This morning at the Vatican, the Holy Father received participants in the 26th General Chapter of the Salesians and called on them to continue to encourage passion for evangelization. Pope Benedict also emphasized the need to combat secularization by giving support and solid formation to families.
As the Pope spoke with the Salesian representatives, he described the cultural context of their meeting as “a period of great social, economic and political changes", of "more intense communication among peoples", and of "lively debate on the spiritual values that give meaning to existence".
Young people especially, said Benedict XVI, appeal to the Church with “their questions on fundamental problems,” these appeals “indicate the intense desire they nourish for full life, authentic love and constructive freedom. These are situations which cry out to the very heart of the Church and her capacity to announce Christ's Gospel today".
Reflecting on evangelization led the Holy Father to bring up the theme of the General Chapter, "Da mihi animas, cetera tolle". This theme should lead to the reawakening of apostolic passion “in each individual Salesian and in the entire congregation,” the Pontiff said. “This will help better to define the profile of Salesians, that they may become more aware of their identity as people consecrated 'for the glory of God'" and "of their pastoral commitment 'to the salvation of souls,'” the Pope added.
"Don Bosco", the Holy Father added, "wished the continuity of his charism in the Church to be guaranteed by the choice of consecrated life. Today too the Salesian movement can grow in charismatic faithfulness only if it continues to maintain a strong and vibrant nucleus of consecrated people".
"The entire congregation must constantly strive to be 'a living memorial of Jesus' way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and in relation to the brethren'. ... May Christ be the focus of your lives! ... It is here that ardent love for the Lord Jesus is born, the aspiration to become one with Him, adopting His feelings and way of life: faithful abandonment to the Father and dedication to the evangelizing mission which must characterize all Salesians".
Benedict XVI then went on to consider "the process of secularization which is gaining ground in modern culture" and which "unfortunately does not even spare communities of consecrated life.
Defending the Salesian community from these influences can best be done by making prayer with Scripture (lectio divina) and the liturgy the sources of Salesian spirituality, the Holy Father said.
The Salesians were also encouraged by the Pope "to form lay people with apostolic hearts, inviting everyone to proceed in that sanctity of life which creates courageous disciples and true apostles".
Since the Salesians have been involved in education since their founding, Pope Benedict also spoke about the “great educational emergency", in society today.
According to the Pope, "the most serious aspect of the emergency is the sense of discouragement afflicting many educators, in particular parents and teachers, in the face of the difficulties of their role today". At the heart of the crisis, the Pontiff said, “is a crisis of trust in life which, in the final analysis, is a lack of trust in God Who called us to life.”
"In the education of the young it is extremely important that the family should play an active role", the Pope added. "So often it is either unable to make its specific contribution, or it is absent. The predilection for and commitment to young people, so characteristic of Don Bosco's charism, must be translated into a like commitment to the involvement and formation of families. ... To care for families is not to subtract force from efforts on behalf of the young, rather it makes those efforts more lasting and effective. I encourage you, then, to study ways to implement this commitment. ... This will be an advantage in the education and evangelization of the young".
The Holy Father concluded by underlining the need for "solid formation" for all members of the congregation, "not resting content with mediocre results, overcoming the difficulties of vocational fragility, favoring strong spiritual accompaniment and guaranteeing, through permanent formation, educational and pastoral excellence".