It was like a family reunion, only that this was the first time most of us were meeting one another. Joy became the perfect backdrop to set the stage for an eventful weekend. Being joyful made the lines to the festivities seemingly shorter, the busy and overcrowded metro/bus rides more bearable, and the wait times for the events much more enjoyable. Youthful joy filled the streets of Rome, almost as if the wandering oratory found its way throughout the city.
Pope Francis called Bro. Zatti a living example of gratitude and simplicity. These are qualities that I have experienced in meeting many of the older brothers who were there that weekend. Bro. Tom Sweeney from SUE (eastern U.S. province) expressed that despite missing several days of teaching, the canonization meant a lot to him and his vocation and that he was grateful to be there. There was no need to be in front of any lines, require any special form of treatment, or make sure that the best photos were taken. Ironically, it was also that kind of attitude that gave many of them the best opportunities and experiences there. While the rest of us were ecstatic and attentive to all the festivities and their details, there was great peace and simplicity that is taught by observing our older brothers. Salesian coadjutor brothers who were ill and unable to walk expressed their gratitude by their presence. While there were so many things going on, it was our brothers that helped me to focus on what was most important, holiness, that as Salesians we are all called to this, and our Bro. Zatti is a testament that holiness is possible today. I was surrounded by confreres who exude this, and I was indeed grateful for their witness.
My time in Rome was meaningful because it was a great reminder of my own Salesian vocation, a call to holiness. The canonization of Bro. Artemide Zatti is a triumph for our Congregation because it reminds us that Don Bosco’s Charism is alive and well. It also serves to remind us that we have much to learn from our Salesian coadjutor brothers and that through their witness, we may encounter the holiness that awaits us in our own journey to be saints.