Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Don Bosco's Relics visit the UK... Plus, news and events of interest to Catholics and those who seek the truth

This post is a kind of extended ‘notes and announcements’ piece, in which I hope to highlight some very profitable Catholic events that will be happening in London and the UK during the coming days. At the end of the post, though, I will return to the first event, reflecting on two of my favourite stories from the life of St John Bosco.

The Relics of Don Bosco visit the UK (Now on!)

St John (Don) Bosco
(source: Wikimedia Commons)
This special UK pilgrimage of the relics of the patron saint of youth and founder of the Salesians has already started. Part of a world-wide event building up to the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Don Bosco’s birth (which will happen in 2015), the international pilgrimage started in 2009. One of its aims is to raise awareness of the Saint’s spirituality and message to us today, as well as the importance of young people in the life of the Church.

The UK tour began on 2 January in Bolton, before moving to Glasgow last Friday, Carlisle on Saturday, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool last Sunday. The relics remained in Liverpool yesterday, and will be arriving at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, this morning, before heading to St David’s Cathedral, Cardiff, on Thursday. The whole pilgrimage timetable can be found here. There is also a feature article on Don Bosco in the current issue of Oremus, Westminster Cathedral's magazine.

On Friday 11 January, the relics of Don Bosco will arrive at Westminster Cathedral. There will be ample opportunities to venerate the Saint during that afternoon and evening, as well as throughout most of the following day. The Salesians will be leading ‘Pilgrim Experience’ events and special liturgies during the two days, whilst Masses will be celebrated and Confessions also heard. After Westminster Cathedral, the relics will move on to St George’s Cathedral, Southwark -- where a similar timetable is scheduled.

Don Bosco is an amazing saint – a true father to the young, and guide to all who need help in deepening their relationship with Jesus Christ -- I therefore urge as many people as possible to venerate his relics during this special pilgrimage!

Juventutem Pilgrimage to the Relics of St John Bosco

Don Bosco is one of the patrons of Juventutem, the international movement of young people who are devoted to the traditional Roman Rite. Yesterday, Juventutem London announced that it, along with other Juventutem groups from around Britain, will be visiting Westminster Cathedral to venerate the great saint. (Nearest tube: Victoria.)

This is part of the announcement as found on the Juventutem London blog (there are more details on the Juventutem London Facebook page): -
As he is our patron, Juventutem London have arranged a group visit with the Cathedral. We will meet on Friday 11th at 6.20pm outside Pret a Manger, 173 Victoria St (it is between Victoria Station and the Cathedral - map below). We will then move over from there to join the queue at the Cathedral.

We hope you will join us there to venerate the relics of this holy saint, and to ask for his prayers for the work of Juventutem, namely the sanctification of youth through the traditional, Roman, Latin forms of the sacraments - the very same forms that Don Bosco knew and administered to the many young people throughout in his fruitful ministry.

If you would like to attend this traditional pilgrimage, please let the organisers know via Facebook (if you have a profile on it, that is!) ... otherwise, I guess it's ok to just turn up!

Archbishop Cordileone to speak at the Brompton Oratory

Archbishop Cordileone
Author: QvisDevs (source: Wikimedia)
On Thursday 17 January the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, will speak at the London (Brompton) Oratory on the subject: “Living the Christian Faith in a Secularised World”. This event will be held in St Wilfrid’s Hall and will begin at 8.00pm. (Nearest tube: South Kensington.)

According to the Brompton Oratory website:-
This is one of the events that the Oratory is arranging to mark the Year of Faith. The Archbishop is in high demand as a speaker in America, and this promises to be a thoughtful and stimulating talk. Do come if you can & bring your friends. This talk is open to all.
I remember being present at Mass in the Oratory a couple of years ago (see here), which was celebrated by the Archbishop – then Bishop of Oakland. He is a great man and excellent communicator of the truth. He also lives up to his name, and displays a lion-hearted courage in proclaiming the Gospel  – we need more men like him in the episcopacy!

EnCourage meeting (Thursday) and a Theology of the Body talk in Westminster (Tonight!)

I have been informed that there will be a meeting (one of many this year) of EnCourage, the UK branch of the Courage Apostolate, in London on Thursday 10 January. This safe and orthodox group exists for men and women who find themselves attracted to the same sex, but who wish to live chaste and holy lives according to the Gospel. From what I gather the format for these meetings includes opportunities for prayer and Confession as well as general sharing and discussion. If you believe you could benefit from attending EnCourage and are free tomorrow evening, please contact James for details: encouragelondon@yahoo.co.uk

As well as the EnCourage meeting, tonight sees the Annual Theology of the Body Lecture hosted by the Diocese of Westminster. Starting at 6.30pm TONIGHT, the talk will be delivered in Vaughan House (46 Francis Street, SW1P 1QN) and is given by Dawn Eden, an American author and journalist who was formerly a rock historian and tabloid-newspaper headline writer. Admission cost: £5.00 (Nearest tube: Victoria.)

Dawn will speak about the healing of sexual wounds in a Catholic context, making reference to her most recent book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints (Ave Maria Press, 2012). According to one of the organisers, this lecture will be compulsory listening for those who have been affected by sexual abuse in any way, especially during childhood.

Back to Don Bosco...

St John Bosco is a remarkable saint, who, through being so united to his Saviour, wrought great miracles during his time on earth. Many already know that he saved countless numbers of young people, especially youths, during his ministry in 19th century Italy. He was a great priest, confessor, educator, spiritual guide, friend and preacher, and religious founder. Little wonder he is known by the Church as 'Father and Teacher of Youth'. To read a short biography of this great saint, please see here. There is also an Italian film (dubbed in English) of his life available in several 10 minute parts on YouTube.

Don Bosco was a priest totally consumed by a zeal for young souls. He wished all young people to come to know Jesus Christ, to give up bad habits and sins, and to discover the joy of holiness. Sometimes this meant having to be completely honest with them -- not pretending that sin isn't a serious matter. In fact, he once famously had a dream (one of many) in which he saw several boys from one of his Oratories being dragged to Hell (see here). Why where they falling into Eternal Damnation? The simple answer:the sins of impurity, disobedience, and pride. Now, how often do we hear priests calling our youth (and older people!) to lives that are totally chaste and pure, totally obedient to the truth? Oh, for more men like Don Bosco!

Even prisoners need days off!

Don Bosco hears Confessions -- image in the public domain
One of my favourite stories form the life of St John Bosco is sometimes known as 'The prison outing'. Not only did Don Bosco look after children and youths in his Oratory schools, but he also ministered to the poor young wretches who had ended up in the prisons of Turin. He once told a priest friend of his: "I was horrified to see so many healthy, strong and lively youths between twelve and eighteen years of age without occupation, crawling with lice, deprived of both spiritual and material nourishment."

As a result of his concern for imprisoned youths, John Bosco preached an eight-day retreat in May 1855 to the young inmates incarcerated in Turin's main Reformatory. The lads soon fell under Bosco's spell -- his gentleness, his kindness, his preaching, and his holiness. At the end of the mission, hundreds of the young prisoners lined up to make their Confession to the Saint and to receive Holy Communion from him.

Immediately after converting so many souls in city's prison, Don Bosco asked the Warden if he could take the boys out for a trip to the countryside! Needless to say, the official in charge of the prison couldn't believe his ears! "If I listened to your astonishing proposal," he told Bosco, "I might as well close down this reformatory as there would be nobody left in it! I might as well go down to the zoo and let out all the birds, telling them to be back by five o'clock!" The request was denied, but the Saint continued to press the Warden, who eventually agreed to refer the matter to his superior, Italy's Minister of Justice (later Prime Minister), Urbano Rattazzi. Contrary to all expectations, this anti-clerical politician gave his permission for the field trip!

Before taking three hundred young prisoners out of the Reformatory gates, John Bosco assured the Warden that because he was sure every one of the boys was in a state of grace none of them would escape. "They will be back, I promise you," said the Father and Teacher of Youth. Soon after, the band of criminals left the prison, together with picnic hampers and snacks, under Bosco's direction. They all processed through the city's streets, out of the city gates, and into the local forest. A great day was had by all! And in the evening, in time for 'lock-up', every single boy walked back into the prison. None of them wanted to let down the saintly priest.

Don Bosco, Dominic Savio, and the conversion of England

Another amazing story connected to St John Bosco involves his friendship with the saintly youth, Dominic Savio (canonised in 1954). Whilst on a camping holiday with some of his Oratory boys in 1854, Don Bosco was approached by a twelve-year-old and his father. The parent was anxious that the priest would take his boy from him and educate him in one of his Oratories. Bosco immediately recognised the working of the Holy Spirit in the boy, called Dominic Savio, and agreed to look after him.

Before making his First Holy Communion, the young Dominic had made four resolutions, which he kept for the rest of his short life. He had resolved to go to Confession as often as possible, especially before receiving Holy Communion; he also promised God that he would observe Sundays and Holy Days in a special way; he asked Jesus and Mary to be his personal friends; and he chose a motto for his life: 'Death rather than sin'. No wonder Don Bosco once called him a 'beautiful garment for Our Lord.'

Dominic died in 1857, aged either fourteen or fifteen. But during the couple of years that he knew Don Bosco, both the youth and the priest became close friends -- aiding one another in the great adventure of holiness! Just before he died, the teenager told John Bosco that he really wanted to see the Pope, as he had had a vision that he needed to share with the Holy Father. Knowing that the chances of Savio ever getting to meet the Pope were slim, Don Bosco asked the boy to reveal the vision to him.

A year after St Dominic's death, Bosco went to Rome and was granted an audience with the Pope, (Blessed) Pius IX. During their conversation, Don Bosco mentioned Dominic's vision to the Pope, who wanted to know the details. Bosco said that after Communion one day, Dominic Savio was shown a country by Our Lord. The nation he saw was covered in a think mist, and its people seemed like lost souls walking around in darkness. Dominic was told that the country was England. He then saw Pius IX carrying a torch, which dispersed the fog and allowed the people to see more clearly. "The torch," Our Lord told Dominic, "Is the Catholic faith, which is to illumine England."

Pius IX had only recently restored the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales, an event which occurred in 1850. But after hearing Dominic's vision, the Pope turned to Don Bosco and said: "What you have told me confirms me in my resolution to do all that is possible for England, which has long been the object of my special care. What you have related is, to put it at its lowest estimation, the counsel of a devout soul."

Thankfully, what with his recent visit, his appointment of an excellent Nuncio and holy bishops, as well as the creation of the Ordinariate, it seems that our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is also greatly concerned for the welfare of this country. Through obedience to the Successor of St Peter, may we all come to enjoy the fullness of that light which enlightens all men, Jesus Christ!

St John Bosco, pray for us
St Dominic Savio, pray for us
Bl Pius IX, pray for us

1 comment:

  1. Readers here my life my mini-series on Catholic education and Don Bosco...http://supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/the-salesian-way.html


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