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31 January - Founder of the Salesian family

by Michele Gatta

The year was 1858 and Don Bosco, already known in Italian ecclesiastical and political circles, was in an audience with Pius IX to present him his project for the foundation of a modern Congregation dedicated to the education of youth. The pope listened to him for a long time and with great interest. He wanted to know how he had arrived at this decision and in the end, after giving his full consent, he urged him to write down what he had told him.

He therefore chose a modern spirituality for himself and for young people and completed it with some of his own characteristics. First of all, he had the conviction that work, done in the will of God and for the good of others, is in itself prayer. He thus opened a new path of holiness for all lay people.

A second characteristic is joy. He grasps the joyful character of faith and makes it the normal environment in which to train his children and young people. Joy is also expressed in the external celebration with all that it entails, especially in a youthful environment, but for Don Bosco it is something deeper: it is the joy, spontaneous and sincere, that flows from within in those who follow God with a pure heart . For this reason he instilled in his young people frequent confession and communion and a profound devotion to Mary.

A third characteristic is loyalty to the Pope. In a time of major socio-political upheavals, in which, together with the fall of the temporal power of the popes, the end of the papacy itself was also announced, Don Bosco left his children the commitment of unwavering loyalty to the charisma of Peter . When in 1887 he inaugurated the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Rome, built at the behest of the Pope, he cried with joy because all his dreams had now come true. On January 31st of the following year he passed away, but by then his work had become adult.

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