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Don Bosco Relics

Subcategories from this category: Don Bosco Pilgrimage

Posted by on in Don Bosco Relics

The closeness of Jesus is a kind of "resting within us" an awareness of an "at homeness" that is safe, non judgemental and wills our good  for ever. That homely presence is the heart of what is most human. At this level there is no contradiction between science and religion, between the sinner and the saint, all is one and all is gift. What matters is how we share and prioritise this universal presence connecting all of creation.

 
 
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Westminster day two January 12th

 
The team arrived from a 6.30 am start in Basildon and were ready to welcome pilgrims by 8am. The flow of people never relented as they walked the pilgrim journey to Don Bosco's relics. Cathedral staff estimated that about 4,000 people visited the relic during the day. Groups arrived from parishes from around the diocese and beyond; from Hertfordshire, Chertsey, Farnborough as well as many from central London. Manor House , Rotherhithe, Basildon, Tourists visited from places like Mumbai where they already had participated in the pilgrimage of the relics of Don Bosco and were delighted to re-engage in a more intimate encounter with Don Bosco.
 
Watching the pilgrims approach the relics in silence was a meditation in itself. Some came and stood quite close and looked. Some stood a few feet away looking, perhaps more objectively an perhaps hesitantly at the practice of veneration of relics. Those who stood close were looking at the lifelike effigy of a man who looked quite ordinary, small in stature, with the signs of a stroke on his face and the impact of a lifetime of hard work behind his closed eyes. But what was going on in the minds of the pilgrims as they looked at the casket? Here are some of their words:
 
I wanted to talk to Don Bosco about my children and ask his guidance.
 
I had no thoughts.... just a sense of peace and reassurance that God had not left me.
 
I found that I wanted to cry and I did. I don't know why but it was good and I walked away with my shoulders a little but lighter. I was surprised because, to be honest I am a bit of a sceptic really.
 
I felt that Don Bosco was not a relic but standing right next to me and smiling even as I was looking at his relic. It was weird but very calming. I was aware that I was stood in a powerful place, a focus of holiness that was linked to the relic but separate from it.
 
I felt that God had hugged me right there at the relic. Everything else seemed to fade and it was just me and a presence which I suppose is God.
 
One lady stood at the feet of Don Bosco and moved her lips in silent prayer for twenty minutes. Many others simply wanted to touch the relic and even caress the glass that contained it. Their faces shone in the reflected glow of lighting around the relic. One group stood in silence and held hands allowing Don Bosco to recognise and bless their bond of friendship. All of these pilgrims, caught in the light of a saint came away changed on their own pilgrim journey. Each one was challenged if not illuminated by that light for the road ahead.
 
At 2pm Bishop Alan Hopes led a thanksgiving mass with 32 concelebrants and spoke warmly at the beginning and the end of mass about the impact of Don Bosco and the animating influence of the pilgrim team which were accompanying the relics around the UK. Fr Martin Coyle preached on the need for Don Bosco's balanced approach to faith in which the sacred is recognised as much in the home, school and playground of each life as it is in the church. Fr Coyle challenged the congregation to demonstrate their faith through optimism and cheerfulness. Those thoughts were echoed in the offertory procession as 8 large banners were carried forward.
 
Towards the end of the mass the road crew,all volunteers from the Salesian network, gathered on the sanctuary to lead the congregation in the pilgrimage hymn ably led by the cathedral organist. After the blessing Bishop Hopes venerated the relic and incensed it on behalf of the congregation. Then, accompanied by the clergy and the uniformed road crew, the casket was taken into the piazza where a van waited to take the relics to a new location. As the relic moved into the specially adapted van the crew began to sing “da mihi animas !” and “viva Don Bosco!” as the van moved away. Bishop Hopes then moved among the team and thanked them for their work, enthusiasm and inspiration.
 
The team then spent the next hour dismantling the pilgrim experience before returning to theor hosts in Basildon parish for a shared meal.
 
 
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Posted by on in Don Bosco Relics

 Tonight we said mass for Thomas who is not well and living in the Czech Republic. His sister joined us and we celebrated the mass at the same time as the family was celebrating mass in the Czech Republic. What was happening in that double celebration and in what sense were we connecting with Thomas? As we gathered at the altar it seemed to me that there is a sense in which we step into a timeless space and also a 'placeless space.' This celebration, happening at the same time in two places, reminds us of the deep reality of the risen Jesus who is present in all places and in all times. Therefore by being "In Christ" at the mass we are deeply connected to both the past and the future as well as to every place.


By engaging with the risen Christ at mass we also touch the places where the cross and resurrection are moving as an invitation to life. That flow of Easter energy connects people to those who have yet to be born, to those in need at present and to those who have gone before to the fullness of resurrection. Therefore the mass takes us all into a different dimension where space and time collapse to a single point in Christ and where we are one with each other and with the Risen Christ. As the host is raised up, the bread broken and the wine is poured all of creation is drawn up into that drama of dying and rising. Standing around the altar as a community that night it was as if we had discovered roots that ran deep into a common reality in Christ. We belonged together around the altar but we also belonged with all people of all time and forever.

So in focussing on Thomas and a simultaneous mass in the Czech Republic we were only making specific something that happens mystically in every mass; we were connecting with all life and creation. It's just that this time it was with Thomas in mind.
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Posted by on in Don Bosco Relics

Jesus was tempted by celebrity, self interest and power for 40 days. In this culture these temptations are as lively as ever. We can all be seduced from being ourselves by these three influential forces. Often we are not even  aware that our motives have been hijacked. To be faithful to our vocation is then to have made many u turns. The path is not the hero path but a humble process of trial and error. The one who finds their way learns to trust the road rather than himself or herself. 

The temptation is to take short cuts, to avoid conflicts, questions and uncertainty. But it is precisely in these unknowns and in the diversions that our lives become shaped by events and God's touch is experienced on the faith journey.

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Posted by on in Don Bosco Relics

Today's Gospel deals with the practice of fasting recalling the comments of Jesus that fasting does not happen when the bridegroom is still around. That is an interesting connection: linking fasting with the absence of God. Perhaps that is a way to discern why and how we might fast in a secular and individualised culture.
If fasting has to be related to an absence of God the link with the Lenten period becomes stronger; fasting becomes more than just self-denial or self control, it becomes a specific way of growth on the faith journey of the individual and the world.

 

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When an awareness of the absence of God becomes a criteria for fasting it helps us as both individuals and communities to focus our fasting and link it to the paschal mystery in a more concrete way. For example a person may realise that their married relationship is a place where God has largely become absent. That then becomes the place where the "bridegroom is no longer with them" and therefore the place where fasting might be focused  In a community context a person may conclude that the office workspace where they spend much of their day is a Godless environment and that may become the focus for their fasting. A young person may look at their life and feel that God is absent because they never stop to think deeply and that absence of reflection is something that needs fasting from.
The definition of fasting that is implied by these reflections may well expand to include aspects of alms-giving and prayer, the other two disciplines of lent.  The fasting element is that of self denial "agere contra" going against one's self. So the married person may well decide that switching the television off and sitting with their partner for half an hour three nights a week might be a good way to fast from a self-centred lifestyle. This might include giving up soap operas or football matches which could be seen as a form of fasting. The person working in a Godless office space might well decide to pray quietly at their desk for five minutes at lunchtime as a way of resisting the relentless tide of gossip and back-biting sweeping through the workspace. In this situation prayer and self-control form a type of fasting that might help to change the world of the office for all concerned. The young person realising that they never stop to think might pick up the challenge of a silent face-book which +cafod is promoting at present.
If fasting was seen as focused around an absence of God in our world it has the ability to draw together the other two elements of Lenten discipline (prayer and alms-giving) into a single resolution that leads to life for the individual and the community in which people live. On a wider scale fasting has the same focus when family fast day comes around. Dorothy Day began a fast during Vatican II to raise awareness among bishops of the need for peace. Gandhi fasted in a similar way to bring God back into an increasingly Godless and unjust culture.
Choosing how to fast this lent can be the most significant choice for the whole year. It can bring God into the shadows of our lives as a messiah.  It can give us the courage to feel the emptiness and desert areas of our lives and realise that it is the only place where we can meet Christ because that is where he is waiting to heal us and our world.

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DON BOSCO TODAY

Summer 2017

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