The Salesians of Don Bosco are gathering in Rome this week for their 26th general chapter meeting. To mark the beginning of the chapter, Pope Benedict wrote a letter to the order encouraging them to continue to seek out a spiritual life rooted in “profound mysticism and a solid asceticism” instead of activism.
In his Message, dated March 1, the Holy Father writes that the theme chosen for this general chapter - "Da mihi animas, cetera tolle" (Give me souls, take away all else) - expresses "that same program of spiritual and apostolic life which Don Bosco made his own".
Pope Benedict also brings up a point that he has been making to religious orders lately, that of drawing inspiration from their founders and returning to the charisms of their founding.
"It is vitally important for the Salesians to draw continual inspiration from Don Bosco, to know him, study him, love him, imitate him, invoke him and make their own that apostolic passion which flows from the heart of Christ," the Pope wrote.
Another trend that the Pontiff has been warning religious orders about is the temptation to abandon the quest for holiness in favor of a religious activism of sorts.
In his letter, the Holy Father writes that the theme that the Salesians will study this week "expresses in synthesis the mysticism and asceticism of Salesians” and “is necessary to overcome the dispersive effects of activism and to cultivate the unity of spiritual life by acquiring a profound mysticism and a solid asceticism.” He continued, saying, “This nourishes apostolic commitment and is a guarantee of effectiveness in pastoral activity. It is in this that each Salesian's path to sanctity must consist, and on this that the formation of new vocations to Salesian consecrated life must concentrate".
The Holy Father points out that "evangelization must be the principal and priority frontier" in the Salesian mission. "In pluri-religious settings and in secularized ones, it is necessary to find new ways to make the figure of Jesus known, especially to the young, so they may become aware of His perennial attraction".
"It is important to help young people to turn their interior resources to account as dynamism and positive desire; to bring them into contact with ideas rich in humanity and evangelical values; to encourage them to become active members of society through work and participation in the common good".
Benedict XVI also takes the opportunity to thank the congregation "for the research and educational activities of the Pontifical Salesian University". Going on to refer to the "educational emergency" that exists in many parts of the world, he writes: "The Church needs the contribution of scholars to study the methodology of educational and formative processes, the evangelization of the young and their moral education, together finding answers to the challenges of post-modernity and inter-culturality, and of social communications, while at the same time seeking to come to the help of families".
At the end of the Message, the Pontiff recalls that 2015 will mark the bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco, and expresses the hope that the anniversary may stimulate Salesians "to be ever more 'credible signs of God's love for the young', and to ensure that the young truly do become the hope of the Church and society".