When Jesus looked ahead to the growth of the Christian Community He used the image of the mustard seed that eventually grows into ‘the biggest shrub of all’. (Matthew 13.31) The contrast between the tiny seed and the full grown shrub is striking! Just as Jesus wanted it to be!
The contrast between the small house where the young John Bosco spent his earliest years and the huge Temple of Don Bosco that now dominates Colle Don Bosco – the hill beside Don Bosco’s home village – is just as striking, and for me symbolises the huge growth that has taken place in the Salesian Family over the past 150 years.
Earlier this year at the beginning of May, Fr Andrew Waller and myself led a group of teachers and governors from our different schools on a short pilgrimage to the Salesian ‘Holy Places’ in and around Turin. Our base for the weekend stay was the SDB Community at Valdocco, the centre of Don Bosco’s work in Turin. Today it includes an Oratory and Secondary school, the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians and facilities to welcome the many pilgrims who come to the city to honour and pray to Don Bosco.
Each morning and evening we gathered for prayer in the Pinardi Chapel, originally the simple lean-to shed where Don Bosco opened his Oratory on Easter Sunday 1846, and on the Sunday morning we celebrated Mass in the Church of St Francis de Sales. This was the first Church that Don Bosco built, just a few yards away from the Pinardi shed, and it remained the spiritual heart of Don Bosco’s work until the Basilica of Mary, help of Christians was opened in 1868.
The previous day, Saturday, we had spent the morning visiting the small market town of Chieri where the young John Bosco had been a student at the local Secondary school and had then gone on to attend the diocesan seminary. Refreshed by lunch in a local cafe, we then travelled a further few miles to Colle Don Bosco where we spent a couple of hours visiting the places associated with Don Bosco’s childhood and the imposing Temple of Don Bosco that was opened in the 1960’s and which was visited by Pope John Paul 11 in Sept 1988.
We concluded our visit with Mass in the Sanctuary of Mary, Help of Christians, a small chapel just a few feet away from Don Bosco’s family home, and there we prayed for all the schools of our Province.
As all of us shared our memories of the weekend at the airport in Turin before flying back on the Monday morning, it was obvious that all of us had had a deeply enriching experience. Don Bosco had become even more alive for us and we had become more aware of the richness and extent of the Salesian Family – a family we were all very proud to be members of!