We, the Salesians of Don Bosco
It’s not often that things we casually take for granted pins us down for a moment and brings us closer reflection about the ordinary. This is what happened when I stared blankly at the name we use for all members of the Congregation, “Salesians of Don Bosco”. It was there written in blank ink on a book we were using in our Salesianity class.
The name jumped out to me! It was a slap on the face to wake me up. There was so much to glean from the name we give ourselves.
SALESIANS. We are a community of brothers and priests who follow the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. It was St. John Bosco who wished that the congregation take upon itself the gentleness and kindness that the Doctor of Charity had heroically followed in life. Our founder knew that to be good shepherds to the young we must possess the same gentleness and kindness of the Good Shepherd.
DON BOSCO. There are great religious congregations and orders that precede us Salesians in history and honor. Prestige shines through in their names: the Society of Jesus, the Order of St. Augustine, the Order of Preachers, and many others. Yet there is something peculiar with the Salesians. Our name bears the endeared name of our founder. We are not the Salesians of St. John Bosco. We are the Salesians of DON BOSCO – the very name the dirty street urchins of Valdocco used to call out loudly to get the attention of the smiling priest. It is a name that brings about a sense of familiarity with this priest of Turin.
The word “Don” in Italian is an address to a priest. In English it would be rendered “Father Bosco”. If it were in Cebuano, “Pader Bosco”, or in Filipino, “Padre Bosco”. The poor young men of Valdocco had been calling Father John Bosco that in their games in the field, in their classes, and in their workshops. Much like the challenge of Jesus to call the Father, “Abba”, so does the name “Don Bosco” an attitude of trust and confidence towards our saint. “Don Bosco” is a name that speaks so much of friendship and family to that marginalized generation who knew no real friend and had no real family. It is the same with us.
And when we use such a name for the Congregation, it also brings to mind that this Society of Salesians is not a society of scholars, administrators, nor social workers. Rather it recalls the deep bond shared with that kindly priest of the 19th century who labored so much for the salvation of souls. The Salesians of Don Bosco is a community, a family, a brotherhood bound by familiarity and kindness. Did not Don Bosco wish that our Family Spirit set us apart?
To bear the congregation in my name, Salesian of Don Bosco, is an affirmation of a commitment to live on the joyful spirit of trust and friendship, gentleness and kindness. The nearing bicentenary of Don Bosco’s birth is both a symbolic and real challenge to give birth again to that kindly person, a maker of saints, friend of the young, and bring him again through our ministry, in our persons and communities, in our time and place – bearers of God’s love to the young.