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Lent reflection - Their generous presence was their best gift to us

FrBobCoupeShrigleyFootballTeam Strenna


In our Lenten reflection this week, the Rector Major discusses joy lived out in a holy life, and Fr Bob Coupe SDB looks back at the inspiring holiness of those who supported and formed his faith and Salesian vocation over the past 68 years. Above: Fr Bob with footballers from Shrigley in 1969.


1941. I’m standing on the corner of the largest playground I’ve ever seen. There are about twenty of us, all strangers. Some have unfamiliar accents -they’re from Bolton, Westhoughton, Leigh, Bury, Edenfield. We’re waiting nervously to take an entrance exam for Thornleigh. We see a small figure approaching. He’s dressed in a cassock, he’s quite stout, we can’t see his feet. But he gives us a big smile, and asks ‘Are you all good runners?’ It was Fr Poggio. The first Salesian I’d ever seen. Little did I know that this was a day that would define the rest of my life.

I would spend seven years at Thornleigh. Most of my teachers were Salesian priests or clerics, so I had ample time and opportunity to weigh up the kind of men they were. I saw them as dedicated, approachable, friendly, consistent, even-tempered. It wasn’t difficult to sense that a genuine faith shaped their outlook. It rubbed off on us, the pupils, and motivated us to be like them. Daily prayers, the monthly recollection with a talk from the Rector and opportunity for Reconciliation all contributed to it. The spirit of Don Bosco was very much alive in Thornleigh. In Form 1 a friend approached me suggesting a visit to the Blessed Sacrament during morning break. It became a daily event for the next five years until he moved on to Shrigley. Eleven Years later – 1959 - we were ordained together.


Borrowing from Pope Francis, I see my life through three stages. 1. Listening: From about 14 years of age the thought of priesthood rumbled through my mind at varying degrees. 2 .Discernment: From 16+ I had to grapple with two suggestions of priesthood from different Salesian priests for whom I had a high regard. By 17 I had already signed on for the RAF to be followed up later. 3. Decision: At 18 I finally capitulated and was accepted for the novitiate. The rest is history ... Thornleigh had given me an excellent template.


Sixty eight years down the line I look back to those SDBs whose Salesian spirituality and vision underpinned their life, and whose generous presence was their best gift to us .They were for us those ‘caring adults’, that Fr Louis Grech says today’s young people often lack. Hats off to Don Bosco, founder and inspirer of our great Salesian Family, and patron saint of accompaniment par excellence!

Fr Ángel on the Strenna

Glad to be saints because God has dreamed of us in that way


So what is holiness, this holiness that is presented to us as being close and accessible to the young person, to the woman and man of today?

It is something close, real, concrete, possible. Indeed it is the fundamental vocation to love as Vatican Council II recognises; the soul, the essence, of this call to holiness for every person is love completely lived:

It is a question of making fruitful the grace of Baptism, without being afraid that God is asking too much of us: In practical terms it is a question of living in the Spirit, allowing ourselves to be guided in the simplicity of daily life by the Holy Spirit without being afraid to aim high, and letting ourselves be loved and made free by God himself.

It is a question of being glad to be saints because God has dreamed of us in that way Don Bosco understood very well and so taught his boys that commitment and joy go hand in hand, and that holiness and joy are an inseparable pair. So his invitation is also a call to the “holiness of joy,” a joy lived out in a holy life. This does not mean ignoring that a commitment to holiness demands courage, since it is, to put it another way, a course that goes “against the current,” a path at times leading to opposition, faced with which at times we have to be “signs of contradiction” like Jesus.

It is a question of a journey, that of holiness, which accepts the dimension of the cross.

Perhaps nowadays reference to the Cross is not so common among us, but certainly also in this we need to change. It is not possible to live a genuine Christian life and follow the path of holiness in daily life while putting the Cross to one side.


2 Peter 1: 3-9

By his divine power, he has lavished on us all the things we need for life and for true devotion, through the knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness.


Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us, that through them you should share the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion.


With this in view, do your utmost to support your faith with goodness, goodness with understanding, understanding with self-control, self-control with perseverance, perseverance with devotion, devotion with kindness to the brothers, and kindness to the brothers with love. The possession and growth of these qualities will prevent your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ from being ineffectual or unproductive. But without them, a person is blind or short-sighted, forgetting how the sins of the past were washed away


Father God

Help us listen to your call to holiness.
Make us open to your spirit in the people around us.
Give us the confidence to aim high, and the humility to be realistic.
Let us give and receive kindness and joy
as we discover how to be the saints you dreamed of.


Last modified on Tuesday, 02 April 2019 15:12


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