This simple reflection is inspired by the ‘Salesian Youth Ministry – Frame of Reference’ that in the very first chapter looks at the area of Salesian Youth Work as a Field – the area of our work and labour, that arena within which we work. It is so important to understand to whom we work. This defines how much energies we need to spend and how and when we do it. Don Bosco was shown this direction at a tender age of nine, “Look, here is your field, here is where you are to work...” The Lady in his dream was very specific.
Field of Work
As some may like to think, that Mary may have actually suggested to Don Bosco that this is the field you need to plough! This language may be more direct to his mind. Unlike the sower or the reaper, the ploughman is tough job to get the soil, however hard and stony, soft and ready for the sowing. This is the task of hope. We salesians, like the ploughman are called to work among the young with the tenacity of a farmer and the temerity of Don Bosco. Our eyes and our minds are on the present as the place of hope because now s the time of the young people.
Love beyond pain
Don Bosco discovered a dangerous aspect of society, harsher and more cruel than what he had known in his little town of Becchi. In the city there was no shortage of problems; social, economic, political and religious. People in the church and upper class felt that these poor young were not and never would be capable of civilised living. Yet Don Bosco, under the guidance of Fr. Cafasso, saw these young even in prison as possible future upright citizens, and good Christians. The street urchins were capable of being the pillars of society and faith! His way of seeing things is marked first of all by empathy and love.
Like the good Shepherd who sees a flock lost and astray and feels deep compassion, and giving them something to nourish their bodies and spirit, Don Bosco focused on what he can offer. The pastoral work of the salesian is, therefore, marked by a profound ability to find ways of making contact, of getting close to the young and sharing life with them.
Like the Good shepherd, a salesian lets himself be moved by the confusion felt by those to whom we are sent and by their desires.
Today, this is not just a matter of passion by of study. Our pastoral activity must be done in a way that is professionally correct, making use of every help offered by the sciences and human wisdom. Above all, it must be guided by the contemplating the youth situation through God’s eyes.
Conviction of the Youth Animator
We are all aware of Don Bosco’s dreams, where he describes his work, fears, struggles, and anxieties between the good and evil, or better between the devil and Jesus and Mary. This struggles goes on through life. This is the struggle for freedom of the young from the very real slavery and the real evil which is Sin.
The good Shepherd gathers his sheep and leads them to rich pastures, a call to gather and educate. It aims to transform, the listen and to initiate action. Hence, Don Bosco’s missionary zeal cares for the whole person in all aspects, personal and social, and for all the young people of the world.
The CommUNION Factor
The constitutions reminds us the we Salesians are signs and bearers of the love of God for Young People (C. 2, 47). The ultimate purpose is to offer the young, especially the poorest the option for sanctity and holiness. Young People should be aware that to be fully alive, holiness and deep faith are inseparable elements of human life. There has to be a union of two opposing human natures:
- The physical reality of life and growth of human maturity.
- The spiritual reality and a sense of meaning in life, that we can cast into the deep.
And this is the beauty of working in Youth ministry. We do not just work for youth... we work WITH THEM! Don Bosco was the first Saint to found a Congregation not only for young people but with young people.
We overcome the generation gap and any tendency to paternalism in the ministry by engaging in a family style that involves honest and open dialogue and a shared educative responsibility. Hence, it is evangelisation and education at the same time.
Be the Change for the Young
Salesian Youth Ministry as such will be attentive to the signs of the times. The very religious experience of the young is varied and will contain contradictory elements. The young at times are caught with the challenges and difficulties they face each day. They are concerned about immediate problems. This leads to indifference to the faith.
In spite of this difference and contradiction, the salesian rediscovers the force and the roots of his identity.
Two Fold Task
Hence, trying to live the mission of Don Bosco Today, should inspire us to this two fold program of life:
- We must be faithful in listening to the feelings of young people, their anxieties and culture.
- We must also be faithful in listening to the Church. The action of the Holy spirit is present even today.
We need to discover the common ground, in harmony with the young. What is important is just not the physical presence, but a challenging value based presence. There is a cultural and emotional closeness. We have a fidelity to the world and a faithfulness to the Gospel.