I am writing this reflection during “Don Bosco’s Oratory Week” – a wonderful initiative that aims to re-create the atmosphere and some of the activities of the first work of Don Bosco for young people. Here I would like to add my own appreciation and encouragement for the staff and the students who have been involved in this project.
The Oratory of Don Bosco at the beginning operated mainly on Sundays and feastdays and offered the boys various experiences that complemented their weekday study and work. Don Bosco made sure that the boys enjoyed fun and games, food, friends, and faith. Later on, the Oratory also became a “family” with Mamma Margaret as the “mother” of all the boys, and a school for acquiring knowledge and skills for life.
Don Bosco, when he was a boy of about ten years of age, had a dream that became the guiding focus of his whole life. From then on, he was convinced that he wanted to help young people to be “good Christians and honest citizens”, and “to be happy in this world and in the next”. This did not make his life as a teenager any easier – on the contrary! But he was determined to realize his dream, despite all kinds of difficulties. Eventually he would understand exactly what God wanted from him – that happened some 60 years later, as he was celebrating Mass in the church of the Sacred Heart in Rome…
Don Bosco had many dreams, about his work in various parts of the world (from South America to China), about the fate of the royal family in Piedmont, about the Pope and the Church, about the Salesians, and even about his mother after her death. Some of his dreams could be described as “prophetic visions”.
He did not see the realization of all his dreams, he explicitly stated that his followers would fulfil many of his dreams. In 1883 one dream that Don Bosco described in detail concerned a big city in the jungle of Brazil. That city was built in the 1960s precisely on the instructions left by Don Bosco. It is the city of Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, where their cathedral is dedicated to Don Bosco. Even Barack Obama, former President of the USA, on a visit to Brasilia made reference to Don Bosco’s dream of that city!
As I walk around the courtyard at lunch time during this week, and enjoy observing the boys engaged in various activities, music and games, I reflect that we are realizing Don Bosco’s dream. At the same time, I wonder what dreams for the future are beginning to be realized in these boys. And I hope that despite the many challenges they will face, they will be strong and resilient as Don Bosco was. I am sure our boys will achieve their dreams with the support and encouragement of their families and teachers.
This will also be my prayer for them this Friday at our whole school Mass.
Fr Frank Bertagnolli SDB