Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today to participants in the Salesians’ General Chapter.
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Welcome! I thank Father Angelo for his words. I wish for him and the new General Council the ability to serve by guiding, accompanying and sustaining the Salesian Congregation in its journey. May the Holy Spirit help you to respond to the expectations and challenges of our time, especially of young people, and to interpret them in the light of the Gospel and of your charism.
I imagine that during the Chapter — which had the theme “Witnesses of Evangelical Radicalism” — you always had Don Bosco and young people before you; and Don Bosco with his motto: “Da mihi animas, cetera tolle.” He reinforced this program with two other elements: work and temperance. I remember that in school it was forbidden to have a siesta! … Temperance! To the Salesians and to us! “Work and temperance – he said – make the Congregation flourish.” When one thinks of working for the good of souls, one overcomes the temptation of spiritual worldliness; one does not look for other things, but God alone and his Kingdom. Temperance, then, is the sense of measure, to be content, to be simple. May the poverty of Don Bosco and of Mother Margherita inspire every Salesian and every community of yours to an essential and austere life, closeness to the poor, transparency and responsibility in the management of goods.
The evangelization of young people is the mission that the Holy Spirit has entrusted to you in the Church. It is closely connected with their education: the journey of faith is inserted in that of growth and the Gospel also enriches human maturation. Young people must be prepared to work in society according to the spirit of the Gospel, as agents of justice and peace, and to live as protagonists in the Church. Therefore, you avail yourselves of the necessary further pedagogic and cultural reflections and updating to respond to the present educational emergency. May Don Bosco’s experience and his “preventive system” sustain you always in your commitment to live with young people. May your presence in their midst be distinguished by that tenderness that Don Bosco called affection, experiencing also new languages, but knowing well that the language of the heart is the fundamental one to get close to them and to become their friends.
Essential here is the vocational dimension. Sometimes the vocation to the consecrated life is confused with a choice of voluntary service, and this distorted vision does no good to the Institutes. The coming year 2015, dedicated to consecrated life, will be a favorable occasion to present its beauty to young people. In every case it is necessary to avoid partial visions, in order not to arouse fragile and propped up vocations from weak motivations. Apostolic vocations ordinarily are the fruit of a good youth ministry. The care of vocations requires specific attention, first of all to prayer, then proper activities, personalized courses, the courage of the proposal, support and involvement of the families. The vocational geography has changed and is changing, and this means new demands for formation, support and discernment.
In working with young people, you come across the world of youth exclusion. And this is tremendous! Today, it is tremendous to think that there are 75 million young people without work, here, in the West. We think of the vast reality of unemployment, with so many negative consequences. We think of dependencies, which unfortunately are multiple, which derive from the common roots of a lack of true love. To go against the marginalization of young people requires courage, maturity and much prayer. And the best must be sent to this work! The best! There risk can exist of being carried away by enthusiasm, sending to such frontiers persons of good will, but who are not adequate. Therefore, careful discernment and constant support are necessary.
This is the criterion: the best must go there. “I need him to make him superior of that, or to study theology …” However, if you have this mission, send him there! The best!
Thank God you do not live or work as isolated individuals, but as a community: and thank God for this! The community sustains the whole apostolate. Sometimes Religious Communities are riddled with tensions, with the risk of individualism and of dispersion, whereas there is need of profound communication and authentic relationships. The humanizing force of the Gospel is witnessed by the fraternity lived in community, made of hospitality, respect, reciprocal help, understanding, courtesy, forgiveness and joy. The spirit of family that Don Bosco left you helps much in this sense, it fosters perseverance and creates attraction for the consecrated life.
Dear Brothers, the bicentenary of Don Bosco’s birth is now upon us. It will be a propitious moment to propose again your Founder’s charism. Mary Help of Christians has never failed to give her help in the life of the Congregation, and she certainly will not fail to do so in the future. May her maternal intercession obtain for you from God the expected and awaited fruits. I bless you and pray for you and, please, pray also for me. Thank you![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]