Firstly, the chorus of a hymn that was sung at my First Profession as a Salesian of Don Bosco: “You shall be my witnesses unto the ends of the earth, witnessing to my truth and to my love.” Salesian missionaries answer that deep call within their relationship with Jesus to be sent out, especially to those who might not yet have heard the good news of the Gospel. Each day, through their words and in their actions, they seek to make Jesus known and loved: signs and bearers of God’s love especially for the young and those who are poor. The Greek word for a witness is martyr. Some Salesian missionaries have made the ultimate sacrifice in offering their lives to God by the shedding of their blood for those to whom they were sent: St Luigi Versiglia SDB and St Callistus Caravario SDB in China and most recently Fr Antonio Cesar Fernandez SDB in Burkino Faso. The example of Sean Devereux, the Salesian past pupil of Farnborough who was assassinated in Somalia in 1993 is also a source of inspiration. He said, “While my heart beats, I have to do what I think I can do – and that is to help those that are less fortunate.”
Secondly, the opening antiphon for the Mass of St John Bosco announces, “God gave him wisdom and great understanding and a heart as wide as the sand on the seashore” (1 Kgs 4:29). Like Don Bosco, Salesian missionaries are very big hearted people! Missionary magnanimity of heart is revealed through the exercise of compassion, generosity, cheerfulness and loving kindness. It is to fashion one’s own heart after the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Finally, I’ve always loved the voice of Nat King Cole. One of the songs he sings ends, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” To learn how to love and how to be loved is to discover what it means to be truly human and divine. Salesian missionaries have a passion for Christ and a passion for humanity.
At the heart of holiness is love.
Fr Kieran Anderson SDB
Director of GBR Missions Office
Fr Ángel on the Strenna
Missionary holiness, and the youth of the saints
The missionary holiness of the Salesian charism, (is) expressed in a notable number of men and women, consecrated and lay, who evidence the proclamation of the Gospel, the inculturation of the faith, the advancement of women, the defence of the rights of the poor and of indigenous populations, and the foundation of local Churches. Deeply impressive is the fact that a very large proportion of the brothers and sisters of our Salesian Family who are on the way toward recognition of their heroic virtues and their holiness are missionaries: Blessed Maria Romero Meneses, FMA; Blessed Maria Troncatti, FMA; Venerable Vincent Cimatti.
The Church gazes at the sky of holiness and sees an increasingly large and bright constellation of young men and women, adolescents and young saints and blesseds who, ever since the time of the first Christian communities, have endured until our time. When the Church invokes them as our patrons, she indicates them to young people as references for their existence.” In various surveys including those in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on the young, the young people themselves recognize that they are “more receptive when faced with a ‘life story’ [compared with] an abstract theological sermon,” and they consider the lives of the saints to be very relevant to them. Therefore, it is certainly important to present them in a way that is adapted to their age and condition.
It is also worth remembering that besides the “young saints” we must present to young people the “youth of the saints.” All the saints were in fact once young, and it would be useful to today’s young people to show them how the saints lived when they were young. In this way it would be possible to begin to deal with many youth situations that are neither simple nor easy, in which, however, God is present and active in a mysterious way. Showing that his grace is at work through complex processes in the patient construction of a holiness that matures with the passing of time in many unforeseen ways, can help all young people without exception to cultivate hope for a holiness that is always possible.
1 John 3: 2-7
My dear friends, we are already God's children, but what we shall be in the future has not yet been revealed. We are well aware that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is.
Whoever treasures this hope of him purifies himself, to be as pure as he is. Whoever sins, acts wickedly, because all sin is wickedness.
Now you are well aware that he has appeared in order to take sins away, and that in him there is no sin. No one who remains in him sins, and whoever sins has neither seen him nor recognised him.
Children, do not let anyone lead you astray. Whoever acts uprightly is upright, just as he is upright.
Our world often seems to be in turmoil, and people are in great need, both close to home and across the globe.
Thank you for the love of humanity you have instilled in so many people, especially our Salesian missionaries, young and old, who are willing to go where they are needed, to help and care for the young and the poor.
Inspire all of us with the same love and concern for our brothers and sisters, wherever and whoever they are.