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Posted by on in Ramblings From Rome

pps/ tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) we have an afternoon off - we've just purchased our 'bus' tickets to hit Rome - Yes!!

. . . was how I left you last time - hope you have all had a good week!!

I don't really know Rome, but to be honest, our bus trip could have been to anywhere - just a need to 'get out' for a while. So, two Provincials and myself headed to Rome - couple of bus journeys later we're strolling, quite casually like, across the Pope's patio. There really was a buzz about the place, as if we'd missed something (which we probably had!!). Still that really didn't stop us heading off to the nearest coffee shop to sit and watch life go by. Do you drink hot chocolate? O dear Lord, it is to die for here - its like someone takes a bar of Galaxy and melts it in your cup. Diary note - try it if you're out here - it's delic.

And then on the Monday, the General Chapter started - big Mass, and then speeches from everybody important - Cardinals, Bishops etc etc - Cardinal Bertone (ex- Secretary of State - now has a new job!) was around with his bodyguards (security or something) - it's the first time I've been stopped going into the toilet by a big burly man.

The Rector Major gave his state of address - it was very interesting - how is the Congregation after 12 years of him being i/c? - stats, pictures, italian language (lots of it!) gave us a solid picture of the Salesians, and although our numbers have dropped a little, we are now in more Countries than ever before!! (132 I think - I can't read my own writing!!)

The next few days saw us heading off to our Commissions - I was in the English speaking one(!) - there are about 50 of us from all over the world - and we talked and debated and chatted and laughed (a lot actually) - and we gave proposals about proposals on top of suggestions about proposals - it was good - we thought that our Community Life worldwide was really, really important.

Towards the end of the week the RM started answering the questions people had proposed to him (about 60!) - okay, it was a bit of a slog sitting for long periods in assembly listening, but one cannot fail to notice that the Congregation has been, for the past 12 years, in the very capable hands of a holy man, and thank God for it.

And talking of which - prayers, tons of them - in all sorts of languages - chinese, french, spanish, polish, korean etc etc - and a lovely little statue of Our Lady of Vietnam presented to us by the Vietnamese Provinces.

You know, we joke a lot about Salesians and the Salesian world - but meeting these guys from all over the world is a very humbling experience - the pastoral work that is being done for the young; the prayers bombarding heaven daily - you very quickly realise what a privilege it is to be here!!

That's probably enough for the moment - we're heading off to Naples for the day tomorrow. It's a wee break for us being so good during the week!!

Pray for us!!

Bob

ps/ there are rather a lot of churches in Rome - my two favourites so far visited - St Agnes in Agony (mainly because I kept thinking of the line - 'some saint in pieces'!!) - and the Pantheon - which is just amazing - you have got to hand it to the ancient Romans - clever, clever dudes.

 

PantheonCathedralRome

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Posted by on in Ramblings From Rome

Well it's just over a week since we arrived for General Chapter 27 - and you might be wondering what we have been up to?

To be honest the intrepid travellers started off well - we managed to find a quiet spot in Heathrow Terminal 5 for a bite to eat (and no, not in the Lounges!!)

It's always good to see a friendly face at an airport; we met the USA West Coast delegate (Al Vu) in London, and someone met us in Rome - so our trip to the Pisana went well, and was very relaxing.

But a 4am start and a 10 hour coach journey to Turin the next morning took the shine off a little (a lot) - what can I say, except thank God for service stations and packed lunches.

In Turin, they packed us off to a hotel - very nice - we got in and was immediately told to leave for the coach as we were soooo very late!!

But what did we do? we visited Don Bosco - and the pilgrimage was excellent. Valdocco, the Basilica and places not so regularly visited like the school at Valsalice, where Don Bosco was first buried (on the road that he and his mum took walking from the Becchi to Turin!), and the Oratory and Church of St John the Evangelist (where at the last count at least 8 Saints had either been boys there, or worked there, or had a sandwich there!!)

We went to Colle Don Bosco and the Becchi and spent time soaking up the Salesian spirit - we celebrated Mass at these places and there is something very special about being where Don Bosco had been.

And so to our return to Rome (10 hours yippee on the coach!!) - and into what was described by somebody or other as the period of the Spiritual Exercises - 'witnesses to the radical approach of the Gospel'

And currently we're still in them - I'm writing this during a break, well I think I'm supposed to be praying or meditating or something - but needs must. And speaking of which, they took our laptops off us!!!! can you believe that?? well it was to check them for viruses etc and get us fixed up on the Intranet - two days, two whole long slow days......no facebook (oops!!)

There are over 200 of us here, and they are from all over the world - the dining room is an experience to be savoured (I mean Jonny and Peter and myself eat together in Cowley - and that's just 3 of us!!) - but its also pretty humbling, and exciting, and rather extraordinary knowing that Don Bosco has 'kicked off' all over the globe!!

I was gonna send you some pics, but I've seen the ones already circulating with our faces on - yes we did look gloomy on the coach - and yes Mass at the Basilica is pretty inspiring. Maybe I'll send some later - oh and the past two days it's been raining (a lot) - just in case you think we have been sunbathing or something.

We've got ourselves into a good routine pretty quickly. It's killing both of us getting up at 6am, but we're managing - just!! Something about being in bed by 10pm seems to help in that department!!

Keep us in your prayers please - both Martin and myself are praying for you all - Don Bosco and Mary Help of Christians pray for us!!

Bob

ps/ the food is good, and the wine is very drinkable

pps/ tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) we have an afternoon off - we've just purchased our 'bus' tickets to hit Rome - Yes!!

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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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Spring 2019

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